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August 2012
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October 2012

MOSTLY FILM: Blood From An Angry Sky

This is why YouTube can't have nice things. Clip taken from Spartacus: VengeanceHow many American TV producers have I bemused online over the years? As of this morning, that number has doubled.

The first one was back in 2000, when I wrote an article in praise of the Sammo Hung cop show Martial Law. At the end of the piece I posted a collection of links, including one to the site of the show's executive producer Lee Goldberg. I described the site as follows: "Lots of pictures and useful info, but be warned he's assuming that you've already seen season 2 and casually gives away its ending, the bastard." Useful tip: if you're going to call someone a bastard online, don't do it next to a link to their homepage. The email he sent me in response on August 1st 2000 thankfully took the comment in the right spirit ("I laughed my ass off"), and he even had a copy of the article reproduced on his site for a few years.

And now I can add Steven S. DeKnight to the section of my address book headed Hollywood Power List. DeKnight is the creator of the TV show Spartacus, which is the subject of an article I wrote for Mostly Film this week. At the time of writing, it's been up for a day, and seems to have attracted some online interest - but the most delightful discovery is that it's been retweeted by DeKnight himself. (Although I'm sure the use of the phrase 'knockers and killing' by Mostly Film's Social Networking Team must have been part of what appealed to him.)

Spartacus: Blood From An Angry Sky is a retrospective piece timed to coincide with the October 1st release of the latest season on home video. For once, I haven't crammed the article with YouTube links, although there are lots of clips out there, as the framegrab above proves. Still, that leaves plenty more material for this Bonus Content section: starting with the musical number that gives the piece its title, plus an additional verse, and an amateur rendition.

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MOSTLY FILM: Back Issues

This is what two years worth of Sight & Sound magazines looks like in the Digital Archive. Which is all well and good, but I'd paid for 80 years worth.

Normally when I write a piece for Mostly Film, I'll also lash together a quick bit of supplementary material for this site, so I can get in some much-needed cross-promotion. If I've written about a film, I'll throw in some video links: if it's one of my Monoglot Movie Club jobs, I'll give you some travel tips about the country I was in. It's a formula that's worked well for the last eighteen months, but this week initially looked a bit more problematic.

I'm responsible for just under 50% of Back Issues, a new post that appeared on Europe's Best Website yesterday. In the first half, I have a rant about the BFI's new Digital Archive of their magazines Sight & Sound and Monthly Film Bulletin, and how it's virtually impossible to access even after you've paid for it: in the second half, Clio reviews the archive itself, from the point of view of someone who has access even though they haven't paid for it at all. You can see the problem - it's a review of a website, and not even a website that I can see properly. What sort of backup material can I produce for that?

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Edinburgh Festival 2012: Inspire A Generation

I think it's safe to use this now.Last August - as is traditionally the case every three years - I gave the Edinburgh Festival a miss. But, of course, I could never detach myself from it entirely, so I still had a skim through the programmes to see what looked interesting. Meanwhile, a small clump of Spank's Pals went up there without me, and you can find their reports below. (The lateness of this is largely down to me being too busy to assemble their contributions into a single page, and I apologise for that up front.)

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MOSTLY FILM: Pining For The Fjords

Miss Longstocking's Feeling For SpunkI've been off travelling again. Mind you, regular readers of Mostly Film are probably already aware of that. Yesterday, Europe's Best Website published the latest in my series of Monoglot Movie Club articles, in which I attempt to analyse the cinematic output of foreign countries without the benefit of English subtitles. So far this year I've covered the Netherlands, Brazil, the United Arab Emirates and Japan: this time it's Norway that bears the brunt of my ignorance, in a piece entitled Pining For The Fjords.

As is usually the case, over on this site you get some travel tips as background material. So what can I tell you about Norway that isn't covered in the Mostly Film piece? And does it have to include a reference to the disturbing Pippi Longstocking book that I saw in an Oslo shop window? (Not a fake, honestly. See this Oxford University Press blog for a full explanation of what happened there.)

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Simian Substitute Site For September 2012: Shipyard Monkey Fist IPA


Movies: If a decade or more of reality television has taught us anything, it's this: You Can't Trust The Edit. Audiences are a lot more aware these days of how any sequence of events can be manipulated in the cutting room, and are more likely to spot when they're being led down the garden path. Two theatrically-released documentaries provide contrasting examples of this. Searching For Sugar Man tells the story of 70s singer Rodriguez, who dropped out of the public eye after two flop albums, not realising that he was hugely popular in South Africa. The songs are lovely, but there's no real story there: and as director Malik Bendjelloul mucks around with the chronology and throws in unsubstantiated rumours to try and keep our interest, you start feeling more and more cheated by the film. The same could be said for The Imposter, Bart Layton's film about lost-and-found teenager Nicholas Barclay: but as the title warns you from the start, this is a movie about being cheated. Layton takes the uncertainties of the story and gleefully adds to them with reconstructions, archive footage and an unspecified number of unreliable interviewees. It's the perfect match of form and content, because you're left in as much doubt as the people on screen as to what's true and what isn't. 

Theatre: Shakespeare's Globe has been going in its current form for fifteen years now. It could so easily be a cheesy tourist trap, but its productions of Shakespeare - performed using the techniques of his day where possible - are genuinely thrilling things to watch. Right now its original artistic director Mark Rylance is back for one season only, and his Richard III is a typically ballsy performance. Well, what I saw of it was, anyway. The Globe's open-top nature makes for a delightful experience most of the time, but when it's raining like this it's rather unforgiving on those of us who've paid a mere fiver to stand in front of the stage. The Belated Birthday Girl and I had to reluctantly admit defeat shortly after the interval. Happily, there are still a few performances left in the Globe season, so we should be giving it another go soon. If you really wanted to avoid the risk of rain, you could always wait for the production's West End run later this year, although be warned you won't find any places for £5 there.

Travel: I was a bit snotty about the Millennium Dome back when it first opened. Since it became the O2, it's turned into what I'd reluctantly admit is the best arena-sized venue in London, capable of hosting everything from Olympic events to stand-up comedy. And now, thanks to Up At The O2, you're not just limited to the inside of the building for entertainment. They've constructed a walkway with guide lines up one side of the O2 and down the other, and organise regular walks along it to a viewing platform at the top of the building. We did something similar on Sydney Harbour Bridge back in 2003, but that climb was done using existing maintenance walkways: because the O2 climb has had to be built around an existing structure, there are a couple of hairy inclines to go up and down, especially at the start and end of the session. Is the view worth it? Hell, yes. Ignore how silly you look in the protective jumpsuit they make you wear, and book yourself a place.

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