September 12, 2018

The Moving Picture Rewrites

I've decided to make one last try at reinaugurating The Moving Picture Writes, which disappeared years ago in a malware hack and briefly returned in an uncongenial format, here on Facebook on the page that was originally meant simply to link to posts from the page. Here is the inaugural column.
The Moving Picture Writes
With this column I inaugurate a movie/tv appreciation website. Under the above title I'll be offering, from time to time, memoirs of my encounters over the years with film and, increasingly, tv. Under other headings I'll be doing film reviews, background studies, film commentary reviews (the first of these for The Ruling Class, since I planned when I was writing the review to comment on the Criterion Edition Extras, but discovered that, besides making the piece of unwieldy length (particularly for an online essay), it combined two pieces that might best be considered in tandem (independently of each other). I took the same approach with Performance, discussing the principals' reactions to the film and its place in their careers under the heading 'Background', tackling the film in the mimetic, synergistic style I hope soon to be famous for in a second short essay, 'All the Way'.)
My colleague Andrew Tibbetts (who I hope will soon be joining in with some of his own erudite commentaries) contends that tv is currently much ahead of movies as a medium of artistic expression. Limiting the argument to North America as he does, I think it's pretty much incontestable; every serious two hour feature made in the U.S. in the past fifteen years (such as The Usual Suspects, Twelve Monkeys (why isn't anyone trying to line up Terry Gilliam for at least a mini-series? His currently on-again project, Don Quixote, certainly would make more sense within a wider frame) The Gangs of New York, Being John Malkovich) can be matched by at least one mini-series or extended series on television of comparable ambition (and the most innovative work by Suspects director Bryan Singer since Apt Pupil has been as producer of the series House): Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Oz, The Sopranos, In Treatment, Breaking Bad--not to mention fascinating torsos, cut off in their prime by premature cancellation like My So-Called Life. The only films that can potentially sustain a narrative in the same way as an extended series are the roman numeral franchises, and they tend less to delve deeper film by film into character and theme (if any) than to repeat, with as minimal variation as possible, what's gone before--and I think any art form's in trouble when its most sympathetic reviewers find themselves relentlessly parsing minute differences of style, energy and emphasis in the applied art of blowing things up real good. (Anyway who's ever going to top the killing of the serpent demon by luring it into Sunnydale High School, mined throughout with dynamite, setting it off and simultaneously blowing both school and demon sky-high?)
TV's been a mature artistic force in Great Britain almost from the inception of the BBC. Great films like Black Narcissus, Odd Man Out, O Lucky Man! and the two I mentioned above have been comparative rareties at all times in England, whereas from the sixties on, television as radical and powerful as Steptoe and Son, Culloden, Pennies from Heaven, Grievous Bodily Harm, Our Friends in the North, Absolutely Fabulous, North Court, Jekyll and Coupling has turned up with almost alarming frequency on the Beeb and, latterly, Granada (Peter Barnes' final masterpiece Babies) and ITV.
So I've no movie vs tv bias, and hope to give about equal attention to both media once I get a reliable substitute for the Toshiba wand I've been using on our DVD player, which stopped doing anything but basic start up and turn off when I switched the batteries--apparently you need to reprogramme it when you switch batteries, which you need the manual for and where is the manual? Where is the manual I ask you and well I might ask you since your guess is probably as good as mine. Should really get another wand, ideally a Panasonic to match our tv so it doesn't need fresh cuing every time I change the batteries for crying out loud! Once that deficiency's corrected I'll be able to see more than one episode in four per disc on my Buffy and Angel season sets and I can start telling you what I think of them--ideally after first having thought something. I hate it when people skip that all-important initial step.
Overviews will figure prominently: of particular artists (which I'll link to subsequent reviews of individual works); of series (which I'll link to reviews of individual seasons or sequences of episodes). Interviews, profiles? In time that too is possible. With any luck it'll be awesome. We'll talk.
We'll talk, and the pictures will move. I'll aim to post about once a week, working from previous material mostly for a while.