2019 Blog Posts
|Screen-Free Digital Detox Week|
last week in April was what originally used to be called White Dot Week (going back to when the
old vacuum-tube tv sets would leave a white dot onscreen when you switched off), and later TV Turnoff
Week, and then Screen-Free Week and Digital Detox Week,
to reflect the more pervasive digital-age, flatscreen technologies.
It is when, as Wikipedia puts it, this “is an annual event where children, families, schools and communities are encouraged to turn off screens and "turn on life"… Instead of relying on television programming for entertainment, participants read, daydream, explore, enjoy nature, and spend time with family and friends.” It’s mainly an American phenomenon, with hundreds of millions switching off for the week, which in 2019 runs April 29-May 5, thus including the May Day holiday [in the UK, Early May Bank Holiday] which for many is the spring break, and this year is the long weekend ending Monday 6 May. With the newspapers full of speculation and spoilers re the final season of Game Of Thrones, I’d argue it needs more awareness and observance over here as well… among those who really need to get out more.
For those who need some prompting re the carpe diem aspect, i.e. get out and enjoy life while you can, I’ll invoke a death roll of creative figures we’ve already lost in the quarter-year running up to this. To pick a baker’s dozen, gone are filmmaker Agnès Varda [writer-director of Cleo From 5 To 7, Le Bonheur, 1965 and many other works]; Albert Finney [who had his own film company, Memorial Films 1965-]; composers Michel Legrand and Andre Previn; Rosamunde Pilcher [whose work romance novels were the source of over 100 tv adaptations made in Britain for German state tv ZDF]; cult exploitation director Larry Cohen [Q The Winged Serpent etc]; producer/director Stanley Donen; author Andrea Levy [whose 'Small Island' dramatised Britain’s Windrush generation of mistreated immigrants]; comedy writer-performer Jeremy Hardy; Gillian Freeman, the novelist and screenwriter on psychosexual themes from The Leather Boys (1961) onward; the writer for stage, screen and tv Stanley Price Ingmar Bergman’s actress-muse Bibi Andersson; Swiss actor Bruno Ganz [an angel in Wim Wenders’s 1987 Wings Of Desire before becoming Hitler in Downfall], “widely considered the greatest living actor in the German language.”
... Carpe diem.
|National Canadian Film Day 2019|
April, for Canada’s National Film Day, we selected some contemporary, mainly urban-set dramas
we said, the sort of films about Mounties, fur trappers, bush pilots etc which are usually associated
with Canada onscreen. This year, however, NCFD itself is officially commemorating the centenary
of “Canada’s first genuine blockbuster — and oldest surviving feature film
— Nell Shipman’s Back To God’s Country, a sassy, snowy adventure that remains
Canada’s most successful silent film.”
It was this pioneering film which opened the door for all those outdoors dramas about Mounties, fur trappers, bush pilots etc. Hence this year we have a feature page up on “Setting The Scene In Canada's Wilds.” This can be an element of the “Castaway-Survival” or “Frontiersman-Conflict” storylines, but increasingly these days is an element of the “Country-Retreat Challenge” storyline, so we’ve positioned it there. Go to feature page Setting The Scene In Canada's Wilds.
|Bygone Britain, By Train|
Travelogues are always popular at this time of year, as a vicarious solution when winter is ending but the holiday season has not arrived. The first time much of contemporary Britain was shown onscreen in colour was in the series of scripted travelogues made for British Transport Films in the 1950s and early 60s, as indirect promotion for the then recently nationalised [1948-] railway network, to encourage Brits to get out and see their own country. [go to feature page].
|Top Ten Tintin|
The Adventures Of Tintin make for suitable tonic viewing at this dreary time of year.
But with 5 feature films and 2 tv series comprising dozens of episodes, where to start?
[go to feature page]
|In Memoriam 2018|
|As always, at the close of the year, the media publish obit roundups for those we lost over the past year. Here, we look at the writers and other creative figures we lost.|
a film or tv star dies, of course there’s always international coverage – as with this
past year, e.g. Burt Reynolds [died age 82], or western star Clint Walker
[age 90]. Even someone widely known just for a single role, as a voice actor, gets widespread headline
coverage – this year Douglas Rain, the soft-spoken Canadian actor who was
the voice of HAL in 2001, who died age 90. Sondra Locke is best known as Clint
Eastwood's former partner, on- and off-screen, but she later turned director with Ratboy in 1986,
from a Rob Thompson script, and wrote a memoir critical of Hollywood, The Good, The Bad, And The
Very Ugly – A Hollywood Journey, in 1997. Just over Xmas, Dame June Whitfield,
who appeared in over 1,300 radio and TV shows (e.g. as the mother in Ab Fab) during a 70-year career,
died age 93.
The same goes for producers and directors, like Penny Marshall [age 75], who began her career as an actor before directing films like Big; British film-industry stalwarts Lewis Gilbert, remembered for Reach For The Sky, Carve Her Name With Pride, Sink The Bismarck!, Alfie, Educating Rita, Shirley Valentine plus three James Bond films, and Michael Anderson, remembered for The Dam Busters, Around The World In 80 Days, The Quiller Memorandum, and Logan’s Run; Nicolas Roeg, the cinematographer turned director with films like Performance, Walkabout, Don't Look Now, The Man Who Fell to Earth etc; and Raymond Chow, the Hong Kong producer, who began as a publicist for Shaw Brothers Studios and then brought Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan to the international screen.
Directors who also mainly wrote their own films get the coverage. Notably, this year Italian writer- director Bernardo Bertolucci, whose obit says he first “became famous as a poet.” He became famous in the film world with Il Conformista (1970), from the Alberto Moravia novel, and then the English-language Last Tango In Paris (1972), which he largely wrote himself. The Last Emperor (1987), was a later career triumph, with nine Academy Awards. IMDb credits him with 25 films as a writer, the same number as a director.
Writers who are literary lions such as author Philip Roth (Goodbye Columbus 1959, Portnoy's Complaint 1969 etc), who died aged 85, get decent coverage, as does Tom Wolfe, whose 1979 impressionistic nonfiction bestseller about the early US space programme, The Right Stuff, was adapted by director Philip Kaufman in 1983.
The overlapping field of SF and fantasy literature has its own fanbase, and the passing of Ursula K. Le Guin, described in 2016 by The New York Times as "America's greatest living science fiction writer", was duly noted. Harlan Ellison had and has his own following as a leading science fiction writer (though he preferred to be called a fantasist). IMDb credits him with 30 films and tv dramas as a writer, but he also had his name removed from screen credits in favour of his nom de plume, "Cordwainer Bird". His dystopian-future novel A Boy And His Dog (filmed 1975) is currently being remade. The same goes for the Trinidadian-British author V.S. Naipaul, whose 1957 The Mystic Masseur was adapted by Caryl Phillips and filmed by Ismail Merchant in 2001, and the Israeli author Amos Oz, whose memoir A Tale And Love And Darkness was made into a 2015 feature film. Louis Cha Jin Yong, Hong Kong's most famous writer and the best-selling Chinese author, was nicknamed the 'Tolkien of Chinese literature' for his wuxia novels, which were the basis of over 90 film-TV shows and role-playing video games. Scottish-born novelist Philip Kerr was an all-rounder but is best known as the creator of the Bernie Gunther historical crime novels [HBO mini-series currently being developed] set in Nazi Germany.
English writer Douglas Scott Botting is less well-known, despite being a prolific career author of nonfiction books, some based on his own travel explorations, as well as a documentary producer and presenter. His Times obit was sub-headed ‘Author and adventurer who decided to write after being told to f*** off by Ernest Hemingway’. (EH was in a bad mood having just read some slighting obits published after he was prematurely reported dead in a plane crash in Africa in 1954.) Battle of Britain Spitfire pilot Geoffrey Wellum is remembered for his 2002 memoir, First Light: The Story Of The Boy Who Became A Man In The War-Torn Skies Above Britain, which became the basis of a BBC documentary-drama he narrated in 2010.
Clive King was author of the 1963 children's classic Stig Of The Dump, about a modern boy befriending a surviving prehistoric caveboy, which has never been out of print and became the basis of 3 British tv series.
NYC-based playwright Neil Simon is best-known as the author of comedy plays, such as his early 1963 success Barefoot In The Park (filmed 1967), which was inspired by his first marriage, though it was his next play The Odd Couple (1965) that made him famous. He wrote over 30 plays and nearly 30 screenplays, and is said to have received more combined Oscar and Tony nominations than any other writer.
The ghostly title design for Bullitt by self-taught Cuban designer Pablo Ferro, who died in 2018 after a career specialising in this creative aspect of film, including titles for Dr. Strangelove, A Clockwork Orange and Men In Black.
With those who
were mainly film-tv scriptwriters, coverage is more limited, and there may be omissions below.
Storylines In Review 2019