Thursday, March 23, 2017

Black and White

Although film makers were attempting to make colour films during the early 1900s (further information from the dubious world of Wikipedia...), it wasn't proven to be hugely successful until the late '30s with mainstream movies like The Wizard of Oz and Gone With the Wind. Throughout the following couple of decades, studios toyed with both colour and black & white and, quite often, it was more a case of budgetary constraint rather than artistic choice to plump for the standard monochrome.

Below are just a handful of films made in the 1960s and beyond whose directors and producers deliberately chose to film in black & white for varying reasons. The lack of full-colour does not distract from the drama, excitement or entertainment one jot. (This is a mere selection of a multitude of monochrome movies from the last sixty years. A list of films from 1970 and beyond can be found here.


Alfred Hitchcock - 1960

An absolute masterpiece. Hitchcock made this film on a budget with the television crew from Alfred Hitchcock Presents. His reasons for filming in B&W were partly for budgetary constraints but also to get away with bloody murder in the shower scene (censors were less squeamish if they couldn't see red!)


Roman Polanski - 1965

Polanski's first English Language film and, to my mind, another masterpiece. Yes, the choice for B&W was to keep the costs down, but the coldness and bleakness convey the isolation and sexual apprehension of Carol Ledoux (played to perfection by Catherine Deneuve).

Ed Wood

Tim Burton - 1991

Without doubt, Tim Burton's best film. It's a love letter to Hollywood and the dreams of a desperately eager yet pitifully untalented fellow. The lack of colour merely pays tribute to the era.

Schindler's List

Steven Spielberg - 1993

This story just had to be B&W. It's bleak. It's harrowing. It's cold. The flash of red we see in the form of the little girl's coat highlights the individuality of the lives lost rather than just see the holocaust as a faceless blanket of death.

The Mist

Frank Darabont - 2007

It was always Frank Darabont's wish to have this Stephen king adaptation seen by audiences in B&W but the fearful, greedy studios were concerned about the box office. Thankfully, the blu-ray release has Frank's original vision in tact. I refuse to watch the colour version.

The Elephant Man

David Lynch - 1980

David Lynch is synonymous with eerie and dreamlike storytelling. His other films are incredibly colourful and the spectrum for each movie plays an integral part of the narrative. Surprisingly, it was the film's producer, Mel Brooks, who persuaded Lynch to do this film in B&W.

Down by Law

Jim Jarmusch - 1986

I only saw this film for the first time a couple of years ago (thanks to the insistence of my friend Dan). To be honest, I don't know exactly why Jim Jarmusch chose to film in B&W, but I am so glad he did. The monochrome (again) evokes the isolation of the main characters and also brings that jazzy New Orleans vibe to life.

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

Robert Aldrich - 1962

Another classic. Bette Davis and Joan Crawford loathed each other in real life and that dramatic tension was brought to the fore in this grand guignol chiller. Once more, the B&W gives it the Hollywood homage tone and also highlights the duality and contrast between the two leading roles... and all the grey in between.

The Artist

Michel Hazanavicius - 2011

This one is pretty self-explanatory, I think. A sort of distant cousin of Singin' in the Rain and an absolutely beautiful tribute to the silent era of Hollywood. Pure magic.

Young Frankenstein

Mel Brooks - 1974

One of Mel Brooks' most loved films and a joyful comedy played to perfection by the leads. Again, it doesn't take much imagination to consider why Mel chose to go with B&W here...

Night of the Living Dead

George A Romero - 1968

Yep. I think it's safe to say budget played a huge part here - but how serendipitous. Just like Hitchcock, Romero used chocolate sauce for the blood, so in the cases of this and Psycho the monochrome disguises the charade and the effect is crucial.

There are so many more one could mention but this is a mere selection. Who says black & white films are boring, eh? Fools, that's who!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

This Life

Last night, my friend Dean and I finished re-watching the seminal BBC TV series This Life. For me, it is the umpteenth time that I have watched it all the way through. For about the first ten years after it was made I made it an annual tradition to plough through my VHS copies (and, later, the DVD boxset!) but I haven't done so for a long time since.

When its first season aired in early 1996, it felt like I was the only person watching it; but, a year later (and after a hasty re-run of that freshman year) season two hit our screens and it became a passion for many across the United Kingdom.

If anyone were to delve into this show with fresh eyes, they might not see what all the fuss is about. The show hasn't dated (apart from the noticeable lack of mobile phones and the occasional '90s jeans syndrome') but myriad shows have followed in its wake and regurgitated a lot of the format and storylines. This was the mid-nineties and it was rare to see such audacious authenticity in the depiction of the lives of twentysomethings.

The show's creator, Amy Jenkins, wanted a show about young lawyers in which you never saw the interior of a court room (a conceit discarded by the reunion special ten years later) - Amy wanted to expose the emotional struggles that young people fresh from university go through when entering adult life. It's a period when the partying lifestyle doesn't quite want to be relinquished; sexuality still needs to be explored; and the coveted independence from family is not as welcome, nor as easy, as one might have anticipated.

With its bold and frank approach to sex, drugs, alcohol and all things considered sinful, it shocked and entertained in equal measures. Of course, there were frequent letters written in to the Daily Mail from aggressively indignant and pompous windbags who loathed the notion of young people enjoying themselves, but that just made it all the more decadent.

These friends and colleagues live together in an expensive Southwark home, trying to get on with their careers and their lives but having to maintain a very student lifestyle that is proving difficult to abjure.

Season one introduced us to Miles, the entitled and arrogant public school educated tosser; Anna, the sassy, witty and feisty squatter in Chambers; Milly, the driven yet uptight perfectionist; Egg, Milly's daydreamer of a boyfriend who'd rather be playing football than doing attendance notes; and Warren, the Welsh and proudly gay man who is terrified of his family's disapproval.

Other characters included Delilah, an obnoxious, thieving drug addict; Ferdy, a bisexual courier; O'Donnell, Milly's boss and seducer; and Kira, Warren's mouthy and bold cousin.

Season two arrived with a hard act to follow. We were introduced to some new characters and said goodbye to an old friend in a shocking and gripping storyline. Ferdy became a series regular and slowly became more confident in his own sexuality. We were also introduced to Rachel - a character who has divided fans. Was she just a misunderstood, innocent try-hard, or was she a calculating, manipulative bitch?

The second series was twice as long as the first and this allowed a multitude of storylines but it was dominated by Warren's dark encounter on the wrong side of the law, Milly's misguided affair, and Anna's anarchic collapse.

Numerous plot threads hurtled toward the exhilarating finale and clashed with catastrophic consequences. The show really went out on a high, and with a bang, in one of the best TV series finales ever. (Forgive my hyperbole, but it really was a fantastic denouement!)

In 2007, we had a reunion special. In all honesty, it didn't quite recapture the glory of the original two series. It was lovely to have the majority of the core cast back on our screens, but the plot felt rather contrived. Critics and fans were, on the whole, disappointed. I, however, was more than content sitting down with a pizza and a bottle of red and reacquainting myself with old friends.

This Life left a great legacy. Shows such as Cold Feet and Queer as Folk followed and ran with their own success. But would they have been made had Amy Jenkins not been a pioneer in creating this addictive show?

The show also launched the careers of its cast - most notable Andrew Lincoln and jack Davenport - and those of us who were engulfed in its maelstrom for those two years have a strange bond formed of a passion and respect for this beloved TV drama.

I would just like to mention Daniela Nardini who played Anna Forbes with such incredible gusto that she became a cultural icon. This acerbic, brassy and astute character was also a f*cked up headcase - but we all loved her. Daniela absolutely deserved her BAFTA award for Best Actress. I for one would love to see a spin-off series all about this remarkable, hedonistic Scot. 'The Trials of Anna', maybe?

Tuesday, March 14, 2017


I promised myself that I was going to get back into the blogging malarkey this year. It was not even approaching 'sporadic' in 2016! After a rather tumultuous 2015, the following year was lollygagging in its wake. The twelve months of unemployment throughout was beginning to wear me down until I was nearly a mere shadow of my former self.

Thankfully, 2017 is looking up and I have a job (wahoo!) and this has spurred me on to find my own abode once more (having spent the last year and a quarter living in the homes of others, be it family or friends - all very kind and wonderful people).

Once back in the realms of "normal" life (employed and with my own private space around me) I can shed my cloak of morbid woe and channel any positive energy into prattling on about nothing to anyone who cares to read.

So let's get back to writing words 'n' stuff'...

My new role is situated in Sheffield so I have some reasonable options in regard to where I live:

  • Chesterfield - which would mean a daily, costly commute on top of the rent
  • Sheffield - local to work but a tad more pricey
  • Oz - but I have no hot air balloon nor a cyclone at hand, so I might skip this choice.

I started looking at places on Friday. During my lunchbreak, I visited a new block of flats in the north area of Sheffield. I like a new build. the notion that no one has lived in a place before me is rather satisfying. It comes with white goods (washing machine and fridge/freezer); it's secure; it's soundproofed; but it is rather small. Luckily, I don't own much furniture - as long as my books and DVDs have somewhere to go, I'm happy.

Could this be my next home?

On Friday evening, I checked out a larger flat in Brimington, Chesterfield. It was a spacious living space, but directly above an Indian restaurant (smelly and bound to make me hungry... and fat!) and in a noisy area. It also had no white goods. Loads of cupboard space, though. If I wanted to invite some friends around to play sardines, we'd be sorted!

On Saturday, I checked out a ground floor flat in the same block where my brother and his family live. This was not as small as the first, nor as large as the second, but it was homely. I am not fond of ground floor flats because I have a fear of home invasion and theft. Oh, and floods. And moths - but that's inconsequential.

Now... we come to 'Application Fees'. After living for sixteen years in Australia, I had no idea about this astonishing extortion brought upon us by Estate Agents. Apparently, it costs a fortune to do a credit check or whatever... but £300?? Eff off!! The last flat was asking this and it put me off immediately.

So, on Monday morning, I applied for the first flat I saw back on Friday lunchtime as the application fee was only £150. I hope I get it, otherwise that's six ponies gone to the glue factory!

Now, as anyone who knows me well knows that I am prone to bouts of stress, they don't need me to highlight the fact that my lower intestine has been popping and gurgling for the past four days. Panic ensues and my innards react like a volcano with a billion Mentos thrown in. I shudder to recall the day an old "friend" had a vicious rant at me (ridiculously unfairly, I assure you!) and I was so taken aback, I just trembled and farted. Heaven help me if I am ever in a bank hold-up or trapped in a well with a nervy wrestler suffering from Tourette's.

As soon as I have found and secured a place to live, the better. I look forward to relaxing...

Wish me luck, y'all.