Heavens to Betsy! Two months without an update to this site and the last rites long since read. What have I been doing with my time? Why return now?
Back in August, I started a new job, one that’s broadly similar to what I was doing previously – and, if I may be so bold, just as much frickin’ fun – but involving many new duties and of course a whole raft of fresh faces. It’s quite easy maintaining a site like this when you know what you’re facing each day, a different prospect altogether when you’re returning home spent after a rigmarole of getting used to people and systems, and it became apparent before too long that daily updates were just beyond me. A shame. I’ve spent some happy moments reading the old entries on this site, cringing over certain rating inconsistencies and trying to remember the posts into which hours of work were plugged and those dashed off in thirty minutes.
Clearly, going back to blogging daily is something I can’t do right now, however I think it would be remiss to let the site just die. As an interim measure, before I can spend more time on these here pages once again, I propose a weekly ‘film of the week’ piece on an upcoming feature that I would really like to talk about. I think classic movie fans will agree with me that Monday’s screening of Vincente Minnelli’s The Bad and the Beautiful deserves all the discussion it can possibly get. It’s a great picture, and I shall have a related piece online by the start of the weekend. I’ll also point readers to other offerings scheduled over the course of the week that have accompanying blogs here. The satellite/cable attitude to repeat scheduling means films are often screened again and again, whether you want to watch them or not, and in the past it has been a major headache for this writer to have to sift through all the pictures covered already.
I have, in the meantime, kept up my viewing habits, even without the structure of watching things that were due to be on TV later in the week. I’m currently working my way through the Woody Allen Collection, a pick and mix of the great, good and just okay from Woodman, though even the latter are never less than interesting. The film I bought the set for, Love and Death, remains as riotous as when I first watched it, particularly as the Bergman references are never ladled on too thickly and there seems to be an attitude that it doesn’t matter if you don’t get the joke because another one’s just around the corner. I’ve watched many Allen films once only, so it was great to catch an outright classic like Annie Hall and simply enjoy it for what it was. Interiors, on the other hand, struck me as a brave attempt that took itself a little too seriously, a marked contrast with something like Crimes and Misdemeanours, in which the more mature, confident auteur has no problem grafting laughs onto some of his darkest material.
Sadly, I haven’t made great progress with the Clint boxset, a Christmas 2011 purchase that’s stuck around forty minutes into Bronco Billy. With treats like Pink Cadillac, Honkytonk Man and City Heat awaiting before Eastwood once more hit the creative heights with his post-1991 output, I don’t think you can blame me. You might suggest simply skipping some titles for the sake of luxuriating in the good stuff, but I have a rule that if I don’t watch the films in sequence then certain things just won’t get watched and, you never know, I might just miss a gem. If I’d jumped around blithely with the Ultimate Hammer set, I might never to this day have seen a camp classic like Slave Girls, though there’s a strong case that no one really needs a viewing of Vengeance of She in their lives.
In terms of televisual treats, I happily made time for Mark Gatiss’s Horror Europa, which as usual with this sort of thing tried to cover far too much in a single sitting. One 90-minute feature was better than nothing, I guess, but surely BBC Four’s capacity could have allowed for a series of hour-long episodes, perhaps taking in separate countries/regions, or movements, or separated chronologically. Whatever. It was neat to be reminded by Mr Mark of that perennial late nighter from Belgium, Daughters of Darkness, featuring the never knowingly overdressed Andrea Rau. Gatiss soon moved into familiar territory, namely the German expressionist classics from the 1920s that played such a major part in developing the horror genre, but this was part of a whistle stop tour, taking in the usual phases, names and tropes, and whilst it made for perfectly fine viewing, I wish he’d had the time and capacity to properly get under the bonnet.
Oh well, Gatiss’s short odyssey has allowed for a mini-season of European horror flicks screened on BBC Four, a rare opportunity to catch something a little different. Otherwise, the schedules have a depressingly familiar feel about them – the Beeb reserves its crappiest offerings for BBC1, for reasons I find frankly unfathomable, ITV’s attitude to films remains as limited in imagination as that ridiculously loud, badly lit and stupidly popular show it churns out on Saturday evenings, and I still refer to Film4 first when the Radio Times turns up. Gems are available, but my searches are deeper and harder than ever, which is another reason for this site’s slide. Must try harder…