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20 items from 2011


Charlie Brooker: the dark side of our gadget addiction

1 December 2011 4:06 PM, PST | The Guardian - TV News | See recent The Guardian - TV News news »

We are addicted to gadgets – but what are their side-effects? In his new drama series, Black Mirror, Charlie Brooker explores the dark side of our love affair with technology

Every life includes significant landmarks: your first kiss, your first job, your first undetected murder. Maybe that's just me. Anyway, last week I experienced a more alarming first: my first unironic conversation with a machine.

I was using the new iPhone, the one with Siri, the built-in personal assistant you talk to. You hold down a button and mutter something like "Set the alarm for eight in the morning," or "Remind me to ring Gordon later," and Siri replies, "Ok, I'll do that for you," using the voice of Jon Briggs, better known as the voice of The Weakest Link. And he sets everything up, just the way you wanted.

Siri is a creep – a servile arselick with zero self-respect – but he works annoyingly well. »

- Charlie Brooker

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Holy smoke: religion and television's uneasy pact

8 November 2011 4:05 PM, PST | The Guardian - TV News | See recent The Guardian - TV News news »

Comedy priests, Songs of Praise and Thought for the Day: is there more to religious broadcasting than satire and 'God slots'? Mark Lawson reports on TV's modern crisis of faith

The most commonly accepted measures of success in television are longevity and prizes. By these lights, religious broadcasting is currently in impressive shape. Songs of Praise, BBC1's televised church service, has just celebrated its 50th anniversary, a Methuselah-like span in a medium of brief fashions, while ecclesiastical sit-com Rev returns to BBC2 for a second series tomorrow, having won not only a specialist gong (a Sandford St Martin award for religious broadcasting) but also a Bafta for best comedy.

Older members of the viewing congregation will, however, note that there is now far less religious – or, today's preferred term, "faith" – programming than there was. A believer time-travelling to the 1980s would find a devotional show in every section of »

- Mark Lawson

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Portrait of the artist: Phil Daniels, actor

29 August 2011 4:05 PM, PDT | The Guardian - Film News | See recent The Guardian - Film News news »

'Doing EastEnders wasn't exactly suffering for my art, but my soul's not in TV. We all have to live, don't we?'

What got you started?

A lady called Anna Scher. She used to go around the London schools in the holidays, doing theatre workshops. My friend Paul's sister was going, so we turned up one day when I was about 13. There were some nice-looking girls there, so we carried on going.

What was your big breakthrough?

Doing a play called Class Enemy at the Royal Court when I was about 16. It was about a classroom of kids left with no teacher, so each of them gives a lesson about what they know.

Do you suffer for your art?

Doing EastEnders wasn't exactly suffering, but my soul's not in quick-fix TV. Theatre doesn't pay like TV work pays, though. We all have to live, don't we?

You've played a lot of "geezer" roles. »

- Laura Barnett

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Grant Morrison: my Supergods from the age of the superhero

22 July 2011 4:06 PM, PDT | The Guardian - Film News | See recent The Guardian - Film News news »

From frying God's brain to escorting Thatcher from office, the Scots writer chooses his favourite superhero moments

Action Comics #1, 1938

This was the first ever superhero comic. Not only did it start everything off, the first image of the story is incredible. It's Superman – who was an unknown character at that time – leaping through the air with a tied-up blonde under his arm, with absolutely no explanation of how he got there, or why. What I like about it is that, as a piece of storytelling, it's very modernistic, and having always thought about it in terms of nostalgia, when I was researching it for the book it was great to go back and see it for what it was. From the first panel on, it sets up everything for the next 70 years.

The Flash #163, 1966

This was from the time of pop art comics in the 1960s when DC Comics had go-go chicks, »

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My TV hero: Phil Davis on Mike Leigh

11 July 2011 4:06 PM, PDT | The Guardian - TV News | See recent The Guardian - TV News news »

Leigh's characters are people just like us – they are funny and tragic at the same time

When I was much younger, I saw two of Mike Leigh's films for television, Nuts in May and Hard Labour, and they changed the way I thought about drama. They were peopled by characters who seemed incredibly 3D; who were real in a way that was quite different from everything else on television.

I knew I wanted to be an actor – I was maniacal about it from the age of 10 – so I often watched Play for Today. What struck me about Leigh's films was that they featured people that were just like us; people who you knew, who you could see if you looked out of the window. The characters were very bold and very extreme, like the people on my estate were. They were funny and tragic at the same time.

When »

- Vicky Frost

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My TV hero: Phil Davis on Mike Leigh

11 July 2011 4:06 PM, PDT | The Guardian - Film News | See recent The Guardian - Film News news »

Leigh's characters are people just like us – they are funny and tragic at the same time

When I was much younger, I saw two of Mike Leigh's films for television, Nuts in May and Hard Labour, and they changed the way I thought about drama. They were peopled by characters who seemed incredibly 3D; who were real in a way that was quite different from everything else on television.

I knew I wanted to be an actor – I was maniacal about it from the age of 10 – so I often watched Play for Today. What struck me about Leigh's films was that they featured people that were just like us; people who you knew, who you could see if you looked out of the window. The characters were very bold and very extreme, like the people on my estate were. They were funny and tragic at the same time.

When »

- Vicky Frost

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This week's new film events

17 June 2011 4:06 PM, PDT | The Guardian - Film News | See recent The Guardian - Film News news »

Cinema's Architects Of The Uncanny, London

Artist Pablo Bronstein has taken over the Ica and temporarily remodelled it to disorienting effect, but you'll find no refuge in the cinema. Instead, you'll get a selection of great artists who've achieved similarly surreal architectural effects on celluloid. The weirdest ones seem to last the longest. Buñuel mischievously swapped dining rooms and lavatories for The Phantom Of Liberty's infamous dinner party, and prevented guests from leaving another one in The Exterminating Angel. There are spooky houses exerting sinister influences in the likes of Dario Argento's Inferno, Rivette's Celine And Julie Go Boating and Orson Welles-led oddity Malpertuis. In Repulsion, all Roman Polanski needed was a London apartment and Catherine Deneuve.

Ica Cinema, SE1, Wed to 30 Jun

Ray Davies, London

You can hear the Kinks on screen in everything from Hot Fuzz to Juno, but how many have seen Ray Davies's acting? »

- Steve Rose

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John Mackenzie obituary

12 June 2011 4:07 PM, PDT | The Guardian - TV News | See recent The Guardian - TV News news »

Film director whose career took him from gritty television plays to Hollywood thrillers

People who talk wistfully of the "golden age of British television drama" are often accused of viewing the past through the rosy lens of nostalgia. But a clear-eyed examination of the era proves that such slots as the BBC's The Wednesday Play (1964-70) and Play for Today (1970-84) were unsurpassed as breeding grounds for talented directors such as John Mackenzie, who has died after a stroke aged 83. Like most of his contemporaries who gained their experience by working in television – Philip Saville, Michael Lindsay-Hogg, Ken Loach, Mike Newell, Michael Apted and Mike Leigh – Mackenzie went on to make feature films, notably his superb London-based gangster picture, The Long Good Friday (1980).

The television background trained Mackenzie to work quickly on taut and realistic narratives, within a tight budget and on schedule. One of his first jobs was as »

- Ronald Bergan

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John Mackenzie obituary

12 June 2011 4:07 PM, PDT | The Guardian - Film News | See recent The Guardian - Film News news »

Film director whose career took him from gritty television plays to Hollywood thrillers

People who talk wistfully of the "golden age of British television drama" are often accused of viewing the past through the rosy lens of nostalgia. But a clear-eyed examination of the era proves that such slots as the BBC's The Wednesday Play (1964-70) and Play for Today (1970-84) were unsurpassed as breeding grounds for talented directors such as John Mackenzie, who has died after a stroke aged 83. Like most of his contemporaries who gained their experience by working in television – Philip Saville, Michael Lindsay-Hogg, Ken Loach, Mike Newell, Michael Apted and Mike Leigh – Mackenzie went on to make feature films, notably his superb London-based gangster picture, The Long Good Friday (1980).

The television background trained Mackenzie to work quickly on taut and realistic narratives, within a tight budget and on schedule. One of his first jobs was as »

- Ronald Bergan

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John Mackenzie, 1928 - 2011

12 June 2011 1:49 PM, PDT | MUBI | See recent MUBI news »

"People who talk wistfully of the 'golden age of British television drama' are often accused of viewing the past through the rosy lens of nostalgia," writes Ronald Bergan in the Guardian. "But a clear-eyed examination of the era proves that such slots as the BBC's The Wednesday Play (1964-70) and Play for Today (1970-84) were unsurpassed as breeding grounds for talented directors such as John Mackenzie, who has died after a stroke aged 83. Like most of his contemporaries who gained their experience by working in television — Philip Saville, Michael Lindsay-Hogg, Ken Loach, Mike Newell, Michael Apted and Mike Leigh — Mackenzie went on to make feature films, notably his superb London-based gangster picture, The Long Good Friday (1980)."

Paul Gallagher has posted a documentary on the making of The Long Good Friday at Dangerous Minds, preceded by a deeply appreciative introduction: "It started when producer Barry Hanson asked writer Barrie Keefe, one night, »

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Doctor Who complete reviews: The Happiness Patrol

6 April 2011 8:39 AM, PDT | Shadowlocked | See recent Shadowlocked news »

I've just been scribbling a proposed story idea for the next season of Doctor Who. It goes like this: Doctor, Amy and Whassisface land on the Planet of The Top Hats And Tuxes – a doomy old planet full of misery run by the evil regime of Camos and Osbos, two perma-grinning posho androids who trundle around in top hats, bow ties and tuxedos. Anybody without a tux is mercilessly cut to shreds by Camos and Osbos. The Doctor stages a rebellion among the planet's inhabitants, and eventually they overthrow the nasty rulers by cutting off their life supplies – or draining their bank accounts dry. Doctor saves the day. Amy shouts something sarcastic at the top of her voice. Whassisface dies and then comes back to life for a celebratory happy ending.

The end!

Well, you never know, it might work, although since there's a hang-gliding pig breezing past my window, »

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The state of British TV: drama

29 March 2011 6:16 AM, PDT | The Guardian - TV News | See recent The Guardian - TV News news »

Is British TV still the envy of the world? In our series discussing the health of UK television, Mark Lawson examines the current state of UK television drama

• The state of British TV: entertainment

The most telling detail about the current state of TV drama is that, within living memory, it used to be habitual for the Brits to patronise American television fiction. The yanks were Ok for glossy shows about cops with a distinctive physical characteristic – bald Kojak, fat Cannon, wheelchair-user Ironside – but the serious stuff was made here: classy costume dramas, the bold and campaigning Play for Today.

Viewers, reviewers and executives who remember when the phrase "wall-to-wall Dallas" served as a terrible warning of the possible consequences of the Americanisation of British drama regard the current era with astonishment. Now an envy of American television drama is one of the governing emotions at UK networks, while polls »

- Mark Lawson

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Enough Glasgow Noir. Let's lighten up a little | Kevin McKenna

13 March 2011 11:49 PM, PDT | The Guardian - Film News | See recent The Guardian - Film News news »

Although proud of the films which portray my city's recurring themes of poverty, violence and deprivation, I occasionally yearn for something more uplifting

A chorus line of fluffers and panderers will gather this August, as they always do, at the Edinburgh International Film Festival to celebrate Kazimierz Lubanski's lost Warsaw arthouse études. Or perhaps it may be Igor Masopust's seminal, and rarely seen, Carpathian trilogie. But whichever it is, I will wonder, and not for the first time, when they will get round to assembling a retrospective on the emerging west of Scotland cinematic oeuvre which has been loosely christened Glasgow Noir by some and Clyde Mort by others.

Next week, I hope to view the latest work in this canon, Neds, by the gifted actor and director Peter Mullan. I'm told it is a gritty and visceral study on how ancient and tribal gang loyalties destroy the academic dream »

- Kevin McKenna

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Alan Shallcross obituary

13 February 2011 4:06 PM, PST | The Guardian - Film News | See recent The Guardian - Film News news »

Producer of popular BBC television dramas

Alan Shallcross, who has died aged 78, epitomised the BBC television producer of the 1970s and 80s. Always dapper, never without a tie and eminently respectable, Alan had a passion for drama and a respect for writers, actors and the creative process. He knew what he wanted and he got it by searching out talented individuals, nurturing them and then watching them weave their magic in his productions.

In those days, when Paul Fox was controller of BBC1 and Christopher Morahan was head of plays, the BBC drama department bubbled with life. Producers such as Alan were given commissioning power. The writer Brian Phelan, who worked with him often, has described how they went out to lunch, chewed over an idea and, if all was well, went ahead and did it: no committees, no commissioning department, just one producer with an eye for a good »

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Alan Shallcross obituary

13 February 2011 4:06 PM, PST | The Guardian - TV News | See recent The Guardian - TV News news »

Producer of popular BBC television dramas

Alan Shallcross, who has died aged 78, epitomised the BBC television producer of the 1970s and 80s. Always dapper, never without a tie and eminently respectable, Alan had a passion for drama and a respect for writers, actors and the creative process. He knew what he wanted and he got it by searching out talented individuals, nurturing them and then watching them weave their magic in his productions.

In those days, when Paul Fox was controller of BBC1 and Christopher Morahan was head of plays, the BBC drama department bubbled with life. Producers such as Alan were given commissioning power. The writer Brian Phelan, who worked with him often, has described how they went out to lunch, chewed over an idea and, if all was well, went ahead and did it: no committees, no commissioning department, just one producer with an eye for a good »

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Margaret John obituary

6 February 2011 4:00 PM, PST | The Guardian - TV News | See recent The Guardian - TV News news »

Welsh actor known for her role in the TV sitcom Gavin & Stacey

The role of the foul-mouthed, toyboy-obsessed pensioner Doris in Gavin & Stacey brought Margaret John, who has died aged 84, a whole new legion of fans. Doris was the south Wales widow who lived next door to Gwen (Melanie Walters), whose daughter Stacey (Joanna Page) was conducting a long-distance relationship with the Essex-based Gavin (Mathew Horne), before they eventually married.

The actor relished Doris's colourful one liners as she propositioned Gavin ("I'm very open-minded and discreet") and gave Stacey advice on how far to go on a date ("A kiss, a cuddle, a cheeky finger"). Written by James Corden and Ruth Jones, who also played Smithy and Nessa in the sitcom, Gavin & Stacey's rise from BBC Three to BBC One, via BBC Two, over three series (2007-2010), owed much to the part played by John and other supporting actors as »

- Anthony Hayward

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Helene Palmer

1 February 2011 10:17 AM, PST | The Guardian - TV News | See recent The Guardian - TV News news »

Actor known for her role as Ida Clough in Coronation Street

The actor Helene Palmer, who has died aged 82, donned a black wig and frumpy overalls in the television soap opera Coronation Street to play Ida Clough, one of a triumvirate of stroppy machinists who tested Mike Baldwin's patience at his denim garment factory in Weatherfield in the 1970s. With Ivy Tilsley and Vera Duckworth, Ida featured from 1978 until 1988 as a militant unionist at Baldwin's Casuals – in a decade when strikes and lockouts were the order of the day in the real world.

The loudmouthed Ida challenged Ivy for the role of shop steward in 1980 but lost the election. She lost her job when, eight years later, she shopped Mike for drink-driving and he received a ban. At various times, Ida's children – the even louder Muriel (Angela Catherall) and the dopey van driver Bernard (Jeffrey Longmore) – worked at the factory. »

- Anthony Hayward

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Pete Postlethwaite: a career in clips

3 January 2011 10:26 AM, PST | The Guardian - TV News | See recent The Guardian - TV News news »

The actor Pete Postlethwaite died yesterday at the age of 64. We look back over his career in clips

It's difficult to know which is the more telling statement about Pete Postlethwaite, who died yesterday. That Steven Spielberg called him "the best actor in the world", after working with him on Jurassic Park sequel The Lost World. Or that Postlethwaite reacted to the praise with such dry deprecation: "I'm sure what Spielberg actually said was, 'The thing about Pete is that he thinks he's the best actor in the world.'"

A man with a face just made for immortalising on Mount Rushmore, Postlethwaite was an ensemble actor to his core; transparently decent and generous, hardly a limelight hogger. The role that first brought him to the attention of most people was Giuseppe Conlon, inmate dad to Daniel Day-Lewis's falsely imprisoned Guildford Four suspect Gerry in 1993's In the Name of the Father. »

- Catherine Shoard

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Pete Postlethwaite: a career in clips

3 January 2011 10:26 AM, PST | The Guardian - Film News | See recent The Guardian - Film News news »

The actor Pete Postlethwaite died yesterday at the age of 64. We look back over his career in clips

It's difficult to know which is the more telling statement about Pete Postlethwaite, who died yesterday. That Steven Spielberg called him "the best actor in the world", after working with him on Jurassic Park sequel The Lost World. Or that Postlethwaite reacted to the praise with such dry deprecation: "I'm sure what Spielberg actually said was, 'The thing about Pete is that he thinks he's the best actor in the world.'"

A man with a face just made for immortalising on Mount Rushmore, Postlethwaite was an ensemble actor to his core; transparently decent and generous, hardly a limelight hogger. The role that first brought him to the attention of most people was Giuseppe Conlon, inmate dad to Daniel Day-Lewis's falsely imprisoned Guildford Four suspect Gerry in 1993's In the Name of the Father. »

- Catherine Shoard

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Pete Postlethwaite RIP

3 January 2011 2:01 AM, PST | EmpireOnline | See recent EmpireOnline news »

2011 has barely begun and already we have lost one of the best-loved British actors to grace the screen. Oscar nominated thesp Pete Postlethwaite has died in hospital at the age of 64 after a long struggle with cancer.Once described by no lesser director than Steven Spielberg as “the best actor in the world," Postlethwaite was born in Cheshire and originally thought he might become a priest, then a Pe teacher. But drama ended up being his first love, which resulted in him teaching the art at Loreto College in Manchester before brushing up on his own skills at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. He launched his stage career properly at the Liverpool Everyman Theatre, working alongside the likes of Bill Nighy and Julie Walters. He’s also a long-standing veteran of the Royal Shakespeare Company, having performed many of the Bard’s most challenging works, including an acclaimed turn as King Lear. »

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20 items from 2011


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