The media has a key role to play in the construction of our knowledge of crime and policing. In the post-war decades, they argue the representation of policing in the UK reflected the general social consensus. The dominant image here is Jack Warner playing George Dixon in the popular UK TV series Dixon of Dock Green that ran from 1955 to 1976. George Dixon came to represent the archetypal ‘British Bobby’, a pillar of the community who was widely respected. The homely and reassuring values that Dixon represented were summarized in his catchphrase ‘Evenin’ all’.
Some reviewers of the first episodes of the current BBC1 adaptation have dismissed it is over-blown fantasy, even childish, yet Clarke’s characters are only once removed from the very real magical world of early nineteenth-century England. What few readers or viewers realise is that there were magicians similar to Strange and Norrell at the time: there really were ‘Friends of English Magic’, to whom the novel’s Mr Segundus appealed in a letter to The Times.
Film is little over 120 years old, and lives in film seem to fall into three phases. The first comprises those who were born before the era of film, and whose different experiences and expectations helped shape the young medium. The second comprises those who grew up with film, in the era of the studios and mass cinema-going. The third consists of those who saw the bastion of the film world assailed by new technologies, from television to video games, which divided the audience’s attention and changed professions.
Picture the scene.
Scene 1: A group of wildly drunk young men smash a local business to smithereens, systematically destroying every inch, before beating the owner within an inch of his life.
Scene 2: A group of power-crazed men (and one woman), driven by an aggressive culture of hyper-competitiveness, commit economic crime on an epic scale.
The filming and recent airing of the HBO film Bessie, which stars Queen Latifah as Bessie Smith, serves as a perfect excuse to look back at the music and life of the woman who was accurately billed as the Empress Of The Blues. When Bessie Smith made her recording debut in 1923, she was not the first blues singer to record.
The popularity of Mad Men has been variously attributed to its highly stylized look, its explication of antiquated gender and racial norms, and nostalgia for a time when drinking and smoking were not sequestered to designated zones but instead celebrated in the workplace as necessary ingredients for a proper professional life. But much of Mad Men’s lasting appeal lay in its complicated relationship with nostalgia.
The pervasiveness of digital media in contemporary, moving-image culture is transforming the way we make connections of all kinds. The recent rediscovery of the 1903 film Cheese Mites is a perfect example, as the way the film came to light could only have taken place in the last decade. Cheese Mites is a landmark of early cinema, one of the first films ever made for general audiences about a scientific topic. It belonged to a series of films called “The Unseen World” and was made for the Charles Urban Company by F. Martin Duncan, a pioneer of microcinematography. It was a sensation in its day, capitalizing on the creepy fascination with microscopic creatures inhabiting our food and drink.
A perpetual lament of historians is that so many people get their historical knowledge from either Hollywood or the BBC. The controversies that surrounded Lincoln and Selma will no doubt reappear, in other guises, with the release of Wolf Hall, based on Hilary Mantel’s popular historical novel. Historical films play an outsize role in collective historical knowledge, and historians rightly bemoan the inaccuracies and misleading emphases of popular film and television: no doubt a generation of viewers believe that the Roman Republic was restored by a dying gladiator.
Today, 6 May 2015 marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of George Orson Welles in Kenosha, Wisconsin, to concert pianist Beatrice Welles and inventor Richard Head Welles. Widely recognized as a child prodigy, Welles exhibited musical talent, a fascination with magic, and the ability to recite Shakespeare all before the age of ten. At age sixteen, he traveled to Ireland, where he seized the opportunity to appear on the professional stage in a production of Jew Süss at the Gate Theatre in Dublin.
May the Fourth be with you! Playing off a pun on one of the movie’s most famous quotes, May the 4th is the unofficial holiday in which Star Wars fans across the globe celebrate the beloved blockbuster series. The original Star Wars movie, now known as Star Wars IV: A New Hope, was released on 25 May 1977, but to those of us who waited in line after line to see it again and again in theaters, it will always be just Star Wars.
Recently, a number of prominent publications have featured a growing body of work on classical receptions in science fiction and fantasy, including Mélanie Bost-Fiévet’s and Sandra Provini’s collection L’Antiquité dans l’imaginaire contemporain (Garniers Classiques 2014), a special issue of the journal Foundation on “Fantastika and the Greek and Roman Worlds” (Autumn 2014), and our own collection, Classical Traditions in Science Fiction (OUP 2015). This focus on science fiction, now an important part of popular culture, reveals much about how ancient classics are being received by modern audiences, particularly when it comes to the silver screen.
The news this week that Jeremy Clarkson’s contract with the BBC will not be renewed might be bad news for Top Gear fans but could it be good news for politics? Probably not… I wonder what Jeremy Clarkson is up to as you read this blog.
Supplementing real dogs with digital animation produces performances that have benefits on many different levels. Firstly, they are much more effective dramatically because they can become more anthropomorphically expressive to suit the needs of the story. Economically they are less time-consuming and therefore less expensive because the performance is no longer determined by the unpredictable or intractable volition of real animals, however ‘well-trained’. The problems that arise even when working with ‘professional’ dog actors can be exasperating.
The much anticipated Valentine’s Day release 50 Shades of Gray set off a flurry of activity on social media sites, with bloggers lining up to cajole, shame, reason or plead with women to resist temptation and abstain from viewing the film. In a case of strange bedfellows, if you will, conservative Christians and liberal feminists alike castigated the film for its packaging of abuse as mainstream entertainment.
This story may or may not be a fairy tale, though there are certainly fairies in it. However, unlike any of his Victorian forebears or most of his contemporaries, Machen manages to achieve, only a few years before the comfortably kitsch flower fairies of Cicely Mary Barker, the singular feat of rendering fairies terrifying. With James Hogg’s ‘Confessions of a Justified Sinner’, Robert Louis Stevenson’s ‘Thrawn Janet’ and several of M. R. James’s marvellous ghost stories, ‘The White People’ is one of only a handful of literary texts that have genuinely unnerved me.
As we approach 26 March 2015, the centenary of the publication of Virginia Woolf’s first novel, The Voyage Out, it seems apposite to consider how her writing resonates in the twenty-first century. In the performing and filmic arts, there certainly seems to be something lupine in the air.