It’s hard to write about The Point Of Inconvenience without it turning into a list of adulatory adjectives. It’s moving, and emotionally poignant, but above all it’s the honesty that makes it so brilliant.
This fantastic book documents a period of comedy that I grew up on and maintain an unhealthy fascination with, and I still found myself learning many new things.
Tautly written with a nice framing device, Mr JF Roberts takes us through the creation of the series, and the development of its successive incarnations. Reading about the tortuous rehearsal process, and hearing how it still rankles with the stars, writers, directors and producers after all these years, you get an insight into why this series was so good.
What’s more, there’s an exhaustive examination of what each and every person was up to between series, thus providing a great history of television comedy throughout the final decades of the 20th century.
You should buy it and read it.
Retrospectives on comedians tend towards the melancholy, favouring to explore the dark or hidden side of their subject, even if that means making it all up. What we have here is an excellent, well-researched, tautly written biography of Les Dawson that doesn’t fall into that trap.
Working through a timeline of his career, we are introduced to many of Dawson’s contemporaries, all of whom offer up memories and anecdotes that paint a picture of a lugubrious and complex man who enjoyed life, even when it wasn’t going his way. Les Dawson worked hard for his success, often being spurned in favour of more telegenic but less talented performers. But this gave him time to hone his act, and when he finally got his chance, he delivered.
The best thing about this biography though is that it serves as a history of comedy throughout the 20th Century, placing Dawson in his context at all times, and delivering a superb analysis of a changing industry and Dawson’s place within it. You’ll be introduced to performers you have never heard of but will love meeting, reacquainted with comedy greats you may have forgotten about, and given an insight into a number of fabulous shows that can be found to watch elsewhere.
With the added bonus of an exhaustive appendix of Dawson’s live, radio and television appearances, this is a definite must-read for any student of comedy.
I like board games. They are an excellent way to procrastinate when you should really be finishing a script, or proof-reading a manuscript. What’s more, they put you in a room with other people in an adversarial capacity, which any good writer should love to witness and absorb for their next project.
But we’re not talking about the board games you remember, not the Monopolies or the Games of Lifes. These are the new wave of games. Games like Carcassone. It’s a good game, so play it. All you have to do is take it in turns to lay a tile and build cities and roads and field and rivers.
Then there’s the Ticket To Ride series, which is an awesomely addictive game engine, in which you collect cards and build rail routes across beautifully rendered maps. I like the little plastic trains. I also like Airlines: Europe, devised by the same man, mostly because it has lovely little plastic airplanes.
Acquire is the most uninteresting looking game you’ll ever lay eyes on, but man alive is it fun. I won’t explain what it’s about, because you’ll think me strange for liking it.
But yes, it’s always interesting to sit back and watch how different people react to the twists and turns of a well-structured game, to witness them in the throes of victory or the woes of defeat. Trouble is, the games are so absorbing, you get lost in your own emotions. Maybe I should video the gaming sessions and watch them back later to make character notes.
(Also worth playing: Scotland Yard, Kingdom Builder, Power Grid, Small World, and Bezzerwizzer. I might buy Metro soon and try that, and I’d love to hear your recommendations too, so leave a comment.)
I don’t care what anyone else thinks, ever since I first saw it, I’ve thought The Phantom Menace is an excellent film in the Star Wars canon. And I’m amazed that it’s already ten years old.
I watched it again this evening for the first time in a long time, and it’s still just as good. The first thing that struck me was how well the CGI has aged. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that it’s still better than almost all of the non-ILM output in contemporary blockbusters. The convincing GI lighting solutions they have used are fantastic.
And Jar Jar Binks, a decade on, is still one of the better examples of CG character animation, and the detail of his skin knocks a lot of Golem’s close ups out of the water. Plus the organic movement of the battle scenes with the Gungans versus the battle droids is more realistic than the hoards in Lord Of The Rings.
What’s more, Jar Jar is a good character, and I like him, so there.
Not as much as R2-D2 though, who I think remains one of my favourite movie characters of all time. He’s a cheeky little shit.
I remembered Jake Lloyd as Anakin being a bit annoying, but he turns in a very polished performance which is very watchable and charming. Even Ewan MacGregor is less wooden than I recalled; I once held the belief that he was bored for most of the trilogy until his final scenes where his cinematic presence actually put a lump in my throat – like Alec Guinness did when I finally saw him on a massive screen.
Plot-wise the script does an awful lot of work under the surface, acting as a good primer for the next two episodes, and operatically foreshadowing (or should that be backshadowing in this unique case?) the events of A New Hope. In fact, it introduces an awful lot of stuff in a very elegant manner.
But most importantly of all, it made me bounce in my seat and remember how I felt as a kid watching the original trilogy. Hearing the horns blast out the Star Wars theme as a much less familiar text scrolls up the screen still makes me giddy. As did the moment when Darth Maul extends the other end of his light sabre. That made me chuckle as much as when Yoda reveals his light sabre for the first time in episode two.
Plus that whole fight sequence to the strains of Duel of Fates is a tour de force. As is the Podrace sequence, which looks photo realistic throughout, and rushes by at an extraordinary pace. But back to the duel, the moment when Darth Maul is pacing menacingly as Qui Gon kneels is spine tinglingly good, as is Obi-Wan’s violent reaction to his death and frenzied fighting.
So, I don’t care what anyone else thinks, The Phantom Menace is brilliant. It’s just as much fun as a Star Wars film should be.