Saturday, 24 January 2009

Adventures In Awesome: Want! Now! (4)

While wasting time farting about on AV Club last night, the subject of Brasseye and The Day Today came up during a discussion of UK comedy, as it usually does. Understandable, considering the massive effect it had on pretty much everyone who saw it and clasped it to their bosom. Even though it was broadcast over a decade ago, I can't think of any other UK comedy that has come close to that level of brilliance except The Thick Of It. Don't get me wrong, I have loved many shows made since then; Father Ted and Black Books, The Office, Garth Marenghi's Darkplace, Big Train, and Outnumbered spring to mind immediately, and my DVDs of those shows comprise almost the entirety of my UK TV collection amid swathes of US boxsets. Even so, none of those shows have had the same effect on me as Chris Morris' work. Here is the great man hanging around at CERN, which he apparently visited recently.

During the AV Club chat, I remembered the radio predecessor to The Day Today; On The Hour, four episodes of which had previously been released by the BBC. My cassette copy bit the dust a while back from overuse, leaving me bereft. But now my pain is over. Inspired by that seemingly pointless chat, a quick search revealed that I had been horribly oblivious to Warp Records' release of the complete On The Hour in two CD boxsets (and on iTunes).

My life is a little more complete now. Finally I can find out what happened to Alan Partridge and his zombie wife after all these years (On The Hour was possibly even more willing to indulge in flights of fancy than the TV version, which was hobbled by budget restrictions, obviously). This revelation - which is old news to fans, I'm sure - comes after the recent screening of Armando Iannucci's feature debut, In The Loop, the feature version of The Thick of It, at Sundance.

This is probably the movie I'm most excited about this year (and have already gone on about it at length), a fact made even more remarkable by the fact that it's made by BBC Films, who had seemed to have abandoned their boldness (see their previous support for Lynne Ramsay and Pawel Pawlikowski as a kind of proof) in favour of endless costume dramas and literary navel-gazing. A new version of Brideshead Revisited? An out-of-date adaptation of Richard Yates' Revolutionary Road? The love life of Dylan Thomas? It's been a crummy 2008 for them, especially as the other major film investor in the UK, FilmFour, had returned from financial collapse to bring us In Bruges, Hunger, and Slumdog Millionaire. Yes yes, I might not like that film, but it's way more daring than some turgid, poorly-cast adaptation of The Other Boleyn Girl.

Luckily for BBC Films, they now have a roster containing In The Loop, An Education (starring Carey "Sally Sparrow" Mulligan and Peter Sarsgaard sans his recent egregious Trigorin beard that he had cultivated for his run in The Seagull), Grant Heslov's directorial debut Men Who Stare At Goats, the Churchill-tastic Into The Storm, Bright Star (yes, a historical drama about literary figures, but it's by Jane Campion so I'm bound to be interested), Martin Campbell's remake of his rightly celebrated Edge of Darkness, and Andrea Arnold's Fish Tank, which will hopefully be as good as her excellent feature debut Red Road. Fair to say things are looking up. Those first two movies, Loop and Education, have been shown at Sundance, and according to Storyville editor Nick Fraser and Indie journo Gaynor Flynn, they have been rapturously embraced by audiences. It's rare that I endorse UK culture on this blog, but when it's promising, or distinct, or truly wonderful, it needs to be praised to the highest of high heavens.

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