I straight up love Bill Drummond. Hands down. Or up, which ever way you prefer. My love for him dates back to the days of The KLF. Obviously my understanding of what he and Jimmy Cauty were trying to do was pretty limited at the time as I was in my early teens but I read every interview I could get my hands on and bought the music. This was still pretty early days for internet, as you might or might not remember and I lived on the outskirts of an outskirts country.
However, I have a strong recollection that even then, at least on some level, I realised Bill and Jimmy were doing something very different. Same in some ways as some other bands but different in a very fundamental way. Their meta level of recognising what they were doing and how they were doing it was mindblowing for my teenage brain. And I loved their music and all the mythology they had wrapped around it. And then, of course, they burned the million pounds and pretty much called it quits. Look it up or watch the film. I was devastated.
Recently I had the chance to see Imagine Waking Up Tomorrow and All Music Has Disappeared. The documentary follows Bill Drummond as he travels around for his latest project, The17. I might not completely share Bill’s views on how the accessibility of music destroys the value we place on the experience of listening to music, but I get it. I get what you’re getting at, Bill.
If you haven’t seen the film, go and see it now. Or at least listen to some KLF.
I love you, Bill.
No Small Parts is a documentary web-series about character actors in the entertainment industry. It is the labour of love of Brandon Hardesty, a self-proclaimed character actor himself. Each episode serves as a comprehensive biography for one particular actor. In addition to the longer biographical episodes, there are also short episodes focusing on more specific topics, like cop roles played by Dean Norris.
The second episode in the series features one of my favourite character actors, Vincent Schiavelli. For over 40 years Vincent pretty much acted on every television series ever and numerous films. He is the archetypal ‘that guy’ or character actor – an actor who everyone recognises but hardly anyone remembers by name. His real passion in life, however, was the town of Polizzi and his Italian heritage. The documentary mentioned within the documentary, “Once upon a time in Polizzi“, is every bit as good as Brandon says it is and well worth a watch.
You can support Brandon and his amazing series here.
Stanley Kubrick’s Boxes is a 2008 documentary film directed by Jon Ronson about the film director Stanley Kubrick. Ronson’s intent was not to create a biography of the filmmaker but rather to understand Kubrick by studying the director’s vast personal collection of memorabilia related to his feature films. The documentary came about in 1998 when Ronson received a request from Kubrick’s estate for a copy of a documentary Ronson made about the Holocaust (Ronson was unaware that it was Kubrick who was asking for the film until months later). A year later, as Ronson was making plans to conduct a rare interview with the director, Kubrick suddenly died after completing work on his final film Eyes Wide Shut. To his surprise, Ronson was invited to Kubrick’s house by his widow. When he arrived at the house he found that half the house was filled by over one thousand boxes, each containing snap shots, newspaper clippings, film out-takes, notes, and fan letters which the director used for research towards each of his films.
Highly recommended, watch it while you can.
From Pong to Grand Theft Auto, Charlie Brooker delves into the history of videogames and pulls out a selection of its most significant titles. Peter Serafinowicz, Jonathan Ross, Dara Ó Briain and many others join Charlie Brooker to explore the history of interactive entertainment and how it’s changing how we work, communicate and play.
GLOW: The Story of The Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling is a documentary film chronicling the rise and fall of the first ever all-female wrestling show through the stories of those who lived it.
From the initial open-call auditions, to the grueling training with wrestling legend Mando Guerrero, to over-night success and global recognition, to the shows sudden and unexpected cancellation in 1990, the GLOW girls recall their time on the show with a mixture of heartfelt nostalgia and tearful regret over injuries and the loss of friends. For some, the show was a brief foray into acting and a short-lived adventure on the way to a normal life. For others, that brief time in GLOW would impact and influence their lives for years to follow. For all of the women, working on GLOW was a unique and exciting experience that will bond them forever.
Despite Jonathan Ross, strongly recommended.
Stan Lee is famous as the author of the Spider-Man stories, but the man who designed the characters, illustrated the comics and came up with many of the storylines, co-creator Steve Ditko, is virtually unheard of. In this documentary, Jonathan Ross, a lifelong fan of Ditko’s work, hopes to tell his story.
Comics historian Peter Sanderson said of the documentary: „A knowledgeable comics aficionado, Ross infuses the documentary with his passion for Ditko and American Silver Age comics. The show has an amazing roster of interviewees [including Jerry Robinson, John Romita Sr., Neil Gaiman, Joe Quesada, Ralph Macchio, Flo Steinberg, Alan Moore, Mark Millar, Stan Lee, and Cat Yronwode.] … Wittily and intelligently written, without a trace of condescension towards comics, this program is a model of what documentaries about comics should be like.“
The Tube is a BBC Two television documentary which looks into the life of those who work and travel on the London underground. If you liked Airport or The Hotel and the fly-on-the-wall drama, you are in for a treat.
The series takes you behind the scenes of the London underground as it undergoes the biggest overhaul in its history, focusing on key members of staff and some of the problems they face.
Running a system built and designed in 1863 for the demands of the 21st century is an extraordinary feat. The upgrade will be done under immense pressure to keep lines open and minimise the length of station closures.
Cameras will go to the places viewers have always wanted to see – behind the hoardings to reveal the massive new engineering works, inside the command centre to see what running this most complex of train sets is really like and illuminating a hidden underground world that only comes to life at night.
The series will meet the people who run and use the tube, from obsessive MD Mike Brown down to the litter collector who walks miles every night collecting rubbish off the track.
And then of course there are the passengers – the tourists, the suburban commuters, the drunkards getting the last train home, the school outings, the buskers and the down and outs.
The series consist of six episodes, each with a different theme. However, the real stars are the people, particularly the members of staff. And just when the technical side of the upgrade gets a bit tedious, we meet the people who actually do the work and hear their thoughts on how you get attached to the old trains and why lifting a 90 meter railroad track in a curved tunnel is a bit like playing with a rubber band. There are far too many great characters to include everyone, but here are some of my favourites.
Control assistant Mark Davis and his deadpan customer service announcements are the stuff of legends.
When a train is cancelled “due to significant vomit in the carriages”, you tend to forget the inconvenience and appreciate the comedy value.
In his own words, his job is watching customers to make sure they don’t injure themselves, beat each other up or burn the place down. He is the all-seeing eyes of the station and, as such, isn’t afraid to make his customer information announcements personal. Drinking alcohol from an open container is indeed forbidden on all London underground stations, as I’m sure the gentleman with the brown leather jacket on the Westbound Central Line platform with a can of Grolsch can attest to.
Equipped with a sense of humour and excellent customer service skills, Mark tackles each situation with a genuine appreciation for his work. He compares the control room to a computer game where he controls the members of staff and puts them where they need to be in order to do the different tasks. Next time you go to Liverpool Street station, you might want to consider that Mark might be watching.
You can see Mark in action in episode 1, Weekend.
Diane McConnell and Denese Brunker are the Cagney and Lacey of ticket inspectors. They have worked together as revenue control inspectors longer than they can remember. Their tough but fair attitude to their customers and flair for spotting fare dodgers is all for the benefit of a better underground service. While fare evasion might not be crime of the century, it does cost the London underground £20 million a year.
You can see Diane and Denese in action in episode 2, Revenue.
Anne O’Grady drives the Bakerloo Line morning trains and is already a familiar voice to those of you who have taken her train or listened to Adam & Joe Show on BBC 6 music. Always cheerful and lovely, she can be often heard on the tannoy for customer service announcements. You can listen to her in action and see a few clips from the show here.
Ralph Costello is the head falconer, whose job is to deter the pigeons from the depot with the help of his avian partner. The hawk is called Toyah after Toyah Willcox. ‘Aw bless’ or ‘ew groce’, depending on your view on naming birds after women. Considering Ms Willcox’ affection for strange headwear with feathers it’s probably totally appropriate.
You can see Ralph and Toyah in action in episode 5, Rush Hour.
Also featured are Neringa Simiene, a professional competitive cyclist turned night shift cleaning supervisor from the former Soviet Union, who came to England in search of a better life; Mark Bennett, lost property assistant, who doesn’t want to go into details about the things he has found in women’s handbags; Paul Marchant, who manages the crowds with signage and is partly responsible for the new seat cover design; Frank Murphy, emergency response unit worker, who says you don’t tell the passangers what’s causing the delay (a dead fox on the tracks) and revenue inspectors Ben and James, who are part of a special taskforce whose mission is to catch the passengers using systematic scams to avoid fares. Their matching outfits are purely coincidental.
The tube is filled with interesting characters and these are just some of the employees.
Not to mention what the passengers leave behind.
London Underground’s Lost Property team of 40 staff catalogue the vast array of items left on the Tube, some 200,000 items. Every day over 1,000 people leave something behind on the Tube. The most popular losses are mobile phones (with many still left on). The video shows how the staff’s painstaking work reunites customers with their treasures. Each day 300 people get items back. But as you’ll see in the video people also claim back weirder things like broken crack pipes, samurai swords, gimp masks and worn underwear.
The Tube is equally entertaining and informative. It offers an interesting view to a world that is part of life for millions of people daily and yet there’s so much going on behind the scenes that the public never sees. The London underground, much like London Heathrow airport, is a hectic environment where even a minor disruption can turn into a disaster in a matter of seconds. As many of the workers point out, people only take notice when things go wrong and never when everything runs smoothly.
Episode 1: Weekend
If you’ve ever wondered what the numbers in the announcements mean, wonder no more. There is also a code 7, but you’ll have to watch the series to find out what it means.
gif image via