Archive for the Uncategorized Category

Trumpet Blowing

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on March 6, 2011 by Andrew T. Smith

After a pretty cack day last Friday, I was really cheered up when a colleague sent me a link to a review of a conference I presented at last year, published by Scope: The Online Journal of Film and Television Studies. Please excuse this exercise in trumpet blowing, but of the panel I presented alongside Melanie Waters and Rosie White, Scope said:

A diverse panel explored the queered spaces and liminal practices of American television. Andrew T. Smith (University of Sunderland) began with an engrossing exploration of the career of TV scriptwriter Rod Sterling, creator of the Twilight Zone (1959-1964, CBS). Having identified a gap in television to film adaptation studies, that is the process of self-adaptation,Smith explored Sterling’s reflections on his own work through the process of adapting his own scripts.

Now I have to take some points away from the authors of this review for referring to Rod Serling as Sterling, but I’d say that’s a decent result! The whole conference report is available HERE.

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PROUDLY PRESENTING: A Very Merry B-Keeper Holiday Special

Posted in Uncategorized on December 19, 2010 by Andrew T. Smith

Far too much work has gone in to this special, especially on the part of my unpaid contributors Bob Fischer, Stephen La Riviere, Deacan Flynn, John Paul Green and Dave Maltby. I hope you enjoy. If you do then please comment and share. Merry Christmas everybody!

Sunday Drivers

Posted in Uncategorized on July 26, 2010 by Andrew T. Smith

Brokeback Blog-Beg

Posted in Uncategorized on June 9, 2010 by Andrew T. Smith

Are you a fan of the late actor Heath Ledger? If so I could use your help.

As part of a dissertation I am working on for Sunderland University I need to carry out some audience research and that is where you might come in. If you feel able to, and are kind enough to donate the time and effort, I would be very grateful to anybody that fills in the questionnaire located on this page. Thanks in advance to anyone who does.

Anything Can Happen And It Probably Will…

Posted in Marx Brothers, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 4, 2010 by Andrew T. Smith

Having just returned from a successful screening of this film to an appreciative audience, the time seems right to expound a little upon one of my favourite film comedies, Hellzapoppin’. This obscure title certainly deserves to be better known and here is my own attempt to make this happen.

Hellzapoppin’ tells the story – well, sort of tells the story – of a Hollywood producer trying to film a movie about Hellzapoppin‘. Does that make sense? Good. Despite his best efforts at describing a potential storyline the film is constantly hijacked by Olsen and Johnson, a master of disguise private detective and even the projectionist at the back of the very cinema in which you sit watching the film. Basically, a thin romantic subplot is used an excuse for eighty minutes on non stop puns, innovative visual gags and metatextual anarchy. No matter how many ways I think up to describe the film nothing seems to do it justice. It’s that weird. The best I can come up with is the description, “Wathching Hellzapoppin’ is like watching the Marx Brothers on speed.”

Based on a hit Broadway play, Hellzapoppin’ is the type of film to throw a lot of elements into a bucket, stir them with a big stick, and then pour the mixture into your eyeballs. Verbal gags, slapstick comedy, romance, musical numbers, fourth wall breaking, dance sequences and special effects are all incorporated and the result is one of the weirdest films ever to be produced during the ‘golden age’ of the Hollywood studio system.

Thanks to the rights to the Broadway play complicating any plans to re-release the film in America, Hellzapoppin’ has been quite difficult to see until fairly recently when it was released on Region 2 DVD. Yet, despite being so difficult to see for so long, it isn’t hard to see the influence it has exerted over certain strains of  American film comedy that were to follow. In particular, parallels can be drawn between this and the work of Mel Brooks (Blazing Saddles, Spaceballs) or early efforts from the Zucker Brothers (Airplane!, Kentucky Fried Movie). Joe Dante, the director of Hollywood Boulevard, Gremlins, Gremlins 2, Matinée and Small Soldiers amongst other films, freely admits that he steals from Hellzapoppin’ in order to lace his own films with gags; his perfectly justified reasoning being if nobody has seen it, why let a good gag go to waste!

Olsen and Johnson, however, are an odd team. Their role in Hellzapoppin’ is to literally draw the viewer in to this crazy world, the humour of which relies very little upon the interaction between the two. They’re likeable, not loveable, and have no particularly distinguishing characteristics that stick in the mind. In my experience the team’s other films, while on the whole enjoyable, really strongly on strong writers to gain laughs. In fact only one of their movies, Crazy House, is generally thought of as coming anywhere near the standard set by Hellzapoppin’. Still, they must have had something, and I in know way intend to knock their performances, which are first rate. Clearly too they were capable of writing great material for themselves, as they are credited as having written the original broadway book for the Hellzapoppin’. Perhaps studios insisted on outside writers.

But I digress, simply put, more people should see this film. And now that it’s out on DVD there is no excuse. Watch it. Love it. Spread the word! I’m working on my own secret project to help raise the profile of the film in some small way.

Further Reading

Shooting Down Pictures

Burned Up

Posted in Uncategorized on January 19, 2010 by Andrew T. Smith

January seems to have been tough on quite a few people of my acquaintance this year. I myself often get a dose of the January blues, even though I know full well that I have next to no reason to. Perhaps its to do with the come down from Christmas. The return to work and the dark mornings that go with it abruptly become monotonous and gloomy, replacing the pre-festival excitement and wonder.

Then there’s the house, which gets far too easily squalid. Somehow, despite having six times the room I seem to have far less space to function than I did when living in one room at my parents.

Money troubles too, contribute to my current, less that merry, state of mind. Nothing serious, I must add – and you mustn’t confuse my public winges as genuine cry’s for aid! Still, things are a bit lean at the moment and this, bizarrley,  plays havoc with my work ethic. I’m paying through the nose to get a Masters degree yet have felt no great inspirational urge to dash off my last two essays. Personal side projects, too, have been put on hold as I re-embark upon the seemingly never-ending quest of procrastination – of which this blog entry is a part.

Well, never mind all this. Things will get back on track soon enough I’m sure and I promise the next post shall be some rubbish about model boats with crap theme tunes.

Snow!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 10, 2010 by Andrew T. Smith

Recently, Illegible Me Towers (Just off the bypass, turn right after the chippy) has found itself surrounded by snow – a lot of snow – as has the rest of the UK it would seem. The extent of the snow in my particular area has left me in a bit of an odd possition; there has been enough to close the school where I work, but not enough to put a halt to public transport. As a result I’ve been able to get out and about, taking advantage of these days off. Being the sad sap that I am, the snow strewn train tracks and white fields I see pass me by as I criss-cross along the Tyne and Wear Metro system have not reminded me of Christmas cards or Holidays of yore. Instead what has been called to mind are a handful of Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends episodes that were ingrained into my impressionable brain from birth to the age of about seven.

Now, I’ve written about continuing, somewhat worrying, love for this series before so I’ll not go on another rant now. Needless to say I think it’s not only one of the finest crafted children’s television series of all time, but one of the most expertly made television programmes full stop. For some reason the brilliant model work that makes Thomas such a visual treat to watch looks all the more impressive when drenched in snow. To this end I hope you enjoy some of my favourites.