My Week In Media
Blast From The Past
Back in a Soho studio today for the first time in ages – subterranean, chilly, scruffy and a bit wonderful – for a radio show about books and old Soho with producer/writer Des Burkinshaw, who also whipped up a terrific theme for an imagined Bryant & May series. I’d forgotten how much I missed the Soho life, although Soho itself has changed dramatically – half the shops have gone and there’s hardly anyone about. The former film/TV/schmutter/art neighbourhood now mostly consists of chain restaurants, so that anyone coming here must wonder what the fuss was all about. Where are the spivs and skivers who featured in Soho films like ‘The Small World of Sammy Lee’ and ‘Night and the City’?
I remember writing ‘Soho Black’ and feeling that in its own way every word of the novel was true – this is what it had been like to be in Soho then. I was once asked to describe my typical day to a Young Person newly arrived in a Soho job and he stared at me with a slack jaw, amazed that it could have been possible. The life had been absurdly, surreally glamorous, although none of us had even noticed it at the time. Of course it nearly killed most of us – but we knew when to get out.
Sunday For 7 Days
The other night I went to the pictures and saw ‘A Quiet Place 2’, a passable CGI-monster franchise-builder that serves until better films come out. What depressed me most were the accompanying trailers; for a hitman revenge thriller, a car-crashing action film, a swimwear model-type who becomes an assassin and a serial-killer body-swap film with camp stereotypes, plus sequels, sequels.
This is the best Hollywood can manage? Next up is another swathe of Marvel superhero films and a two-year-old 007 film, plus some cartoons. Hollywood cinema has locked itself into an unbreakable demographic hell aimed at 16 year-old slow learners. Over the next two years, we’re told, it will all be about the IPs. Asset-stripping every minor character from every film and cartoon to give them their own franchise. I went home and watched a double bill of films set in the Weimar Republic. It sounds niche but they involved adult themes and there were no truck chases.
Remake My Day
Europe makes a hit film, Hollywood decides to remake it; what could go wrong? When we make decisions about how to adapt stories, how do we choose the right way to go? Is it pure instinct?
I watched ‘Tailgate’, a Holland-made thriller about a young family who suffer a road rage incident with the wrong driver. The story takes a very different path to ‘Duel’ or ‘Relatos Salvajes’, and turns on the hot-button topic of toxic masculinity, as the couple is pursued at a menacingly low key passive-aggressive pace into the suburbs, and must face up to the flaws in their marriage that have brought them into this conflict. It’s smart and suspenseful.
Hollywood has remade it as ‘Unhinged’, with portly Russell Crowe driving a young mum and her son off the freeway, and although the stakes are raised every single suspense beat is spectacularly missed. Out goes any truth or insight into the relationships, in comes the mass destruction of trucks, cars, pedestrians. The psychology has been replaced by trashy violence because the makers are scared they’ll lose viewers if they get too subtle. First rule of adaptation; if you can’t trust the material, do something else.
I’m often asked why Bryant & May have not been adapted for television. The various writers who’ve attempted it played safe and wrote the stories as straightforward procedurals. I’ve always wanted someone to surprise me by upping the ante on the craziness of the books, not lowering it. No luck so far.