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Wednesday, 5 November 2014

A Day to Remember?

“Remember, remember the 5th November. Gunpowder, treason and plot”

Okay, it’s not the most original way to start a piece of writing, but I do like its ominous-sounding dramatic emphasis. The day the British changed a part of the Halloween celebration to celebrate the downfall of a Catholic terrorist attack against a Protestant King and his establishment has long since lost most of its significance. The oldest living generations in Britain have lived under the shadow of terrorism for a long time now. Many of us were alive when there was another attempt to blow up the head of our country. More of us were alive when various far larger scale terrorist attacks occurred, which rocked the global community in so many ways as to define post 2001 cultural ideas. This has led us to look at the broader view of terrorism and its many complexities. History also tells us that although the Catholics in question were fanatical, James I and his regime were far from a magnanimous example of religious tolerance.

Mary and the Gunpowder Plot - A Review of a Classic BBC Historical Melodrama

The 2000s saw the rise of quality of TV drama. Looking back to the previous decade it was inevitable that this was going to happen and I aim to discuss the matter in an essay on subject. However, for the purposes of this review we find “Gunpowder, Treason and Plot” riding on the wave of historical dramas with rising budgets. The US were already investing in collaborative efforts in Europe that would see series like “Rome” break new ground in terms of mainstream adult-orientated historical drama.

“Gunpowder, Treason and Plot” was a two-part TV production made for the BBC by a key Scottish crew, including Gillies MacKinnon as director. It exhibited a lot of what was to come, but still retained certain elements from the previous era. Jimmy McGovern, creator the critically acclaimed crime series, “Cracker”, wrote the screenplay. For the most part, he does a decent job framing a complex story and takes some original angles with historical characters. He also clearly had his eye on the changing face of historical dramas for an adult audience. The violence and sex scenes, although not gratuitous, ensured a wider audience. Whilst the story featured complex characters played by the principal cast. We are not relegated to a limited number of unconvincing studio sets either. Instead the entire production was shot in Romania and it convincingly recreates Scotland and England. The audience gets a real feel of scope that many previous history-based BBC productions were missing. A peculiar quirk that seems to have bene left over from the past is the peculiar decision to break the fourth wall a couple of times in the second episode. This is done to reveal the

Monday, 3 November 2014

Deceptive Docufiction

There have been many stunning documentaries. However, there have also been many shockingly inaccurate and misleading documentaries. Michael Moore is probably partly responsible for the rise in partisan documentary films. I am not against the concept in principle, although I often wonder if such films should just be categorized under the label "propaganda" and they be reviewed as such. Nevertheless, there are certainly a good number of opportunities we should afford people to give their personal insights and reflections on important issues and I don't want to deny anyone that freedom. Docufiction is an interesting way to explore certain ideas and I think we have to respect it as its own genre. When it comes to art, I am opposed to most censorship, but when it comes to delivering something that is supposed to be factual the line has been firmly crossed between personal expression and simply misleading your viewers.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Melvyn Bragg's Books


Melvyn Bragg has earned himself the rare distinction of being a true celebrity academic in modern times. His achievements are vast and impressive. His career got off the ground as a successful novelist in the 1960s and he has gone onto win several critical awards up until the late 1990s. I grew up seeing him as the presenter with the peculiar nasally voice, regularly lampooned by the satirical puppet show Spitting Image, who hosted The South Bank Show. Bragg had a reputation for arts and culture, but I later discovered he was a huge driving force behind science in the Radio 4 programme, In Our Time, which he took over hosting and currently still presents. The show presents itself as a history programme with Bragg hosting or, to be more accurate, chairing a panel of university lecturers on a particular event or person from history. However, in line with Eleanor Roosevelt’s regular quote regarding small minds discussing people and medium minds discussing events, the listener quickly discovers the strength in the show is its exploration of ideas. Bragg does well to keep the discussing going along certain channels and even testing certain arguments with the impartial view his role demands. Such a role reveals a broad yet in depth understanding of a vast array of subjects that straddle the worlds of imagination and fact-finding. As a fellow writer that does not like to be confined to a narrow path, I find it is truly inspiring to see now that his published work includes a wide range of subjects in both fiction and non-fiction. Therefore, I shouldn’t have really been surprised to see the hugely disparate selection of books he chose for 12 Books That Changed the World.