Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Digital Economy Bill

This blog is in response to Digital Economy Bill. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/8569750.stm Arguably one of the biggest wastes of time I have ever encountered. Before each election, the main parties offer to introduce nonsensical bills that privilege the few over the masses. The Poll Tax springs to mind, the Video Nasties Act was another – both aimed at appeasing the wealthy and threatening the poor.

The Poll tax is obvious – but the Video Nasties Act is not. Videos were, and mainly are, enjoyed by the working classes – those who enjoy kicking back after a week’s work. But some of the videos being watched (it has be said by a miniscule proportion of the nation) were these so-called nasties. Low budget horror films that were, at best, laughable and, at worst, offensive that some idiot in Westminster felt that I needed to be protected from them. What was important was that it was the working class that were penalised – no one else. Ask yourself, in the early days of the video rental market who watched videos? Who did the Poll Tax hit hardest? Those with smallish houses and families – not the old duffers rattling around country manors. That will be the working classes then. I am generalising but it is general true.

So how does this get me to the horrendous Digital Economy Bill? Well, who really benefits from owning copyright? The young creatives desperate to make their name or the ageing and established rock star who doesn’t live in this country? Any aspiring artist will tell you they will give away their words, images and songs for free initially in order to become established. Interest in your work is payment enough at this stage. Yes, everyone should be paid for their work. But who really makes the money? The record label or the artist? The filmmaker or the studio? If you are successful you are underwriting everyone else. Six out of 10 films in Hollywood lose money – who pays for them? The successful ones! Last time I checked, these industries were not charities and yet they behave like them when it suits.

Be warned persistent offenders – they will cut off, or at least slow down, your Internet connection. Remember this is likely to be an Internet connection that has never come close to the speeds they promised! Only in this country, while everywhere else is speeding up their Internet connections would we be slowing it down. It indicates that all people use their Internet for is for illegal activities. I am pleased that the politicians I voted into power think so highly of me.

Everyone I know downloads something – I am running an advertising module at the moment – so I downloaded some ads – which are copyrighted – which I infringed – so could be cut off. Excellent, cheers for that Lord Mandelson. That’s right, Peter Mandelson who has resigned from Parliament not once but twice (his first was over an interest free loan of £373,000 to buy a house in trendy Notting Hill. His second was following accusations of using his position to influence a passport application). He’s now worried that I’ll break the law by watching episodes of Dexter 18 months before they come here! Again, it has much to do with protecting the elite as much as punishing the poor. I wish I had a friend who would lend me £373,000 interest free so I could buy a house. I would install wifi, leave it unlocked and you could all download as much as you liked!

Yes you can download legally but digital is way too expensive for what you get. The first season of 30 Rock is £7.48 on Amazon – it’s £9.99 on iTunes. I can also sell on the box set – something you cannot do with a download. Yes, that’s right – it’s yours but you can’t sell it on. EBay pull listings of mp3s.

What I find baffling about this is that newspapers can give away films and music with their Sunday supplements, music magazines can strap them to their front cover but none seem willingly to accept responsibility for the undervaluing of music – nope, that is the fault of a 15 year old in Dundee. Spotify doesn’t help either – so music can be free – depending on the context? No wonder people are confused – this music is illegal and free – this film is legal and free. It’s like going into a supermarket where half the products are free and other half are being charged for. The thing is – you don’t know which is which until you have left the shop and consumed it. I buy a lot of music but like to try before I buy. Why can’t I try an album for a month? If don’t like it I won’t listen to – I PROMISE! But, if I do like it – chances are I’ll buy it – and the follow up, maybe even the live album. Go and see them on tour and, you know what? I might even buy a t-shirt. You make a lot more money from t-shirts than you do selling CDs. Have you ever been to the merchandise stand after a gig?

When I was young and had no money, I used to tape music off the radio. When I got a paper round, half of my money went on records. And so on and so on. So don’t cut me off, slow me down or treat me like a criminal. I am an arts lover – I consume film and music all day every day. You should be trying to make it easier for me – not harder. Get your own house in order before starting with mine.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

The delights of Blu-ray and Buzz and Woody . . .

At last – Toy Story 1 and 2 has been released on blu ray.

I know there are people who will tell you that blu ray doesn’t make that much difference – well, frankly, those people are loons. Visually, blu ray is as good a step up as DVD was from VHS. I’m not a techie geek – I don’t feel the need to rave about textures and shadows – I will, but only if they add something to the film’s narrative.

Toy Story 2 is a rare thing – a sequel that is better than its predecessor. That’s right – not as good or on par. Toy Story 2 is streets ahead of the first one. But let’s be clear here, Toy Story 1 is a classic. It’s not like they knocked out a rubbishy first one to make the second one stand out. Oh no, the first one is full of warmth and derring do – alongside groundbreaking animation and a story that zips along at a fair old pace.

But Toy Story 2 is better! Like Godfather 2 and Aliens, it’s a film that outweighs the might of the original – not an allegation you could ever aim at Smokey and the Bandit 2 or Death Wish 3 . . .

Why do I insist on this? The film is one is one of the few sequels to have more story in the sequel! Well, look at the evidence – the story is a nice reappraisal of the original where Buzz fully accepts his toy role but where a toy store full of Buzz’s don’t! The animation outranks the original in depth, warmth and charm. Woody’s nightmare sequence of being dropped in the bin along with abandoned arms from other toys would not have been out of place in Hitchcock’s Vertigo. The characters age in real time! Not the toys, but Andy, his sister, his mum – even the dog have aged since the original six years earlier. Name me another animation that credits the audience with so much intelligence? Even the smartest animation of its generation, The Simpsons, doesn’t have characters ageing in real time.

Finally, and for any gentlemen of my age, (and this is closing ‘your witness’ statement) it has Jessie singing that song! I can only excuse myself from the room at this point in time during every screening before it becomes suspicious! I cry at movies anyway – I break my bloody heart over this one.

So, like the other two greats mentioned above - Godfather 2 and Aliens, Toy Story is attempting to enter the ring one more time. The odds are stacked against it – has anyone ever praised George Hamilton’s gritty performance or, honestly, stated that Alien3 is the best of the bunch? And I know it was Fincher but it’s still rubbish compared to the rest.

But, right now, everything looks good for Toy Story 3. Andy continues to grow older (he’s off to university) and there is bound to be a song or two along the way. True, ‘Pain in the’ Jessie is back and Buzz looks like a copy of Puss in Boots from Shrek but, whatever happens, due to the brilliance of the first two they will always have a friend in me . . .