Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Thursday, 30 September 2010

A screenshot from what CGM is currently working on... The first CGS Wedding Video. The Wedding industry doesn't know what hit em.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010


Back before I went to University and moved to London I saw This Is England in the cinema, with my girlfriend at the time. I had seen a few Shane Meadows movies and shorts before this point, having studied Room For Romeo Brass (which I thought was pretty lame) and for the most part I felt I had unpacked his standard writing format, which still seems to stand as the same:

1. Youngster missing a strong father figure, or missing a father figure entirely, becomes sick of or frustrated by his life and friends.
2. Youngster finds new exciting new friends. Which in turn leads to Youngster finding surrogate father figure.
3. Shit goes mental and surrogate father figure fucks a load of stuff up.
4. Youngster matures.

All of the above is subject to thick layers of "grit" (which, by the way, is the most over used way of describing even slightly realistic films set in the UK), pop culture and weirdo creeps.

I still feel this assessment of Meadows' films is fairly true, and certainly did when watching This Is England (or TIE) in the cinema. But TIE felt far less contrived and seemed far more mature than the previous work I had seen by him, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I was very unexpectedly moved by TIE. The performances were utterly believable, the cinematography engaging, while still allowing the story and characters to breathe without fear of being stylistically crushed, and the final scene with Combo assaulting Milky broke my heart.

So when a spin-off TV series was announced, with the lazily unimaginative title of This Is England '86, I wasn't especially excited. I am a tad pessimistic with pretty much all current Film and music but most especially pessimistic with Television, a medium which I find mostly vapid (with a few exceptions, like a selection of 80s and 90s cartoons, Oz and everything Chris Morris has touched). My expectations of the TV spin-off was an assimilation of the complex themes and relationships within the film, with the interesting parts of the film repackaged into a TV friendly (read: advert friendly). I was proved wrong. Almost.

The themes of the film were massively simplified down, with none of the social commentary and social exposure provided what so ever, apart from the occational mention of Woody's work at the factory. Instead we are just presented with a continuation of our time with the characters. We get to see the parties, the fights, the infidelities and the lives of the characters we loved in the film. There is also a shift in who occupies the central character with the (still) hilarious and unarming Shawn being replaced by Lol. I applaud this minor shake up as a way of not just remaking the film for TV.

There a few points that niggled on me a little in the film. Why is everyone friends with the old gits who were hardcore racists in the film? This goes completely unexplained, not even hinted at, which really bugs me. It is a massive plot hole. Also, the format of the series bugged me a little too.

As I mentioned earlier, I find TV as a format very vapid, and have found few exceptions which have elevated themselves to the same level of art that can be found in cinema. I think a large factor in this is that the format and pacing of an episode in any given show has to comply with time slots and with advert breaks. This frequently means that in any given hour long episode there will be 4 advert breaks, therefore 3 moments where tension is built and we are left on a cliff hanger. This format becomes incredibly tedious. TIE '86 was not outside of the this type of formatting either, but it did seem to exacerbate this by including a 2 - 3 minute slow-mo piano music section before the second advert break in EVERY EPISODE! By episode two I had clocked this, and found it rather annoying in the next bunch of episodes.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this spin-off mini series. Although it was fairly shallow for the majority it was still fucking RAW and superbly engaging. It made me laugh, it made me feel sick, it engrossed me and it made me want to cry. I would recommend it as a great companion piece to the film. If you enjoyed the film and didn't catch this series then just download it or something. Piracy is fucking sweet.