Monthly Archives: February 2006

In praise of comic book movies

March’s Empire has a special section on comic book movies, to coincide with the releases of V for Vendetta, Mirrormask and X-Men 3. Irritatingly, they’ve gone for a 1960s Batman “pow! bang! smack!” pastiche for the cover(s) but we’ll let that pass.

The first bit of (potentially) good news is that V gets a good review. 4 stars in fact. I’m not going to punch the air yet however, because the reviewer wasn’t sufficiently critical of From Hell (it wasn’t “so so” it was dreadful!), but it definitely looks as if it may have potential.

Alan Moore still won’t be going to the premiere though, and I have to admit I admire his obstinacy. For those of you who don’t know, Alan Moore has for years had a series of rows with publishers over his intellectual property (or lack thereof) and thus when his work came to the attention of Hollywood there would inevitably be fireworks. After a bizarre legal incident whereby he was sued for copyright theft over the film version of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (screenplay by Susanne Lamido‘s brother, Lib Dem trivia fans!), he’s taken the extreme solution of demanding that his name be removed from all the work he has written but doesn’t own.

Moving on, Empire publishes it’s list of the Top 20 all time best comic book movies:

  1. X-Men 2 (2003)
  2. Superman the Movie (1978)
  3. Batman Begins (2005)
  4. Spider-Man (2002)
  5. Blade (1998)
  6. Road to Perdition (2002)
  7. Oldboy (2003)
  8. Sin City (2005)
  9. A History of Violence (2005)
  10. Superman II (1980)
  11. Hellboy (2004)
  12. Danger Diabolik (1968)
  13. Akira (1988)
  14. Mystery Men (1999)
  15. Hulk (2003)
  16. Dick Tracy (1990)
  17. Popeye (1980)
  18. Batman Returns (1992)
  19. Ghost World (2001)
  20. Constantine (2005)

Hmmm… controversial. I can’t comment on 7, 9, 12 and 20 as I haven’t seen them (bizarrely in 9s case given my love of the original and its writer). I think it is strange though that this list includes Superman 2 but not Spider-Man 2, which is surely superior? Batman Returns and Ghost World are too far down on this list in my view while Sin City (a triumph of style over substance is not, in itself, a triumph) and The Hulk are far too high. 2,3 and 4 are all superior to 1 in my view (I’d settle for any of them in first place) and where’s Flash Gordon (given my trouble yesterday, I wouldn’t dare allege a Ming conspiracy!)? For that matter, given some of the dross here, what about Men In Black?

As for the “greatest unmade comic book movies,” I have to say I’m not slavering for a Watchmen or Preacher adaptation. My general rule is that good comics make bad films – a rule that doesn’t necessarily apply the other way round and is constantly broken, but it is a trend nonetheless. Thus, hoping that someone will make a good comic into a film is a mug’s game.

Personally though, if you want a really ace film, my dream would be Skizz directed by Danny Boyle. Skizz, written by Alan Moore Smithee, is Brit-antidote to ET; basically alien crashlands in rundown 80s Birmingham, befriends a teenage girl and is hunted by a South African lunatic. It isn’t the best comic in the world, but it has moments of brilliance and the opportunity to subtly deconstruct Spielberg’s more saccharine version (in fact, Skizz was written before ET was released, but it was a deliberate cash-in) would be delicious.

I saw Millions last week and loved it, and the John Williams’ ET mobile phone ringtone convinced me that Boyle’s the man for the job. Are you reading this, lottery moguls?

Half-Baked Incineration Policy

Ming’s podcast question hotline is a great idea and it is a shame they didn’t go with it earlier.

Unfortunately, it was let down by the content. No Mr Campbell, it is not a matter of deciding between incineration and recycling. There is a third option which is usually labelled as “incineration”: energy from waste. In other words you burn waste product and capture energy from it – as energy efficient as most gas or oil powered generators and even more so if you make it part of a combined heat and power system. And there is a fourth option which ought to be at the top of everyone’s agenda but gets sidetracked: waste reduction.

A lot of things – not least of all paper – are environmentally very expensive to recycle with little gain. Indeed, environmentally speaking, surely burning used paper has got to be better than growing crops specifically for the purpose of energy production – at least you get a double hit? Plastic is a tricky case: because of the way much of it is treated, it is often much more environmentally friendly to burn, but there’s a lot of mileage in regulating to standardise the plastics we use for packaging and thus make recycling more viable.

The claim that incineration discourages recycling is utterly spurious. Think about it. If it is true that an incineration industry discourages recycling (actually the EU’s top recyclers are also top energy from waste generators), then it is equally true that a recycling industry discourages waste reduction. If you are going to employ such simplistic arguments then the only conclusion is to oppose both.

A more sensible approach is to have an integrated recycling and energy system in which the two work hand-in-glove. A more sensible approach would be to tightly regulate incinerators to ensure that only modern, efficient and zero-emissions systems can be used. A more sensible approach would scrap the landfill tax and replace it with a tax on packaging at source to discourage creating unneccessary packaging in the first place. Yet the FoE lobby, which unfortunately Norman Baker pays too much lip service to, actively works against it. Not for the first or last time has the environmental lobby proven to be a hindrance not a help.

What will happen if Mr Angry wins?

Contrary to the bizarre claims of Simon Hughes earlier this week, all the evidence is suggesting the Lib Dem leadership will be a close run thing between Chris Huhne and Ming Campbell. Indeed, if anything, it is pointing towards a Huhne win, with the Guardian today backing that up (although it is not entirely in his favour – the Independent did their own, much smaller, straw poll and put Ming in first place while SpecialBets reports a telephone poll that suggests a Ming win, although fails to mention who was doing the poll).

Personally, I think that the balance evidence may well prove to be wrong and that Ming will win, albeit narrowly. As I said at the time of the infamous YouGov poll, the margin of error leads me to suspect that the positions could easily be reversed, and I don’t believe that Huhne has sufficiently gained ground since then.

But this does all somewhat worry me, because I’ve been genuinely surprised at the bad management of the Ming campaign. It has increasingly become clear to me that the blame for that, combined with the candidate’s own bad temper, lies very much at the door of Mr Campbell and no-one else. My very real fear is that what we see is what we’ll get; a distant, bad tempered leader who spends every day of the campaign losing ground. That doesn’t spell out to me “bridge to the future” so much as a “bridge to oblivion”.

I know that the Mingers reading this will quickly dismiss this out of hand as a biased comment from a Huhne supporter, but it was not always thus. Before Christmas, I had reconciled myself to the fact that Campbell was the only choice to succeed Kennedy (which I suspected would happen in Summer 2006). I wasn’t filled with enthusiasm with the prospect, but I went along with the analysis that he would be a safe pair of hands who would then bow out with dignity after the next general election.

Two things changed: firstly, Campbell’s repeated failure to back Kennedy before Christmas struck me not just as a blatant attempt to undermine him, but politically foolish. Secondly, at the earliest stages his campaign floundered to an alarming degree.

Still, Hughes would be worse. My decision to back Chris Huhne, at least at first, was mainly aimed at ensuring that issues that wer important to me we kept on the agenda. I wanted to cast my first preference with my heart (Huhne) and my second preference with my head (Campbell). At the early stages of the campaign, I even spent time bombarding friends on the pro-Ming campaign with the benefit of my advice. It may not have been entirely welcome, but it was a sincere attempt to help. My second preference, at least at that stage, was still very much a positive one.

What rapidly became apparent however is that a critical mass of people, generally well informed campaigners and activists, felt exactly the same way as me. Suddenly Huhne went from being a vanity vote and into a serious proposition.

The psychological strain this has caused Campbell and his team has been clear for all to see. Many people who plumped for Campbell in the initial stages simply made the same calculation that I did and plumped for their head vote. I’m confident that a lot of them now regret that decision, but have invested far too much of their own credibility into Ming to switch horses halfway through. This tension has lead to the noises off that we were pelted with a few weeks ago, be it the “naive populism” gaffe through to the Deep Throat mouthing off about how Huhne had reneged on a deal to coronate Ming. Increasingly though, it is the candidate himself who is turning nasty.

Ming’s assault on Simon Hughes on Thursday (“I’ve learned from Simon how not to answer the bloody question“) has been widely reported. His insinuation that Chris Huhne’s integrity is open to question because he asked Ming to release him from his promise not to stand against him, is just plain daft. What does it say about Ming that he a) actively went around extracting these promises from MPs when Kennedy was still leader (despite denying it at the time) and that b) having released Huhne from his promise, he now chooses to attempt to make political capital out of it? Every time that story is trotted out it is Ming’s integrity that is brought into question, not Chris’s and he would do well to have the good grace and common sense to keep quiet about it.

One of two things will happen if Ming wins, one of which would be disastrous. He and his supporters could claim this to be a magnificant victory, claim all the spokespersonships and senior positions in the party for themselves and demand undying loyalty. The other option is that they recognise that they ran a dreadful campaign, that Huhne ran a great campaign, that whatever else you might say Huhne won the activist vote and do their best to build bridges (and not of the time machine variety). If Ming and co are vainglorious, as opposed to magnanimous, they’ll quickly learn that you can’t lead by cracking the whip. My problem is, Ming’s behaviour over the past couple of weeks increasingly leads me to suspect that is exactly what he proposes to do.

To turn things around a little bit, Nick Clegg could end up being both prescient and utterly wrong in his analysis that any other leader than Ming would have to spend their time “looking over their shoulders”. The bad tempered nature of the campaign means that if a victorious Ming failed to spend any time looking over his shoulder, he will come a cropper. Huhne on the other hand will be all too aware that most MPs didn’t support him and that he will need to spend time building their confidence in him.

Rob Fenwick took me to task yesterday for being rude – shorthand for the far better Wilcockian “crass, boorish and more a bruiser than blogger”. They’re both right. The fact that I am a gobshite is something I personally have long come to terms with: it makes me wholly unsuited for public office, but does enable me to say things that would otherwise not be. Ultimately, my biggest problem with Ming is that of the three candidates he reminds me of me; if that isn’t a reason not to put your “1” by his name, I don’t know what is.

New name? Plaid should have checked

Peter Black has been chronicling the utterly pointless debate waging in the Welsh Assembly about its new building’s monoglot name.

Personally, I think that Senedd is a perfectly fine name, speaking as someone who doesn’t speak a word of Welsh. It evokes a distinct identity which is absolutely what you want an assembly for a nation to do.

There is however a problem with monoglot names when the same word means different things in different languages. Thus, while “plaid” may well mean party in Welsh, but to most English speakers it means a particularly naff material that the Bay City Rollers (Scottish) used to have their trousers made out of.

It is a very odd rebranding exercise – an explicit attempt to move away from the nationalism that they are defined by but which remains unpopular while attempting to position the party to look like a halfway house between Labour (flower logo) and the Lib Dems (yellow). The resemblance to the bp logo (Peter Black again) is similarly unfortunate.

What this all amounts to is what we’ve known to ages: Plaid has a chronic identity crisis. At a seminar I went to six years ago, I remember getting into a very heated argument with a Plaid and SNP participant. Neither myself nor the Scots Nat could understand Plaid’s independence-not-independence policy and our colleague got quite irate attempting to explain it without the use of diagrams and a logarhithmic table.

This relaunch, I suspect, will be about as ignomious as Consignia‘s.

A question of standards

We Lib Dems, we hate the Standards Board, right? Got policy to abolish it even. Some of us, notably Islington Council Leader Steve Hitchens and East Yorks Councillor Colleen Gill, have even almost come unstuck by them. We have good reason to be very dubious about their rulings.

So why – the fuck – are Graham Tope and Simon Hughes going along with today’s ruling to suspend Ken Livingstone? It is an absolute bloody outrage. For the record, he didn’t even make an anti-semitic comment. True, it was unbelievably crass and it is bizarre that he chose to not apologise and simply put the whole thing to bed, but that is a matter for the London electorate, but an unelected cabal of busybodies.

Iain Dale could well be right – perhaps Livingstone ought to resign and cause a by-election on this issue. Of course, we’d then fight the campaign on other issues, but if Livingstone went on to humiliate us (in the way that he utterly humiliated Hughes in 2004), that might well be justice.

Livingstone is, to be sure, about the worst kind of Labour politician going – as opportunistic as it gets, plays community against community, seeks to hide behind the autocratic powers granted him by the government and then attacks the GLA for failing to hold him to account – he certainly needs taking down a peg or five. But this ruling threatens every single elected politician in the country. A degree of solidarity is long overdue.

No, I wasn’t dreaming

Because I am not very much of a morning person, it would be very dangerous for me to assume that anything I ‘heard’ on the Today programme was actually said, rather than something I cooked up in a dream. On a number of occassions I have gone through a whole morning imagining that this scandal or that had been announced only to realise that it was a product of my own fevered imaginings.

Fortunately, these days we have the marvels of interweb wireless technology and so if I think I heard something truly outrageous I can go back and check.

Well, it turns out I did here the aural equivalent of a big steaming pile of donkey bollocks this morning, emanating from the mouth of Daily Mail columnist Ann Atkins doing the Smug Religious Person of the Day slot:

When I heard that such a significant historian [as David Irving] held such extraordinary notions, I longed to learn why.

I’m sorry? Significant historian? SIGNIFICANT HISTORIAN?! Quaequam Blag! In what way has his work been “significant”? I’d love to know who she would categorise as an amateur chancer.

For the record, I think it is an outrage that he has been locked up. One of my reasons is that it gives his opinions a certain credibility and makes him appear to be a more significant person than he actually is. Ann Atkins has just provided us with a solid gold example of that.

PS Did you notice how on all the TV footage of the trial, Irving seems more concerned with getting his book in shot than the fact that he’s about to get locked up for three years?