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January 23, 2008

Blast from The Last.fm

Blast from the Last.fm

Last FM

Could this be "the one" which finally cracks pirate downloading, gives audiences what they want, makes money for the provider and manages to pay the musicians as well?

Sound too good to be true well it might be but the news released by Last.fm today promises to be the first of several large companies coming to market with similar promises. what is the secret formula, there isn't one I'm afraid it is merely yet more advertising being driven onto the web. In this sense much of the web is going to driven by the advertising monster. The underlying question is rapidly becoming what is the future of Public Service Broadcasting / multicasting in this dawning age of user generated content and 'free' lots of media goodies primarily driven by advertising.  

Last.fm

Richard Jones, one of Last fm's three founders, told the BBC:

The way people consume music is changing - sometimes you just want to listen to it there and then.

Jones made this comment after it was revealed that rather than being able to download the music onto their computers consumers would be able to listen to the same track up to threee times thereafter they would be encouraged to pay for ti via iTunes or a similar servicve. Of course whether this change in useage away from an ownership model albeit usually 'illegal' will happen is yet to be proved.  However as well as avoiding the risk of being busted consumers face get all sorts of junk onto their computers through file sharing and viruses can abound on sites like Limewire. Free music paid for with banner adverts on the Las.fm site seems like a small price to pay instead of having your computer messed up and your data hacked.

Now I'm no expert on Limewire I'm just going on what my highly experienced students say however a quick Google turned up this scary video on YouTube. Limewire seems to be a sort of 'Hacking Into People's Private Data for Dummies'. In other words you are advised not to bother with it. (It could of course be a conspiracy by the record companies - well you pays yer money [or not] and yer makes yer choice!!). Anyway take a look:

Who are Last.fm? 

Last.fm, founded in London in 2002, was bought by the American media giant CBS last year for $280m (£143m).

Social music site Last.fm has been bought by US media giant CBS Corporation for $280m (£140m), the largest-ever UK Web 2.0 acquisition. (Original BBC Story from 2007.There is a video available on this link as well.)

Mr Stiksel one of the foundusic downloading on phones ing members of Last FM and part of the management team which is being left largely untouched by CBS announced an extraordinarily ambitious plan unprecedented in its aims:

This move will really support us to get every track ever recorded and every music video ever made onto Last.fm.

As an institution CBS radio is the largest radio group in the United States, with 179 stations in the top 50 markets covering news, rock, country and urban music.

Who are the Competition?

Mobile Music Japan

Mobile Music Downloads in the phone subscription the way forward?

Well seemingly the lions are coming out of their dens and the big players are entering into the market. Music downloading on phones is becoming increasing increasingly popular. whilst CD sales losses are increasing and not being replaced by legal downloading Japan is proving the exception which change the ruiles. Digital music sales in Japan are sufficient to offset the loss made by CDs. In fact, Japan saw a 1% rise in music sales last year. Industry observers attribute this rise to mobile music downloads:

"When you look at advanced markets like Japan, most digital music is already being consumed via mobile phones," said Rob Wells, senior vice president of digital music at Universal.

According to the BBC Nokia is currently planning a subscription service which allows users to keep the music they have purchased after the subscription has expired. So far they only have a confirmed content deal with Universal Music but say they are in discussions with the other major record labels.

Where Is it All Going  

Certainly at the moment it isn't clear what the dominant model of music will be but from the perspective of the audience we are moving ever closer to a massive amount of legal or very cheap music for nothing.  


January 21, 2008

Control: Anton Corbijn

Anton Corbijn

Anton Corbijn

Control, 2007: Anton Corbijn. (116 Mins, B&W)

This posting is currently acting as a hub site for the film Control which is being released on DVD on the 11th of Feb 2008 in the UK. As can be seen the film has won a range of crtiical accolages and as such is an interesting one to consider in relation to contemporary British Cinema. It belongs to a long line of Rock Biopics. It is the second film about Factory Records and the Mancunian music scene with Michael Winterbottom's 24 Hour Party People released in 2001. 

Trailer from YouTube 

Audience / Critical Reception

2007's best films
As voted by the Guardian's film writers

Friday December 7, 2007

1 Control
dir Anton Corbijn
What we said: "Control is a film about England, about music, about loneliness and love. There is melancholy in it, but also a roar of energy. I thought it might depress me. Instead, I left the cinema walking on air."
5 stars

Control Poster UK

Joy Division biopic scoops five prizes: Bleak tale of life and death of Ian Curtis wins best film and best director categories

Bristish Independent Film Awards (BIFA), 2007

BBC Cannes 2007 report on the reception for Control

BBC Joy Division Dominate Film Awards

Webliography 

Interviews

Control : BBC Collective Interview with Anton Corbijn

Control: Indie London Corbijn Interview

Control: Time Out Corbijn Interview 

Edinburgh International Film Festival Video Interview with Corbijn

Guardian discussion with the remaining band members

Reviews

Control is great, but where are the women? Guardian blog on Control

New Statesman on Control

Telegraph review of Control

Times Online Control Review

Comments from the Watershed on Control and Corbijn

Guardian Film Blog on Control

Guardian (Bradshaw) on Control

Other

On the set of Control

Ian Curtis' daughter Natalie in the Observer on Control

Anton Corbijn reflects upon his life in the Guardian

New Statesman article on the 'Rock Biopic' Genre

Samantha Morton Guardian feature 


January 19, 2008

iPhone Sales: Time for Schadenfreude?

iPhone Sales: Time for Schadenfreude?

It is difficult to avoid a feeling of Schadenfreude as one looks at the sales figures of the Apple iPhone since its UK release and faiure to reach the projected sales forecasts of 200,000. One might think that selling 190,000 was pretty good going as they cost about £280 quids and you have to take out not a 12 month but an 18 month contract at £35 per month. Well the latter fee used to be not so bad but now prices have dropped considerably. The fact of the matter is that Jobs launched the iPhone into the gathering storm of an economic recession and the reality is that the aspirants buying into designer this that and the other are going to suddenly think twice about these expenses as other things suddenly become a priority.

Jobs has already had to drop the price of the iPhone in the USA quite soon after its launch and today's FT reports that some analysts are expecting the same to happen in the UK:

Some analysts, who had regarded the original 200,000 prediction as a conservative estimate, said Apple might have to cut the price in the UK if it wanted to maintain sales momentum. The iPhone’s headline price is £269, but customers must also take out an 18-month contract starting at £35 a month, meaning a minimum outlay of £899. (My emphasis)

iPhone Launch Jaunuary CES 2007

Look out for some appearing in TK Maxx if the recession really bites!

In the US, 10 weeks after its launch, Apple cut the iPhone’s headline price from $599 to $399, which angered customers who had bought the handset. Steve Jobs, Apple’s chief executive, subsequently apologised. On Tuesday, he said 4m iPhones had been sold worldwide. (ibid) 

As the FT points out Apple is facing the fact that mobile operators in both the UK and the US subsidies the handsets and claw back the costs through the subscriptions or relatively highly priced pay as you go calls.  

If you thought touchscreen is where it is at then check this out coming fairly soon near you (maybe): 

Nokia has also developed an interface method that doesn’t even require you to touch the screen where the phone reacts to hand gestures made in three dimensional space and can even track the movement of your hand. (From Pocket Picks)

In the meantime you will just have to suffer with these Nokias the excitingly named N81 and N82: 

Nokia N81  N82

The box says they do this lot which is a pretty good scorer on the convergence front:

The 140g N81 is an 8GB music phone with wi-fi, HDSPA, quad-band, 2MP camera, Bluetooth stereo, 3.5mm headphone jack, 16 million colour 240 x 320 pixel screen and dedicated music and gaming keys. Word from the Guru is that this will be one of the N-Gage Gaming Platform launch handsets. The 120g N82 takes all that and adds TV-out, GPS functionality, FM radio, a microSD slot, and raises the game with an N95-matching five-megapixel camera then bungs a xenon flash on top of all that. (ibid)

Customer Choice: The Nokia Nobrainer or the iPod Nano?

Well 8 gb is as much as an iPod Nano with a few other gizmos thrown in - like making a phone call.  Unlike the state of the market when Apple stormed the MP3 downloading market with the iPod the mobile phones is a sophisticated and hig hly competitive market with a lot of very experienced operators. It appears that Nokia's fight back for the premium phone market is going to be based around a very new model of consumption which involves free music downloading from a choice of around 2 million 'tunes'. You will be able to keep the music even if you drop the contract. This might not only hit iPhone below the waterline it could significantly effect iTunes itself. A quick trip to the Nokia site I couldn't find any Nokia phones which supported iTunes.

Phone for Internet Junkies from 2007

Now with upgrade 

Forthcoming Nokia N800

Phone for the YouTubers

Sounds like this Motorola has plenty of appeal for the budding film director promising instant uploading to YouTube:

Motorola Z10 Movie Phone

...the ‘mobile film studio’ aspect comes from the phone having the ability to let you instantly upload photos and videos to YouTube, Google, Yahoo and Shozu. So it’s not quite a proper ‘film studio’ but its still an appealing new handset.

That might mean Apple have to go back to their origins and try and flog computers, the trouble is Microsoft seem to have pretty much caught up.... (aside: well got to say something controversial it is a blog after all).  


January 10, 2008

What is Web 2.0?

What is Web 2.0?

Well Sean Carton below has a thing or two to say about it with a raft of other elements before this final bullet-point whic is a powerful statement: 

Web 2.0 is about doing stuff on the Web that can't done in any other medium. Functionalities that have generated so much Web 2.0 hype are all things that wouldn't be possible without the Internet. Period. Much of Web 1.0 tried to shoehorn old media models into the new technology, often with bad or even disastrous results. All the bad thinking of the past decade or so revolved around the misperception that the Web is "like medium X, only different." The Web isn't TV with clicking. It isn't print with the ability to link and embed multimedia content. Podcasting isn't radio you can download. Sean Carton,

Webliography

BBC News: What is this thing called Web 2.0   

Guardian Web 2.0 Weekend Edition


January 05, 2008

Blu–Ray versus HD–DVD: Will Warner make the difference

Blu-ray versus HD-DVD: An eye to the future!

For more recent comment please see X-Box & BT Link

Bluray disc


Introduction 

This format war between two sets of industrial giants one gathered around Sony and the other around Toshiba has been chundering on for over two years. As a result any consumer who remembers as far back as the Betamx - VHS battle which Sony eventually lost,- was a case of better technology being sidestepped by better audience and market development strategies from the VHS people. This was financially very irritating for Betamax buyers myself included. Like lots of other people I've no intention of buying into either Blu-ray or HD-DVD as a single player burner until things are sorted out. The same situation has been rumbling on between SACD and DVD-Audio. As a result people have stuck with CDs.

Perhaps one of the exceptions to this rule of the audience staying away until a universal system is established is the iPod. On the whole the iPod is the 'killer' technology and machine which has gained a firm market dominance. But it can play MP3s which are slightly lower quality than AAC so that's an important issue. The iPod buyer has universal access the Blu-Ray / HD-DVD disc player buyer has not. Apart from the cost nobody wants yet more boxes cluttering up the place. If they leave it any longer faster download speeds will make them both redundant! So let's look at the latest story on this competition. The Financial Times  of the 5th of January thinks that a company the size of Warner Bros which is coming down on the side of Blu-ray might make the difference. 

The FT Story

Warner, one of Hollywood's largest studios and its leading player in home video, had been publishing its new high-definition DVDs in the Blu-ray format and in the rival HD DVD one pioneered by Toshiba.

Blu-Ray.Com (Obviously an entirely unbisaed company) is crowing:  

Warner has announced that they will be switching to support Blu-ray exclusively. Warner has been supporting both formats since they were launched, but recent talk from top executives suggested that Warner couldn't continue down that road much longer, and that the all important holiday sales would help them make a decision. With Blu-ray winning every week in high definition sales this year, Warner has decided that The Future is Blu.

"The window of opportunity for high-definition DVD could be missed if format confusion continues to linger. We believe that exclusively distributing in Blu-ray will further the potential for mass market success and ultimately benefit retailers, producers, and most importantly, consumers," Warner Bros Chairman and Chief Executive Barry Meyer said in a statement.

Bluray player

A Blue-ray player. They do hold a lot more date than HD-DVD so there is a distinct technological advantage here.

The New York Times has also made a more objective account of the situation:

Behind the studio’s decision are industrywide fears about the sagging home entertainment market, which has bruised the movie industry in recent years as piracy, competition from video games and the Internet, and soaring costs have cut into profitability. Analysts predict that domestic DVD sales fell by nearly 3 percent in 2007, partly because of confusion in the market-place over various formats.

They go to point to the Betamax / VHS analogy I drew attention to (well I was a Betamax owner!). This is a core point for any media student studying audiences and institutions within the media at whatever level. Audiences are not stupid. Thay want equipment that is going to be universal. Previously both Sony and Toshiba had big names behind them and both have a good lap-top market. As the NYT points out Toshiba still have support but the pendulum is definitely swinging Sony's way! People want to be able to lend and borrow each others records CDs DVD etc. or buy a new machine without having mountains of the software becoming outdated. With Warner on board, Blu-ray now has about 70 percent of the market locked up; Walt Disney, 20th Century Fox, MGM, Lionsgate and, of course, Sony have all been backing Blu-ray. The Warner announcement comes after a marketing war in the USA in the run up to Xmas:

Consumers were inundated with marketing from both sides during the recent holiday season. Wal-Mart, as part of a temporary promotion, offered Toshiba players for under $100. Sony and its retailing partners, including Best Buy, responded by dropping prices on Blu-ray players, although not to the same level. Blu-ray players can now be purchased for under $300.

Well Toshiba could chuck them into its cheaper laptops to be used as HD-DVD burners that would tempt a lot of buyers and keep them in the game perhaps? Their official response was that they were 'quite surprised' by Warner's decision. Well very disapointed anyway! 

Toshiba HD-DVD

With rumours flying about of large sums being offered to Hollywood studios this sounds as though it has been a pretty dirty game. I'm wondering who has got the Chinese and Indian markets tied up though. Increasingly the game is being played ona global basis, both have large cinema audiences and film fans. somehow I don't think the fat lady is going to sing yet.

Mind you I'm biased we've got 2 Toshiba laptops in the house then the Telly is Sony that's consumerism for you.  I don't suppose any of the films I like will come out in either of these formats at an afordable price anyway. Perhaps the real story of the moment regarding technology which is really going to move the world on or not in this case is the fact that Intel seems to be messing up the One Laptop Per Child Campaign! Occasionally its good to keep things in perspective. With most people in the world not having a telephone let alone a computer what is Intel up to? Will there be a FairTrade computer chips campaign from AMD? 

Let's defeat the digital divide: after all "we have the technology" !! 

Webliography

Globe and Mail Article 05/01/08

New York Times 05/01/08  



January 03, 2008

Joe Wright

British Directors: Joe Wright (1972-)

Joe Wright

VISIT THE BRITISH DIRECTORS HUB PAGE

Introduction

Joe Wright in a short career has proved to be highly successful director of heritage style costume dramas based upon literary adaptations. Atonement (2007) opened the 64th Venice Film Festival making Wright the youngest director ever to have had a film opening this festival.  

Wright was trained at St. Martins art school in London now Central St. Martins University of the Arts London.  He has been identified as dyslexic and left school with no qualifications. His dyslexia was comensated for by an excellent ability within the field of visual communications and the strength of his painting and film making skills exceptionally won him a place in the prestigious St Martins to study fine art and film He won recognition making a short film for the BBC and directed the highly successful historical drama series Charles II: The Power and The Passion for the BBC which won the 2004 BAFTA TV award, Best Drama Serial. This helped him to get film contracts for the historical / heritage / costume drama genre films Atonement and Pride and Prejudice.

Film Availability:

Pride and Pedjudice DVD cover

The Charles II TV Series is also available:

Charles II The Power and The Passion DVD cover

Filmography (Feature Films)

2007: Atonement

2005: Pride and Prejudice

Webliography 

Guardian interview with Joe Wright on Pride and Predjudice

Guardian video interview Joe Wright on Atonement

Independent article on Wright and Atonement summer 2007

VISIT THE BRITISH DIRECTORS HUB PAGE 


January 02, 2008

Edgar Wright

British Directors: Edgar Wright (1974-)

VISIT THE BRITISH DIRECTORS HUB PAGE

Hot Fuzz 4


Introduction

Edgar Wright did a lot of his early work in TV as so many up coming film directors have done in the past.  spaced was a successful sitcom which went into two series runnig between 1999 - 2001 and significantly helped Wright to establish a reputation. His first work after studying film at Bournemouth was low budget comedy and he has worked in the comedy idiom ever since. Wright has done a lot of work with Simon Pegg and Jessica Stevenson and the success of Spaced allowed them to launch Shaun of the Dead a comedy-horror. The success of this film with a moderate budget allowed them to make Hot Fuzz. Wright also spent some time working with more established comedy acts in the BBC namely Alexei Sayle and Dawn French. 




Shaun of the Dead 1

Romero eat your heart out - or maybe they will. Shaun of the Dead marked the return of the comedy-horror hybrid genre. 





Webliography 

BBC film Network Wright interview. Includes extract of Hot Fuzz

Screenonline Biography of Edgar Wright

Screenonline Spaced analysis

BFI full list of Film and TV Credits for Edgar Wright  

BBC Q & A page with Wright and Pegg

Guardian NFT interview with Pegg and Wright  

BBC Review of Shaun of the Dead

Working Title Shaun of the Dead with trailer available 


RETURN TO BRITISH DIRECTORS HUB PAGE 



Hot Fuzz, 2006. Dir: Edgar Wright

Hot Fuzz, 2006. Dir: Edgar Wright




Hot Fuzz Flying Cops

Bye Bye The Matrix !


Production by Working Title

VISIT THE BRITISH DIRECTORS HUB PAGE 

Introduction

Well I haven't fully investigated it yet but the marketing of the film was clearly brilliantly organised. The BBC website below provided the materials for a very carefully orchestrated launch. Perhaps even more unusual was a preview in the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA). This was clearly an attempt by Working Title to build on its considerable reputation and target an much wider audience than might usually go to what might seem to be a typical 'Britcom'. The success of the low budget Shaun of the Dead also by director Edgar Wright also created an air of anticipation.  

Film Availability: DVD available in UK

Hot Fuzz DVD cover

Webliography  

BBC Hot Fuzz  Special Feature

This is an abslotue must go to site if you are interested in the film at all. There are a host of interviews etc off the landing page. First class pages *****!   

Working Title  Video Blog of Hot Fuzz

Guardian Film Review  

ICA Preview of Hot Fuzz


Stephen Frears

British Directors: Stephen Frears (1941-)

VISIT THE BRITISH DIRECTORS HUB PAGE 


Introduction

Stephen Frears has had a fine film making career making many notable British films some of which have had a controversial edge live My Beautiful Laundrette and Sammie and Rosie Get Laid. With these films and with Dirty Pretty Things Frears has shown he can make films with his finger on the pulse of social change.  His most successful recent film was The Queen which won many accolades. A fuller evaluation will appear in due course however there are a good range of web links established to aid research. 


Filmography

2006: The Queen

2005: Mrs Henderson Presents

2002: Dirty Pretty Things

2000: High Fidelity; Liam

1998: The Hi-Lo Country

1996 The Van

1995: Mary Reilly

1993: The Snapper

1992: Accidental Hero

1990: The Grifters

1989: Dangerous Liaisons

1987: Prick Up Your Ears

1987: Sammy and Rosie Get Laid

1985: My Beautiful Laundrette

1984: The Hit

1979: Bloody Kids

1971: Gumshoe


Film availability 

dirty_pretty_things_dvd_cover.jpg    the_queen_dvd_cover.jpg Mrs Henderson Presents DVD cover Liam DVD Cover



Webliography 

Screenonline Biography.(Excellent range of other links to specific films here) 

Guardian Interview Stephen Frears

BBC Interview on Dirty Pretty Things

Daily Telegraph. Film Makers on film: Stephen Frears

BBC Film Network  page on The Queen. Clip and trailer available here. 

BFI Governors page on Frears 

Guardian on Frears as Chairperson of the Cannes Jury 2007 

David Thompson in the Independent 2nd Jan 2008 on Stephen Frears

Britfim Frears heads Cannes Jury

Guardian interview of Frears 2004 (who reveals that he watches Big Brother) 

Skillset Frears takes part in mentoring scheme


RETURN TO BRITISH DIRECTORS HUB PAGE 





British Directors: Mike Hodges

British Directors: Mike Hodges (1932 -  )

( BRITISH DIRECTORS HUB PAGE) 

Introduction

Mike Hodges is still known for his 'gangster heavy' film Get Carter which seems to get number one in the 'Lad's Mags' lists for the 'well 'ard'. In fact it was an insightful view of relationships between British Gangland and various local businesses and of course the police. In terms of representations of Newcastle and the North East at the time the corruption of the Poulson affair.

The film was a continuation of the representation of British Gangland from Brighton Rock through The Long Good Friday which also dealt with corruption and was prescient about developments in the London docklands. Hodges has contributed another gangster heavy film in recent years I'll Sleep When I'm Dead

For more on the theme of British Crime Films please follow this link.  

A fuller evaluation of Mike Hodges work will follow however there are some useful links here to help with your research.  

Fimography

1970 Get Carter
1972 Pulp
1974 Terminal Man
1979 Flash Gordon
1985 Morons from Outer Space
1987 A Prayer for the Dying
1990 Black Rainbow
1998 Croupier
2001 Murder By Numbers
2003 I'll Sleep When I'm Dead
2004 Murder by Numbers

Films Available:

Get Carter DVD Cover Croupier DVD Cover I

Webliography 

Screenonline Biography of Mike Hodges 

Guardian interview with Mike Hodges

NFT Interview with Mike Hodges

Sight and Sound Review of I'll Sleep when I'm Dead

BBC Radio 3 series of interviews with Mike Hodges about work in progress on I'll sleep When I'm Dead

BBC Interview with Mike Hodges on Croupier

Culture Wars Review of I'll Sleep When I'm Dead

RETURN TO BRITISH DIRECTORS HUB PAGE 


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