A Driving Instructor's Blog

Movies & TV

1 2 3 10

Sellers and Carmichael in I'm All Right JackJust when you think you’ve seen it all!

I noticed on SkyQ earlier that Talking Pictures is showing the classic comedy ‘I’m All Right Jack’. I’m watching it right now.

For anyone who doesn’t know, it was made in 1959. Yes, over sixty years ago. It tells the story of Stanley Windrush (played by Ian Carmichael), who as a new graduate is unable to get into a management position, so ends up in an unskilled role. He is eager to do a good job, and immediately falls foul of the union shop steward, Fred Kite (Peter Sellers). The story revolves around this conflict. It is very funny, and considered as one of Sellers’ great films. It also features roles for Terry-Thomas, Richard Attenborough, Dennis Price, Margaret Rutherford, Irene Handl, and John Le Mesurier.

The film opens in a nudist colony. This is a 1959 nudist colony in a 1959 film. When the film first launched – in 1959 – it was not censored. I’m not aware that it has been ever censored, and it certainly wasn’t when I used to watch it during school holidays and many times since.

But today, Talking Pictures had – for reasons best known to themselves – blurred out elements of the opening scenes!

Share

ReadlyA couple of years ago I was having a clear out and I was amazed at the number of magazines I’d collected over the years. They were mainly my Classic Rock mags, and part of my decision to have a clear out was that I’d been getting more and more disillusioned with that particular publication.

At the time, I was on an annual subscription, but Planet Rock had just launched its own magazine and that did exactly what it said on the tin – it covered rock music. Classic Rock acquired a new editor, and she made it clear in her introductory piece what she was planning. Subsequently, any rock music they covered had to include at least half female acts – meaning it became obscure and far from ‘classic’, at best – and they also decided that (as just one example) Depeche Mode somehow ticked both the ‘classic’ and ‘rock’ boxes at the same time (actually, they decided twice in the space of just a couple of months with that one example). Then they did their ‘best 100 female artists of all time’ issue, and necessarily had to include non-rock genres to fill it out. That was it from me, and I cancelled my sub.

Before any feminists start frothing at the mouth over this, I go to see lots of female artists and bands with female members. I actually seek them out if I hear them on Planet Rock and like the sound. Like Samantha Fish, Haim, Paramore, Evanescence, Courtney Love, Joanne Shaw Taylor, The Lounge Kittens… I just don’t need any feminist magazine editors trying to filter out the men for me. And if you don’t like the fact that I don’t like that fact, click the back button and go somewhere else.

Planet Rock mag suits me fine, but when the lockdown came along, it also came with a lot of extra time for reading and finding tips on how to do stuff I wouldn’t have otherwise had time for. And going out to buy magazines wasn’t an option – even if it would have been of benefit with the ‘current’ issue on sale (you usually need a series of them).

A few years ago, as a result of my quest to find some authentic German food recipes, I came across a subscription service called Readly. It carries – and this is no exaggeration – thousands of UK titles. They’re all the ones you see on the newsstands (and many you don’t), from TV Times, OK!, Hello!, through all the photography and amateur DIY magazines, through to music and musicians (including Classic Rock). They cover specialist computer and technology subjects, gaming, weddings, cycling, fishing, horse riding, pets… everything (but no X-rated adult stuff). Including back issues, too, which multiplies the content by at least ten. And as I already implied, they have similar numbers of publications from Europe, Asia, and America. They’ve also recently started including newspapers, though it’s only The Independent and Evening Standard right now.

My normal Readly subscription is less than £8 a month, but they offer a two months for free trial. Even so, at £8 a month, that’s the newsstand cost of just three magazines! If you were after foreign magazines, you’d probably pay more than that for a single issue once shipping was included.

You can get the Readly app with the offer through Amazon (it’s free), and you can read on your phone, tablet, or computer. You can also read offline by downloading the content.

Share

Back To The Future movie posterThis is worth getting. It’s 35 years since Back To The Future was released, and this book – We Don’t Need Roads: The Making of the Back to the Future Trilogy – is the in-depth story of how it was made, with interviews with all the writers, cast, and crew. I was interested immediately, because I always wanted to know the truth about why Eric Stoltz – the original Marty – was recast with Michael J. Fox.

I found out about the book from an MSN newsfeed item, where fans have been arguing about whether any of Stoltz remains in the films (apparently, they reckon it’s Stoltz’s fist when he punches Biff in the café). The book doesn’t answer that, but it’s a damned good read.

It’s 268 pages devoted to one of the best movie trilogies – certainly of the 80s – of all time. And best of all, as well as paperback there’s also a Kindle edition (which is the one I bought). I also note that other books about the movie are available on Kindle Unlimited for free (see the banner on the right for a free trial if you’re interested).

Share

Ennio MorriconeThis one’s likely to pass most people by – I doubt many know who he is. But he represents a huge part of my childhood (and ever since, come to think of it).

Ennio Morricone has died at the age of 91. He was a film composer, but by far his best known works were the themes from The Dollars Trilogy of Spaghetti Westerns in the 1960s. His score for The Good, The Bad And The Ugly in particular is a genuine work of art.

RIP, Ennio.

Share

ITV: Secrets of the Driving TestThis is a new series on ITV, where cameras were allowed ‘unprecedented access’ to the driving test and test centres, and each week (if it sticks to the same format), follows three candidates with a bit of background information about them, and footage of their performance during their tests. You can still watch it on ITV’s catch-up service.

Going from the first episode – and the ‘next time’ bit at the end (which I haven’t watched, yet) – it’s clear that their choice of which candidates to show is diversity-driven. And I mean ‘diversity’ in the broadest possible sense, with knobs on. I suppose just showing good drivers who pass easily would be boring, so you can maybe see why they did it this way. Obviously, there’s a lot of editing going on to get three tests condensed into a 30-minute slot, so it focuses on mistakes rather than the good bits, which fairly obviously makes it more watchable.

The narration is a bit annoying in my opinion, both in terms of the actual voiceover – it’s a bit grating – but also in what he is saying and how he says it (that grates, too). The funniest part, though, is seeing other instructors’ reactions to it. Not content with complaining about their own pupils’ results, now they can do it by proxy and whinge about other pupils’ results.

Nothing that was shown in the programme contradicts what I have experienced with my own test candidates. I always tell (or teach, or coach) mine that driving onto a footpath is bad and that they shouldn’t do it. And to assume a fail if they do. Because purposely driving onto a footpath and thinking it’s OK is not good by any stretch of the imagination.

Doing it for an instant, by accident – and who hasn’t clipped a kerb at some point (even when they’re super-perfect ADIs who hold court on social media)? – is in a grey area. Clip a kerb that’s half a meter high, and tear off the front of the car – fine. Fail, with knobs on. But brush a normal one (or clip a dropped kerb) at low speed? The examiner’s decision based on the rest of the drive.

In the 1st programme, one pupil had effectively passed minutes before returning to the test centre. Then he stalled repeatedly for trying to move off at a roundabout in 3rd gear. He’d just taken a wrong turn – which isn’t a fail in itself – but he knew he’d gone wrong and became stressed by it, resulting in the stalls. If he’d have realised after the 1st or 2nd stall he was in 3rd he’d probably have passed. As soon as the examiner had to tell him he was in the wrong gear – that’s ETA (V) on the test sheet – he’d failed. So close, but definitely a fail.

The second candidate had also passed minutes before the end. But then she sat waiting to turn right at a junction when it was clear that all the traffic ahead of her had stopped. I can’t recall from the programme if a filter light came on (I don’t think they showed that), but we have a similar junction in Nottingham, and more than one candidate has failed for sitting back. Definitely a fail.

It reminds me of a pupil I had about 12 years ago, As he drove back into the test centre, he had two driver faults on his sheet. The examiner asked him to drive forward into a bay (and back then it didn’t matter how you did it, or how many bays you used). So he braked late and hit the barrier. Only slightly, but he hit it. Fail. Driving into a bay is one thing, driving into a wall at the back of it is something else. Fair enough, the examiner could have passed him (and I’d have accepted that), but he didn’t (and I accepted that). Because it isn’t my call. It’s the examiner’s.

That’s what can happen.

When it comes to tests, I do my job, and I let the examiners do theirs.

Edit: Episode 2 – yep! ITV’s primary objective when conceiving this series was definitely ‘diversity’ among anyone appearing on screen.

The examiners are still definitely doing their jobs properly, though, and come across professionally. Mind you, the older woman from Cardiff’s test would more likely have been abandoned – or at least diverted back to the test centre early – around here. The candidates are clearly (mostly) hand-picked. Rich and Yolana were the only token candidates who were test ready, with Rich – as the older driver – making probably the most typical mistake people who can ‘already drive’ make when they go on test. The clips of his lessons showed him to be a decent driver overall. You could see Yolana was going to pass from the short clips of her lessons – she was good. Mind you, she’d have got a bollocking from me if she was mine after I’d watched the dashcam footage later, for choosing a bay next to a kerb to park in when the whole bloody row was free.

I’ve got a pupil at the moment who is in his late 40s, and who has years’ of experience driving in another country. He can genuinely drive, but getting him to understand the importance of blind spot checks, then getting him to actually check them, has been a nightmare. He failed his first test for it, and that was after around 25 hours of lessons. I’d got him to check properly on lessons, but he was only doing it as an artificial exercise and was not taking it seriously. So he fell back to driving like he has for the last 30-odd years in Africa.

ITV’s apparent desire to get mistakes on screen does show, though, that not taking proper training is not a good idea for the majority of people.

Share

Your Wife Is Hot billboard adUntil recently, there was a billboard in Nottingham at the junction between Porchester Road and Woodborough Road which carried the ad shown above.

The owner of the company, Lee Davies, had seen the same sort of ad used in America – and if you Google it, they use it a lot – and decided to use the idea himself.

In most cases where it is used, they have an image of an attractive female, with the text “Your Wife Is Hot”, and some follow up stuff about getting the air-conditioning sorted out.

Davies ran the idea past his family (including females) and none of them found it offensive. Indeed, when it went up in July, he was getting people asking if he could do a male version, which he seemed prepared to do at some point. He’d paid for two months, and that would be setting him back at least £1,500 (probably more), and he almost certainly wanted to check the return on his investment.

At that time, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) had received two complaints about it. Frankly, he could have put up a photo of a kitten and some prat would probably have complained. Also, quite frankly, if he had used a photo of a kitten and someone had complained, the ASA would still almost certainly have somehow concocted a reason to ban it. Which they have done now.

You see, the ASA has recently introduced rules about the use of gender stereotypes in advertising, so you can no longer advertise, say, a family-oriented product using a picture of a typical family (i.e. the kind everyone would recognise). If you even dare to suggest a family consists of a man and a woman with children, you’re pretty much dead meat. You can’t use white models without running the risk of being convicted of being non-inclusive, and if you try to play the game and put some of the allowed minority groups in it, you’ve then got to wrestle with how your depiction matches up with their perception of themselves. And since that roughly equates to “how long is a piece of string”, you’re basically screwed. Then there’s the matter of whether any females depicted are thin, fat, short, tall, pregnant… whichever you go for, the others will complain, so you’re screwed again.

Then there is the issue of being female in itself. There are several parallel universes running together here, because it’s perfectly OK for a woman to dress attractively (or even to the extent that she could be auditioning for an adult film role), but if a man dares to observe the fact… he’s dead meat, again. It’s apparently wrong for a man to ask a woman out anymore – or at least, it could easily turn into such a scenario if the woman decides she is “offended” and reports it. Which could happen anything up to 40 years later, if what I keep reading in the news is true. And if she does report it, the police will drop all their paperwork and cancel all their community meetings immediately, send a SWAT team out, possibly call in the BBC with helicopters and drones and stuff, then put on “extra patrols to reassure the public”. And ruin the rest of the guy’s life.

In a nutshell the world has gone mad, and the ASA are a bunch of morons.

There are thousands of adverts I find offensive one way or another. That bloody TUI ad with the whiny singing girl a couple of Christmases ago, for one. Anything with whistling for another. Anything with rap music of any kind in it. Anything with kids eating – especially when they’re wearing the food instead of getting it in their mouths, so pretty much anything with babies or toddlers. And don’t even get me started on how they try to show things that really shouldn’t be shown outside the baby-changing facilities in McDonalds, or the changing rooms in a clothes shop – especially when I’m having my dinner.

But I don’t complain. I just moan on the blog about them.

There’s nothing wrong with the ad, and the (now) 25 people who have complained should just either be totally ignored, or referred to a psychiatrist for the help they obviously need.

Share

Bismarck MagazineHoly cow, they’re at it again!

I wrote an article in 2015 about a monthly magazine where you gradually got parts to build a model of The Millennium Falcon from Star Wars. Although issue 1 was priced at £2.99, subsequent issues were £8.99 and the full series was 100 issues long (totalling nearly £900 to get a finished model).

I just saw an ad on TV for a similar series where you build a model of the Bismarck. The bloody thing is 1¼ metres long and is made largely of die-cast metal (they don’t say how much it weighs). This time, although the first issue is £1.99, subsequent issues are £8.99, and there are 140 of them! So it’ll cost around £1,250 in the end.

Share

The Dark HedgesI don’t watch Game of Thrones, but there is apparently a natural feature in Northern Ireland called The Dark Hedges. It is a tunnel formed by Beech trees, and it has been used in the series because of its other-worldly appearance.

The trees which form the tunnel have apparently been damaged by the weather before, but another was felled by strong winds over the weekend.

Here’s what I don’t understand. A tree expert has said that the trees have stood since 1775, and that Beech trees have a typical life expectancy of around 250 years, so at 240 years these are very old. There were originally about 150 trees, but due to natural events there are only 90 left (well, 89 after the windy weekend). The tree expert says:

It’s sad to see that one by one they are actually falling.

Erm. Excuse me, but isn’t it possible to plant new trees when one dies or gets blown over? They could even clone the existing ones to keep the history alive if they wanted. I mean, fair enough. They have left it about 100 years too late, but even now the feature could be preserved for posterity – instead of just being allowed to fizzle out.

There really is something wrong with mankind that I can’t quite put my finger on.

Share
1 2 3 10