Ivan, Jan, Johan, John, Harris

The opening titles to Storybook International, a CITV show from the 80’s. It served as a signal that the next 20 minutes would be spent watching a tedious badly-dubbed foreign-made morality tale, and wondering why He-Man couldn’t be on every night.

Which is why I’ve used the flamboyantly-dressed herald of disappointment as the avatar for Friday’s Short Stories. It seemed appropriate.


A darkly comic fable set in the Budapest metro, Kontroll is a film about rival bands of ticket inspectors – and it’s actually much more entertaining than I’ve just made it sound. There are dark forces at work on the metro, causing a number of apparent suicides. And there’s a girl in a teddy costume.

It’s all highly symbolic, and frankly sometimes a little baffling, but it’s always funny and engaging, and there are enough arresting images, intriguing characters and crazy ideas thrown into the mix to keep you interested to the end. And it has a couple of brilliant chase sequences to boot. And if you recognise teddy girl’s father, it’s because he was in Radiohead’s Karma Police video (which drove me demented until I worked it out).

Apparently Nimród Antal, Kontroll’s writer/director, will be working on the new Predator film. Dunno whether that’s a good thing. I mean, I like Predator movies as much as the next (geeky) man, but I’d rather see another offbeat, personal tale instead of a franchise-servicer, but hey, maybe it’ll be both.

Friday’s Short Story

storytellerHe patched up the dam with his hands and his heat vision, posed for photographs, signed some autographs, rose into the air, hovered long enough to salute the cheering, grateful crowds then returned to his kitchen in a blur of red and blue.

He opened the packet of bread and reached past the crust to select the third and fourth slices and heard the sound of a flare gun going off in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

After setting the oil tanker down in a Honolulu dry dock he hovered long enough to salute the cheering, grateful crowds then whoosh, and he placed the bread under a medium grill, started to grate the mature cheddar into a bowl and he felt the faint yet distinctive vibrations of an attack by a giant radioactive monster off the coast of Kamakura.

The creature safely shrunk and placed in an empty screw-top beer bottle, he paused briefly to give two thumbs up for the assembled news teams then up, up and away and turning the bread and chopping some olives and gunfire in downtown Metropolis and he tied the Octomaster and his henchmen up using tentacles torn from the large, and largely unnecessary, robot octopus they had been travelling in and gave a wave to the chief of the MCPD and leapt a tall building in a single bound and pulled the grill pan out and carefully spread the cheese and olives evenly over the bread.

The evil genius had barely opened his mouth to gloatingly exposit his plan to decimate the eastern seaboard using the giant atomic gorilla he had grown in a big vat under his volcano lair before he was slammed through a wall by what appeared to be an angry red and blue streak of impatient energy.

He knelt at the grill: not quite done. The timing was crucial.

He gently set the stricken Jumbo Jet down onto the runway, and, leaving the passengers and crew none the wiser as to how they had pulled out of the nosedive at the last minute, he checked the grill again. Brown. Bubbling. Perfect.

The perfect cheese on toast. He got a plate from the draining board and, with thumb and forefinger made heatproof by exposure to yellow sun radiation, delicately lifted the toast from the grill. He smiled. He heard the sound of tyres screeching, and a child crying and shouting for a lost cat. He looked at the toast. He wasn’t a cat person.

Johnny happily reunited with Tintin, and aware of the dangers of leaving the front door open when you own a cat and live on a main road, he flew through his kitchen window and tipped the cold toast into the pedalbin.

He opened the packet of bread, and reached past the crust.

The Perfect Cheese on Toast
by Harris
more tiny tales

Now Til 69

Just because it makes me want to dance. From The Shortwave Set’s brilliant album Replica Sun Machine (produced by Danger Mouse, who has had a hand in a fair few of my favourite albums of the last 5 years) this song rocks and shimmies, and has got me boogying like a chipmunk. Be bop a lula. The video is absolutely shit. Sorry.

Sketchy Future

I had a nice day in Leeds yesterday, meeting up with a few comedy writers and performers, and in a room above a pub we took the first baby steps towards starting a working sketch group with the aim of performing stuff live, maybe doing an Edinburgh show in 2010 and then… well, taking over the world with our amusing skits and vignettes, obviously.

There seems to be a diverse mix of styles in the bunch, both in writing and performing, so hopefully something interesting will come of it. At the very least it’ll be good to be take control of the process again, and do stuff for ourselves, as those of us who’ve written (or tried writing) for telly have got a bit sick of the ball ache (or the lady equivalent) of trying to please people who don’t appear to know what they want. We know exactly what we want: to be funny.

Anyway, it’s early days yet, but it’s quite exciting nonetheless.

The Brothers Bloom

I think The Brothers Bloom just conned their way into my top-whatever list of films. Written and directed by Rian Johnson, this film sparkles visually and the script is warm and funny. It’s reminiscent of a globe-trotting 60’s caper movie in style and tone, all sunshine and exotic foreign locations. It’s knowing without being cynical, and sweet without being cloying. It’s swoonsomely romantic and it has a kitten in a rollerskate. And it made me laugh out loud, like, twelve times or something.

The Brothers Bloom is a con movie, but unlike most films in this genre it’s less concerned with the cleverness of its plot twists and turns, and more interested in exploring the links between deception, storytelling, and love.

It also has some spectacular hats.

You know what? I think I suck at film reviewing. Ignore me and watch the film. If you don’t like it, contact Rian Johnson for your money back. He said to say that. Honest.