Sunday 28 February 2010


That most venerable refined city, Venice, occasionally displays brash and vulgar graffiti that is all the more astonishing in such antique surroundings...

Here in Britain -- well, anyway, in the Surrey town of Epsom! -- we are much more restrained and refined in our graffiting!

Does this mean that Banksy is finally going soft?

Friday 26 February 2010


Once again! An invitation for you to take part in another Sibley Blog


All you have to do is explain this picture...

...or tell me what the woman is saying or thinking!

Send your suggestions via the comments/thoughts facility (or by e-mail, pigeon-post, smoke-signal or running-man-with-cleft-stick) making them as outlandish and preposterous as possible, and be rewarded for your efforts by seeing your wit displayed on this blog for the entertainment and amusement of all.

Terms and conditions reply and please note there will be strictly no refunds!

Closing date: Saturday 6 March 2010

Tuesday 23 February 2010


For the past five weeks I've been shamelessly plugging the repeat broadcasts of my BBC Radio 2 series, David Puttnam's Century of Cinema.

We made those shows back 1999 to mark what was then the first century of cinema and in the final programme (which was a kind of 'state of the union' summary of where the movies had got to on the eve of the new millennium) David Puttnam expressed the hope that if we'd done a good enough job, the BBC might invite us back to present the sequel.

Well, tonight you can hear that sequel as David and I cogitate on what's been going on in the cinema over the past decade: the digital revolution, the decline of star-name box-office champs and the rise of the franchise; the continuing success of independent filmmaking (with input from Robert Redford at Sundance) and the ongoing importance of Oscars and BAFTAS - despite Sunday's marathon where Jonathan Woss delivered a tediously unfunny script, where most of the presenters had to peer helplessly into the back of the auditorium of the Royal Opera House in a attempt to read the auto-cue and Vanessa Redgrave sadly made a speech that was neither amusing nor politically bonkers.

We'll be talking about Pixar and Potter (Harry that is, with a visit to the studio where they're busy working on the seventh film in the series); about why Twitter is the new word-of-mouth that can decide, in just one day, the fate of the movie and whether - this time - 3D really is here to stay!

You can hear David Puttnam's Century of Cinema - 'Reel 6: The Sequel' - on BBC Radio 2 at 10:30 pm, and, if you miss the transmission this evening, it can be heard again for the next seven days via the BBC iPlayer.

And, until the transmission of tonight's episode, you've still a few hours left to catch 'Reel 5: The British Are Coming', looking at the British film industry.

Friday 19 February 2010


And now the British film industry has lost one its great treasures, Lionel Jeffries. A superb and diverse character actor, he was wonderful in comedy, but equally at home in dramas: for example, he made a wildly demented Marquis of Queensbury in The Trials of Oscar Wilde.

His films, spanning almost forty years, included Up the Creek, Two-Way Stretch, The Wrong Arm of the Law, First Men in the Moon, The Colditz Story, Murder Ahoy! (managing to hold his own alongside that redoubtable scene-stealer, Margaret Rutherford), Rocket to the Moon, Camelot and, of course, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang...

He directed only a handful of films, among them The Amazing Mr Blunden and The Water Babies, but, if he had never done anything else in his prolific life, he would be remembered for his directorial debut (for which he also wrote the script): the utterly glorious, totally unforgettable, 1970 version of E Nesbit's The Railway Children.

Thank you, dear Mr Jeffries, for all the laughs and for one of the best endings any film ever had...




Yes, another Hollywood legend has left us...

With her exquisite operatic voice, Kathryn Grayson trilled her way through some of MGM's greatest musicals: Anchors Aweigh, Till the Clouds Roll By, Show Boat, Desert Song, Kiss Me Kate and The Vagabond King among others.

Here are a few visual memories of Miss Grayson accompanied by her recording of Irving Berlin's 'Always'...

And here she is singing the closing number from MGM 1945 extravaganza, Ziegfeld Follies which all goes to shows what Hollywood could do with dozens of pretty girls and several hundred gallons of bubble-bath!

For those who share my fascination with movie trivia, here is the story behind this extraordinary piece of movie campery...

'There's Beauty Everywhere' was originally filmed as a balletic finale with tenor James Melton singing and Fred Astaire, Cyd Charisse and Lucille Bremer dancing their way through the landscape of soap bubbles. Unfortunately, the bubble machine malfunctioned, went out of control and soap poured out into the hallways around the sound-stage!

As only a fragment of the number had been filmed, it was re-staged with Kathryn Grayson replacing Mr Melton and with Astaire and Bremer's footwork going down the plughole, although a few stray moments of Cyd Charisse's bubbly performance still remain as a testimony to Hollywood silliness at its silliest!

Tuesday 16 February 2010


I know it's hard to believe, but there's only two more episodes of David Puttnam's Century of Cinema, to go!

Next week: a brand new programme bringing the story of the movies up to date with a look at what's happened in the decade since the series was first broadcast.

Meanwhile, there are seats in all parts for the fifth installment of our centennial celebration of film, in which David Puttnam and I look at the British film industry.

You'll hear Ken Annakin and Richard Curtis talking about the Ealing studios and their classic comedies like The Ladykillers and Kind Hearts and Coronets; Richard Attenborough recollecting the work of the Crown Film Unit founded during WWII; Michael Caine on The Italian Job and Get Carter and Dirk Bogarde remembering the revolutionary impact of a new style of gritty filmmaking which began with The Blue Lamp and the groundbreaking - and heroic - Victim, the story about a gay barrister being blackmailed (made at a time when homosexuality was still illegal) as well as, in lighter vein, the 'Doctor' series that was a prelude to the rather more raucous Carry On films.

We also look at the Bond franchise and talk to Michael Apted who, when we made this series, was directing The World is Not Enough.

You can hear David Puttnam's Century of Cinema - 'Reel 5: The British Are Coming!' - on BBC Radio 2 at 10:30, and, if you miss the transmission this evening, it can be heard again for seven days via the BBC iPlayer.

And, until the transmission of tonight's episode, you've still a few hours left to catch 'Reel 4: Something for Everyone', which looks at some of the most popular and enduring movie genres.

Sunday 14 February 2010



Love Hearts!

Image: Brian Sibley © 2010

[To view larger, click image and use 'ALL SIZES' option on flickr]

Friday 12 February 2010


Today, we're off to the loo again!

Sheila recently alerted me to another Mondrianesque convenience, this time in KawaKawa, Bay of Islands, New Zealand...

The decision to ignore the formality and rigidity of Mondrian's grid-locked art is a clue to the fact that this is the work of the free-thinking, free-wheeling, Austrian artist and architect, Friedensreich Hundertwasser (1928-2000) who - with a wonderful disregard for the usefulness of spirit-level and plumb-line - created some of the world's most fantastical buildings.

Move over Gaudi! These are something else...

Here's more information about...

The KawaKawa Public Toilets

Hundertwasser life and career

Hundertwasser's work
(Click on 'The Oeuvre' for his architecture)

Tuesday 9 February 2010


Yes! It's that time of the week again when -- yawn, yawn! -- I invite you to tune into David Puttnam's Century of Cinema, the fourth episode of which airs on BBC Radio 2 this evening.

When Lord Puttnam and I made this series, back 1999, it was broadcast as celebration of the first century of cinema and this installment finds us discussing some of the tried and tested popular film genres that were the life-blood of the movie industry over those years.

We look at westerns, musicals, comedies, epics, sci-fi films and war movies, with Fred Zinnerman talking to me about High Noon and why he cast Gary Cooper in the role of the beleagured sheriff and Robert Wise telling me why he didn't cast Claude Raines as Klaatu the alien in The Day the Earth Stood Still -- hands up anyone who can remember Klaatu's three-word message! -- and why The Sound of Music is the perfect musical. Ken Annakin recalls working on The Longest Day and Richard (Notting Hill) Curtis pays tribute to the comedy of the Marx Brothers.

Other movies that get a viewing include Apocalypse Now, Saving Private Ryan, Lawrence of Arabia and Some Like It Hot while David himself recalls the triumph that was Chariots of Fire.

You can hear David Puttnam's Century of Cinema - 'Reel 4: Something for Everyone' - on BBC Radio 2 at 10:30, and, if you miss the transmission this evening, it can be heard again for seven days via the BBC iPlayer.

And, until the transmission of tonight's episode, you've still a few hours left to catch 'Reel 3: Hollywood Incorporated', which looks at the great studios, their history and their movies.

Friday 5 February 2010


It's rather frustrating, but having recently seen Disney's latest animated film, The Princess and the Frog - opening in UK cinemas nationwide today - I don't unfortunately have the time (due to a fearfully pressing book deadline) to write about it in the kind of detail I would, normally, find hard to resist! Still, at least it saves you having to read an interminably long post!

The film, loosely based on the Grimm Brothers' fairy tale, 'The Frog Prince', is relocated in Jazz Age, New Orleans and features a non-princess princess (it's all part of the plot, look it up on Wikipedia!) named Tiana and has been hailed as a landmark (or lambasted for being behind its time) for the fact that it features the first African-American Disney heroine.

However, as it happens, Tiana is not the first black character in a Disney animated film and she has several non-white predecessors including Pocahontas, Mulan, Lilo and Esmeralda.

The film is significant for another, less debated, reason in that it is the first hand-drawn Disney film since the studio chucked out all the pencil-wielders six years ago and turned animation over the digital whiz-kids of Pixar. Personally, I like Pixar animation and I like traditional hand-drawn animation and it is to the credit of Pixar (now Disney) supremo, John Lasseter, that he has brought back those traditional animation techniques to the studio whose fortunes were founded on that very art form.

The Princess and the Frog is a good yarn, rattlingly well told, filled with strong characters, great music, one or two frights, a typical dollop of Disney pathos and is, all in all, vibrantly brought to life in a medium that - due to the success of such films as Toy Story and Little Nemo - has been too long neglected.

And, for what it's worth, I think Tiana is portrayed as a proactive, self-determining character who'll provide a positive role-model for any child of any colour, since what she represents is the importance of what we all are beneath the skin.

Can't stop to tell you more, but on tonight's Radio 2 Arts Show - at around 11:30 pm if your Horlicks hasn't kicked-in by then - you can hear me interviewing the film's directors, Ron Clements and John Musker (who also gave us The Little Mermaid and Aladdin) and afterwards discussing the film with the show's host, Claudia Winkleman. And, as usual, it'll be there on BBC iPlayer for the next seven days.

Just one word of warning!

Before trundling your tots off to the cinema to see The Princess and the Frog you should be aware of a news story revealing that, last month, FIFTY children in the US (mostly girls under the age of 10) were taken to hospital suffering with salmonella poisoning after kissing frogs!

Both the American Veterinary Medical Association and the Association of Reptilian and Amphibian Veterinarians (I didn't know reptiles and amphibians could become vets!) issued statements warning parents of the dangers of allowing children to handle and kiss frogs.

By the way, I hope you noticed "mostly girls", but obviously not exclusively!!

Here (if you've not already seen it) is the trailer...

Tuesday 2 February 2010


Your weekly reminder to tune into David Puttnam's Century of Cinema, the third episode of which will be broadcast on BBC Radio 2 tonight.

As you will have gathered, when the series originally hit the airwaves in 1999 it was as a celebration of the first 100 years of cinema and in this episode we talk specifically about the Hollywood film factories where so many of the century's greatest movies were made.

MGM it was said had more stars than there were in the heavens above, and like all of the other great studios - Twentieth Century Fox, Paramount, Universal, Warner Brothers, RKO Pictures, Columbia, Walt Disney - they each had their hallmark style and stars.

Margaret O'Brien, Dirk Bogarde and Angela Lansbury tell us what it was like to work under the studio system and we find out that the tycoons who ran these studio came from just about every trade and business other than filmmaking.

Nevertheless this motley crowd of immigrant glove-salesmen and junk-dealers with such improbably namers as Samuel Goldfish and Edgar and Archibald Selwyn (the men behind Goldwyn Pictures) became the great studio bosses who were, as David Puttnam says, "responsible for America's sense of self-identity..."

The question in 1999 - and it is still relevant today - is whether those studio names with their famous logos and fanfares mean what they once meant back in those formative years of movie-making.

You can hear David Puttnam's Century of Cinema - 'Reel 3: Hollywood Incorporated' - on BBC Radio 2 at 10:30, and, if you miss the transmission this evening, it can be heard again for seven days via the BBC iPlayer.

And, until the transmission of tonight's episode, you've still a few hours left to catch 'Reel 2: Right Directions', which explores the talents of the people who make the movies.