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February 7th 2014
What do you think is the greatest ever leap forward in technology? Electricity? The light bulb? The internet? The microchip? Or, for fans of Jethro Tull, the seed drill? It's a tough question, so here's an easier one: what is the smallest ever leap forward in technology? That is, the tiniest stumble onwards; the most minute step ever taken in the realm of technological advancement? It is, of course, Blu-ray; almost indistinguishable from a DVD in every way except (i) there's a small improvement in picture quality, allegedly, and (ii) it costs more. Oh, and (iii) you need to buy a new DVD player - sorry, Blu-ray player. I keep doing that - in order to watch it. It's almost as if the whole medium is about to die out in favour of digital downloads, and the manufacturers are trying to eke out just a little more profit while they can.
Anyways, I have long held the Blu-ray in disdain (even if I am single-handedly keeping the DVD market afloat) and it now seems that Blu-ray makers have come round to my way of thinking, for why else would they put all the bonus features on the Blu-ray and keep them off the DVD? If the picture quality of Blu-ray were enough by itself to warrant the 'upgrade', they wouldn't need to sweeten the deal by making the bonus features a Blu-ray exclusive. I am particularly disgruntled by this after my purchase of About Time (I like rom coms. And Rachel McAdams. Let's just take that on board and move on) which had no DVD extras at all, despite the bundles on the Blu-ray: particularly, I don't get the joys of the cast-and-crew commentary. And I want those joys. I really do. For example, I'd like to know if Richard Curtis explains his fascination with English man / American girl pairings (Hugh Grant & Andie McDowell; Hugh Grant & Julia Roberts; Kris Marshall & a bar full of American girls), and why he decided this time to have an Irishman playing the the Englishman and a Canadian playing the American. But I ain't buying a Blu-ray player.What do you mean, we ripped off the Back to the Future II tagline?
Leaving aside such unfairness, it really is a lovely film, and not just because Rachel McAdams wins the award for most adorable performance of all time (take that, Meg Ryan in You've Got Mail and Demi Moore in About Last Night...). There are those who regard the word 'nice' as an insult, and those are the kind of people who are never going to like About Time, as it is unashamedly nice. It is decent. It is upstanding. It is the sort of film where a spilled cup of tea is rather more likely to happen than an extra-marital affair, and while critics have queued up to say that Richard Curtis's characters inhabit a fantasy world that doesn't reflect reality, I have to say that amongst my friends and family it's the spilled tea that happens more frequently than the affairs. Not that anyone actually spills tea in the film, you understand: it's just that it's the kind of film where someone might. Anyway, most films don't reflect reality. To be honest, I can see reality any time I like without paying Showcase 9.50 for the privilege.
Speaking of a lack of reality, About Time is, of course, About Time Travel. That's one area Curtis couldn't really be bothered to flesh out, creating a time travel structure that's transparently unworkable (our hero tends to stand in a wardrobe to get back to his own past, then emerges from said wardrobe to take the place of his younger self... who presumably suddenly disappears from wherever he was. Wouldn't people notice that?), but that's not a problem because About Time is, of course, not really a time travel film. It's a romantic comedy. Except, actually, it's not - or, at least, not after the first hour or so - because it's really a film about family. OK, it's a time travel comedy about finding love and loving family... yeah, I think that covers most of the bases. Well, regardless of the genre-skipping - some of which is a bit jarring, but mostly it rolls along well enough - the film is stamped through with trademark Curtis pleasantness, where love is forever, where friends are accommodated rather than ridiculed, where Bill Nighy's character tells his son: "try and marry someone... kind" and where a girl who looks like Rachel McAdams falls for a bloke who looks like Domhnall Gleeson. Wouldn't it be nice if life were more like that? Especially that last one. Plus it's funny, and the time travel - even without making sense - literally opens up a new dimension compared to Curtis's previous work. Not a classic for the ages, but - as I think I mentioned earlier - it really is lovely. Feel free to buy it on DVD. Or, if you must, Blu-ray.

what was I listening to?
HIStory - Michael Jackson
what was I reading?
Tune In - Mark Lewisohn
what was I watching?
Cemetery Junction
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