Cinema 2011


Here's my annual list of things I've seen at the cinema (see also: 2009 and 2010 lists). I still haven't quite managed the one-film-per-week average, but Dr B and I have been giving our Lovefilm list a good battering, so we've seen plenty at home on our lovely new sofa.

My highlights of the year were Never Let Me Go (which could really do with a new poster), Submarine, Drive and Super 8. The three big superhero films of the summer were also pretty damn good  (and I'm now very excited about next year's Spidey/Avengers/Dark Knight line up).

I'm pretty certain Tinker/Tailor/Soldier/Spy was excellent, but I may have to revisit it to make sure as I … so ashamed … fell asleep a little bit.

The cinemas themselves brought their own particular charms. Birmingham's Electric Cinema, with its leather sofas and waiter service, was a nice way to spend Valentine's Day. The Contagion experience was somewhat heightened by watching it in a crowded Leicester Square cinema full of incessant coughing and sniffling, only to then go into a crowded tube. It was a soggy pleasure watching the triumvirate of monster movies (Gremlins, Troll Hunter and Tremors) in Somerset House – made slightly surreal by the twitter-induced mumblings in the crowd about "something kicking off in Tottenham". And of course, York's City Screen continues to be the best cinema in the country.

A couple of disappointments: The Adjustment Bureau was a huge let down, and Hobo with a Shotgun had a great title and one amazing actor, but was mostly terrible. Confessions was a good idea wasted. The Tree of Life had amazing cinematography and one incredible sequence (hat tip to Douglas Trumbull), but was mostly a big old bore. The King's Speech (was that really this year?) was great except for the year's standout abysmal performance by Timothy Spall as Churchill (more like Baron Greenback, according to Charlie Brooker).

Anyway, here's the list:

  • The King's Speech
  • Peeping Tom
  • Top Gun
  • Bringing Up Baby
  • The Fighter
  • Rope
  • Never Let Me Go (at Birmingham's lovely Electric Cinema)
  • True Grit (ditto)
  • The 400 Blows
  • The Adjustment Bureau
  • Blue Valentine
  • Frankenstein (live from the National theatre)
  • Submarine
  • Limitless (at York's awful, awful Reel Cinema)
  • Source Code
  • Thor
  • Confessions
  • Win Win
  • X-Men First Class
  • Bridesmaids
  • The Tree of Life
  • Hobo with a Shotgun
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part Two
  • Captain America: The First Avenger (twice)
  • Gremlins (at Somerset House, whilst rioting occurred elsewhere)
  • Troll Hunter (ditto)
  • Tremors (ditto)
  • Super 8
  • The Inbetweeners Movie
  • Rise of the Planet of the Apes
  • Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
  • Drive (twice)
  • Crazy, Stupid, Love
  • The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn
  • Contagion
  • Ghostbusters
  • Hugo
  • Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows
  • Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol

Rendezvous with reading


Disclaimer: contains shameless Amazon Associate links. I have to keep my Hellboy fix going somehow don't I? Look I've already started doing it.

Even though my standard-issue Ikea bookshelves are bursting at the seams, I got plenty of beautiful books for Christmas. And in 2012, I'm going to read. In 2011, I barely read a thing, which is appalling behaviour.

Not only did Dr B manage to get me a sci-fi classic that I've been meaning to read for years, she  got the edition with the beautiful black and white cover. Quite how I've managed to not read Rendezvous With Rama before is beyond me, but I'm already halfway through it and it's incredible. But there's a problem: Sanda Zahirovic's design is just one in a series of other classic space operas, and being an obsessive completist (or "man"), I'm not going to be able to sleep until I get the entire set now.

Other printly wonders that fell from my stocking: John W Campbell's Who Goes There? (the novella that The Thing is based on), the 2012 TimeOut New York guide (honeymoon, here we come), 101 Things I Learned in Film School (from the same series as the excellent 101 Things I Learned in Architecture School), the 2011 D&AD Annual (which is … grumble alert … significantly cheaper than the almost identical edition available to D&AD members. How does that work?), and JG Ballard's Complete Short Stories, volume two.

I can only assume I was on the "nice" list.

Hammer & Code


After abandoning it for a while (because it was down ALL THE TIME), I've recently got back into the habit of using procrastinatr tumblr to gather together all the nice black and white images that catch my eye. It's a scrapbook. There's very little rhyme or reason to it beyond that – I do a lot of one-colour print design, so perhaps it appeals to how my brain works. For no particular reason, it's called Hammer & Code. It sounds and looks good though, doesn't it? Just rolls off the tongue. Hammer & Code.

The above image – a little taster of what's beyond the link – seems particularly appropriate for the season, given that it's a behind-the-scenes shot from my favourite festive film (aww heck, it's my favourite film, period), The Apartment. If you haven't seen it, see it. If you have seen it, you already know.

Nicholas was

From Neil Gaiman's Smoke and Mirrors:

… older than sin, and his beard could grow no whiter. He wanted to die.

The dwarfish natives of the Arctic caverns did not speak his language, but conversed in their own, twittering tongue, conducted incomprehensible rituals, when they were not actually working in the factories.

Once every year they forced him, sobbing and protesting, into Endless Night. During the journey he would stand near every child in the world, leave one of the dwarves' invisible gifts by its bedside. The children slept, frozen into time.

He envied Prometheus and Loki, Sisyphus and Judas. His punishment was harsher.




Well that's that spoilt then.

Corrupt postcard

There I was, merrily designing away and then … this happened. Corrupterama. No idea what caused it. Solar flares. It was probably solar flares.
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Gym Class Magazine / Mark Porter

It's been brought to my attention that there are still some members of the human race who haven't picked up the latest issue of the fantastic Gym Class Magazine. This really is a sorry state of affairs. These poor individuals are missing a beautiful magazine all about the beauty of magazines …

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Bojkowski / Grafik

And so, Grafik has been dropped by its publisher once again. It's a hell of shame, but I'm confidant they'll bounce back again, so no need to obituarise just yet. Instead, why not spend some time gazing upon a year's worth of Michael Bojkowski's lovely editorial design and art direction for the magazine …
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Typewriters. Polaroid cameras. Turntables. Things. Great big clunky things that, despite the obsolescence suggested to them by the feature-creep of what our ancestors called "tele-phones", they endure. Is it simply a fetishisation of the way things used to be? Possibly. The analogue world presented to us by That Show With The Suits And Secretaries And Smoking is so alluring. 

Things are no more prevalent than in the office, in the lair of the stationery. In theory, all you need is a computer, a big hunk of glass and aluminium screaming light into your face all day long. But the dream of minimalism, of the paperless office, continues to be undone by stationery, the Apps of the twentieth century nestling into the corners of our offices. Anachronism be dmaned. And just look at the varieties, the shapes and sizes and functions on offer – who could resist such wonderful toys? 

If you're just starting out in the exciting world of filling your life with clutter, or should ever find yourself lacking in stationeriments, here's a handy field guide to get you on the right track:

Adhesive tape
It's sensible to have one roll of each of the masking, double-sided, gaffer, useless, packing and regular varieties. Each straddles the functional/infuriating divide in its own special way.

Bulldog clips
Oh bulldog clips are just lovely. Sturdy, stubborn, dependable. Like placing your important paperwork into the fist of Michael Ironside. Also quite dangerous (see staple remover).

Not just any old clipboard. Oh no. There are few things more elegant in this world than Muji's aluminium clipboard. Imagine an iPad without a screen or internal gubbins or inherent air of smugness. The ultimate analogue tablet. Sam Rockwell uses one in *Moon*. What more do you need to know?

Elastic band
See: rubber band.

Do you ever do something dumb in the real world and think, "ah, no worries, I'll just undo that", then make yourself a little glum when you realise the universe doesn't (yet) work that way? Yes? Well the eraser is for you, chum. It's like a pocket cmd-z. 

Eraser shaped like a burger that smells of watermelon for some reason
Don't use it. Don't smell it. Definitely don't eat it. It's simply there amongst the rest of your stationery to ward off evil spirits and to act as a magnet for dust.

Hole punch
BAM. Two holes in that! Immensely satisfying. 

(The best bit about hole punches is the leftover holes they produce. I used to collect these holes from hole punches – not just my own hole punch, but the hole punch of every single person I worked with in the Westminster City Council Commercial Waste office. I'd wait until everyone went home, and then I'd go from desk to desk, emptying their holes into jars I had. Jars. I have no idea why I did this. I just liked the look of lots of holes, all gathered together. Collections of thousands of identical things always look great, no matter what they are. Especially in jars. If they ever make a film of my life, I'd like Kevin Spacey to play me please. Moving on …)

Mechanical Pencil
Steampunk version of a regular pencil.

Plural. If you're just using one notebook at a time, you're doing it wrong. If you want to jot something down or diddle a quick doodle and never want to find it again, what better medium than the notebook? 

No, sorry, paperclips are evil. They're like little beetles. Especially the stripy ones. Only slightly less repulsive than used Blu-Tack. You simply don't need paperclips. If you think you need a paperclip, it's only because you haven't yet decided whether you need a staple or a bulldog clip.

Lots of these. Mostly pilfered from Ikea. To be sharpened with a knife, so you get those nice angles on the point, not with a pencil-sharpener. What are you, a communist?

So many pens. More than you will ever use. Biros, fountain pens, felt tips pens, highlighters. And, of course, rollerballs – the only item of stationery to be made into a film starring James Caan on roller skates. FACT.

Popular brand name adhesive note squares
For making notes and to use in that clever animated short film you plan to make one day and put on Vimeo and get famous, but not proper famous, *internet* famous and then secretly hope that the idea gets pinched for a Sony Vaio advert just so you can bore your friends for the rest of time with how your artistic integrity was like, so violated.

Receipt spike
It's a great big spike that sits on your desk. Perfect for those days working alone at home the day after watching Final Destination.

It's good enough for C. C. Baxter, it's good enough for you, buddy boy.

Rubber band
See: elastic band.

The bigger and metal-ier the better. Get one with a hole in the end, so you can pin it against the wall and work out which way gravity is going.

Ruler (lenticular)

Worth owning just so you can say "sciissuurrs" in your best Winona-Ryder-pretending-to-be-an-old-lady voice.

Years of research went into developing the stapler we know and love today. Drawing on the results of inhumane experiments and blackboard-filling equations, top stapologists managed to create a device that would fasten together exactly 99% of any given bundle of paper, leaving the back few pages (or "null sheets") to remain unfastened yet be-holed. Impressive stuff.

Staple remover
Handy for clacking gently in your hand whilst deep in thought. Unfortunately, science has taught us that the natural rumination pose is hand-near-mouth, for activities such as beard-stroking and pipe-clenching, so the proximity of the staple remover often results in absent-minded lip piercing. Can also be used to remove staples (and if you're removing staples, it just means you should have used a bulldog clip – LEARN YOUR LESSON, FOOL).


A little experiment in designing a Dave Eggers cover. Obscenely basic, yes. Possibly too basic. Took five minutes to get to this point and, although I intended to do a lot more to it (I had all sorts of plans involving staples), looking at it, it just seemed right. Picture it with an exposed bind spine with red thread (a bit like this piece by Nivard Thoes) and a red bookmark ribbon …
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Friday links

What is it that Pantone do again?

Do you remember when Pantone colours weren't plastered all over biscuit tins and chairs and aprons and postcards and mugs and kitchen scales? You know, when they just made colour reference books? Actual functional tools for us designers? Is it just me or is all this stuff getting a tad embarrassing?
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Never Let Me Go


Never Let Me Go is definitely one of my films of 2011 (yes, it's that time of year again – out come the best of lists …), so when Paul Willoughby tweeted up a picture of Carey Mulligan from a recent Little White Lies photo shoot, I thought it'd make for a nice poster. So here it is.

And yes, I realise she doesn't actually have that hairstyle in the film, but lets just ignore that for now, shall we? I can't be expected to keep up to date with every single actor's hair-do. Just trying to stay abreast of Nicholas Cage's barnet alone would be a full-time job.

Cristiana Couceiro

My big Gimme Bar collection of yellow things just keeps on growing. The latest addition is this lovely illustration for Design Week by Cristiana Couceiro, whose work is well worth a look-see. The combination legoflesh yellow and concrete may quite possibly be the key to the secrets of the universe …
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The QR code: gimmick, Pandora's box or just misunderstood?

These so-called quick response codes are more like ugly, mysterious trapdoors; more often than not slapped onto designs to convince client that their advert/article/yoghurt is somehow cutting edge. They are designed to be read by machines, not eyes, but are sold to us as superior alternative to simple human-readable URLs. The emperor's new barcode, if you will …

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Friday links


Have I mentioned the amazing Display before? Probably. Put together by Brooklynites Kind Company, it's a curated collection of important modern, mid 20th century graphic design books, periodicals, advertisements and ephemera. It's basically a modernist designer's wet dream. Recent features have included a look at the NASA Design Program, the 1960 World Design Conference in Tokyo, and the fine art of collecting design. The site itself is quite a thing to behold too – a non-nonsense, unhurried affair. All in all, well worth a visit …
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