Troy Kennedy Martin RIP

Troy Kennedy Martin‘s death is a reminder of the importance of a tradition of popular and risky television drama over the last 50 years. From his six-part anthology Storyboard (1961), produced by his co-conspirator James MacTaggart, Troy’s aim was “to tell a story in visual terms”, breaking free of a theatrical naturalism in which stories were told by actors talking while the camera looked on. “We were going to destroy naturalism, if possible, before Christmas.” His article for Encore in 1964, Nats Go Home!, was a manifesto for a television drama that mattered, experimented, and aspired to be bigger than the box that contained it.

The creative edginess of Edge of Darkness lies in a narrative in which something real is at stake; a script that takes risks with credulity; performances and a visual style that keep faith with the risks; and an ethical seriousness that inscribes what is at stake on the emotions. The sheer volume and availability of television invite formulae and familiarity. It requires a rogue imagination to shake the routines loose, and Troy provided that kind of imagination. Edge of Darkness embodies an avant-garde sensibility in a popular thriller, stretching the conventions without quite breaking them, and pushing on the boundaries of what popular television can do.

Just before his diagnosis with a brain tumour and lung cancer, Troy delivered four feature-length scripts for the global warming thriller Broken Light, inspired by James Lovelock’s Revenge of Gaia. To be continued…

If you haven’t seen Edge of Darkness you really should –available to see on Veoh-(especially as a Hollywood version is threatening to be born).

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Corporate Cinema

I am not making this up-

Universal has set July 1, 2011, for the release of “Battleship,” confirming Peter Berg as helmer of the live-action pic based on Hasbro’s naval combat board game. Deal is part of a two-picture pic pact Berg has made with U, where he’ll follow “Battleship” with an Afghan war drama “Lone Survivor.”

Universal’s date declaration positions “Battleship” to become the second film release from the studio’s multiyear deal with Hasbro to turn its classic games into features. The studio previously set an April 11, 2011, release date for “Stretch Armstrong,” with Steve Oedekerk about to deliver a script.

“Battleship” is the latest in Universal’s strong push toward branded entertainment films, and Hasbro has fast become an increasingly important cog in that campaign.

“This is a powerful brand, and in an era where brands have become the new stars, ‘Battleship’ is a big opportunity,” said U Pictures chairmen Marc Shmuger and David Linde.

Aside from “Battleship” and “Stretch Armstrong,” U is separately developing “Clue” with Gore Verbinski, “Monopoly” with Ridley Scott, “Candyland” with director Kevin Lima, and “Ouija” with Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes. As a board game, “Battleship” was launched by Milton Bradley in 1967 and has sold more than 100 million units.

Imagine that, one drama drawn from a real occupation, the death of Afghans as compelling as a board game as far as corporate cinema is concerned. And both will sell Empire.

The Empire Takes Back

The United States has pulled back from a plan to build a missile defense system in central Europe that had enraged Russia, after downgrading the threat of a missile attack from Iran, officials said Thursday.

Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer said he was told in a late-night call from US President Barack Obama that the shield would not go into place in the Czech Republic and that Poland had been given a similar message.

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