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The Cricklewood Greats (2012), Peter Capaldi’s Love Letter to British B-Movies

Still from The Cricklewood Greats (BBC, 2012).

Still from The Cricklewood Greats (BBC, 2012).

To round out my recent film history kick, we have perhaps the greatest documentary ever made on the history of British B-movies: The Cricklewood Greats, directed and hosted by Peter Capaldi, and written by Capaldi and Tony Roche of The Thick of It, Veep, and Holy Flying Circus.  A masterpiece.  A veritable masterpiece, sending up both British classic film and television documentary at the same time.  No, I’ll go further: a veritable masterpiece whose truthiness is capped off with a frothy Terry Gilliam confection, made up of documentary footage, all-too-painfully-true satire, digs at Thatcher, and the best worst only joke made at the expense of continuity girls in the history of comedy.

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Franz Kafka’s It’s A Wonderful Life (1995)

Peter Capaldi's short film, "Franz Kafka's It's a Wonderful Life", starring Richard E. Grant, won the 1995 Oscar for best live action short.

Peter Capaldi’s short film, “Franz Kafka’s It’s a Wonderful Life”, starring Richard E. Grant, won the Oscar for best live action short in 1995.

Peter Capaldi’s had an amazing run the past few years, playing Malcolm Tucker in The Thick of It, Randall Brown in The Hour, and now heading up Doctor Who.  But in 1995, he won an Oscar for a short film he wrote and directed for BBC Scotland, “Franz Kafka’s It’s a Wonderful Life”, a feel-good Christmas tale starring Richard E. Grant, Phyllis Logan, the crushing anxiety of the artist, and a few giant cockroaches.

At about 20 minutes, it’s a bit longer than my usual weekday videos, but what the heck, it’s Friday, and nothing says “party” like Kafka, does it?

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Weekend Longform Video: Night Mail (1936)

Detail of Pat Keely's poster for Basil Wright's Night Mail (1936).

Detail of Pat Keely’s poster for Basil Wright’s Night Mail (1936).

Night Mail shows both the daily operations of two of the most efficient infrastructures ever developed, mail and rail, and something that today sounds so fantastical that it could have walked out of a steam-age fantasy or magical realism novel: a rolling post office speeding down the rails all through the night, humming with postal clerks, never once stopping as it delivers and picks up mail from each station along the route.   Continue reading