Your advice, please, on soliciting tomatoes

Last year we had a SillSurfer called Tom for several months. He loved to sit in the sunshine and grew very big and we loved him very much, but he wasn’t very good with the rent (he gave us about five rather piddly tomatoes).

This year we have a new SillSurfer – Tim. He’s very young and quite shy; does anyone have any advice on how to gently encourage him to pay his way a little better than Tom did? (Payment in tomatoes is fine.)


Art and honesty: Truth in advertising

Yesterday at the cinema we were treated to a trailer for The Iron Lady. Having seen the film only a few days ago, I was struck by just how dishonest this particular piece of marketing was. The trailer clearly implied that The Iron Lady is the story of Margaret Thatcher’s political career, when the film is (as I’ve noted with great frustration) anything but political. In truth it is a film about a senile old lady recalling a series of newsreel montages.

I don’t pretend to be so naïve as to believe a film trailer is made with the intention of giving audiences a genuine sense of a film, to help them make an informed decision about whether to see it; I’m fully aware that it’s just another marketing tool carefully and conventionally designed to coax ticket buyers into parting with their pennies. But where is the line? Could the distributors of Michael Winterbottom’s sex ‘n’ songs docudrama 9 Songs have edited a trailer containing only live music performances, or only quasi-pornographic sex scenes – that is to say, concealing half of the nature of the film – and claimed to have honestly represented their product? This is effectively what the marketers of The Iron Lady have done.

I’m a wannabe film director. I find, when I think about the challenge of publicising my films, that my ideas fall into one of two categories: art or honesty. The few ideas I have for trailers are works of art in their own right; they (if successful) stand alone but invoke the same emotional responses as the films they represent. These ideas are rare; I’m a wannabe film director, not a wannabe film marketeer. My inclination regarding the films for which I have no such inspiration is to make some sort of mini-documentary in which the filmmakers tell the audience about the film. Here’s what it’s about; here’s why we made it; here’s why we like it. I would love it if all trailers were designed to conform to these categories. (But, of course, that’s not the nature of marketing. Most films are awful, and while I don’t expect distributors to be quite so frank as to admit that, it would probably be difficult to talk honestly about the concept and making of a terrible film without giving away some of its flaws.)

What do you think? Is the truth in advertising more flexible when selling art? If not, how could we ever regulate it? Do you have any other examples – cinematic or otherwise – of brazenly dishonest advertising?

Back to blogging

In October 2002 I published a website all about me. At its centre was my blog. I was 16 and knew everything knowable about religion, politics, art and morality. Moreover all the opinions I held about those subjects were almost certainly correct.

Happily, some years later I realised how arrogant that attitude was, and took the blog down (though I retain a copy – as, no doubt, does the internet, somewhere in its vast, unforgetting archives). Now, hopefully somewhat more mature, gracious and self-aware, I return to the medium. Here’s what I plan to blog about:


I’m an uncommonly ruthless film critic. Most films attract my ire, by being bad in numerous and, more importantly, needless ways. More easily pleased film-lovers struggle to empathise with my dissatisfaction, and I’m not good at explaining my opinions – at least not on the way out of the cinema. I need time to digest a film before I can fairly and eloquently verbalise my reaction. I hope this blog will be a space in which, having taken that time, I can review films clearly, frankly and educationally, and compare my responses to others’.


In 2011 I read one book1. My challenge for 2012 is to read 26. As an Open University student of English Literature I imagine this will be good practice, as will discussing my reactions to them online. The 26 books have been chosen by my friends and family, and I hope that making this challenge a social experience will help me relish – rather than dread – it.

The web

I’m a digital copy-editor, so my work revolves around social media, blogging, email marketing, online writing and so on. Luckily for me and my employers, these are subjects in which I have a strong interest. It will be fun to discuss them.


I spend far too much time keeping up with current affairs and commentary. It’s the pleasure that will probably be most curtailed in my attempt to read a book every fortnight, but I suspect I’ll still find time to find out what’s going on outside my paperbacks, and what the world thinks about it. And when I wish to respond, I’ll do so here.


From time to time may happen something so personally significant that I feel it’s worth writing about at length. I hope you’ll help me celebrate, or commiserate, those time to times.

Is there anything else about which you’d like me to write? Let me know in the comments.


1 Maus, by Art Spiegelman