Monday, 16 January 2012

Another series of Sherlock over, another long wait...

Series two went out with a bang (followed by a "wheeeeee" and a "splat") on Sunday with Steve Thompson's The Reichenbach Fall. Here's a brief (because I'm actually properly a student with studying to do again) review:

I wasn't actually too optimistic about this episode, for two main reasons:

1. Steve Thompson - it's written by a man whose previous work has been, to put it nicely, underwhelming. His first series Sherlock episode was by far the weakest of the three and his Doctor Who episode was a televisual abomination with 2011's most infamous continuity error and one of the most cringingly stupid sci-fi ideas to have ever been imagined. Reflections. Portals. No.

2. The Final Problem - the source material for this story, while often seen as one of Holmes' more iconic adventures, is actually a pretty naff story, written entirely to satisfy Arthur Conan Doyle's boredom with the character. Holmes has gathered evidence (the nature of which is unrevealed) to arrest his nemesis Moriarty (whom the reader has never heard of before - granted the show had already beat Doyle on that front), gets a train across Europe to escape, then is seemingly pushed into a waterfall in an unseen "climactic" showdown with his evil arch enemy of the past 20 pages.

Nevertheless, the episode was fucking BRILLIANT.

Especially the last half hour. So much tension, both dramatic and homoerotic.

Far surpassing the source material (and incorporating elements of another, actually not bad, Holmes story, The Priory School, if I'm not mistaken), The Reichenbach Fall was a non-stop 90 minute mind game between Holmes and Jim. Jim Moriarty, that is. The episode incorporated the best parts of the story while relocating them efficiently to twenty-first century London (so a hospital roof may not be as visually dramatic as a Swiss waterfall, but, you know, TV budget, and they've already been to exotic Dartmoor), adding more funny nods (nice to see the return of the"Sherlock Holmes hat") and retaining the series' great visual flourishes. And while I still don't like referring to him as 'Jim', Andrew Scott's villainous mastermind really shone here in his repeated (and actually seen) confrontations with Holmes; it was a delight to watch the two geniuses (genii?) interact; magnificently acted, each trying to stay one step ahead of the other. Not forgetting Martin Freeman, who, as always, hit the perfect emotional chords and can never have enough praise.

The episode also saw a major development in the character arc of the once-emotionless Holmes being gradually humanised by his friendship with John. While this development was subtly present in Conan Doyle's works, the series brings it to the front and portrays the friendship beautifully. Holmes realises how much he has grown to like his friends, allowing Moriarty to use this to his psychopathic advantage, and making that ending all the more tragic.

Wait a minute, it's not finished yet...

What the fuck?

OK, I knew that would happen. Of course he's alive. That's what Sherlock Holmes does. But do we really have to wait so long to find out how?

Perhaps... has anyone else noticed this:

You know how the last series of Doctor Who ended with the Doctor faking his death to fool his enemies but having to live with his friends thinking he's dead?

You know what we all just watched?

I call it now: Holmes used the Teselecta.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

The best film currently showing in cinemas is a silent film.

A silent film about silent film. A postmodern silent film, maybe, but a silent film nonetheless.

It's not pretentiously arty. It's not boringly old fashioned. It's a brilliant film that anyone can enjoy. And a silent film. Take that in your cake and eat it, risk-averse Hollywood studio type people.

It's 1927 and George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is a beloved silent film actor who loves to put on a show for his cheering audience. He's also a bit of an old flirt and helps kick-start the career of aspiring young actress Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo). But the Golden Age of silent cinema is declining and, as "talkies" come to Hollywood, Valentin finds his stardom waning, his marriage crumbling and his fortunes running dry. Meanwhile, Miller is the talk of the nation with her popular sound films.

Michel Hazanavicius' The Artist has romance, laughter, sadness, spectacle and a dog. The best dog in all of cinema. Really, it's amazingly cute and can act damn well. Give it a dog Oscar. Back to the point: The Artist has all the necessary ingredients, not just for a perfect homage to silent cinema, but also for a perfect film in its own right; a story which can't fail to entertain, enthrall and emotionally affect any viewer, whether or not they're a fan of silent cinema.

Looking at it as a homage to silent cinema, it's clear that Hazanavicius has a great amount of love for the era. The changing times are beautifully brought to the screen with stunning detail, using the true stories of silent film actors finding themselves without a job to encapsulate the glamourous period within a powerful story of love and pride. For the film historians, there are a good deal of clever nods to the silent film era, although I doubt I noticed them all myself, and loving humour is also drawn from the period; the series of failed takes, as a dinner party scene is alternately bungled by extras falling into the wrong shot and Valentin dancing with Miller for too long is a perfect mix of humour, romance and homage, making it an utterly unforgettable scene.

The Artist is a beautiful film which broke through my hard emotional shell and touched me (I didn't cry, honest... *looks shiftily around, asserting macho dignity*).

Plus, it also has John Goodman, Malcolm McDowell and a scene shamelessly ripped straight out of Citizen Kane, which was slightly odd.

I want to see The Artist again, right now. So should you.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Insert obvious joke about image being aligned to the right.To give a fair review of Phyllida Lloyd’s Thatcher biopic The Iron Lady is a difficult task for any critic, as the film’s appeal relies primarily on the inevitable controversy caused by documenting the life of one of recent history’s most divisive politicians.

With this in mind, I’ll make it clear that, as a Labour supporter, I find the glorified portrayal of whom I consider to be a thoroughly detestable politician to be rather vile. Watching Thatcher’s rise to power encapsulated in a typical filmic “unlikely hero struggling against adversity to do what’s right” narrative made me want to boo or punch someone, my preferred victim being the actress who plays a young Maggie in a particularly sickening series of "romantic" scenes in which she falls in love with future husband Denis. I’m sure Alexandra Roach is a pleasant, attractive person, but with that haircut and this sentiment… urgh (Meryl Streep can survive my mad rage, more on her later).

Then again, if I were a Tory voter, I’d probably find the portrayal of an elderly woman being driven mad by hallucinations of her dead husband while said woman is still alive in real life to be somewhat lacking in taste. In fact, even left wing Kieron feels somewhat uneasy with that side of the film.

Politics aside, is the film any good?

Short answer: no.

Long answer:


Let’s look at the positive side first. Meryl Streep gives an excellent performance as the eponymous Iron Lady, perfectly bringing to life the powerful presence and physical characteristics of the ambitious politician in both her political life and her interactions with Denis, as well as her fragility in her old age. Streep deserves to be at least recognised with award nominations and perhaps even wins, and that’s not just because I can’t think of too many recent female-led films (though Tilda Swinton and Michelle Williams also deserve high praise this year).

The rest of the cast includes more great performances from ever-lovable-even-as-the-dead-racist-husband-of-the-woman-who-ruined-Britain Jim Broadbent, rising star Olivia Colman, Anthony Head and Richard E. Grant. Yes, the cast is by far the best element of the film.

The major problem with The Iron Lady as a piece of narrative cinema is that it seems unsure of its focus. Is it a psychological study of an elderly mind falling apart? A feminist film? A political drama? A slapstick sci-fi comedy? Lloyd tries to make it into all of these (well, most of them) and ultimately fails to make anything with any depth. The film speeds through moments in Thatcher’s career like a nonchalant teenager flicking through his mate’s new Facebook album before turning back to Call of Duty, reducing important figures like Michael Heseltine to mere cameos – a fact made more unfortunate by the fact that this is the role expertly filled by Richard E. Grant, an actor I’m always happy to see more of. I'll admit to not being an expert on Heseltine, but with his minute or two of screen time, Grant sinisterly inhabits the role in a way so as to leave me expecting a scene in which Maggie interrupts him eating a baby or conjuring up a demon. Sadly, nothing this exciting ever happens. In fact, not much of any meaningful content happens, with events like the miners' strike, undoubtedly one of the most well-known points in Thatcher's career, limited to passing mentions and short newsreel clips. Cabinet minister Airey Neave is blown up and then instantly forgotten about, as are his attackers the IRA. As Mark Kermode sharply put it, this shallow narrative has "all the politics you’d expect from the director of Mamma Mia!".

Meanwhile, the film begins what promises to be a solid exploration of the troubles our anti-heroine faces due to being a woman, shunned out of a room of male politicians to be “with the ladies” after she has posed a threat to their masculine power, with the camerawork highlighting the differences between their dull black suits and her strikingly bright clothing. But this too, even with the payoff of Thatcher’s victory against the patriarchal sexism, never seems as well developed as it could be.

The portrait of the older Thatcher, with her dementia apparent through her hallucinations of Denis and her forgetfulness in interaction with daughter Carol (Colman), is effectively done and may even provoke a strong emotional reaction amongst those audience members who aren’t biased against the character, though, controversial subject aside, is nothing unseen before.

In general, however, The Iron Lady showcases various aspects of Thatcher’s life in a manner which doesn’t give any depth or detail to anything and is lacking in originality or character. There’s even a laughably familiar King’s Speech-lite training montage, as a voice trainer helps Thatcher prepare to run for party leader. I’m not saying that all of these elements can’t be combined effectively – The Aviator springs to mind as a biopic that combines a detailed overview of a career with a complex psychological study, I’ve heard that Oliver Stone’s Nixon is also good in this respect (and shall add it to my “films to see” list) – but the narrative flow of The Iron Lady is shallow and bland.

What could fix this? A longer running time, maybe – there’s more to be explored in her struggle to become Prime Minister and in her relationships with the likes of Howe and Heseltine (more Richard E, Grant!). A focus on one particular period of her life rather than a wide ranging, overly ambitious biopic perhaps could have worked, as it did for The Queen.

Nevertheless, as I said at the start, The Iron Lady’s appeal relies on its controversy. Despite its talented cast, it certainly doesn’t rely on its strength as a piece of entertainment.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Billed with good reason as "Sherlock Holmes' most famous case", the latest episode of the BBC's Sherlock, Mark Gatiss' The Hounds of Baskerville, brings Arthur Conan Doyle's The Hound of the Baskervilles into the twenty-first century.

Sherlock and John are called to Dartmoor by Henry Knight's fascinating case; the murder of his father 20 years ago, the footprints of a gigantic hound, a secretive government testing facility. I'm not entirely convinced that this last element, a change from the centuries-old household conspiracy of the book, was entirely necessary - but big household conspiracies are so eighteen-eighties, you say? Are they? Are they really? I think that more of the original setting could have worked - but it does allow the episode to play with the fear of "what the government are up to", which should keep the conspiracy theorists happy for a bit. As always, it's the little touches that reference the original that are the highlights of the episode - Grimpen Minefield, for example, providing a much more visually dramatic ending than a boring old Mire, and the new explanation for the 'mysterious lights on the moor' red herring was delightfully funny.

A problem I have with the episode relates to how the novel makes it seem very much like, in classic detective fashion, the butler did it, until the reveal that, actually, he didn't. In fact, Hound is one of Conan Doyle's best stories in terms of tricking the reader into suspecting one character while cleverly setting up for the actual criminal to be uncovered. This element is present in the episode, with Doctor Stapleton being built up as the villainous genetic manipulator (how could she do that to a rabbit?) until the twist that it was the jolly eccentric fanboy all along. This really could have been developed more, however, and some more red herrings pointing at Stapleton were needed to replicate the novel's misdirection. Perhaps the scenes with Lestrade, who, despite appearing briefly in the book, feels like an unnecessary addition here, could have been replaced with some further development of this part of the story. Well done to Mark Gatiss, however, on changing which character turns out to be the criminal, which makes the plot developments less guessable to those familiar with the story.

Another thing Gatiss should be praised for, as well as director Paul McGuigan, is effectively bringing to the screen the eerie gothic horror of the Conan Doyle story, with some very atmospheric sequences. The Dartmoor hills, a nice change from the regular London setting, are shown in beautiful long shots in the daytime but come to life in a genuinely spooky manner at night. The CGI hound won't be to everyone's taste, but I feel it comes together with the fog and the darkness and the trees and the howling to make me never want to go to the countryside again. Ever. Good job I've just moved back into York.

I don't really need to say that Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman were brilliant, because that's obvious by now. I do need to say that Russell Tovey was also great as Knight, driven to madness by his fear of the hound.

Immediately after watching the episode, I honestly felt slightly dissappointed that it wasn't quite as perfect as I'd hoped. Then again, even the worst episodes of Sherlock exceed any other detective shows on televison in terms of quality, and I'd admittedly built myself up for it a tad too much. It isn't without its flaws and I don't think it's quite up to the standard of some of Sherlock and John's previous adventures (nothing can ever beat A Study in Pink), but, all things considered, The Hounds of Baskerville stands up as a good modernisation of a classic and as a clever, enjoyable detective story in its own right - one I'd be happy to rewatch.

One more criticism: the 'people think Sherlock and John are a couple' joke has been done enough now. Can we leave that one? The 21st century is more open to homosexuality than Victorian England. I get it.

Next week: Steve Thompson does The Final Problem. I don't want to be pessimistic, but it's not a brilliant story and Thompson's work so far has failed to leave a great impression: the weakest episode of the last series of Sherlock and a particularly shit Doctor Who. Then again, I'm up for being proven wrong. *gets stupidly excited for more Cumberbatch already*

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

“When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”

When announcing in the preface to His Last Bow, the final collection of Sherlock Holmes stories, that Holmes’ adventures “must cease and he must go the way of all flesh, material or imaginary”, Arthur Conan Doyle most likely found it improbable that the great detective would be as popular as ever over a hundred years later. Yet, I have seen the evidence eliminating the impossible theory that Holmes has such ceased in the form of two new adaptations – the first episode of the new series of the BBC’s Sherlock and Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. Not only that, but both are follow-ups to successful previous screen adventures, proving the truth that Holmes remains a popular hero in the twenty-first century. OK, so that link was a bit contrived, and Conan Doyle definitely couldn’t have predicted the TV and film adaptations, being a Victorian gentleman and all that, but I do love that quote.

In fact, I love Conan Doyle’s works in general. I read them all not too long ago after buying a box set (is it still called that when they’re books?) for amazingly good value (I highly recommend a company called The Book People, my mum's a member of their catalogue book discount club thing) and thoroughly enjoyed the escapism offered by the timeless adventures of Holmes and Watson. The joys of Conan Doyle’s stories lie not only in the cleverly plotted mysteries but also in the fantastical eccentricity of Holmes and his interaction with the down to earth Watson and the comparatively incompetent police.

As wonderful as they are, a direct adaptation of Coney D’s stories would struggle to work on a modern screen. They lack the length, generally being very short stories, or visual interest, often with half of the thing being a conversation in the main chamber (what’s Victorian for living room?) of 221B Baker Street. Also, some of the attitudes in the Holmes stories may seem a tad dated today (racist caricatures in The Sign of the Four and The Three Gables come to mind, although The Yellow Face was remarkably progressive for its time, ending with a white man accepting a black child into his household, and I can’t be arsed getting into the whole Irene Adler argument again). While Jeremy Brett’s 1980s ITV stint as Holmes is undoubtedly the best in terms of accurately following the original stories, even these had to flesh out and dick around a bit to make them work (generally very well, from what I've seen) for a TV audience. Thus it is necessary for adaptations to take a liberty or twenty and it’s interesting to compare the different approaches to the Holmes canon.

A Game of Shadows is very much Sherlock Holmes as an action movie. Whereas its 2009 predecessor, imaginatively titled Sherlock Holmes, used an entirely original story, Ritchie’s film takes Conan Doyle’s The Final Problem and moulds it into an action packed chase across nineteenth century Europe, with armchair deductions replaced by really massive cannons and an energetic gunfight on a railway carriage. While this of course angers Doyle purists who’d rather jump down the Reichenbach Fall than see this explosive Hollywood-isation of their eccentric British hero, the film certainly makes for an enjoyable, visually spectacular ride and is directed with an impressive cinematic style. Despite the Matrix-esque bullet time getting slightly over the top during one notably forest-based chase, as an action film with a cinematic budget, I can’t say A Game of Shadows isn’t fun. But does it sacrifice too much of the intellect of Doyle’s stories? Honestly, yes, I think it does. While the first film’s plot didn’t stray too far in that, alongside the action set pieces, it had a complex and relatively clever (for a blockbuster, anyway) mystery plot befitting the character, the second, despite the influences of The Final Problem, is perhaps too much action, too little conversation (Ritchie should stop listening to Elvis) to be a great Sherlock Holmes story.

The BBC’s Sherlock, meanwhile, created by Doctor Who’s Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, takes the original stories and places them in twenty-first century London. This second series promises modern retellings of three of Holmes and Watson’s most famous cases and kicked off with A Scandal in Belgravia, which is A Scandal in Bohemia adjusted for the fact that Bohemia doesn’t exist any more. After a satisfying resolution to last series’ cliffhanger, the first half hour of the episode was pretty much an exact retelling of the original story, with many elements retained – Holmes’ priest disguise, Watson’s call of fire – and many nice modern details added in – the offending pictures being on a camera phone (and sexual in nature, of course), helicopters, a lesbian. The rest of the episode was Moffat’s own creation and, while some elements did stretch credibility at points (the plane full of dead people, for example – then again, the original stories were far from realism), the plot came together nicely, with constant twists and turns that Sir Arthur would have been proud of. It was nice to be reminded that Moffat can write a good, well-structured story after the disappointing mess that was the recent Doctor Who Christmas special*. The series is also notable in showing Guy Ritchie that a Holmes screen story doesn't need to be overflowing with action set pieces to look nice, as it's directed in an exciting manner that looks beautiful (Benedict Cumberbatch’s face helps), keeps the attention through clever editing (the montage of cases at the start of Scandal was marvellous) and fits with Sherlock’s fast thinking (the use of on-screen text as he analyses people is a genius move). This visual style works on a TV budget and, in contrast to the movie’s, not only allows for, but also complements, Conan Doyle-esque complex and clever plotting.

What the creators of both adaptations fortunately seem to understand is that the most important element of Conan Doyle’s stories is in fact not the mysteries, but Holmes and Watson themselves. In his narratives, Watson often spends a lot of pages on describing living with Holmes – Holmes annoys Watson by analysing the doctor’s pocket watch, Holmes annoys Watson by taking cocaine, Holmes annoys Watson by carrying out smelly scientific experiments, Holmes and Watson are really quite good friends and share some nice pork (not a euphemism - there never was, and never should be, any hint of a sexual relationship between Holmes and Watson, though Sherlock's repeated joke of people thinking that there is is admittedly apt and funny), etc. It is therefore important to choose the right actors to convey the central relationship and not have a dry focus on plot alone.

A Game of Shadows stars Robert Downey Jr. as Holmes and dashing heartthrob Jude Law as Watson. The two are undoubtedly very talented and certainly have the looks for mainstream cinema (though Downey Jr. is bordering too much on being handsome in a conventional manner for my liking, and that's not right at all!). The bickering between them is often amusing, with Watson’s anger at thinking that Holmes has killed first his dog and later his wife providing comic highlights, though the relationship is more buddy movie than Victorian literature. Holmes is presented as more of a bohemian swashbuckler than a cold intellectual, which fits with the tone of the film but once again strays dangerously far from the original. Is this a problem? I’m no obsessive purist and believe that Ritchie should be able to do what he wants with the characters; indeed, in some respects, it works in combining the heroes of a typical action-packed buddy movie with a good degree of the intellectual pomposity of Holmes to create a fun and indeed unique relationship, though I’d personally prefer to see more depth to the characters.

Sherlock stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock and Martin Freeman as John (notice the use of first names – how modern). Despite (or partially because of?) not having the same A-list status (yet Freeman’s nearly there, as the ridiculously early marketing campaign for The Hobbit keeps reminding us), these two are a perfect fit. Handsome yet eccentric, Benny C conveys the devotion to reason, apathy and arrogance of Holmes like he was born to play the part, while his mind games with Irene Adler, like those with the taxi driver in 2010’s A Study in Pink, hint at a greater depth to the character, as he seems to darkly enjoy the challenge of confronting a dangerous intellectual equal. Plus, he looks darn fine in that coat. Freeman, meanwhile, is equally excellent; as ever playing the everyman role he became known for with The Office to perfection, but with an utterly convincing undercurrent of darkness absent from Law’s version; whereas the film’s ‘Watson attacks Holmes’ scene was played for laughs (not badly), Freeman’s John attacks Sherlock in a way that is simultaneously funny and chilling – “I was a soldier, I killed people.” “You were a doctor!” “I had bad days” – and sums up the unusual relationship between the two brilliantly.

In terms of the presentation of the lead characters, Sherlock wins.

I would, however, like to praise the supporting cast of A Game of Shadows, one of the film’s best features. Stephen Fry is a perfect fit for Mycroft’s dry humour and powerful erudite presence, while Mad Men’s Jared Harris makes for an excellently sinister Moriarty. The fantastic Noomi Rapace was poorly used as a somewhat clichéd gypsy-come-Victorian Bond girl. Back to the BBC, and though Gatiss’ Mycroft works well with Cumberbatch’s Sherlock, I’m yet to be convinced by Andrew Scott’s more youthful version of the criminal mastermind Calling him "Jim" instead of "James", never mind "Professor J. Moriarty" is also a bit too far with the informalities. Jim is not an evil name. Lara Pulver was very good, giving a nuanced performance as a twenty-first century (i.e. sexy, inevitably) Irene Adler.

Though I enjoyed both of these adaptations, I feel that the BBC’s is by far the superior Holmes, combining a fast pace and superb visual style with non-stop clever plotting and perfectly delivered humour. The way it retains a good deal of the atmosphere and style of Conan Doyle’s stories while being as contemporary as television can be, with the focus on the London criminal underworld and an unusual friendship between two complex characters, is remarkable. As Moffat pointed out, "Conan Doyle's stories were never about frock coats and gas light; they're about brilliant detection, dreadful villains and blood-curdling crimes – and frankly, to hell with the crinoline.” A Scandal in Belgravia followed this format expertly, set the standard for 2012 in television and probably won’t be beaten. Until next week’s episode that is** –

"Mr. Holmes, they were the footprints of a gigantic hound!"

*As I never got around to doing a full review: liked Claire Skinner, liked Bill Bailey, liked the Doctor being funny, the plot was horribly all over the place, ARGH that emotion-based plot resolution again.
**Mad Men season five also stands a chance.

Monday, 2 January 2012

I've written up my top ten films of the year for this Film Pilgrim feature (it's worth reading for interesting insights from my fellow writers*). Here's my list, with bonus content of the year's worst film.

10. Le Quattro Volte

A beautifully engaging Italian film; goats, trees, charcoal and stunning photography are a molto bene combination!

9. Super 8

A solid Spielbergian homage, blending thrilling sci-fi action with a good sense of humour; one of the most accomplished and all-round entertaining films of the summer.

8. Life in a Day

An uplifting study of humanity. Moving and profound. It’s hard to describe this successful experiment in words; it simply has to be seen.

7. 127 Hours

I love how the exciting cinematography and a great performance from James Franco come together to make a compelling film out of what could be a tediously uninteresting story. Surprisingly realistic bloody amputations are always nice, too.

6. Senna

Documentary at its finest, Asif Kapadia gathered an impressive amount of footage of Formula 1 driver Ayrton Senna and structured it into a detailed, immersive, tragic narrative that can capture the attention and emotion of those (myself included) who know nothing about the sport.

5. The Fighter

This dark character study is up there with the best sports movies. Excellent and believable performances from Wahlberg, Leo and Bale are the highlights.

4. Drive

Extremely violent, extremely gripping, yet strangely artistic modern noir. Ryan Gosling is wonderful (and broodingly sexy), ditto Carey Mulligan (replace ‘broodingly’ with, err, ‘innocently’).

3. True Grit

There aren’t a great amount of Westerns these days, but this one is amazing. The Coens’ beautiful cinematography makes the Old West stunning yet bleak and dangerous. Splendid cast, especially the young Hailee Steinfeld. Plus, you can't go wrong with lots of silly moustaches and a man dressed as a bear.

2. The King’s Speech

A strong drama with a great cast, worthy of all the awards it received (except Best Director, which should have gone to Fincher).

1. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Tense, suspenseful thriller with so many perfectly cast top quality actors given interesting, deep characters to explore. Excellent, brilliant, wonderful. Bring on the Oscars. So good that "ginger gay Benedict Cumberbatch" is not even my favourite part.

Worst Film of 2011: Sucker Punch

Despite featuring giant samurai, German steampunk zombies, dragons and robots, a remarkably boring film, with absolutely no character depth. Or characters. Just sex objects with guns. And worst of all, it wastes Jon Hamm (then again, so did Bridesmaids).

*I'm not even contractually obliged to say this, you know.