alexsarll: (pangolin)
Very nearly went a whole calendar month without seeing any gigs there, which is most uncharacteristic. Just managed to avert that on January 31st, courtesy of Desperate Journalist at the Monarch, whose Friday nights were once Nuisance &c, and are now hip hop nights for tiny children in very few clothes. It was well Polanski. The next night, Joanne Joanne at the Dublin Castle, which has not changed, nor is it ever likely to; and since then, Gene covers at Nuisance and the newly-expanded Soft Close-Ups. Which is to say, I'm back in the swing. Earlier gigs I never got round to writing about include Dream Themes in Kiss make-up, the McDonalds (who are apparently not a novelty band), or Untitled Musical Project's drummer having some kind of meltdown at their comeback show. Alexander's Festival Hall have gone pleasingly 'el, and [livejournal.com profile] exliontamer's third band, Violet Hours, make the best musical use of 'The Waste Land' I've heard since the late nineties, when it was incorporated into one of the few bits of DJ mixing I've ever appreciated.
I've also been to more Daylight Musics than usual. Somewhat to my surprise, it really suited the Penny Orchids - when they're a little quieter, in a much bigger space, the nuances of the sound get much more room to affect, especially when [livejournal.com profile] hospitalsoup takes lead vocals for the first time I've seen in far too long. The festive Festivus show was also a joy but, as ever with Daylight Music, you don't half get some odd stuff turning up on the bills. When it's a man playing Philip Glass on the massive organ, that's a joy. But it might equally be someone like We Used To Make Things, a large band who are half brilliant (a suave brass section, a black Rosie the Riveter with an almost holy voice) and half terrible (four Mumfords, one played by Robert Webb, plus a singer who appears to be the horrible result of the realisation that Bobby Gillespie = Bee Gee).

Aside from gigs, there's been X-Wing and arm-wrestling, brunch and - most of all - Bruges. Which really is, as a wise man once observed, a fairytale fucking town. Some of its sillier museums (plus the one thing we wanted to see while changing trains in Brussels) were closed due to our visit being slightly too off-season, but we could still see the Belfort and the Bosch, canals and churches, the windmills and cormorants guarding the perimeter from the modern day. It's remarkable how it can be so mediaeval and yet still alive; you'll see a wall decorated with memorial medallions, assume they're all centuries-old, then look at the dates and realise that while some are, others come up to the 1990s. Yet still the continuity and style are maintained. In that sense it feels far less stuck in its own past than an ossified city-that-was such as Paris. I can also see exactly why they're filming Wolf Hall there; accordingly, it made for the perfect holiday read. But of all its strange and marvellous sights, the most remarkable must be the Michaelangelo sculpture. Not because it made its way outside Italy in his lifetime, but because it's a woman who actually looks like a woman. Madness.

Viewing: Anchorman 2 and Hobbit 2 are both much what you'd expect from their predecessors, and of course that works better for the former than the latter, which is still fundamentally a mess. There's simply too much happening, and too much of that jars with the original story even if it's ostensibly part of the same world. The abiding impression is of those stories which, in trying to make the most of a shared universe, instead simply draw attention to its cracks, and leave you wondering why Superman doesn't sort out all those non-powered crooks in Gotham. On the other hand, I also watched the first American Horror Story and while that's likewise wildly overstuffed with characters and incidents, the effect is much less queasy - simply because they were always conceived as parts of the same whole in the way the Necromancer and comedy dwarves so clearly weren't.
alexsarll: (crest)
So that was Christmas. Wondering whether to take the decorations down today or tomorrow; will Sunday evening or Monday morning have its inherent melancholy more heightened by the task? There were moments when I felt suitably festive - a binge of spooky BBC festive classics and mulled cider, seeing the Covent Garden lights and the miniature (but still pretty enormous) London made from lego in a walk-through snowglobe, the afternoon party with so much booze and so many small people one could barely move - but it always seemed to dissipate again. I suppose the late getaway, with the added stress of the transport Christmapocalypse, was always likely to shred that careful accumulation of misty goodwill.

I don't appear to have updated on my general movements since mid-October, either. Homerton, for instance, turns out to have some OK pubs and bars now, even if they are fuller still of beards than other areas of East London (the Islamic Republic possibly excepted).
The Museum of Childhood - wonderful, if it didn't have so many live children on the loose. Lots of toys one remembers fondly, at least one I used to have and knew even at the time was a bit shit, but the item that transfixed me most was that fabulous mother=-of-pearl Chinese diorama, like blue-and-white porcelain's pattern somehow brought into fragile, solid life.
My year's ticket for the Transport Museum has now expired, but I did manage to get in a visit without the Cthulhuchild who - fond as I am of him - does just tend to want to play on the trams and buses. Whereas solo, I can look at vintage posters and disused typefaces and letters from Victorian commuters, which for some unaccountable reason are things of no interest to toddlers.
The Inns of Court in autumn are fabulously autumnal. And do me the service of saving me a trip to Cambridge, because they feel so much like a college I never quite got around to visiting, and so the nostalgia is less pointed than if I went back now to one of the ones I did.
The Earl Haig Memorial Hall in Crouch End has finally opened up, its imperialist trappings intact, but now host to all manner of entertainments for the slightly-less-manic-than-we-were local. Perfect timing, really, given all the attention its namesake will be getting this year.
Lance Parkin, my favourite Doctor Who writer, launched his very good biography of Alan Moore, my favourite comics writer, with a live interview (and film screening, and so forth). The footage is here, though I've not listened to it myself in case I am too embarrassingly audible as the one person thoroughly amused by the line "What can Brian Lumley teach us?"

The slightly too pat, but still moderately fun, revenge-on-idiots comedy God Bless America appears to be the only film I've seen in ages, until I finally got round to Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa last night. Which was...quite good? Fairly amusing, surprisingly engaged with the very real plight of local radio in the 21st century, but not half so side-splitting as I'd been given to understand. There was also the Doctor Who anniversary, of course, which for all the furious initial back-and-forth on other, more rapid-response sectors of the Internet, seems to have bred a fair degree of consensus. With which I agree: 'The Fiveish Doctors' was amazing, ditto An Adventure in Space and Time bar Reece Shearsmith. The Day of the Doctor was a stunning achievement in making concentrated fanwank a coherent and exciting show for die-hard and casual viewer alike, which made the saggy mess of The Time of the Doctor all the more disappointing. But thank goodness it all came right at the end, and hurrah for Capaldi.

Films

Nov. 10th, 2013 05:46 pm
alexsarll: (bill)
Didn't quite do anything proper for Hallowe'en or November 5th this year, though there was some dressing up and you can hardly fail to see some fireworks over what's now more like Guy Fawkes' Fortnight (Guy Fawtesnight?) - that's the problem with festival creep, where you can't even quite fix on one of the adjacent weekends as the consensus alternative. Dear world, please stop getting festivals wrong, ta.

Accidentally let my Netflix subscription run over after Breaking Bad was done, but regardless of how the US version has a lot more stuff* there was still plenty I'd been vaguely meaning to watch on the UK site. The Friends of Eddie Coyle, for instance, with Robert Mitchum exuding the shabby grandeur of a moth-eaten lion, or the gloriously absurd and none-more-eighties Lifeforce, in which a mission to Halley's Comet unwittingly unleashes a zombie plague (complete with Prefab Sprout posters visible in the background as they devastate London). The most notable casting is probably Patrick Stewart, who (SPOILERS) gets possessed by the sexy naked lady space vampire and so proceeds to do some gaying up (although it's shot in a way which would probably disappoing anyone going into the film just for that). Seven Psychopaths is the thoroughly meta and possibly even better follow-up to the delightful In Bruges, and more meta still is A Film With Me In It, which manages a surprising amount of bloodshed for something starring Dylan Moran. The Cabin In The Woods, on the other hand, I'd dismissed as a slasher movie with a twist (and Whedon dialogue), until I heard one recommendation too many to ignore. First surprise: the twist isn't, it's there from the start. And what that enables, and what lies behind it - that's utterly ingenious. Add me to the list of recommendations. Which is not something I can really say about Don Johnson in Harlan Ellison adaptation A Boy and his Dog; post-apocalyptic black comedy it may be, but I found the whole thing just a little too queasy, and not always in a manner that seemed intentional.

Watched elsewere:
Ian Hislop's dramatisation of the story of trench samizdat The Wipers Times. As with Blackadder, the horror of the Great War always hits hardest for me when it's presented with the gallows humour of the Tommies intact.
Doctor Who: The Web of Fear - a story which, this time last year, I would never have expected to see in my lifetime. And it stands up a lot better than most classic Who that runs past four episodes, helped by the claustrophobic, iconic location - running down a corridor feels so much more satisfying when that corridor is part of an identifiable tube station. Victoria is still a dreadful companion, mind.
Idiotic horror White Noise: The Light, which [livejournal.com profile] xandratheblue and I watched on the simple grounds that Katee Sackhoff and Nathan Fillion would be suitable casting to play us in any film of our incredibly exciting lives. Sadly, it turned out to be a bad Final Destination riff - but with more dodgy theology! And nonsensical numerology! And lots of RUNNING REALLY FAST.
Repo Man, which remains as profoundly peculiar and entertaining as ever (and I can't believe it never gets mentioned as an influence on Lebowski). The Blu-ray extras are deeply rum, and include Harry Dean Stanton talking about life for 15 minutes before singing 'Row, Row, Row Your Boat', and Alex Cox showing the deleted scenes to the real-life inventor of the neutron bomb.

And on the big screen - Thor: The Dark World. Certainly not the best of the Marvel films, but I find it oddly reassuring that they can stumble now without falling flat on their faces, and still produce a fairly entertaining picture which will fill up a cinema with casual viewers (you can tell them from the geek hardcore so easily, because they're the ones who don't even stay for the first credits scene, let alone the very end). Also, pleasing show of public right-mindedness in the way that everyone in the auditorium, regardless of class or race, agreed that the family with a screaming baby should take it the fuck out of the cinema - and rather than grumbling passive-aggressively, fetched ushers to enforce that verdict. See! Superhero films encourage viewers to take more responsibility for making the world a better place.

*Such as Bob's Burgers, which I saw round the house of a friend who's hacked the relevant bits of science to watch the US menu. Like its fellow H Jon Benjamin animation Archer, this is allegedly on Freeview channels, but gets thrown away in graveyard slots. Baffling, given how funny both are at their best. NB: do not look for H Jon Benjamin's face online; you'd expect him to be less attractive than Sterling Archer, but I think he may even be less attractive than Bob.
alexsarll: (default)
A few weeks back, Livejournal stirred into something approaching life, and in the manner of the old days there was A Meme. About what people were up to a year ago, five years, ten. And the nostalgia of it all...well, people sometimes forget that the '-algia' in there is pain. That was an apt precursor to The World's End. Shaun of the Dead was already a film about the pain of growing up, so stack the best part of another decade on top of that, then go see it with some approximation of the old gang, and even a film assembling this much comic talent (and there are plenty of laughs) is going to feel like a twisted knife in places. I can't recall such a bittersweet comedy which is still so successful qua comedy since Withnail. Part of the power is in the way it dodges polemic: yes, refusing to grow up is seen as a sad and sorry way to live, but so is growing up. In so far as there's any kind of answer, it's the knowingly grand and ridiculous grab for another, impossible option which reminds me of the Indelicates' 'Dovahkiin'. It's not just a self-regarding elegy, mind - it also has lots to say about how the new cinema ideal of bromance is no more realistic or healthy than the Hollywood take on romance. Which is obviously no less saddening. I'm going to miss the Cornetto Trilogy, not mollified by their being in part films about missing the films you grew up on.
Also seen at the cinema (on the same day, which I don't believe I've ever done before - it does the trailers no favours): Pacific Rim, in which Guillermo del Toro has giant robots punch monsters, and vice versa, in a delightfully solid way which always feels like a Guillermo del Toro film, until the humans start interacting with each other when his normal sureness of touch deserts him, and even normally dependable actors fall oddly flat (one excellent and un-publicised cameo aside). And not at the cinema, but on the same day as its cinematic release, A Field in England. Which I applaud, even while thinking that a little more forethought about the casting might have made it more instantly convincing as the psychedelic horror it wants to be, rather than the oddball comedy as which it inadvertently opens.

More nostalgia: the Buffy-themed bash at the GNRT. Even more so, back to the Woodbine for the first time in a while, and the last time was itself the first time in a while too. As if to emphasise how long it is since that was a regular haunt, there's foliage growing into the Gents' and a wine called Tempus. Subtle symbolism there, Life. Still, there have been times of living too. Celebrating the Solstice atop Primrose Hill, and walking back from Mr B and the Mystery Fax Machine Orchestra along the dusky Parkland Walk, eternal moments when the level of drunk and the setting are exactly as they should be and one feels no longer apart from the world but in contact with the infinite and suffused with joy and peace. Took [livejournal.com profile] xandratheblue to Devon and, in the five years or so my parents have been there, this was the first time I swam in the sea, as against paddling, because for once I'd timed it right weatherwise. And we found a dragon skull on the beach. Then to lovely little Sherborne, and up Dancing Hill, which is in fact rather steep for dancing but I guess satyrs are nimble. Back in London, we were greeted by St Paul's and it's blue trees as a reminder that, lovely as holidays can be, this is the place to be. Though we did then go see Eddie Argos in an Edinburgh show about holidays, which might have made more sense before rather than after our own. Still lovely, mind.
(Other Edinburgh previews seen: Henry Paker, being powerfully bald, and Jeff Goldblum and his prawn (aka Ben Partridge). Not seen near so many this year as the last couple)

Wrapping up, since who knows when I'll get round to posting again: having chance to dance to Pink for the first time since Don't Stop Moving stopped moving, and 'Elephant Elephant' for the first time full stop, was a delight; I like the view from Telegraph Hill, though not the walk there in the sun (and it should have kept the old name, Plowed Garlic Hill); and I love how in a European city the Holy Thorn Reliquary would be in the cathedral, what with having part of Jesus' crown of thorns inside, but in London we just stick it in a back room of the museum, because we basically have the warehouse from the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark but let tourists wander around it 'cos we're cool like that.

*I've seen the Indelicates and Keith Totp (&c) twice since I last posted, and the Indelicates don't even play London that often anymore. Even seen the very seldom-sighted Quimper, who are coming into their own with the new live set-up, all disturbing projections and shadowed lurking. Also Desperate Journalist, who already had a good soundscape going, but are a lot more compelling now [livejournal.com profile] exliontamer has started really going for it on stage. And Mikey Georgeson aka Vessel aka Mr Solo, formerly a frequent fixture (and I think probably still the performer I've seen live the most times) for the first time in a year or so. He was, of course, excellent - the new tracks as good as ever, in particular 'I See What You Did There' and the waltz which sounds like imperial phase Bowie working with Tom Waits.
alexsarll: (default)
Had a couple of weddings last month, out of London to varying degrees - one in a home counties barn, the other in Compton Verney, which is not the most accessible location but does mean you can have a reception surrounded by Cranachs, Holbeins and a coral nativity diorama which some enterprising Neapolitan crafted centuries back, and climb atop a bloody big rock if you need a break from the band. I'd decided to go straight from there to Devon the next day, simply because going back into and then out of London again appalled my sense of progress. This might have been a false time-economy, but the resulting vaguely diagonal journey did take me in a reasonably straight line across large swathes of the country I don't often see - a real 'How fares England? sort of journey. And despite what one might fear, every train involved was punctual bar one which was deeply apologetic over being a minute behind schedule. Inevitably, by the time I got to the seaside the warm spell had passed, so it was all sea mist and chopping up telegraph poles and being disappointed when local country acts didn't emphasise the side of their oeuvre which most appealed to me (the unspeakable bastards).

Other exotic locales I've visited include Walthamstow Village, where I attempted to convince people even less conversant with the area than myself that model butterflies were simply the giant fauna of Zone 3, and Peckham Rye, which seems to have a higher concentration of brilliant dogs than anywhere else in London (also a boy trapped in a tent, which is always good entertainment). And, as the year has made its stuttering advance into Spring, the Edinburgh previews have begun: I've already seen Thom Tuck (excellent as ever, even in the very early stages), Nish Kumar, Sara Pascoe and, as a late sub for Ben Target, Matthew Highton - who looks like Frank Quitely drew him and tells stories (perhaps not wholly true) of a life Peter Milligan could easily have conceived.

Not a great deal of clubbing lately - though Poptimism did offer a chance to dance to 'Only Losers Take The Bus', so what more does one need? - and my pub quizzing, if successful, has been sparse. But there have, as ever, been gigs. The Bull and Gate is no more, because apparently Kentish Town needs another damn gastropub, so Keith TotP et al played a send-off - the first time in a while that I've seen the Minor UK Indie Celebrity All-Star Backing Band on a stage large enough to contain them. In support, Dom Green's latest band, with a very apt set formed by pulling together songs from all the bands he'd been in before that had played there - and yet ending with a new one which may be the best thing he's ever written (but then, I was always a sucker for epics about London). Rebekah Delgado, supporting a bunch of steampunk tits at a rock pub, then off to Shenanigans. The Indelicates, still the best band of the moment, ever more romantic and ever more doomed. But I think my favourite overall event was the Soft Close-Ups show which was the only reason [livejournal.com profile] augstone was allowed back over to visit us. They've always been a fairly melancholy band, but with the immigration-based reminder of how fleeting things can be, and a Housman poem set to music, this outing was especially mis. And yet, gorgeous. [livejournal.com profile] icecoldinalex supported and, for a note of bathos, the venue was decorated in vintage soft p0rn. The sort of inexplicable afternoon which comes along too seldom.

The current series of Who has for the most part continued on its profoundly underwhelming course, with a revival of hopes occasioned by 'Hide', 'Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS' and Gatiss' campathon undermined by last night's inexplicably middling Gaiman effort, but between Bluestone 42, It's Kevin and Parks and Rec's second season, there has at least been plenty of good comedy on the box, and these are surely times in which we need cheering up, so thank heavens for that. I've barely seen any films of late: Iron Man 3 at the cinema, which was a joy; Skyfall and Terror by Night on DVD, which were a little less so. I just can't quite buy Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes, he's far too socially adroit - even clubbable.

When this goes up, I'll still have more than a year's worth of posts on one page, where once a page would have not been sufficient for some months. And yet, we persevere, in some limping fashion.
alexsarll: (bernard)
Snow again, and I've not posted since the last bout, in which I got to cross St James' Park by twilight. It's not my favourite London park, but that little chalet by the lake does look ludicrously idyllic when the weather's this Alpine. I was there in between my inaugural visits to the museums Petrie (dry) and Grant (terrifying), and Parliament, where I was headed mainly to see Paddy Ashdown talk. And good heavens, he's still full of fire. I miss him.

So I went to see a Tarantino film in the cinema, which I've never done before (and it was Dalston Rio, where I've never been before, but which is rather nice, isn't it?). Django Unchained is neither as thorough an explanation of the monstrousness of slavery, nor as gloriously OTT an exploitation romp, as Spartacus: Blood and Sand and its successor series. But it is pretty fine nonetheless, and oh, those landscapes looked magnificent on the big screen. Some - including Charlie Brooker, whom you would have hoped might know better - have complained that this isn't historically accurate, simply because it's not a tediously worthy slog, but the only time I found myself unconvinced by it was when they were discussing business at the table, with a lady present. Really? Beyond that, I think this is the most plausible South I've ever seen on screen. Interesting, too, to see Christoph Waltz, the link to Quentin's previous not-quite-history film, and wonder if his part as the Good German here was by way of an apology; certainly his last line was ventriloquising Tarantino.
Less seriously: Will Ferrell and the weird guy from The Hangover in The Campaign, a very silly film which, like Django, is far better on a serious issue (here the dirtiness of US politics) than an entire awards ceremony's worth of more desperately serious films on the same topic. It even has the alarming stuff liable to upset some viewers (warning: contains scenes of pug distress). Plus, it is clearly a love letter to Trading Places.

Comedy: Ben Van Der Velde was a bit too Mission for me (Dave Gorman, so much to answer for - that structure really is the bane of Edinburgh shows), but James W Smith did very well considering his planned show about whether he was ready for kids was derailed by the fact that yes, he's now expecting one ready or not! And admitting that to strangers 12 weeks into the pregnancy = very brave. Given which, you could forgive the show being rather unformed - much like the baby at this stage, I guess.

Gigs: I've seen a fair few acts I've seen before and they were still jolly good, but the news is the venues. Like: the Water Rats is returned to us! And still has one of the same bar staff. Like: there's a half-decent venue just across Finsbury Park from me, and how come nobody I know has played there before? Or clubwise, the basement of Aces and Eights, which is just like all those basement venues we used to go to which I thought had all been tidied up and sold off. Pubwise, the Catford Bridge Tavern - a proper old pub, and I am much more likely to forgive the pint of cider I ordered being off if it is one of five draught ciders rather than the only bloody one.

Also, we completely owned the Monarch's Doctor Who quiz, even in the face of a BBC Worldwide team and other pro geeks. Result.
alexsarll: (Default)
Been on jury service this past week, and while obviously I can't say anything about what happens inside, I can say that it chucks out earlier than work, and closer to home, and while this weather has been a little hot, better now than in the rain, right? So I can stop off in a park to read and bump into the Cthulhuchild and family en route to the slides, or wander via Ally Pally to see the inflatable Stonehenge (though I didn't bounce myself - far too many rules for something called Sacrilege). And I have to admit, the Olympics haven't been the bane I thought they would. Transport has been standing up, there's a certain quiet happiness in the air, and even if I still don't care myself who done the best swim or whatever...it's all very nice. Perhaps because everyone is on the same side, as against that nasty tribalist twinge to the footballism? Even the opening ceremony, which I skipped because a) sport and b) it's a decade since Danny Boyle made a decent film - well, by the sound of it modern masques are more his forte than films now. I was rewarded with the emptiest streets I have ever seen in Finsbury Park or Dalston, though.

Other expeditions:
Peckham Rye, a park I've never quite found before, for the first picnic in too long. I think we got out of the habit of organising them, when summer seemed to have turned traitor. They have been missed.
Camden for a quiet afternoon pint, which turned into a pub crawl home. If nothing else, I have now finally been to Kentish Town's Pineapple. It is quite good.
Devon, to see the parents. Did lots of active, rural things, like hefting logs up hills, and clambering around on cliffs just along from where there was that fatal landslide a few days later. Didn't die, obviously, because I'm not a loser. But I did get melancholy over the way the streams, beaches and fields in the distance always seem so unattainably lovely, and when you get there, they're perfectly pleasant but ultimately just a stream, or a beach, or a field. This point has already been made by better writers than me, of course. I think this feeling was accentuated by coming back on a Sunday, which may have been a mistake - instead of returning to London's bright lights and fun, it just feels like the end of the holiday.
alexsarll: (pangolin)
So, the Olympics may not have been quite as disruptive to London as we were warned (if anything it's quieter, most especially during the opening ceremony when the streets were the emptiest I have ever seen, including the not-so-'dead' of night), but the TV schedules are a desolation. Nothing since The Hollow Crown, and even that was disappointing in places, most especially Simon Russell Beale's mopey Falstaff. Yes, there is great pathos in Falstaff but you don't go straight there or it counts for nothing, you show him full of life first!
Hiddleston was great as Hal, though. And before that there was Spartacus: Vengeance, which is clearly aimed at people who felt Blood and Sand didn't have enough ultraviolence. SOLD. But now we have to wait for the final series, and hope they don't lose another Spartacus in the meantime, though I suppose it does all contribute a certain 'No, I'm Spartacus!' quality, doesn't it?

So with nothing new to oblige me when I want to watch moving images, I've been catching up with films. Green Lantern, for instance, the one flop among last year's big superhero films. And deservedly so, because it is a characterless mush. Assuming you know the basics of the mythos, you might as well watch it in Uzbek, because the script does no work at all. It's all placeholder dialogue - 'Difficult father/son conversation', or 'inspirational reminder from love interest', or 'sneering veteran belittles rookie'. Horribly lazy, and it's not like Ryan Reynolds - the world's most generic leading actor - was ever going to be able to enliven it.
Conversely, another supposed flop, John Carter (it didn't do all that badly, in spite of being a victim of studio politics and a spiteful whispering campaign) is not bad at all. Which comes as little surprise - Andrew Stanton's previous film was Wall-E, so we know the man can do films about desolate planets. It doesn't quite know whether it wants to be Flash Gordon, Indiana Jones, Lord of the Rings or Star Wars, but while the tone could perhaps have been a little more solid, that's not to say it ever feels jarring (Hell, they even manage a non-shit cute animal sidekick, and that's not easy), and I'm convinced a second and third film would have built on what was already achieved. I suppose I'll just have to get them from the alternate reality DVD shop one day, along with seasons 2-5 of that other unfairly-treated space/Western hybrid, Firefly.
And then there's Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. The previous Ghost Rider film also starred Nic Cage, so this is a sequel rather than a reboot - and has ever a sequel sharing the same lead so outstripped its predecessor? The first was dull, I think I managed maybe half an hour of it and there was still little sign of anything happening. Whereas after a mere five minutes of this you've already seen Stringer Bell as a drunk biker priest who has a brief argument with Giles, then gets into a gunfight and a car chase. This is what happens when you do the sensible thing with an action franchise and get the men behind the peerless Crank in. Ghost Rider has always been a brilliant concept who is for the most part ill-served by his stories, but Neveldine/Taylor are the sort of men to whom you say 'a biker with a flaming skull for a head' and they give you a film. A damn fine film. A film where the Ghost Rider pisses fire (though in a rare missed opportunity, not on anyone. Because he would be pissing on someone who was on fire, like the figure of speech, but it would in fact be his fault they were on fire! Seriously, it would be poetry). Anyway, it also has Christopher Lambert from Highlander, and Ciaran Hinds as the Devil (there's one deleted scene where he hires a car which works as a short film in itself) and, as you may have gathered, it is bloody brilliant.

Oh, and I've also been attempting to knock off the last few complete Doctor Who stories I've not seen ahead of the new series. The problem being that in some cases - I'm looking at you, Attack of the Cybermen - there are reasons I've not got round to them sooner. Most recent, though, was Claws of Axos, from just the point where the Pertwee years were settling into formula. But it's not quite there yet, meaning you get something more reminiscent in places of a classic stand-alone alien invasion story than of Who, even to the extent of the Doctor calling things completely wrong at times (the foolish, hubristic scientist). He's also a much more ambivalent figure than one expects, to the extent that when he offers the Master an alliance, you're not wholly confident it's a trick, even watching with hindsight.
alexsarll: (Default)
Livejournal entries nowadays are like confession - they mostly seem to start with 'I have sinned, it has been...too long since my last update'. Of course, this also means I missed the riots, but I had my moment in the sun when it came to LJ posts about London unpleasantness, and [livejournal.com profile] rosamicula is welcome to the limelight this time. Besides, I've been having rather a pleasant time of it, on the whole - even when finding one of the land's last gibbets, and an old cultish church, in the depths of Hampshire, the setting was at least as cosy as it was Lovecraftian. I've seen plenty of gigs by the usual suspects - mostly very good, but with little new to say except that Proxy Music's version of Eno's 'Third Uncle' is amazing - hypnotic almost to the point of being evil.

Made my third consecutive cinema trip to see a Marvel superhero film, and if Captain America doesn't quite ascend to greatness, it's still thoroughly good fun, feeling at times like a classic Bond film, at others like a cousin to Raiders of the Lost Ark (which it references, brilliantly, as it does A Matter of Life and Death, which was always going to impress me). Chris Evans' previous Marvel outing was as the Human Torch, possibly the easiest superhero role going, but somewhere along the line he's picked up the combination of pluck, naivete and steely charisma you need to play Steve Rogers. And this is a take on Cap which plays him very much as what America should be - not Mark Millar's Republican hardass, but not too self-questioning either. Spoilers ) The prospects for The Avengers are looking better and better.
The trailers beforehand, though - ugh! Two in a row were for wholly unnecessary remakes - Tinker, Tailor and Conan, though the latter at least had good production design. And Immortals looked so much like pastiche that for at least a minute I genuinely assumed it must be the new Orange ad.

John Brunner's The Sheep Look Up was released in 1972, and is the story of a near-future humanity sleepwalking into ecological collapse. You can see where I'm going with this, can't you? And yet, if the only problem with his Stand on Zanzibar was that its dystopian vision of circa now was actually too optimistic*, then here he's a little too far the other way. Yes, we can all recognise this world:
"The government couldn't go on forever bailing out mismanaged giant corporations , even though it was their own supporters, people who ranted against "UN meddling" and "creeping socialism", who yelled the loudest for Federal aid when they got in a mess."**
But with condoms now a fact of life everywhere except the most mediaevalistic of backwaters, details such as the endemic, persistent STDs are still a little far-fetched. Aren't they? OK, and the pests which have out-evolved the pesticides, maybe they were a good call. And the shops which profit from the demand to eat organic - and be seen to eat organic - while in fact pushing the same old crap. And the "riots among Britain's five million unemployed". But precisely because of the concerns of Brunner's generation, we have dodged some of the evils he saw coming - you can still walk on the grass beneath a blue sky in the heart of a major Western city, and breathe unassisted (well, unless the weather is especially smog-friendly that day). And thank heavens for that, for the degree to which the casual sexism and racism which lasts into his distinctly seventies future is now the province only of random park-bench drunks, for the fact that "Paper, which consumes irreplaceable trees" need no longer be such a hot-button issue both because it doesn't anymore, and because it's being bypassed. Not that we can quite rest easy, of course, but it's not as bad anymore as it looked to the clear-sighted forty years ago. Or at least, it isn't quite yet.

*Elsewhere in that entry, I love that my Brunner reading seems to be synchronised with my Torchwood moaning. To think we believed back at the end of the second season that we had it bad!
**See also The Pursuit of Glory: Europe 1648-1815 in which the fall of France as a major power, and thus of the French monarchy, comes largely because "financial reform was rendered next-to-impossible. In the neat formulation of J.F. Bosher, the French kings could not change the system because it was not theirs to change...too much had been farmed out to vested interests in pursuit of short-term gain, and it couldn't be clawed back". Yes, it has been suggested that I might suffer from a touch of apophenia. I can't imagine why.
alexsarll: (Default)
Three-day weekends don't seem quite so magnificent once you've got used to fourers, do they? And of course the weather was more traditionally Bank Holiday this time out. So less in the way of Leos, and more an extended opportunity for evenings in the pub - plus one Christian Slater marathon. Always knew Heathers and Pump up the Volume were companion pieces, but I've never seen them back to back before, never realised they were as much in argument as agreement about the state of the American teen. And then yesterday I watched Red, which is more interested in the state of the American (and British, and Russian) crock, and so provides a brilliant opportunity for John Malkovich, Bruce Willis, Brian Cox and Morgan Freeman to charge around causing chaos. Plus, Helen Mirren with a submachine gun. I still would.

The most important viewing, though, was obviously Doctor Who. There have been good and bad two-parters since the series returned. There have been stories which started OK and then fell apart, and ones which started good and them improved, and each series there has been one 90-minute stinker, and I thought we were in that. Yet suddenly the rules changed and the season's flop got good. All those clone cliches from 'The Rebel Flesh' started going somewhere new (well, except for the line "Who are the real monsters?", which belonged back with the crap in Part One), and all those brilliant callbacks to old Doctors, and the wonderful mugging which always makes a multi-Doctor story a joy, and things like the wall of eyes which I'm sure could have been moved earlier and saved the first episode, and of course, That Cliffhanger. So excited about Saturday. Even though I suspect that it will end on an even more hangery cliff and then we;ll all be tense 'til Autumn. What a brilliant bastard Moffat is.

And what else is there to report from the last week? Philip Jeays, brilliant, as ever. Supported by utter rubbish, as ever. It seems hard to believe that such a great singer's taste is really so faulty, so we begin to wonder what else might explain these bills. He already has the song about taking advantage of the Speech Painter's house, car and wife, but what about the even-worse Cracktown, whose sub-Sixth Form political satire is also on tonight's bill? We conclude that Jeays might later air a new track called something like 'I Owe Cracktown Three Grand, And They're Not Getting It Back'.
Still, he was good himself, that's the main thing. And the Barge is a very different venue in summer. You get swans peering in the windows, or two dogs in a boat.

I also dropped in on Clerkenwell Design Week, because it would have been silly not to accept an invitation to wander around a building I walk past most days, right? And they are clearly quite precious about security, because to get allowed out of the lift I needed to be given a little scannable token. What secrets did it reveal? Chairs. Now, by no means do I dislike chairs, but it was also clear that nor do I like them enough to fully appreciate this invitation.
alexsarll: (Default)
If you haven't been keeping up with Luke Haines' recent ventures, he's just released 50 albums. Which so far as anyone can work out are 50 versions of the same album, Outsider Music each recorded live in one take, and each costing £75. I don't have it, no. There's various Bill Drummond-style rhetoric about this restoring the sanctity of the physical album &c, but given the old bastard has always made an art out of wilful perversity, I suspect a large part of it is making a few grand quickly while seeing what the fans will put up with. In much the same spirit, last night he played the new material live at the Hoxton Pony, a venue whose name is in a sense honest, but perhaps a little too disguised by the Cockney rhyming slang. The intro tape doesn't seem to be able to stay at the same sound level for a whole song, and two of those songs are by the Doors. And the support is a berk who is apparently from a band called Silvery, and who seems to have been booked just so Haines can remind himself how much he hates Britpop because his stuff sounds like something which [livejournal.com profile] steve586 would refuse to play at Nuisance. Haines himself is sounding a little odd on account of some missing teeth, and horribly plosive because he's doing stuff with the mic which even I know how not to do. It is, in short, not the ideal setting. On top of which, as Haines says while introducing the song about a friend who met Alan Vega of Suicide, "the new songs were rather like the old songs". One song, more recent even than the Outsider Music stuff, is introduced as part of a forthcoming concept album about seventies wrestling, and concerns the domestic arrangements of Kendo Nagasaki. From anyone else, you'd know that intro was a joke. But from Haines? (Suggested heckle: "Play the one about the seventies!")
Haines is in that spot a lot of artists get to where they've found their territory and, if they do get any new fans, it'll be through a critical rehabilitation rather than a sudden shift in the material. This is not necessarily a bad thing; I was listening to the new Twilight Singers album on the way to the gig, and there's not a surprise on it, but that doesn't stop it from being the third best album of the year so far (not the faint praise it may seem in mid-January, the H Bird and British Sea Power records are excellent). But if these songs really don't get any wider release...well, most of them I won't honestly feel as gaps in my life, the exception being the brilliant 'Enoch Powell'.
And then we get the old songs, and a reminder of why we put up with all this because yes, the man has written several dozen absolute and eternal classics, and here's a selection. Most terrifying is to hear 'Future Generations' in the company of a fan born in the nineties*, proof that Haines was, as usual, right when he first sang "the next generation will get it from the start".

I hadn't even been planning to go to that show until mid-afternoon; I had other plans, and I'd assumed it was sold out. And by that point I'd already reached my standing goal of doing at least two things per day beyond pootling around on the net or reading a comic or two or other minor stuff; I'd filled in my tax return, and I'd finally watched Videodrome (which is basically just 'Blink - The Queasily Sexy Years', isn't it?). This in spite of having developed a problematic addiction to "I am the man who arranges the blocks" after having heard it at Bright Club the night before, with which I had thought I should re-familiarise myself given I'm performing at the next Wilmington one on February 15th.

*edit: Actually 1989, I am informed, and unlike Wikipedia I trust people to correct their own biographical data. But I feel the point stands.
alexsarll: (howl)
Not that Nuisance ever sees much in the way of sobriety, but everyone seemed even drunker than usual on Friday; possibly because I'd already been for drinks beforehand at T Bird (which is good again! Hurrah), within an hour of arrival I found myself thinking what a beautiful ceiling the Monarch has. Yeah. That aside, it was largely a picnicky sort of weekend, the greyness of this August notwithstanding; on Saturday I was in Kensington Gardens with Stationery Club, and Sunday was Brumfields in Highgate Woods. Both had plenty of comedy passing dogs (especially Brumfields, where one joined in most tenaciously with a game of frisbee, and another snaffled two Jammy Dodgers in one mouthful), and other Local Colour en route. Alongside the Serpentine I saw a teenager on a penny farthing with no idea how to get off, and someone on rollerblades using an umbrella as a sail; in Highgate I was asked for directions by an unusually attractive tranny just as the Passage's polymorphously perverse 'XOYO' started up on the headphones. Then later, back along a Parkland Walk which seemed oddly still, even where someone was playing woodwind - not apparently for money - under one of the darker bridges.

Watched two films the last couple of days, both sequels which don't require any familiarity with the original, both featuring possession by ectoplasmic mists. And that's about all they have in common apart from being damn good. Evil Dead 2 is a gleefully gory romp, man versus the supernatural presented as almost slapstick. Whereas Hellboy II - which feels much more like a Guillermo del Toro film than its predecessor, even though he directed them both - is a terribly sad and elegiac thing in amongst all the fighting and 'aw, crap'; every monster vanquished is a strange and wonderful thing which has now passed from the Earth, and when Hellboy is being tempted by the genocidal elf-prince (played, bizarrely but very well, by Luke from Bros), you at least half-want him to go for it.

I remember Jimmy McGovern's The Lakes being much-discussed in the nineties, mainly in terms of the sex. For whatever reason, I never saw it, but on a free trial of one of those DVD rental services I thought, well, John Simm stars, has to at least be worth a look, right? Only problem is, Simm is playing a scouser. Within minutes of his arrival in the Lake District, he's twice faced prejudice over this - ah, thinks I, this is about him showing the locals not all scousers are feckless gobshites. Except it rapidly becomes clear that he is; he's a thieving, idle little weasel who gets a local girl pregnant and whose compulsive gambling leads to the death of three kids. And Simm is still at least a little charming, but he gets that whiny voice down pat enough to almost extinguish it. Oh, I forgot to mention the music, which is like some nightmarish antimatter universe Nuisance; in the first episode alone, two major emotional scenes are soundtracked by Cast. There are some fine performances - especially the village priest - and lovely touches (some business with milk-sniffing, threaded lightly through the whole show, is astonishing) but overall it's a nasty, mean little show. And I really don't get why even my hormonal peers thought it was sexy.
alexsarll: (Default)
London, being an emblem of infinity, always has something new with which to astound me. the beautiful statues at York House being one example, nymphs sprawled up a waterfall in a way you'd expect in Capri more than Twickenham. And then a few minutes further along, the ramshackle Bohemian labyrinth of Eel Pie Island, one of those places which, even with much of it understandably inaccessible (being people's homes and all), is so folded in on itself that it feels like it's larger than the area it covers. Then back to Richmond proper for Toy Story 3. not big spoilers, but more than I knew going in ) Oh, and it was preceded by an ad which opens with the line "Your child's mouth is amazing!" Quite.

Also finally got round to watching The Incredible Hulk which, as you might have heard, isn't very good. I am less bothered than ever about Ed Norton not reprising the role of Banner for the Avengers film, because he doesn't do much with it (and I can't be the only person thinking the obvious choice would be Andy Serkis). Liv Tyler, once so luminously lovely, is almost invisible as Betty Ross; Tim Roth is good as Emil Blonsky, but then Tim Roth is always good, so that's no great achievement. Yes, the film references Stark, SHIELD, Dr Reinstein, Leonard Samson and Rick Jones...but so what? We're past the point now where that sort of thing is surprising; as in comics themselves, a cross-reference does not in itself justify an otherwise dull story.

Speaking of comics, I've not posted much about them lately, have I? Mainly, the titles which are always good have continued to be good, but if you're not reading them yet then there's no real point in drawing your attention to Powers or The Walking Dead or Ultimate Spider-Man or the Grant Morrison Batman complex now. And Marvel's new status quo, The Heroic Age, is still a bit too early to call; is it going to be a welcome breath of fresh air after the darkness of the past few years, or simply Silver Age fetishism? But lately, some good new stuff has started filtering through. Consider Paul Cornell's Action Comics, the first DC Universe comic not by Grant Morrison to excite me in a while. Pairing Lex Luthor with a robot Lois Lane (as in his online Doctor Who story where the Doctor was travelling with a robot Master), the first issue suggests this is going to be an entertainingly amoral cosmic romp. Over at Marvel, Kieron Gillen's last arc on Thor finally gets him out from under the fall-out of other people's events and sends the Asgardians off to attack Hell. I said to Kieron last week that it read like a heavy metal album, and this was before I picked up the Manowar album with a track called 'Thor (The Powerhead' at the CD swap. And Daredevil is in entertainingly killy mode in the opening of the new street-level crossover, Shadowland, even if I am irked at the suggestion that it must be possession causing him to do something eminently sensible which he should have done years ago. But the big news is the start of the last new comics project, at least for a while, by the ever-combative Alan Moore. As the title suggests, Neonomicon is riffing on HP Lovecraft. Moore has talked about writing it in a very angry phase, wanting to make something genuinely nasty as against the cheapness of a lot of modern Mythos stories, and he's already referencing 'The Horror at Red Hook', probably Lovecraft's most overtly racist story, in a way that suggests he's going to stick to that. But so far, it's mainly very funny. Hence me sat on the bus opposite a concerned parent and its spawn, face obscured by the comic's wrap cover of great Cthulhu awakening, chuckling to myself at the scene where the protagonist attends a gig by Rats in the Malls: "I want my thing on your doorstep, my haunter in your dark, I'm getting squamous just thinking how you walk".
alexsarll: (Default)
A sign on the main gates announces that Finsbury Park itself will be closing at 5pm by the end of October, with even that shrinking down to 4.30 for the whole of December and the beginning of January. Now, aside from remembering that a couple of years ago it was never closed even in the middle of the night, I'm sure those times are ludicrously and unprecedentedly early, but I suspect that the joggers among you would be better placed to confirm that.

I've been having my old, epic dreams again lately, grand disjointed things that survive the interruptions even when they get crazed or loud enough to wake me. Which means that when they give the impression of continuing from night to night, I can never be quite sure whether they're telling the truth or just building on all those tricks about giving the appearance of a continuity which one picks up consciously and subconsciously from reading a lot of Grant Morrison. Lately there's been a lot of imagery which would suit a Saturday night TV take on Lovecraft - organic matter unfettered by contact with some nameless Unknown, extruding tendrils, faces coming loose - and it may or may not have been linked to the scene which mashed Seizure up with Gormley's Fourth Plinth to give us a slowly filling tank full of copper sulphate solution up there, the last Plinther drowning beatifically in the poison.

Not being an expert like [livejournal.com profile] cappuccino_kid, I've only seen three Joseph Losey films, enough/few enough that having taped The Damned I was surprised to find it a Hammer shocker with a young Oliver Reed in the main supporting role. There's a stilted Englishness I recognise in there, a menace, and a sense of perversion barely suppressed, but at times early in the film the stiltedness would just seem like bad acting if you weren't looking for it, if you didn't see that this came from the same year as his classic, The Servant. Without wanting to spoiler the film (old, but fairly obscure - the spoilering protocols there are always unclear, aren't they?) the Hammer elements seem strangely well-fitted to Losey's England.

Alan Moore is doing the libretto for the next Gorillaz opera.
alexsarll: (Default)
The main reason I don't walk all the way into town more often is that I've never found a route I liked - until now. Setting off early for [livejournal.com profile] hoshuteki's birthday, I started off through the Gillespie Park walk by the railway*, where I was able to verify that I am in fact faster than a speeding locomotive if by 'speeding' we mean 'being held between Finsbury Park and Drayton Park to regulate the service". Then through somnolent Drayton Park to Highbury, right off Liverpool Road and slide through the leafy squares of Barnsbury; this has all felt like Arthur Machen territory but once you skip over the brief busy patch of King's Cross you hit the motherlode, the little streets off the Gray's Inn Road. And there you are, in Bloomsbury, which I realise I now think of as the heart of town.

[livejournal.com profile] publicansdecoy and [livejournal.com profile] obsessive_katy got married this weekend, which is lovely and all, ditto setting aside a dedicated 'raucous drunks' table at the dinner (yes, obviously I was on it), but the masterstroke was having the wedding in a zoo! With a snow leopard and pygmy hippos and "one of the world's most mysterious mammals, the Fosca"**. Also a toastmaster, which I am now contemplating as a future career since it appears to consist of getting drunk in a tailcoat at strangers' weddings and perving on the bride. And the Black Plastic DJs. More weddings like this, please. The day was only slightly marred by the journey home, on which I had a full and frank exchange of views with a fellow who felt that throwing a pastie in my face was fair comment given I have a big nose.

Sunday, alas, began for me with the news of two Doctor Who deaths - seventies producer Barry Letts and 'Horror of Glam Rock' guest star Stephen Gately. Very sad. Mostly spent the rest of the day reading, though I did take a brief walk around the park at dusk and found myself terrified by the skies, in which the advancing mountain ranges of cloud seemed to presage apocalypse rather than the lovely clear day we've got today. I did attempt to watch Ghost Rider (or as they call it in the Philippines, Spirited Racer) and...well, it does a lot of things right. Given how Peter Fonda comes across these days, and Easy Rider, casting him as the Devil in a film about motorbikes is brilliant. And the narrator from Big Lebowski as the gravedigger who explains the plot and is blatantly a previous rider, great decision. But...in the lead, Nicolas Cage. Who as has been the case for a decade plus now, is just annoying, and can't convey any emotion bar 'faintly amusing hangdog puzzlement'. And even when, after 50 minutes, he eventually turns into the Ghost Rider, you realise that while modern special effects can do a lot of things, having as the lead character a guy with a flaming skull for a head is still slightly beyond them. On the printed page it looks great, the image makes instant sense. On screen...nothing quite looks right about it.
So I turned over to watch the Pixar documentary instead. And bless them, what lovely guys they all seem to be. Tying back to Ghost Rider, it also makes me feel I was right not to worry about the Disney takeover of Marvel, because while it is very clear from what the Pixar people say that Disney did lose its way for a while and insist on churning out bland crap, it also seems clear that, with John Lasseter now in overall charge of the creative side at Disney as well as Pixar, and having kicked out all the execs who weren't creatives, Marvel will be in good hands.
And though I still have no great desire to see Up (possibly because it's directed by the same guy as Monsters Inc, my least favourite of the Pixars I've seen), I do now really want to see Wall-E. Could anyone possibly lend me the DVD?

Neil Gaiman posted a link to a story about small-town homophobes wanting to remove gay-themed books from the local library, which would be just a normal, dismal story of people who urgently need killing (the Christian Civil Liberties Union has to be the most nonsensically-named organisation since Campaign Against P0rn0graphy And Censorship) if it weren't for the name of the town: West Bend. Everyone reading those books is already a West Bender, so what's the problem?

*This option is unavailable on match days, though - that path is closed, just another of the thousand disruptions to everyone else's life which must be made for the sake of the thrice-damned footballists.
**And porcupines! And rhinos, which terrify me. And tamarins!
alexsarll: (Default)
If you're in the mood for something between Flashman and Indiana Jones, I can strongly recommend Peter Hopkirk's Foreign Devils on the Silk Road. For instance:
"He spent three years at Oxford and the British Museum studying classical and oriental archaeology and languages, but omitted Chinese - a gap in his linguistic armoury which was to cost him dear some twenty years later at the Caves of the Thousand Buddhas near Tun-huang."
It's all inconveniently dead camels, monasteries falling into ravines in earthquakes and races with dastardly Germans as Edwardian archaeologists descend on Chinese Turkestan in search of ancient cities lost in the shifting sands of the Taklamakan desert. Which is right next to the Gobi desert, and I'm not sure how exactly you tell where one desert stops and another begins, but the main difference seems to be that the Gobi was considered a bit of a girls' desert in comparison.
There's even a mountain range called Kun Lun, only two apostrophes off the home of Iron Fist - and in this neck of the woods, apostrophes seem to wander quite a bit.

Yesterday, after the Tubewalks, I went to see the Scoop's puppet-laden, song-and-dance take on the story of Jason & the Argonauts, which was played fairly panto-style, and ended in an audience participation dancealong to 'Walking on Sunshine'. They told the audience to stick around for the sequel, Medea, promising it would be "fun". I wonder how many families did that, and of those, how many had any idea what happens in Medea and how many expected more jolly adventures? We'd already seen the harrowing tale of desertion and infanticide on Thursday (Ben says most everything I'd want to about it here), and the idea of having the same cast do both in a double-bill is some flowering of evil genius.
After getting home from that, I'd watched Entourage and We Are Klang on their late showings*, which made for a late start on Friday, in spite of/because of which I had a really productive day. Started with His Girl Friday, because it was too long since I'd seen a Cary Grant film, and what a strange mixture of screwball comedy and film noir it is, with police corruption, corrupt electioneering and suicide all subjugated to the sparring will they/won't they couple. Then finished off a Kate Bush biography of which I'd read two chapters years ago (the writer wasn't great, but even beyond that I suspect she's another of those musicians where the life she lives could never be as exciting as the life implied by the world of her songs). Then sorted out the books on the landing and considered the death of Keith Waterhouse; he wrote a book and a play which I love, and seems to have been basically brilliant fun, so why did I never especially like him qua him, instead just liking those two works in isolation?).
And then, out to Proud. I'd always been fairly certain that Proud would be a dreadful venue, but I seriously underestimated just how bad. It's full of similar tossers to fashionable West End clubs (and similar drinks prices), but here some of said tossers are in Smiths t-shirts, just to remind us how bankrupt the whole concept of 'indie' is these days. 18 Carat Love Affair were clearly getting the same sound mix as all the other bands they put on when they're booking electro-indie by the yard; vocals down (because certainly nobody wants to hear the lyrics of the average electro-indie act), bass up (keep 'em dancing). The bass suited 18CLA, the inaudible vox less so. Once they were done, we fled to [livejournal.com profile] brain_opera's party which, like any good party, was deeply strange and went on far too late.
On Saturday there were two more birthdays; this was when I started to feel I was maybe overdoing it.

*Not content with pushing Entourage later and later, this week ITV aren't showing it at all; it's being bumped for Katy Brand's new series and forgettable Tom Cruise flick The Last Samurai. They really are intent on rendering themselves entirely worthless as a channel, aren't they?
alexsarll: (seal)
Really enjoying Torchwood: Children of Earth, to the extent that I'm even starting to find Gwen and Rhys slightly less annoying. Yes, I enjoyed (some of) the first two series, but they would have looked a little tatty on prime-time BBC1, whereas this doesn't; my family, for instance, were sucked in by watching the first two episodes with me in a way I don't think would have happened before (my dad aside, they're not even that bothered about Doctor Who). Plus, the whole 'We are coming' bit is providing a great playground game for all those children who shouldn't be watching after the watershed.
I'm surprised I've not seen more mention of how, in having unknowable aliens who at once control and somehow hunger for humanity's young, it's really echoing the final, John Mills Quatermass (the only one of those serials Who has yet to really rip-off, in spite of existing in the same continuity). Of course, that was set in a dystopian near-future, while this is set now, but how dystopian it still looks; the 456 may not be very nice (although as alien concepts go, so far they've been handled brilliantly) but they seem at least to have more of a commitment to open government than Britain's leaders. Speaking of which, the Whoniverse's recent run of Prime Ministers suddenly makes our lot seem almost desirable, doesn't it?

I'd heard quietly good things about hitman-com (and why is there one of those every few years?) In Bruges, but nothing quite prepared me for how funny it would be, and how consistently it would subvert expectations - well, at least until the last twenty minutes, where it makes that ever-infuriating decision to go with one of the Standard Hollywood Endings. Still, why does it not have more of a cult? Does it not telegraph its cult classic qualities quite as much as seems lately to be demanded? I can only hope that history will correct this injustice.

My parents, having become as disillusioned as everyone else with the state of 6Music in the hands of George Lamb et al, have taken to Absolute Radio (formerly Virgin) as the standard kitchen music. And while broadly speaking it's not bad, tending to play a wider and less-obvious selection that I would have expected, one thing I did notice: it's pretty rockist. La Roux, Lady Gaga, Little Boots and the like may be in the charts and all over the magazines, but they're not on Absolute. The one exception they made was for the worst of the lot, Florence & the Machine. Proper eighties pop is fine, they'll play Soft Cell as happily as everyone else does - but the modern synth stuff is just not here. In other words; landfill indie may not be as prominent as it was, but don't dare hope that the threat is totally gone. Boys with guitars are still the default new music for a lot of people out there.
Unrelatedly, pretty much: I saw a lot more English flags than Union ones flying in the countryside. That can't be good.
alexsarll: (bill)
If you like Seth Rogen films, Will Ferrell films, basically any of the good comedies that have been coming out of America lately, you must see The Hangover. Went into it somewhat uncertain - against all those interlocking sets of funny guys, I didn't really recognise anyone in this except the dad from Arrested Development. But it is hilarious. There's little I can say without spoiling it, and you probably know whether you'll like it from the set-up; four guys go for a stag night in Vegas. They wake the next morning to find the room trashed, a tiger in the bathroom, and the groom missing. They have no idea what happened in between.

Raced through the last season of Battlestar Galactica this week and can't help but feel disappointed. she was a grand old lady - spoilers below and likely in comments )

Finally succeeded in seeing the Wellcome Collection yesterday. I had expected something more thoroughly medical in theme, but between the sex toys and torture implements and pictures of Wellcome himself in fancy dress with the 'tache to end all 'taches, I conclude that it's not that far from Sir John Soane's, just with a little more pretence towards being something other than one rich bloke's collection of crazy stuff.
alexsarll: (crest)
All those Sam Tyler references in Ashes to Ashes had me thinking, whoever's mysteriously contacting Alex...could that voice be John Simm doing posh? It could, couldn't it? And then the trailer for next week blew my theory apart. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted, and now I'm back to having no idea at all where they're going with this, but being confident that it will be somewhere good. And I've been reading a 2000 issue of Select which I found while clearing out my desk, all articles about 'what are MP3s?' and *video* reviews and interviews saying how Embrace's second album will take them to the next level, and this isn't even from so very long ago - I moved to London in 2000 - and it makes me more than ever think that after Ashes to Ashes is done, the nineties are now strange and distant enough for Dead Man Walking to be a perfectly viable series.

Speaking of changing eras, I read Virginia Woolf's Orlando yesterday, and what a glorious confection of rhapsody, absurdity and time it is. Yes, it's 13 years since I got into the band of the same name and followed up plenty of the other reference points, but I'd seen the film and I don't like reading books too soon after seeing the film, even in cases like this where knowing the plot is a fairly abstract concern. It's the starring role The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen has now found for Orlando (the androgyne, not the band, though that I would also love to see) which had me investigating, because the infuriating braggart of '1910' is not at all how I remembered Tilda Swinton in the film. And indeed, is not what I find in Woolf's original. I think Moore and O'Neill have the promiscuity and the rough-housing down better than Swinton, but she has that distracted quality which they've lost. And while inserting side adventures during and after the novel's timeline works perfectly, I question whether LoEG has not done a certain damage to the premise by making Orlando an ancient who fought at Troy and Actium; one of the features which I feel most strongly in Woolf's novel is the sense of Orlando's rootedness in the English countryside, the ancestry which ties Orlando to the soil regardless of gender or distance. And it's a shame, because the way in which Woolf's Orlando moves so self-consciously yet seamlessly from age to age - a gigantic cloud rolling in as the 18th Century gives way to the 19th, for instance, and England suddenly, gradually growing damper - is just the sort of play on the eras' conceptions of themselves and each others to which the League project draws such delightful attention*.

In much the same spirit of meditative Englishess as Orlando, I finally watched Cloudspotting, which I apologise for not plugging while it could still be caught on iPlayer. I've raved about Gavin Pretor-Pinney's Cloudspotter's Guide here before, I'm sure, and the new appreciation it gave me for the beauty which floats above us most every day. But the concept works even better on TV, with the BBC's archive of near Miyazaki-quality flying footage to plunder, and Pretor-Pinney himself so naturally and thoroughly engaging, like a cross between Jim Broadbent and Mark Gatiss, except more fun. One credit did surprise me, though: Script editor: Steve Aylett.

Never got around to writing about that Keith TOTP/Glam Chops show last week, did I? In part because I only wrote about them a week or so earlier, and not much changed except that Eddie was drunker and Glam Chops have a new song called 'Thunderstruck'. Which kicks arse. Oh, and I finally watched a Gregg Araki film, Mysterious Skin. Which was much as I expected in terms of tormented small-town US gayness, but all that UFO stuff and missing memories made me think of Velvet Goldmine and Flex Mentallo, which can never be a bad thing. Also, it has Dawn from Buffy as an off-the-rails fag hag with great eye make-up! It is, alas, let down by the standard problem afflicting any film which addresses wrongcockery - even in a world where cinema can convincingly show us an army of thousands of orcs and undead rucking in front of Minas Tirith, if you're showing a kiddy-fiddler on film, the effects and editing have to be so clunky as to make entirely clear even to madmen and magistrates that the child was not on stage while the nasty man said the rude things.

*Of course, nerd polyfilla is easily applied here: in the League world Woolf's book is known by the title which is in any case its full title here: Orlando - A Biography. Woolf was one of those eminently readable but maddeningly agenda-led biographers, who in satirising the conventions of biography, ran roughshod over a real life rather than a fictional one.
alexsarll: (bill)
Lots of comedians this weekend, and I don't just mean the nine-strong troupe last night, fostering a convivial atmosphere even though they were playing a room which also contained chocolate wine. On Friday the Curious Orange came into Gosh, when I was already on a bit of a high from being told that for reasons which remain opaque to me, there's a signed Miracleman print with my name quite literally on it, free of charge*. And on Saturday, at the Ivy, just when we were beginning to think the whole place was people wanting to be mistaken for celebrities rather than the 'real' thing, who should be placed at the next table but Ricky Gervais and companion, both looking miserable as virtue. Should you ever be at the Ivy, incidentally, I can recommend the pumpkin gnocchi.

Also on Friday, well, I suppose you could link this to comedy, because the idea was that I should spin a pop set! Not that I don't like pop, you understand, I just have somewhat erratic ideas on what constitutes a dancefloor classic. I'd brought along a grab bag of ideas, and the preceding set by [livejournal.com profile] ursarctous had included three tracks I'd been considering ('Song 4 Mutya', Robyn and 'I Told Her On Alderaan' so that at least narrowed my options to a more manageable level. Specifically:
Beautiful robots, dancing alone )
After some early panic (I'd played two Number Ones and the new Girls Aloud single, what more did people want from me, blood?) the slightly self-indulgent PSB choice got people on the floor for the rest of the set. Yay for self-indulgence.

Have finally seen Sunset Boulevard, and the only thing that's stopped me quoting it all weekend is that I also received a book with the tagline "Your Galaxy Is Toast, Monkey Boys!" But what a classic, ahead of The Player and Entourage in getting Hollywood to gleefully skewer its own, and more savage and true and beautiful than either still. I know it's popular on stage too, but for me it has to be a film, and a film with the cast playing themselves - Gloria Swanson the old silent star with Erich von Stroheim reduced to her butler (and isn't Greed still lost, his reputation still a phantom?), watching a film they really made together, him in his own clothes. Buster Keaton and the other 'waxworks'. Hedda Hopper and Mr de Mille as themselves, the latter using his real nickname for her. So much reality, yet so far from the sort of tiresome 'realism' which usually just means 'dullness'. And it put me in just the right mood for some Max Beerbohm today, similarly metatextual hilarity at the expense of the arts, albeit literary ones in his case, read in the park interspersed with bits of the paper, before heading off to see if there are any ducklings about (answer: not yet, but I did see some scruffy young coots, which probably aren't called cootlets, but should be).

*Not a bad comics haul, either - only four issues but each of them a gem. comics stuff, some Spidey spoilers )
**[livejournal.com profile] angelv later played the Rialto song of the same name; I honestly don't know which of them is better.

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