alexsarll: (default)
Just over a week now since I got back from Prague; the now-traditional late anniversary trip which has taken us ever further afield, first Margate, then Bruges, and this year Mitteleuropa. The first time I've flown in getting on for a decade, too, and I still can't abide the ridiculous mixture of security theatre and profiteering which we still have to go through on account of one half-arsed terror scheme all those years ago.
In Berlin, which even more than Paris seems to have made too many concessions to the automobile, we almost wholly failed even to skirt the fringes of the city's famous nightlife. True, it can't have helped that we were there on weeknights in January, but mostly we tired ourselves out sufficiently doing the hits (museums, Wall fragments, the Brandenburg Gate) that evenings in with Lidl fizz were a welcome wind-down. The exception being the black light crazy golf, which was a truly consciousness-expanding experience (not something one often hears said of golf), even given we left the cocktails until after. And then, a train along the Elbe, all castles and crags. Well, I say that; first there were interminable plains which made East Anglia look fascinating, but I try to forget those. But then the romantic riverside, and then Prague itself, one of the very few cities which to me is a thing in itself rather than a monoculture ultimately traceable to a cutting from one London district. This was my third visit, and I hope it won't be my last, for each time there are new riches, or at least new riches to me - the Cubist cafe, the old Jewish cemetery and the Municipal Hall have all been standing since long before my first time there, way back in the nineties. There's a lot more English spoken now, which I put down to the stag parties and the Internet; also a lot more Thai massage places, which I'm pretty sure will just be the stag parties. But it's still Prague, still cheap by any standards other than the past's, still enchanted. And long may it remain so.

Since I returned, I've managed to be busy without being particularly social, in part because I was already booked elsewhere on the night of the month's big people-I-know-gig. Still, worth missing the odd show to see Daniel Kitson, who remains, well, Kitson - more comedic this time than sometimes, more play than storyteller, but still a law unto himself. Ditto Birdman, a film I like despite it being up for awards from the Academy, whose general cluelessness is finally beginning to become more widely apparent now they've snubbed The Lego Movie (I'm not saying they're the world figures most in need of hanging from lamp-posts, but I would like to see them on that list). Even at the Union Chapel, for my first Daylight Music of the season, I managed to miss many of the people I knew on account of it being unusually full of people I didn't. Who could have known that the mainstream draw they needed was Amelia Fletcher singing about chickens, Sarah Cracknell's new sixties-style side-project, and Darren Hayman doing William Morris?

There's still a ton of other stuff I should write up - most of Autumn and Winter is jotted in drafts somewhere - but let's post this now, at a sensible length, rather than strive eternally for something compressed and complete.


May. 16th, 2011 09:18 pm
alexsarll: (bill)
And so the summer of superhero films kicks off with Thor, and we now seem to have reached the point where - thank the Allfather - a lot of the genre mainstays can be taken for granted. So rather than going through the standard plot beats and the origin and blah blah blah, Kenneth Branagh can stitch together a culture clash comedy, a conspiracy thriller and a high fantasy take on Shakespeare's histories, and it's still a viable blockbuster, even with near-unknowns in the lead roles. Both of them perfect for their parts, as well - Thor the affable dickhead, and a plausibly devilish Loki (and the idea that Hiddleston initially wanted to play Thor is baffling - if it were ever even remotely plausible then he must be an even better actor than he seems). The support includes some more familiar faces, almost all of whom seem perfectly at home in their roles - Idris Elba as Heimdall owns the role as well as winding up Nazis, Anthony Hopkins is a perfect Odin. The Warriors Three are a slight misfire: Hogun was always The Other One and the guy from Ichi the Killer can't change that; and even Titus Pullo was never going to convince as Volstagg when I'd so recently seen Orson Welles' Falstaff. Great Errol Flynn-ing from the guy playing Fandral, though.
And what do they do with all these ingredients? Smart things. Like, having the Earth action take place in a New Mexico town, because that's jeopardy enough and it makes a change from all the big cities that usually get imperilled, and besides there's Asgard for all that, and Asgard looks amazing - just Kirbytech enough without feeling like a clunky homage. And speaking of the comics references, spoiler ) in the post-credits sequence for which surprisingly few people stayed around. And it felt properly cosmic - stripping out the comics' usual compromise with christianity, when Jane Foster gasps 'my god' at the sight of Thor, you know it's meant literally. It helps that the whole thing looks and sounds so solid, right down to those end credits with Yggdrasil as a nebula. These are not aliens who've been taken for gods - they are gods.
Problems? Well, the Warriors Three I've mentioned, and Sif's not much better. Indeed, the female roles generally are a bit thin, except for Kat Dennings as Darcy, a character who if she was in the comics, I completely missed. Dennings is also in Defendor, an altogether less glitzy superhero film I watched this week. Essentially it's Kick-Ass with one quite plausible change: the would-be superhero is not an idealistic kid, but a mentally ill middle-aged man. Played with a brilliant mixture of anger, confusion and faith by Woody Harrelson. Well worth a look - but, let's be honest, not a patch on the punching-right-through-monsters fun of Thor.

On Saturday two places I've been past hundreds of times finally became places I'd been into. The Finsbury Park Nando's first, and later - after 'The Doctor's Wife', which was glorious in concept, and mostly in execution too, yet seemed oddly slow in places - the Unicorn. Which sits along the 29 and 253 route in that nowhere territory that is neither Camden nor Holloway, and which turns out to have the atmosphere and prices of a pub in at least Zone 4, and to feel oddly like a venue from a dream - "I was watching my flatmates play in a band, but when I turned around, we were all just stood in the corner of a suburban pub". And for all that I am now the non-musical inhabitant of the Maisionette Beautiful, the Indelicates album on which I am part of the backing choir is now available. And, regardless of my small contributions, very good indeed.

I picked up Edward Hollis' The Secret Lives of Buildings in the library more or less at random, but it's a fascinating read. Hollis is an architect by trade, but is fascinated by the great lies and false dreams of architects - the ways that buildings never quite turn out how they were supposed to, and that even if they do, people get in the way. And that then people get to a point where they start trying to pin down the authentic form of a building that never quite had one. It's psychogeography of a sort, I suppose, but nothing like the wandering, gonzo style with which the field has become almost synonymous. From the Parthenon to Vegas and Macao, it pieces together the story of humanity through what we've dreamed and built and repurposed.

A rant

Feb. 26th, 2010 12:01 pm
alexsarll: (marshal)
In spite of London Transport's best efforts, I made it to the Good Ship last night in time for Lullaby Oscillatrix, and The Icebergs, and The Angry Bees, three very different new musical adventures involving my endlessly creative chums (OK, 'musical' might not be quite the right word in the case of the Bees). And the faff en route did at least mean I could pretty much finish off Anna Minton's Ground Control en route. It's a book I've been trying to read in public not just for the normal reason of it being nicely pocket-sized, but also as my own small rejoinder to the situation it describes in which, as that review is headlined, "they sold our streets and nobody noticed". The current government has encouraged councils to privatise public space, to sell off assets which were bequeathed to local communities in perpetuity (if not legally, then morally, this is clearly theft), to design cities in accord with unproven and pernicious theories. There's so much here I didn't know. Just one example: since 2004, compulsory purchase orders no longer need to show public benefit in any terms other than monetary ones. Needless to say, the idea that said money will benefit the public relies on our old favourite, trickledown economics - because in the short term it's going straight to the developers. Shameful. Also, it would seem, inescapable. This all took place under a nominally Labour government, which is shameful and ludicrous, but it's not as if it would be reversed by the admitted Tories, and I no longer even have any confidence in the Lib Dems.
In 1821, John Hunt was imprisoned for an article describing MPs as "Venal boroughmongers, grasping placemen, greedy adventurers and aspiring title-hunters...a body, in short, containing a far greater proportion of Public Criminals than Public Guardians." Obviously a lot has changed since then; now MPs realise that prosecution only makes martyrs and the system ticks over nicely if you just ignore how much the public hates the whole damn pack of you, so critics can make high-profile TV dramas like On Expenses which essentially advance Hunt's point over an hour of docudrama (the usual disclaimer admitting that some details have been compressed then turns around and reminds us that "mostly, you couldn't make it up") with a fine cast including Brian Cox and Anna Maxwell Martin...and nobody bats an eyelid, and MPs complain that they can't be expected to travel in standard class with the proles, and they use slave labour in breach of the minimum wage laws they passed themselves, and we head towards an election which is once again going to beat all the records for low turn-out because nobody's fool enough to believe any result would accomplish anything, especially not after we saw that even if we had a genuinely inspirational politician like Barack Obama - which we clearly don't - then, like Obama, he would probably be incapable of achieving anything if he got in, not with the system arrayed against him.
alexsarll: (bernard)
Does anybody happen to have a copy of Children of the Revolution? It's one of those offbeat comedies the Australians do so well, featuring several of the usual suspects - Rachel Griffiths, Sam Neill, Geoffrey Rush - and concerning Stalin's secret son growing up in Cold War Australia. I taped it off TV a couple of weeks back and, watching it on Monday, was really getting into it when the tape cut out; further investigation showed that the film had been pushed back by (what else?) sportism.

I like Richmond. Not its slightly provincial clone high street, but once you get even a little off that, you get theatres and libraries and cheap but not nasty pubs around greens where the kids disporting themselves are all sufficiently middle-class not to be threatening, only endearingly Skins-esque, and where bluff old gents stomp past with their beards, pipes and fisherman's caps, looking for all the world like they could have helped Jerome K Jerome out of a spot of comic difficulty that very afternoon. Not perhaps the first place one would expect to find Philip Jeays playing, but if he hadn't been I wouldn't have been there, so can't complain, eh?

Am still attempting to process Mervyn Peake's Mr Pye. It's no kin to Gormenghast, that's for sure; it lacks the Dickensian squalor, the dustiness, the constriction. Nor does it seem to me a simple 'christian allegory', one popular assessment; I suppose for a time it is, but apart from anything else every 40 pages or so it seems to become a totally different story, and all this without leaving the strange, tiny and very real island of Sark. At one point it seemed to me like Iris Murdoch attempting to complete a book from an outline left by PG Wodehouse; later like one of the South American magic realists had taken a holiday to the Channel Islands. Strangest of all, for all its marriage of lightheartedness to the deep power of faith, not once did it remind me of GK Chesterton. Perhaps I should simply accept it as a good read from the days before the genre walls went up.

Taped Channel 4's Life After People on Monday, but that review was enough to convince me that I don't need to watch it. I'm reading The World Without Us at the moment, and as much as I find the idea of the post-human world both fascinating and soothing, I'm not sufficiently obsessed with it to watch one of those bad CGI pseudo-documentaries about it. Maybe the one being adapted from the book will be sufficiently well-done for me to make an exception. It's not like films can never manage the same elegiac sense of our exit; Children of Men did a pretty good job of it. Of course, on some level I'm not daydreaming about the world without all humans, so much as the world without all the ones who are just cluttering the place up; ideally there should still be enough unspecified tech and supplies for me and mine to be comfortable in between wandering around appreciating the quiet decay. In the meantime, even an empty street can have something of the same piquancy - witness Woodrow Phoenix's Rumble Strip*, a haunting, damning commentary on car culture in which the art consists entirely of pictures of empty roads and carparks, street furniture, lane markings - for these streets no longer welcome people, and like most monsters the automobiles work better as unseen menaces. Even out among the bustle, it sounds as though ghost bikes have something of the same eloquence of absence.

*For the record, another fine 'graphic novel' which is clearly not a novel.

January 2016



RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Sep. 26th, 2017 06:14 pm
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios