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.


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 [ 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)
Feels like life has been fairly quiet of late, (except when it hasn't, of course - Hyde Park picnics, Leyton pubs that are at least decently apologetic about hating my people, SE14's answer to the Shaftesbury). But in early summer, especially this year as it's still picking up from the tardy spring, I don't mind that. The evenings are still simply beautiful, without that complex melancholy they acquire later on - though it would help if I had the park for them, when instead it's being turned into some sort of prison camp for Madchester arseholes (sorry, tautology, I know). Still, I've had my chances to go a-roaming - up trees, over banks, through hedges and across a Heath resplendent with buttercups like I've never seen. Even got to share a tree with a jay at one point - a much better companion than parakeets, who may be beautiful, but in prolonged proximity are no better than the sort of person who wears Beats By Dre headspeakers. Guessed a stranger's dog's name, too - though given my guess was Slobberchops, based on obvious physical features, I don't think that's much proof of psychic potential.

Been watching a lot of adventure series lately - The Avengers, Brisco County Jr, Adventure Time - and hardly any films. One exception: Night of the Eagle, which as the name suggests is close kin to the MR James adaptation Night of the Demon. Peter Wyngarde - excellent value as ever - plays a sixties Richard Dawkins who discovers his wife's a closet witch and makes her burn her "protections", after which their lives go about as smoothly as you'd expect. There are loose plot threads all over the place and it doesn't even seem quite sure whether magic works or not in its world, but it's thoroughly eerie nonetheless. Spartacus ended for good, and Doctor Who for now; the former was the downer it was always going to be, the latter much better than I'd dared expect, though it may have helped that I had the contrast of having just finished the rambling Reign of Terror, the first full Hartnell I've attempted in a decade or more.

And then after 'The Name of the Doctor' there was Eurovision, in which as ever the worthy victor was robbed - this time it was Romania (or rather Romoania) with the gay dubstep vampire. We left after that and Bonnie Tyler to see The French Electric live down the road, sounding like the National before they went boring, covering songs from Dare! and getting away with it. They were followed by a tragic act who could have sounded like Mazzy Star or Lana del Rey if only the drums had been turned down (or preferably off), which was my cue to depart. Thee Faction and Joanne Joanne at the Buffalo Bar were excellent, same as last time they played there together, and once again I drank entirely too much. Possibly because I'd realised that, if they're a genderswapped Duran Duran and Keith and I had been hanging with them in the pub earlier, that made us genderswapped 'Girls on Film' video babes. I should possibly be seeing them again tonight, but outside was calling, and I'm still in a certain amount of gig-shock after seeing the Art Brut birthday gig on what they weren't allowed to call the Glass Ceiling Tour. Ten years! They've learned a lot in that time, though. And the Scala...I'd forgotten how much I liked that venue. I'd forgotten how much I like the rare big gig - and it turns out they do still exist - where the crowd Get It. And the support slot from Keith et al wasn't bad either - I think the best show I've seen them do since the Devant support with the spiralling, near-infinite 'One Thing After Another'. They're a big band, a big stage suits them.

Anyway, my dears, I think I need another cup of decaf tea before Justified. It's a rock'n'roll life and no mistake.
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 [ 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. [ 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: (crest)
Last time I posted here, I wasn't really aware of the comedian and Being Human star Colin Hoult. Since then, I've beaten him at a comics-themed pub quiz, where he was teamed with Stewart Lee (of whom I am very much aware), and seen him play the romantic lead in a musical also featuring Thom Tuck, Kevin Eldon and [ profile] catbo (ditto). So well done Colin Hoult for effectively increasing awareness of your work among the key [ profile] barrysarll demographic. Because I was watching Kevin Eldon narrate [ profile] martylog's adaptation of ETA Hoffman's "last and worst" book, I had to iPlayer the first episode of his deeply uneven sketch show, and then further wonder why it was scheduled against another BBC show clearly appealing to much the same audience, the excellent zombie rehab drama In the Flesh, which has been by some distance the best thing on TV recently. And Bluestone 42's not bad either - between the two of them, they're in danger of giving BBC3 a good reputation. Doctor Who, on the other hand...well, I went in to the mid-season whatever you call 'The Bells of St John' with low expectations after Moffat's last two episodes, and it was at least better than I expected, but I still can't decide whether it was actually any good.

In less grand gig news, not taking place in hidden Hoxton music halls, I've caught up with Bevan 17 successor entity Desperate Journalist, who have a very Banshees sound, and otherwise mainly seen former members of Luxembourg. 60% of them were playing 'Mishandled' and 'The 2 of Us' at a Suede tribute night in the Boogaloo, which was spine-tingling, and another 20% was taking pictures. I asked if he'd fancied joining in, but he insisted that it would only dent the chances of a big money reunion a few years down the line. And then the final 20%, Jonny Cola, was playing his first gig in a while, but given he's now down two of his old kidneys and up one of his fiancee's, maybe it was more like 19%? It's like a glam rock Ship of Theseus. Anyway, they were all better than hearing an oompah band covering Coldplay in a venue devoted to the consumption of beer and wurst, followed by a trip to Covent Garden's Roadhouse, a club where I suspect rohypnol and Red Bull is the house cocktail. A shame, as that day had previously been going pretty well, if you count loud discussions of dogging and Ulysses in a riverside pub as a good afternoon, which clearly I do.

Other than that? Photo exhibition launches, book launches, the general whirl of media scumbaggery. Waiting for the Spring to finally arrive, like everyone. Watching Yahoo Serious' Mr Accident (it's no Young Einstein). Being astonished that an unremarkable Earl's Court pub can charge £4.55 for a pint. Hoping that the Leisure Hive does well, because clubs like that make me feel a little less old. Writing this at a gallop because if I dither now it'll take another fortnight.
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: (bernard)
Last weekend, I got the equivalent of one of those experiences where people who baffle me go into a sauna (bad enough in itself), then run out into the snow. Saturday night: the first big gig I've been too in a year or more, Crystal Castles. Who at least have an audience smaller than those at the last big gig I went to, Magazine - they mostly appeared to be tiny children with brightly-coloured hair or Siouxsie Sioux eye make-up, which makes for an adorable agglomerate. Brixton Academy remains a great venue, despite the management's best efforts, and Crystal Castles continue to be one of the few modern electronic bands who really impress me, on account of having a bit of Digital Hardcore somewhere in their make-up - that old idea of a song at once physically painful and catchy. Plus, all the lightshow one generally only sees at gigs which are supposed to be A Bit Much in films. In short: delicious overstimulation. And then, on Sunday, Boring, a day of talks devoted to the mundane. Obviously the idea is that considered in enough detail, the most superficially tedious things can reveal fascination - or terror, in the case of ASMR, a subculture of which I was happily unaware before [ profile] rhodri's talk.
Conclusion: they were both lots of fun. But I still have no intention of rushing out of a sauna into the snow, thanks all the same.

Otherwise: went for a wander with Paynter and found various odd little London delights along our way, all of which were supposed to be closed but, because it was one of those evenings, weren't. Such as a Soho gallery full of clocks become castles, and mutant taxidermy. Or an enormous free tire slide plonked in Leicester Square as promotion for a film where Wolverine plays the Easter Bunny. Finally managed to beat Charlie Higson and David Arnold at the pub quiz - but on a week where they weren't on form, so as to still only make third. Perhaps we shouldn't have named ourselves after a supervillain team, given their success rate? Saw the Pre-Raphaelite and Turner Prize exhibitions, each containing some good stuff alongside a great deal of embarrassing filler, though obviously the dead guys' ratio was a bit better. Went to another gig, at more my usual level, where Joanne Joanne were again delightful (they've started to incorporate songs from the cocaine soul years now), and Shrag played their song very well. Went on a Tubewalk, and discovered that in Lambeth it's easier to find leopard pigs than a bearable pub; the first was playing the sort of jazz that gives jazz a bad name, the second too full and too gastro for words (and had signs urging us to 'follow our banter online'), and the third was set on closing half of its floorspace for no apparent reason. And they wonder why people prefer to drink at home now.

The Guard is a black comedy starring Brendan Gleeson, a man whose face is so expressive that I could happily watch a film of him doing his weekly shop. It somehow comes across as low key in spite of all the swearing and violence - much like In Bruges, which also stars him and whose director is The Guard's director's brother. Also like In Bruges, the rest of the cast is packed with great actors - Liam Cunningham, Mark Strong as a particularly philosophical drug dealer, Don Cheadle as the FBI agent out of water in rural Ireland. Strangely moving, unlike How to Steal a Million, which I'd seen years ago and which is still as gorgeously empty as prime Wodehouse, a beautiful insubstantial rainbow which would evaporate without Peter O'Toole and Audrey Hepburn anchoring it by sheer charm. Both are of course vastly better than Prometheus, two hours of sound and fury signifying nothing but the bleeding obvious. But then, I've already discussed that on Facebook, haven't I? The same place we all now tend to put anything pithy, anything intended to get a mass response. The latest wave of spambots has taken me back to a few old entries on here, just to delete their spoor, and I'm amazed each time by what a busy poster I was. So young, too - there's a spot of anti-RTD hysteria in one of the entries I saw which makes me sound about 12. Even some of the longer, more considered content isn't here anymore - my book reviews are on Goodreads now. And yet, this is kept going, in part simply because it has been kept going, and so it would seem crazy to abandon it now - a very London attitude, beyond which, I never did like lines drawn under the past. And I suppose now, unlike February, June, July and October 2012, I've made it at least one more month with more than a single post. Livejournal Abides.
alexsarll: (pangolin)
Just finished two months with Netflix - a free trial followed by a period paid-but-with-cashback-coming, courtesy of Quidco. The selection of films is patchy, though I did enjoy the Norwegian oddity Troll Hunter and the gleeful retro vigilante pastiche Hobo With A Shotgun, and to some extent Double Indemnity, even if a noir classic is always going to be slightly hobbled if, as here, the obligatory femme fatale resembles Frankenstein's monster in a Little Lord Fauntleroy wig. Where the site really excels, though, is TV. No HBO, alas, what with Murdoch having still not had all his ill-gotten gains prised from his dying grasp - but exactly the sort of thing you want to watch once but not own, and might not get through in a week from the library. The second series of Whedon's Dollhouse, for instance - which, while still sometimes deeply creepy in ways that don't seem wholly intentional, gets away from the generic episodes that clogged too much of the first series, moves the action on while only feeling *slightly* rushed, and - uniquely for a Whedon TV show - feels like it ends at just the right spot. Or Killing Time, the true story of an Australian criminal lawyer who comes to a bad end, starring Faramir. I also got through the first season of Breaking Bad, but that's a different matter, feeling more like the start of a new obsession.
But that's done now. Ditto the final Thick of It, Silv in Lilyhammer and Frodo in Wilfred. Parade's End and the misfiring Doctor Who seasonlet feel like they were ages ago, Misfits has gone off the boil, and I don't feel quite ready to embark on the second series of Blake's 7 just yet. So until I commit to another box set, the extent of my TV commitments would seem to be Friday Night Dinner. Guess I might finally use up some of those library loyalty cards and catch up with all the films I've not seen this year; only one I've borrowed lately was A Fantastic Fear of Everything, which is far better than the artistic output of Crispian Mills has any right to be.

Otherwise, there was Bonfire Night, for which I did nothing in particular but still saw fireworks because London, and Hallowe'en. I only dressed up on the Saturday before, and yet even with the cape sweeping behind me felt deeply underdressed at the American Hallowe'en bash. How I would have coped the Saturday after next to [ profile] xandratheblue as Judge Anderson, I dread to think, so I kept it suited and booted. And in between, on the night itself, there was the terrifying spectacle of Keith Top of the Pops and his ALL WEARING KEITH MASKS Backing Band. Chilling. Though less so than Without Fidel, who featured a glockenspiel and had a singer playing the awkward schoolghoul, and did covers of 'Super Bass' and 'We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together' which made a strong case for outlawing cover versions. Still, Her Parents were great. Hardcore is still not something I'd necessarily listen to at home, but they do a very good show.
alexsarll: (Default)
Well, if we overlook an astonishing disappointing Dalek effort from the once-great Moffat, that was rather a lovely evening - lounging in a Crouch End gazebo by candlelight, all suitably louche. And at lunchtime I'd finally got round to attending one of the Union Chapel's daytime concerts, with (The Real) Tuesday Weld taking full advantage of the pulpit; the night before I'd walked through Holborn, along the South Bank and then down to the deep South for [ profile] my_red_dream's wedding reception, where pretty much all the old faces were together again for the first time in I don't know how long. It has been, in brief, a pretty satisfactory weekend.

At some point I got very behind writing about shows I've seen; Edinburgh is done now, and I've not even caught up with the last of the previews I saw before it kicked off. Impressed to have caught three of the Best Newcomer nominees (including the rather surprising winner) courtesy of [ profile] diamond_geyser (all mentioned in previous posts, I think) - but then there were also the very sweet Grainne Maguire (who is not a character act), curly-haired Matt Highton (for whom I became a professional gag-writer), Phil Nichol (a sort of Canadian Al Pacino who was probably great once he'd learned his material), and Nick Doody (wrong and brilliant). And then, at a normal venue, whatever the opposite of a preview is, so now I have *finally* seen Dinosaur Planet in full.

Also, there were plays! At the Bridewell Theatre, which is not just a name, for said well half-blocks the entrance to the basement bar. I was there to see [ profile] perfectlyvague's Thatcher in Berkoff's Sink the Belgrano - which is treasonous rot, but part of being one of the good guys is being able to enjoy art even when it's wrong. Also on the bill was Man of Destiny, the first George Bernard Shaw I've seen in ages. He really was much better at speeches than drama, wasn't he?
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)
Almost managed two posts in a week again there, then instead decided to wait, consider, compress. Who knows why? Once things like the Spring view over the East juxtaposed with a spot of tabletop WAR, then White Russians the next evening, would have sufficed for a paragraph's worth of pondering, if not a post's. What remains? The Avengers, for one. Not the film - though it is currently monopolising my forthcoming cinema excitement reserves - but the old series which has necessitated its UK renaming, and by that I do mean the *old* series. I'd never seen anything before the episodes with Diana Rigg as Emma Peel before, and Honor Blackman as Cathy Gale feels, for the most part, like her prototype. What's more surprising is the other elements - the plots which are more conventional espionage, even at times faintly CSI, as against the ludicrous carnival of British eccentricity which comes later. In particular, three of the episodes we watched had an obsession with missiles which made the whole thing more Cold War, less Kinks. The one exception, the one which felt like classic Avengers, was 'Intercrime' by Doctor Who mainstays Terrance Dicks and Malcolm Hulke. But even there the quips don't quite work, Steed feels a little too much the secret agent rather than the perfect gentleman, and so forth. They're not bad shows, certainly not by the standards of the time (and I'd still take them over most current investigative TV) - they're just not yet The Avengers.

Underworld was the first Doctor Who story to be shown in my lifetime. And blow me, special effects have improved a lot during that time. There was sod all money available to film it, but whereas the new series approaches that by constructing ingenious plays in lifts like 'Midnight', or just effects-light, small-cast affairs, Underworld tells what's probably one of the TV series' more would-be epic tales - a race disastrously uplifted by the Time Lords, a ship which has been questing for a hundred thousand years, another around which a degenerate civilisation has arisen, never knowing anything is outside. The mismatch between ambition and budget is dealt with by having all the scenery back-projected. Now, some people think this looks dodgy and fake in modern attempts like Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, but trust me, you've not seen dodgy and fake until you see the seventies version. On the plus side, at least the cast can't bump into the scenery - even if that means their feet are either floating above it or disappearing into it instead.

Gigs: Quimper again, at Nambucca, which has acknowledged its place as the absolute limit by adopting the sign of Omega. If they claimed to be the Ω of live music, wit might be demonstrated; instead, some claims have them as the ohmhm of live music, and others as the ohmme. Nitwits. The bill makes no sense, but at least one of the support bands has one song which suggests they like McLusky. Quimper accidentally headline, which is only right and proper but leaves them pretty much preaching to the choir. 'The King in Yellow' remains my favourite, but then I'm biased.
Also: the DDR of R'n'B down in Putney. Even more than most of the West, Putney reminds me of cities in the first Civilisation; it has a set store of elements, but most of them move around between visits. Once I finally locate the Half Moon, I am not entirely surprised to find that the famous blues venue is now a gastropub. It does still have a great venue room out back, which I would certainly recommend to people wanting to do a night were it not, as I may have mentioned, in Putney. The Nuns are, as ever, electric; and Blindness impress me with their echoes of the good bits of Curve. But even though it's Thee Faction's night, I'm not wholly sold on them in these surrounds. In a crumbling Clapton halfway house, their socialist R'n'B felt urgent and true; there's nothing wrong with how they play this time, but the moneyed surroundings seem to neutralise some of their fire, and leave it feeling like the schtick for which (again, in a fairly posh venue) I initially mistook it.


Feb. 13th, 2012 08:14 pm
alexsarll: (bernard)
Not that I ever documented everything on here, because I am not that flavour of insane, but I do miss the old entries which, taken together, formed almost an encyclopaedia of oneself. Now it's just glimpses from the window of a speeding train, while the passing observations, the news and the baiting get spat out on Facebook instead. At least the Timeline over there, for all the inevitable complaints, mean that one has an archive of sorts again. So. What to report in this particular fragment? There was snow, wasn't there? And fine snow, of whose methods I approved: come down heavy for a couple of hours; turn Highbury Fields (my favourite part of London for snow) into a wonderland just in time for me to walk across it to Glam Racket in my big new boots, with Kate Bush in my ears and flakes settling on my shoulders; stick around one more day so that there can be snowball fights and snow Daleks on the Parkland Walk; and then off. The odd snowman can still be seen here and there, slowly shifting form like Ovid went monochrome, but there are no pavements of miserable slush, no desperate clinging on. I appreciate this sense of timing in a weather condition, and hope other seasons learn from it.

Oh yes, and I went to the Windmill - where I could also have been tonight, but there's only so much time and energy for jaunts to the wilds, and I must to Putney later this week. The Indelicates have a new song, in which Simon sings about disgust. I think he may inadvertently have nicked the intro from Jeays' 'Arles', though he denies it, and if he keeps telling his bandmates that since they don't know it, they'll just ruin it if he joins in, then I shan't complain. Pop needs more scorn.
alexsarll: (seal)
Quiet Fridays and big Saturdays for the past couple of weeks. But then most people seemed to stay in for Prince night on BBC4. The main thing I took away from the documentary was that I'd been too charitable in saying for years that 'Gold' was his last good song - hearing it again, it was in fact balls. Whereas finally seeing Purple Rain, I was mainly surprised by how ready Prince in his prime was to look a right twat. It's not something you expect of a...somewhat idiosyncratic pop star in their own vehicle, but as with Eminem in 8 Mile, it does wonders for my opinion of him. Or him then, at any rate,
And the first Saturday: a Deptford Beach Babes show in the Horatia, which aside from the small detail of being on Holloway Road, is clearly a provincial town's one alternative pub. In some ways that's good - a remarkably catholic clientele for somewhere as clique-prone as London. In others, less so - the gig ran an hour late and at one point there was a proper pub ruck.
Otherwise: pub, party, and a cancelled gig which instead became my first trip to Ed's Diner. I used to have arteries, I'm sure I did.

But, because too much normal social behaviour would never do, I was sure to balance it all out with a wodge of Doctor Who. An afternoon of Brigadier-centric stories had been mooted months pack by way of a tribute, both character and actor having died this year...but then you have to bear in mind that his prime underling is Sergeant Benton, and we ended up watching them just after the Richmond Park video blew up, and no, it didn't get tired, though that may have been because we were drinking. Day of the Daleks is really much better than I remembered. Jon Pertwee demonstrating his martial arts wizardry without spilling a drop of his wine! Jo Grant being so stupid that even the furniture judges her! And the human puppet ruler of the Dalek-dominated future Earth is clearly Charlie Brooker in metallic sheen make-up!
Not that it had anything to do with the Brig, but we also watched 'Night and the Doctor' the mini-episodes from the DVD of last season. You know how people complained that Amy never seemed to get the emotional reaction you'd expect to the theft of her daughter? That's explained here. So's every other continuity glitch in the history of Doctor Who. It's a lot quicker than you might expect, and also terribly moving, and true.
And then a couple of days later, Nightmare of Eden. A late-period Tom Baker story of which we knew little, and thus a presumed stinker, but in fact rather fun. Deeply, deeply 1970s - it's all jobsworths, dodgy facial hair and venality, but even the dastardly intergalactic drug dealers set their guns to stun. The stakes are low, but Who doesn't need to have the fate of the Earth or the universe at risk every time, something it was good to see the new series remembering this year.
alexsarll: (Default)
So. A little more than two weeks since I posted about anything but the New 52. During which time I have been to see [ profile] xandratheblue in sexy cabaret, in the pleasingly post-apocalyptic space the Old Vic have constructed in some old tunnels. And to the National Liberal Club, which is exactly the sort of grand old space where I think of London weddings as properly taking place since attending my first as a child, where people I'd not seen since university made me feel at once terribly old and surprisingly young. And paintballing, which I've never done before, and which is strangely fascinating for the way you really do feel the fog of war (and not just from the goggles steaming up on a day that really doesn't feel like October) - you have no idea whether you've hit anyone, or how many people are out there, or of anything much beyond the need to keep shooting and not get shot*. In the final game, having fallen in defence of the President (our stag, who turned out to be paint-bulletproof anyway), I watched from the Dead Zone as two fighters, unsure of each other's exact locations, frantically duelled from behind cover at a distance of maybe four yards, 'death' having granted an appropriately detached and godlike perspective on the conflicts of the living.
Then on to Oxford. Having been to the Other Place, I always thought of Cambridge as simply Oxbridge entire, whereas Oxford is what happens when you attach Oxford to an actual city. But lately I've realised that's not the whole story. Sitting in gentler, more thoroughly English countryside, not the blank, unfinished Fens, Oxford is more truly idyllic. Nor do the winds from the Urals chill it to the bone each winter. I don't know that anyone as thoroughly complacent as a Cameron or a Blair could ever come from somewhere with Cambridge's sharp edges. I think maybe that's been part of the problem these past 15 years. But then, I am of course massively biased.

Anyway: waiting at Paddington to assemble the paintballing party, I saw (though nobody else did) a fat child run past dressed as the Eleventh Doctor. Which confirmed that really, the look is not a good one in and of itself. What to make of the latter half of Season 32? I don't know why, but for me it didn't quite fly. I love the Ponds, and they were the best thing in the final episode, but I felt we got a little too much of them. We got the wrong Cybermen (especially when you've just rewatched The Invasion), defeated too soppily. There have been great images, great performances, great lines - none sadder than simply calling Amelia Pond 'Amy Williams' - but somehow they haven't added up to great Doctor Who, not even with a great Doctor in the lead. But now he's stepped back into the shadows, everything changes again, and I'm still very excited to see what happens next.

*Though this point was elastic. In one game, as attackers, we could respawn. In all games, by the rules of this establishment, head shots didn't count. I assume they wished to discourage head shots, while assuming that pain and startlement would be sufficient disincentives to stop people from willingly getting themselves headshot as a tactical measure. Given I have a very thick skull, and very thick hair, and a fairly high pain threshold, however, I was basically using my head to draw fire.
alexsarll: (magnus)
So: DC have just relaunched their entire comics line. As part of a bold and/or desperate attempt to draw in new readers, a fictional world with a publication history stretching back to 1938 just began again from scratch*. Last month's Action Comics was issue 904; this month, like all their other comics, it resets to issue 1. The sense of a vast and complex, and in places beautiful, sandcastle erased by the tide is, of course, a little melancholy. But the advantage to this is that, whereas 1938's Action Comics 1 might have been the birthplace of Superman (and through him a concept - the superhero - which gave the West gods again after two millennia of a pallid Nazarene death cult) wasn't actually very good. Superman's creators, Siegel and Shuster, were pioneers, not professionals. 2011's Action Comics 1, on the other hand, is by Grant Morrison - visionary, comics scholar, and mad brilliant bastard. Unlike me, he likes the original Action Comics 1 - but he still retools it, makes something fit for modern purpose, compresses its kineticism and ambiguities down into something bright and shiny and *now*. This is Superman not as establishment superhero, a statuesque head of the superheroic pantheon, but as the bold young Horus-figure, the upsetter, the radical who takes down corrupt businessmen (just like Superman did back in the thirties, before being smoothed down). Whether this energy will last, I don't know, but the first issue is definitely the way to begin.

The rest of the relaunch...well, obviously I'm not buying all 52 titles, because some of them looked like guaranteed stinkers, and plenty more like strictly the sort of generic superheroics which I'll read from the library but wouldn't want cluttering the place up. Of the ones I have picked up, some of them don't seem to be bothering with the reboot angle very much no spoilers, but the ramble obligatory for any blog with comics content continues herein )In summary: I still have no idea what the Hell DC think they're doing, but they have managed to get five good comics out of it so far, which was more than they've managed any time in recent memory. So...yay?

*Well, sort of. This is part of what makes the entire enterprise even more puzzling - some of the events of the past 73 years of comics, already reset and tweaked multiple times, are still part of the universe's history. But we don't know which ones. And the in-story explanation for the reset means there are big, complicated, not-new-reader-friendly machinations behind the scenes, linking all the different comics to varying degrees. Which, again, is not really the way to win over a possible new reader who just saw The Dark Knight and wants to read a Batman comic.
alexsarll: (Default)
So Doctor Who came back, and 'Let's Kill Hitler' turned out to be a total bait-and-switch, and then Mark Gatiss supplied the closest thing he's managed to a decent TV episode, and while I'm still loving Matt Smith, part of me can't help but feel that just maybe the whole long-arc-storytelling business has got a little out of hand, such that the done-in-ones now feel extraneous. But Moffat has himself said he's scaling back from that next year, and of course we'll still have Matt Smith, so really there's no cause for concern. And it's not as if things have got so horribly out of hand on that front as in Torchwood: Miracle Day, a show which one increasingly feels is dealing with the modern fascination with/abhorrence of spoilers by making sure that nothing happens from week to week. Every point it thinks it's making was already covered much better in Children of Earth. The closest it came to interest was in the flashback episode, where the hackneyed journey to a predictable destination at least mentioned Sarah Jane's antagonist the Trickster, thus providing a brief, happy memory of a TV Who spin-off that didn't suck.
(Speaking of spin-offs, the last couple of Who books I read were an interesting pair. James Goss' Dead of Winter is aimed at kids, more or less - it ties in with the new series. Matthew Jones' Bad Therapy was one of the fabled New Adventures, which started off by filling a gap when the series was off-air in the wilderness years, but ended up creating much of the template for its return. They're both historicals - one 19th century, one 1950s. Both are about alien tech curing people through creating idealised companions for them. And while the adult book can be a little more detailed about stuff like The Gays (though arguably less so than the modern TV show), they both have a real edge of nastiness. There's one scene in Bad Therapy especially which caused a sharp inhalation on my part, where a boy pursued by thugs finds his escape down an alley blocked by the TARDIS, hammers on the door - and dies because the Doctor and Chris are in a nearby caff. Which isn't how things should work when the Doctor's around. But even Dead of Winter finds room for some chilling stuff, in particular the Doctor's line "I'm going to tell you a story about a man who travels, and everywhere he goes, he makes everyone's lives better. I'm not that man. That man doesn't exist. I wish he did. I'd believe in him.")

Unrelated to the blue box, I've also seen the utterly batsh1t mental French-Czech animation Fantastic Planet, and the epically epic Neville Longbottom and the Speccy Emo Kid Who Keeps Stealing Neville's Screentime. And when I got home from the latter, I watched David Hare's Page Eight, in which Michael Gambon has a mission to take down the Dark Lord (or 'Prime Minister') Ralph Fiennes, except he dies, and Bill Nighy has to execute Gambon's legacy. A perfectly competent middlebrow drama, but the Potter films did it all so much better. Band-wise, I'm in the unusual position that none of the acts I've seen lately are my Facebook friends (although Patrick Duff did end up staying at the Maisionette Beautiful). First up, Duff and Andrew Montgomery, each playing one old song ('She's Everywhere' and 'Fall Apart Button', respectively), each still recognisably the same man as in their post-Britpop almost-pomp. Spookily so in Montgomery's case; he still looks and sounds as cherubic as in his Geneva days. Whereas Duff...well, you could tell from the twisted ferocity of a Strangelove show that his life was never easy, and the haunted folk he's playing nowadays may not be as loud, but emotionally it's no easier. All of this works brilliantly in the upstairs of the Old Queen's Head, which previously had never really gelled for me as a venue; with acts like this, who'd have been right at home in the old Spitz, its faded living room ambience is ideal. Then over to Hoxton to see Thomas Truax, essentially a mad scientist who has realised that making music with his mad science is less likely to get him arrested than robbing banks. Mostly his self-constructed instruments manage to steer clear of feeling like a novelty act, though the inevitably metronomic nature of automated percussion doesn't suit a song like 'I Put A Spell On You'. His own material, conceived around his technology's strengths and limitations, is another matter - at its best there's an eerie fairground quality and also a genuine pathos to it. The headliner is Jason Webley, a man who's also navigating a tough course around the jagged rocks of novelty act status. The first time you see Webley, his ability to get the crowd involved is glorious. But then you get hold of the albums and hear some of the brave, fragile, beautiful songs on there which don't work with an audience bellowing along, and realise that he doesn't play them live (even though, as a solo performer with no band to coach, he can presumably play anything from his back catalogue at any time), and understand that like any strength in an artist, that connection with the crowd can also become a trap. Still, he does sneak 'Against the Night' into the set, and then explains how as of November, he's taking a break - not because he's sick of music but because of how much it means to him, and how much he wants to make sure he's doing it for the right reasons, and the speech isn't 100% coherent but I got the feeling that he was maybe struggling towards the same worries about himself as I'm dancing around here. And he finishes with the gorgeous, self-explanatory 'Last Song' ("Maybe the world isn't dying. Maybe she's heavy with child"), and it's a perfect, cathartic climax...
And some berks start bellowing 'More! More!', because sod structure and artistry and rightness, at the end of a gig, shouting 'More!' is just what you do, right?
This is why I mainly go to gigs where I know most of the audience.

And I'm going to politely gloss over the abysmal punk band who marred the early stages of Saturday's Glam Racket. They wouldn't even be interesting to insult.
alexsarll: (magneto)
Managed a fairly major weekend without once going more than a few hundred yards from home. In the case of Sunday that was because the insane Death Valley heat meant I *couldn't* get more than a few hundred yards from home, but Black Plastic and [ profile] asw909 and [ profile] _pinkdaisy_'s party would have been must-attends even if I had teleportation capability. I also managed a third, and I suspect final, listen to Lady Gaga's Born This Way. Popjustice said it's "yet to feel like an easy listen. Maybe it will never be background music; it was clearly never meant to be". Which surprises me, because while I may not always agree with their enthusiasms, seldom do I feel so totally at odds with their whole assessment of a record. Even the dud tracks on Gaga's first two albums caught the attention, whereas with this one I have to struggle not to tune out. I can see what she's doing, I think - making a record that sounds mainstream, attempting to capitalise on her position and become even bigger, and using that massiveness to preach acceptance and openness and all that. And yes, in a big picture sense, that's for the good. Except that in the process she's made a record which is, like the Lex says, very sincere and direct. And I always liked the playfulness, the masks, the sense of theatre to Gaga - even before I came to like the music. Then, once the music had me snared, I liked its strangeness. So what I don't especially need is a record that, more even than the Madonna comparisons which only really apply to the title track, sounds to me like the filler on a Pink album, or the less exciting songs on Marc Almond's nineties Fantastic Star (this bit goes especially for 'Marry the Night' - "down the street that I love in my fishnet gloves I'm a sinner" and all). Oh well. At a less exalted level, Patrick Wolf also seems to have sacrificed much of his charming strangeness in pursuit of a wider crossover, and has also made his least exciting album in the process. In their defence, at least neither of them are the much-touted Wu Lyf, who sound like they're trying to rip off The Strange Death of Liberal England, who themselves were only quite good to begin with. If it hadn't been for the Wild Swans' beautifully English reunion album (and I wasn't even that big a fan of them first time around), it would have been a sorry few months for music.

Watched two films this week. Freedomland was a quiet little urban drama; Samuel L Jackson and Julianne Moore were the marquee names, but it's awash with Wire alumni - based on a book by Richard Price, plus supporting turns from Herc, Lester and one of the Season 4 kids, as well as a bonus Carmela Soprano. Much more about individual responsibility than The Wire ever was, and with slightly Hollywood direction at times, but still, it felt like it was telling a truth about life as it is lived at the bottom. Not something you'd expect to be true of X-Men: First Class too, but its motor is the contrast between well-meaning, moneyed chump Charles Xavier (James McAvoy's take, at his best, comes across like the Eleventh Doctor if he weren't scared of girls, but at other points has terrible echoes of David Cameron's blase side) and Magneto. Magneto, who has seen life and people as they are at their worst, who has survived the concentration camps, and has seen what 'humanity' really means. Magneto, who has cool powers, and uses them to kill Nazis, which makes them even cooler (though sadly we only see flesh wounds for communists). Magneto who - eventually - even has a better version of the outfit than Ian McKellen (not something I say lightly given the strength of McKellen's performance). Magneto who, as per the t-shirt I wore to the cinema, was right. This is the first time in the films we've met a human who's not a dick - Moira. spoilers ) Third-best X-Men film? Which given the second remains my favourite superhero film ever, isn't bad.

Any other business? Bevan 17, still ace. Finally seen the Inevitable Pinhole Burns. Finally been to St Pancras Old Churchyard. The weather seems to have paused its wild mood swings and just settled for Nice And Summery. Life's not bad.

Early bird

Jun. 23rd, 2011 08:07 am
alexsarll: (Default)
Interesting Bright Club for June, on 'Science and the Media'. Not all of the acts had that much to do with the ostensible theme (plenty, including Strawberry and Cream, just went for innuendo-going-on-outright-filth, not that there's anything wrong with that), but those who did, the tech journalists...the self-disgust was palpable. They don't enjoy producing the reports which annoy Ben Goldacre any more than Ben Goldacre enjoys reading them. I doubt the editors and picture editors enjoy demanding them, either. It's just another of those messed-up Wire-style systems which screws everybody without anyone even enjoying the process. Which obviously we should have known in the first place, but the confirmation is welcome nonetheless. My other recent night out raised questions of its own: how can Jonny Cola, who has grown into a pretty good frontman, be so atrocious at karaoke? Why does a performance poet who looks like the poet in question does think that his work will in any way be enhanced by nudity? And why must the St Aloysius close when, based on my three visits there, it is a home to such reliably surreal entertainments?

I've started watching Castle, even though it isn't very good. A bestselling crime writer helps the cops investigate crime? Exactly the sort of 'high'-concept tosh the US networks churn out all the time. But when the writer is played by Nathan Fillion...yes, I'd rather he were still making Firefly. From interviews I've seen, so would he - he says he'd buy the rights if he won the state lottery and fund production himself. But, alas, he is not. So if we want to see him on screen, Castle is what we've got. And the bastard's charming enough that he can make me overlook everything I don't like about the show (which is pretty much everything else, especially the James Patterson cameo as himself) and keep going. Though I may just be saying that because at times Fillion seems to be auditioning for the role of me. Hell, I'd give him the job.
Because man cannot live by imported US crime dramas on Five alone, even though the summer schedulers seem to think otherwise, I also continued with my project of watching all the surviving Who I've not seen. This time: the surprisingly good Enlightenment, probably the most eerily Sapphire & Steel the show has ever been. Though I say that having only watched the special edition, which uses new CGI and cuts about 20 minutes from the running time - and you don't feel you've missed anything in those minutes, because old Who stories can be added to that long list of things which, though great, no one ever wished longer. As for what Eighties special effects made of the haunting central image of sailing ships racing majestically through space, I dread to think.

And then there's comics. Oh, comics. I love you, but you're getting me down. I bought three new comics yesterday, and bear in mind these were not just random, flailing picks, but carefully chosen on the basis of the writers' past work. Well, two of them were. The one I pretty much suspected was going to be dreadful was Brightest Day Aftermath: The Search for Swamp Thing. The title's a hint, isn't it? But it features the return of John Constantine to the mainstream DC universe, where he originated but from which he has spent many years separated by editorial fiat. And that's the problem here - it's not a comic which seems driven by a story the writer needed to tell, but by editorial - or maybe, worse, branding. Even since the preview DC had in almost all of their comics last month, details have changed, dialogue and art been altered to bring in different characters, and that is very seldom a good sign. And the writer charged with handling this exercise, Jonathan Vankin, comes in with this weird Ray Winstone-meets-Dick van Dyke speech style for Constantine. It is, in short, hideous, and does not bode well for DC's forthcoming universe-wide relaunch, which again looks to be an editorial decision at best. And in the wake of which all the other DC titles are winding down with stories which feel all the more pointless for looking likely to be erased from continuity in three months. Though Paul Cornell's current Superman tale felt pretty bloody pointless even without that looming. You may know Paul Cornell from his many fine Doctor Who stories, or 'Father's Day', but he's also done some very good comics. Having spent a year handling Action Comics (the original Superman comic) without Superman, he'd told an excellent little epic in which Lex Luthor wandered the DC world, meeting its other great villains, in pursuit of the power with which to rival Superman. Except then Superman came back in for the conclusion in issue 900, and everything fell apart, and now we've got a story in which Superman and his brand extensions are fighting the boring nineties villain Doomsday (back then he killed Superman - guess what, it didn't stick) and *his* new brand-extension clones. This is the sort of comic which makes people give up on comics.
And then, away from DC, there's Ultimate Spider-Man, which Brian Michael Bendis has been writing for 160 issues (plus various little spin-offs). And aside from occasional blips, he's kept it interesting that whole time. His alternate take on Peter Parker is still in his teens and, fundamentally, is less of a slappable schmuck than the classic take. Bad things happen to him, he makes bad decisions like teenagers do, but he never seems quite the self-sabotaging arse that the classic and film versions of the character usually do. But now...Can you spoiler a story called The Death of Spider-Man? )
alexsarll: (pangolin)
Sylvester McCoy!
Giles Coren. Ale Meat Cider.
Syllables all gone.

In advance, I hadn't been sure whether or not I was going on the Slutwalk. There just felt like too many potential pitfalls in the set-up. Too many cogent objections had been raised - in particular the artist formerly known as Belle de Jour seemed like someone worth taking seriously on the topic (though in the event I think her concerns were misplaced - I saw a couple of big contingents of sex workers, not getting any apparent gyp). And yes, the bloody Socialist Workers were out as usual, trying to hijack proceedings - but beautifully, many people were grabbing their NO MEANS NO placards and then stripping off the SWP identifiers. Which sums up why I'm glad I went - for the most part, people just seemed to Get It. It was OK to be dressed up, or undressed, or just dressed normally. Everyone was being really good-natured. It reminded me of the first time I went on a Reclaim the Streets in the mid-nineties, and they weren't being all Two Minute Hate about the protest, they were going Situationist-inspired and taking the approach 'What if you gave a party and everyone came?' Hence music and playfulness soundtracking proceedings as often as slogans. I've missed that. Even as I spent the noughties becoming increasingly convinced that most of the world's problems would be solved by a few (thousand) bullets in the right heads, it was good to be reminded of the nineties when we had the less glamorous, more systemic problems which came with the End of History, problems which seemed better transcended than directly opposed. That was all thoroughly incoherent, wasn't it? What I'm trying to say, in contravention of the obligatory Father Ted banner, is Up With This Sort Of Thing.
(Up too with Zoo Lates, probably the most classless event I've attended in London, with everyone from the Sloanes to the Essex stereotypes happily mingling and cooing at penguins. There were even a couple of furries out in public - I rather hoped the lion would get loose so they could experience the full spectrum of life as a zebra)

As regular readers will know, I love the films of Powell & Pressburger, and consider A Matter of Life and Death to be the single best film ever made by anyone, ever. But I haven't even watched all the films of theirs I own on DVD (because then there'd be none left to see!), and I only just got round to Powell's controversial solo outing Peeping Tom. And what a strange creature it is. It looks like a P&P film, in the depth of colour and the sheer Englishness, but you can tell from the off that something is very, very wrong. And that uncanny quality, the sense of a nasty stranger in a much-loved friend's clothes, must have been a factor in the damning critical reception it got. But if it hadn't been received with a level of anger and incomprehension that ended Powell's career, you almost suspect he'd have been disappointed. And where could he have gone? You'd only have something like Henry VIII, sat there awkwardly at the end of the Complete Works when Shakespeare has already said his grand farewell in The Tempest. But not said it so fondly, for this is a poison pen letter to cinema, a mea culpa, a prescient warning that "all this filming isn't good for you". Michael - that shy young man from the sample on St Etienne's So Tough, who always seemed so nice - is one of the most psychologically consistent psychos I've ever seen in a film, resisting that collapse into generic Evil Loony which they mostly make. It's very, very good, but I don't know that I ever want to watch it again.
(Addendum: I'd taped it from TV in 2005, and beforehand there was a fragment of Film 2005 in which Jonathan Ross was talking about promising child actor Dakota Fanning. Dakota Fanning whom I last saw having all the sex and drugs in The Runaways. What a difference six years make)
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.

January 2016



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