alexsarll: (bernard)
Bloody Hell, didn't post at all in February and now March is almost done. Clear up some of the notes, at least; I've got a list of films stretching back to Grumpy Cat's Worst Christmas Ever, and being a civilised human being, I only watch Christmas films in December.
(I watched it mainly because Aubrey Plaza voices Grumpy Cat, which is a bit of a disconnect given how much I fancy Aubrey Plaza, but in the increasingly crowded ranks of 'films which know they are terrible and run with that', it's a lot more entertaining than the ones with shoddily-realised sharks)
Christmas itself generally seems to be a bit short of Christmas films (maybe it's different in the States, but over here the idea that It's a Wonderful Life is always showing is pure falsehood). And it's not because they don't show oldies; I think last year was the first time I'd ever seen Singin' in the Rain in full, and what a delight it was. But mainly it's the recent-ish family fare; Avengers again (still awesome), The Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists (much more successful on screen than I'd expected, the verbal games of Defoe's books replaced with equally inventive sight-gags and some excellent plasticine acting.

Beyond that: a higher proportion of horror than usual; maybe it's all those dark nights. Been meaning to see Robert Wise's The Haunting since reading Jeremy Dyson's survey of the supernatural horror film, and it's almost as disorienting as he suggests, all without much in the way of special effects. Whereas the original Thing from Another World just feels like bad sixties Doctor Who, all base-under-siege and central casting characters without the spark provided by a puckish interloper. The Mist gets off to a good start by casting Thomas Jane and Andre Braugher, then running a fairly faithful adaptation of a Stephen King story that, for once, is about the right length to become a film (seriously, a novel needs to be a miniseries at least; a film is a novella at the absolute most). Faithful, of course, except for the ending, which Frank Darabont made even darker, the bastard. The Babadook is not quite the genre-redefining classic some of the initial press suggested, but still an efficient little frightener. And you could probably call Only Lovers Left Alive horror, but that's not because its fabulous, ethereal lead couple are vampires; it's because those poor luminous creatures have to share the world with moronic, destructive 'zombies', also known as the human race.

Ralph Fiennes' Balkan Coriolanus is a good attempt at dealing with one of the Shakespeares on which it's probably hardest to sell a modern audience, but it's all so dour and tensely homoerotic that I was almost hoping the ludicrous chatterbox Nahum Tate added in his clusterfuck reworking of the play would bustle in to lighten it up. That said, Baby Doll leavens the usual Tennessee Williams psychosexual tension with an unusually heaped dollop of farce, and only ends up a bit of a mess, and we all know what an ungainly beast the end of Peter Jackson's Hobbit sprawl became, so maybe clarity of tone can be respected even when it gets a bit one-note. Inherent Vice was for me a very powerful movie precisely because it contained such multitudes - Lebowski-style stoner noir pastice mixed with genuine high stakes and a sense of an era slipping away - but when it apparently caused mass walkouts among audiences who want a film to be either one thing or another, who regard art and ambiguity as a bug rather than a feature, you can see why directors stick to pigeonholes.

Not fitting into any of those vague groupings: Ruling Class. Peter O'Toole is always watchable, and he makes for an incredibly hot Jack the Ripper, but I could really have done without the songs.
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.
alexsarll: (default)
Just tried watching Alex Cox's Repo Chick. Now, bearing in mind that I consider an evening watching the Blu-ray extras of Repo Man to be a good evening (especially the Harry Dean Stanton interview)...just no. The idea of using Matchbox cars and model railway sets (plus green screen) in order to do your film on the cheap is quite heroic, but the feeble satire of the Paris Hilton/Kardashian/whoever lead just leaves a void at the heart of it all, and not in a good way.

I've not written anything about films I've seen on here in ages, have I? Some of them don't really need it - it should be easy enough to guess that I've seen Guardians of the Galaxy and loved it, because demographics. Ditto The Lego Movie (genuinely an incredibly smart film as well as a thoroughly fun one - layers within layers, and a desire to interrogate itself of which most 'serious' films can only dream). Then you get stuff like Sin City: A Dame To Kill For, or X-Men: Days of Future Past, where it's worth going to the big screen for the spectacle, even if the film doesn't quite hold together. Or, in the latter case, is about 80% nonsense. As against the first Hunger Games which I saw pretty much by accident, but made a very coherent job of surfing the zeitgeist, at least until the last ten minutes. Oh, and finally got around to Frozen which is...OK? Better songs than Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs, but I'd otherwise rank them pretty similarly - passable, but no Pixar. Some cults I can parse; other ones perplex me.

A little less obviously:
Chronicle, Max Landis' found-footage superhero film. Very compelling, if slightly derailed the second you realise one of the newly-empowered teens is clearly a men's rights activist avant la lettre. Also on a skewed superhero tip: The Specials. Rob Lowe, James Gunn, next to no budget, fake documentary style. Flawed, but fascinating. I hope the superhero cinema boom will enable more of these odd little subgenre pieces, rather than swallowing them.
Becket: only the second best film in which Peter O'Toole plays Henry II, but given the other one is The Lion in Winter, that's still no small accolade.
Sightseers: my least favourite Ben Wheatley film. But again, when you consider the competition...
The Philadelphia Story - I saw this on stage years back, with Kevin Spacey and some other people of note, none of whom I can now remember. They were fine, but they weren't Katharine Hepburn, or Jimmy Stewart, let alone Cary Grant. What a cast. What a film.
This Is Tomorrow - Saint Etienne's documentary about the Royal Festival Hall. The most profoundly restful film I've ever seen.
'His Heavy Heart' - the concluding segment, for now, of Alan Moore and Mitch Jenkins' short film cycle. Essentially, David Lynch directing Vic & Bob. I hope a DVD release will get the whole project the wider audience it deserves.
Charlie Chaplin's The Circus went round at least twice as a backdrop in a restaurant. I don't really get most of the silent clowns at all, but Chaplin always makes me smile if not laugh, even in such a chopped-about setting.
Tarkovsky's Stalker - so this is the shared source Jeff Vandermeer, M John Harrison and the rest have all been 'homaging' lately. On the other hand, I tend not to struggle to stay awake in their versions, so they certainly bring something to the party.
alexsarll: (default)
A month without an update there, when really I should have posted about the blossom and the moon, the Wapping waters, the Salisbury and the Constitution, and actually watching Eurovision again now the Russians have pissed off enough of their client states to ruin the bloc voting. Ah well. There was an end to Her Parents staying together for the kids, and I finally saw the Indelicates do 'Dovahkiin' live, and orchestral, with a half-lit giant heart the perfect backdrop. And sticky though that venue was, it still has nothing on the decrepitude of the Electric Dog Show's cave, where Quimper and the venue remain unsound, in different yet somewhat complementary manners. Gyratory System are more upbeat, less pummeling than usual - like the music from a Soviet animation about a happy factory. And headliners Howlround do cruel things to old tape, like they're trying to send a 1960s supercomputer insane. Not sure I'd listen to it at home, but mesmerising to watch.
And I even went to a biggish gig, the sort I normally avoid on account of the sort of audience they attract. Turns out the Union Chapel must be enough to deter the talkers, because Mick Harvey (aka the talented one from Nick Cave's bands) was received in appropriately stunned silence as he played some of his Serge Gainsbourg reworkings. It wasn't entirely reverential - how could it be, when he turned the end of 'New York USA' into a wonderfully black joke, or played the obligatory 'Je t'Aime' as deliberately half-arsed karaoke? But people were paying enough attention only to laugh or talk back when it was mandated, to remain spellbound and silent for 'Initials BB' or the heartwrenching possessiveness of 'Sex Shop'.

Went to the Boring conference on Saturday which, unlike its predecessor, was at no stage actually boring. Alas, managed through drink to mislay most of the delegate pack (Chewits, puzzle book) and also the programme, so I can't remember the names of half the speakers. The biggest surprise was the perpetrator of Comic Sans, whose entrance I felt I could not applaud, but who turned out to be OK. His original impetus was valid - a cartoon dog does not talk in Times New Roman. It's not his fault that precisely the same mistake which inspired Comic Sans now applies it indiscriminately where it doesn't belong. Still, I wonder if Alan Moore knows Watchmen was one of the font's key inspirations and, if so, whether that's another reason he considers its influence to have been so poisonous?

Films: Behind the Candelabra is exactly the mixture of camp and misery I'd expected, with only Rob Lowe's scene-stealing a surprise. The Wind Rises is as painfully beautiful as Miyazaki's farewell was always going to be. Kill List confirms Ben Wheatley as a properly uncanny talent, its bad men in the edgelands leaving a creeping sensation akin to a British True Detective. This Is The End, conversely, is an American The Trip, albeit with more sodomy. Maybe Coogan and Brydon will head that way next series. Godzilla was my first IMAX experience, and what better film for a format all about the BIG and LOUD, while BBC4's Duchess of Malfi was equally terrifying on the intimate scale.
alexsarll: (default)
So, since last posting, I've been to new places. Kensal Green, land of the golden Nando's, whose great graveyard is home to many grand figures whose resting places we didn't find, and one murderous quack of whom I might still be ignorant were his epitaph not so passive-aggressive. More exciting still, a lovely long weekend in Margate! Which in places is a sort of North-London-on-sea, as against Brighton, which is of course East-London-on-sea. [ profile] xandratheblue chose well when she booked us into the Walpole Bay Hotel, which is essentially the sort of place Poirot stays, but festooned with Tracey Emin napkin art, alarming mannequins, a room full of hats and so forth. If Sir John Soane were a hotelier, the result would be along these lines. A similar spirit of eccentricity pervades the town; there's the old world stuff, like the hotel, the Shell Grotto, the Mad Hatter's tearoom and the decrepit lido; but there's also the huge array of wind turbines out at sea who can be dimly seen on the less cloudy days, standing sentinel, and the surprising number of rockabillies for a fairly small town. It is, in sum, Unusual, mostly in lovely ways. And especially so last weekend, because we'd unwittingly turned up at the same time as GEEK, a computer-game-centred thing which enabled Alex to talk knowledgeably about computer games while I pouted at the lack of the advertised strawberry cider. In your gender-defined face, gender roles. The other result of this was that whenever we attempted to just go look at some art, we kept on getting lured into INTERACTING. Fine when it was the squishy stuff in Turner Contemporary, less so when we were sent on a somewhat confused melon-themed treasure hunt/RPG around town, or found that what we'd thought was a small gallery with a show of automata was in fact a couple's basement workshop. Still, at least the latter meant we got tea. It wasn't that I didn't enjoy all the community art, you understand, so much as I wasn't expecting it. And being ambushed by art does start to make one a little nervous after a while.

Margate also has one of two very fine pubs to which I've been introduced recently, the Lifeboat, which doesn't quite have a sea view but otherwise - casks of local cider, lots of wood, a roaring fire - is pretty much how I picture the ideal seaside pub, just as the Earl of Essex is exactly the pub I always hope to find in quiet London backstreets. Both are let down only by some of their food; take your own ketchup to the Lifeboat (outragrously, there's none on the premises!), and avoid the risotto at the Earl.

All the TV I've watched lately has been going for an overall mood of 'unsettling'. Black Mirror, still not quite perfect, but better to have Charlie Brooker not quite being Rod Serling on C4 than degenerating into Harry Hill on the BBC. Utopia, which managed that rare feat of genuinely shocking violence (as much in how it was shot as in who was shot, stabbed, and so forth) in a conspiracy thriller which didn't feel as played-out as the rest of the recent glut of conspiracy thrillers - maybe because spoilers ). Breaking Bad, where the second series had fewer moments of 'Go Walter!' than the first, and a lot more wincing. Even the Honor Blackman episodes of The Avengers all seemed to be predicated on Steed's uncertain loyalties, and beyond that to be odd in so far as they still didn't quite feel like The Avengers yet, and predicated their plots on such TV-friendly themes as the Companies Act 1928, and the evasion of inheritance tax. Whereas the few films I've watched have been thoroughly straightforward good vs evil stuff, with square-jawed heroes - Bruce Campbell in Army of Darkness, Christopher Reeve in Superman, which is every bit as charming and *right* as I remember from childhood, not to mention much smarter than I ever picked up on.
alexsarll: (default)
So, it is January. Which means cold, and little on, and even when snowy not really quorate for a proper snow day given all the departures from parts Finsburatic. And hence, films. From rewatching Powell & Pressburger's strange and timeless Canterbury Tale (I remembered its profoundly English mood, and even a little of its plot, but had never registered before that it had a character from the Seven Sisters Road and a minor role for Charles Hawtrey), to what I'm fairly sure will be the only viewing I ever afford The Watch (Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn are on complete autopilot, but in places Richard Ayoade *almost* salvages it).

Tintin and the Blue Oranges is at once an incredibly faithful live action addition to the boy reporter's canon, and quite stupendously gay; the short films of Jan Svankmajer are even more rum and uncanny than I recalled, especially when live animals meet stop-motion. In comparison, Steve Aylett's ridiculous Lint: the Movie almost makes sense. But only in comparison.

The Dark Knight Rises, as I noted on Facebook, seems to have been inspired less by any of Bane's comics appearances than Disney's Princess and the Frog, whose plot it strips of charm, drenches in portentousness, and then serves up as Serious Cinema. Also from the House of Mouse: Scotcom Brave, which does a very good job of finally providing a Disney princess you wouldn't be utterly depressed to find a friend's daughter idolising*. And which, like so many Pixar films, is *almost* eclipsed by its delightful accompanying short, in this case 'La Luna'.

At the grittier end of proceedings: Shame, which is good, but not as good as a film featuring Magneto and Sally Sparrow naked ought to be. And, in more of a rush than it really deserved, the first season of Treme. Sometimes I love it when a bold artist realises they've had a big enough hit to get a captive audience, and goes for broke. This was one of the other times. Truism though this has undoubtedly become, David Simon created something astonishing in The Wire. Many of the same components are here, but the problem is, now I can see the working. Political points felt like they emerged naturally in his Baltimore tragedy; too often the commentary on post-apocalyptic New Orleans is preachy. And there's a lot of jazz. Not even the good sort of jazz. Nonetheless, I burned through ten episodes in a week; despite himself, he can't help but create intriguing characters (mostly: some of them are just planks, and worse, this time out, unlike with eg Ziggy, the show doesn't always seem aware of that). Simon also contributes, incidentally, to Storyville: The House I Live In, a painfully well-argued documentary about America's 'War on Drugs'. One of those remarkable pieces which you assume will be preaching to the choir, but leaves you realising you were nowhere near anti-enough something you already thought utterly asinine.

But back in 2012 (Do you remember 2012? Is it time for the 2012 revival yet? I bloody hope not), I did go to the cinema. A whole twice! Miracle on 34th Street was utterly, tear-jerkingly joyful, and cannot meaningfully be discussed again until December. And then there's that astonishing mess Peter Jackson has made of The Hobbit, a film trying at once to turn a children's story into an epic (just as the Narnia films so spectacularly failed to do) and create a backstory to The Lord of the Rings. The problem being, as so often with retcons, that you violate both your stories in the effort to tie them together with appropriate guest appearances. spoiler ). And as much as the narrator's intro may be much-loved, you can't give those lines to Bilbo if they result in him explaining what a hobbit-hole is like to Frodo! The jeopardy levels are inconsistent with the results, turning one sequence in particular into a show-off's Mario run-through. And yet, for all that, there is not the remotest chance of me not catching the rest of the unnecessary trilogy at the cinema.
(The best piece I've read on the film, which to be honest renders most of my thoughts there superfluous, but having already written them in note form, I was damned if I wasn't going to Speak My Branes)

*Yes, obviously Leia now counts also, but that happened after Brave.
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)
Pootling around the Internet and my MP3 library for the first time in more than a week today. It may not be the most 'productive' use of a day off, but heavens it's welcome. I've been racing around doing fun stuff - living room stand-up from Matt Crosby and Joel Dommett; the Indelicates and the New Royal Family playing either side of a band so bad I think they might have been character comedy; a gallery launch in a Berkeley Square mews; a night of all-girl pop; a day of all-male drinking. And it was all thoroughly marvellous, but now, relax. Oh, and I saw Avengers [Assemble], of course. Which did not disappoint. All but one of the films leading to this nailed the characters perfectly; now they finally have the Hulk right too. Characterisation happens through dialogue and action as the story progresses, not through pausing for a tedious scene of Acting. The Helicarrier looks as awe-inspiring as one can sometimes forget it should, and then the thing happens which is crucial in any major Helicarrier appearance. And the mere fact that it exists, that franchises are being crossed in their prime and not as a barrel-scrape like Aliens versus Predator or Freddie versus Jason, and that it's all been *planned*...well, Grant Morrison already observed that the superheroes were jumping off the page and on to the screen like prehistoric life emerging from the ocean on to dry land. But this feels like the heroes have brought the structure of their universe with them.
Other films seen recently, for a given value of the word:
Drive and The Killer Inside Me; both essentially mood pieces. For me, the former is much more successful; its violence also felt far more shocking than that in the much more controversial Killer.
City of Lost Children - which feels more like Tim Burton than a lot of Tim Burton films. An impossible dock-side city, a steampunk science rig which feels much like I imagine Bioshock might. Ron Perlman in Jean-Paul Gaultier, speaking French, which feels like a violation of the basic laws of nature and that just contributes to the queasy yet oddly solid world that has been built here. Haunting.
Jackboots on Whitehall - a misfire. Tries to bring the Team America puppet vibe to a gleefully stupid alternate history of the Second World War, and in doing so demonstrates quite how smart you have to be to make something as successfully stupid as Team America. Also, the DVD is missing a key scene, but at least that means I get a refund on it.
The Lion in Winter - do you ever wonder how the wisecracking couples in screwball comedies might fare in later life? How all that plotting and quipping might start to wear after a decade or three together? Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf feels to me like a bit of an answer, but this is a better one, because here the couple are Peter O'Toole's Henry II, and Katharine Hepburn's Eleanor of Aquitaine, so between them they determine the fate of an empire. Also, Anthony Hopkins is one of their sons, and he's been having an affair with Timothy Dalton. This is as good as films without explosions get (there are some swordfights, but they're not very good).
The Lair of the White Worm: aside from the obligatory scenes of topless nuns, this doesn't even feel like a Ken Russell film, just a fairly bad horror film which happens to feature the young Hugh Grant and an unnervingly fresh-faced Peter Capaldi. Who, being Scottish, has bagpipes with him on an archaeological dig. Obviously.
Pretty Persuasion feels more like Heathers than any other teen film I've seen - that same deviousness, that understanding of just how nasty teenagers can be. The big difference here is that the boys are sidelined - mostly just fulfilling plot roles, rather than characters in themselves. And the adult men...well, like most men, they're really just teenage boys too, only older. Bleak, and I'm unsure about the ending - but then I don't like the ending of Heathers either.
alexsarll: (bernard)
London life appears to be cycling up again, the diary filling and the weeks of temperance (through illness or lack of event, not some talismanic fool belief in detox) coming to an end; if doubt remains, then you always know for sure that it's kicking off again once you're stood in the back room of the Wilmington watching giant robots fight off space dinosaurs with the help of indie rock. Back to the clubs and pubs and dinner parties - and back to Kentish Town. Did ever a district combine side street charm with high street horror to such an extent? Four places I wanted to go before Ale Meat Cider - one simply failed me, and three were on unscheduled shutdown (one by the fire brigade). In the meantime, I've been reading, and putting the new Necron list throught its paces on the tabletop*, and relishing Gregg Araki's Kaboom, which mixes his usual polymorphous perversity with apocalyptic conspiracy and creative swearing, and less so Arrietty which is, like every non-Miyazaki Ghibli film I've seen, faintly disappointing. The visual richness, the gardens into which you just want to melt, are present and correct - but the characters and the plot just feel a little...conventional, up until an ending which is at once conventional and not even a logical conclusion of what has gone before.

And, most importantly, I've been to the Isle of Wight with [ profile] xandratheblue. Yes, it's still definitely England, even if it's not Great Britain, but it's my first time overseas in years, or with her. So we meandered around the island on a bus that seemed to be the equivalent of the Circle Line if it had a view and was faintly reliable, and saw clicking owls and cartwheeling monkeys and a Roman mosaic of a cock-headed man (NOT LIKE THAT), and stayed in a hotel on a lake, and because she's a city girl she seemed almost as excited to have rabbits and sheep pointed out from the train window as to travel on a hovercraft. Though it was noticeable that the other passengers were a lot more subdued on the return trip, presumably because of the Costa Concordia footage on the screens in the waiting room. I don't know why, given we were using a totally different means of transport and the captain wasn't Italian. Though in his shoes I wouldn't have been able to resist a loud 'Mamma mia!' or two within earshot of the nervous travellers.

*With most pleasing results, except against Blood Angels.
alexsarll: (bernard)
So I'm reading back through the week's LJ, and seeing excited posts about the return of Soul Mole/Don't Stop Moving - which from the vantage point of The Future, I now know to have been gazumped, because most London venues are run by vermin. And I have a rotten cold. At the weekend. Thus far, 2012 is not going entirely to plan.
However! I did manage to drag myself out last night for a bit, so I've finally been inside Aces & Eights, which I've passed dozens of times and thought looked interesting - and indeed it does, having that American bar (but still doing pints) vibe that T Bird used to before their identity crisis. And on Friday Guided Missile put on a whole bill of bands who are all about the live experience (Keith TotP, the Angry Bees and the London Dirthole Company), and made me think Bill Drummond-influenced thoughts about the limitations of recorded music as a medium. Not that I'd go as far as Bill and write it off entirely, you understand, but part of the point of Bill Drummond is that he goes further than everyone else.
Also this week: I watched Hussein stand-in flick The Devil's Double, which is almost as good as I'd heard, and saw a Celeb! getting Papped! in Soho without having the faintest glimmer of a clue who she was.
Right. More Lemsip, then I need to brave Tesco. If nothing else, I suppose I can spread my sniffles to the gormless hordes who infest it on Sundays.
alexsarll: (Default)
So, last day of hols - and given it is general hols, I'm a little surprised there wasn't more going on yesterday. For a few years New Year's Day drinking seemed to be a thing, and I liked that, because it almost seems more important to get the new year off started than to round off the old - look forward instead of back. But Hell, the weather was frightful yesterday, and there was Sherlock to watch (best yet), and Hacks (passably amusing), and I also had Super, which is pretty much the mid-point between Kick-Ass and Defendor in terms of films about real-world superheroes. It stars that guy from the American Office who looks like an inbred dog, minor spoilers ) And it really shows up the problem with *real* real-world superheroes, which is that even the best of them, like Phoenix Jones, are failing to hit criminals in the head with wrenches.

Before that: a birthday, which went to plan, and a New Year's Eve which didn't quite, both at N19. Dancing to ALL THE NINETIES at Never Forget, which I've been meaning and failing to attend since its arrival. The annual Freaky Trigger pub crawl, which I joined as it went in and out the Eagle, then followed through the horror of the Bavarian Beerhouse to the archetypal old man's pub that is the Prince Arthur, then high-fiving a small dog as we headed through Hoxton and into unknown territories, where pubs look set to be horrific, but serve their cider from earthenware flagons. It hasn't been a bad little week, all told.
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)
Got another reminder last week of how much I dislike big gigs these days, whoever's playing. Maybe if I go to another I should get a seat? Not because I'm getting older, but because the rest of the crowd are - at Magazine I think the only punters I saw younger than me had been brought by their dad who, like most of the audience, looked like he'd been into Magazine first time around. And really, trying to be part of the energy down on the floor doesn't work so well when it's just a load of old blokes (plus a very occasional woman) standing around. And did venues all look the same like this before a few years back? I remember the Shepherd's Bush Empire and the Kentish Town Forum having their own personalities, but now I can barely remember which one I'm in (and that's not down to intoxication, not at their drinks prices). Magazine themselves you'd expect. They played a little more of the new stuff than I'd hoped, and 'Because You're Frightened' was a surprising omission. The banter was a little embarrassing. Devoto describing them as "Magazine version 6.0 service pack 1 - thank you for upgrading" just emphasised the sense that, whereas on record their music still evokes a sense of vast, alien horizons and urban nightmarescapes, live it's always going to be forcibly grounded by the fact you're watching a bunch of old guys (plus a couple of ringers).
Far more satisfactory - and far stranger - was Luke Haines at the Old Queen's Head. I don't even especially like his wrestling album - its reference points are a little before my time - but seeing it done in that living-room-like space, with Kendo Nagasaki sat at the side of the stage watching TV, and a psychedelic rabbit stew recipe for an encore...well, that's not a gig where you end up wishing you'd stuck to the recordings on your headphones, is it? Or the weekend before, where I'd seen Thee Faction punching out songs about GDH Cole in a community centre where one of the crowd was dancing with a small dog. These are shows to cherish, not just part of The Live Music Industry.

Seen on the screen: the new Tintin film. Which, in 3D at least, is staggering. Most of the 3D films I've seen, it's been a gimmick which made for one or two impressive moments. Coraline was the only one to use it thoroughly, and well. But Tintin simply uses it better. It helps that the motion-capture world has a real physicality - one which reminded me somehow of Frank Quitely's art, cartoony yet still solid; only Bianca Castafiore teeters into the uncanny valley. Whether it will grip on the small screen, or flat, I couldn't say, but on the big screen it seemed a far worthier adaptation that many commentators are giving it credit for. I suspect they're just even older than me, and as such were rendered even more queasy by the rollercoaster ride of it.

Underneath one of Islington's libraries is a museum, where there's currently a Joe Orton exhibition called Malicious Damage. Containing, principally, the Islington books which Orton and his lover were gaoled for defacting. 1962 to 2011 could almost seem like a record time from outrage to assimilation if I didn't remember the Times giving away a Pistols CD, but even leaving that aside...they deserved to go to prison for this crap. The detournements of books' covers and blurbs, even taking into account that they predate Photoshop, are clunky and unfunny. Orton and Halliwell claimed to have been treated harshly "because we were queers" - but if this was a gay rights thing, how come they vandalised a book by Auden and Isherwood? If it was a protest against "endless shelves of rubbish", then how come the most common author by a long way is Shakespeare? And most of the rest is blameless guidebooks and handbooks. Set against all this, the exhibition also holds their diary of a trip to more liberated climes, and their sexual adventures there - and it is dreadful, dreary stuff, successful neither as literature nor filth. They were, in summary, louts, not revolutionaries. So if nothing else, with this exhibition Islington libraries get the last laugh.

*Primrose Hill on Bonfire Night. Going out among the people made for a change, if nothing else, but not one I am in a hurry to repeat.
alexsarll: (pangolin)
Not been feeling too lively the past week or so, for no particular reason. I did make it out for the last wedding of the season, of course, and was very glad of it too - I love when the friends massively outnumber the family instead of vice versa, when the day feels like a ritualisation of joy rather than an obligation, and there can be no finer reading than the toast from Frida Kahlo's wedding. And the night before there was gigging - Bevan 17 with light reflecting from the metal on the bass keys to the mirrorball then back, Gyratory System ("This is great! They're so obnoxious!" - [ profile] xandratheblue) and The Vichy Government playing like they were in the club scene from It Couldn't Happen Here. Otherwise, leisure time has largely been spent catching up with films. Zack Snyder's Sucker Punch got some dreadful reviews, but of the video game-influenced films I saw last week, it was vastly preferable to Zowie Bowie's Source Code. Seriously, if Jake Gyllenhaal's whiny prick of a character in Source Code is any kind of accurate representation of the modern US military, then no wonder they've been getting such underwhelming results lately. Every twist is visible at least ten minutes away, and the overall effect is of a very nicely-shot episode of Quantum sodding Leap, even down to the sciencey-but-wildly-misapplied title. Whereas Sucker Punch exists in the same genre - call it 'video game psychological/combat musical'? - as Scott Pilgrim. It's darker, more flawed, slightly alarming in places, but for all that, it feels personal, *necessary*, more than extruded Hollywood product, in a way that Source Code never does. And tonight it's Attack the Block, although obviously any Adam or Joe-directed take on London's vicious youth is going to have a hard time competing with Speeding on the Needlebliss.

In brief

Oct. 18th, 2011 07:58 am
alexsarll: (Default)
- I imagine when Cronenberg's Shivers came out, the parasites and the sex zombie behaviour they cause were pretty shocking, but now they can't compare to the fear and revulsion inspired by the styles worn by uninfected 1975 suburbanites.

- I like the Buffalo Bar, which is why it saddened me that after seeing dozens of gigs there with my umbrella safely in hand, one of their bouncers has now decided it is a problem - and worse, started quoting bullshit 'Health and Safety' and 'it's the law' claptrap to that effect.

- I need to find out why part of the Regent's Canal, not far from Little Venice, is lined by the aggressively private grounds of oddly squashed Regency palances. But I know that when I do it will be a disappointment. Still, I love the almost post-civilisational greenery of that part of town.

- Bevan 17 covering the Sugarcubes' 'Hit' was lovely. 47th Street Demon Exchange covering Therapy?'s 'Nowhere' slowly was inadvisable. Mr Solo covering Cypress Hill was...I don't know what that was.

- Sons of Anarchy came back from the debacle of the Oirish season with a finale which used one of my favourite narrative tricks, and not one I would normally have associated with this show. But also lots of badasses staring each other down. Obv.

- If David Shah hosts another night at the Wilmington he needs to give himself more stage time with the Soft Close-Ups, and parodic examples of the singer-songwriter genre a lot less.

- Community choirs performing in pubs: a lovely idea, so long as you're not too close to them.

- Enjoyed the Nuisance band's take on Blur, with [ profile] steve586 as that hitherto inconceivable creature, a Graham Coxon I don't want to punch. And for all that Nuisance invariably attracts some bell-ends, we had already seen the evening's finest en route, when a yellow Maserati got into a race with our bus, and literally every passenger on it was making jokes about the motorist's inevitably inadequate manhood.

- Amusing to see Hamas agreeing with the line from the old Israeli joke about how one Israeli is worth a thousand of theirs.

- The Tate's John Martin exhibition is excellent. Yes, maybe he couldn't do lightining or faces - the former more of a problem than the latter - but he's still the go-to man for shit getting real. When an empire - or a mountain - falls, John Martin is your man. Or, when you want the great timeless cities off in the corner of an immense Arcadian landscape where I could quite happily lounge for an infinity or two, he does those also. Wonderful.
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: (Default)
So, yeah, not posted in a while. Been too busy doing STUFF. What sort of stuff? Lots of living room comedy: Michael Legge; Behemoth; Iain Stirling; Matt Crosby; Joel Dommett. They were all at least quite good, mostly fairly cute, and often endearing shambles, and I wish them all well in Edinburgh. Which, like Glastonbury, is a great British cultural institution I am entirely happy never to attend. Reading books, some of which will probably get a post of their own at some unspecified future point. Watched The Green Hornet, which in spite of starring Seth Rogen and the main Nazi from Inglourious Basterds, and being directed by Michel Gondry, was still deeply middling. As was the Kevin Smith comic version, come to think of it. He's a good idea for a character (vigilante poses as criminal), he has a great look, so why have I never encountered a decent story with him in? Oh, and I lost my first eBay auction. The upside to which is that in the process, I made the presumptuous bastard who wanted to buy the same book as me pay more. Well done eBay, you understand human nature well enough to have set up a website where we can take spiteful pleasure even in our defeats. Plus I went to see Orpheus Knoxx, who share a drummer with Bevan 17 and have the first person I met off the Internet (NOT EVEN LAST DECADE BUT THE ONE BEFORE!) on guitar. On one song he#s basically playing a slowed-down version of Bauhaus' 'Dark Entries', but mainly they remind me of pre-Britpop Lush, or Sharkboy if they hadn't always been somewhat disappointing. The only problem is that they're playing on a Friday night in Shoreditch, where even the sausage and mash is pretentious. They will play better gigs in other places, and more people who pay attention should come.

And also, of course: party. We didn't entirely mean to have a party, or at least I didn't. There was less than 48 hours between conception and execution, and two of us forgot until Thursday morning that on Wednesday night we'd agreed to a Friday shindig. Send out a handful of invites, mainly to people who live within 10 minutes' walk, and you expect to end up with maybe a dozen people sat quietly boozing and shooting the breeze in the living room, right? Instead, we get reviews online like "one of the strangest house parties I have been to in Quite A Long Time" and "Everyone is to be congratulated on our awfulness". I won't say we should do that more often, because I suspect trying to recreate whatever spirit was upon us that night would end in either anticlimax, or structural damage. But yeah, after so long steering clear of the idea, turns out I rather enjoy cohabiting with chums. A decade late. Maturity, as ever, being what you make it.
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.
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)

January 2016



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