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 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: (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 [livejournal.com 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: (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: (Default)
The new Indelicates album is available for download on a 'pay what you want' basis. Which, for those of you who've never heard them before and need enticing, does include 'free'. Given it's the best album of the year so far, and I'd be very surprised if it weren't still the best come December, I think that's a pretty good deal. Hell, even if you can't spare the time to check out a whole album on my say so, just try one track: I would link to the beautiful, bereft acoustic version of 'Savages' except that's album-exclusive, so just for a change I'll recommend the disgusted Weimar cabaret stomp of 'Be Afraid Of Your Parents' instead.

Dean Spanley is an utterly charming film which I think will be loved by anyone who owned a dog as a child, especially if he was one of the Seven Great Dogs. Sam Neill, excellent even by his own standards, is an Edwardian clergyman who, when plied with Tokay, reminisces about his past life as a dog; Peter O'Toole, more cadaverous and cantankerous than ever, is the narrator's father. That narrator being Jeremy Northam, who makes for an excellent straight man and stops the whole enterprise capsizing into silliness, because this is a strange tale but emphatically not a silly one. It's based on a story by the great Lord Dunsany - though not one I know, so I can't speak to its fidelity or otherwise except to say that it definitely feels like Dunsany.

This lengthy David Simon interview - mainly about his new show Treme but of interest to any fans of his work - makes me realise how much I miss good lengthy pieces from the days when the Guardian's Saturday mag was slightly less flimsy. Compare and contrast this Jonathan Ross interview from the weekend, and note how much of the conversation is skimmed over, sketched in, especially when Ross talks about comics. This would not have been abtruse stuff - he's a smart man who realises he's evangelising to a general audience - but there's no space for it. What we mainly get, even while the paper tries to distance itself from the tabloid agenda, is a reprise of the Mail-defined talking points. Yes, from another angle, but wouldn't moving beyond them have been even better?
alexsarll: (bernard)
Skins is set at the outset of sexual life, the Peter O'Toole film Venus at its end. But watching the two back to back on Thursday night, it was the correspondences I could see. Yes, that episode was largely Election with added Father Dougal, Art Brut and teenage sapphism, but it was also about the stupid, humiliating things the bewitched will do for beauty (shorn of the gender stereotyping Hanif Kureishi either displays, or allows his lead to display, in Venus, where O'Toole's Maurice suggests that while a naked woman is the most beautiful thing most men will ever see, for women it's their first child). And while the Freddy/Cook/JJ plotline was sidelined this Skins, you see that same sense of toxic male friendship in Venus when Maurice and his old muckers meet in the cafe each day, Maurice still trying it on with people his chums consider off-limits just like Cook would. Albeit with considerably more charm, obviously, because Maurice is Peter O'bloody Toole, isn't he? Pretty much playing himself, with admirable self-awareness (an actor who has cornered the market in corpses); beyond that, playing the himself he played in Russell T Davies' Casanova, the old roue not quite prepared to admit that the game is over and Time won.
(Speaking of Time - Peep Show being a comedy of my generation, how terrifying to see its love object, tarnished as she may there be, now playing the mother of a teenage lead character in Skins)
alexsarll: (bernard)
Went to the New Royal Family's comeback show last night at the ever-baffling Lark In The Park - absolutely top hole. Lots of people out to see 'em, rewarded with [livejournal.com profile] icecoldinalex going back to blond. a new drummer in a very fetching sailor suit, and heteroerotic Bowie/Ronson guitar antics from [livejournal.com profile] charleston and [livejournal.com profile] thedavidx. Oh, and chocolate digestives, of course. New single 'I.W.I.S.H.I.W.A.S.GAY' made its live debut, except that live it's not a minute of electropop madness, it's 'Another One Bites The Dust' meets the Sugarhill Gang, especially once [livejournal.com profile] moleintheground got in there with the gay guest rap. That's gay meaning homosexual, obv.

Stardust is of all Neil Gaiman's works the one to show the most evidence of Lord Dunsany' influence - and that's saying something. Nonetheless, even the success of the lovely film version did not prepare me for news of a Dunsany film. I confess that Dean Spanley is not a work I know, but if Peter O'Toole, Sam Neill and Jeremy Northam are all in the film, then I have reason to be optimistic. Though I note they have all also worked together on the dismal Tudors, so maybe I should be expecting an announcement of Joss Stone joining the project as the King of Elfland's daughter.

I've noticed the whole Georgia farrago has been mostly absent from my friendslist, and I don't blame people, because there's not much to say; Russia's throwing its weight around again, there's sod all we can realistically do about it, and certain sections of the Left are creaming themselves with glee and blaming the US, just like the old days. But this one I cannot let past without comment: "It is rare that all the blame is on one side. In fact, both sides are probably to blame. That is very important to understand," Germany's Chancellor, there, talking about a war. Perhaps she should acquaint herself with the biographies of some of her own predecessors, she might find a rather startling counter-example. That sort of moral equivalence and equivocation gets my back up whoever's spitting it, but coming from someone in that particular job, is simply chilling.
(And while I'm back off the current affairs wagon:
Paul Duffy, 35, from Castlemilk, was part of a four-strong gang who smashed their way into a car dealer's home...The High Court in Edinburgh heard that Duffy was freed on bail nine days before the raid in February. He had 52 previous convictions for crimes including robbery and carrying a knife.
And this man has been sentenced to...50 months. It being deeply unlikely that he will even serve the whole of that. Seriously, what are the odds that this man's continued existence will ever do other than taint the lives of other, better people? What possible purpose is served by allowing the continued existence of a human being so fundamentally rotten?)

I realise there are few lower forms of blogging than 'point and laugh at the interweb mentalist' but what the Hell - go here, skim the article (which is filler, frankly), and then check the comments from a prize pillock I may have mentioned before, 'anytimefrances'. ATF's feeble brain is entirely consumed by a knot of obsessions - chiefly, the notion that rock and rap music (they're interchangeable) are synonymous with drugs and noise pollution, and that they're leading to the demise of Real Literature and Proper Music. In and of itself this would be of strictly historical interest - in an age where even the Mail covers Glastonbury without much hysteria, seeing such retrograde opinions in the wild is a bit like finding a living coelacanth, except uglier. What raises the experience to the level of comedy is that while ATF grandly proclaims its own cultural and intellectual superiority to the foolish rock fans, its incoherent arguments are unfailingly delivered with worse spelling and grammar (never mind sanity) than anyone else on there: "wake up to reality. don't pretend, we can turn it up 'real loud' because everyone loves it. it's sick humiliation detritus." Though I admit that's an atypical quote - for starters, the apostrophes are in the right place.

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