Posts from 12th September 2003

Sep 03


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Gutterbreakz: good new music blog, says (probably rightly) that the Melody Maker was the paper of record back in the turn-of-the-90s-day, though I don’t remember its dance music coverage being any cop, or any any until that fantastic Damascene Disco special when Ben Turner went mental over how great and vital If…’s English Boys On The Love Ranch album was and Simon R. devoted the entire singles column to jungle.

(I have still never heard the If… album – was it really any good?)

But that was late doors, relatively speaking. When I started reading the NME, a few years before, it was just when Jack Barron and Helen Mead had started getting E’d up and were littering every review with drugs’n’dance music references (and doing whole singles columns about house too) – as a good David Gedge fan and worried 16-year-old puritan I hated it but I was weirdly fascinated too, which I assume is the reason I can remember big wodges of it now. “1989 – what a double top year!” etc. Hardly peerless prose but their stuff bubbled with a convert’s enthusiasm.

I think the deserved respect Simon now enjoys has slightly distorted people’s view of the Melody Maker back then*, i.e. the bits people remember tend to be his bits (A.R. Kane, oceanic rock, drum’n’bass) and they imagine the whole magazine was an amazing forward-looking groove engine. My memory of the Maker as an NME reader until about ’92 is that it was packed with unreconstructed Goths and always had the Mission or Robert Smith on the cover. Look a bit deeper and you’d get big chunks of intriguing writing (Reynolds and Stubbs of course; Chris Roberts had fairly conservative tastes but a glorious way with words; Bob Stanley nailed what was good about pop with an accuracy one might with hindsight expect), but I’m not totally convinced I was wrong.

*(and similarly the media tart ubiquty of Collins and Maconie nowadays has meant the pre-Sutherland NME is remembered as all lads’ bands and what-were-we-on japery.)

So I’m at our other site and a colleague of mine

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So I’m at our other site and a colleague of mine, knowing I like films, said did you see Heartlands? Excited to hear I had we then went on a bit of a mutual appreciation bender for this sorely under seen film of earlier this year. (Alex Thompson recommended it to me before I look like an obscurant savant). Before you start yelping and telling me that surely this should be over on Do You See?, let me get to the nub of my point. Heartlands is many things, rural road trip, lament of lost love, but it is also a sports movie. And it is a sports movie about darts.

There is the suggestion that all sports films have exactly the same plot (and they all end in a cup final). This, like all generalizations, is about 95% true. It is certainly true of Black Ball (more of which if I can bear myself to do it at a later date). Heartlands is clever in as much as the stakes are so low. Local pub team, going to Blackpool for a regional final. What does come clearly out of the film is the love of a game, any game as potential escape route. And coupled with that is the idea of hero worship, and here the hero is Eric Bristow – the crafty cockney.

It would be a bit much to suggest that darts in and of itself is a metaphor for the lead characters life. But perhaps it is a suggestion of the status of darts that in the end it does not matter who wins the tournament. Indeed the road trip is all about suggesting there is a brighter world outside your humdrum existence. But it is Bristow’s cameo near the end that sets him on his way. You loved darts, darts will still be there when you get back. Bristow, no longer World Darts Champion, has a surprising amount of gravitas because the film gives it to him. He is still nationally known. But he also comes from an era when darts, even darts, was not seen as a potentially athletic sport. Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor would not have worked, these guys trained. Bristow, oddly, ends up representing the type of old British sportsman, with all the so called gentlemanliness and fair play that entailed.

(By the way, its great to see how much the Late Review people hated the film. Everyone I know who had a chance to see it thought it was a minor masterpiece.)

Is there really that much of a difference between Moliere and the American Pie films?

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Is there really that much of a difference between Moliere and the American Pie films? Possibly. Farce is damned hard to do, and even harder to do well, it is to their credit that the American Pie films are rarely content in setting up the situation and leaving it to play itself out. Instead the joy is supposedly in watching its surprisingly neurotic young cast twitching to get out of it.

In American Pie: The Wedding our hero Jim is finally marrying his intended Michelle. This rises to a situation where a batchelor party is organised without his knowledge which. to cut a long story short involves a couple of strippers juxtaposed with Jim’s parents-in-law, and farce ensues. Except there is absolutely nothing at all realistic about the set up. Anyone who is aware of the rules of stag nights or even batchelor parties would be hard pushed to find a worse venue than the groom’s parents house. Even so, I would expect my friends to make a bit of an effort beyond just debauching themselves for a couple of strippers without even ensuring the person whose party they are throwing is even coming. The surprise party is after all a staple of the farce, but how do you feel the groom is going to feel when only four people, including himself are invited.

This weakness here is in the set up, once we are three steps ahead of the characters working out what will happen the now quite experienced cast act with aplomb. It is a pity that this series of films has got this lazy (not that the set up for the pie fucking in the first film was ever sophisticated). AP: The Wedding is otherwise a return to the form of the first film, which managed to marry gross-out humour with relatively conservative homilies about our hypersexualised society. The main flaw is Alison Hannigan’s Michelle, previously allowed all sorts of filth as the nymphomaniac is given next to nothing to do. But then in making marriage sacrosanct the film can only rely on the biggest star of its cast Sean William Scott* who not only graduates to lead character but is unfortuantely made over from homophobic bore to touchy-feely ballroom dancing hero. We may see another Ameircan Pie – but I would be surprised if we see Stifler again. Both because has developed to become likeable, and because SWS is probably too big a star now.

*If you are not supposed to trust anyone with two first names, how about someone with three!

ANDREW WK – ‘I Love Music’

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A gorilla learning the meaning of sincerity through a child’s dictionary and a Kevin Rowland solo record, and learning the meaning of music by the usual method viz. bashing things until it sounds good. There’s a curious poignancy to how tiny the instruments seem in its huge clumsy paw, and a terrible frustration at how slowly the experiment seems to be progressing.

Help Me Rhonda!

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Help Me Rhonda! is a television polyglot of that feel-good judgmental hue, where bland and broken people are invigorated and reborn for our nasty little pleasure. This program has no idea of its own, only a shell format that can absorb any of its kin from Faking It to House Doctor, and whose only common point amongst the episodes is the anchor and hands-on pseudo sociologist Rhonda. She styles herself as a ‘life coach’, and I’m sure to some she is. But to me she’s a bully.

This week’s program borrowed from Life Laundry to the point of plunder, charging a bingo caller to banish her hoarding ways and clear her brimming house of junk mail and marker pens. An early brief inspection showed that something was very wrong, even for this sort of show, and the narrator thought so too, stating several times that the marriage was at stake.

Rhonda, however, only gave token time to the causes, taking her subject on a sample shopping trip and throwing out top-of-her-head cod psychology titbits. She decided that the shopping had become an addiction: no further analysis was needed of this fascinating obsession and the complicated relationship it was threatening, no open questions and revealing emotional discussions ‘ not even the skating but succinct assessments that Alvin Hall gives us in Your Money or Your Life. Rhonda took her victim’s acceptance with a smug nod ‘ I’ve got your number, she was thinking.

I don’t know whether Life Laundry has hidden teams of handymen who put in the real donkey work, but even in the most hopeless cases they manage close each edition with a montage of pristine rooms and happy dwellers. Besides this, our pair’s half-hearted results looked all the more tragic. Rhonda’s advice seemed more like admonishments over laziness and ineptitude. Her only practical help was to use an alarm clock to cajole faster work, which prompted a fit of despair and rebellion. This wasn’t training ‘ it smacked of hard-edged pre-war techniques for bringing the feckless to heel.

Their conversations often became Rhonda’s lectures, like a scolding parent demanding to know why a child hadn’t tidied their room. Which may sound appropriate, only the child was a mature woman with a depressing and sometimes tearful problem, and the adult was there, specifically, to help her. Instead both of them were impotent to find a solution, and throwing their anger at one another ‘ the bully with sanctimonious disdain, the victim with frustration and self-loathing.

At the end of thirty days, all that seemed to have been achieved ‘ on camera, at least ‘ was that she had simply been left feeling worthless. It would be easy to slip into the ‘but it makes good television’ argument if it hadn’t been so clear that the program makers had found a desperate person and failed them badly.

Near the end, Rhonda pushed the blame onto her charge and commented reproachfully ‘I can’t change anybody.’ I’m inclined to agree.