Posts from December 2003
Stanley Kubrick used to refer to 2010, the interloping successor to his own opus, as Ten past Eight. It was a little callous, perhaps, given that the critical world had long decided that his own was a masterpiece, and so he was taunting from an unassailable position. Yet it does reflect the main sense that I have when watching the film: that it’s not poor, but it is disenfranchised by its own heritage.
2010 plays as if the creators thought the ambiguity of the first film was an oversight, and each left-over question – the cause of the computer’s breakdown, the purpose of the alien structures – is given an answer. And this is where the film falls, in my view. Not because answering these questions is a mistake in itself, but because they demand a knowledge of 2001 which can only give its sequel a mistaken context.
2001 has developed a cult of its own myth, the discussions of which have kept it carefully beyond explanation. Depending upon whose essay you read, it charted the journey of mankind through technology to find enlightenment, pitted innovation against evolution, was very trippy, was very pretentious, or any of a dozen other things. 2010, on the other hand, is a sci-fi thriller about aliens.
2001 concludes with the birth of a Starchild, depicted with strange, incongruous imagery that yearned to enmesh the film in profundity. 2010 finishes with a spaceship racing away from an explosion and a nice voiceover about world peace.
There’s plenty more. Whatever your views on 2001, there’s no doubt that 2010 was less ambitious and less important. And don’t doubt that it was an postscript: the book of the first film was forged in the heat of Kubrick’s notoriously intense creative process, which Arthur C Clarke – the author – said couldn’t be followed. And when he did, he changed an important detail – the planet at the end of the odyssey – not to further the ideas of the film, but to allow a scientific plot device.
The strengths of the second film – and I do think it has some – are the sort that are useful to conventional, self-contained crowd pleasers. It has a low key tension that builds to the climax, a mystery with a resolution, a disparate team undermined by distant political conflict. But to appreciate all this requires having already seen a very different film.
If 2001 is considered a success at whatever it was attempting, then the follow up is a minnow that belittles it. If not, than 2010 is trivia after a folly. And for anyone who hasn’t seen the first film at all, than the second is an irrelevance, and perhaps barely intelligible at that.
I saw Isabel coming back from Christmas shopping with a very interesting looking GAME carrier bag so it might well be that come the 25th I will be looking for an excuse not to bother writing an end-of-year round-up. Luckily Jess has given me one by doing a 2003 overview that is better-tuned, better-informed and better-written than any of the other ones I’ve read so far. Nice one.
My Favourite New Band of 2003! are Komatrohn – a quick look at that website will show you that they’ve been going since 2001 but they’re new to me, so there. They make very fast, very pop electro which all sounds wonderfully 8-bit. Every track I’ve heard by them has been excellent: they take simple ideas and execute them with a delightful economy. They are also, I feel I should warn you, very twee on occasion. You can sample them on Gabba, where their cover of “Smalltown Boy” has been generously uploaded.
One of the few other blogs to mention Komatrohn has been Shoelaces, which I also enjoyed.
(Update: Top Komatrohn simile I have just thought of. Komatrohn : Electroclash :: Soca : Dancehall)
Freaky Trigger will be running its (or in this case, my) Top 50 Tracks of 2003. Here are the ones that didn’t quite get in.
50 CENT — ‘In Da Club’ (you all know this); AVRIL LAVIGNE — ‘I’m With You’ (heroic return of the pop power ballad); CHINGY — ‘Right Thurr’ (lechery and laffs); ELEPHANT MAN — ‘Egyptian Dance’ (a belly dancer; a snake charmer); JAMMER — ‘Boys Luv Girlz’ (nagging gender-politics grime); JESSICA SIMPSON — ‘Sweetest Sin’ (scary insight into fundamentalist romance); JUNIOR BOYS — ‘Birthday’ (awkward but captivating synth-pop); JUST A MAN — ‘I’m Sorry’ (yearning Italian disco-pop); KELIS — ‘Milkshake’ (six months on I’m still not sure whether I like it!); KYLIE MINOGUE — ‘Slow’ (electro-smooch lustre diminished by rubbish album); LADY SAW — ‘Let’s Go Party’ (strident invite to dancehall fun); LIL JON AND THE EASTSIDE BOYS FEATURING THE YING YANG TWINS — ‘Get Low’ (wonder if it’ll cross over here?); RICHARD X – ‘Finest Dreams’ (more for the Human League really); SEEED — ‘What You Deserve Is What You Get’ (Deutsche-dancehall romp); SINEAD O CONNOR — ‘Chiquitita’ (hyper-intense version of ABBA classic); T LOVE — ‘Polish Boyfriend’ (soundtrack of my honeymoon by Polish Electric 6); TES — ‘New New York’ (indie-hopper rips off Blueprint with marvellous results).
a list of her subjects:
young soldiers-done better by Rineke Dijkstra’s .
the erotics of youth as a good thing-done better by Bruce Hanley, Jack Peirson, etc.
the erotics of youth as a bad thing- done bettet by Nan Goldin, Larry Clarke.
college boys and how hot they look- done better by Tim Gardner.
wrestlers and how hot they look- done better by Bruce laBruce.
cliched, dull, not even hot in a “i could wank to this” way, and even worse. cliched, Collier Schorr has gotten hype and im not sure why.
(i am not saying that every work needs to be innovative, but it needs to at least show an awareness of precedent, and she hasn’t)
If there is one thing guaranteed to turn me off going to see a film, it is someone claiming that it has a “great soundtrack”. So it is that I have not yet seen Donnie Darko, and at this moment I am intensely grateful for that. Not that I have anything against the movie (other than that it seems to be a favourite of the kind of mumbling disgraces to humanity who like Pavement (see below)), but going to see this tender tale of a boy and his bunny would have also meant one more hearing of Gary Jules’ ‘haunting’ cover of “Mad World”. And I think I might be at that point when one more hearing might be the death of me (and several bystanders).
“There you go again Tanya, you old cynic! Doesn’t it mean something that at Christmas a real proper song might be number one instead of the usual tinselly tat?” Yes it does, dear reader, it means that the world is even more fucked than I had thought. Christmas is the one time of year when I can imagine some tiny excuse for people buying the miserable tripe they do: their brainstems have been replaced by mincemeat and their cranial fluid by sherry. For a non-Christmas record to be No.1 at this time of year removes even this crumb of comfort – people are buying Gary Jules because in all honesty they think it is a good record.
Let us examine the song more closely. It is ‘moving’ i.e. it has been slowed down and sung in a wheedly voice to a sparse accompaniment. This is the oldest trick in the pop book and yet it never seems to go out of fashion – the shoddiest piece of pop nonsense can sell bucketloads a second time if you sing it slowly enough and trot out the acoustic guitar (or as in this case piano). WHEN WILL YOU LEARN?! Singing songs more slowly does not make them more REAL, it just makes them LONGER. For extra agony Gary Jules has decided to sing “Mad World” in the style of Michael Stipe, which is essentially spitting in hope’s face: just as it seemed we might soon be rid of Stipe’s own pestilential band a clone appears!
And what of the composition itself? “Mad World” was originally on the aptly named The Hurting album, the first by Tears For Fears, a pair of hairsprayed poltroons who had taken their name from a phrase used by radical psychoanalyst Arthur Janov. Janov deserves a spot in the box at the International Pop Crimes Court in The Hague, as his therapy also inspired John Lennon and laughing stocks of the universe PRML SCRM. Janov’s influence on Tears For Fears led to “Shout”, as in “Shout, shout, let it all out.” I will now attempt to test this advice myself.
AAAAAH! FUCK OFF GARY JULES! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!
Oh, I feel better now. Maybe Janov had a point after all. Anyhow, “Mad World” in its rubbish original version was a moody bit of synth-pop entirely typical of its era: it was gibberish and nobody paid any attention to the words anyway, they were too busy lengthening their overcoats to care. Slowing it down has meant that it is impossible not to pay attention to the words and what a surprise they are rubbish. It turns out that the song is written by someone who feels alienated, hated and unloved – fair enough says this impartial listener. Gary may not have written the words but he has set a terrible precedent – what is now to stop people taking A Flock Of Seagulls singles seriously? Or – dear heaven no – Depeche Mode???
One thing I heartily approve of, though. The dreams where Gary dies are some of the best I’ve ever had, too.
BLAM! Back home from the pub last night to catch the last fifteen minutes of Sniper (11.25pm, BBC1), a semi-reprehensible Billy Zane vehicle. Olympic marksman BZ, plus Tom ‘Sliver’ Berenger’s Andy McNabb-style marine, travel to Panama to snipe. There’s some stunning slow motion acting but it’s still woeful. And I consider myself a Billy Zane fan!
SWOOSH! Drunkenly stabbing at the remote control’ and then it’s Ed (12.30am, ITV – all regions). Matt LeBlanc, a.k.a. the funny Friend, tries to squeeze out some humour but is hamstrung by the presence of a midget in a chimpanzee costume. Warning: this is a baseball movie. Best to avoid, although it was great to see Crazy Like A Fox’s Jack Warden raising the tone. And I consider myself a Matt LeBlanc fan!
SPLAT! Time to pass out to The Great Chase (1.30am, five). To quote from the local paper; ‘Compilation of the most hair-raising chases in silent films, featuring Douglas Fairbanks Sr and Buston Keaton’. Ten minutes of the elder Fairbanks was more than enough for me. ‘Fairbanks’ outlaw challenges the posse to catch him as he goes to the town for lunch’. Wot a show-off. And I consider myself a fan of compilation movies!
This is my Last Cigarette- kd lang
Secret Love- Doris Day
kd lang and Doris Day seem to be on the opposite end of things, one of them is a butch dyke who makes abstract concept albums and quotes Camus in her linear notes, one is a virginal blonde, always going after the wrong man.
Thinking back to Oscar Levants quip about Day (I knew her before she was a virgin), and hearing this song again, on the tails of kd langs 1997 collection Drag (think no fun, think cross dressing, think the power of addiction and love, think of all the theory and longing that is found in that monosyablle.), i think that we have underestimated both of them.
Doris Day dressed as a cow girl, and sang about hidden desires, in the middle of a fantasia that was supposed to be about nothing. Doris Day played the straight girl to butches and nellies in her masterful comedies (ironically it was the butch who was queer and the nelly who was straight). Doris Day slung her voice low, into a whispered conversation that nestled into intimacy. Doris Day could sing, she was always thought of as a bubble head, another blonde bimbo, with out the comic timing of Mansfield or the cosmic dread of Marilyn–but hear the desire seeping through the words here, how the whole thing becomes a psychosexual strip tease that ends with disclosure. She knew how to milk audience, she knew she couldn’t belt but she didn’t need to, she sung American chanson.
kd lang, started as a cowgirl, in her words “the reincarnation of Patsy Cline (this made sense, Patsy helped people–Loretta Lynn, Kitty Wells, and others, she was den mother in fur + feathers) but she moved on, she became our Chet Baker–in Drag, which is a concept album about how love is like smoking, and really just an excuse to sing all those songs from the 50s, she sings like Day, but more world weary. If Secret Love starts from prohibition and ends with permission–then Last Cigarette starts with vice and moves into virtue, its a secret love, and she knows it- the way she drags her tounge around the lines “Sometimes the things that you love in the night/The morning will choose to forget has a knowing, louche decadence that Day only suggests.
They should work as a pair, dawn and dusk, lust and love… I want kd to record Secret Love, it would be a circle completing itself, they move into a place where camp is found to be deathly serious.
A sad day for Channel 4 then, as five and a half hours after the fall of RI:SE it broadcast the last ever Fifteen to One. After sixteen years, with fifteen contestants per day, Fifteen to One has now featured approximately three-fifths of the population of Great Britain, yet still nobody knows anyone who has ever been on.
William G(ladstone) Stewart did not let sentiment intrude on the final programme. There would have been little point in showing highlights of the last sixteen years since every single episode has been exactly the same. Instead WGS kept his scary-Bob-Holness routine going right until the end, at which point he yelled, ‘all pile on!’ and the contestants made a big scrum on the studio floor.
The shame of the (not-so) secret RI:SE fan
Why do I feel such passing affection for a program that was so inconsequential? Possibly because that’s precisely what I need at that time of morning ”and possibly because my early morning trance is a hair’s breadth from a suggestible/hypnotic state. I am categorically NOT a morning person. If you are one of those people that just gets up, twitters around right from the off then I HATE YOU. Take it personally.
The last edition featured the return of many semi-regulars and BB people (Mr Tickle, Gos and a sweary Nush). Zora got her own back with some rude gestures, and there were chemically induced tears all round, but otherwise it was more of the same (hurray), with a little more innuendo, and all capped off with “ALL PILE ON!” at the end. The screen rudely filled with a shambled heap of jeaned backsides poking out at all angles. How appropriate ‘ a pile of arse.
The Keep RI:SE on TV Petition to Channel 4 and Princess Productions has over 400 signatures ‘ surely such attractive ad revenue guarantees a re-commission