Posts from 27th January 2004

27
Jan 04

A Weekend Out

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A Weekend Out

Tokyo Story

The 50s Tokyo = 30s America theme extends to the pastoral music, all strings and harps. I hadn’t thought about the harp as such a classic “domestic bliss” signifier, but that it is.

Lost in Translation

Bill Murray’s character seems resigned to the fact that he’s in his version of hell, but it’s his choice that put him in a position where he’s surrounded by people who have no interest in his interest. Scarlett Johansson is there through not making choices.

American Splendor

A straightforward indie romance, disguised as a biopic. Paul Giamatti sets up a character within five minutes of scowling and slouching, and spends the rest of the time shading the details in. Repeat for the other characters. If you still respect misery, this is a film you will love.

Paycheck

On Paycheck

A Mighty Wind

People talking up Eugene Levy’s eye-popping twitchy role in this amaze me, but Catherine O’Hara will break your heart, and the rest of the film is either funny or touching.

Peter Pan

Maybe not an innovative movie, but an absolutely pitch-perfect one. The shot near the start where the aunt’s comforting hand on Wendy’s shoulder looks like the aged claw of death is worth the price of admission, and the rest of the film lives up to it.

Big Fish

The attitude towards our hero’s romantic rival reveals a very un-Burton lack of imagination, one that fills the movie with lukewarm water, and lets it set out two morals at once: Stories make life interesting, AND Life is pretty interesting. Neither of them are evident in the movie.

Cold Mountain

Giovanni Ribisi and Jack White look like they might have actually paid money to play southern hicks during the Civil War. But eventually the run of wacky guest stars falters, and we have to get back to the unconvincing love.

Love Actually

A triumph of craft over art, but God what a triumph. The dialogue is sharp (and pleasantly sweary), the acting consistently great, and the bits where the knife goes in are the more keenly felt because of the goodwill all around. By the time the ending shots start hammering your buttons like International Track and Field, you might well not mind at all.

Even More Ambushed By Unexpected Emotion #???

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Even More Ambushed By Unexpected Emotion #???: I didn’t listen to the Buffy musical that much since I wrote this, and I was only relistening for actual real work reasons. A lot more of it than I would have predicted snagged at something inside – but the full-on ooh-look-out wet-cheek moment was Tara’s half-smothered single line in the main ensemble number Walk Through the Fire: “Everything is turning out so dark…”

Don Quixote and Picasso

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Don Quixote and Picasso

Not many people I know have read Don Quixote. At least not all of it. Or even any of it. The thousand odd pages of dense text can appear rather daunting. It’s also a novel with an odd structure and the second half tips a wink to a pirated sequel that Cervantes had no hand in. It’s a story within a book, told via a narrator and if you think too much about it, your head hurts.

I bought mine from a one legged man in Tanzania. I had time to kill and nothing to kill it with. I paid six dollars for it. Rather excessive for a tatty paperback. In hindsight I should have just taken it. What was he going to do, hop after me? For a week I immersed myself in the comical sad world of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.

The book is over five hundred years old but the comedy could have been written this morning. It’s just two blokes, one with a vast imagination and tenuous grip on reality, the other na’ve in some respects and cynical in a whole lot of others. The interplay is everything to the story but it’s the evolving relationship between the two that kicks the book along. Other characters come and go and some hang around the periphery, but Cervantes uses them to bounce around ideas and to skewer the main characters into new adventures.

My copy was weather beaten and stained. It dated from the late sixties with a beautiful Picasso drawing on the cover. It must have taken him thirty seconds and it captures everything I love about the book. A series of squiggly lines form an outline of Quixote sitting with an imperial air on top of Rocinante. The drawing looks effortless, but full of detail. Abroad stroke gives Quixote a jutting chin as he contemplates the windmills in the distance. His horse is a mesh of dark jabs over bandy legs. A swish completes his face and adds expression. It is simple and perfect.

I began to treasure my copy and after a thorough clean and some sticky tape, it began to resemble a proper book once more. However, a thousand page treasure carried in a rucksack quickly turns from book to brick and I soon swapped it for something altogether less grand. I wasn’t too bothered, promising myself I would find a copy when I came home.

Of course I came home, searched everywhere for it, but never found that edition. The best marriage of book to cover I’ve come across and the best $6 I have ever spent.

Wales are trying to get to Euro 2004

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Wales are trying to get to Euro 2004 through the back door, after a doping scandal in the Russia team. They want the 0-0 draw in the first leg replaced with a 3-0 victory for them. What I don’t understand is where this scoreline was plucked from – a 2-0 win would have got them through just as well, and if you’re going to throw on extra goals why not go for 4, 5, why not go for a historic national record victory? Were there three particular tackles in which the midfielder in question looked particularly wide-eyed?

(Also if scorelines get changed like this do the phantom goals get credited to anybody? Maybe they should be raffled off for charity.)

KISS AMC – “A Bit Of U2”

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KISS AMC – “A Bit Of U2”

UK pop-rap crossover from 1989 which goes straight for the obvious-bone and pastes great wodges of “New Year’s Day” into tumbling raps. Kiss AMC had family connections to Ruthless Rap Assassins and had been active for 2 years at least when this came out but it doesn’t sound that way, it sounds like they’d just discovered MCing and were still high on the glee of it.

“We like indie, pop, and bands with weird names!”

It’s bad, incompetent rapping by today’s standards – still a thousand degrees better than anything I could do, of course, but it sounds sloppy, it pushes itself into your head on energy not technique. It also made me realise how much I like bad rapping. Breathless rapping. A lot of UK MCs, particularly early on, seem to have rapped like this, their brain and ambition moving faster than their flow or tongue can manage. It sounds exciting to me, it feels rushy.

I was thinking about this reading an Anticon thread on ILM yesterday. I don’t think I’ve ever heard any Anticon but it struck me that there’s less love for my kind of ‘bad’ rap than I’d expect from people like me who grew up on indie ideals. There’s lots of appreciation of experimental/underground hip-hop but people don’t seem to have many good words for rawer, attitude-before-ability rapping. The reason I think it’s odd is that “A Bit Of U2” gives me the same kind of buzz as the Fire Engines, Orange Juice, Subway Sect, etc. – that shambolic DIY wire-walking energy. Crunk has a bit of that too – not the DIY thing, there is no secret line to be drawn between the Ying Yang Twins and the Desperate Bicycles, but the energy is there. The simple basic pleasure of hearing people shout a lot over beats is not to be denied.

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Shout out to our foreign reader(s)! Is that Korean? ON WITH THE SHOW!!

I love Judge John Deed. Don’t you know what it is? It’s a courtoom CRIME DRAMA on the BBC. That, along with the repeats of Room 101 with Jonny Vegas are worth the license fee alone. Each week there is a very serious court case which always features an appearance from a well-qualified, well-meaning but eccentric old loon. Last night we had an Oxford Don with amazing eyebrows. The week before we had a Kevin Eldon style undertaker. B-b-but we ALL KNOW how court cases go, we watch the 10 o clock news don’t we? Or Channel 5 news? Let’s get to the REAL STORIES.

The real stories of course feature Judge John Deed’s relationships with various LADY QCs. Cherie? Laugh? I nearly bought the book. But no dear readers, Judge John Deed is also In Therapy. He has commitment problems. He’s a little overfond of the ladies. The QC’s aren’t having it anymore! One emminent QC is his ex-wife, another one is his ex-lover and I believe he’s also started making love (Judge John Deed does not merely have a BONK) with the blooming therapist. Dawsons Creek for growed ups? I THINK I MAY HAVE HIT THE NAIL ON THE HEAD!!

There’s a classic bit in each show where his secretary helps Judge John Deed on with his big old Judgey cape. And his courtroom demeanour! I’d rather have courtroom demeanour than “bedside manners” ANYDAY. And you just KNOW that’s a glass of THE STUFF he’s got on his desk, not water. Isn’t he dashing for an oldie? Help, I’m getting a bit too carried away. I can’t believe the programme can last for AN HOUR AND A HALF and you don’t even notice the time slipping away like so many grains of sand through an upturned palm. I am tempted to go and study law at Oxford so that one day perhaps Judge John Deed would take me out for dinner.

Well done The Beeb!

Further to sarah’s CAMRA piss-taking

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Further to sarah’s CAMRA piss-taking, 10 reasons to drink cask ale, including the frankly ludicrous number 8, which confuses things containing fat with things that are “fattening”. If atkins has taught us anything (which it possibly hasn’t, but anyway), it’s THE CARBS that you have to run screaming from, just ask my belly…

Timeline is a thoroughly entertaining lousy movie.

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Timeline is a thoroughly entertaining lousy movie. (okay, lousy movie Monday has finished, but there are just too many lousy films in this world to just fit in one day). Hacked back to life one imagines in an edit suite by someone who has no interest (thank god) in being faithful to the Michael Crichton book, just trying to find some semblance of sense in the piece. Thus portentous subplots go by the wayside, life changing romance seems a touch rushed and we get in and out of the fourteenth century in under two hours. Pointless technobabble and a thinly disguised Bill Gates as villain are just a few more tidbits to enjoy. Less enjoyable is spending ages to get to the middle ages, suggesting that it might explain its oddly convenient time travel and then chickening out.

Nevertheless, of all the films I saw last year it might have left me with my favourite piece of lousy invention. In the final battle for the French castle when Anna (Vit Vit) Friel’s Lady Claire is shacked up, the archers get busy. Popping flaming arrow after flaming arrow over the walls to the encroaching English. Then as the battle takes a turn for the worse the call goes out: ‘NIGHT ARROWS!’. Not actually a whole new stealth technology device, they appear to be your bog standard arrow cunningly not set alight. Something important might have happened in the next five minutes, but we were too busy laughing.

Here’s a little confession

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Here’s a little confession: it’s been close to three years since I listened to a Magnetic Fields album. In fact if you haven’t been reading FT since way back when you probably didn’t even realise how much I loved that band. The simple truth is that I’ve not listened to them because I’m afraid I won’t like them and because I don’t want to remember the particular time they got me through.