Posts from 2nd March 2004

2
Mar 04

Oh, Pete has already written about Along Came Polly

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But, I’ll post my review anyway, if that’s okay?

My “it’s got Ben Stiller in it so it must be good” theory has been somewhat exposed by his latest effort “Along Came Polly”. It’s not a terrible film, but it relies way too much on toilet humour (haha if Ben eats spicy food he gets the runs, there’s no toilet paper, flood, shock, horror! – and the even worse “I just sharted”, I won’t explain, work it out). I’m not sure about Jennifer Aniston in films, she was okay in Bruce Almighty, but she doesn’t really come across well as the free spirit. Stiller plays a typical urban neurotic, though not as well as he did in the Royal Tenenbaums. It follows the old rom-com formula, of broken hearts and staid routines, the new love, the odd lie here and there, the transformation and the she’s leaving town. It really all adds up to an okay movie that is watchable, say just as watchable as the Guru was, at least it’s not too long. Actually, the side story of his bitter ex-child actor pal might have made a better film, but wasn’t there such a film out recently?

Anyway, I saw a trailer for Starsky and Hutch, it’s got Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson and the X-Factor of Snoop Dogg in it, so it must be great! I hope this hypothesis won’t be cruelly refuted…And then there was the trailer for “50 Firtst Dates”, Sandler and Barrymore = A WINNER!

Is there something about the 4:3 aspect ratio that makes Elephant more intimate?

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Is there something about the 4:3 aspect ratio that makes Elephant more intimate? Probably not in a cinema like the UGC Shaftesbury Avenue, which without framing blinds presents everything on its big white wide screens with acres of white spaces on the side. At the Curzon Soho, the encroaching of the blinds recalled nothing more than seeing an old ?classic? there. It made me settle down for something which might not be state of the art but would undoubtedly be good for me.

Gus Van Sant?s suggestion that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts is remarkable for how tense it is. With each increasingly banal insight into the petty jealousies and angst of teenage American?s makes it clear how rigid the teen movie is. In Dawson?s Creek everyone has a plot. In Elephant, they all lost the plot quite some time ago. That isn?t fair, there is no plot to be lost. Clich?s are fulfilled (the purging, non-eating girls, the self importance of all the teens), but not in order to make any sort of point. What it reminded me of was my own teenage years, bullied and seeking for a way out. I resorted to weapons too, chairs being easier to get than semi-automatic weaponry. But given the choice?

That said, has Gus Van Sant ever seen a first person shooter game? The one in Elephant seems remarkably unchallenging, since no-one ever shoots back. Which fits nicely with the final sequences when they inevitably come, but takes the edge off of the verisimilitude. And does no-one ever go to class in US High Schools?

UNHEALTHY VEGETABLES: PART ONE aka: The Goodness of Potatoes and Root Vegetables

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UNHEALTHY VEGETABLES: PART ONE aka: The Goodness of Potatoes and Root Vegetables: QUITE FRANKLY HAS THERE EVER BEEN A BOOK MORE SQUARELY AIMED TOWARDS ME… EVER? (Well apart from that edition of War and Peace me mam threw at me when I kept asking ‘but WHY are they all called Natasha?’ when I was but a wee nipper but that’s a different story for the Brown Wedge).

The charity shops round my area are GRATE for cookbooks, not only did I find the fantastic Tassajara cookbook (here is a recipe: STEAMED BROCCOLLI: 1. get broccolli 2. steam it 3. serve with some salt hurrah but the aforementioned lovely little gem. It starts off with a quick primer on your roots and then onto the recipes. I’ve already made some particularly nice glazed carrots, with parsnip chips and peas. The only thing that could make that meal ANY BETTER would be plonking a durty great big CHICKEN KIEV in with it all, but hey, beggarsthose of us who don’t have chicken kievs in the freezer can’t be choosers.

Glazed carrots are basically the invention of someone who thought “RIGHT I’m not having any of this healthy vegetable lark, how do I make carrots into something, ANYTHING unhealthy, how!!!!@@@!@!”. Here is how you make them.

1. Get some carrots and DICE them into slices
2. Put them in a pan
3. To pan, add SHEDLOADS OF BUTTER, teaspoon of salt and teaspoon of sugar.
4. Cover with barely enough water to cover the carrots
5. Boil boil boil untill all the water is gone
6. Chuck em around the pan a bit so they brown up a little
7. Scoff

Pat yourself on the back that YOU TOO HAVE MADE UNHEALTHY VEGETABLES! Coming up tomorrow: the story of PARSNIP CHIPS.

The problem with most romantic comedies is that they generally try too hard on the comedy front

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The problem with most romantic comedies is that they generally try too hard on the comedy front, leaving a relationship which can barely be called romantic. The farcical shenanigans of how to shuffle two people who hate each other into the same room and then make them fall in love, in a funny way, belies very little of the real experience of love. Along Came Polly, the Ben Stiller, Jennifer Aniston romcom is an exception to this. On paper there are plenty of lifestyle choices keeping the pair apart, but frankly very little on screen made-up farce to perpetuate this. This has the upshot of providing a film with is surprisingly romantic. Oh, but not very funny.

Noticing the lack of plot based yuks our writer/director desperately flicks through the back catalogue of both stars careers to see what he can throw at the screen to make us laugh. Pointless gross-out and animal injury for Ben Stiller – kooky indecision for Jennifer Aniston. Very few of the gags stick as it lurches from nice tentative romantic scene to the next via a gay misunderstanding or blocked toilet. You can’t hate a film where the denoument is the two leads merely agreeing to go on another date, but you can sue under the trade descriptions act.

TEJO, BLACK ALIEN, SPEED – “Follow Follow” / “Quem Que Caguetou”

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TEJO, BLACK ALIEN, SPEED – “Follow Follow” / “Quem Que Caguetou”

This is another new record I like a lot. It’s the music from a recent Nissan advert, which had very violent Latinish dance music playing in the background. As soon as I heard it I thought, “Wow!”, because it sounded so much like ‘baile funk’ a.k.a. ‘funk proibidao’ aka just ‘funk’. According to a wise ILMer this lot aren’t baile funk people, they’ve been commissioned to do a baile funk record for the advert is all, and they’ve done a very good job I think.

But what is baile funk? I’m not 100% sure I could tell you – I’ve heard of it, and I’ve heard a bit of it, enough to know when something sounds like it anyhow, but take what I’m saying with two pinches of salt. It’s a hip-hop variant from Brazil, mostly the poorer parts of Rio, and it relies on loud, hard, basic syncopated beats, with crude sample-splices or electro-treatment and rhythmic but flow-less MCing. It’s closest to Miami Bass but there’s more syncopation and the rappers like forceful barking more than that slightly breathless, speedy horndog flow you get on 2 Live Crew records. Thematically it seems pretty in tune with the Miami stuff, though. (Here’s an interview about it from Hyperdub, and you could always listen to some yourself).

Back to Black Alien et al. “Follow Follow” is a cleaned-up version of baile funk – not in a lyrical sense (I have no idea about the lyrics of any of this stuff) but in terms of the sound: it’s more structured and more produced, it doesn’t have the lashed-together feel of other tracks I’ve heard. It’s still strikingly different from anything that’s currently charting, at least in Britain: a messy, bouncing churn of bass and yelling. So much so that Nissan were apparently giving CDs of it away free and only now is it getting a release date.

I’ve been dipping into baile funk for 3 years now and it’s been going for about 13, but for all its raw appeal I don’t see it crossing over even with Nissan’s help. It’s interesting that it’s been around so long, though, as a successful regional variant on hip-hop. By ‘regional variant’ I don’t mean a version of hip-hop with occasional local references and sample-sources: that’s pretty much the minimum local hip-hop needs to have any kind of communicative power. It’s more like the difference between pidgins and creoles – some areas develop hip-hop based musics which become their ‘mother tongue’, not just a quirky cross-breed or a perpetual second-language (with the first being the real, American stuff). Baile funk is one of these, Kwaito in South Africa may well be, and it seems a good way to understand the links between Grime and hip-hop too. Over to DJ Marlboro, from the Hyperdub interview, for the last word on this:

“When the Roland 808 was launched in the States, it was criticised by musicians at the time because they were after a more acoustic, natural sound, and the 808 had this really electronic sound, so the price fell and the people from the ghetto started to adopt it into their sound. When this music arrived in Brazil, it was really successful. The sound systems had the massive speakers to deal with this heavier sound of the 808 beat and we really got into it. This sound, that was to become Miami Bass, started to dominate the bailes with its stronger beat.

However we never called it Miami Bass, because for us it was always funk. So this Funk/Miami Bass that came over in 1988/89, 2 Live Crew and all of that, started to become nationalised with rapping in Portuguese and the melodies from Pagode ( a strain of samba) and Forro, mixed with the Miami Bass beat to create something more characteristically Brazilian.

We have this thing of mixing our language, our style so that in 1993/94, the percentage of stuff played in the bailes was gradually increasing, so that nowadays 100% of the tracks are national, made in Brazil, and the funk made here is completely different from anywhere else in the world.”

Great Words In Science Number Two: Winding (number)

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Great Words In Science Number Two: Winding (number)

A lot of people’s view of topology stops short at “a cup of coffee is a doughnut”, and that’s a perfect place to stop, because it seems like nonsense/obvious to pretty much everyone. The people that start asking about why, if we have some magic substance that you can transform between one thing and another, you can’t stick holes in it, are often treated as not getting it. They are the people to watch.

This is most of science – the twin questions “How is this like that?” and “How are this and that different?” Super extra hard science may involve three things.

An visual way of looking at it is that every space is viewable as a table(a plane) with some or none spikes sticking out of it. A loop of yarn (a path) can be threaded around on the table, and you can move it around as you want, but if you can’t lift it off the table, you can’t change a loop that goes around a spike once to one that goes around it twice.

This is topology’s refinement/reversal of the questions – is thing1 the same as thing2 in the same way as thing3 is the same as thing4 Vs if these things are the same, how many ways can we write the rules (“You can’t lift the thread from the table” = “You can’t push holes in the mathematical playdough”)?

The winding number is just what it says, the number of times that a loop winds around a spike, the irreducible part. The city I walk around in is a big table with hundreds of spikes. Through habit, there must be buildings around which my life has a winding number in the thousands.