Posts from 11th October 2004

11
Oct 04

POLL: BRITONS FEAR SPIDERS MORE THAN TERRORISTS

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POLL: BRITONS FEAR SPIDERS MORE THAN TERRORISTS

LAPUTA: CASTLE IN THE SKY

Do You SeePost a comment • 182 views

LAPUTA: CASTLE IN THE SKY
dir. Miyazaki Hayao

Then again the film should be more accurately called Tenkû no shiro Rapyuta in at least one transliteration, but anyway: Miyazaki is turning into one of those pleasureable ‘catch-up’ experiences for me where I don’t regret not having watched sooner in that I get the joy of seeing them all for the first time, never something to be knocked. In this case a friend had the recent release on DVD in the States — her young kids were already fans and she all but insisted I watch it, which is only fair since I was razzing her for not having yet seen Spirited Away in turn. So after a fine meal with friends the other night we sat down and watched it, with good friend Stripey and I particularly interested — Stripey was from the first extremely deeply moved by Spirited Away in ways that the more cynical might dismiss as soppy emotionalism. But that’s their loss.

I admit I was feeling a bit bothered by the fact that we’d be watching the English dub — so I’m a purist, but I actually want to hear the characters with the voices that were intended, not with something that, even if it is a good approximation, is still just that. However, as mentioned, the kids were very young and asking them to pay attention to the subtitles would be most unfair, and so the dub it was. It’s part of the Pixar-overseen effort to get a reasonably good voice cast together for the Ghibli releases, though, and while I’m no Pixar cultist I’m sure grateful John Lasseter is a Ghibli cultist, because he did a good job in voice selection and direction. And I never thought I’d say that about a production where the lead male role went to James van der Beek. (Mark Hamill as the bad guy was spot on as well, his voiceover work in the past standing him in good stead throughout.)

That all said — well, yeah, it’s pretty easy to see why Miyazaki and company were so revered for years, considering this came out in 1986, and why what must have seemed so enjoyably new and different to many in the wake of Spirited Away was already well established with films like this — Joe Hisaishi’s music (it’s really something how he almost could be bathetic but instead is *just* right, it’s a marriage of musical and directing talents as good as any example you might care to name), the sense of how sudden awe and wonder can be delicately conveyed in the looks of the characters, the strong sense of morals that for the most part steers clear of moralizing (one or two speeches towards the end are a bit clunky but otherwise no complaints).

I would say, though, that if Spirited Away‘s true heart was in that sense of emotional tension, loss and then joy, then here it is less that (though still present) than grandeur. And I don’t mean that lightly — it’s a lovely move that the story as filmed (the original manga might have a different structure) opens in medias res, where it’s taken for granted that there are airships in a post-Victorian alternate future but not so many automobiles anymore, and from the start the sky is the setting and stage for much that follows. And what set pieces they are! The whirring of the military ship Goliath as it proceeds towards its destination, the kite flying high above the pirate ship, the mass clouds of a hurricane that loom ever more dangerously closer, and certainly above all the castle in the sky itself, something between an Escheresque maze and a Maxfield Parrish fantasy in Western terms, perhaps.

A good time had by all. But the younger daughter really wanted to see Totoro again after that but we were all terribly tired. Another time.

FREAKY TRIGGER TOP 25 SCARY THINGS No.20: Being On A Fairground Ride And Noticing Bits Falling Off

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FREAKY TRIGGER TOP 25 SCARY THINGS

No.20: Being On A Fairground Ride And Noticing Bits Falling Off

Or sundry experiences to that effect. The point of many fairground rides is to scare us. To scare us safely one might add, but if they were not dangerous would they encourage the fear so much? Scary things get with the fear, and anyway it is not just the rides which bring on the fear at the fair.

Imagine if you will that you had designed some sort of fiendishly clever death defying ride. You have worked out all the stresses, tensions and possible things which could go wrong and worked out sure fire ways to stop the punters from getting hurt. Of course this is a fine art, and your precision engineering will stop people from getting hurt.

Then you hand it over to a tattooed neanderthal who is probably only working at a fair because he is on the run from society (possibly for a crime he did not commit but probably for a crime he did). His knowledge of engineering is such that if a bit falls off his motorbike he will stick it back on with sellotape. He is of the opinion that “scream if you want to go faster” leaves us adequate ways to tell him that we do not want to go faster that he will notice. He is, fundamentally, the last person you want to entrust your life with. And he is the reason bits fall off of fairground rides.

Wooden rollercoasters where the “safety bar” comes down, but seems to go back up again. Ferris Wheels which stop when you are half the way round to dangle in the wind. I was at Alton Towers once in the ‘coaster called “The Beast” Its schtick was that you were not strapped in. It should not have been that you got stuck at the top of the ride in the rain with no way forward or backwards.

Fairground rides are supposed to be scary. That is why they are fun. But when bits fall off mid-flow, or a funny rattle sets in, or people on the ground wave at you in a panicked way: it stops being fun. And it starts being frightening.

Context is all, part 547653

FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 106 views

Context is all, part 547653 — so over the weekend I reviewed the new Staubgold compilation Tempo Technik Teamwork and Pig Destroyer’s new album Terrifyer for the AMG, and my further thoughts on them both will run there in a couple of weeks or so. But I did enjoy both very much indeed, though in both cases I wondered exactly where they both ‘placed’ in the respective boxes the label and/or band have found themselves in (IDM in the former’s case, metal in the latter’s).

It’s been a while since I’ve done that, on a conscious level at least — given my unswerving belief in the benevolent tyranny of personal taste, anyone who has a problem with my liking either of them has too much time on their hands. Yet, especially if one is a ‘critic’ as formally conceived, there is nonetheless a perceived requirement that you have to know everything and anything in the field to be able to comment accurately. This has come under question in recent years, though, due to the sheer volume of music out there and the relatively little time to be spent on sampling any of them if one wants to have a life. Personally I think that’s very healthy myself, in letting go obsessive universality in favor of particular passions one can relieve oneself of the duty of having to be a social reporter on top of things.

So why these two albums in particular, to spark up thoughts along those lines I hinted at above? Not sure, really — probably simply because both are new, both I had little to no preconceptions about, and both were extremely pleasant surprises that will warrant relistening from me soon (a rarity this year, to be honest — usually I know what my album or albums of the year are based on replay and rehearing, but there’s only one album so far, Fennesz’s exquisite Venice, which fills that brief). I’ve read the occasional dismissal of Staubgold’s label work on the one hand and Pig Destroyer’s music on the other, but rather than thinking that there’s expertise per se at work in any of our judgments, I’ve never felt more part of a common ‘hey, we’re all in this together talking about ’em’ thread. It’s a nice step up from radical subjectivity in its own way.

FT TOP 100 FILMS 19: SOUTH PARK: BIGGER, LONGER AND UNCUT

Do You See2 comments • 1,009 views

FT TOP 100 FILMS
19: SOUTH PARK: BIGGER, LONGER AND UNCUT

Anthony Easton says:

Everyone liked this, they liked the crudity and mistook it for sharpness; they liked the absurdity and mistook it for political acumen, they liked the casual inclusion of real life characters. And they liked the music. The music was good–clever, easy to hum, workable pastiches of common pop forms. The politics were a little more suspect. Calling your enemy a fag is pretty playground, and thats what they do with Sadaam, nothing more sophisticated then saying something like “your mother sucks cocks in hell”.

As for the aggression without much warrant, the sadism and the connection of patriotism, we are seeing that in spades, it might be prescient if it wasn’t for the history of America. Even the idea of Canada as a socially progressive antidote to the sabre rattling of Old Glory has been known and done to death, but nothing is new, and having things done again isn’t always a bad thing. The problem with noticing it is that it has the subtlety of a meat cleaver on a side of beef. Maybe thats the only way that we learn these days.

Pete Baran says

I liked this, I liked the crudity which masked the sharpness; I liked the absurdity which complimented the political acumen, I liked the casual inclusion of real life characters. And I liked the music. The music was good, clever, one of the best pop musical scores of recent years. The politics were even more interesting. Calling your enemy a fag is pretty playground, which is pretty much what Bush’s war on Iraq has been. Remember this film predates Gulf War II by three years. Bush’s war has certainly not been any more sophisticated then saying something like “your mother sucks cocks in hell”.

SENSES OF SHAME Touch Me- Samantha Fox

I Hate MusicPost a comment • 2,347 views

SENSES OF SHAME
Touch Me- Samantha Fox

In many ways Samantha Fox wanting us to touch her should not surprise us. As the most famous Page 3 girl the Sun ever had, she was certainly used to being seen. What difference would a bit of touching make? Well perhaps the subtitle (I Want Your Body) might give you pause for thought. If you know anything about body vampirism and possession at least.

Now I am not saying that Sam Fox is some sort of evil demon who will take over your mind, body and soul (though having seen her on a number of reality TV shows the evil demon bit is plausible). But look at the lyrics. It starts with it being full moon. And then the very phrase that she was hunting him down. And yet when she does get to touch him, he is gone, quick as a flash. The only solution. That his soul has been destroyed by her vampiric ways.

That is one reading of the song anyway. The other one is that it is a tawdry cash-in on her tits-out occupation. Which may well be confirmed by these lyrics:
Like a tramp in the night
I was begging you
To treat my body like you wanted to

Derrida obituary

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 253 views

Derrida obituary in The Guardian: here. Does a terrific job of a summarising work and life concisely and clearly. The leader here is certainly more appropriate than the Times one mentioned below, and not just because I agree with it to a far greater extent…

Also:
Lovely piece from Liberation: here. If you can’t read French print out the stunning cover and pin it to your wall instead.

I drank a beer last Friday that tasted like cold, weak, black tea.

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 378 views

I drank a beer last Friday that tasted like cold, weak, black tea. This delighted me as I rather like tea like that. Others were not quite so taken by its flavour. Perhaps the word beer primed their tastebuds too much. (I cannot unfortunately remember what the beer was).

This is seemingly a problem with Geuze, the lambic king of beers. Again it does not really taste like beer. This wonderful Belgian brew which I had another of my semi regular bottles of at the Swimmer on Saturday, got passed around the party who mostly agreed that
a) It was nice
b) It did not taste like beer
c) They could not drink a whole one
The premium on a beer that tastes a bit like a over-ripe cider may seem bizarre, until you factor in its scarcity and the factor a) above. It is really nice.

The same may not strictly be said for Pink Cloves, the much fabled Publog occasional drink of which a bottle was finally sourced on Friday. A more aptly named drink I cannot think of. It is bright pink, and tastes of cloves. As a cordial you only need a dash to change the taste of your drink, and the smell of the whole room. A mere sliver is another to mask any subtleties of gin, and frankly its addition to Bison Grass Vodka seemed more than a touch sacrilegious. The only thing it could not completely overpower was tonic water, which resulted in a sickly light pink drink which was also remarkably sharp. It was unpleasant. As a stunt drink Pink Cloves is a nice warming experience, but its historical place (as a favoured drink of Devon no less) does harken back to a day where plenty of drinks tasted horrible, and a masking agent was need to make it palatable. You could drink meths with enough Pink Cloves, and aside from the colour it would be palatable. Come to think of it I think it is called Aftershock.

Delovely has a problem at its core

Do You SeePost a comment • 286 views

Delovely has a problem at its core, which scuppers the whole biographical process. Cole Porter’s songs were not autobiographical. Generally they were written for musicals, where the songs helped tell the story, a story which was quite unlike his life. For all the great stand out tracks he wrote which may work outside of the context of these musicals, there is never really a suggestion that he was ever really plumbing the depths of his soul for resonance. Delovely, in attempting to tell Porter’s life through his songs shoehorns, refits and attempts to allude significance into the most throwaway lines. Not least the “on screen director” of the film of the life turning out to be the Angel Gabriel just so the film can end with Blow Gabriel Blow.

The conceit of on-screen director/angel Jonathon Pryce, and the bickering between Kevin Kline’s Porter foreshadows technique over content. Screen musicals still seem to have to apologise for even existing, and as in Chicago, the songs take second fiddle to telling the story. So people talk over the songs, they are slid in as backing music and only two or three times are there ever anything that could be called big production numbers (inexplicably the Anything Goes sequence uses the NT production set, but rechoreographs it badly to make us wonder what the fuss was ever about). The film fails as a musical and is too sketchy for a bio-pic. What is more the entire budget seems to have gone on Kevin Kline’s old man make-up. Which is all well and good except that no-one else in the film seems to age anywhere near as much, Ashley Judd’s one concession to the aging process is a few wrinkles around the eyes and a grey streak. Delovely is derubbish unfortunately.

X marks the spot.

Do You SeePost a comment • 116 views

X marks the spot.

When Fame Academy was on, I argued that a transposition of critical and popular judgement might be under way in tele-land. (Not necessarily a good or a bad thing.) At the very least, what Pop Idol itself did was place the audience, week after week, in the seats of the judges: as an endless stream of hopefuls stepped in front of the cameras (especially in the early rounds) we all became critics. That one is singing flat, that one doesn’t have the right look, etc., etc. With X-factor this small chink in the shifting plates of the culture industry (and they will keep on shifting: new possibilities will open up just as this one shuts down) has closed. Back to swill-shovelling business-as-usual for the venal corporate entertainment machine. The re-jigging of the format, which some unkind critics have alleged is due to possible legal difficulties with similar shows, has been constructed to replace judgement with narrative. In the opening rounds, the viewer rarely saw the acts audition. Instead we got a tiny selection of human-interest stories, alongside the inside-track on some of the acts presumably earmarked for fast-tracking, and a prominent focus on the singers’ opinions of / reactions to the judges. The competition between the three has been the excuse for some grotesqely staged clowning of the stage-villain variety. ‘Oooh that Simon, he keeps everyone waiting… we don’t like him’, etc. And the story of the competition itself has all but obliterated what made earlier talent-show series more open, even if only in momentarily, or in simulation. Once again the viewer ends up factored into the spectacle not as (potentially) critical participant but playing as much a victim of the media machine as the contestants. The fact that people are watching / talking about / concerned about X Factor becomes part of its self-celebrating and insular logic: the audience at home downgraded from subject to object, like the sad desperates hoping to trade their call-centre or chain-store grind for equivalent exploitation (and hard work, I should think) draped in the trappings of fame (limos and clothes will be paid out of your advance, which is hardly going to be big, life expectancy of the winner’s career being at an all time low). Turn off.