Posts from 15th December 2004

15
Dec 04

Phantom of the Opera

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Phantom of the Opera
Corsets in, breasts out, masks on and mouths open wide; the phantom is back. I’ve heard complaints that to enjoy a film like Phantom, you have to like musicals. Well if you don’t like the idea of sweeping orchestrals, well-worn rhyming couplets (love/above) and people spontaneously breaking into (synchronised and choreographed) song and dance then for pete’s sake don’t watch it. But I for one like having my heart strings plucked, even sentimentally and sometimes even predictably.
Emily Rossum plays a suitably dewy Christine, with a constantly bewildered expression on her innocent face. This does become slightly annoying, as she doesn’t seem to mature enough throughout the film. There is however, one point in particular towards the end when her voice takes on a wonderfully mature turn and complexity which it didn’t have before and which we should have heard much more of. She just manages not to overdo the act, becoming genuinely sympathetic by the end.
The remainder of the cast sing brilliantly, Christine and Raoul’s voices complementing each other perfectly. Gerard Butler doesn’t quite match up to the other two in voice terms but acting-wise gives a great performance as the phantom. Even Minnie Driver who, having heard her hideous excuse for an album, I feared hearing in a musical. But she’s actually very funny as the prima donna in poly-filla make-up. And as a bonus, she doesn’t sing her own lines.
This has always been a brilliant musical, with a powerful score and a genuinely interesting and complex plot (never mind 6th form coursework, you could get a dissertation out of the ‘masquerade/duplicity/appearance theme’ – Shakespeare eat your heart out). I do think the film version does justice to the stage musical, but precisely because the original is so good. It didn’t add anything special of its own which it really needed to have done to be a classic. The movie Grease, for instance, now epitomises that story in a way the musical no longer does. I don’t believe that Phantom will manage this, but it was still powerful stuff, beautifully imagined. That damn music won’t leave my head either, much like the phantom. . .

THE DAVE CLARK FIVE – “Glad All Over”

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#161, 18th January 1964

London answers back. A quick search for info on the Five draws out this gem – “Contemporaries criticised them for lacking finesse” – well, who’d have thought it? Frenetic, lairy, noisy – there’s hardly anything to “Glad All Over” beyond call-and-response chanting and stomping but it’s close to irresistible.

This is a fast, hard record – apt that the drummer gave his name to the band as the track shows perfectly the way rhythm and speed were becoming a motor in pop. The crudest No.1 to date, perhaps – nobody was going to be comparing this to Schubert.

Babbage Minifig Not Included

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Babbage Minifig Not Included

LEGO logic gates! Via Slashdot.

Office Christmas Meal

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Office Christmas Meal

It was our ‘team Christmas meal’ last night, in deepest, Burberry Essex. A local Chinese restaurant was suggested. “It’s a decent Chinky.”

We revved up for dinner in a pub I can only describe as shit. Four pint pitchers for a fiver. Old blokes mumbling into them. We stumbled to the restaurant.

Some shaven headed Essex boys sat at the only other occupied table. Chunky gold chains worn outside the shirt. They said knowwhatimean a lot and sent a beer to our table because our conversation was ‘entertaining’. It was a provocative gesture and one I was quite happy to ignore. Unfortunately the others took the bait. The beer was sent back. I didn’t realise at the time, but someone in our group spat in it. This did not go unnoticed on the chunky chain table.

One of my colleagues went to the toilet. Two of the chunky chainers followed him. There was trouble a brewing. By degrees everyone gravitated to the toilets. Amid the squaring up and “You. Outside. Now” talk was the manager of the restaurant; a tiny Chinese guy trying to restore calm. Remarkably, he succeeded. A round of drinks for the lairy chaps was organised. Lager, mostly. “They ain’t wurf it” was the chunky chained conclusion.

And that should have been that. Except, one of my colleagues and his boss were obviously fired up and started at each other. “I’m resigning because you’re a twat.” “Fine, you’re useless anyway.”

Chairs were scraped back. Calm downs were issued. “I’m not having this.” Cash was thrown down onto the table and a hasty exit made. Too hasty in fact as he forgot his bag! The bossman followed him which was a little disappointing as he didn’t come back and he was paying.

The situation this morning is a little tense. To say the least.

According to Marketing last week

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According to Marketing last week, Weetabix is now Britain’s biggest cereal. What do they mean now? One Weetabix biscuit has always been almost twice the size of its nearest rival Shredded Wheat. But apparently Corn Flakes used to be bigger. What kind of Land Of The Giants madness is this?

THE ADVENT CALENDAR OF CHRISTMAS FILMS 15: Elf

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Seeing the picture of Will Ferrell as an Elf mocked-up on so many boxes of Sainsbury’s Corn Flakes this year has been a cheery sight. An odd one though, own label products always used to be free from marketing hype and tie-ins. That was the provenance of your Kellogg’s or Weetabix*, with a free toy, glow-in-the-dark diorama or tazo. Sainsbury’s own labels as far as I was aware were barely sullied by the marketing dollar at all. But seeing perky Will in last years (and this decades) best Christmas film promotes a smile.

In retrospect Elf was a bit of a guaranteed hit. For story it fuses the two Christmas classics A Christmas Carol (James Caan = Scrooge) and Miracle On 34th Street (Buddy is proof Santa exists). Admitted the third side of this unbeatable Christmas story behemoth being Ghostbusters II was unorthodox. But I have an mp3 of Zooey Deschanel singing Baby It’s Cold Outside playing now, and it even makes me thing of Ghostbusters II in a more positive light.

In the offending

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In the offending Torygraph article, Charles Moore, in describing a Channel 4 advertorial for a Christmas comedy show, makes the following point:

The tableau is presented (sub-Bunuel) as a parody of the Last Supper… The first page shows a line of yobs — mimicking the Apostles — beginning their meal in reasonably good order. The second depicts them towards its end, violent and drunk. The ‘Jesus’ figure is lurching forward, halo awry, beer can in one hand and cigarette in the other.
The natural inclination of Christians in the face of such affronts is anger. But would it really be a better society in which silly, urinating Mr Abbott could go to prison for such a thing, and perhaps the bosses of Channel 4 with him? Before lots of respectable readers shriek ‘Yes!’, think what it means.

And thinking about what it means, the prospect of a banned Bunuel is exciting. As an experiment. As Mark S pointed out t’other day, much avant-garde work is designed to bite the hand that feeds — but, as is well known, it takes more than a Christ smeared in shit to shock people these days. Wouldn’t these once-outrageous endlessly available artified artefacts grow in savagery if our own Chiappes in power followed the logic of their thought to its illiberal conclusions?

THE DADDINO FAMILY TREASURY OF CHRISTMASES PAST Christmas 1976

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THE DADDINO FAMILY TREASURY OF CHRISTMASES PAST
Christmas 1976

Now before Xmas ’76, I’ve only had five Christmases, out of which I can probably remember only two. (Or maybe three, only I don’t remember remembering Christmas ’73 back in ’76.) And yet when my mom told me we were going to have Christmas in the new den rather than the living room, I thought it was an intriguing twist on ancient family tradition. But, you know, we had a new den and by gum, my parents were gonna try real hard — too real hard — to show it off to friends and neighbors and relatives.

First off, we get a real tree, probably our first. The family used a fake tree every year, since the days when the family still lived in an apartment in Brooklyn, and on through the years until…well, I remember my dad agonizing over the color coding that determined a branch’s placement on the main tree stem, so that’s probably 1975, and if not that, 1974. (It’s hard to tell from the photos.) But this tree is all too real. Earlier Christmases have trees with tinsel garlands in elegant interlocking grids; this one has unruly branches jutting out in all directions, too impolite to hold the red and white and clear plastic chains in any regular manner. In fact, you’ll notice one of the red chains is sagging half-way off the tree. The chains are brand- new, part of an extensive ornament-buying-programme my parents enact for the occasion. I take part, going with my parents to the nurseries of Long Island, one time asking them to buy a Flintstones ornament that mysteriously disappears from my person (and my memory) before Christmas. One of them was the occasion for one of my most mysterious and random childhood memories: a woman with a bag full of purchases has her scarf fall to the ground as she leaves a nursery (probably Martin Viette’s – God, I am so glad they still exist), and the Santa on the premises notices and interrupts his conversation with some adults to get her attention…and I don’t think I ever found out what finally happened. I felt sorry for the homeless scarf. Anyway, I don’t remember doing this at all, but from the photo it’s pretty clear I also accompanied my parents with the trimming of the tree — the majority of them are placed around my height!

The other way my parents are overdoing it: just look at all the fucking presents. Holy shit, they extend across the entire width of the room, which might be…what? Ten to fifteen feet? I don’t know. It was such a long time ago and I’m a terrible judge of length. But compared to all the other Xmas photos we have, this is easily the most bountiful season we ever have. And off-hand I only remember the cheap stuff: the Richard Scarry books, Stadium Checkers, a carnival playset, a hunk of plastic with a spiral pyramid that round metal balls rolled around before getting lost on the floor.

The couple of months surrounding this Christmas I remember with a warm fuzzy glow. Kindergarten was held for only half a day, and for the first half of the year I’d come home during lunch-time, put a Swanson’s TV Dinner in the oven all by my lonesome, then eat and do stuff in front of the TV set in the den. The family went to Florida for my first vacation a few months later. Good times.

Popular ’63

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What would you have given the No.1 hits of 1963? Tick all those you’d have handed a mark of 6 or more to (on whatever criteria you fancy!)

Which of the Number 1 Hits Of 1963 Would You Have Given 6 Or More To?

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