Posts from February 2006

21
Feb 06

Good Night & Fuck Off

Do You SeePost a comment • 617 views

I could talk about all the good things about Good Night & Good Luck, a film which an acquaintance thought was completely worthless because it told her nothing new. And true, it is preaching to the converted, and there are few (certainly almost none) in the UK who would back Senator McCarthy HUAC trials. Worthless? Maybe even Peter Bradshaw had an uncharacteristic fit of being almost spot on with his suggestion it was just a BBC4 drama-doc with a bit more money spunked on it.

But none of this I care about. Not even the nice smoky atmosphere that Clooney creates tickles me as much as the fundamental reason for the films success in my eyes. It is a pretty small story, set in offices. It is a footnote in history and the film is aware of it. There is no slow motion self-congratulation, there is no attempt to make these people into larger than life heroes. Instead the film comes in, tells its story at a clip, and then finishes. 93 minutes is all you need to tell this story, and without talking down to your audience at the same time. The film perhaps should be called Good Night and Fuck Off, because that is what the film does. And for that I salute it.

(My mother recently moaned at me when I criticised a film for being too long. “You say that about all films” she said. But am I wrong?)

Putting the FA in FiAsco

TMFDPost a comment • 190 views

The plus point of Wembley not being available for the FA Cup Final is that the FA may not lose quite so much money on the whole project. Of course there is the issue of ticket sales which will yet again be flooding into the now-dated Millennium Stadium coffers, but let us peruse the small print. For every week Multiplex (don’t get a cinema in to do a builders job) is later the FA get 1 million quid compensation. Which means that as long as it is delayed fifteen years (completely possible at current work rate) it will be free!

The other plus point is that England can play a few more friendlies in actually friendly venues rather then the shed on the North Circular. Though clearly it might have been useful to get acclimatized to venues where no-one gives a shit what is going on and is all on a corporate jolly just before they get to Germany.

Designed For Confusion

The Brown Wedge1 comment • 407 views

As befits a program with a ridiculously wide remit as The Culture Show, its quest for best of British design seemingly thrives of category error. How exactly can we compare and contrast Grand Theft Auto with the Mini? Except in as much as it would be nice if there was a mini in Grand Theft Auto (note the Italian Job is not part of the this grand design top ten). What is design It is a question this list seems happy to ignore, in much the same way that craft and art happily ignore their artificial boundaries. In case you are looking for professional web designers to create an amazing website for you, feel free to contact web design company perth and watch them work wonders.

Is the phone box as much architecture as design? The catseye invention? The world wide web some sort of infrastructure rather than something designed per se. It strikes me that the main definition of design here is “whatever designers do”. Which is I guess as good a definition as any, but ones which soon flounder when you get to knocked out entrants like the Sgt Pepper Album Cover (where does design end and the artist kick in?). Still you can vote anyway, and happily ignore the semantic issues at the base. It is a back slap after-all, don’t we design well in the UK. We just don’t know what designing is.

(And it is nice to see the two computer game sin there, just to see how many kidZors are watching the culcha show.)

20
Feb 06

I Read You Coming

Do You SeePost a comment • 164 views

There are two really interesting things about Pavee Lackeen (The Traveller Girl) and neither of them really have that much to do with the director. Well okay, one does, since he chose the theme and actors. It is merely a thought: to what extent is Winnie actually a traveller girl? The problem is of course with the term, which conflates an identity with an action (similar to say being Jewish which can mixes up racial identity with religion unsatisfactorily). Perhaps in the past she would be called Romany or a Gypsy (no accident it starts with a wizened old palm reader) but it appears that the term preferred is traveller. But in their static caravans by the side of a road for ten years of so, Winnie has never travelled in her life. To what extent are other members of her extended family who live in houses in the suburbs of Dublin still travellers?

Of course the terms traveler has been chosen as descriptive of the key trait of these people. It does not retain any stain of ethnicity AND THEREFORE CAN BE EASILY BE REMOVED BY THE ARGUMENT ESSAYED ABOVE. Want to see how words have power: here is a perfect argument. What is more, the way Pavee Lackeen non-judgementally attempts (and fails) to show worth in this lifestyle must show how much on its last legs it is. The council, the government do their best to make it hard to live like this, but the final nail was in a friendly renaming (to prevent abuse).

The other interesting thing is the subtitles. There are moments when Rosie, Winnie’s Mum, slurs and stumbles her words. But not to the extent that the whole film need be subtitled. Actually it makes more sense to leave it slurred. I expected some slip into some arcane romanyesque language (as Pavee Lackeen the title suggests), but we get less than the average cockney rhyming slang in a similar Eastender. I imagine the subtitling is at the behest of a distributor, but it is the only Irish film I have seen with such titles, and yet again distances the audience from the travellers. It is needless, so I smell a political subtext.

Worst Bar Staff In London Award Nominees

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 464 views

Perhaps it is time for a name and shame award. Those lousy restaurants, ones which always seat you by the door, or most persistently underseason your food. In pubs, the most hotly contest category has to be the “worst staff award”. Previously reported holders of the 2005 award was The Golden Lion in Kings Cross. But now we have some new nominees for the 2006 award: The Albany.

I cannot comment on a fellow traveler who got so irritated that the staff were ignoring her that she started to fiddle with the taps (though an honesty self service tap story will follow). All I can report is my experience. A reasonable wait (five minutes) during which I saw the three staff constantly getting in each others way. Repeated my order twice (two pints of Staropramen, a half a Kriek, a red wine and a V&T). He starts with the star. It is coming out at the rate the Fleet river flowed in the Georgian era – and probably tastes as good as we are clearly at the bottom of the barrel. He twigs when the pint is half full and goes off to change the barrel. He then attempts to top up the half full pint with new, heady, spluttery beer. I correct him on this, and eventually the two pints are delivered.

He needs reminding of the order again, which I do so. The Kriek is served pretty well, with a massive head – though it is supposed to be like that. However they lack suitable glasses for a V&T and use a Hoegarden glass instead. Which would be acceptable if they gave me a bottle of tonic, but instead make the barman judgment on the pre-mix, which since the class is half a pint is considerably more tonic than the usual 100ml.

And finally to the red wine. Nice fancy on bar glass washer, good for Belgian beer, not so good for delicate wine glasses. When the wine comes to me I point out the glass is quite seriously chipped (probably be the glass washer). Barman apologises, and then tips the wine into another glass. As I point out, possibly with the broken glass in it. He huffs and gets me another glass. All the while, the lovely head on my Kriek has diminished to a pathetic blamanche.

Fifteen pound ballpark for the round to be expected, but I sympathise with the anger of the previous friend. Except I wouldn’t have just played with the taps. I would have forced my finger over the spigot to spray them with high pressure Kuipers Kolsch.

17
Feb 06

High Pitched Teenage Deterrent

Proven By SciencePost a comment • 407 views

Scientists who have nothing better to do with their time have invented a teenager deterent for curmudgeonly old folks. It works by emitting an unpleasant high pitched whining noise that only teenagers and dogs can hear. (Sounds like someone playing Husker Du to me.)

Now don’t get me wrong: this is a terrible story. But since when did unpleasant loud noises ever put off teenagers?

My Vengeance Pair

Do You SeePost a comment • 303 views

Lady Vengeance (or Sympathy For Lady Vengeance as it is still semi-officially called) is the third film in Chan-Wook Park’s vengeance trilogy. The films have little to do with each other, except the theme, and by the time I got to the end of the first hour of Lady Vengeance, I thought Park had worn the topic out. Like Oldboy, Lady Vengeance features a protagonist who is released after a period of captivity, ready for her revenge on the man who done her wrong. Much like Oldboy the film has shots of dark humour, indeed perhaps too much humour, and too much cinematic flim-flam to make you care.

All goes by the wayside about an hour in when our heroine catches up with her nemesis, and suddenly the film dramatically changes. Not in as much as humanitarian grey areas kick in, the story is still very black and white. But suddenly her drive for vengeance is opened out, what was done to her is not as bad as what was done to others and she offers them vengeance too. It is, on the whole taken, but the question the film ponders (unspokenly) is to what degree is there any catharsis, and if revenge is a dish best served cold, how cold should you let it get?

This final twist makes Lady Vengeance a much better film than it seems from the start, and I preferred it to Oldboy (which was relentlessly nasty). Sympathy For Mr Vengeance is still my favourite of the three, but hey, we all like the film we discovered. Much like we all expect to dislike the film everyone tells us is great. Munich is that film – another film preoccupied with vengence.

Like Lady Vengeance, Munich also posits the real use of vengeance as catharsis. In this case the Israeli state killing organisers of the Munich bombing in secret seems to lack the visibility that catharsis requires. But then this is State vengeance, something which as the film rolls on you realise is a bit of a contradiction. The urge for revenge is a personal one: and so this become the revenge of key Mossad members, the Israeli government, but not of the people.

Speilberg delivers an overtly political film without the politics. The hows and the whys are often sidestepped, for good reason. This is just people killing each other for questionless good reason. As soon as it becomes personal, it also becomes impossible. It is also a film about the world of vengeance, of terrorism, of secret operations. Despite being far too long (and again there is a clear place to end a good half hour before it does), Munich impressively fills in the grey areas that Lady Vengeance and most other films fail to note. Perhaps this might not be the case if Eric Bana’s team of assassins were actually any good at it: at times it is like watching the Keystone Mossad. We are not used to seeing action films where the protagonists fail as much as they succeed (I am getting used to seeing Speilberg films though where he fails as much as he succeeds – and the length and digressions here almost lose the plot).

Vengeance is not sweet, seems to be the message of both of these films. Both are flawed in different ways, but both are clear about what they stand for, and do so without beating the viewer over the head with it. Perhaps the best thing about this vengeance duo is they credit their audience with intelligence.

16
Feb 06

Lousy Food Fight

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 248 views

There are posters around London as I write for the Wicked Zinger Meal. A KFC joint. Now we all know the Publog has a jones for Indie Chicken. Well I have a jones for non-indie chicken, corporate chicken and the Wicked Meal hits the very spot I love. Namely, the spicy zinger. And the meal comes with two hot wings, and a tub of barbecue beans (you cannot actually cook beans on a barbecue – I have tried). So needing food on Tuesday after Grizzly Man (the ravenous hunger of the man-eating bear had got to me) I headed towards KFC.

As I walked though I started to feel my usual dirtiness that fast food always confers upon me. So much so that as I turned down Wardour Street, I started to consider alternatives. And unfortunately this happened when I was outside Wong Kei.

Wong Kei is an institution, but then so was Bedlam and no-one mourned its passing. A Chinese restaurant on four floors, with fast turnover, jolly if rude staff and low prices. It is a student favourite and tourist favourite, and going in for the first time in almost ten years I was reminded of its good points. It feels like a living institution (indeed it probably is in some bad ways), the hectoring staff and the clatter of plates whizzing around the joint. The greeter sending people upstairs, downstairs or if you are on your tod and have the air of someone who knows what they want to order, you get a decent groundfloor seat. I got one: I felt special.

And my Singapore Fried Noodles (£3.80 – nineteen pence cheaper than the Wicked Meal) and free tea came within four minutes. It was almost wholly made of rice noodles, turmeric and monsodium glutamate. Not necessarily a bad thing – but my mouth was yellow and shriveling due to death by Umami in minutes. It filled me but I felt EVEN DIRTIER THAN IF I HAD GONE TO KFC. A sensation I did not believe could ever occur.

So great atmosphere, horrendous food. That’s why it took ten years last time, and probably ten years again.

All US TV Is An Autistic Child’s Dream

Do You SeePost a comment • 225 views

Which is a plausible argument anyway. But Dwayne McDuffie – comic and TV writer -proves it. Elsewhere the horrible spectre of continuity has been discussed with regards to comics – where the occasional anal fan community pick nits which should be left alone. So Dwayne considers the occasional world of US TV crossovers – and finds out that one show in particular is a veritable Kevin Bacon of TV shows.

Said show is St Elsewhere. And if you remember how St Elsewhere ended, then suddenly the whole of US TV is destroyed. Wow. (A good supporting role from the omnipresent Detective Munch of course.) Look and learn.

15
Feb 06

TOM JONES – “Green Green Grass Of Home”

Popular37 comments • 4,204 views

#227, 3rd December 1966

The worst thing about “Green Green Grass of Home” is how close it comes to being OK: for two verses the band is tight and Tom is as close as Tom gets to ‘restrained’, and the record is shaping up nicely. Carry on for another verse in that vein and we’d be listening to a big, corny pop-soul heartwarmer: sentimental for sure, but strong.

But no, there has to be a twist. And it’s not so much that there is a twist – plenty of songs have them – it’s the manner of its delivery. “And I realise -yes -“, says Tom Jones, “I WAS ONLY DREAMING”. It’s rare to feel patronised by a pop song, but this pulls it off. Spoken word sections usually work as a spash of naturalism in the middle of a pop performance – a trick to reduce the performer/audience distance and jack up the intimacy. But naturalism and Tom Jones don’t really share a universe, and given the assumed need to hammer home the ending for the slow of hearing the effect is something like Brian Blessed teaching a remedial class.