Posts from May 2009

22
May 09

DURAN DURAN – “Is There Something I Should Know”

FT + Popular68 comments • 5,422 views

#518, 26th March 1983

“Is There Something” – released between albums to maximise chart returns – is by no means Duran Duran’s finest moment. The chorus is a chant in search of a hook, and the shamefully half-hearted middle eight is a collection of atmospheric blurts in search of an editor. It’s also – one notorious line aside – the least exciting of Duran’s mid-period hits. It lacks the gleeful absurdity of “Rio”, the sleaze of “Union Of The Snake”, the shameless drive of “Hungry Like The Wolf”.

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20
May 09

BONNIE TYLER – “Total Eclipse Of The Heart”

FT + Popular110 comments • 8,676 views

#517, 12th March 1983

Pop repeats itself first as the sublime then as the ridiculous. “Total Eclipse Of The Heart” – especially when you watch the gauzy video – comes across as a big budget remake of Kate Bush’s “Wuthering Heights”. Pianos, crescendos, abstraction, abjection. But bigger isn’t always better.

Or isn’t it? Jim Steinman is pomp rock’s master of scale: why settle for a delicate bas-relief when you could have Mount Rushmore every time?

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19
May 09

Maria Larsson’s Neverlasting Moments

Do You See + FT3 comments • 694 views

Everlasting Moments is a film about photography. Its also a Angela’s Ashes-esque mopeathon set in 1910’s Sweden where an abusive husband knocks around his wife and seemingly endless number of kids in a two hours advert for hard times. Luckily the photography bits just about excuse the wifebeating bits (not morally, but artistically in the film) giving troubling context to the apparent artistic success of the photographer in question: Maria Larsson – the wife wot get beat.

Troubling in a number of ways. Its certainly not the first film to suggest that artistry comes out of personal pain. I wonder if people are scurrying back to their Van Gogh biographies at the moment to retrofit the lack of self harm in the ear mutilation and the intense jealousy of Gauguin. Maria Larsson takes a number of welts off her ne’erdowell alcoholic husband, but is this what gives her this photographic ability?

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18
May 09

MICHAEL JACKSON – “Billie Jean”

FT + Popular/144 comments • 11,947 views

#516, 5th March 1983

Michael Jackson came to the title “King of Pop” in the style of a medieval ruler, carving out his realm piece by piece across a hard year of campaigning. He won some of his new subjects when he performed this song as part of a Motown anniversary special: others when he formed common cause with Eddie Van Halen or Paul McCartney. His fiefdom suddenly extended across my school playground with the release of the “Thriller” video and its body popping zombies. Through it all the album and its spin-offs sold, and sold, and sold. “Billie Jean”, its Wikipedia page claims, has now topped 800,000 sales as a digital download, a format invented close to 20 years after its release.

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17
May 09

Eurovision: One Year Later

FT/19 comments • 589 views

Almost a year ago I wrote this post – “5 Point Plan For The UK To Win Eurovision”, defining “win” as “maybe come a respectable fifth”.

And here we are: a respectable fifth. So let’s see which bits of my advice were proved right.

Erm, well, NONE AT ALL seems to be the answer.

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Tokyo Sonata Lacks The Class Of Time Out

FTPost a comment • 177 views

I liked The Class (Entre Les Murs) by Laurent Cantet, but did not feel all that compelled to say so when it came out. Because it had good reviews I had no need to, and my glib comments about this depiction of Parisien inner city schooling would have added nothing to the debate. Yes, it looked tough, no it did not look as tough as we thought a London school would be. Yes its a tricky job, but perhaps the teacher went too far. It is exactly the kind of film which, as a Play For Today in the UK would have caused questions in parliament, which it did in France. Which for a socialist social realist like Cantet and his collaborator François Bégaudeau would have been the highest level of success. What is more interesting about the film is how it was made, that it was inspired by a book of the same name, a confessional tale of an adequate teacher in a similar school. That said teacher / writer was then encourage to help improvise and star in the final film is more unusual. It blurs the line between fact and fiction in an interesting way, almost the opposite of a docudrama: the incidents and most of the characters are fictional, the way they are handled perhaps not. Call it a Dramamentury instead.

At the same time, it was interesting to see Tokyo Sonata, a Japanese take on one of Cantet’s previous films. Well interesting is the wrong word as despite having much more in the way of plot than Cantet’s Time Out, it is too melodramatic but oddly dull.

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16
May 09

Kirk Should Buy A Lottery Ticket (MASSIVE SPOILERS)

FT11 comments • 476 views

I would say I am loathe to nitpick the science and plot of Star Trek, but anyone who knows me would say its not true. I love to nitpick, even though I often keep it to myself. Because nitpicking does not normally reduce my enjoyment of a film, I can happily accept outrageous coincidences and remarkable magical science. I just wish I didn’t have to.

So Star Trek is Star Trek, so I start with a basic boatload of premises from the original series. Warp Speed. Transporters which only work when they don’t spoil the plot. Alien civilizations all living within a mile of each other on their home planet. I can get that Vulcan, say, is just one city on a planet (which since Earth is only ever represented as San Francisco* is I suppose only fair). All of this I knew before I walked through the door, so instead my nitpicks are more based on the STAGGERING CONSPICUOUS COINCIDENCES which occur from the already established conveniently coincidence heavy Star Trek universe.

So lets play with a bit of probability here. Let’s say that each of the staggering coincidences that occur have a probability of one half.

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15
May 09

KAJAGOOGOO – “Too Shy”

FT + Popular60 comments • 5,387 views

#515, 19th February 1983

People who look back on the eighties and despair or scoff are probably thinking of hits like “Too Shy”, the very definition of flossy, flimsy, flouncy faux-funk foolishness. It’s a record so evanescent that you half-suspect it was specially created and retconned into history by a cabal of budget “Hits Of The 80s” compilers. (OK, no, that would have been “Big Apple”)

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14
May 09

The Fruit Stand School

Do You See + FT5 comments • 300 views

Bond pulls the handbrake and dips his DB7 into a shimmying 180, suddenly accelerating again in a squeal of smoking rubber around the corner, where he’s just caught a glimpse of the villain’s tail-lights. But wouldn’t you know it – there’s a fruit stand in the way. Stolidly gripping the gear shift, Bond slams through it, no time to spare, grapefruits and plums ripped flying from their lovingly-packed cases into the cloudless Adriatic sky, two green and white striped umbrellas flail over sideways, screams are heard. The grocer’s jumped, but whether he’s clear of the damage is not known.

I have a fantasy – surely shared by others – of seeing an entire movie based on the aftermath of this scene. First the stillness of the street and the exclamations of bystanders. Someone’s writing down the license plate number. A peach rolls a few feet and stops. In a room where light cuts through wooden shutters, we see photographs arranged on a mantle, and an old black telephone. It rings. A woman answers. The news isn’t good.

OK, maybe it shouldn’t be feature-length. But I luxuriate in these sorts of details when they appear in movies and on TV, and they’re a big reason why I like Breaking Bad.

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13
May 09

Like Having A Zip For A Mouth Is Scary

Do You See + FT2 comments • 319 views

At the heart of Neil Gaiman’s kids book Coraline is one scary proposition. It is one that the whole book, and film is predicated on. That having buttons for eyes is frightening. Which is OK in the context of the film, which turns out like some sort of kiddie Un Chien Andalou*with pointy needles and the like. But it does tend to forget that in an awful lot of home-made knitted toys, and indeed snowmen, buttons ARE eyes.

But despite giving children morbid fears of their cuddly toys (good), Coraline is a terrific kids movie, properly scary and a proper fairytale. The downside is that like proper fairytales it can feel a little second hand, because – like proper fairytales – the story is cribbed from many other sources.

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