Posts from 11th June 2004

Jun 04

Popular ’60

Popular16 comments • 1,209 views

The next entry is turning out to be quite a big one, so I’m pushing it back a day or two and putting up the last of our 60s polls. It’ll find its way to its proper place in the blog in time.

I give a mark out of 10 to every song on Popular. In these polls, you tick any you would have given 6 or more to. 1960 was a slim year for Number Ones – only 16. My personal high point was “Shaking All Over” (8), and my low was Lonnie’s “Dustman” (1).

Which Of The Number One Hits Of 1960 Would You Have Given 6 Or More To?

View Results

Poll closes: No Expiry

Loading ... Loading ...

Over to you! And discuss the year in general in the comments too.

Much better news

TMFDPost a comment • 228 views

Much better news from the Football League. It now means that the proven incompetent and the still criminally challenged won’t be able to take over clubs in the Football League (look mom, no coke!). One might say it’s a good policy to finally have after 116 years of existence, but for once, I’d say that would be churlish.

I remember having a discussion with an football administrator 3 years ago. He said that a fit-and-proper test was impractical and unworkable in law, but more than that, it was undesirable because it might stop the likes of a certain former Darlington Chairman becoming involved in football. Maybe the penny finally dropped that that wouldn’t be a bad outcome for the game.

It’s also worth placing on record the thanks that should go to Sir John Smith, who recommended such a test in the his report on the George Graham bung scandal for the FA in 1996, and the Football Task-Force who did similar in 1999. Also, Dave Conn from the Independent, who by consistently lifting the lid on the murky, tawdry and (how shall we say given many cases haven’t yet come to court?) potentially illegal dealings that go on at clubs, especially in the lower reaches, made the case for the need to police the ability of such people to become owners or Directors.

Also, congratulations to the League officials for doing this and taking a stand, and I daresay a risk too. Congratulations too, to the clubs who voted it through – the phrase ‘turkeys voting for Christmas has often been used’ to cover the reason why this would be unlikely to happen, but it has. Does this mean that the test isn’t in fact Christmas? Time will tell. And there’s still a few Turkeys amongst club chairmen, but thanks to the work we do at Supporters Direct, there’s a some fantastic people getting into of positions influence too.

Maybe it’s Euro 2004 being just around the corner, or the fact that as I type this, I can see a lovely sunny day out of the window, but I’m optimistic about football. We’re not going to hell in a handcart after all!

(Update: see what I mean?)

FT Top 100 Films 83: DIE HARD

Do You SeePost a comment • 1,009 views

Yippee Kai-Aye Motherfucker.
(Or if you are watching ITV: Yippee Kai-Aye Kemosabe.)

Die Hard takes its time, that is its secret. Probably the first action film to be designed directly like a videogame (with levels and end of level bad guys even), Die Hard understands what all the very best videogames need. Personality. We get half an hour of seeing Bruce Willis’s John McClane being a bit crap. Fish out of water, he is New York in LA. He does not like flying, hates Run DMC and is shown as being potentially racist towards his limo driver. He is certain an unreconstructed old man when he considers the break up between him and his wife. And does not know how to handle a polite Christmas party. The film suggests he is probably inches away from divorce, alcoholism and potential self implosion.

Then things start exploding and Willis gets to make that face. No, not the smirk – he uses that one later. Rather the “what the fuck” face, at which point he becomes the fly in the ointment with no shoes on. There follows an hour and a half of top notch varied action and a tremendous antagonism between Willis and Alan Rickman. McClane stops being crap, but he never becomes perfect.

Die Hard invents the cliches for much of the nineties action films, so much that the phrase “Die Hard On A…” became pitching shorthand. Everything that can be considered with a tall building is pretty much done. Falling, jumping, blowing up: elevators and air conditioner conduits are the routes around. Willis is not the indestructable superman, his feet get cut up appallingly and the pain is palpable. And when he makes it to the end, when he saves his wife, what is his reward? His reward is to realise what an arsehole he was being to start off with. In my mind it is the closest thing to a perfect film, great simple script, top-notch casting and perfect pacing.

Oh and potentially the most interesting thing about the film is that it invented the Stockholm Syndrome, the seemingly scientific idea of hostages identifying with their captors. It is used ten a penny these days, but Die Hard made it up. Yippee Kai-Aye indeed.

singer who defied musical categories…

FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 376 views

singer who defied musical categories…

but “musical categories” are of course only defined with hindsight, not in advance: a more accurate (or do i mean helpfully argumentative?) description might be “singer who refused to kowtow to the routine distillation – which is to say enfeeblement – effected by latterday niche-marketing and/or (same thing) critical credulity”: refinement entails a loss of power bcz it entails a loss of [scientific-semantic truism alert] potential

The Trouble With Batman.

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 276 views

The Trouble With Batman. If he is the yang to the impossible to write well Superman, then it should be easy to write him. Indeed it is, because Batman – psychologically stunted insufferable know-it-all in tights is rarely the lead character in his own comic. He certainly was not in his own film. The Quentin Tarantino quote in Kill Bill 2 regarding Superman is much more true of Batman. He is not Bruce Wayne, Bruce Wayne is just a mask, an alias he needs to get his night job done.

Of course what with Batman being a man of few words they soon had to find a way of bringing him out of himself. And so they gave him Robin. Forget the homoerotic subtexts or the nonsense of a grown man risking a fourteen year old in tights, Robin existed to give Batman someone to talk to in the shadows. And it worked. So they got in a few other sidekicks. They allowed the writers to examine the various aspects of Batman (the Man, the father figure, the general in a war against crime). But it came to a point that certainly fromt he writers point of view the sidekicks were more fun to write than the tortured Bat himself. After all he cannot change, the sidekicks can. And have done.

So now we get a new Robin. The fourth. The first now calls himself Nightwing (and has done for twenty years) and has a sidekick of his own. The second died and the third is knocking around for some big plot reversal (the new Robin is his ex). There is a new Batgirl, the old one got shot and now does very nicely in a wheelchair as info sidekick Oracle. Catwoman is running round semi-reformed, and Gotham City has two or three other vigilantes to get going with. All this without mentioning Alfred. So much for Batman as the ultimate loner.

Ironically all of these sidekicks can change, while Batman’s nature – tied into public recognition, via cartoons and films cannot. So he remains defined by an act of violence and a set of ridiculous rules of his own (beat the crap is fine, but no killing) which perpetuates a cycle of violence. The contradiction inherent in the character is that he is supposedly the worlds greatest detective, a man who gets the villainous psychology. Yet if he just went for a little bit of analysis himself he would soon be happy and stop running around dressed up as a flying rodent.


Do You SeePost a comment • 257 views

he did it first miss!!

if it’s not too cheeky linking to something of mine, i just updated sparks in stone lanes with this, slightly rejigged, from the S&S A-Z of Cinema, June 1998: Y is for YOUTH

Fine Ray Charles piece

FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 529 views

Fine Ray Charles piece by Marcello. (Update – also explore and listen to Tofu Hut’s memorial post)

I don’t know Ray Charles’ work well enough; another example of the (slightly shameful if hardly unique to me) syndrome where someone’s death prompts me to look deeper at their work. Aside from his acknowledged classics there is one song of his I know and really love, though, that Mike Daddino taped for me years ago: a version of “Ol’ Man River” that Google suggests is pretty uncelebrated. The first time I heard it it stopped me in my tracks – one of those headphone moments where you just have to stand and listen.

It was my first time with “Ol’ Man River” too – I’d never seen or heard “Show Boat” though I guessed it was from a musical. I didn’t know what liberties if any Charles had taken with the tune, but I could tell that it was an old song and a corny song. If you’re singing a sentimental song you can try and fight or subvert the sentiment, maybe approach the tune more starkly than expected or try and draw out some more fundamental meaning. Ray Charles does not take this road with “Ol’ Man River” – with a full choir and wide, rich string setting he embraces the sentimentality and runs with it, amplifies it, trusting in the power of his singing to make you hear the song as if you’d never heard it before. Of course I had never heard it before, but no version I’ve heard since has moved me nearly as much.

Charles pitches his singing perfectly – there’s a staginess which matches the grandiose arrangement but an intimacy too, the first time he sings the chorus it’s almost to himself, as if the words had just that moment occurred to him and he’s trying them out. It’s a crafted performance: it reminds me that a great soul man, a great singer of any kind, needs to be able to act as well as feel. Thanks (again) Mike and thanks (again) Ray.

The Streets, by Me

FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 335 views

The Streets, by Me: enormous thanks to Mr. Matos, not only for asking me to do this but also for his stern but excellent editing when I turned out to be embarrassingly ring-rusty in the ‘writing longer pieces’ arena.

The Post-TV Diaries: part 5

Do You SeePost a comment • 1,130 views

The Post-TV Diaries: part 5

Something incredibly wonderful has been restored to me since television left my life: TIME. Not just in the sense that I have more of it, though I definitely do. But the whole concept. When you have TV, clock-time becomes disturbingly irrelevant – so what if it’s 3pm and I should be at work: there’s Voyager repeats! It’s 4am? Never mind, it can’t be time for bed when the world of QVC is wide awake! Time passes stealthily, without you noticing, in TV land. Now, I savour the different character of each hour of the evening. I know when the sun sets instead of when Eastenders starts. Time doesn’t come to me packaged in half-hour slots (minus adverts). And if it does sometimes drag, because I’ve got no money and no TV… well, I feel bored for 5 minutes and then I get up and DO something.

(This blog goes out to Toby who saw this film a month ago.)

Do You See1 comment • 3,142 views

(This blog goes out to Toby who saw this film a month ago.)

Demonlover is a website which provides adult anime to a large US audience. Working via a French company Volk, who have just bought a large share in JapanAnime, they hope to corner the market in erotic and adult anime content. However their main rivals MangaTronic are not willing to let this happen, and luckily they have a very cool operative Diane within Volk who they hope will scupper the deal, by revealing the link between Demonlover and The Hellfire Club, a secret but lucrative online torture site.

This is the fundamental plot of Demonlover, though it is often unclear that this is the case. Equally the machinations of a corporate cyberthriller are much less interesting than the assets they are fighting over. Olivier Assayas’s film is aware of this and sometime arts it up a little bit too much for his own good. There are characters whose motivations and actual roles remain unclear at the end of the film, while the hows and whys of the overall plot seems subsumed in the big message about powerthe film has.

That said though Demonlover is a compelling film, not just for the possibly hypocritcal occasional snaps of erotic anime (2D, 3D and the rest). Most of the characters are emotionally blank, Connie Nielsen as Diane is unreadable until her power is completely stripped from her. The ominous strands of Sonic Youth’s feedback (they don’t really score the film as lean a few guitars against their amps) often heighten the tension for very little reason and much of the film is made up of vignettes which are thoughtful in themselves but do not add up to a whole. The dehumanisation of pornography box is checked which is also extended to other power relationships (sex, office politics). The Prisoner like ending would probably have been stronger if the film had not had its coda – do you see all of this torture is being done for the benefit of fourteen year old boys.

Not a wholly satisfying film, for every clever plot reversal or alegorical twist there are some bits of bad acting and massive plot non-sequiteurs. But a fascinating film to watch: the last minute introduction of the lack of originality in the Demonlover users is very clever. Any film about prnography and violence has to be self-reflexive and in many ways Demonlover tries to side step this issue with its bombastic ending. But after five weeks of trying to see it, I am glad I did.