Posts from 1st January 2005

Jan 05

Lemony Snicket’s Series Of Unfortunate Events

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Lemony Snicket’s Series Of Unfortunate Events leaves its credits to the end. Which is probably a good thing considering they consist of some wonderfully evocative silhouette based animation which is both much more in keeping with the tone of the story and far better than the actually film. The film itself suffers from a surfeit of conclusions, it is three books rolled into one. However it also suffers because the order of events in the book are jigged around to supposedly create a sense of climax, but missing out the cleverness of the books solutions to the plot problems. This does mean that the film invents a new peril on a traintrack, which is probably the best sequence in the film, but on the whole short changes devoted fans of the book, whilst feeling very oddly paced for people coming new to the story.

Oh and Jim Carrey reverts to his old ways appallingly,

Skinnyman, not to be confused with Skinner (Mike),

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Skinnyman, not to be confused with Skinner (Mike), who also produced a UK rap concept album this year. Council Estate Of Mind is a huge worthy polemic on the opportunities available to youths on inner city council estates which comes bundled with a pretty well argued essay in the sleeve notes. Unfortunately for Skinnyman his raps are bookended with rather large excerpts from the soundtrack of Made In Britain, included to help emphasise Skinnyman?s point. The excerpts are far too successful at this, after a couple of listens I wanted to hear Tim Roth’s anti-social anti-hero more that Skinnyman?s raps. So I put the Made In Britain video on instead.

I was surprised that Star Of The Sea

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 409 views

I was surprised that Star Of The Sea was so little about the actual voyage of a ship from Ireland to New York during the potato famine, and rather an attempt at a literary pastiche to try and fill in a lack of nineteenth century Irish literature. For the pastiche to rely on the kind of melodramatic plotting of tales of the age is unsurprising (everyone is related in one way or another to everyone else in the book). But to spend its time trying to tell us repeatedly how clever it is seems a bit of a waste. See how the ruffian character enchants Charles Dickens with his thoroughly false tales of a pickpocket king called Fagin. By all means suggest that Dickens ripped off plenty of people with his literature, but Joseph O’Connor seems to be suggesting that his book is better than anything in Dickens, as Oliver Twist was ripped off of one of his characters. Very odd.

O’Connor’s big problem is in dressing the book up as a Victorian melodrama. Much less time is spent on actually providing the book with a plot which of itself would intrigue an audience either of its day or the current one, than playing literary games. The book constantly refers to a murder, teasing both the identity of the victim and the perpetrator at us. In the end the murder is a pointless afterthought, stripped both of its dramatic effect and relevance. Star Of The Sea was not what I expected, and its competency goes no way towards making it all that enjoyable.

It is good to see that despite a blip with Tigerland,

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It is good to see that despite a blip with Tigerland, Joel Schumacher has returned to stake his claim as the worst director in Hollywood. Whilst I did not expect The Phantom Of The Opera to be any good, I did not in my wildest dreams expect it to be as bad as it was. Cards on the table, I do not care for the stage musical, and have a bit of an aversion to sung through musicals. I guess I like show-tunes and dancing, and the problem with sung through scores is they never stop for you to gather your breath. They never seem to reach the pinnacle of quality either. Phantom is two and a half hours of basically four songs, three of which are ballads, repeated. So I probably was not going to like it. But Schumacher has taken a leap of faith with his direction, matching the melodramatic script with overblown visuals. This is a film played at such a high level it appears that Simon Callow is under-acting.

Ten minutes into the showing four kids stormed the cinema, and proceeded to lark about. It was the kind of thing that would usually annoy me. One of them at least wanted to see the film, but the rest took the piss at the heaving bosoms, and played with their mobiles. Thank Christ, they were blessed relief, and well worth having around for the big reveal of the Phantom’s scarred face. Which, as pointed out by one of the kids, made him almost identical to Gordon Ramsey. But not as good a cook.

The Big U by Neal Stephenson

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The Big U by Neal Stephenson

This was Stephenson’s first novel, before the PoMo blockbusters. Unsurprisingly therefore, it’s a campus novel, but it’s not like any other campus novel I’ve read. There are comically useless professors and all that, though it’s much more about student interaction; but what makes it unique in what is generally a pretty dull genre is its extremeness. The cover claims it as a satire, which I’m dubious about – unless you consider Ballard’s High-Rise a satire, as that’s what it most resembles. I don’t know if there is accurate comment at the root of any of this, really.

Politics and other internecine rivalries build to the point where the campus turns into a war zone. It’s all wildly over the top, with a bewildering array of factions – Stalinists vs Mormons, maintenance staff teaming up with academics, men vs women, plus groups of D&D players, physicists, feminists, music obsessives, medical students and much more, with added bats and giant irradiated rats and bizarre religious cults and nuclear threats. He orchestrates all of this extremely well, into an extraordinary gigantic climax, pulling it all together into a very strong ending, and along the way there is great entertainment to be had from the caricatures and characters that teem through the novel. It’s a tremendously enjoyable book, even if it lacks the thematic substance and style he later developed.

by way of farewell to a complicated (and intermittently awful) (but with good bits) year

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 129 views

by way of farewell to a complicated (and intermittently awful) (but with good bits) year

i guess i think of contrarianism more as a tool than a principle – i like it for its effects not its “morality” – except i also know saying this is a way to distance myself from a stupidity i’m as prone to as any pure bah-humbug absolutist: those who claim to be free (and battle to be free) from ALL CONFORMISMS EVAH can easily lose themslves in impossible nonsense positions, at which point misanthropy’s vicious cycle of self-validation beckons (“of course everyone is against me on this one: people are dumb, my loneliness here the mark of my superior perspicacity” etc etc)… sometimes – a lot more of the time than hipsters and non-insane eccentrics perhaps like to acknowledge – we really DO speak the same language, haul along the same bodies, desires, dream blah blah blah

anyway this is a possibly typically impenetrable and defensive and over-elaborate intro to a relatively simple point – hard work as it can sometimes be, and as prey as it clearly is to bad and/or borrowed imagination, i love the rituals of xmas and new year bcz they’re rituals, bcz of their essence as mass passive-active behaviour

so last night i stayed in – enjoying yrself is often just a matter of making the decision to do the things you enjoy – and watched DVDs sister (a grisly shark-attack thriller which frightened her a lot more than me as she is actually likely to be caught scuba-diving now and then; the Ren and Stimpy Uncut collection), and had a vietnamese takeaway and some wine, and just before midnight went up on my roof where you can see in panorama very nearly the whole of the london skyline (sadly the north-west quarter is obscured by nearby buildings) (but that’s mainly hampstead and highbury so meh) :

and at midnight, the fireworks go off: the big spectacular on the river to the south-west of hackney is mostly behind the tall spires of the city, which is fun in its own way, cz they look a bit like they’re burning down hurrah, but the genuinely intoxicating view is the sweep from north-east to south-east, cz there out over essex you can see more-or-less clear for who-knows-many-miles, and dozens if not hundreds of probably small, local, private celebrations… just an endless flicker ALL ALONG THE HORIZON of tiny distant rockets: no one single org could ever stage a display so busy, so tiny, so lovely: “like the whole world’s gone billy bonkers” says wonderstruck becky, who never saw it before, but actually i don’t remember it quite so flickering, so seamlessly perfect in any previous year: i want to say it’s like something out of a ridley scott movie, but it’s surely unfilmable and unrecreatable too, a gorgeous serendipitous example of the invisible intelligent* hand of mass inadvertent art (or “magick” even!) – except it’s NOT inadvertent, cz all the many ppl responsible made the decisions necessary – buying their rockets, staying up late to set them off – to make our particular view of it possible, even when none them, busy w.the detail of their little local show, have ever seen it or can ever seen it (as long as they decide to stay thus busy) from our very particular rooftop panorama-perspective

*(and isn’t one of the great – meaning as-yet unresolved – adventure-mysteries of human culture/civilisation what happens when we try as political beings to recreate this mass inadvertent intelligence non-inadvertently?: ie does it always HAVE to go horrible wrong?) [submerges back into mumbling impenetrability]

anyway best wishes for a HAPPY NEW um WEBS (!!) one and all…