Friday, 26 November 2004

Chauvinism

Did you know that "chauvinism" (meaning extreme and unreasoning partisanship on behalf of a group to which one belongs, especially when the partisanship includes malice and hatred towards a rival group) is derived from Nicolas Chauvin, a soldier under Napoleon Bonaparte, due to his fanatical zeal for his Emperor? And it doesn't always mean "male chauvinism", although we of the superior sex are often prone to it.

America

It's so right, it's wrong.

Words of witan

If Milli Vanilli falls over in the woods, does somebody else make a sound?

Everyone has a photographic memory; some just don't have film.

Why is a delivery on a ship called a "cargo" and a delivery by car a "shipment"?

Most teenagers seem to think that being individual is looking like everyone else.

Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.

If something is adjustable, sooner or later it will need adjusting.

When you point one finger at someone else, you're pointing four at yourself. Think about that when you want to blame someone.

Is it possible to look cool whilst picking up a frisbee?

Under Capitalism, man exploits man. Under Communism, the reverse is true.

Never fall in love with a tennis player...love means nothing to them.

"I am, therefore I think." Isn't that putting Descartes before the horse?

In 1994, Los Angeles Police arrested a man for dressing up as the Grim Reaper – complete with scythe – and standing outside the windows of old peoples' homes and staring in.

Computer games don't affect kids; I mean if Pac-Man affected us as kids, we'd all be running around in darkened rooms, munching magic pills and listening to repetitive electronic music. (Kristian Wilson, Nintendo, Inc., 1989)

If practice makes perfect and nobody's perfect, then why practise?

If you send someone a bag of snow and it melts in the post, they won't get your drift.

Victor Hugo once said, "You can prevent the invasion of armies, but not the invasion of ideas." What he really meant to say was, "You can prevent the invasion of armies, unless you're French."

(Borrowed from "Things We Didnt' Know" on www.iwantoneofthose.com. I'll give them back...honest.)

Thursday, 25 November 2004

Fainting

I fainted earlier this week. It was quite nice. I had just given blood in the Town Hall and was sitting by the biscuits table, having a drink of orange squash. My vision started to black out, so I asked for more juice (logical step). One of the nurses noticed I was headed elsewhere and, with the help of the man serving drinks, tried to walk me over to the bed to lie down. I wanted to go before then - being a cat - so I curled up on the floor for a snooze. That's how it felt. I had some dreamy thing, then when I came to, I was in the recovery position and the nurse was putting a sinky soft pillow under my head. I was really comfortable in my cosy A&F grey hoody. I've felt faint before after giving blood, and when I dislocated my collar bone, but I've never been unconscious. You should try it sometime.

Silent Shakespeare (1899-1911) - ickleReview (cinema)

A collection of seven silent short adaptations of Shakespeare plays, filmed between 1899 and 1911 in the UK, US and Italy. They have been compiled by the British Film Institute and set to music by London College of Music graduate Laura Rossi (performed live at this screening at the Phoenix Picturehouse, Oxford). The titles are King John, The Tempest, A Midsummer Night's Dream, King Lear, Twelfth Night, The Merchant of Venice, and Richard III. They are certainly worth restoring because they are part of the early history of cinema; but by modern standards of film-making, they seem quaint and primitive. Because they are silent, the acting is often exaggerated and melodramatic, and some of the films - notably King John and Richard III - show the heavy influence of theatre on early cinema.

Nugget: turn on the projector and the rest is silence.

Tuesday, 23 November 2004

Coffee and Cigarettes (2003) - ickleReview (cinema)

A collection of black-and-white set pieces of familiar faces in unfamiliar attitudes having cigarettes and coffee. Many of the sketches have an improvised, first-take feel, as if the actors have only been given a few concepts and been asked to ad lib their way through it. Some scenes are more compelling than others. Bill Murray's with GZA and RZA from the Wu-Tang Clang, and Steve Coogan with Alfred Molina are the funniest. Writer/Director Jim Jarmusch somehow manages to fold them all together into some sort of coherence - not that coherence is needed - but some elements recur: such as the remark that coffee and cigarettes don't make a very healthy lunch or Nikolai Tesla's conception of "the earth as a conductor for acoustical resonance".

Nugget: "Isn't it funny how when you can't afford something it costs a fortune, but suddenly when you can afford it it's just, like, free?"

Sunday, 21 November 2004

Chinatown (1974) - ickleReview (cinema)

A late film noir by director Roman Polanski, who in this film has a cameo role where he puts a flick knife up Jack Nicholson's nose and cuts his nostril open, so that Wacko Jacko has to spend the rest of the film with a rediculous bandage on his schnozzle.

It's a hot summer in LA. Water levels are low. Private snoop Jake Gittes (Nicholson) is hired by a distressed wife to expose her husband, whom she insists is having an affair. It turns out he works for the city water board and that not everything is as it first seemed. A great script continually flashes "wrong way" signs, just after it has assured you that this was the diversion to get round the traffic jam. We see things from Gittes's perspective - we feel how he is cut out of the loop and lied to repeatedly by his clients.

There are some odd moments in this film, like when Faye Dunaway rests her head on the steering wheel of her car, accidentally tooting the horn: some odd laughs, that may have been outtakes that were left in, or deliberate jibes by Polanski.

Nugget: shows real affection for an old genre, in which Wilder and Welles used to excel - but arguably does it better. A pleasure to see it for the first time on the big screen, even if the print was ageing and the projectionist fiddled with the focus for the first fifteen minutes.

Rock 'n' Rule


He, and indeed, he Posted by Hello

Friday, 12 November 2004

Fight Club (1999) - ickleReview (DVD)

The first rule of Fight Club is: You do not talk about Fight Club.
The second rule of Right Club is: You do not talk about Fight Club.
The third rule of Fight Club is: You do not quote these lines.

(I'm sure those rules were created just to make the trailers sound cool; or to prevent spoilers. Hence, I won't talk about Fight Club and ruin the plot.)

It's a while since I've seen this. Movies like this (and Memento, The Usual Suspects, The Shawshank Redeption, The Sixth Sense) lose their impact on a second viewing. But it's still a stylish and well made film; and Brad Pitt is on form, even if he doesn't have to do much because his character is so cool already.

Edward Norton plays an office bum (like Neo in The Matrix, except not as gay) who is bullied by his boss, unhappy and insomniac. He goes to group therapy for testicular cancer so he can cry on Meat Loaf's bitch tits (contrary to reports, he was not wearing a fat suit: those were real). The plot has the appearance of being all joined up: "It all started when I met a girl called Marla Singer..."; but it's more like a blind person is playing dot-to-dot on a bumpy bus ride.

The best parts of this film are the little things: like the airline safety card that shows the passengers' true emotions during a sea-landing (panic); the line about making expensive soap from liposuction fat: "It was beautiful. We were selling rich women their own fat asses back to them"; or the bit when Norton says if he could fight any historic figure, he's fight Gandhi. On the whole, there's some great writing (most of it, I suspect, in Chuck Palahniuk's novel), like when a cancer patient gets up to talk about her experiences: "Chloe looked the way Meryl Streep's skeleton would look if you made it smile and walk around the party being extra nice to everybody."

Nugget: The fourth rule of Fight Club is: Shut up already!

Wednesday, 10 November 2004

The Corporation (2003) - ickleReview (cinema)

Corporations are inhumane, but they have the legal status of a single human being. This is a documentary which explains how this happened and what the effects are. It is quite lengthy (145 minutes), but the sort of audiences who want to learn about this stuff are going to tolerate it. This - again - makes America look bad (mainly because it is home of the world's most powerful corporations like Nike, Coca-Cola and McDonald's). Did you know, for example, that IBM supplied the "business solution" for Nazi concentration camp administration: an early form of computer: the punch-card database?

This is a well balanced film, with opinion from right-wing think-tankers, Nobel Prize-winning (hawk) economists, reformed conscience CEOs, Michael Moore, and Noam Chomsky. There's a hilarious scene from one of Moore's movies when he goes to sing Christmas carols - in true corporate spirit - in the foyer of a large tobacco company...with victims of throat cancer, who squawk along, holding a finger to the hole in their throat.

But it's not all end-of-the-world stuff. There are some uplifting citings of the people uprising in Bolivia to oppose the privitization of their city's water supply; of advocates for sustainable development; of smalltown American communities boycotting chain stores. We (or our lawyers did) gave birth to this monster; but we can also slay it like Beowulf.

Nugget: Not quite as engaging as Mark Achbar's 1992 film, Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media, but still makes informative and at times entertaining and funny viewing.

Want to get laid?

Crawl up a chicken's ass...and wait!

Dumb fuck shopping

I went to The Computer Shop to buy some blank CDs for my computer. I got CD-RWs, thinking it might be useful to be able to rewrite them if I make changes to my files. When I get them home, I realize that my drive can't handle Ultra Speed, only High Speed. So a few days later, I take the CDs back to the shop to exchange them; only The Computer Shop has a really narky returns policy and won't allow it. So I wait to speak to the manager, who doesn't turn up for ages, so I just buy some CD-Rs and have done with it. I have my rucksack with me, so I don't ask for a bag. It's crammed full of books and two reams of paper, so it's hard to fit it all in. Later in the afternoon, when I'm meeting a friend for tea and lunch, I realize that I haven't actually packed the CD-Rs; I've got the RWs, which are useless to me, but must have left the Rs on the counter! So I return sheepishly, tail between my legs, later in the day to ask for my CD-Rs, with my receipt to prove what an idiot I have been. Re:tardy?

Sad Night Chorus of the Heart

I feel your cold ear on my cheek
Your hair drooping lilac feather
We hold press longer than longing
Soft felt palm of jacket back
The unspoken sorries of misunderstanding
Are crushed between beating breasts.

Friday, 5 November 2004

Finding Neverland (2004) - ickleReview (cinema)

Johnny Depp is surprisingly convincing as J. M. Barrie, the playwright who created Peter Pan. He even pulls off the Scottish accent. I was expecting this film to be mush, but it is actually quite touching and well done. Taking its cue from true events, we see Barrie befriending the widow Sylvia Llewelyn Davies (Kate Winslet) and her four boys, George, Jack, Peter and Michael, who inspire him to create the story of the lost boys in Neverland. By spending so much time with them, he neglects his wife, Mary (Radha Mitchell), and upsets the snobbish grandmother, Mrs. du Maurier (Julie Christie). And guess what happens.

There's a dizzingly amazing crane shot during the performance of the play, when the camera flies up from the stage and spins around the auditorium before finding Peter Llewelyn Davies (Freddie Highmore) in the audience. In an earlier garden scene, there's some clever editing to show Peter's internal psychology: he is the only one of the five playing a game of cowboys and indians who isn't using his imagination: shots of him are in the garden at home; from the others' perspective, they are on a cowboy movie set.

Nugget: avoids tweeness; sentimental, but not stickily.

Tuesday, 2 November 2004

Melinda and Melinda (2004) - ickleReview (cinema - London Film Festival)

A Woody Allen movie that combines comedy and tragedy in one (hence the double-barrelled title). Former Neighbours soap actress Radha Mitchell plays both Melindas in a cast that is otherwise doubled - one actor tragic, one comic - as two writers debate the true nature of life in Allen's pseudo-intellectual, New York dinner conversation manner. Will Ferrell plays the classic comic Allen lead, bringing his own inimitable style along with some brilliant Woody impressions.

The polar plots develop as two writers sketch out their opposing views by taking the same basic story and making it either tragic or comic. Melinda is a fuckup friend who walks in on a dinner party when her life is falling apart. Her Park Avenue princess friends hook her up with a guy and things - as they tend to do in Allen's worldview - get messy. The plots begin to converge at the end, demonstrating that when tragedy is taken to an extreme, it can seem comic.

Nugget: Allen admits that he just can't do Bergman by letting the laughs seep into the tragic plot by juxtaposition.

Old Wine in a New Skin

For Jamie McKendrick


You stand there half-hunched
Over dust and ash and desk,
Laptop laid out, flopped back to the sky.
Dappled ashen dust screen,
Pockered keys, wires tripping on the floor.
Carpet covered in filing overspill,
Regular chaos in poetic form.
Books beline shelves on all sides,
Knowledge learned, loved, knocked back
Like a bottle and a half of red.
You look apologetic about this den,
This breeding ground of cursed spawn
Of serpents small, error's minions
Nashed up in the pores and breathing space
Of the housetop. What is here
But we may read in books –
And a great deal more too –
Without stirring our feet out of a warm study?
Paper monster, full and black as ink
Spot. Poems clean and polished
Are unearthed here, dug from the depths
Of soily gritty logos worms
Down a hole with beak, chasing juices
Like a morning bird.
After the rains, the dirt washed off,
The gems glisten on plain paper,
Clean not crinkle-bashed,
Panned and sifted, shifted
Above the stream.

Monday, 1 November 2004

Popdex

Look! I'm linking to Popdex. Shamelessnamelessness.

Spac leg

I was at Tom Paulin's house talking about the contents and acknowledgements pages which I'm helping him to put together for his book of essays, Crusoe's Secret. I mentioned that Jamie McKendrick hadn't got in touch with me yet. Tom had recommended me to Jamie and passed on my mobile number. Apparently he and his partner, Xon de Ros, had some computer-related work that they needed my help with. As synchronicity would have it, Jamie called a few minutes later.

Once I finished up with Tom, I walked down Abingdon Road to Jamie's house. Xon (which I later found out is pronounced "chon") answered the door. She took me upstairs to Jamie's study. He's a poet, published by Faber. His room was suitably lived in. It was amiably chaotic. My job was to help him transfer some files from his old, chugging laptop to his much newer Toshiba. It took us more than a couple of hours. As his desk was so cluttered, I set up my laptop on the floor to receive his files disk by disk on floppy. Then I burnt them all on to CD and copied them on to his new laptop.

Perhaps as a result of all my crouching, kneeling and sitting on the floor, my circulation was beginning to go. When I was sitting on the chair with my laptop on my lap, helping Xon to combine two jpegs into one, I began to get pins and needles in my left leg. I flexed it a little bit, but it didn't go away. When I got up to fetch something, my leg became totally spasticated. I almost fell over. I guess it was like having multiple sclerosis momentarily, or feeling unsteady on my feet like an old fogie. It was quite scary, but funny as well. It was like my leg was stuck in a bucket of gluey quicksand. I felt like Mr Soft from the Softmints advert: "Oh Mr Soft, why won't you tell me why the world in which you're living is so strange?" It went away, eventually, but it's still feeling a little tender a few hours after the event.

First première

On Saturday night I went to my first big movie première at the Odeon West End on London Village's Leicester Square to see The Woodsman. Outside, a crowd of people had gathered to watch Kevin Bacon and his wife Kyra Sedgwick step out of a limo and walk a few steps through some glass doors. They paused to plug their movie to a camera crew, not ten feet away from me as I fought my way through the crowd and walked in with my ticket.

Before the screening Bacon and co. were presented on stage. He said he was glad to be in London, a rare opportunity for him - which always means he doesn't want to be here. His blondie wife stood beside him, hands behind her halternecked back, and only spoke to say her dress was by a British designer. Like I care. But sadly, I know there will be many who were impressed. Then Bacon introduced a blinged up black guy, Damien Dash, whose fat hip-hop producer's cheque book had paid for the movie. Bacon schmoozed that he was wearing a suit designed by said same bling-merchant. Again, like I care. Again, some would have wowed.

Then the movie. Then the questions from a dumb-fuck suck-up sycophant-you-wanna-make-me-rant audience. "I just want to say, I thought your performances were all great...", "I'm from Philly ::Woo!:: and I'm so glad you shot the film there...". Fuck. Off.

I liked the film. I could care less for the event.

The Woodsman (2004) - ickleReview (cinema - London Film Festival première)

Kevin Bacon plays Walter, a convicted paedophile who is released from prison back into the community, in suburban Philadelphia. He gets a job in a timber yard at which his dad used to work, keeps himself to himself, returning to his bare apartment, staring out the window at a school playground across the street. A feisty blonde at work called Vickie (played by Bacon's wife Kyra Sedgwick) notices he always takes the bus home from work and offers him a lift in her macho SUV. She's upfront and blunt. They're soon sleeping together - an implausibly sudden relationship.

Vickie tries to uncover Walter's black secret. Meanwhile, he meets occasionally with his brother-in-law (Benjamin Bratt), his only contact with a family that has disowned him. Police Sgt. Lucas (Mos Def) drops by from time to time to harrass Walter, letting him know that he's under constant surveillance. We also see Walter in conversation with his therapist.

New director Nicole Kassell doesn't try to justify or condone child molestation, or explain the why's or the how's of its happenings. We sympathize with Walter's isolation, yet we cringe at his stupidity, following young girls in shopping malls and public parks. We don't understand his temptation. There is a marvellous and frightening scene on a park bench when Walter talks to an eleven-year-old girl (Hannah Pilkes), who rides the same bus as him and gets off at the park to go bird-watching.

The screenplay by Kassell and Steven Fechter is wonderfully poised. At times the characters' words shimmer in poetic simplicity: they talk of one thing, but may mean another. Closure is reached through a final monologue voice-over from the therapy sessions, but without any hint of Hollywood schmaltz. Pictures, rather than words convey meaning.

Nugget: a rare example of good writing and sensible, usually controlled acting. A stand-out performance by Hannah Pilkes.

For more on the London Film Festival première, see this post.