Friday 29 October 2004

Boston Red Sox

I'm well chuffed that the Sox finally won a World Series. The Curse of The Babe, standing ominously behind Fenway since 1918, is now broken. The names already have the ring of baseball legends: Johnny "Jesus" Damon, David "Who's Your Papi?" Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, Curt "Blood Sox" Schilling, Derek Lowe, Pedro "Who's Your Daddy Now?" Martinez, Keith "Closer" Foulke, Mark Bellhorn, Orlando Cabrera, Bill Mueller, Kevin Millar, Pokey Reese, Dave Roberts, Trot Nixon, Gabe Kapler, Bronson Arroyo, Mike Timlin, Tim Wakefield, Doug Mirabelli, Jason Varitek, Doug Mientkiewicz, Kevin Youkilis, Manager Terry Francona, Senior VP and GM Theo Epstein - and all the others. Thanks to "I'm your host" Casey Stern, whose weird little online show, State of the Nation, gathered speed as the Red Sox garnered wins. Boston: it's been emotional.

The Last of the First (2004) - ickleReview (cinema - London Film Festival)

A documentary about the Harlem Blues and Jazz Band, made up of likeable old guys who used to play with the greats: Fats Waller, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and others. When the club owners and agents realized that you could make more money by cutting a big band down to size, some of these players lost their jobs and had to hover on the breadline selling insurance and houses, driving school buses and delivery vans.

It's amazing to see these old men and ladies play: at 91, drummer Johnny Blowers (Frank Sinatra's favourite) can still pull off a kickin' drum solo in front of a packed house in Moscow. Guitarist Al Casey - a legend amongst his peers - lives only to play. When he falls and fractures his femur, he looks close to giving up and dying. When the band lose their only regular gig at the Louisiana Community Bar & Grill in downtown Manhattan, singer Laurel Watson breaks down. Two weeks later, she suffers a stroke and loses her voice: a poignant moment of synchronicity that not even the best script writers could have penned.

Anja Baron's film is a little rough at the edges (the print used for the screening was not of the best quality) and features repetitive shots of old people struggling out of a van, walking down stairs and passing through doors; but it is held together by a love for the music, for the musicians, and their stories.

Nugget: drums keep pounding a rhythm to the (b)rain...and the beat goes on, the beat goes on.

Thursday 28 October 2004

The Devil's Advocate (1997) - ickleReview (HD)

Lawyers lie and are prepared to sell their soul to win the big case, and a case full of money...or at least they do in Hollywood movies, where trials are always exciting. Keanu Reeves is the hotshot criminal attorney (what an appropriate, tautological phrase), Kevin Lomax, from Florida, who's headhunted by John Milton's New York law firm. Milton, as we should know from Paradise Lost, is going to be on Lucifer's side.

Things start to go weird when Mrs Lomax (Charlize Theron) gets lonely when hubby doesn't spend enough time with her. To compensate, she goes out shopping with a couple of the other wives. The script loses its plausibility along with the dodgy computer generated effects; only Al Pacino - with a voice like maple syrup dripped over a bed of rusty nails - stands up against the torrent of torrid, horrid writing. Not surprisingly, Reeves and Theron can't pull off the melodramatic acting that is required of them. It climaxes with Lomax having what could be described as a pretty bad day at the office...then he wakes up. Come on, dude! I wrote better endings to my stories in primary school!

Nugget: ever noticed that "lawyer" sounds like "liar" from the tongue of a broad New Yorker? As ever, Al Pacino is worth a look and listen.

Note: "HD" stands for "hard drive", where this movie used to reside. ::Shhh!!:: It's okay, it's now been deleted.

Tuesday 26 October 2004

John Peel

I learned that John Peel died today. I'm not usually moved when public figures like him pass away, but when I heard it on Radio 4 in my room, I shouted out "Oh no!" and was genuinely upset. I will miss him primarily from Home Truths on Saturday mornings. To me, he seems like the nicest guy in the world, and I'll always associate him with my rugby coach Neil Crossley from the Oxford University under-21s, and vice versa. I think they looked alike and both had a connection with Liverpool (Neil studied Medicine there). Without a doubt, John Peel would be on the guest list at my fantasy dinner party - no matter how short that list would be. I occasionally liked listening to his music shows on Radio 1 and the World Service, even if they were hard work at times. I loved those moments when he realized he had put on the German hard-core techno track at the wrong speed - which was almost every time I listened to him. If I had ever met him, I would have wanted to hug him.

Monday 25 October 2004

Igby Goes Down (2002) - ickleReview (DVD)

Horrible people doing what they do best: being horrible to each other. A good performance by Kieran Culkin (yes, his little brother), whose younger self is played by him. Igby is named after "Digby", Culkin's teddy bear, whom he blamed for everything when he was a kid. He lied so much that his mum started calling him "Igby" so that he couldn't use that excuse any more.

The acting's good, I guess, because none of the characters are likeable. But there's no real attempt to explain why these people are so horrible, what drives them to pop so many pills, why they're so depressed, why Igby is so dysfunctional and drops out of so many eastern seaboard schools.

Nugget: Kieran saves the family name.

Saturday 23 October 2004

Saturday 16 October 2004

Peter Kay

Some of these sound like Woody Allen, others like the Marx Brothers. Either way, they will have you loling anon.

I saw a woman wearing a sweatshirt with "Guess" on it. I said, "Thyroid problem?"

When I was a kid I used to pray every night for a new bike. Then I realized that the Lord doesn't work that way, so I stole one and asked him to forgive me.

I've often wanted to drown my troubles, but I can't get my wife to go swimming.

I was doing some decorating, so I got out my step-ladder. I don't get on with my real ladder.

I went to a restaurant that serves "breakfast at any time". So I ordered scrambled egg during the Renaissance.

I was bullied at school, called all kinds of different names. But one day I turned to my bullies and said, "Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me," and it worked! From there on it was sticks and stones all the way.

My Dad used to say "always fight fire with fire," which is probably why he got thrown out of the fire brigade.

Sex is like the card game bridge: if you don't have a good partner, you'd better have a good hand.

I saw six men kicking and punching the mother-in-law. My neighbour said, "Are you going to help?" I said, "No, six should be enough."

If we aren't supposed to eat animals, then why are they made out of meat?

I think animal testing is a terrible idea; they get all nervous and give the wrong answers.

You know that look women get when they want sex?...Neither do I.

If a person owns a piece of land do they own it all the way down to the core of the earth?

Why is it called Alcoholics Anonymous when the first thing you do is stand up and say, "My name is Bob, and I am an alcoholic"?

Why is there a light in the fridge and not in the freezer?

Why does mineral water that "has trickled through mountains for centuries" have a "use by" date?

Why do toasters always have a setting that burns the toast to a horrible crisp no one would eat?

Is French kissing in France just called kissing?

Who was the first person to look at a cow and say, "I think I'll squeeze these dangly things here and drink whatever comes out"?

What do people in China call their good plates?

Why do people point to their wrist when asking for the time, but don't point to their crotch when they ask where the bathroom is?

What do you call male ballerinas?

Why is a person that handles your money called a "broker"?

If quizzes are quizzical, what are tests?

If corn oil is made from corn, and vegetable oil is made from vegetables, then what is baby oil made from?

Why is it that when someone tells you that there are over a billion stars in the universe, you believe them, but if they tell you there is wet paint somewhere, you have to touch it to make sure?

Do illiterate people get the full effect of Alphabet Soup?

Did you ever notice that when you blow in a dog's face, he gets angry at you but when you take him on a car ride, he sticks his head out of the window?

Friday 15 October 2004

Monday 11 October 2004

Red Lights (aka Feux Rouges) (2004) - ickleReview (cinema)

A French thriller about a married couple driving south from Paris to pick up their kids from summer camp. They meet after work. He drinks too much on the sly, suspects she's having an affair, drives recklessly, stops off on the way for more drinks. They row. Then she goes missing. An escaped convict is on the loose. It happens.

Brilliantly made film, deliciously paced. Some splendid shots of driving on the road at night. There's something filmic about being on the road. Think David Lynch or the "Karma Police" Radiohead video. I read somewhere that the director C├ędric Kahn was someone to look out for: he most certainly is. Sustained and often humorous performance by Jean-Pierre Darroussin as the drunken husband.

Nugget: A demonstration that the genre movie can still be pulled off with panache.

Sunday 10 October 2004

Up the ante

A new kind of poker incest, involving chips and at least one willing party.

Saturday 9 October 2004

Hero (2002) - ickleReview (cinema)

A film based on a myth of the unification of China's warring kingdoms. It features martial arts sword-fighting sequences, but it's not really about that. It has a non-Western narrative style, which is, as always, refreshing to see in cinema. The landscapes are too, too breath-taking. There's an amazing scene of a fight between two women, an assassin and her servant, set in an autumnal wood. When the servant dies, the leaves turn from yellow to red - a very simple, but very moving symbolism.

Nugget: majestic.

Friday 8 October 2004

Tom Paulin, "The Road to Inver"

Went to Far from the Madding Crowd for Tom's book launch of his new collection of translations, versions and imitations. It wasn't quite the networking opportunity that I thought it might be, which isn't such a bad thing because I don't like that word: networking, not opportunity. Tom seemed a little distracted and melancholy. I do think he savours these occasions when he can see all his friends, though. I guess he doesn't like being the centre of attention. He said something later about disappointing a friend at not being able to go to an event in Middlesborough. I think he has to go to London for Newsnight Review on Friday night.

Saw the Scottmeister, who had already had a good few wines. He was drinking with Seamus Perry, whose article on "Romanticism: The Brief History of a Concept" I read just before Finals. I think he's at Glasgow University now. He seemed to think that All Souls is the kiss of death to a career. He was second in his year, but didn't get in. His Finals paper on Romantic prose was marked by Peter Conrad, he who wrote Shandyism. Apparently a good friend of Matthew's friend has just drunk himself to death, having published two ingenious volumes of history while a Fellow of the college. He was in his fifties.

The Hertford undergraduates left early; but they would have loved to have seen Bernard O'Donoghue sing an Irish ballad had they stayed on. Spoke to Emma and met someone whose name I can't remember but whom I guess is her partner. Her book on Othello, which I proof-read and indexed for her, is away to the printers. She's hoping that it comes out this year to mark the 400th anniversary of the play. She suggested we meet up for coffee sometime next week. She was joking that although Tom is rubbish at some things (teaching?), it's good to have someone of his stature (I would say integrity) at the college.

Disclaimer: This entry is more for personal reasons of remembrance than as an exercise in the gravitational inevitability of nomenclature.