It's been a long few days, muchos alcohol and lots of fun and tiredness. Thursday saw me throw myself into the Easter weekend by crashing down to Revolution on New Walk in order to enjoy the free alcohol (courtesy of my employees as a financial year end treat). Cheers! Three hours, two pints, four brandy and cokes and an alcopop later, I went next door to join Lee & Steve (and later Super Pablo and Bobnoxious for more booze. James turned up later en route to Razor Chimp's gig and issued instructions that later propelled me toward Oxygen, where Matt (Happy Birthday!) and Andrea were in attendence, as well as wor Gillian. It were a good night, all in all, but long. Knackered was I... and all this knowing that Friday would involve a moderate coach trip with Alessia, Andy & Emma to Brixton Academy to see...... The Strokes!!!
I'd never been to Brixton Academy before, but was immediately disappointed by the downstairs gents, which had no cubicle and meant I couldn't have a nice relaxing poo before the gig. Obviously, this was a bit of a downer, but nothing some tequilas and a bit of a smile couldn't fix. Henceforth more booze, then onward into the main auditorium. Now that I was impressed by...the downward sloping floor which facilitated fantastic views for even the most squat dwarf was more than welcome, although being a lanky fuck it wasn't too crucial for meself. Stereo Total supported, and were vaguely enjoyable-if-you're-pissed novelty shite. Which was alright.
However, after missing out on a guest list place at the cancelled Birmingham Academy gig last year, my anticipation and excitement levels were high. They kicked off with 'The Newie', which I have to say is an absolute nugget - albeit in a recognisable vein. There was only one other new song, the almost equally great 'Meet Me In The Bathroom'. Otherwise, it was the album and a b-side ('When It Started'), which sort of makes you worry whether these guys will have any longevity...surely they need more ammo?....
I have to confess I wasn't sure about The Strokes for a very long time. I loved 'Last Nite' straight off, but the others ('Hard To Explain' excepted) I didn't find quite as instant. I even remember slagging them as the 'Yank Menswear' (ouch), but fair play, there's no 'Daydreamer''s here. For such a hyped entity, their stuff's extremely languid and unpushy, subtle even, and the liquidity and often lightness of the melody is pleasing anathema to the current crop of sludge-rawkers. Kudos to the rhythm section (esp. the weird-headed bass player); check out the lines to 'Is This It', 'Alone Together'... fucking great stuff. And oh, yeah, what a voice.
They're so tight after playing this set for so long too... the only track which didn't sound absolutely spot on was 'Hard To Explain', the electronic sheen to the drums sadly absent. Otherwise, it was a perfect show; 'Soma', 'Someday' and 'Trying Your Luck' all outstanding. However, it was the irrepressible 'Last Nite' that sent tha posse into ecstacy...making a beeline about 80 yards forward to the front and quasi-moshing with huge cheesy grins in excelsis... oh boy oh boy oh boy! All that was left then was 'Take It Or Leave It', which rocked to da max before a bit of celebratory stagediving from singer and drummer dudes and some random drumkit trashing action left the sweaty hordes to wander home (or in our case, back to the coach) with glazed, wide, sweaty eyes of joy and smiles to match. Tremendous.
'When you were imprisoned last summer, people were concerned about your mental health. You were reportedly kept on suicide watch. Dirty gazes at the table in front of him. "I think things are a lot worse with me now," he says.'
Genuinely a sad and lost character, clearly fucked up badly, but no-one helped him out, because 'everyone was enjoying the show too much'.
I cried in McDonalds this morning. Reading the Observer, I came a cross the following quote from Stephen Fry regarding overcoming depression, in the 'They Said What...?' section (p.30, 24/3/2002)
"To regard it as being like the weather. It's not your responsibility that it's raining, but it is real when it rains, and the fact that it's raining does not mean that the rain is never going to stop. The only thing to do is believe that, one day, it won't be raining and accept it so you can find a mental umbrella to shield yourself from the worst."
One of the defining moments in 'The Believer' comes about three quarters through. The main protagonist of the story, Danny Balint (superbly played by Ryan Gosling) has been recruited by reknowned Neo-Nazi thinker Curtis Zampf (Billy Zane) in an attempt to launch a powerful, insidious Neo-Nazi organisation, one that encroaches further into the mainstream than any since the war. Danny was raised a Jew, but became frustrated with Judaism whilst at school. This appears to have planted the seeds of his anti-Jewish feeling and his internal conflict. The scene is set; Danny is getting ready to lecture a crowd of wealthy right-wing businessfolks, potential benefactors for the big push. He is nervy; certain recent events, including an attempted murder of a prominent Jew that had gone wrong and a co-Nazi realising that Danny is still of Jewish leaning have lead him to sweat; he takes the podium, and with assurance delivers his bombshell... that Jews thrive on being hated, and that is how they get their power. The only way to destroy the Jews, says Danny, is to love them completely, to open your arms to them.
This is a turnaround from the earlier Danny. A swastika t-shirt wearing thug who thinks nothing of beating the crap out of a young Jewish boy who he's followed off the subway. He is lean, powerful, young and empowered in his mind. His friends share his beliefs, and he studies hard to back them up. His rhetoric is sharp and he is clearly of high intelligence. His first meeting with Zampf is at Zampf's house, at a talk he is giving. Danny and his mates seem a touch out of place with the more suited, mature fascists who populate the room. Danny breaks into a diatribe about how he wants to kill Jews, how they need exterminating and have destroyed the community values of days long gone (etc..etc..). The group are impressed by this acid-tongued, quick brained boy. Zampf recognises that this boy has got potential and begins to cultivate him.
All is not plain sailing for Danny; he falls for Zampf's step-daughter, Carla (Summer Phoenix). She tortures him emotionally, but is clearly intrigued by him. Danny also gets thrown in prison with his friends after a discussion in a Kosher restaurant goes pear-shaped (well, baseball bat shaped actually). Carla bails him out and they become very close. He teaches her about the Torah and Jewish rituals in general; he helps her to learn Hebrew. Her interest in Judaism is ambiguously portrayed; it isn't clear whether she's learning about the enemy or joining them. Perhaps she is aware of his Jewishness, and is showing how committed she is to him in a round-a-bout way.
The movie takes a while to find it's feet; the acting in some of the earlier scenes is unconvincing, especially the attack on the Jewish boy at the start. There is a tendency also to look for parallels with 'American History X' - intelligent neo-Nazi etc.. AHX is clearly a lot more Hollywood than this (although still a wonderful film); indeed the cinematic aesthetic of 'The Believer' is flawed. The flashback sequences are a little ham-fisted, including one which is truly pivotal in Danny's rediscovery of his Jewishness. After being bailed from prison, he is sent with his gang to talk to some holocaust survivors. Predictably, the gang contradict themselves willy nilly and use arrogant retorts back to the survivors as their experiences are regailed. One story does haunt Danny though, although he doesn't show it at the time; of a man caught hiding with his young son in the hay who watches helpless as his son is slaughtered in front of his face. The black-and-white flashback montage of this recollection (as viewed in Danny's mind) is poorly done, and doesn't really exact full effect until later on, after repetition.
The movie grew on me the longer it went on. The acting improves after a while, and it's a pretty good story. It's been called unbelievable, but similar scenarios have happened before. I remember a story of a Jewish KKK member who took his own life when he was outed. The script is excellent, including a helluva lot of ideas and thought provoking material. Unsurprisingly, given the huge presence of Jewish ephemera, the writer/director (Henry Bean - who also has a brief cameo) is Jewish. The last half hour is truly brilliant and had me constantly fidgeting and sitting forward in my seat. The movie as a whole is hugely intense (as you might expect) and, from about half an hour in, utterly captivating. Hell, I even cried at the end (not much of a feat for me, I know.....thank you). Part of the tension I think was due to the fact that racism has always made my blood boil; the simple idiocy of such shallow disregard for your fellow man I find incomprehensible. But credit where credit's due, I'll definitely watch this one again. If I gave marks, I'd probably say 'ooh, 8/10ish'. But I don't, so I won't. Go see though. If you're lucky enough to find it at your local cinema..
I had notions that there was a darkness to 'Geogaddi' before I even listened to it; my CD player told me that the disk had a duration of 66 minutes and 6 (i.e. 666), and had 23 tracks. However, this great site goes way beyond that in its exploration of the dark side of Boards Of Canada. Does the track '1969' (sample lyric "1969, In the sunshine...") really concern The Manson Family? Does it on the previous EP say "in a religious community In A Beautiful Place Out In The Country" in reference to Waco as well as having a blurry picture of David Koresh's eye on the cover? Sheesh. Must...stop...watching...David Lynch...films.... I'm pooing right now.. (via Anglepoised)
Went to see the intriguing Franco-Italian movie 'À ma soeur!' (aka less charmingly 'Fat Girl') tonight.
Directed by the 'controversial' Catherine Breillat (she showed a hard-on in her last movie, 'Romance'), the story revolves around a family on holiday with two adolescent sisters, the chubby 13 year old Anaïs (played by Anaïs Reboux) and the rather more svelte Elena (Roxane Mesquida) who is two years her senior, although rather less mature. Both girls are still virgins, although Elena is clearly aware of the power of her beauty over the opposite sex. Effortlessly she pulls Italian law student Fernando (Libero De Rienzo, with whom she begins an intense relationship. Fernando talks of love, but is obviously keen for sex. Poor Anaïs is unfortunately sharing a room with the pair as they fumble towards a deflowering. Indeed, this is one of the most beguiling scenes in the movie; you feel awkward bearing witness to what is going on - the constant demands of Fernando for 'a demonstration of love', which after refusals brings forth the sorts of coercing phrases regarding anal sex that so many girls must dread to hear.
The animosity is often intense between the sisters, Anaïs' bitterness towards her sister combined with a resigned maturity that only rejection and frustration can breed. But at the same time there are wonderful scenes of the two sharing sisterly moments; albeit with bile never far away. The point is well made, the bond is there, no matter how much of a bitch Elena can be. Anaïs is such a lost, sad character; the melancholic beauty of one scene on the beach where she is singing to herself whilst Elena and Fernando 'make out' is incredible. Also well portrayed is the relationship with the parents. Mother is very much like Elena; Father is a workaholic who hates holidays and returns home before the others. Although the parents are mostly secondary in the story, you sense that they tend to reinforce Anaïs insecurities and knock her down further. This is exemplified in the scene the morning after the first Elena & Fernando night together. Anaïs is clearly really low, crying and choked. Her parents offer zero warmth, the only solace coming from a still caustic Elena shoving bread into her mouth to comfort her.
The story climaxes as the sisters and their mother return home from their holiday, after a gloriously comic scene where Fernando's mother (Laura Betti) visits to reclaim a precious ring that he had given to Elena as an engagement ring. The journey toward home is fantastically shot; the claustrophobia of motorway driving - especially since the mother doesn't like driving, and is pretty pissed at Elena's antics and Anaïs' miserableness - metaphoring the unease between the three, even more so as night wears on and mother becomes more wary of the huge dangerous lorries that she overtakes incautiously on the freeway. If I was an absolute ponce (or totally fearless), I would say these trucks are a metaphor for the male predatory sexuality against the tiny feminine car (which still manages to nimbly overtake at will most of the time). But I'm not (?), so I won't. Anyway, the ending comes as a huge shock. So I'm not going to tell you it. But safe to say you don't leave the cinema with a laugh and a giggle.
Overall, I was actually surprised by how deep this story was; there was only one gratuitous erection, and even that was covered by a condom. A brave attempt to analyse adolescent female sexuality, often leaving an unplesant taste in the mouth (no pun intended), but well worth a go if you're in the mood.
I'd heard this was maybe a little above the usual English country house period drama fodder. Indeed, the start was impressively done, as you get sucked into the world as it was in the 1930's and the way the extended family suckle at the fat belly of Sir William McCordle (played by Michael Gambon). Upon his death, it's rather stultifying to witness the calmness, almost warm wave of apathy that seems to infuse most of the gathering. Unfortunately, this lack of emotion from the characters infected me as well.
It's sometimes difficult with such a large cast, when simply remembering who is who and how they interrelate with each other. To overcome this, it helps if there is enough depth to encourage repeat viewings. Unfortunately, it takes so long for anything beyond character development and scene setting to occur, that repeat viewings are (for me anyway) unlikely. The volume of characters and their equality in terms of importance unfortunately renders the viewer's relationship with even the most interesting ones - such as Robert Parks (Clive Owen) and Mrs Wilson, The Housekeeper (Helen Mirren) - not necessarily intimate enough to generate any real feeling when their denouement comes.
The absolute nadir of the movie is the atrocious Inspector Thompson (portrayed by Stephen Fry), such a ridiculous unbelievable caricature of an incompetent 1930's Detective that by his appearance he sucks out all seriousness and believability from the final third of the story. Handling unfingerprinted decanters? Ignoring clues found by enterprising Constables? You betcha. Thankfully the good points - the performances of Emily Watson, Maggie Smith and Richard E Grant, the articulation of the class differences and arrogance of the upper-classes - balance this somewhat. Unfortunately, for me, this was still a bit of a sows ear made from a silk purse.
IMHO, there is absolutely only one programme on the telly worth watching on a regular basis. Appealing to the most satisfying instincts (i.e. seeing someone else suffering misfortune and gaining pleasure therefrom), Jackass can only be described as 'facking top hole governor'. Some of the stunts are pretty stupid, but the pervading sense of Zen, the complete lack of fear of those involved, and their dedication in risking serious injury/death in the name of entertainment, are highly commendable. Steve-O, whose stunts include such acts as having his arse pierced together, and sticking his head in a tank of poisonous jellyfish, is a particular hero. I was over the moon to stumble across details of many Jackass sketches which were unshown for taste reasons. Particularly awesome are :
No.14 - Parking Garage - "Steve-O lights a firecracker, sticks it up his butt and lets it shoot across a parking garage. This is what happens when you mix beer and fireworks" and
No.35 - Stilt Poo - "Steve-O takes a poop while he's up on stilts".
Wondering where stunted actor Gary Coleman hangs nowadays? Then why not check out his Agony Uncle Style Webpage, featuring all manner of appalling recommendations for the lovelorn and listless :
"I won't drive outside 25 miles to visit girls anymore. Why should you spend money on plane tickets or gasoline to go see someone flaky? You pretty much blew it when you forgot her name. I'm sure there's a slut a lot closer to you so you can get some tail". :: Boney 5:03:00 PM [+] ::