Tuesday, December 30, 2008

MMIX

A closing note for 2008 to say thanks once again for the visits to the blog, especially for all the great comments which I always love reading and sincerely appreciate; so here's to an excessively, deliciously, fruitful 2009 (and beyond) for you all!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

FILLMORE DISCOS 19

When a film as unexpectedly brilliant as Revolutionary Road comes along, it makes sitting through utter mince like The Wackness, Bottle Shock, Blindness et al. seem a LOT more tolerable.

Revolutionary Road (*****)
if you've got the emotional fortitude and courage to witness happen - right before your eyes - the tragic unravelling of a marriage and the shared dreams within, then don't dare miss out on this; universally compelling performances and the highest production values, along with Mendes' fine eye for detail, all combine to make this moving, nay devastating, film a timeless classic

The Wackness (*)
dreary dreary rubbish: firstly, there's the insanely annoying and intrusive soundtrack - not that the music's that bad, but that it just will not stop and is such a blatant lazy device for keeping it all 'real'; secondly, the goofball philosophy and chump lifestyle/relationship advice that is flung around for fun; thirdly, Kingsley acts like a prize ham, and the rest of the cast is just plain weak

In The Electric Mist (*)
turgid beyond belief - even when you can make out the occasional word that Tommy Lee Jones mumbles

Bottle Shock (*)
based on a genuinely interesting true story but totally undermined by the Dukes Of Hazzard caricaturing and xenophobic undercurrents - it's actually put me off drinking Californian wine

Lakeview Terrace (**)
Jackson's screen presence is captivating and the photography is unusually pleasing, but that aside and despite superficial references to social issues, this is a bog-standard neighbour-from-hell thriller with uniformly unlikeable characters and an overblown ending as inevitable as it's possible to get; for the relevant social commentary, refer to Cassavetes' 1959 classic Shadows

Religulous (*****)
Larry Charles' follow-up to the outrageous Borat sees Bill Maher travelling the globe meeting religious zealots of all flavours: far-removed from say Dawkins' creepy intellectual machismo, Maher is always likeably funny, smart, and hits a lot of targets; of course, he's preaching mostly to us converted, yet the bit about America's founding fathers was, to me, a real revelation (pun already regretted); and what is for the most part 90 minutes of fast-paced scary laughs culminates in a heartfelt and surprisingly moving monologue; it's also noteworthy that questioning the historicity of Jesus is beginning to enter mainstream debate

Blindness (*)
damn, another couple of hours of my life down the pan - 3rd rate sci-fi exploitation movie dressed up as social allegory, where the allegory is pretentious and simplistic, and the exploitation totally unfulfilling - think 28 Days Later, except even worse than that particular gubbins was; it doesn't help that Julianne Moore, in the central role as survivor of the blindness epidemic, is such a deeply unappealing woman

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

METASIGNIFICANCES 5

#5: question

My favourite episode of the cult TV series The Prisoner involved an omniscient computer (The General) that could answer anything, or at least until No. 6 fed it the simple question 'Why?' thereby causing it to overheat and implode spectacularly in a fit of seeming rage at its own impotence. Of course, upon quieter reflection the correct answer is, as any child will know when challenged to justify something, the simple and devastatingly effective 'Because!'.

My question is:
What is a question?


At first it appears to be a rather stupid thing to ask. It's perfectly obvious, isn't it? We have a perfectly good shared understanding of what a question is when we encounter one. But try defining it yourself and see if you avoid getting into the mess of contortions and confusion as Wikipedia have, or indeed virtually any dictionary. It just seems to have no definable set of exclusive properties or form. For example, we could call it 'an expression that invites a reply' - well, sometimes yes, sometimes no - and additionally there are expressions that invite replies that aren't questions. Therefore not good enough. How about we call it 'an expression of interrogation'? Cop-out. What does twankle mean? It means peltch. Er, OK, so what does peltch mean? It means twankle. Thanks for nothing.

It's as elusive as whether the light inside your refrigerator switches off when you close the door. How can the notion of a question, of which we seem to universally recognise, so readily elude precise linguistic explanation? It's something that's puzzled me for years, and I now have what I believe is an elegant definition. You see a question isn't at all what it appears to be. Excuse me while I place my miniature DV camera in the fridge and close the door.

Monday, December 22, 2008

FILLMORE DISCOS 18

A mixed bag here, JCVD and VCB both definite recommendations. I was going to also include The Wackness and Blindness but will leave them for the next set. What a tease.

Vicky Cristina Barcelona (****)
thank heavens Woody Allen has finally stopped making those dreadful clunky movies set in London: the photogenic climes of Spain, specifically the city of Barcelona, are a marvellous backdrop to an extremely welcome return of form for the director, aided by the awesome Javier Bardem, and Penelope Cruz, who is a revelation here as la bella (pero loca) ex-wife

Gran Torino (**)
Gran Torino does have its moments, but the script, storyline, and characterisations are all far too contrived and overplayed; worse still is the atrociously poor cast with the exception of Eastwood (and his trusty pooch)

La Fille Coupée En Deux (A Girl Cut In Two) (*)
trademark tale of obsession from Claude Chabrol - this time that of an attractive young TV weather girl who, whilst becoming the object of attention of a sociopathic young heir, falls head over heels for an uncharismatic ageing writer who possesses the kissing skills of a malformed toothless dogfish; the film is deeply disappointing: there is virtually no chemistry on display, let alone eroticism; the relationships at no point ring true, nor make sense; the weight of the drama clearly far too great for the director, scriptwriter, and the amateurish cast - as a bonus punishment, the two long hours culminate in an excruciatingly corny ending

JCVD (****)
fascinatingly enigmatic film that blurs the lines between reality and metaphor with effortless originality and invention - within the framework of a rather comic plot of a failed heist at a Brussels post office, it proceeds to deconstruct the mask of the celebrity action hero, in addition to the genre itself, so effectively that by the time of the movie's final frames, the broken pieces you are left with can no longer be rebuilt - as a human being, you understand Van Damme less, but you understand him better; and understanding this lack of understanding is profoundly transcendent far beyond its subject matter; contemporary arthouse cinema at its best

Suchwiin Bulmyeong (Address Unknown) (****)
relentlessly bleak and shocking Korean drama with occasional relief in the form of incongruent moments of pitch black humour - low budget, high ambitions: a treat for the cinephile

Friday, December 19, 2008

Thursday, December 18, 2008

THE BLUEPRINT 2

Dionysus
If a sawn-off shotgun was thrust against my temple with the demand I join a religion, I'd definitely choose the cult of Dionysus. The Mad God, also known as Bacchus, was love child of the adulterous relationship between Zeus and the mortal woman Semele, who would not make love to Zeus without spectacular demonstrations of his status as king of gods. Dionysus thrived as a baby and, growing up as a man with many soft feminine characteristics,
proceeded - much like Sade's Juliette - to roam the entire world spreading feverish joy, an intoxication with the fruits of life, with the madness of inspired creativity and unfettered expression. Dionysus is the headstrong, wilful, unstoppable biological urge - a force of pure irrationality; he is the epitomised reconciliation of human ambivalence between extremes such as love and hate, life and death, tragedy and comedy. Sadly, when his influence was popularised in Rome, this wonderful life philosophy was debased into meaningless debauchery in the form of the so-called Bacchanalia - decadence for its own sake rather than as freedom from oppression and autocratic attitudes. And of course, nowadays, Bacchus' most popular association is that with alcohol. How depressing for such a profoundly inspirational figure.

FLUFFY AND WHITE 3

At first it looks like a crater in the snow. How very odd.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

RHODIUM

The world's rarest and most precious metal is, quite delightfully, named after the Greek for 'rose'. Some (often overlooked) records I admire - from all musical genres - will comprise this series, which I'd like to introduce with, in my mind, one of the great albums.

Kronos Quartet : Black Angels (1990)

when you have a group of virtuoso musicians with such a positively combined intent as exhibited on
Black Angels, the results are predictably incendiary; see, with me, the problem with classical music isn't the compositions or the style, it's the now culturally entombed structure within which it occupies and from whence new performers are produced, that conspires to betray an artistically greater super-objective

not so with Black Angels, which compiles some staggeringly morbid brooding music from a variety of composers and eras, Renaissance to contemporary - and though, at least for me, it's not something to necessarily listen through in sequence, those selected are in perfect congruence within a collection; meanwhile, the production and performances by Kronos Quartet are suitably transcendent (despite the mutterings and pedantry of a few classical traditionalists)

the opening title piece written by George Crumb simply blows away the entire careers of most so-called experimental musicians with its genuinely challenging complex layers of metaphor and meaningful allusion, full of subtlety and nuance; then this dark journey reverts to a much beloved musical period of mine, the 16th century, in the majestic form of Thomas Tallis' Spem In Alium; next up is Istvan Marta's piece Doom. A Sigh which is terrifying and disturbing and one that I have come back to for inspiration on many an occasion; after Charles Ives' They Are There!, the album ends with perhaps the better known
Quartet No. 8 by Shostakovich, an incredibly unsettling 20 minute musical tombstone dedicated to victims of Stalin (as described by the great Russian composer himself)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

LISTEN WITH MOTHER 3

BBC putz Mark Kermode's recent smug patronising non-review of Zero: An Investigation Into 9/11 is beyond grating - to think little old ladies are going to jail for non-payment of the annually extorted licence fee to keep this lard-arsed wanker stocked up in hairgel and his belly full of beefburgers. Ever since 9/11 there's evolved a whole new unpleasantly aggressive breed of what you could loosely describe as conspiracy-deniers who get worked up about anything (even mildly) critical of the anthologically nonsensical official explanation of what transpired and the subsequent justifications for wars and serious incursions into personal freedom.

Just conflate things with various other assiduously handpicked examples such as faked moon landings, Area 51 alien abductions, Princess Diana assassinations and the like. Combine this varsity playground rhetoric with the dubious theory that to question orthodoxy is somehow more 'reassuring' (despite being quite clearly the contrary). It's a strategy used to belittle disapproved-of ideas, and one that also conveniently deflects from directly having to address the issue at hand.

It's as if the very notion of a 'conspiracy' could not by definition exist.

And of course there are fucking conspiracies and conspiratorial cultures at play within all strata of society, constantly. Conspiracies to make things happen, conspiracies to make things not happen, conspiracies to cover up mistakes, conspiracies to cover up embarrassing or sensitive information. Participants can be involved knowingly and unknowingly, and they can occur spontaneously based on shared objectives. Some conspiracies are completely or partially successful, some are completely or partially
bungled. We're all involved, all the time. It's a mess. And getting clear retrospective answers, as even in the simplest court cases, is extremely challenging.

Personally, I admit to still finding the 9/11 case fascinating primarily because so little is still known about what was an extraordinary set of events. The Italian documentary cited above is an exceptionally good one (barring some unnecessarily melodramatic stylistic flourishes); not that it provides many new answers, but because it asks the questions so cheerily well, with some heavyweight contributions by the awesome Gore Vidal and others.

FILLMORE DISCOS 17

Romantic special.

In Search Of A Midnight Kiss (**)
styled as a quirky romantic indie comedy, Midnight Kiss is definitely quirky, occasionally funny, but most certainly not at all romantic - the dull characters are so damned wet and their forced scripted dialogue so artificial; in its favour, you do get to see a lot of old downtown LA which is nice and unusual

P.S. I Love You (****)
if the weird premise of Saw's parallel universe was one of romance, then P.S. I Love You is what might result - actually, I'd been put off watching this based on trailers and others' reviews and on a night of feeling maudlin decided to give it a shot; and what a revelation! less romantic comedy than a study in loss with some of the lighter moments that bereavement requires - the cast is strong, the script has surprising depth at times, the soundtrack is well chosen, and I loved the pervading Irishness; a wonderful treat

Catch And Release (*)
dull

A Walk To Remember (****)
anyone reading this review might think I've taken leave of my senses: I loved this film - and I don't care how old-fashioned, syrupy sentimental and square it is; maybe that and Mandy Moore and the homoerotically engaging Landon is what makes it so damned enjoyable; fuck, I even got off on the songs

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

LOOSE BLADES 2

This article by Macca rivals Ringo's video. With its liberal smattering of anachronistic '60s language like groovy, far out, out there etc, and the fact that The Guardian's subeditors have chosen to leave in the typos, it's tempting to wonder if Chris Morris is the real author. McCartney's PR people have for a few months now been trying to seed this notion of his being 'the most experimental Beatle' and whether it's to push his dodgy new album, or just to bolster his galactic ego in the wake of Heather Mills, I'm not sure.

Some choice extracts below, but do read the whole thing for the full effect.

When it comes to music, enthusiasm is what drives me.
Enthusiasm enthuses you, you mean?

We grew up as a couple of kids in Liverpool and I think we were both as earnest and experimental as each other.

I fail to see the connections; in fact, this is such a nonsensical sentence that it must be an example of the influence of Burroughs' word cut-ups which McCartney later refers to.

...whereas John was in the countryside in Weybridge and married so he was a little bit more pipe and slippers!
In the context of his shoddy self-aggrandisement, this is a pathetically cheap shot by McCartney.

I was out in the clubs and Wigmore Hall, catching people like Cornelius Cardew. I was into Stockhausen and stuff.
Bullshit.

In fact, the whole project was quite like improvisational theatre, which I've never been involved in.
Reading McCartney's article is just like extraterrestrial travel, which I've never experienced.

And that idea of losing your bearings, as long as it's not in deepest Africa, is something I like.
Further commentary unnecessary.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

CROSSBONES

While not exactly of the glamour of Pirates Of The Caribbean, there's still something rather old school romantic about those audacious rapscallions off the coast of Somalia who buzz around in their tiny speedboats tooled up with trusty rocket launchers on the look-out for bounty. That these guys could brazenly capture a giant oil tanker in this day and age is hard to believe. But there's something reassuring knowing it can be done. Have a look at the amazing gallery of photography by Veronique De Viguerie.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

THE BLUEPRINT

Michel De Montaigne
Despite an insistence on his being ordinary, at least in the philosophical sense, Montaigne is a remarkable figure from the Middle Ages whose philosophical insights are still as inspiring and relevant and provocative as they were in the 16th century. If you're not familiar with his essays, I really recommend their reading. Full of wonderfully idiosyncratic anecdotes, metaphors, all highly quotable, there's ever the disdain I love that he shows for dogmatic social systems that rule out theses where we might be free of others' eyes; there's no resentful holding out to others, but a joyful celebration of one's own special selfness while accepting how trapped we are in our own biology. He loathed the authorities that separate people, making them appear intrinsically different from one another - and it's that rejection which in turn allows for our capacity for greater individuality and presence in an apolitical domain that some might have you believe cannot exist.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

SCRUPULOSITY 3

The wind is loud up where you're standing, arms outstretched, at the top of the tall tower ready to jump because, where once you had vertigo, you now believe you can fly. Yes, what a beautiful view. This is going to end bad and there's nothing that really can be done and so why try prevent it? A dream of flying high in the sky is so seductive, so alluring, so precious, that it shouldn't be broken. If only to feel the betrayal of the ungodly weight of your own arousal, once again.

Monday, November 10, 2008

FILLMORE DISCOS 16

As threatened, the documentaries special...

Roman Polanski: Wanted And Desired (***)
this interesting documentary has lots of great archive footage and the machinations of the trial are well narrated, yet is disappointingly superficial with regards to Polanski the human being, and what actually happened with Samantha Gailey that day

Zeitgeist: Addendum (*****)
the sequel to the already excellent original Zeitgeist: The Movie is more focused, more polished, and this time reveals a clearer agenda - it'd be easy for people to pick holes in this and that stylistic detail, but for me it's an easy 5 stars for fearlessly delivering its rare commodity of thought-provoking iconoclastic rhetoric

Global Metal (*)
Scot McFadyen's follow-up to Metal: A Headbanger's Journey is a tour around the world and how heavy metal has evolved in countries such as Brazil, India, China, Indonesia, and the Midldle East: it's only marginally less depressing than would be a documentary about the fucking global spread of McDonald's hamburgers - the visited countries with their amazingly rich and diverse cultures all deserve a lot better

Heckler (****)
I really enjoyed this on a number of levels - has a great variety of talking points, along with personal insights from professional performers (even when they're bitching about getting bad reviews); also includes an extraordinary clip of an outburst from stand-up legend Bill Hicks

... oh, and...

Quantum Of Solace (*)
incoherent, boring, poorly acted, worse orchestrated, substandard generic action flick - easily the worst 007 of all time

TRANSFIGURATION 3

In recent weeks I've got myself into some fun and passionate debates regarding human versus animal intelligence - and naturally, taking the side that chimps and birds (for example) are more intelligent than us lot. Having now built up some incontrovertible arguments in defence of said thesis, both philosophical and physiological, of which even a student of the great Socrates would be proud, I think it's only fair to share with you from whence some of my best source material is derived. Still waiting for National Geographic to make More Stupid Than An Amoeba, but give them time, we're getting there.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

THIS SPECIAL 3

A good mango can never be too ripe. The one to be obscenely plundered last night was at its juicy best - I might even have left the little beauty yet another couple of days if it hadn't been a Saturday night. A deserving reward.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

SCRUPULOSITY 2

What is the nature of the stories that you tell about yourself? The purpose they serve those who listen to them is not at all obvious, while themselves serving as the building blocks of who we think we are. Thus, the belief is the being, as is the reiteration. An old man once told me about the time he was shocked to be told by a doctor that he was dying and that there was no cure, and at that point he began to profoundly wonder what it meant to be a person who was dying as opposed to one that was living. And the further he entered the domain of that inquiry, not to seek answers but to just look around, the more he lived. As indeed would you and I.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

FILLMORE DISCOS 15

A posting with special reviews of several recent documentaries coming soon - look out for Global Metal, Heckler, Zeitgeist Addendum, and Roman Polanski: Wanted And Desired. In the meantime here we settle for the decidedly more prosaic.

Eden Lake (**)
the unnervingly realistic gang of hoodies along with their all-too-convincing family members give Eden Lake some notable potential, but unfortunately there's little else to commend, take away the few odd gruesome moments and it's more Famous Five than Deliverance - silly, derivative, implausible 'thrills'; TV-quality cinematography; plus a cheesy incongruent soundtrack all combining to ruin what could (and should) have been significantly more special; in addition, and as happened with My Little Eye, director Watkins tries so hard to be topical and so down with what the kids are into that, in the process, he forgets to make a meaningful film

Saw V (*****)
5 stars of course, what do you expect?! we reach the point where only genuine connoisseurs are going to appreciate these films as so much knowledge is presumed of the audience - Tobin Bell is imperious in his role as John ('Jigsaw') and this is yet another classic, expertly teased though it leaves us - do we really have to wait 12 months for VI?

Gomorra (*****)
intensely powerful and utterly compelling throughout - makes all the fake goodfellas posturing of your typical glamorised Hollywood gangster film look like the cartoons they are (and I include The Godfather et al); the tone of this unsettling tragedy is captured brilliantly by the non-formulaic documentary style and the feast of language that never once is tempted by cheap one-liners or unnecessary exposition

Tropic Thunder (*)
Tropic Thunder contains about 10 minutes of decent comic sketches padded within an overblown exercise in male bonding by Stiller and his Hollywood buddies who are clearly having a great time at the moviegoer's expense - new low points in the careers of Cruise, Coogan, Downey Jr., and, needless to say, Jack Black

Transsiberian (****)
the setting, pacing and unfolding paranoia of the first hour is of the highest quality, and although the final act doesn't quite deliver on the huge promise of that, this is still a most enjoyable thriller

Thursday, October 30, 2008

SCRUPULOSITY

It would indeed be creepy if a beautiful elegant woman, upon removing her glove before introducing herself, and instead of offering the alabaster hand you anticipated, were to reveal an outsized gnarled bird's claw. We're easily discomforted by behaviours and revelations that don't fit within the limited and stunted bounds of our expectations, and we all ritualistically follow habits and routines that serve no particular purpose. And I often wonder of which are those the ones we're not aware. Of the ones that we can neither give up, and therefore would be better to give in, if that difference is clear enough, to.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

ZIZEK

This is more like it. A most welcome antidote to Enemies Of Reason in the form of The Pervert's Guide To The Cinema by maverick psychoanalyst Slavoj Zizek, a short documentary in the ArtShock series. (The rest I didn't care for much - Brit artists Jake Chapman and Tracey Emin both, in turn, being found wanting.)

Zizek exquisitely collates scenes from iconic movies (most prominent are those of Hitchcock), whilst putting forward his charmingly provocative ideas with an enthusiastic deliberateness. Much of his commentary is laced with Freudian concepts and models, which personally I can do without; yet that notwithstanding, it's where he takes you with it that makes it so special.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

THE FOURTH PHILOSOPHY 2

Since Richard Dawkins has forged for himself a profitable new TV career out of atheism and evidence-based scientific rationalism (or something), I'd say he's fair game to have another pop at. And especially after seeing his smug Enemies Of Reason series made for Channel 4, where he scoffs at perfectly inoffensive people who enjoy astrology, tarot, dowsing, alternative medicine, and so on.

An intellectual bully that likes to pick the easiest softest targets to 'prove' his points, Dawkins conceals a more bitter intent. I remember being suspicious of him several years ago at a lecture on his notion of 'memes'. He derogatorily cited the example of kids wearing baseball caps backwards and Ninja Turtles as examples of a 'harmless' thought virus or meme (it's right at the end of the YouTube clip), then contrasts that with a fucking Hitler speech. (Why not his appallingly naff stripey blue shirt and green tie combination?) On another occasion he spuriously claims that Bach would have been just as inspired to compose his oratorios by looking into space, as by a belief in God.

This sophistry and these academic rhetorical stratagems, honed straight from the Oxford University Debating Society, and which he's so fond of employing, reveal a deeper truth about the man's zeal. The clue lies in what Dawkins himself opines as harmless and harmful beliefs. Rather than reason, it's a question of aesthetics, and he desperately wants to demonstrate how his are better than yours.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

THE FOURTH PHILOSOPHY

How uncool is this 'advertising campaign'? What bright spark came up with the slogan 'there's probably no god'? Really, if proof were needed that humanists were prosletysing Christians in disguise; that atheism was a Christian construct; that a reminder were needed of why I am not an atheist; and that it'd be way more fun to take part in the fucking Alpha Course than have your donation 'matched' by cheerleader Dawkins, then this is it all rolled into one.

As I've said before, count me out of the human race on this one - I'm with the chimps.

FILLMORE DISCOS 14

Some very good and some exceptionally bad, if not downright ugly.

Burn After Reading (***)

Burn After Reading, the Coen Brothers' new comedy, certainly has its moments, Malkovich in particular is fun, but the overfamiliar cast and disjointed narrative make it less than the sum of its good parts

Henry Poole Is Here (**)
worthy and competently executed indie film, but the message and symbolism is so soppy, overcooked and clawing that the entire premise is fatally undermined

Red (*****)
follows the form of a good western, a simple (yet never simplistic) film with a well told narrative and superb performances - and it's as good as almost anything I've seen this year; an old man (played by the redoubtable Brian Cox) whose dog, Red, is shot by some teenage youths looks for some kind of justice

Dance Of The Dead (*)
rubbish teen zombie comedy

Cobardes (****)
high quality drama from Spain about a boy getting bullied at school: sensitive and genuinely empathic treatment of various permutations of adult/child and child/child relationships in several touching yet unsentimental subplots that are never confusing

Step Brothers (*)

spectacularly unfunny

Good Time Max (*)
if the director of this indie rubbish had spent more time at film school studying the construction of say, Hitchcock's classics, and stopped worrying about how to design 'edgy' opening credits, then this just might be worth watching - as it is, it isn't (at all)

Up The Yangtze (****)
always absorbing documentary, the last few minutes of which are, as you see the waters rising, simply staggering

The Midnight Meat Train (*)
Clive Barker has now been added to my list headed by Stephen King, 'Horror Author Movie Adaptations To Avoid At All Costs': a truly atrocious film by Ryuhei Kitamura (and, sad to say, more evidence of how bad Japanese cinema has been now for well over a decade), most shocking here is that the laughable Vinnie Jones can't even act in a part without a single word of dialogue (not that Brooke Shields and the rest of the cast fare much better)

Monday, October 20, 2008

METASIGNIFICANCES 4

#4: concerns

What we consider as the difference between the concerns want and need is one of the classic questions in determining our own personal values. And while it's a fascinating apposition of opposites that would undoubtedly merit a long post in its own right, instead I want to take a look at responses.

The wonderful dark grey furry cat whom I grew up with as a child had concerns, just like any cat - and one of Smoggy's most important concerns was getting fed (and very particular she was too!), and a second important concern for her was getting regularly scratched around the side of her neck just behind her cute feline ears, and then lovingly stroked around her head or under the chin.

Now, if that adorable puss were able to talk to us, and my grandmother contested that indeed she could, I'm sure she would use the miaow for want to express these concerns. Not 'I would like some cream please', neither 'could I possibly have some Whiskas please?', nor 'I need a good stroke please'; just 'please I want some cream', 'please I want some Whiskas', 'please I want a stroke'. Smoggy wanted things, she didn't need them, and we adored her even more for it.

We all have concerns too, just like cats and dogs. How do you express them? I know I want people who are polite, and I also know I want people who want things, not need things - and not because they're selfish but because they're much more attractive. Just like Smoggy.

Monday, October 13, 2008

LOOSE BLADES

In the somewhat unlikely case anyone reading this was thinking about writing to Ringo Starr in the near future, or perhaps wanted him to sign something for them - best to first watch his message to you.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

HARD ON

'Sir' Bobby Gandalf reaps the lipsmacking hospitality of an endless party circuit in addition to the fruits of a £70m TV production company empire entirely thanks to the misery of famine victims, so when he once again dribbles and drools about the 'pornography of poverty', what exactly is it that turns him most on about it - the proceeds or the imagery?

Monday, October 06, 2008

Saturday, October 04, 2008

FILLMORE DISCOS 13

More self-inflicted pain.

Taken (**)
that you're prepared to overlook Taken's undercurrent of xenophobia, its nasty gratuitous violence, its redneck paranoia, its implausibilities, and even its relentlessly corny script, is all testament to both Morel's highly skilled directed choreography and Liam Neeson's core performance - but it's still nothing to feel proud about

The Rocker (*)
ignore the synopsis, The Rocker doesn't tell the story of a failed drummer but of a failed musical genre - only marginally less annoyingly than Jack Black, but nowhere near as successfully as the sublime Spinal Tap

The Visitor (**)
a promising story and some great performances are ultimately weighed down by overbearing worthiness: the characters are all far too politically correct and neither do any of the relationships ring true, and it's this approach that finally undermines the film's supposed moral purpose

Righteous Kill (*)
50 Cent's participation makes this confirmed shitness, and neither De Niro nor Pacino have made a decent film for years now, but this manages to plumb new depths in all their careers; any random episode of CSI would be a hundred times better than this irredeemable gubbins

88 Minutes (*)
movie news update: Pacino is looking up at the gutter, having plumbed a lower depth than even the atrocious Righteous Kill

Monday, September 29, 2008

UNDERS NIGHT

In a recent live show at London's Shepherd's Bush Palladium, the comedian Russell Brand did a brilliant and hilarious deconstruction of a gossipy article about himself in one of the UK Sunday tabloids. And I was reminded of it after seeing the latest Scottish edition of the paper News Of The World in which there was a shock-horror feature about so-called 'unders clubs' where kids between 10-18 can enjoy going to the disco before they open for the adults in the evening. (The print version has more and better pictures.) Personally, I can't see any problem with kids doing this and has been common over on the continent for decades; if anything, we're more socially dysfunctional as a nation because there aren't enough opportunities like this for teenagers.

Anyway, all that aside, one of the things Brand pointed out in his own inimitably baroque way was the ridiculous habit tabloids have of using bullet points, and certain words in bold capitals, to give absurdly unnecessary and undue emphasis - 'TEN', 'SOZZLED', 'TANKED-UP', 'FULL SEX', 'CREEPY', 'LURKING', 'WRONG', 'TWICE', 'BOUGHT'.

But in the following extract from the article, it's my own emphasis.

'A boy and girl no older than 14 had been groping each other frantically on the dancefloor for about five minutes. As our shocking pictures show, the shameless lad had one hand inside the pretty blonde’s neon tutu. Then he unzipped his jeans and exposed himself. There was no doubting what happened next - the girl, who towered over her partner, parted her legs to let the clearly excited boy go all the way. The grubby display was over in A COUPLE OF WORTHLESS MOMENTS - then her pals screeched raucously as they yanked her tutu down from behind to reveal she was wearing no underwear.'

A couple of worthless moments? Are you kidding? These fleeting seconds will probably be the most transcendental of both of these teens' lives, their entire identities constructed around them (and even more having now been immortalised in the Sunday press). It's everything else that's worthless. That was, will be, and is, it.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

HK47 2

Another item for all you fellow Hello Kitty fans (thanks to Lorin for the link) - this time it's in the form of a bizarrely rigorous psychological test about how much you care for others. You can do it in 5 minutes and let us know how you get on. (I got 'about 40 per cent' and a good dressing-down.)

HK47 1

WHITE NOISE OBSESSIVE

Is someone who will not shut the fuck up.

Friday, September 26, 2008

PIOUS FRAUD 2

Instead of just doing a film review of Constantine's Sword (***), it seemed more apt to relate it to this thread. Author James Carroll is both brave and well-intentioned in this historical documentary (told as personal biography) regarding the origins (and brazen Christian culpability) for the relentless persecution of Jews throughout the last couple of millennia as being the killers of Christ as portrayed in the New Testament Gospels. On his journeys, many poignant and fascinating stories emerge and for many, I suspect, they will come as quite a shock to dearly held beliefs.

The real truth (as I see it) is simpler, starker and more shocking than even he, as a former priest, could understandably bring himself to contemplate. That Emperor Constantine (and many of his predecessors and successors), at a time of waning military influence, cynically and ruthlessly used Christianity as a means of oppression is clear, but the film doesn't reveal its special underlying strategy (and the one that gave it its unique leverage), that of forced acceptance of the historicity of the gospels, of fundamentalism. And therein lies a poetic tragedy because all the bloodshed and persecution and perversion and corruption and slaughter at the hands of the bearers of the holy cross was (and continues to be) committed on account of a distorted account of something that never even happened about someone who almost certainly never even existed. A fucking work of fiction.

And furthermore, neither was there a real decline of the Roman Empire, it just morphed from a military into a vast religious empire whose pagan origins and hierarchy are pretty much intact to this very day. The movie's footage of US Christian evangelists, and of the charlatans, pederasts, murderers, warmongers, child-molestors, perverts, and shameless self-serving crooks creepily dressed up as popes and bishops, will send a very real shiver right down your very real spine. And especially that nightmarish last shot of Ratzinger.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

FILLMORE DISCOS 12

For the most part, this is just more crap to avoid.

Felon (***)
powerful, well made prison drama in which Dorff never really convinces, despite the excellent supporting cast - a pretty depressing way to spend 90 minutes

Cat Girl Kiki (**)
Japanese low budget weirdness in the form of the story of a rescued kitten who turns into a real girl and her effect upon the life of a young lonely guy - what starts out as promisingly pervy ends up annoyingly sappy

Man Jeuk (The Sparrow) (*)
disjointed, incoherent, and stylistically redundant Chinese film that borrows heavily from 60s French and Italian directors without understanding what originally made them great; I'm afraid The Sparrow never takes to the skies

Kabluey (****)
excellent quirky independent comedy, its quiet treatment on the theme of alienation is deceptively effective; Kudrow is brilliant, and I adore the girl from the supermarket

The Promotion (**)
pretty good deadpan comedy with some nice touches and performances, but at times the film lacks pace, its resolution is unsatisfying, and the 'Scottish' accent of Richard's wife is from outer space

Expired (****)
brilliant offbeat romantic comedy - Samantha Morton and Jason Patric are both amazing

The X-Files: I Want to Believe (X Files 2) (**)
I Want To Like This Movie: a few of the original X Files TV episodes (especially the less supernatural ones) were taut and clever packages of wry dark humour; and owing to the unusually bold subject matter, and despite the accusations, I don't see X Files 2 as an obvious cash-in; yet that said, the whole project is fatally undermined by the clunky wooden TV-quality dialogue, the wretched casting and acting (Billy Connolly and Xzibit are both particularly ludicrous in their roles), the unnecessarily slow pacing, and finally its painful attempt to incorporate some kind of spiritual debate

The Life Before Her Eyes (*)
appallingly pretentious movie about a girl who survives a Columbine-style massacre - the script and photography and pacing is so unbearably ornamental and self-conscious that it loses all its potential emotional pay-off and even half way through you really don't care any more (and don't get me started on the nauseating religious content)

Baby Mama (*)
oh my god, Baby Mama - now I have officially hit rock bottom and actually feel soiled having sat through this excruciating comedy about babies and motherhood

The Go-Getter (*)
an annoyingly derivative movie that has indie film student written all over it - the score, the scripting, the acting, the photography, the lot

Monday, September 22, 2008

UNDERHAND

Many years ago in a café in Spain, I remember listening, fascinated, to a girl telling me about all the cheeky ways she and her friends were able to cheat in university exams. I never thought I'd actually get to see how it was done but here's a set of pictures demonstrating one such strategy. Ingenious.

1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6

Thursday, September 18, 2008

PIOUS FRAUD

An amulet to symbolise the basis for the entire Christian faith. And a fake 19th century amulet strung around the neck of a dodgy bearded pillock in a cope would be a lot funnier if it wasn't for the centuries of misery, harassment, repression, intolerance, and bloodshed inflicted (and continues to be inflicted) in its sorry name. I know I had some harsh things to say about Garcia's book the other day but that's nothing compared to creeps like this, if you dare.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

ESSENTIAL LOGIC

Somebody wrote in with a link to a 2003 Lora Logic interview which I read with a mixture of minor discomfort and wistful curiosity. Her answers don't seem all that forthcoming so I've added a few notes for your post-punk delectation.

'the manager for X-Ray Spex liked the idea of having another woman in the band...'
OK, so he's a manager that liked the idea of having a rebellious 15-year-old girl in the band. Enough said.

'I grew up really fast. I was extremely naïve at first and was exploited by the management'
'they even used all the sax parts I worked out for the album (Germ Free Adolescents) with a new player...'
She certainly learned about the machinations of the music industry fast because when I joined the band, the previous guitarist who'd written most of the repertoire (other than the sax parts and lyrics) had his work misappropriated, and then the two songs that I wrote the music for on the Beat Rhythm News album suffered the same fate.

'it transcended labels and boundaries: that was really part of the punk spirit...'
'Punk' must be about the most untranscendental label of all time.

'I always saw that as my service to Krishna and share that but nothing really came out...'
I'm not sure if Hinduism works like that.

'I had an arranged marriage from the temple around '84 and we've been together ever since then...'
Wow.

By the way, don't be fooled by my sarcasm as it's not intended to be bitchy - I always liked Lora, and I'm genuinely happy for her if things have worked out well with her family; there's just so much Alice In Wonderland irony in that whole Rough Trade feminism/politics thing of which she was a part. And to a lesser extent I was too. How the business was run and how that would evolve, the relationships there, the nature of some of their employees, and of course the super-prudish Talibanesque censorship. I mean let's not forget the origin of the place's fucking name. And there's a kind of charm in it all that I, for my naïve part at that time, didn't really appreciate fully. Many of her simple answers in this interview neatly encapsulate those wild contradictions.

DAGBOK 3

The last day or so in Japan went past in a rush. Unlike the interminable 4 hours stop-over at Paris CDG airport before flying on home - even more tortuous its acting as a contemplative state of purgatory. In fact I got so bored with wandering around and testing perfumes in the duty-free and reading Italian women's fashion magazines in the news shop, that I carelessly picked up a copy of The Wire magazine to peruse. Huge mistake, I know. Look, I was desperate.

Do you think The Wire's contributors will ever get tired of using the word 'epiphany'? I must have counted out another dozen examples in that issue alone. And then of course, that prime pumpkin-head Nick Cain leaps out at you with a full page review of Peter Rehberg's recently released anthology. Now you might think this is bitterness for his inane review of Racket but far from it. Eminently worse is one of his (inane) 'good' reviews, especially after reading the incontinent twaddle he has to say about Pita's work. How that managed to get past the magazine's editor is beyond me. Cain is so toe-curlingly aroused by the sound of his own wretched prose, he actually manages to put you off wanting to hear the music. (And by the way I'm sure it is a great release.)

Anyway, enough already on that. The last day in Japan was for the performance that evening at the Red Brick Warehouse with the wonderful Marcus Schmickler also performing, in addition to a charming Toshiya Tsunoda and Luke Fowler. The opportunity also arose for an extra collaborative set with Incapacitants' Mikawa-san, so after a 30 minute solo set featuring Killing Hurts Give You The Secrets (live for the first time), we did 15 minutes or so together. For many years now I feel I've no real time sensitivity to music so that, whether recorded or live, it's impossible for me to make personal evaluations. Could be one of the best things ever, or a load of stinking rubbish - only time can tell.

Before I sign off with regards to this trip, and I do apologise for the consistently tiresome name-dropping, it'd be good to mention one particular highlight, that of meeting and spending some time with Joan Jonas - what a truly lovely and fascinating human being, one whose artistic passion burns ever bright.

In summary, it's such a privilege to get these kinds of opportunities that, let alone 4 hours, I'd happily sacrifice 4 days or 4 weeks stuck in limbo at CDG in exchange for. Just so long as that bloody magazine isn't anywhere to be seen.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

DAGBOK 2

This morning's was a walk along Osanbashi Pier (a predominantly wooden architectural marvel that makes dear old Brighton Pier look like a decidedly sad dilapidated knackered old relative). Some of the Triennale's lesser events are taking place there, and additionally this morning a young Japanese couple were tying the knot in a western-style wedding ceremony. An extremely curious event watched by a 50-strong audience of family members and friends clearly oblivious to the mushy Christian AOR soundtrack's excruciating lyrics along the lines of 'God will lead us to heaven' and 'Jesus is in our hearts' and so on. You get the idea. When it came time for the veil to be lifted, the groom, shy and diffident beyond belief, could not manage to give his bride little more than a brief terrified peck on her exquisitely unsullied alabaster cheek. I can't see the earth doing much moving tonight unless it's from a genuine earthquake. And then they signed the luxuriously bound marriage contract followed by an extended walkabout period for everyone to get the chance to take pictures of the happy couple. (It's weird but there's something I find peculiarly sexy about pretty girls in their best frocks and heels using state-of-the-art £2,500 fuck-off Canon cameras for mere snapshots.)

I've prepared as part of my own live performance at the Triennale the three pieces in full (so-called 'Cut Hands trilogy') for the first time: Killing Hurts Give You The Secrets, Cut Hands Has The Solution, and Pains Part Of The Dilemma. I hope it works out better.

Friday, September 12, 2008

ADBOOK

The essence of this will already have been said by thousands no doubt, but that new Facebook redesign is not only as ugly as Sarah Palin's soul but betrays an even worse intent. Fuck me, it's almost begging you to go back to MySpace. Notice how everything is now justified to the left to create a vast ocean of white space to be filled up with advertising on the right-hand side - one that I hope the trusty and utterly essential Firefox add-on AdBlock+ will continue to be able to overcome. Speaking of which, when you have to use a public computer and are confronted with flashing banners, gaudy boxes, scrolling bars, and pop-ups all over the place, it makes you appreciate what a godsend AB+ truly is.

Therefore, I'd like to call out to the nice people at Google to come up with a shiny new beautiful social networking site for us and run this arrogant Zuckerberg's lot out of town. You did it before with Hotmail, you provide these pleasing blogs without ads, and this might be the just moment.

DAGBOK

I'm not sure if flying on 9/11 since 2001 is such a good idea even though the flight to Tokyo was less than half full. Absolute chaos at Paris CDG airport caused by some anti-'terror' alert meant there were insane queues to get through to the gates. For your comfort and security of course. In fact the sprawling CDG may have to be added to the list of Airports To Avoid At All Costs headed by that undisputed pit of despair that goes by the name of Heathrow.

It was nice to bump into Pita Rehberg and Stephen O'Malley on the flight over, who are apparently off to record a new KTL album with Jim O'Rourke.

Anyway, it's good to be here in Yokohama at last - the sights, smells and sounds of Japan are reward enough for the long journey, and it was too tempting not to dive into the first visible branch of Tenya - my favourite fast food chain. Although comparing and contrasting it on any level with the kind of muck served at the likes of Burger King or KFC is grossly unfair. Tenya do these great quality bowls of delicious freshly-cooked tempura at bargain prices, the staff are always super-polite and welcoming and have a supernatural ability to know precisely when to top up your cup of green tea. Since my last visit they seem to have introduced a new English language version of their menu, which is 4 times larger in size, and amusingly, even if you don't read Japanese, about 10 times more confusing.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

UNBURIED ALIVE 4

Remember this story?

According to the Israel Institute of Technology, 24 hours is needed to manufacture a liquid bomb even in lab conditions, so I'm not quite sure how that can be achieved in the bogs on a transatlantic flight. Now British 'justice' has got the temerity to blame the US (yes, the US!) for scuppering this trial of a bunch of deluded wacky muslims. There were originally 20 people arrested related to this case and a jury has found only 3 of them guilty of these much less serious charges, despite there being the 'strongest evidence yet at a terror trial'. Meanwhile air passengers continue to suffer the most ludicrous restrictions on bringing innocuous liquids on board - even when the whole thing was clearly a panicky charade right from the beginning. Anything to avoid an admission of failure.

Friday, September 05, 2008

DESIDERI PENSIERI 5

13th September : DJ Benetti : Yokohama Triennale 2008 party, Yokohama, Japan
18th September : DJ Benetti : italoBLACK, Edinburgh, UK
25th September : DJ Benetti : italoBLACK, Edinburgh, UK
2nd October : DJ Benetti : italoBLACK, Edinburgh, UK
4th October : DJ Benetti : TBC, London, UK
9th October : DJ Benetti : italoBLACK, Edinburgh, UK
16th October : DJ Benetti : italoBLACK, Edinburgh, UK
18th October : DJ Benetti : guest appearance, TBC, Edinburgh, UK
23rd October : DJ Benetti : italoBLACK, Edinburgh, UK
30th October : DJ Benetti : italoBLACK, Edinburgh, UK
6th November : DJ Benetti : italoBLACK, Edinburgh, UK
13th November : DJ Benetti : italoBLACK, Edinburgh, UK
20th November : DJ Benetti : italoBLACK, Edinburgh, UK
21st November : DJ Benetti : italoBLACK, Edinburgh, UK
28th November : DJ Benetti : italoBLACK, Edinburgh, UK
30th November : DJ Benetti : supporting Hercules & Love Affair, Glasgow, UK

SCHEMES AND DREAMS

Updated diary of live dates for the next couple of months.

15th September : William Bennett (Whitehouse) : performance at Yokohama Triennale 2008, Yokohama, Japan
10th October : William Bennett : talk at Kill Your Timid Notion, Dundee, UK
18th October : Cut Hands : Cut Hands II : Rain Washes Away Chaff, Henry's Cellar, Edinburgh, UK
7th November : Cut Hands : 13th Note Café, Glasgow, UK
17th November : William Bennett : talk at Filmakademie, Germany

Monday, September 01, 2008

MUSTN'T-HAVES

One assumes Nina Garcia graduated from the Sex In The City College of how to commit crimes against fashion - to write a book of '100 must-haves for every fashionable woman' encouraging others to be a walking laughing stock is perverse and irresponsible. It makes you wonder what hideous garish planet the so-called fashion editors from some women's magazines come from, because Garcia is by no means the only serial offender.

Let's look at some of her so-called must-haves. This is going to be a long post so grab a nice hot cup of tea.

  • Animal Print: does that scream anything other than middle-aged woman trying way too hard? hang on a minute, Garcia even suggests going for the 'full outfit'...
  • Ankle Boots: one of the most common functions of clothes is for camouflaging, or detracting attention away from, perceived body flaws and vulnerabilities - the operative word is 'perceived' because it's a part of the illusion of identity; either way you look at it, these boots are horrible
  • Aviators: unless your name is Amelia Earhart, or you're part of Colonel Gadaffi's entourage of female bodyguards, aviator sunglasses are just going to look plain ridiculous
  • Black Opaque Tights: 'the higher the denier the better'? is this some kind of misprint?? I don't think there can be anything unsexier for the legs - other than skinny jeans and those indescribably repulsive leggings things; as with ankle boots, their popularity is far more to do with complexes with parts of the leg, like knees, thighs, calves and so forth
  • Blazer: right now I can't think of anything worse than being seen in public sitting at a table with someone wearing a fucking blazer (male or female)
  • Boyfriend Cardigan: men who wear cardigans are usually serial killers or child molestors, so why is it that a woman would even go out with a guy that wears them, let alone borrow one from him?
  • Clutch Bags: while now and again I'll pay (sincere) compliments to a person's clothes and appearance, handbags mean nothing as far as I'm concerned whether they be a £5,000 Hermes creation or a used carrier bag from Lidl, yet women for some unfathomable reason place enormous value in this accessory
  • Denim Jacket: Exhibit A, I rest my case
  • Fishnets: nowhere near as 'super-sexy' as they'd have you believe
  • Frye Harness Boots: a lot of dodgy product placement here in Garcia's list - my ankle boots comments apply
  • Gentleman's Hat: wearing a fucking fedora would be grounds enough to get dumped on the spot, I don't care who you are
  • Havaianas: it's a proven fact that flip-flops can only look good on young women from South America or South East Asia, or else children at the seaside
  • iPod: product placement alert - did I ever mention how much I hate iTunes?
  • Kaftans: look good when pregnant
  • Leather Trousers: yeuch... Exhibit B; leather skirts for sure but does anyone really find a sweaty smelly butch trouser in any way alluring?
  • Old Concert T-Shirt: broadcasting to the world what awful music one listened to 15 years ago does not seem like a cool thing to be wearing
  • Pyjamas: these passion-killing monstrosities must be responsible as the real (yet unsaid) grounds for so many separations and divorces - only appropriate for small children and incontinent geriatrics in nursing homes
  • Push-Up Bra: just because you're turning heads doesn't mean people like what they see, a push-up bra fools no-one, and just highlights another personal complex which is no big deal anyway
  • Polo Shirt: anyone up for a round of golf?
  • Safari Jacket: this is one of those items that will transform even the most exquisite gorgeous angel into a grumpy frumpy old biddy
  • Spanx Tights: more product placement courtesy of Elle magazine; Exhibit C - these things are way way beyond grotesque, I'm actually shuddering in horror as I'm typing these words; any straight man that would admit to finding something like this attractive should seek immediate counselling for his condition
  • Zip-Front Hoodies: I'm assuming the hoodie connotations do not resonate in metropolitan New York

Sunday, August 31, 2008

LOCAL COCAINE

It's the week that the full unexpurgated version of Bob Guccione's Caligula is finally released in the UK on DVD (the so-called Imperial Edition on 4 discs). Malcolm Taylor (aka McDowell) does a commentary as part of this set that I've been reliably informed is absolutely unmissable (brazen luvvie that of course he now is). It's a real shame that his career went downhill so dramatically after such memorable iconic roles throughout the 70s in movies like A Clockwork Orange, Royal Flash and If...., amongst others.

Meanwhile, the thinking man's porn star, the awful 'Dame' Helen Mirren gives us a concise object lesson in the cynical art of how to give the press just what they want as you simultaneously boost your career and personal kudos in the process. Klaus Barbie made me give up cocaine?! We've had the celebrity interviews with the eating disorders and the childhood misfortunes, now this could be the start of a new trend of blaming random tyrants, serial killers, and other assorted monsters for... almost anything.

THE WHIZZINATOR 3

A parting shot on this subject having this morning read about the CV of the cretin who came up with the naffness-redefining exploding bus routine at last weekend's Olympic Games closing ceremony.

I'm speculating here, but I have a little experience in this. The UK arts institutions are heavily populated with talentless wastrels who distribute vast amounts of funding to political bedfellows, lovers, and friends, both here and around the world, mostly as graces and favours. You wouldn't think it after repeatedly seeing these major demonstrations of tack but the country has lots of brilliantly original and talented, yet lonely and ignored, artists.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

DESIDERI PENSIERI 4

DJ Benetti : updates for September!

italoBLACK
Sneaky Pete's
73 Cowgate
Edinburgh, UK
Thursday September 4th / 18th / 25th : 10pm-3am

Yokohama Triennale 2008
Yokohama, Japan
Sunday September 13th : 9pm-11pm

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

FILLMORE DISCOS 11

After a wretched run of consecutive losers, faith is partially restored with Isabel Coixet's Elegy, and fully with the emphatically memorable The Fall.

Elegy
(****)
contemplative, thought-provoking, and ultimately moving drama - I'd now very much like to read the novel it's based upon, Philip Roth's The Dying Animal

Baby Mama (*)
oh my fucking god - now I have officially hit rock bottom and actually feel soiled having sat right through this excruciating comedy about babies and motherhood

The Fall
(*****)
this remake of Yo Ho Ho, an old Bulgarian movie, is a masterpiece: stunning to look at, and full of wonderful symbolism and metaphor; yet really at its heart lies a devastatingly simple tale of a relationship between a young actor, paralysed in a stunt gone wrong and now wishing to end his own life in hospital, and fellow patient Alexandria, a truly extraodinary little girl who becomes besotted and captivated by his extravagant and mythological story-telling - Catinca Untaru's performance as the little girl is one of the most memorable and magical things I've seen since Judy Garland in the Wizard Of Oz (yes, it's that good)

The Go-Getter (**)
an annoyingly derivative movie that has indie film student written all over it - the score, the scripting, the acting, the photography, the lot

The Strangers (**)
typical modern horror thriller: promising set-up that rapidly becomes silly and far-fetched - The Strangers uses all the audiovisual clichés of the genre not just once but over and over and over again to the point of viewer exhaustion; conclusion: send the director back to film school to study Hitchcock

Monday, August 25, 2008

THE WHIZZINATOR 2

Never has the tone been lowered so dramatically from such sublime heights. After an unrivalled and moving demonstration of stunning mass choreography and orchestrated music at the closing ceremony of the Beijing Games, there followed the indescribably humiliating embarrassment of seeing that twat Boris Johnson hands in pockets shamble on in his dreadful £15 Tesco suit, followed by a double-decker bus sporting the crappest logo of all time opening up to reveal some tart from X-Factor accompanied by a decrepit Jimmy Page miming on his Les Paul. Christ Almighty, kill me now.

Friday, August 22, 2008

SEVEN WONDERS 2

One simple criterion for this list: very few, if any, visible traces of mankind.
  • Angel Falls, Venezuela
  • Grand Canyon, USA
  • Ayers Rock, Australia
  • Matterhorn, Switzerland
  • Carlsbad Caverns, USA
  • Antarctica
  • Sahara Desert, Africa

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

THE WHIZZINATOR

And speaking of transparent concessions, it's the Olympics.

The jingoism and hypocrisy that the UK excels at is in overdrive after such a surprising harvest of gold medals.

At the opening ceremony, arms went up when a pretty Chinese girl was seen to be miming and not the bucktoothed original singer. Days later the papers were full of sceptical indignation regarding the true ages of the Chinese female gymnasts while at the same time Team GB proudly fielded a cute 14 year old boy diver. Then it was the turn of the arrest of an ITV hack who, while covering an impromptu Free Tibet demo, got himself arrested by the Chinese 'goons' (if only these journalists were as diligent about reporting on our very own police state and routine invasions of sovereign nations).

Needless to say, there are no end of scams that athletes get up to escape drugs detection and our lot, under the mentorship of past master Linford Christie through UK Athletics, are well-versed in all the deceits. The use of fake genitals, bladders, synthetic urine, 'missed' tests, drug cancellers, and various other sleights are as important as the training itself, as are the intensive workshops in knowing what to say, and how to say it, if ever caught out. In the latter case playing the 'plucky Brit' card will usually work - unfortunately, not an option for the Eastern bloc competitors, or any swarthy Mediterranean types.


UK Athletics, with the shadow of the financially crippling London Games in 2012 looming, have adopted a brazen win-at-all-costs strategy where results are all that matter regardless of how they're achieved. Hence our Olympic success. Even from a country mostly populated by sweating alcoholic clinically obese couch potatoes on the permanent cusp of a heart attack.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

REALITY CONSTRAINT

Many of the best cold readers (fortunetellers and the like) have an armoury of all sorts of cool transparent concessions to achieve their magic - a lot of it is dependent on the understanding of unconscious communication through subtext. Several years ago, a friend of mine named Belinda, who'd been enjoying frequenting speed dating nights in the town, was berating the fact that every single guy every single night would ask the same fucking questions, top of the list being 'what do you do for a living?', or words to that effect.

A good cold reader will know that the wording of an answer reveals much information. If the answer is in the format 'I'm a (name of job)', then it's a sign that the person's identity is closely knitted to what they do, whereas 'I (do activity)' shows that the focus of identity is elsewhere.

Belinda asked me if I had any ideas about how she should best respond to this oh-so-inevitable question. Knowing that it would seem better to be seen as passionate about one's chosen work, I suggested the first formula - with an added subtlety. Kind of. 'I'm a kind of cleaner' - which sounds pretty damn mysterious and fascinating to me; and even more when the guy with increasing curiosity asks what she means. Belinda just smiles, shrugs her shoulders and says 'hey, I'll tell you later, let's not talk about that now, what do you do in the real world?'

I'm a kind of musician. But let's not talk about that now.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

FILLMORE DISCOS 10

You could say a few lessons have been learned.

Iron Man (**)
that's it, no more of these stupid superhero movies for me - and this particular trash doesn't even have a bad guy like The Joker, The Dark Knight's saving grace; Downey really annoys the hell out of me here, Paltrow's character is pathetic, more product placement than even 007, and this all added to some of the most puerile corniest Hollywood dialogue I've ever heard in my fucking life

Happy-Go-Lucky (*)
another scandalous waste of celluloid funded by UK Lottery money - apart from the rotten acting, the excruciatingly phoney London accents alone will drive you to the brink of insanity

Where In The World Is Osama Bin Laden? (**)
it's an irony that a rather unconvincing Morgan Spurlock needs the Bin Laden legend almost as much as Bush and those who would support 'Al Qaeda' do - otherwise he doesn't have a film; Spurlock comes across as a decent guy and this lightweight movie contains a few genuinely interesting moments which needed to be developed at the expense of the dubious premise, the cop-out ending, and the corny jokes and songs, and, it goes without saying, all the meh crap about his baby's birth

Sex And The City: The Movie (**)
not a welcoming experience for us guys and if these four ghastly women are truly representative of the female gender then we are really in trouble - unattractive, atrocious dress sense, egotistical, materialist, narrow-minded, vacuous, unreceptive, superficial, immature, rude, condescending, judgmental... however, I'd like to think that they aren't; that said, there are lots of funny lines and moments to enjoy and there's a cheerful energy to it despite the second half dragging a bit towards its inevitable and utterly predictable outcome

Stanley Cuba (*)
worthless indie crap

Water Lilies (***)
only French cinema could get away with a pervfest like this, and one can be glad for that - that said, let's be honest and not fool ourselves, it's not at all a character study of blossoming female adolescence, it's wishful thinking with all the mandatory bisexual symbols, references, and motifs neatly packaged up and delivered by a drooling director having a field day indulging herself with the talent - so hallelujah if it's what you too are into

Suffering Man's Charity (*)
did this cast of third rate thespians all take a humungous speedball before the shooting began? the resultant overacting is utterly unbearable

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

SEVEN WONDERS

Voted lists nearly always turn up hopelessly unsatisfying results with the usual horrendous and ridiculous results - I'd always much rather hear what one person's opinions are along with their own personal reasons. There's one happening for the Seven Natural Wonders Of The World and, before listing my choices for those, here are my nominations for the manmade ones with precious little reasoning other than that an important criterion was to have a variety of structure types, ages, and locations within the list. Disagreement most welcomed.
  • Great Pyramid Of Giza, Egypt - beyond their enormous scope, mystery, and perfect surrounding location, I love it that for Emperor Hadrian, upon his first inspiring visit, they were already ancient monuments
  • Moais, Rapa Nui - ever since I was a small child, these statues, and the stories they seem to tell, still fascinate me as they continue to stare out into the open sea
  • Amalfi Coast, Italy - in a country of architectural miracles around almost every corner, I've chosen this achingly, impossibly beautiful coastline drive
  • Golden Pavilion, Japan - so precious in its setting, it's as if nature had been exquisitely designed around the structure, rather than the other way around
  • Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany - like a hi-def screen that has a higher resolution than real life, this dreamlike castle is more fairytale than a fairytale
  • The Kremlin, Russia - an iconic exterior that tells but a mere part of the full story: it's the modern day Forbidden City
  • Nazca Lines, Peru - arguably the most mysterious manmade art of all

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

DESIDERI PENSIERI 3

DJ Benetti : updates for August!

italoBLACK
Sneaky Pete's
73 Cowgate
Edinburgh, UK
Thursday August 7th / 14th / 21st / 28th : 10pm-4am

Sunday, August 03, 2008

FILLMORE DISCOS 9

Of these, Stuart Gordon's Stuck is a must-see.

Shadow Company
(****)
well-balanced insightful documentary on the mercenary business; it mostly focuses on Iraq, yet also discusses the profession's historical background and compares other contemporary topical scenarios like Sierra Leone and Equatorial New Guinea - features an excellent range of articulate interviewees and some amazing footage you won't have seen on the BBC

Donkey Punch (**)
Donkey Punch has a decent premise and in better hands could have been a memorable ride (pun regretted) - yet it's undermined by its very Britishness in the form of the ugly chav Heat magazine Big Brother alcohol culture that sullies every frame of its 90 minutes as it does many a town and city centre on a weekend evening: from the boneheaded violence, the dumb dreary conversation, all to a soundtrack of lame club tunes; the movie climaxes into absurd bloody pandemonium and you can't say that all of these thicko stereotypes don't get what they deserve

Purple Violets (*)
there's nothing good about this awful movie whatsoever - all the characters in this unfunny unromantic comedy are uniformly obnoxious and the acting is like a third rate sitcom

Stuck (*****)
brilliant and original tragicomedy directed by Stuart Gordon - Stuck is funny and horrific without being silly and there are superb performances by the entire cast; a breath of fresh air in this season of blockbuster trash

The Ruins (***)
gory horror flick set in the Mexican jungle: it is well acted and tightly enough directed to allow you to (mostly) overlook the rather silly basis for the bloodshed

Smart People (***)
Sarah Jessica Parker might be the unsexiest woman on the planet but this wry, laconic US comedy has a couple of great compensatory performances from Ellen Page (much better here than in Juno) and Thomas Haden Church (who easily steals every scene he's in)

DEATH ON TWO LEGS 2

On this occasion, words almost fail me. Apart from the totalitarian extent of these kinds of powers, it's clear that this absolute moron Chertoff has not the slightest clue how easy it'd be for the types he identifies as 'threats' to bypass physical border controls with this 'contraband' without physically carrying it, and I quote, "on any device capable of storing information in digital or analog form, including hard drives, flash drives, cellphones, ipods, pagers, beepers, and video and audio tapes... also... all papers and other written documentation, including books, pamphlets and written materials commonly referred to as 'pocket trash' or 'pocket litter'". Have a nice day.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

DEATH ON TWO LEGS

If you thought like me at the time it happened that the post-9/11 anthrax scare was extremely fishy (as with so many other events of this whole era of the so-called 'war on terrorism'), then I thoroughly recommend this article. And considering what a huge story this was at the time, and one which arguably had even more serious consequences than 9/11 itself (i.e. a crucial part of the rationale for the invasion of Iraq), why the hell are these developments getting such scant news coverage? Especially in August when there's so little genuine news to report.

Friday, August 01, 2008

CLARA ROCKMORE 2

A big thank you to all who recommended seeing this fascinating and exceptionally inspirational film.

Theremin - An Electronic Odyssey (****)
Leon Theremin's is an amazing story, though for me the real star is Clara Rockmore, one of the greatest musicians of all times, and here we have, in addition to moving footage of her captivating performances, the treat of witnessing her with an understandably adoring Leon on her 18th birthday - Brian Wilson's pointless ramblings should have been edited out completely

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

ARCHIVED 2

Some people have asked so here's one last reminder if you missed the Resonance FM transmission of the Afro Noise I mix, it's still up at the CYRK site.

update: 1,600+ total downloads so far as of July 30th!
update: first 2 vinyl afro noise vinyl releases are now completed and ready to be mastered

Monday, July 28, 2008

FILLMORE DISCOS 8

Another batch of increasingly less succinct reviews - The Babysitters is definitely worth checking out.

Cocaine Cowboys 2 (***)
continues where CC1 leaves off; we get a more detailed and intimate insight into the mad world of Griselda Blanco aka La Madrina ('The Godmother'), the ruthless Colombian drugs trafficker, mostly as told by her Oakland cohort Charles Crosby; can we take his remarkable testimony at face value? I guess so, but often he comes across as a gangsta/thug fantasist in the mold of Tupac Shakur; curious to see sub-GTAIV animation incorporated into the storytelling

The Dark Knight (**)
how did the once-great Christopher Nolan get this bad? other than Ledger's consistently brilliant turn as The Joker, the movie is but a dreary formulaic Hollywood blockbuster action thriller with an over-familiar cast of journeyman actors which is all dressed up with scavenged bits of lite contemporary morality themes (more neocon than Dirty Harry) and a few contrasting moments of faux transgressiveness welded on to compensate for its little suspense... (pause for breath)... furthermore, it's just way too long, and has a soundtrack by numbers to boot; just like the removal of nipples from 'The' Batman's costume (reputedly at Bale's request), the harder The Dark Knight tries to be 'dark' and 'serious', the more daft and lightweight it becomes

Black Wine (**)
a watchable no-budget STV thriller

The Babysitters (****)
a dark comedy whose subversive sexual themes have, predictably, invoked many US critics' deepseated puritanism - Katherine Waterston is brilliant in the lead role of a slightly gangly but pretty 16-year-old accidentally embarking on a lucrative career of pimping herself and her schoolfriends under the subterfuge of babysitting

Dark City (director's cut) (**)
not seen the original to compare this with yet I can't imagine there's that much to choose between the two: stylish and ambitious, but too many directorial flaws to suspend your threshold of disbelief for very long