Thursday, October 30, 2008


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


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


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


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.


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


#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


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


'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?

Saturday, October 04, 2008


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