Tuesday, December 30, 2008


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


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


#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


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


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.


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

Sunday, December 07, 2008


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)