Friday, June 30, 2006

Complex carbohydrates

Watching Factotum the other night was a joy. The story of the writer Bukowski, Matt Dillon played 'Harry Chinaski', a drinker and shirker of work. With his movie-star good looks, it was odd seeing him with the facial blemishes accompanying heavy drinking, burst capillaries spread across the face like sunburn. The film nailed the right atmosphere, a warm, mouldy fog that you struggle through when you wake up drunk from the night before.
In amongst the recurring bottom-dollar jobs and boozed up escapades were fine moments of deadpan humour, enough to laugh out loud. All the acting on offer comes deceptively easy considering how hard it is to fake drunkeness without resulting in the wrong kind of foolish.
A hard film to recommend to anyone on the basis of plot, this is all about life at the poverty line without the earnest desperation that usually clogs up such films. It is good stuff.

Junebug is a different story. I caught this at the cinema last night, the tale of an art gallery owner travelling to Carolina to kill two birds with one stone - courting a potential client and meeting her husband's family.
Junebug is wonderfully acted without a bum note, the writing avoids the obvious and some of the cinematography is unafraid to keep at a mild pace, with scenes of greenery held for that bit longer than many editors would feel comfortable with.

And yet, for all its US indie techniques, this is treading a well-worn path. The conflict between family and career and the old country mouse/town mouse - the sophisticated, travelled and articulate meets the religious Southern hicks, and while it's not quite as straight as that the stereotypes are still well-defined.

So, a tale well filmed and well acted, should it matter if the story is all-too familiar? After all, the love story with or without infidelity is rehashed time and time again, and is still capable of coming across as fresh and new in the right hands. Why shouldn't this apply to the 'meet the parents/fish out of water' tale? Maybe it does, but I didn't really feel it here.
Junebug is a good film, and going into it knowing what to expect will probably mean you'll enjoy it, there's still a lot to make this stand out from the crowd.

In other news, that B2 shop still has Diet Vanilla Coke, so much so that there were too many bottles for the shelves. The use-by on the bottle I bought yesterday was October, so it looks like that will be the ultimate last time I will be able to taste the sickly Cream soda/Coke joy.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Colourless Interlude


Rather than become a massive drain on my precious temporal resource, it turns out my DS only takes up neat little chunks, much like its physical presence. This is mostly due to the games that I've bought for it : Brain Training only lets you do the actual training (maths, memory games, visual tests etc.) once a day so you can't spend that long on it, and Nintendogs is similarly limited, in that your virtual puppy only has the energy for so many walks or contests in one day and back at your virtual flat you don't want to spend that long playing and training it, especially when it decides to forget the tricks you taught it not hours earlier.
I'm not bitter.

So that's my virtual pup, her name is Plum and she usually answers to it. Don't know why the picture's so blurry, dagnabbit, this technical jiggery-hokery just gets me all confounded.
Having said this, my limited time-outpouring into my funky little machine is all set to change on Friday, as Nintendo release the New Super Mario Bros game, and a squillion Nintendo fans rejoice in an apoplexy of Mario-based emotional outpourings.

Could talk again about films what I done seen, but the Christian Right teen comedy Saved! didn't inspire the same enthusiasm in me as did Deathline. Saved! isn't bad, it's just a bit meh. It's okay, quite good in parts, but in aping the high school comedy/drama staple of US West Coast cinema, it suffers from many of the same narrative drawbacks despite the attempt to provide bitey twists. Pshaw.

One item of interest was the impromptu visit to the Wireless fest on Sunday, where the Depeche Mode did do headline. Picked up the tickets last Wednesday and yesterday afternoon I found myself re-living the festival times of a decade ago, in some small way. With the 02 signage pasted everywhichwhere it was undeniably a corporate venture, but as the prices of the likes of the Readings and Phoenixes that I once went to skyrocket, Sunday's little gathering didn't seem so bad. The fact that I cared not a jot for any of the acts but the main made it all the more relaxing - a warm summers afternoon spent trampling round a field of parched straw like grass, surrounded by people all out to enjoy themselves amongst the dozens of festival tat stalls and dodgy food vans. Whilst I'm not a huge Depeche fan, I like a good number of their tunes and they put on a decent show as dusk became twilight became darkness.
It certainly gave me a bit of the festival bug again, but as the last claps and hollers died down and hundreds of people poured out of Hyde Park, walking down the road to catch a bus home was very much different to traipsing back to a disheveled tent past packs of pissed-up teens only to be greeted by a bag of warm, damp bread and smashed biscuits.
Different and better.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Mind the doors!

So I've just watched Deathline, the classic British horror from 1972. It's a decent little film, fairly gory considering it pre-dates the Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the infamous horror flicks from the 70s, and it does a better job with characters and building tension than the similarly themed mutant cannibal picture, Wes Craven's The Hills Have Eyes.

Apparently a group of 8 men and 4 women were buried when digging a section of tube tunnel between Holborn and Russell Square in 1892, but the tube company (these were the pre-London Transport days) went bust and couldn't afford a rescue operation. The survivors lived on, had children and feasted on human flesh, as you do.

The film succeeds where many horror films fail, having you empathise with the villain whilst simultaneously being terrified-you get genuine dread thanks to not being able to easily predict what will happen, unlike in so many of the horror films churned out by the dozen since. A long, unbroken shot prowling round the larder/lair of the cannibal murderers is a stylish touch that also shows up many of the horror films of today, its slow pace working to rack up the tension.
The 70s setting is a joy, getting to see bits of London and the hideous barnets worn by the suspiciously old 'students' at the centre of the story, so even aside from the plot itself the film acts as a time capsule curio. Plus, as a london film, it's heartening to note that black people are a normal part of life in London in '72, using the tube and having normal jobs, it's a fact easily forgotten when watching some more recent films set in London.

Like Match Point. I would say see for yourself.

But then you'd have to see it.

But the reason that you should see Deathline is Donald Pleasance. Playing Inspector Calhoun, the copper who takes on the case of a missing Ministry of Defense bod at Russell Square tube, Pleasance is wonderful, a rounded character who is witty, charming, sarcastic, short-tempered and threatening all at once. That a character which would usually be played with one dimension is given such depth is a testament to Pleasance's acting ability, which does not have the chance to shine in his more high profile horror parts-in Halloween and Prince of Darkness, for example.
The sniping at class, relaxed acting and real locations all go toward boosting this film above the bloodthirsty gaggle of 70s horror, in fact the only wooden part is that of the token American student Alex who only ever seems to be able to frown and get annoyed, though to be fair it could be that the part doesn't give much to work with.
I'll give him the benefit of the doubt because Alex is played by David Ladd, who more recently produced A Guy Thing starring Jason Lee and Julia Stiles.

Yeah, Donald Pleasance is really good, the monster/villain is well realised and all-in-all this makes for a very enjoyable movie. Provided you can stomach movies where people die violent deaths.

To avoid confusion, I'll state that this is not a still from Deathline.

Nana is one of many series that are airing in Japan right now.
Two young ladies named Nana fall in love but their boyfriends move to Tokyo. They follow, but decide to be independent which is where they meet and end up sharing a flat. One Nana is a cute girly-girl, all frilly dresses and swoony eyes over pretty boys, whilst the other is a cigarette-smoking goth singer-girl, and each have their pasts, friends and character traits which unfold over the course of the series. Will they find love? Will they be happy without it? I don't know because it hasn't finished yet.
Still, as shows about women finding themselves in the big city it's really good, and thankfully doesn't have the lesbian subtext that mars many other anime series.
Yes, mars.
Once the subtext is written in cleverly and is relevant to the plot, I will embrace the lesbianism.
But so far, no joy and no-go, tittilation for its own sake does not for good TV make.

I was tempted to rant on the evils of free-market capitalism, but then I watched Deathline and here we are.
Still, I know the promise of political diatribes keeps you all coming back.

Mind the doors!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Serious convictions

I was thinking of writing about my renewed anger over the horrible theft of the 2000 USA election after reading more about it in Greg Palast's "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy", ready to draw comparisons to the violent oppression of political opposition in the very places the Bush administration would seek to attack, but then by the time I got home I was too tired so I'm going to write about games instead.

I was going to write about games earlier this week, but I was too tired then. That's tired to the power of four (an extra power over Davina).

So, I like playing games, I like them a lot. I've been playing video games since my ZX Spectrum + back in the day (mid 80s, yes, that's officially the day) I've played with the Atari 2600, Amstrads, Commodores, PCs I wasn't aware had names, the Nintendo NES, Super NES, Gameboy, N64, Sega Master System, Megadrive, Mega CD, Game Gear, Playstation and Atari Lynx, and at the moment I own a Gameboy Advance SP, a Gamecube and an Xbox. With the slow, lingering death of the Gamecube, and to an extent, the Xbox, I've had the opportunity to get a lot of the games I've wanted to play for the systems cheaper than usual. However, this means I buy them when I see them rather than when I've finished the previous game so I now have a stack of unopened games as well as one of opened but unfinished games just taking up space and patiently waiting for the time when I bless them with my firm touch. I don't want to physically count said games as it will prove too alarming, but for a good idea I have a pile of opened Xbox games on my desk that I am in the middle of playing through. The pile includes 23 titles. There's more under the bed.

But why the chuff do I care about your games you now clearly geeky moneky fool?! I imagine you now say to yourselves out loud to your screen. Other people in the room look at you. If there's no-one there then what was that noise!.
Well, it's a human interest story, something comprehensible to all. It's about how I'm stupid.

I'm stupid because despite owning far too many games to probably finish playing them all this year even if I do it full time *breath* I have pre-ordered and will buy, next Friday, the Nintendo DS Lite, the newest iteration of the sexy Nintendo handheld that you touch to make it do things for you.
I know I have too many games, I know that I will spend precious little time using my new sleek black machine, but I'm going to buy it anyway because I am compulsive and cannot be stopped.

Like that, but black. Sexy.

By the way, to complete my ultimate collection I need Black and Rogue Trooper for the Xbox, but only cheap. Should you happen to see them cheap then let me know.
I can't be stopped.

Maybe next time I will talk about political things, maybe next time.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


Which came first? Language or the cooperative agreement of its meaning?
What I mean to say is, in order to communicate we would need to agree on the meaning of our language, but in order to agree we needed a language to communicate in.
So where did it all begin?
These are the questions that I wanted to discuss when I began my philosophy degree only to discover that it was a history degree with a focus on philosophy books. A background is essential but it isn't the be-all and end-all; still, it's strange that watching fan-subtitled anime fresh from Japan would get me thinking about linguistical philosophy again.

The series Ergo Proxy is ambitious. Set in a not-at-all sci-fi staple post-apocalyptic cyber-punk world, we see android servants here called autoraves and questions of identity as one character discovers he is a monster.
It's a big mess to be honest, but the fact that it tries when so many series have their schoolkid protagonists be earth's only mech-piloting hopes means it garners significant brownie points.

Black Lagoon is also an anime series currently riding the Japanese airwaves. The tale of a salaryman ending up joining the crew of a band of modern-day pirates in the South China Seas is wonderful, beautifully animated, intelligently written and acted and bookended by excellent opening and closing music. Not afraid of a little violence or swearing, it's the perfect antidote to yet another tale of high-school-love-but-with-badgers/aliens/ninjas/robots/maids/witches/etc.
8 episodes so far and it hasn't let me down, I hope that this gets licensed and secures UK distribution so I can nag everyone in earshot about watching it.

I'd like to talk about Higurashi but it's late so I won't do it justice.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

War on Nature

Obviously the BBC have been paying close attention to my blog and decided to start their 'Climate Chaos' season. So we had good old David Attenborough asking "Can We Save Planet Earth?" last week, and earlier we had "If...the oil ran out".
David always gives good telly, but the If... strand went with a mix of documentary and drama, interspersing the talking heads and text stats with badly acted segments showing us what will happen in 2016. I think a straight doc would have been better, ah well. They should definitely run the Rob Newman show again.

Climate change and the oil running out, they're inextricably linked. It's odd that the CGI image of carbon pollution took the form of Oxo cubes though.
Flooding and killer summers and the inability to eat out of season foods and diminished travel ability and blackouts and brownouts and can't you just wait? Get a horse.

In other news, I am not a pirate.

I got something in my eye at the start of the week and I think it scratched my eyelid. Painful and irritating.