Monday, January 31, 2005

DGA and Oscar

As Clint Eastwood scoops the award for Best Director at the Director's Guild of America awards for his Million Dollar Baby, it is worth noting the links between the two awards.

According to Gold Derby:
Only two DGA champs failed to be nominated for Best Director at the Oscars: Steven Spielberg (The Color Purple) in 1985 and Ron Howard (Apollo 13) in 1995.
Whilst IMDB identifies the following:
The DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film has nearly always been a perfect forecast of the winner of the Oscar for Best Director. Since its inauguration in 1949 the winners of both awards only differed six times. In 1969 Anthony Harvey (II) won the DGA Award for Lion in Winter, The (1968) while (I) Reed, Carol won the Oscar for Oliver! (1968). 1973 Francis Ford Coppola received DGA's nod for Godfather, The (1972) while the Academy selected Bob Fosse for Cabaret (1972). In 1986 Steven Spielberg received his first DGA Award for Color Purple, The (1985) while the Oscar went to Sydney Pollack for Out of Africa (1985). In 1996 Ron Howard was chosen by the DGA for his direction of Apollo 13 (1995) while Academy voters cited Mel Gibson (I) for Braveheart (1995). In 2001 Ang Lee was chosen by the DGA for his direction of Wo hu cang long (2000) while Steven Soderbergh won the Best Director Academy Award for Traffic (2000). In 2003 Rob Marshall won the DGA Award for Chicago (2002) while Roman Polanski received the Academy Award for Pianist, The (2002).
Even though there has been more discrepancies in recent years, I guess we are odds-on now to see Clint lift the Oscar...?

The Rotter's Club

A belated post on this new TV series, based on Jonathan Coe's novel. Due to my addiction to Law & Order: Criminal Intent, and a clash of teaching with L&O's broadcast time, Cloud and myself did not catch the Wednesday broadcast of the first episode. So, Saturday night, spotting a late repeat, we settled in.

I have to say, Tory-boys or no, this was a well-constructed trip down memory lane that pulled few punches about the events of the period (1974). Kathryn Flett in the Observer yesterday smartly identified that the cast was a real highlight:
Hugo Speer, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Sarah Lancashire, Mark Williams, Christine Tremarco, Rebecca Front, Elizabeth Berrington ... why Mr Ambassador, with this you are spoiling us.

What Flett misses off this list though are the delightful performances by the younger members of the cast: the three central boys (Geoff Breton, Nicholas Shaw and Rasmus Hardicker), and - of the girls - definitely Alice O'Connell. All pretty much first time performers, they put in some well-nuanced portrayals of their characters. Commendations all round.

Have to admit though, I got a guilty pleasure seeing the awfully-named, but awfully-enticing, Julian Rhind-Tutt taking up the role of Nigel Plumb. As Flett noted:
We were well past the halfway point before being introduced to pretentious, velvety-voiced-and-trousered art teacher Nigel Plumb, alias Julian Rhind-Tutt (Green Wing's dreamy Dr McCartney), but already his aesthetic education-cum-seduction of Sarah Lancashire's Barbara Chase is shaping up to be a minor comic masterpiece.

Taking the fifth, but beyond the acting it's definitely the hair...

Friday, January 28, 2005

Choosing favourite films of a year

Apparantly, at this time of year, there are these award ceremonies that decide on the best films of the past year.

For what it's worth - and I am sure I have forgotten several corking contenders for this - my films of 2004 were

* Before Sunset
* Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
* Shaun of the Dead

I will return to the issue of award ceremonies and nominations in another post.

Anne Sexton: After Auschwitz

As a follow-up to my post yesterday, I thought I would offer this poetic work by Anne Sexton.

"Death looks on with a casual eye..."

Mitchell and Kenyon

Tonight is the final installment of the fascinating documentary on two early 20th century filmmakers from Blackburn called Mitchell and Kenyon. This collections of reels, now held by the British Film Institute, has been uttely compelling to watch and a DVD will soon be available to purchase. For most of us, photography has been our only window into the world of our grand-parents or beyond. So to see the streets of Nottingham come to life in these fascinating films from c.1902 was just delightful. As a fan of looking at architecture in cities - watching the changing shapes of roads, the re-modelling of buidings - it was a journey through time I never thought would be possible. To see the buildings as my grandparents saw them, as my great-grandparents saw them, brought to life experiences of my home town unimaginable before seeing this footage.

Mitchell and Kenyon travelled around the UK filming everyday activities. From goalkeeper 'fatty Faulkes' of Bury (6' 2" and 24 stone) to the shawl-covered women leaving their factory jobs, these reels of film - almost lost to history - offer insights into our past. They also offer a touching reminder of life before World War I and the changes, both positive and negative, wrought by the loss of human life incurred between 1914 and the start of the 1920s.

Oscar night

I have only really watched the Oscars 'live' once - the timing for its broadcast in the UK doesn't really suit for going to work that same day (carpets and preliminaries till about 2am and the ceremony itself finishing up around 5-6am). That one experience of watching it 'live' was when myself and Helen were in New York and we sat up to watch it on TV (touchingly, appropriately, it was the year that Russell Crowe won for Gladiator: apologies once more to our next-door neighbours in the hotel for the instinctive whoops at whatever ungodly hour it was that 'Best Actor' got announced. Note: he should have won for The Insider).

For those who have only bothered with the highlights or newsclips, the Oscars coverage - especially as done in the USA - is a bewildering and meandering affair. The carpet arrivals take FOREVER, with dissection of every hair, diamond, strap and split for every woman who pauses (and some men). There are advert breaks VERY regularly (it always tickled me that every 'hour' of real-time on the series 24 was only 45 minutes in the UK due to the advert break-structure) and the 'patter' of the host can be frustratingly corny.

So it will be interesting to see what changes - if anything - this time around. Attempting to tap into a new generation (a little late and now mainstreamed I think), comedian Chris Rock has been selected to host 2005. One interesting point that may come from this: what will happen and be said regarding the black actors nominated this year, whether they win or not?

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Grandchild of the Holocaust

60 years on from Auschwitz

On this day where we should all take some time to reflect on our place in the world, it seems appropriate to mention how moving I found last night's programme Grandchild of the Holocaust (BBC1). Perhaps it was the simplicity of the idea: the journey made by one family to understand its past and how the experiences they revisited had shaped everything since. One of the things I found especially moving was how the young boy, Adrian Salt (aged 13), expressed his growing understanding of why his grandmother had always found it difficult to answer his questions about her early life and what happened at Auschwitz and Belsen. What she knew, but what he could not have, was that only when the family was ready and able to go there - to truly see - could he begin to grasp her decision, her inability, to describe her experiences in response to simple questions.

The culminating shot, of the survivors with their grandchildren - so precious and treasured, so protected and fretted over - brought to life the significance of these grandparents actions within their families.

It is hard to decide on the most appropriate link here so I offer this link and this one as sources of thought.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

For when words fail: The Surrealist Compliment Generator

Since it can be so hard sometimes to come up with the right words to say, I thought a note directing you to the MadSci laboratory's wonderful source of bewildering compliments...

I especially liked this one:
Legions of Communists worship your robust cannabalism of Capitalists clad in junk mail suits.

Ultimate Films: counting into the top 50...

Many moons ago, before the world got bored with Rullsenberg's blogging, I started looking over the list produced by Channel Four of the most successful films in the UK. The biggest box office hits were counted down, not in terms of ticket values, but in terms of bums-on-seats.

Here is the next selection of "seen", "not sure" and "unseen"

47 Independence Day 1996 - Bruckheimer! Nonsense! Jingoism! Sentimentalism! Ah, shucks, it's still a fun movie (even if Mulder doesn't think so)
46 The Godfather 1972 - Much watched. Poor Apollonia...
45 The Sting 1974 - I was SO taken in by it!
44 Doctor Zhivago 1967 - Purists will say it doen't reflect the book well, but this is a gloriously indulgent emotional rollercoaster
43 The Guns Of Navarone 1961 - Yawn, yes, seen it...
41 The Jolson Story 1947 - one of many bio-pics watched on Sunday afternoons

49 I Live In Grosvenor Square 1945 - Am sure my nana would crack me for having 'forgotten' this but I am darn near certain I haven't seen it.
42 Piccadilly Incident 1946 - Sorry again nana

The category of "I-wish-I-had-not-seen":
48 Carry on Nurse 1959 - For once I am with Ken Russell on something; the Carry On films are pants. Fine at age 8; embarrassing thereafter...

Sidebar updates

Some of you may notice - if indeed you care - that my sidebar has changed slightly. I am attempting to expand my links and interests and make it a little clearer for navigating to other stuff. Bear with me whilst this is ongoing!

Your errant blogger - Rullsenberg

St Mirren and Douglas Henshall

For those whose love of football leads them to support some of the less fashionable clubs, it can be nice to see fans who hit the big time still taking some time out to give them a boost. So it warms me to post a link here to some pictures and an article that actor Douglas Henshall was involved in with his home team of St Mirren back in 2001.

Although I have always had a soft spot for Celtic over Rangers, I certainly sympathise with the motivations of his father for getting him into a club not overtly associated with sectarian support.

St Mirren are now one of the little minnows of the Scottish leagues, but it wasn't always thus: the mighty Alex Ferguson managed the team between 1974 and 1978 before moving to Aberdeen and then taking up with the behemoth that is Manchester United.

All this is by way of saying that Henshall looks cute with his still-long locks on these pictures. I have to note though that every time I regularly start checking their results the team starts losing again! They had a great run over the late 2004 period, and were clearly second in the Scottish First Division table only to hit a disastrous run of form - just recently broken by Stewart Kean's goal against mid-table Airdrie United. Come on Saints!

Rullsenberg Rants: Inheritance Tax in the UK

Mr Cloud has some interesting points to make today on the issue of Inheritance Tax in the UK, given the inflated prices of property currently affecting the market value of homes.

Two points:
(1) Quarter of a million is a lot of value by anybody's standards, but in the context of the West versus much of the rest of the globe, this is an obscene amount of money. I would also add that for many in the UK it is an obscene amount of money. Making IHT a cornerstone of any financial campaign to improve the wealth of this nation does indeed therefore come across as specious.

(2) I do, however, have some sympathy with those who inherit property where someone, either wholly or as one of a number of siblings, is currently residing in the property.

In some parts of the country - due to the ridiculously inflated market, and not least due to the impact of property sell-offs by Councils in the past - there are properties of relatively modest proportions which are currently adjudged to be worth over a quarter of a million.

Additionally, a property is only worth what someone is prepared to pay for it - not the same thing as its adjudged market value, and for a variety of reasons the property may not be able to be sold (unfit; requires substantial work to make it 'saleable' etc).

The recent legislation to protect gay partnership in the same way as a heterosexual married couple (or an unmarried one with a specific statement in their will) is admirable, but what happens when siblings disagree about when/how they receive their 'cut'? What happens when someone has been living as a carer and the property is their home: their ONLY home? What if the market precludes them selling up to move to another property - smaller, cheaper - even if they wanted or were able to?

Of course, my parents lived in council rented accommodation all their lives and it would never have crossed their minds that they may leave me much: anything, in fact. But the impact of the mass Council House sell-off of the Thatcher era is now reaping these types of debates. It seems that well-meaning journalists find it easy to forget just how impossible property ownership still remains for many people, how new an experience it is, and how it has been sold to them as a concept now for perpetuity - it is the reinforcement that it is not only acceptable but a simple expectation that one will inherit property from your family. How ironic that many of those complaining loudest are the same families now widely dispersed by geography to their own mortgaged properties across the country (no longer resident with those who make these bequests of houses).

Monday, January 24, 2005

Paint the whole world with rather disurbing rainbows

Courtesy of Hak Mao and others, for those of you wanting to have a good choke (pun intended) here is a clip to warm your nostalgic memories of children's TV...

I don't think it was ever QUITE like this though (unless we are having those Captain Pugwash type-false memories...)

Ethan Hawke and Julia Stiles: Hamlet for an existential moment

Over the weekend, Cloud and myself watched the 'Ethan Hawke in New York' version of Shakespeare's magnificent play Hamlet. I have to say that, for all the criticisms it received for editing the text - and at just 112 minutes it runs way shorter than several other versions, and is over half the length of Branagh's magisterial stage/cinematic vision - I find this one of the most effective updates of Shakespeare produced in recent times. Shakespeare's narratives offer some of the most flexible texts available to those seeking to deal with the root issues of human nature and experience, and thus it is inevitable that they are repeatedly returned to and explored. As the Harlesdon Shakespeare experience revealed, the text can bring to life many contemporary concerns even as the language may appear florid and impenetrable.

Michael Almereyda brings to life the complex relationships - both business and personal - of these figures, and in locating them within the existential angst of corporate and familial New York he also succeeds in lending them an acute relevance that for some audiences can be lost through the use of a past historical moment. (It is easier to trip over the language issues when the presentation is in a setting before the last century). For me, one of the best things about the film is how Almereyda draws a beautiful portrayal of Ophelia from young Julia Stiles. A fan of JW Waterhouse's stunning image, one of the few paintings to truly capture the desperate heartache of Ophelia's madness, I found this version of the character one of the best I have seen. Her scream of anguish in the cavernous spiral of the Guggenheim Museum is utterly haunting. For those who wish to compare it with some less compelling versions (who shall remain nameless here) it is worth seeking out.

Of course, all this is by way of an introduction to considering other favourite Shakespeare's on screen: I will return to thise thought over the next few days, but given how cinema and TV consistently return to the Bard for inspiration it may be worth considering what makes for a good interpretation on screen, since the cinematic and televisual canvas offer both new possibilities and simultaneously new difficulties not confronted by stage versions.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Guggenheim museum - expansion too far?

When Solomon R. Guggenheim was first setting up his Museum in New York, he and Hilla Rebay - the first director of the Museum - would scarcely have believed it would have more than one venue in the USA. Over recent years, the Guggenheim has become something of a global franchise. Not always successfully.

The Guardian reports today that one of the Museum's major benefactors has now resigned over the issue of expansion; an issue that has been forcibly championed by Director Thomas Krens. Whilst I can forgive them the expansion to include Peggy Guggenheim's Venice collection - most of which is vunerable to damage in transit - many of their other ventures seem to be merely opportunities for further temporary exhibition spaces; either of temporary shows or of selections (limited ones) from the SRG collection.

Guggenheim Soho (closed 2001)
Guggenheim Bilbao, Spain (still going strong, though largely thanks to Gehry's architecture rather than the exhibitions)
Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin (essentially a franchise name venue of the Deutsche Bank)
Guggenheim Las Vegas - a joint venture with the Hermitage, St. Petersburg (confusingly, the Guardian reports this venture closed after 15 months - with its current exhibition "The Pursuit of Pleasure" heavily advertised on its website, one would safely bet there will be a Guardian correction tomorrow).

Until 9/11 finally put the kibosh on their plans for New York, they had even planned a large Lower Manhattan venue by one of the piers. Nevertheless, Thomas Krens' ambitions for the Guggenheim name have remained undiminished.

As Charlotte Higgins notes:

the roll call of other cities that have been in talks with the Guggenheim about establishing a branch is almost endless. Taichung in Taiwan was mooted, with a museum to be built by the British architect Zaha Hadid. Even Edinburgh made a pitch.
Mr Krens is currently forging ahead with plans to establish a Guggenheim in Rio de Janeiro, with architecture by the French-born Jean Nouvel, and he is undertaking a feasibility study for another in Guadalajara, Mexico.
Mr Krens once said that the museum of the future should have "great collections, great architecture, a great special exhibition, a great second exhibition, two shopping opportunities, two eating opportunities, a hi-tech interface via the internet, and economies of scale via a global network".

What exactly is the Guggenheim, specifically Krens, trying to do? Back in the 1930s when Peggy Guggenheim was first setting herself up as a dealer, Rebay wrote in scathing tones to warn her that she was destroying the reputation of the Guggenheim name with her 'shop'. Now it seems that Krens has gone much, much further: and this is against a backdrop of FALLING attendances at the Guggenheim, especially at its centre - the Frank Lloyd Wright spiral gallery on Fifth Avenue, New York. Whilst I accept that museums and galleries have to compete with other (tourist/educational) attactions, it does seem to be doomed to failure to stretch the Guggenheim resources this thinly. And that is a real shame, since there are many truly wonderful works in the collection and several of their temporary exhibitions have been inspiring. However, too much emphasis on the commercial and too many joint ventures have dimmed Krens' vision: the Guggenheim needs a re-appraisal of its aims in the wake of this resignation --- because this is about a lot more than just corporate money disappearing off the table.

Thinking about poetry, story-songs and moving words

I was looking through the poetry collection of Cloud and myself the other evening - something I don't often get time to do. It got me thinking about how I choose some of my favourite songs (I love a good story / narrative) and also about the poetry that I love.

Amongst the 'story' songs I have known and loved:

* Squeeze - Labelled with Love

* Squeeze - Up the Junction

* Elvis Costello - Indoor Fireworks

* Pulp - Common People

* Avril Lavigne - Sk8r Boi

* The Pogues and Kirsty Macoll - Fairytale of New York

* Cole Porter - Miss Otis Regrets

* Billy Bragg - World Turned Upside Down

I then started thinking about some of my favourite poems, tracking similar themes and concerns: love, loneliness, political circumstances, social issues

* Auden - To the Unknown Citizen

* E B Browning - Sonnets from the Portuguese

* Eleanor Brown - 50 Sonnets

* Sagittarius (Olga Katzin) - Nerves [2 Sept. 1939]

* Shelley - Song to the Men of England

* Whitman - Leaves of Grass

* Smith - Not Waving, But Drowning

* Cavafy - Ithaca

Cloud often teases me for the way that I can cry when moved by films etc, and the same goes for songs (note though that the South African National Anthem frequently has us both in tears: when the first post-Apartheid flgas rose and voting took place... a shiver runs through me just thinking about it). But I hadn't really thought how similar my tastes were across the genres of film, music and literature. What often moves me most, stays with me, are moments of passion and sentiment (not necessarily sentimentality). In fact 'passion' remains one of my watchwords for quality - it is certainly one of the chief characteristics I look for in the actors and actresses that I like best. So, it would seem, it also applies to other aspects of my taste.

Sometimes it can be hard to take a step back and realise the links are there - but they often are.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Pulp link

I really must get around to working on my sidebar for links and blogs etc. In the meantime I do want to alert my readers to the best Pulp website available. I must declare a vested interest in my erstwhile friends' project, but is a very good site.

Obviously, as the band are now effectively defunct (sniff) there is not much news to report. But for the breadth of their coverage on past gigs alone, the site is worth tracking.

You can find Acrylic Afternoons at their new address here.

Guggenheim book

For those of you not yet bored with my years of raving/ranting about Peggy Guggenheim and her family, you may be interested in chasing the following new book.

Readers of my blog will have seen previous mention of Mary Dearborn's biography of Guggenheim herself: "The Mistress of Modernism". Now there is a new book on the family due out by Irwin and Debi Unger called, simply, The Guggenheims. For those interested in this extraordinary family, it will be interesting to see what they manage to do with the Guggenheim stories not yet covered by previous biographies by authors such as Harvey O'Connor and John H. Davis. I will get a copy ordered and post my response.

New York talking

Normblog yesterday passed on a wonderful and utterly addictive site called Overheard in New York (he got it from Sheila O'Malley).

It is hilariously entertaining - I had to suffocate my giggles when I was reading some of them - and also, for those of us who have been there, a potent reminder of all the snippets overheard by ourselves when visiting the big apple.

Submissions are welcome: so Cloud, you KNOW the story you must pass on...!

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Moments in movies that make me cry

As I sat the other night sobbing again just from READING the Television Without Pity synopsis from the Buffy episode "The Prom", it occurred to me (not a real revelation) that I am a bit of a weeper (a trait I am sure I inherited from my mum: cue memory of us passing across paper-tissues to each other as we silently, but predictably, start blubbing watching stuff on TV whilst my dad looked bemused).

Anyway, it stirred me to construct this list of 'guaranteed to make me cry' moments from some favoured movies.

* Singing "The Marseillaise" in Casablanca (the ending gets me, of course, but when Yvonne stands up to sing - with tears streaming down her face - I'm a big pile of mushy sobs... and so is Cloud)

* Kisses - Alfredo's secret reel from Cinema Paradiso (my mum and I went to see this and there was much passing of paper-hankies)

* "Oh Captain, My Captain" - standing on the desks at the end of Dead Poets' Society (again, one I took my mum to see and it still draws a tear)

* "I like New York in June... how about you?" - redemption in The Fisher King (and the waltz scene)

* An angel's rescue - pausing time in The Hudsucker Proxy

* Running through Bedford Falls; the town clubbing together; Clarence gets his wings - sobbing all the way to the end of It's a Wonderful Life

* Not quite out of the building: "This is from Mathilde" - Leon (This also qualifies for my 'wishing it could be different' list AND my 'lip-biting revelation/gear-shift' list)

* A kiss of life for 'the one' - The Matrix (awh come on, you have to be a little hard of heart to not feel something for that. I know they milked the concept dry in the two sequels, but the original really worked)

* "He was not mine" - the funeral poem from Out of Africa (again, one of my mum films but it never fails to move me)

* "Stop all the clocks..." - the funeral poem from Four Weddings and a Funeral (putting poetry into the public domain is never a bad thing in my mind, even from this cheesy film)

* Driving across the canyon - Thelma and Louise's final escape (though the belated decision by Harvey Keitel to try and stop them also qualifies on my 'wishing it could be different' list)

* Moving on - Truly, Madly, Deeply (that was a full box of hankies on a Sunday afternoon for me and my mum)

* Taking a chance on the real world - a final farewell from The Truman Show (one of the most uplifting bits of teariness here)

* The ending of Twelve Monkeys - the looking around in the airport, eyes alighting, contact made (and, in a curious way, so is this)

Yes, I think my mum did pass on her sobbing gene (the comment "mum would have loved that" still often comes from me when watching stuff) and maybe I am too much of a sentimentalist --- even Love Actually got me in tears, but I'm putting that partly down to hormones. Even so, these are some lovely heart-warming/heart-stopping moments in film. And I felt they were worth recording.

Conroy Maddox: the (almost) farewell of British Surrealism

Back in my undergraduate days, I wrote my dissertation on a rather obscure British, Birmingham-born, Surrealist artist called Emmy Bridgwater. As part of my research, I was put in contact with Conroy Maddox. Conroy, a familiar face to all researchers of Surrealism in England, maintained a profile on the conference circuit and was always thrilled to talk to people about the ideals of the movement and its practices from its 1930s-1940s highpoint. I last saw him four years ago at the opening for an exhibition of the Birmingham surrealists (Conroy Maddox and Emmy Bridgwater being two key figures) [NB link has my name misspelt].

So it was with some sadness that I found his obituary in the Guardian today even though I knew he had been ill for some time. He was a vibrant character and a prolific artist - some would argue the latter was to his detriment. But his bustling manner was a thrill to those scholars who met him and he was a mine of (often hilariously erroneous or exaggerated) information and anecdotes. I feel like part of my life has passed in his passing.

His work can be seen in the Tate Gallery collection and, more recently, work was acquired by Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery as well.

Later adherents of the movement survive him, but Conroy's death marks the ending of one of the key moments in 20th century British art.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Correcting errors in popular culture books

Reading my Slayer Trivia book last night, it struck me that there have been many occasions where I have taken a red pen to the margins of a text to correct some error. The sad thing is that, whereas Cloud's marginalia tends to be on opinions/ideas in political and philosophy books, mine are inevitably in books on pop culture or in film synopses/reviews (Sight and Sound, that means you).

No, it WASN'T that episode you fool!
That was IRONIC!
No that ISN'T what happened!

Am I alone in finding I get most irked by the silly things in life?

Rullsenberg Rants: Higher Education and the drop-out rate

So what if drop-out rates go up? What do we mean by "dropping out"? Are people realising that HE is not for them? Are there no mechanisms for rewarding what they HAVE acheived (rather than what they have not?)

For me, this suggests one key thing: there just needs to be more support in HE. It is not enough to recruit - we have to enable people to reach their potential once there. We alter the routes IN - that's fine. It does not mean we are altering the routes THROUGH if we offer support to all students and make it okay for ALL students to access it in order to demonstrate their talents. There is too much of a sink and swim approach in many institutions.

We can all do better (those of us working in HE); we can all do more (even though that probably means those above us taking strategic policy decisions beyond our impact). What we cannot do is allow the nay-sayers to make rising drop-out rates an excuse to block the entry of all students deserving of a chance to experience Higher Education in the UK.

Rant over.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Rosa Luxemburg: heroine

I need a better reminder calendar to tell me when significant events are (I don't even get to read the paper before the evening: belated New Year resolution - I need to be updating myself on the days events first thing). Currently I find myself tagging on the coat-tails of Mr Cloud, which is not a good thing.

All this is by way of a lead to getting around to a comment on Rosa Luxemburg, murdered January 15 1919. (N.B. beware getting the spelling wrong: Cloud is doing his best to get the spelling Rosa Luxemberg to connect to the always informative Marxists.Org link rather than any nasty fascists).

When I was first finding my political feet, Rosa Luxemburg was quite a heroine of mine (and remains so). It was refreshing to read women talking about other women and their place in society. Her essay on Women's Suffrage and Class Struggle still resonates today: only if all women are free can general emancipation occur. It is not enough for the bourgeois women to be free, or all men to be free: all must have emancipation and suffrage. The working-class woman is a key figure who challenges assumptions precisely because of her work within and beyond the domestic setting. They highlight the contradictions and inequalities of social structures AND the attempts at social change that fail to account for their experiences.

This is something I feel that the Sweepies that I met over the years often misrepresented about Rosa Luxemburg (I don't wish to mark all with the same brush so my qualification that this refers to those I encountered is reinforced in this sentence). There was just too much "come the revolution, sister" and not enough recognition that women presented a particular set of revelations about class struggle that were easily ignored in promoting an essentially MALE working-class revolution.

"She likes death...": responses to Neil Gaiman's Sandman

Overheard this weekend in the wonderful Page 45 graphic novel / comic book store was this line:

She likes Death so I'll get it for her.

Anyone else think this raises as many questions as I do? Whilst I am very familiar with the wonderful characterisation of Death that Gaiman constructs - female, goth, witty, prone to puncturing the dour balloon of Dream's approach to his role - one can't help think that a preference for death (taken more abstractly) suggests some problems.... n'est pas?

Ultimate Films - counting continues

We reach (finally) the halfway point. I know you have all long since lost favour with this effort, but I like it because it enables me to think about the gaps in my knowledge: or at least those I will admit to!

This particular list seems all-or-nothing: with some (for me) shameful admissions...

57 Men In Black 1997 - Saw it in Manchester. Quite fun!
55 Crocodile Dundee 1987 - When I think what I haven't seen and then I realise I have seen this: urgh... I suck as a film viewer.
52 Bridget Jones's Diary 2001 - Went to the cinema. Laughed a lot. Never read the book. Avoided film 2. Never dieted.
51 Superman The Movie 1979 - Back in its day, it was quite amazing...
50 Mrs Miniver 1942 - Watched and cried on many occasions!

59 One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest 1976 - What an admission! I have seen selections from it, but never the whole thing. Haven't even read the book.
58 For Whom The Bell Tolls 1944 - I could claim "unsure" but it would be more accurate to say "nah".
56 Finding Nemo 2003 - The most popular recent animation work and I haven't seen it. I need a slap.
54 A Clockwork Orange 1972 - Again, extracts but not the whole thing...
53 Monsters, Inc. 2002 - Oh the shame! Extracts on lots of occasions, but not the whole thing. Never mind Chick Flicks, what about animation!?

Monitoring the monitors of the monitors

Last night, Cloud and I settled down to watch one of our favourite films: Enemy of the State. Yes, it is a rather frothy piece of work - a Bruckheimer production no less; in fact, it's a Don Simpson/Jerry Bruckheimer production. Nevertheless, it raises interesting issues about both privacy and security, especially in light of what has happened since 9/11.

It can be all too easy to criticise populist dramas for their conveniently 'happy' endings, to focus on the resolution being the destruction or discovery of the rogue element rather than of the system as a whole. Doing so lets us lose sight of what such work can do in just putting such matters on the agenda. Eneny of the State is an effective thriller... and no less enjoyable for being just that.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Quote for the Day 14 Jan 2005: The West Wing quotes Margaret Mead

Currently, of course, I have been watching The West Wing - a programme that STILL thrills my intellectual heart and soul as few programmes do (despite being in Season 4 whilst the USA is now on Season 6: trying to avoid spoilers is not easy).

Anyway, last week was the seond part of the Inauguration episodes, with a nice appropriation of a Margaret Mead quote:

There's a promise that I ask everyone who works here to make. Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful and commited citizens can change the world. You know why?

It's the only thing that ever has.
I kinda liked that, so it's now on my door in my office. And I thought I would share it here.

Rullsenberg Rants: Why it's wrong to let Prince Harry off the hook

This morning Radio FiveLive continued to debate about Prince Harry's decision to wear a Nazi Uniform to a fancy dress party. Several thoughts occurred to me in the light of this:

(1) does society really need Princes in the 21st century? What kind of message about the social structure, and individuals' places within it, is sent by the continued presence of monarchies and aristocracies? Egalitarianism anyone?

(2) many texted/emailed in remarks to FiveLive along the lines of 'Allo, 'Allo was "funny" (quotation marks definitely required from me even in reporting this). By mocking the Nazis we undermine their power. This makes the "fun" Harry had not just forgiveable but acceptable, and part of a tradition of British "humour"
But doesn't such humour also make us find Nazis comfortable and cuddly in their ridiculousness and thus forget the horror the regime established? Humour can be a weapon, but it must be carefully wielded.

(3) others proclaimed the current second-wave of success for Mel Brooks' The Producers reflected a similar sense of mocking the Nazis as was displayed in 'Allo, 'Allo.
I cannot begin to express how much I believe that is utterly confused and wrong-headed. Mel Brooks' play/musical was not about someone setting out to mock the Nazis and having a huge success whilst doing so! The theme was selected by the swindling producers as the most intentionally offensive topic for a musical. That ultimately "Springtime for Hitler" (the musical) is successful - received by the audiences as hysterical and ridiculous, camp and crude - says more about audiences and the mechanisms for producing a show than it says that The Producers itself was INTENDED to mock the Nazis (though that was an undoubted by-product).

Harry is an idiot - from what is, frankly, a long line of ignorant idiots. He isn't alone but that doesn't excuse what he did. And with all this talk of barring him from the British Army, just a thought but would he get paid a salary as a member of the armed forces? Do the royal family forgo their 'salaries' when they take on such roles?

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Googlebombing the ignorant bigots

Since I highly approve of condemning in the loudest possible way dodgy reactionary public voices, I hereby commit my blog to getting these ignorant bigots revealed for what they are...

Cloud passed this tactic on from Nick Barlow.

David Tennant: the other hero of Blackpool

Ah, nice to see that Casyn over at The Slayer Library has the forthcoming Harry Potter film on her list of things to do this year. Not because I really like the Harry Potter films - though the last one, based on my favourite of the novels so far, was better than the other two by some distance - but because David Tennant is taking one of the role in it (Barty Crouch Jnr.)

Blackpool, was one of my favourite dramas of last year (see post here, though I could have sworn there were other mentions here... maybe I'm thinking of my personal emailings!). And the wonderful Tennant - from Paisley, no less [some of you may spot in that a theme/link/reason for my delight in his performance] - provided some of its most memorable moments. "These boots were made for walking" anyone?!

Anyway, if only for that, I have to approve of this casting - even if it was done on the basis of his performance in He Knew He Was Right (by that Victorian author I have never 'got', Trollope).

Additionally, what's not to love about a guy with a passing resemblance to el Jarvo...

Motto for the Day: Nietzsche

I know it's desperately unfashionable (is it? right now? who knows?) to admit enjoying reading Nietzsche, but on the mention of it from a student of mine in the context of inspiring some of our more dour fellow human beings to lighten up a little, I offer this little pearl:
And we should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once. And we should call every truth false which was not accompanied by at least one laugh.
I must check the source of this quote, otherwise I will feel myself to be a VBB (very bad blogger).

Or alternatively, I may be thought of as an accolyte of Marx with his citation of Hegel (just a little bit of history repeating).

Blog text returns...

ARGH! Okay, breathe Rullsenberg, breathe.

Cloud always says its the little things, inanimate objects mostly, that make me cranky. And, of course, lack of food...

I can get righteously indignant, cross, furious, passionate in debate, about actual important issues, but what will really get me into GRR mode will be those darn inimate thangs that should be within my ability to control but somehow aren't.

This has been one of those. Hopefuly, its all sorted!

Blog text size

Okay, I have just amended my Sidebar to include a Blogroll and for unknown reason my blog is now appearing in a larger font size. Apologies if this causes inconvenience: juts select View from your main toolbar and make it smaller if you have to until I work out what the F blogger has done to my font formatting (which, btw, I did not touch).

Yours, tetchily,

Television Review: Law and Order - Criminal Intent

Ah, Vincent D'Onofrio - you've come a long way since Private Pyle in Full Metal Jacket!

I acknowledge there is a lot that can be criticised about the series-begetting-series mentality of television drama, especially in the USA. The lack of imagination that allows Messrs Bruckheimer and Wolf full rein on dominating the US schedules with versions of their hit shows demonstrates a problem at the heart of broadcasting. It doesn't even take a lot of effort to come up with some commentary on the debate about "brands" and "franchises" (see this Scott D. Pierce story from Deseret Morning News, the first functioning link after googling 'opinion CSI franchise'). Nevertheless, I love the original CSI in LV - William Peterson's wonderful characterisation of Gil Grissom is always worth watching. I can also say that CSI: Miami was no where near as bad as Television Without Pity criticised it as being - I actually rather enjoyed David Caruso being put to good use again in American drama (remember his unceremonious dumping from NYPD Blue?) However, Gary Sinese in CSI: New York --- I feel this hits the law of dimishing returns. And it has nothing to do with the quality or reputation of the actors: Sinese has done some fine work, mostly by reputation on the stage.

In terms of Law and Order it does seem there is a difference though. Certainly, I know the show has underdone major shifts since its opening series in 1990 - does anything survive from the early series? The L&O: Special Victims Unit spin-off (started 1999) might not be to everyone's taste: there is something uncomfortable about the focus of all those cases. But it does present a reasonably open moral ambiguity (and anything that rescues the excellently misanthropic paranoia of Det. John Munch from Homocide: Life on the Street has to be a good thing. BTW can I just say, Channel 4: what were you thinking? How could you abandon Homicide: you condemned it to constantly-switching schedule slots at increasingly weird time of the late-night/early morning hours, even on week days?! Shame on you!)

Which brings me to L&O: Criminal Intent. Begun in 2001, I probably like this one the best and that reason is simply down to Vincent: cerebral in the best possible way, Det. Robert Goren, as with Gil Grissom, isn't afraid to wear his brain on his sleeve. I know, I know: its hardly THAT much of a breakthrough, but believe me those of us who treasure reading, intellectual pursuit, and thoughtfulness take our popular culture role models where we can.

And for that, I really enjoy this programme. Cloud noted with glee last night's line about using a library card to analyse a crime: ultimately, for all my love of popular culture, myself and Cloud like people who like books. Not a bad thing?

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

The Norm Blog Song Poll

Cloud seems to have beaten me to it in terms of posting on this (and it was belated anyway due to Xmas-imposed blog absence).

Never mind. The spectacularly intelligent and fascinating Norm Blog has a great song poll at the moment. Hurry to submit though, as it closes by 16 January 2005.

It's worth adding, btw, that Cloud's list was at least partially inspired by my purchase - and mislaying over Xmas - of the wonderful This is Uncool: the 500 greatest singles since Punk and Disco by Garry Mulholland.

The list I submitted to Norm was as follows. However, as is often the way, the more you think about it the more songs you think should go on it.

Bob Dylan - Subterranean Homesick Blues
Bruce Springsteen - Born to Run
The Beach Boys - God Only Knows
The Ramones - Blitzkrieg Bop (inspired by the documentary)
Pulp - Common People ('cos everybody hates a cultural tourist)
Hallelujah - Jeff Buckley (close call with the John Cale version though)
The Sixths featuring Momus - As You Turn to Go (some of the loveliest lyrics I know: darn near sure this won't get any other votes but I love it)
The Rolling Stones - Sympathy for the Devil
The Smiths - This Charming Man
REM - Its the end of the world as we know it ...

Of course, Cloud's list was also heavily inspired by our thoughts whilst driving in the car home last night. So I hereby lay claim to the following from his list!

Surf's Up - David Thomas and Two Pale Boys (an amazing version of the Beach Boys song)
It's Alright Ma - Bob Dylan
Sign O' The Times - Prince
Wrecking Ball - Emmylou Harris (an excellent version of the Neil Young song)
Shipbuilding - Robert Wyatt
Kashmir - Led Zeppelin
Monkey's Gone to Heaven - Pixies
Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick - Ian Dury and the Blockheads
Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn't Have) - The Buzzcocks
Never Stop - Echo and the Bunnymen [dude, that was SO my choice --- I would have thought you would have been The Killing Moon or perhaps Bring on the Dancing Horses...]
Perfect Day - Lou Reed [Cloud suggested including the wonderful demo version from the recent re-release of the Transformer album but I managed to dissuade him from such obscurantism... of course it IS a great version!]
White Lines - Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five
Reward - Teardrop Explodes
Once In a Lifetime - Talking Heads
A New England - Billy Bragg
London Calling - The Clash
I Kill Therefore I Am - Phil Ochs
American Without Tears - Elvis Costello
Move On Up - Curtis Mayfield
Miss Otis Regrets - Ella Fitzgerald

Amongst the belated suggestions we added were also:
Hurt - Johnny Cash [perhaps one of the best covers ever]
Fairytale of New York - The Pogues and Kirsty Macoll [sniff]
Waterloo Sunset - The Kinks [close tie with You Really Got Me]

Strange Fruit - Billie Holiday
Tarmac - Hazledine ["hold me close, kiss me low..."]
(Don't Fear) The Reaper - Blue Oyster Cult [I get SO many kudos points from rockers for making this one of my first sel-bought singles!]
Picture This - Blondie
Rattlesnakes - Lloyd Cole and the Commotions
Crazy in Alabama - Kate Campbell
Pull the Wires from the Wall - The Delgados [Readers of the blog will already know this]
Hotel California - The Eagles
The Ballad of Lucy Jordan - Marianne Faithfull
Sit Down - James
Unfinished Sympathy - Massive Attack
Fake Plastic Trees - Radiohead
Born Slippy - Underworld
Sk8er Boi - Avril Lavigne [in my mental mind of the 15year old that I am, this rocks!]
I Don't Like Mondays - The Boomtown Rats
Keeping the Weekend Free - Licquorice
Groove is in the Heart - Dee-Lite [mostly because Billy Bragg covered it when I saw him at Rock City in Nottingham!]
A Design for Life - Manic Street Preachers
Labelled with Love - Squeeze
Golden Brown - The Stranglers

In the interests of making my tastes very clear I feel I should also include some specialist lists. Partly because my brain is not well-organised I tend to think through songs I like with a pattern, so these will be posted separately. At least one of these will be "Favourite George-inspired songs" which you can guarantee will include Landshipping's Deep Water and the Ballboy/Laura Cantrell duet of I Lost You (But I Found Country Music). You may even get some re-organised stuff from the above lists categorised into genres (at least slow/soft vs. loud/dancy).

Monday, January 10, 2005

Broken links - please report and I will fix!

Occasionally I make a bloop and put in some dodgy links. If you tell me I will usually fix them pretty quick. Ta Mr Cloud - the Svankmajer link is now all better!

Filmic Weekend: Reviews 3&4

Now we reach the final stages of the Filmic Weekend. Having fully indulged on Saturday, Cloud and I settled down to some DVD viewing on Sunday (well it beat writing lesson plans for my study skills course - which I STILL have to do... GRRR).

First up was The Game, that under-rated David Fincher film that came between the cultly admired Seven and Fight Club (two of my favourite movies). Now as this didn't gather anything like the same kudos as those two, it can be safely said this was a relative dud in Fincher's ouevre (though frankly no where near as flawed as Panic Room which is just a great opening sequence followed by a rather mundane thriller). The Game is one of the few films with Michael Douglas I can bear to watch - partly 'cos he comes so close to losing it - and despite all the plot impausibilities (the bullets, the phones, the X marks the spot) it does present a really enjoyable ride. We've watched the film several times now, and although that first viewing was utterly confusing and thrilling, it's still good to watch. Fincher has good vision and can weave the story well as a a director. If you've not seen it, make the time.

Second movie of the day was a real weepie favourite of mine, and probably my favourite Woody Allen film: The Purple Rose of Cairo. Awh shucks, what can I say? It was postmodern before the term was being bandied about like the grad-school theory it is. It's romantic, smart, and not a little bleak (always goes well with us). Mia Farrow looks luminescent - alongside Rosemary's Baby certainly her best performance. All in all the film charms, moves and makes one glad that movies exist. The refuge that can be taken in movies is a much underrated aspect of their purpose. And this movie has some lovely - and discomforting - things to say about that.

A filmic weekend: Review 2

Now to our second movie of the weekend, and I have to say a real treat. Of course I knew of the Lemony Snicket books, but I had never properly gotten around to reading them (though we certainly will do now).

Bizarrely, the film Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events is posted as a PG certificate (well it is in the UK). This puzzles me: the books are very dark and the film is pretty rivetingly scary stuff - call me a wuss, in fact call Cloud one as well, but this had a fair number of edge-of-seat moments and jump up like a scaredy-cat. It doesn't seem to quite match what kids would understand, and many younger ones were paraded out by their guardians before it reached the halfway point.

Having said that, adults and older children there REALLY seemed to get into it. The acting was superb (I know the subtitles did much of the work but the twins playing Sunny were simply cracking) and it was worth the price of admission just to see the closing credit sequence (some wonderful Svankmajeresque animation and drawings that call to mind all those wonderful Polish/Czech animations that would litter the UK television screens over summer holidays in past times). Sadly, many had left by then - what is it with the 'leave immediately the credits role' thang? - and only Cloud, me and three other 30-something adults were left gawping and giggling at the fantastic closing titles.

Can anyone tell me if the Hoffman sprogs are any relation to Dustin (who pops up in an uncredited cameo) 'cos it strikes me and Cloud as a good way to get on set with your grand-kids!

A filmic weekend: Review 1

A bumper weekend of films at the cinema and on DVD. Firstly, Cloud and I went for an almost private screening of End of the Century: the Story of the Ramones. I say private as there was us two, plus two other guys, plus two individual guys, and one guy who dodged in for the last 10 mins, obviously from a different film. (Did you spot there how I lowered the testosterone count?)

There's a really neat review of the film on the IMDB site by Jack Christal-Gattanella which is rather cool, but I guess it's worth adding my own twopenneth (Two Pennies Worth; minor contribution; US equivalent "two cents worth").

Whether you come to this as a documentary fan, a music fan, or a Ramones fan - and we counted as all threee - the film is a real joy to watch. It captures the history of a band, and the cultural moment they were formed from, and does a fine job of showcasing their funtastic tunes in a truly adorable fashion. At one point the band is shown beseiged by a stadium's worth of Brazilian fans (this is when the group was, as always still condemned to playing grotty clubs of 200 in the USA). All you can hear in the background as the car attempts to steamroller its way through the hoards is the sound of the crowd chanting "Hey ho, let's go" from the irrepressible 2mins12secs pop song that is Blitzkrieg Bop.

(Cue cute link to demonstrating the song's significance, despite not charting: number 92 on the Rolling Stone top 500 greatest songs of all time)
In less than three minutes, this song threw down the blueprint for punk rock. It's all here on the opening track of the Ramones' debut: the buzz-saw chords, which Johnny played on his fifty-dollar Mosrite guitar; the snotty words, courtesy of drummer Tommy (with bassist Dee Dee adding the brilliant line "Shoot 'em in the back now"); and the hairball-in-the-throat vocals, sung by Joey in a faux-British accent. Recorded on the cheap at New York's Radio City Music Hall, of all places, "Blitzkrieg Bop" never made the charts; instead, it almost single-handedly created a world beyond the charts.
Of almost equal adorability is how the film gives a nice overview of the characters in the band which can be easily synopsed as:
Joey - damaged, affable frontman: "how did he survive?"
Johnny - Republican asshole (he may have tightly organised their cashflow but he comes over as utterly arrogant)
Dee Dee - savvy but a smackhead
Tommy - important, under-appreciated, still left standing
Assorted Ramones: none as important as these but interestingly the only survivors are all former drummers.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Geek organisation

Am I the only girl geek who does that whole alphabetical / categories organisation thing of books, CDs, videos, DVDs, photocopied articles (on a database)...?

Just a question...

Post-Rock music recommendations

In advance of Christmas, Cloud and myself went to the wonderful world that is Selectadisc. Ahh, where the Post-Rock section exists; where Godspeed and their related subsidiaries have their own section; where to help the buying public the shop puts nice hand-written labels on the CDs hinting at advice on "if you like these, you'll like this."

Latest to catch our eyes and ears were Efterklang (Danish - kinda like Rachels being beep-click remixed) and 65 Days of Static (somehow in my head as 65 Seconds of Static --- maybe I have some time management difficulties!). Efterklang's album "Tripper" became one of our George gifts whilst we kept the 65's "The Fall of Math" for ourselves. 65 is, as name implies, suitably driven by static noise and is all the good for it.

PLAYLOUDER ( - 8 September 2004

Most bands form and then make a conscious choice to imitate, plagiarise and become a pastiche of their idols. The music buying public love to be reminded of the good times; the old times; the familiar. It’s the reason we've had The Beatles, The Clash and The Stooges clones plague our minds, radio, newspapers, TV, and our souls for the past twenty-five years. It’s the reason guitar based music has driven itself into a rut; become stale, bland, tired and overblown. Time for an overhaul. But that’s most bands, and it’s clear that 65 Days of Static have no intention of being some retro-fuck entity. Nestling themselves in a scene loosely called math-rock or post-rock, they appear to have broken the golden alt-rock rule of not using computers, samplers, electronics etc (it’s not real music you know). Instead of sounding like some scrappy, mix-genre soundclash, 65 Days of Static take your pre-conceptions and smash them into a million pieces.

[...]It is pure passion, and it’s clear that 'The Fall of Math' was created to worship the beauty of music. Radiohead took three albums to become this adventurous and IDM is still too afraid to include live instruments on this level; when the Mercury Music Prize comes around the judges won’t go anywhere near this.

Go home, take your play safe indie-punk records and burn them. 65 Days of Static have their heads in 2007 and everyone else is thirty years behind…… Magnificent. (4.5/5)
- Simon Smerdon.

Now you have to admit that sounds promising. And in the interests of fairness, here's a tip on Efterklang (remarkably just a few days after purchasing it, totally not having heard of them or anything from it, The Guardian covered it in their 'On the Edge' section of the Friday Review).

John L Walters
Friday December 24, 2004
Efterklang's Tripper (Leaf, £14.99), though it springs from a similarly brave new soundworld, is richer and more appealing. It begins with bumps and clicks that seem to come from the deeper recesses of an otherwise mute laptop, or a hot-wired CD player. At times, this Danish band evokes the melancholy electronica of Christian Fennesz, or the pulses of Four Tet. But that's only part of the picture. After the bleak opening to Doppelgänger, for example, they add voices, then piano, then drums and before you know it there's a choir and we're wallowing in new kind of grandiose pop, a contemporary rethinking of 1980s outfits such as Japan, Tears for Fears and the Blue Nile. There are moments when their expert blend of "legit" instruments (trumpet, piano, strings) with electronic sounds recalls the work of ensembles such as the Kronos Quartet and Jaga Jazzist.

Step Aside starts with a fast, skittering laptop pulse and an understated boy/girl unison vocal that leads into a beautifully lazy trumpet melody and then a choir. The transition from ultra-small to big - from urgent and jittery to relaxed and cruising - is so effortless that you hardly hear what's going on at first listen. You just immerse yourself. There is another sensibility at play in Efterklang's work that is nothing to do with electronics - the obviously "now" aesthetics of clicks and throbs - and that is the free and uncliched approach to melody they demonstrate in songs such as Monopolist and Swarming. You can hear something similar in Rachel's, and in Craig Fortnam's music for the North Sea Radio Orchestra, who make a point of not using electronics.

What may inhibit Efterklang's bid for pop stardom is the absence of an obvious "lead singer", since they tend to foreground instrumental and textural elements. Their use of twin voices, though pleasant, can make the songs seem a little unfocused. But these are hardly quibbles at all - aren't we all weary of lead singers emoting ineffectually, incontinently all over the shop? The vocal subtlety is one of many things that makes Tripper an album to savour over time rather than one that delivers an immediate hit (in two senses of the word). This is the album to spend your tokens on. Five stars.

Our sentiments? Go buy them - you know it makes sense!

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Reading material

Between Cloud and myself we have about 3,000 books at home and, in the absence of incoming DVDs this Christmas, it was mostly books that were added to our household through the annual exchange of gifts programme that the festive period usually brings.

Having said that, Cloud is currently dedicated to reading The Crash at Hennington, which I read over Christmas - despite all our books we still use public libraries!

Still, at some point Cloud will get around to reading Q by Luther Blisset; the Disinformation Lists (bless Russ Kick and the quirkiness of conspiracy theories and poor referencing); and the Idiot's Guide to Learning Yiddish --- actually, he's already started with this one and the movie quotes section is causing much fun!

As for me, I got The X-Files Guide to Season 7 - which alerted me to the fact I haven't seen as many from that season as I thought - and which makes me want the season 4 and season 6 guides even more. I also got myself the Slayer Trivia book, but haven't dared bring that out as an extra present yet so I guess that's still off limits to comment on...

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Films I am about to watch

As I try to repress the inner self who says "how trashy, how non-intellectual, how frothy" and the one who says "who am I fooling, I'm scarcely a film studies person?!" I contemplate that over the next few weeks I am going to be watching a lot of the following films:
Dirty Dancing
Two Weeks Notice
My Best Friend's Wedding
Love Actually
Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!
Sleepless in Seattle
Moulin Rouge
Muriel's Wedding

Spot the connection? Yep, they would all come under that dubious and despised category known as the Chick Flick.

For those who know me, these are not my usual movie fare - I'm a Fight Club girl myself (and that has NOTHING to do with Brad Pitt... Edward Norton, maybe, but mostly I love quirky narratives), who counts Terry Gilliam aongst her favoured directors, likes Alex Cox movies (Repo Man, Walker), and hefty amount of sci-fi and foreign films dominate her movie choices. We are a 15/18 certificate household mostly.

But I confess a love of froth and have now cornered myself into writing an article on Chick Flicks. Its mostly a polish of ideas and stuff I have written before but even the thought this may reach a public audience is making me excited! And not a little nervous. Wish me luck folks, and I'll keep you posted!

"Note to self: religion freaky"

Ah Buffy! Sorry, just had to post a brief note as this little gem came to mind much to late to have been given an appropriate context. New Year's Eve, Cloud and I spent the evening with our neighbours, and over the course of the evening the conversation turned to religion. Not in a bad way; it's just that round our way MANY of the people go to church and, in the words our our neighbour Sara "religion is just... funny" (she didn't mean ha-ha) and through the fog of copious glasses of wine I kept thinking "I know there is a Buffy quote just for this occasion". I just couldn't get my brain to function sufficiently to drop it in.
So I did it here.
Just thought I would share that.
I know, what's with the crazy?

Watching The X-Files

Over the course of last year whilst I was indoctrinating George into the ways of Buffy (an experience he is unlikely to get over), I was simultaneously being drip-fed The X-Files. So imagine my delight when I found that box-sets of videos were being made available through The Works (remainder bookstore chain) as just £9.99 GBP each... I got S5-7 cos they aren't out on the cheaper DVD sets for ages yet. I got S1 on the cheaper DVD sets... and over Christmas I found the video box sets were now just £4.99 I got S2 and S8.
Now I just need to get S3 and S4 on DVD and I will be a happy bunny.
Yes, I know, there were NINE seasons of The X-Files, but Season 9 only has some highlight stand-out episodes and as I have G's old taped-off-the-TV tapes that will do for me. Season 8 has the fantastic episodes where Billy Miles comes back and those have GOT to be worth a season of interest ...we'll just gloss over Moronica [TM TelevisionWithoutPity] though if you don't mind...

Ultimate films - more of the listing!

Yes folks, as we make our gradual way through the mire of new releases, it can be fun to look back on what has previously captured the public imagination...

69 Live And Let Die 1973 - Hmm, the Roger Moore Bond films. Fab theme tune though, and what's not to love about that funeral sequence at the start!
68 Saturday Night Fever 1978 - At the time this came out I recall many many people from school bunking in to see it... because what is often forgotten by those who just knew the soundtrack is that it was an adult film (X? AA? these were pre-"18" days) with class consciousness, gang violence and some rather dodgy sexual politics.
67 Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back 1980 - The absolute best of the Star Wars trilogy (I spit on the offenses that are the recent releases). Dark and bleak, I cried when Han Solo was frozen. Pleaded with my dad to let me skip homework to be able to go to the afternoon showing straight after school!
66 One Hundred And One Dalmatians 1961 - Disney! Dogs! Nasty villainess! Hopeless hencemen! The Windmill!
62 I'm All Right Jack 1959 - Not half as funny now that the unions are all but decimated by successive governments, but nevertheless an amusing period period with some hilarious work by the British actors of its day
61 Moonraker 1979 - It's a Bond film; of course we've all blooming well seen it!
60 High Society 1956 - One of the few remakes to really work, this musical interpretation of The Philadelphia Story remains a treat. Okay, so neither Bing Crosby nor even Frank are any match for Cary Grant and James Stewart, but the songs are fun, Grace K is a dream and Celeste Holm, as always, is fantastic.

Not sure
64 Lost Horizon 1937 - One of the films I know a lot about but not sure if I have seen it or not!
63 49th Parallel 1941 - I think this was another of my Sunday afternoon films, but my memory is too hazy to even try and claim this as a definate!

65 Star Wars Episode II: Attack Of The Clones 2002 - waste of celluloid...

Transformation Willow

Ah bless my beloved friend Christine - she may have had terrible problems with the ordering process but bless her heart for getting me a Willow figurine for my Christmas present. I now have atop the television a suitably dark-eyed, red-haired Willow in her pentagram with her books.

Of course, a certain someone I know had his eye on a Dark Willow (ah, the veiny one!) but the forces of darkness in Aberdeen appear to have run out (that would be Forbidden Planet). Having sat and watched the end of season 6 with him in December (again), I cannot possibly think why he was so keen to have one...!

Back to blogging!

Hi there folks and welcome to a new year of blogness. Yes, yes, I know I started the year badly with a complete failure to post, but give me a break huh?!