Sunday, August 28, 2005

Two dead movies (and a double)

Ah, more wine, more music and two dead movies.

That is Dawn of the Dead (the recent remake of the classic Romero anti-consumer zombie film) and Dead Man's Shoes (aka vengeance is mine saith the brother).

In the case of the first, I just want to say that running zombies are VERY scary and re: the second that there is no such thing as just having blood on your hands in the metaphorical sense. Both very fine movies in their different ways. Also, good to see that the kindly doctor from American Gothic is still getting work (American Gothic: much underrated spooky US TV).

All neatly followed up with a dose of double Willow (DoppelgÀngland), which of course is never going to be a difficult viewing choice for the George. Featuring as it does some fab cute Willow moments as well as the wonderful scene when Willow dresses as the evil vampire alternate reality Willow and looks down at herself:

"Gosh, look at those"

Hee. A wonderful night of fun and freaky screaming.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

In Aberdeen

Walked a lot. Cloud got to the real news before I could. have had great food, fab music, live bands and THE BEACH!

Photos and stuff will be posted next week.

In the meantime for the funnies just keep dropping by Struggling Author: she's just my best entertainment at the moment (what will we do for fun after the house-warming party? Apart from beg for invites to the inevitable wedding, where I will of course demand to be a bridesmaid and then proceed to steal the groom's heart...

... not actually, because, like, that would be gross...)

Hee.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

... But apparently not from spammers...

Okay, urgent measures called for.

Sorry folks but certainly for the next couple of weeks I'm restricting comments to registered users of Blogger. Am REALLY sorry to those of you who aren't users of blogspot (well, mostly) that you won't be able to comment for that period but needs must. I got seriously spammed and I don't want to check in on a full inbox of spam comments whilst I am away. I've left a sample of the way they're spamming pesudo-messages as "anonymous" but friendly comments to show why I have done this.

Tough love will be reconsidered when I have more regular net access to monitor things.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

A small break from blogging

Not cause I'm all depressed from watching Buffy cry fests. We're off for a short break soon (again) - north to see George! Will try and blog tomorrow, but if not see ya later!

Death is not a gift: why "The Body" is still one of the best 45 minutes of TV drama about bereavement

It's draining.

Is it allergy season? Because I seem to have a little something in my eye. Could be cat dander, I suppose. Let me just make sure to pull the box of tissues a little closer.
When George was being tutored in the ways of Buffy, it actually ended up that he watched this episode whilst I was away at a BAAS conference (we were watching them pretty much in order, from the first, finishing on the final one - "Chosen", episode 144 - the day before he moved out: awesome). I called home on the Sunday, I think, to talk to Cloud only to find he was still in bed and it was George who answered. Pretty soon he said "I watched it" and despite not even being in each other's presence, we both started choking up.

"The Body" comes just past the centre of Season 5, and focuses on the death - or rather the immediate aftermath - of Buffy's mother, Joyce from a brain tumour. Nothing spooky, demony. A natural death, ordinary in it's mundane cause. Written and directed by programme creator Whedon, it's pretty much an episode that subverts the usual wasys in which genre TV drama deals with death.

What is it about the episode that makes it work? Well, there's no incidental music (no music at all in fact, apart from the opening titles) which gives it a rather strange edge of surreality, in the sense of beyond the real. Whedon wants to avoid there being any sense of emotional support or guidance for the viewer. It creates a feeling of being set adrift; the emotional numbness of bereavement. The acting is pretty fine too, and avoids many of the usual cliched pitfall depictions of characters dying on TV. The moment when Giles arrives and tries to revive Joyce and Buffy yells at him to stop because the paramedics "said not to move the body" just gets to me everytime. When the words come out, she gasps in horror at her own words: she has just described her mother as "the body" and the reality of the moment begins to sink in. Whedon drew on his own experience of bereavement - of his own mother's death - to go through some of the numbed responses a person can go through. Willow changing her clothes, struggling to find an 'appropriate' outfit, frantic and frozen, focused on this seemingly banal action. On "TelevisionWithoutPity", Sep's recap provides a really good example of how real this action can be:
To my dad's funeral, I wore mismatched shoes and ankle-zip, acid-wash jeans. Shudder. Let me repeat that. I wore acid-washed denim to my father's funeral.Yes, I was grief-stricken. Yes, it was 1988. Yes, I was thirteen. But still. But still.
And as for Anya's rant: Anya. Ex-demon. Not really with the whole 'human emotions' thing. And yet.

It's the kind of episode that makes you feel. And I don't care if it's genre-stuff. It works.

Buy the book

I don't think Casyn is too excited at all.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Relishing in Sherlock Holmes

Over the years I have taken much pleasure in watching the various performances of Holmes on screen (and I still enjoy watching the Jeremy Brett series', even though with hindsight they seem much more mannered, even hammy, than my fond memories had established them). Refreshed from watching the recent television drama about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - hmm, cannot think why? [though it was not his first brush with Holmes] - I was therefore thrilled when Cloud said he had found a trove of Sherlock Holmes Penguin orange cover classic crime books at the West Bridgford Oxfam. A snip of their original price, the six books were brand new. "Get 'em!" I cried.

If I had read any previously, it must have been as a child, because I certainly cannot recall reading them in the last couple of decades. But what a treat! I think that these will keep me out of trouble for at least a couple of days!

Marie counts the days and puts on hold all other news from her life

Just have to keep reading sweet Marie at the moment. The vicarious pleasure is too exquisitely wonderful.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Scrubs: why has John C. McGinley not been nominated for an Emmy?

Okay, this series has always had its best character and performances in the wonderful John C. McGinley, but after watching last night's episode "My Screwup" from Season 3, I'm just wanting to know how the hell this guy hasn't even had nominations for his work on the show.

Scrubs works best when it combines poignant events against the surreal comedy. Last night's turned on a knife to cut me open - and I thanked the stars that I was half distracted by the fact we were watching it with a friend over, 'cos otherwise that would have been me as a big fat puddle of tears all over the sofa.

Beautiful stuff.

Obscure Song No 4: "Return to Innocence Lost"

My fourth in this occasional series is something rather different: a musical poem one might say. The Roots, Philadelphia's finest hip-hop group ever, delivered on their earliest albums some glorious cluminations to their work by inviting Ursula Rucker to contribute. Things Fall Apart - for my money their finest album - ends (well, kinda: Scratch gets into the whole 'hidden track' thing some minutes later) with the heartbreaking "Return to Innocence Lost."

Ursula Rucker is one of the best proponents of the sort of work usually found at a good poetry slam (and having been to one at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, I can assure you that such events can be inspirational - as well as hugely entertaining). Written out, the words can appear almost blank: spoken, they take on another life entirely.

"Return to Innocence Lost" tells the story of the violent birth, life and death of Rucker's elder brother:
Played a different kind of street game now
First Son plunged deep
Speak street-family vows
Espouse no causes but his own
See, he couldn't protect Mommy's neck from Daddy's grasp
Or...protect Mommy's ass from Daddy's wrath
Couldn't shield her ears from...Daddy's foul-mouthed, liquor-breath jeers
His only defense-served be confidence
Brown bottles housed his swift descent
Phones called cops on block frequent for his shenanigans
Now...Daddy and him twins in addiction
Driven to false-hearted heavens and friends
By liquefied demons
Had become what he despised from Conception 'til End
Rucker's solo work is also worth checking out, but for me, Things Fall Apart - and especially this contribution - remains one of her finest moments.

Obscure songs: a recap and return (Listing)

Back at the start of the year I thought about starting up an "Obscure Songs" review. I only did three before events and work and suchlike took over my schedule - I think the Chick Flicks essay was also haunting me at the time!

Anyway, these were the first three, all worth searching out:

Licquorice: Keeping the Weekend Free
The Sixths - Momus: As You Turn to Go
Hazeldine: Tarmac

I'm thinking of digging up some other tracks, some little gems under the boardwalk of sound. I'll probably keep this post as a link to the first three and as a home for subsequent irregular additions to the collection.

Update:
The Roots - Ursula Rucker: Return to Innocence Lost

Friday, August 19, 2005

Throwing a wig across the table: the Death of Mo Mowlem

She was smart, funny and human. Clare Short remarked on Radio 5 Live this morning how saddened she was that yet another politician had died too young, citing the recent demise of Robin Cook, and the previous deaths of John Smith and Donald Dewar.

Personally, I think Mowlem was the nicest of the lot.

Charlie's World

Anna got in a neat review / comment here on the Burton interpretation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (especially liked the note that there was a Rufus-type quality to Depp's portrayal of Willa Wonka: she's not wrong).

Anyway, Cloud and I went with friend Helen Lisette this week to see what the fuss was about for ourselves. After a few works that have been less than impressive from Burton, this seemed to be much closer to his earlier genius (though I do think that trailing Corpse Bride provides a powerful reminder of the ghoulish narratives he started off with: and probably a lot to live up to).

And I'm not saying that Burton only works well with Depp, but it is hard to ignore that the quality quotient goes up when he (JD) is around the gothy one (TB).

Many of the problems with the film stem from its origins: Dahl was pretty misanthropic, xenophobic and all over a rather unpleasant dude. Depictions of poverty are of a quaintly cartoon-like nature. Yet there is nevertheless a lot to enjoy about this film.

Cloud may get in first with this remark, but it certainly reminded us of Barry Levinson's much underrated film Toys. (And that's not intended to be snide - we actually have a lot of time for that film).

So what works best about this new update, given that all three of us who went are very much of the Gene Wilder version generation? Well, Depp turns in a wonderfully bonkers performance, one that seems a little more human and slightly less overtly cruel than Wilder's portrayal. Yes, a little 'Michael Jackson-esque' but done in a very smart way. His Wonka remarks to the prissy James Fox as Veruca Salt's father "you're weird!", which is delivered in such a way as to convey both bewilderment and a fearless lack of self-awareness.

The sets are appropriately eye-dazzling and even the songs work well (there's some great psychedelia in this film, both visually and aurally).

The ending is perhaps overly twee, with the reconcilation of Wonka with his father (an addition to the original book's narrative), but there is a great sense of wonder in this film. If anybody could have superceded the 1971 version, it was going to be Burton: and he hasn't failed.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

TV Programmes (my second attempt)

I had a great post worked out in response to this. Blogger lost it. I have just resisted the urge to throw my cronky office computer from the window on a hot sunny day (even though I know its Blogger and not the computer).

GRRR

Recent / ongoing

* Blackpool (these boots...)
* Casanova (a confection of delight and tears)
* CSI (can I have all three versions?)
* Dr Who (recent series... and hopefully the next)
* Green Wing (just bonkers and hilarious: DVD btw anyone... anyone? Channel 4 have you gone to sleep?)
* House (best doctor in years and a smart character)
* Law and Order: Criminal Intent (smart character, again: even if Private Pyle all growed-up has nicked that quirk of tipping his head on one side from Clooney in "ER")
* Scrubs (Dr. Cox... 'nuff said)
* State of Play (script, actors, genius)
* The West Wing (the parallel world)

Past stuff: gone but not forgotten

* 24 (just Season 1: season 2 had its moments, but it going on and on - and on Sky - I've lost track. Prime 'climb-the-sofa' material)
* Buffy (can I have a slice of the Whedonverse - to include "Angel" as well please?)
* Dharma and Greg (I blame having cable TV for a while: I loved this show)
* Northern Exposure (before Dr. Joel and Maggie really got it together)
* Our Friends (in the South - aka "Holding On" / and the 'original' one, "Our Friends in the North")
* Psychos ("Did you like my flowers....?")
* Seinfeld ("Believe it or not, George isn't at home...")
* Spaced (worth repeated viewing: get them DVDs!)
* The Vice (Ken Stott: hangdog and emotionally tortured - just what he does best)
* The X-Files (because in less than a year we watched every single episode - even the end of season 9...)
Honourable mentions
Blackadder, Curb Your Enthusiasm, ER, Father Ted, Frasier, Our Mutual Friend, Quantum Leap, The Sopranos (early seasons), This Life

Further back in time

The Sandbaggers (one of the few programmes I recall from my younger days)

Second Opinion

Hat tip to Rita (as ever)

The doctor said, "Joe, the good news is I can cure your headaches. The bad new is that it will require castration. You have a very rare condition, which causes your testicles to press on your spine and the pressure creates one hell of a headache. The only way to relieve the pressure is to remove the testicles."

Joe was shocked and depressed. He wondered if he had anything to live for. He had no choice but to go under the knife.

When he left the hospital, he was without a headache for the first time in 20 years, but he felt like he was missing an important part himself. As he walked down the street, he realized that he felt like a different person. He could make a new beginning and live a new life. He saw a men's clothing store and thought, "That's what I need...a new suit."

He entered the shop and told the salesman, "I'd like a new suit."

The elderly tailor eyed him briefly and said, "Let's see... size 44 long."

Joe laughed, "That's right, how did you know?"

"Been in the business 60 years!" the tailor said.

Joe tried on the suit...it fit perfectly.

As Joe admired himself in the mirror, the salesman asked, "How about a new shirt?"

Joe thought for a moment and then said, "Sure."

The salesman eyed Joe and said, "Let's see, 34 sleeves and 16-1/2 neck."

Joe was surprised, "That's right, how did you know?"

"Been in the business 60 years." Joe tried on the shirt and it fit perfectly.

Joe walked comfortably around the shop and the salesman asked, "How about some new underwear?"

Joe thought for a moment and said, "Sure."

The salesman said, "Let's see... size 36."

Joe laughed, "Ah ha! I got you, I've worn a size 34 since I was 18 years old."

The salesman shook his head, "You can't wear a size 34. A size 34 would press your testicles up against the base of your spine and give you one hell of a headache."


New suit - $400

New shirt - $36

New underwear - $6

Second Opinion - PRICELESS

Rob is back - and as always with some interesting things to say

Nice to have him back - phew: blog sitting is actually not straightforward. I hope I didn't alienate or confuse too many of his usual visitors. Though it seems from the arrival of JoeInVegas in my comments box that I have at least acquired a new reader from the experience: hey Joe!

Anyway, as title indicates, Rob is back and I especially found his opening remark very well expressed. Qualified "yays" all round.

PS yes, I know, I couldn't spell. "Thinsg" indeed. Doh.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Elizabeth Kostova: The Historian

Oooh! Didn't you just know I would be seduced into this by my existing interests (Buffy, Kelley Armstrong etc).

I'm about halfway through and I'm loving all the twists and turns and the constant appearances of the dread 'blank' books!

The legacy of Lennon

I know it is terribly fashionable to be sniffy about The Beatles, to sneer at John Lennon's faux-political posturing, to proclaim worthy others as better artistes and performers.

Nevertheless, I rather like Sean O'Hagan's reassessment of Lennon in yesterday's Observer.
Perhaps it's time we remembered John Lennon for what he really was: not just the first and greatest pop star but also the most vulnerable and messed-up. The iconoclast who dared imagine what global fame, useless of itself, might be used for. The upstart who stole the world, and tried, in his impulsively tough and compulsively tender way, to make sense of it. And, most courageous of all, to change it.
There was something very appealing to me about Lennon as a gawky adolescent struggling to find her place in the world. I know it's hard to trace back events to say "this happened because of that" in any singular definable fashion, but there probably would be some truth in saying that for me at least, Lennon's death did mark a turning point. And one I can never entirely regret.

On "Crash"

No not that one with delicious James Spader (talking of whom, nice surprise to see Stargate on last night instead of Panorama... am I going mad though, or is there nothing about that change of schedule on the net? Or did I just get a different channel and not realise?)

ANYWAY.

Diversion aside.

Crash is written and directed by Paul Haggis, writer of the much lauded Million Dollar Baby. Cloud and I went to see it last week and to be honest, it may not have been competing with much, but it certainly felt like the best movie we had seen in a long while.

I'm sure that others will find ways to criticise it - and possibly with some legitimation - about its depiction of racial tensions and overlapping narratives. But for me it was carefully nuanced, well filmed and constructed with intricate attentiveness. Movie characterisations are always excessive in some way, but these felt complex and layered.

And it made me cry (and Cloud got very agitated as he tried to deny full blown tears himself). I know, I'm soft. But there it is. I'm a sucker for a good blub.

One wrong note though (and this will only make sense to those who have seen it so I'm spoiling nothing): you didn't need that utterly unnecessary 'explanatory' shot towards the end. We got it, we understood - and actually there was much greater poignancy and meaning in leaving it unclear, unspoken. Though I suspect those wretched focus groups and studio bosses insisted you drop in that damn shot since it so obviously didn't need to be there. It could have spoilt it completely; instead we were thankfully drawn in sufficiently to overlook this bum note.

Because life is made of both the bad and the good

John posts a magnificent tribute to Ardeelee's post mentioned here (which frustratingly stirred offensive and unwarranted commentary with the usual 'apology' from...)

Friday, August 12, 2005

Britpop 10 years on

Apparently BBC4 is doing a Britpop Night next week. Fat lot of good that is to me with the ultra-pixelating experience that freeview offers our household (we returned the beastly box with glum faces).

Quite a fun article here though from today's Guardian. Even though I hate the word, I did rather smile at Louise Werner describing Oasis as "the chavs of Britpop" [NB shame that John Harris couldn't be bothered to spell LW's name correctly].

Check out the press release from the Beeb for full details of the schedule. I am 'sad' - but not that unhappy to note - that I actually still have the videotapes of both "Britpop Now" and "No Sleep till Sheffield" knocking about my house...

Still think one of my favourite TV moments was Pulp performing "I-Spy" on Jools Holland. Jarvis at his lanky and long-fingered best.

A beautiful post from Ardeelee

This is just lovely - and really life-affirming for a wet Friday morning in Stabo...

Monday, August 08, 2005

Yeah, and we went to see "Death of a Salesman"

... for me that would be "again".

So shoot me; it's a great play with a fantastic cast.

Ahem.

And he got his own raptuous round of applause. Nothing less than deserved.

Friches Theatre Urbain

The Scottish Play.

Up and down the South Bank as part of the "Watch This Space" National Theatre events.

With masks of wolves and other creatures.

With cloaks.

With puppets. (Including some disturbing dismemberment of puppet/dolls as the murder of the children took place: innards pulled out... It was easy to forget it was just fabric)

With a giant hand being wheeled about and random divergences 'from' the script to reference contemporary events.

With dialogue delivered in English, French and Spanish.

On stilts.

That's ON STILTS! Dancing up and down the South Bank trailing fascinated and bewildered spectators in their wake!

And it had a musical soundtrack that would not have gone amiss as part of the FM Einheit work of Dante's Inferno (Einsturzende Neubauten guy - left because there was too melody in their work and not enough "muttering and clanking").

Interestingly, FM Einheit also did a similar work on Faust. I say interestingly because I now find these pics of Friches Theatre Urbain doing Faust (it will give you a flavour of what the performance along the South Bank looked like).

All in all, blinding and wonderful. The sort of thing that theatre - especially outdoor theatre - should always endeavour to do: amaze.

On writing

Whether it's a blogger's block or writing a dissertation, this feeling of frustration is constant...

Hat-tip to The Ingrate.

Joss Whedon interview

That nice guy at Pulp Movies made my day when he sent me this link.

:)

Cloud gets in first with the holiday report

Damn.

That's what comes of staying in this morning to start writing my exhibition review for the BAAS newsletter and starting on the laundry from the weekend away.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Shall we take a trip?

No... not the Northside track ( as Mark Radcliffe wisely said, when they were proclaimed as "stadium-fillers" what they failed to mention was that would be with piles of unsold records)

Potentially there may be a brief lull in postings till next week. It's called a break.

Do not worry. Nonsense will resume fairly soon.

Mind, I do have an exhibition review to do as soon as I return. (Ta, Catherine for the freebie ticket!)

And a lesson plan to draw up for a day school I will be teaching in the autumn all being well (on museums and galleries).

Break: a concept I a clearly struggling to keep to the meaning of...

A question

Okay, for a variety of reasons I haven't yet had chance to buy "Blackpool on DVD. But I am concerned that when I saw it in town, there was a small note on the back saying that due to "clearance and copyright some edits have been made".

If that means "These Boots Are Made for Walking" no longer appears I'm taking the BBC to task for breach of promise on tantalisingly offering me that hope all these months...

Article on dyslexia

I loved reading this yesterday. Working with some dyslexic students, you get a real feel for the things that they go through. Dyslexic novelist Sally Gardner writes:

"We are very keen on a very straight track in learning. You get on a train, the train stops and there are lots of flowers outside. The 'proper' children stay in the train and look at the flowers. The dyslexic child jumps off and says, 'Wow, there's lots of flowers' and goes off to explore.

"The train goes through the stations, while the child meanders through stream and fields. Then the child joins the train miles up the road and there's been no logical steps along the way, and it drives teachers and educators demented. That dyslexic child is incredibly stupid and incredibly clever at the same time - you haven't done the obvious bits but you've found other stops which education doesn't credit you for."

Over-active?

Norm rightly asks the question, "what's resting?"

I didn't realise I was so prolific!

My trip to the haridressers was much less eventful

and didn't involve confronting past loves, sexuality or lodger trauma.

But I can now see out of my fringe.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Caring, sharing

Whilst Rob's away, the blog's at play...

You can also catch me posting at Eine Kleine Nichtmusik at the mo (just a bit of blog-sitting). But I recommend you drop by anyway.

Irony in spades

This from The Wolf tickled me despite having written about this stuff.

And after her comments here (scroll), this happened... too funny for words.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Joss Whedon in the UK

Now, why didn't I know about this in before?

Sniff.

Likelihood of being able to attend: Zero with a capital Z.

Sniff.

The perils of decorating (and the dangers of ex-army boys)

Marie has it all: the tears of laughter and pain at her description of discovering what decorating really involves, AND she gives delight to me for finding yet another woman who has no time for that twerpy git stripping off on the beach.

The type of movie list I love

Now clearly I haven't got THAT much time on my hands!

I think it's the chicken postscript that really takes it to another level...

Jane offers some thoughts on Yoga

Hysterical.

Though I really must do something to calm me down and get me fit...

Awesome picture from the New York crew

Cheers to Kara and the Ingrate for this gem.

Love the casting suggestions btw...