Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Lives of Others: worth the DVD agony

After a rather fractious evening trying to watch the film, it was a bloody good job that the film proved to be worth the effort.

The Lives of Others has been sat waiting patiently to be watched since last autumn. Apologies Lisette. As said though, it was thankfully worth the wait and the agony of negotiating a truce with the DVD player for just long enough to finish watching the film.

Whilst criticism of how it creates sympathy for the Stasi, indeed perhaps tries to suggest there was a greater tendency to humanity than documented reports convey, has some legitimacy mostly the viewer is too captivated by the relationships portrayed to be so picky.

The petty mindedness of the Stasi, the individual power plays made by those prepared to rise and rise, the harsh responses to small acts: all are well displayed. But these are balanced by the urge to find sentiment and comfort in personal connections and there is a morbidly wry humour running through the film. Even though I should have seen the act coming, what happens with Christa does take me by surprise. And I loved watching the bewilderment of her partner Dreyman reading the Stasi reports written up from bugging his home.


Reviews are here.

DVD agony

With us being in out, away, and builder dominated (indeed, they are here today putting in a radiator to our kitchen and installing the tumble dryer), the DVD has been in limited use this year.

I've also been trying to do my bit by NOT leaving it on Standby.

Fat lot of good that did me.

As if in rebellion, our efforts to watch a DVD last night was fractured by grinding attempts to locate the disc in the machine ("it's in there you bloody idiot machine!"), undodgeable trailers (not for the worst films in the world admittedly, but I wanted to see the film not some bloody trailers), random loss of subtitles (our German isn't that good), and painful additional grinding problems for the machine locating the DVD again everytime we tried to re-set the damn thing when it lost subtitles.


Thankfully the film was worthwhile.

Cyrano on Radio 3

On our way back rom friends on Sunday (a jazz day with mates - what a great way to spend time with people, especially when you can eat so much) we caught Cyrano de Bergerac on Radio 3.

If you get chance to catch this over the next few days on "Listen Again" then I urge you to do so: Branagh makes a wonderful Cyrano. I cried at the end.

How to make my day: Dougie Henshall interview in the Times

Not sure what pleased me most: the nature of the interview (fiery), the picture showing how he'll look playing Satan (dashingly wicked) or that I've actually found an interview in time to buy the damn paper (Times 2, Tuesday 25 March 2008).

Way to go Dougie!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Nosferatu (with added Micronormous): A mac event

Bless the mac - the poor old Midlands Art Centre of Birmingham has had a rather rocky road to the present, full of financial challenges, glorious intentions and changed activities (it once housed a squash court!). Like its rather better funded sibling across the midlands [Warwick Arts Centre] it houses theatre, cinema, art, and bar/eating space. What it does that is slightly different to Warwick -- and which mark it out as having a different relationship to its local community -- is that it has a resolutely high focus on arts and performance workshops and activity spaces. I'd also wager that the mac has a rather more distinct interest in fostering its local performing talent within its programme (whereas Warwick seems to do this more by accident than design: a consequence of its location - a major university - and therefore its desire to appeal on a national and not just local level).

It probably says a lot about the challenges it has faced over the years that the architects were originally appointed to work with the MAC 20 years ago. Two major redesigns were blocked due to lack of funding and the current scheme will see the restructuring bill halved compared to both the previous grand plans. Ah well.

Anyway, in a series of grand final flourishes before the location closes in early April 2008, the mac is going out with a bang. One of its final big events was one we attended last Thurday: a screening of Nosferatu with a live music soundtrack.

But this was not any old music soundtrack: no, this was a one-off performance by Micronormous. This comprised members of Misty's Big Adventure performing a new and specially commissioned score, composed by Matt Eaton (Pram, Micronormous) and Grandmaster Gareth (Misty's Big Adventure), for this special event screening of the Vampire classic. After MBA blew away the higher ranking opposition 3 years ago, we simply had to experience this event.

It was, to put it bluntly bloody awesome.

So seamless was the blending of classical instruments (e.g. clarinet, cello) with electric guitars, xylophones and electronic soundscapes that at times it was possible to almost forget that there were live performers in front of you. But being able to occasionally glance at the performers seated below the projection screen was a wonderful thing to do.

I've always thought that the term 'silent film' was something of a misnomer, something suggesting that it wasn't just the film that was silent but the experience as a whole. Indeed I vividly recall my VHS copy of Pandora's Box (the classic Louise Brook's movie) which was indeed provided completely silent with nary even a suggestion of appropriate music to play with the film.

Surely the point of the silent era was that people did not sit in darkened spaces in complete silence: they watched and their mood was guided, the images reinforced, by (mostly) live performed music. I've always really liked the notion of cinemas and peforming spaces showing such early films with live conducted scores - Carl Davies' work in this field immediately comes to mind - but classical style work may not be the only type of music that suits such dramatic movies as Nosferatu. In this instance the thoughtful, sometimes post-rock but also amusingly pop-inflected interventions of Micronormous definitely added new dimensions to the experience.

And it's a bloody good film too.

Funny though that it also makes me want to watch 'Shadow of the Vampire' again!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Easter and onwards: blog plans

As the working week draws to a close for Easter and at last I get a few days off, I'm going to try and get back into a better habit of blogging for you dear people.

If hear too many shouts of 'promises, promises' I may just sob: I know it's not the first time I've tried - and failed - to get back to some of my former winning ways.

Still, in the upcoming weeks I hope to grant reviews for the end of Torchwood S2 (judgement on my overall response is reserved for post-finale), the incoming of Doctor Who series 4 (for which I will weep profusely should I not manage to record its first episode or catch a conveniently timed repeat soon after airing), and The Last Days of Judas Iscariot (my delight at Henshall's now regular stage activities is almost boundless).

I'm also hoping to do an overhaul of the blog-roll with a bit of pruning and judicious organisation going on. It's all got a bit chaotic on the sidebar generally so I'm aiming to get some clearer structure to it. if I trusted I could re-design without losing the whole thing I'd do that too but that will almost certainly not happen.

Longer term: I'd really like to try and plan/prep some regular slots - and keep to them (I'm hoping these will be music/film/TV based - la pop culture if you will). I'd also like to get into a better habit of book reviewing - after all the number of books in our collections and acquisitions surely deserves some recognition. Above all, I feel you deserve better links and acknowledgement of my online reading as it is far more diverse than my mostly brief witterings on pop culture.

Still, as it stands Rullsenberg probably remains a fair reflection of my focus at the moment. I hope you don't mind that.

And yes, if I can, there will be some stripes.


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Dear BBC

Please, please, please can you fix it for me so that the new series of Doctor Who doesn't start on Saturday 5 April? (The following week should be fine).

It's just that I'm off to see lovely Douglas in this in London with my friend who usually does recording for me, thus meaning I won't have the option of watching back a recording the next day.

Thank you very very much - you would make me very happy
Lisa aged 41 and a half.

Update: BBC barstewards...? Darn.

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Last Enemy: "D'ya think ya could burn this toast a little more for me, darling?'

Robert Carlyle delivers the only 'realistic' piece of dialogue in four weeks worth of The Last Enemy.

Dare I suggest it was delivered with the sort of clarity and belief that implied it was ad-libbed?

For a drama on conspiracy, identity cards, migration, and health, with a cast like Benedict Cumberbatch (who has cornered the market lately in gauche if well-meaning intellects), the luminously gorgeous Anamaria Marinca (recalling the face of young Barbara Flynn circa 'A Very Peculiar Practice' and the early Beiderbecke series), Geraldine James and David Harewood... (we'll overlook the insanity of thinking Max Beesley can act) what happened?

The pace was all over the place, the script/direction used Every Single Cliche from every spy/conspiracy/government movie you have even heard of, and the characterisations just didn't work. I like a twisty narrative but spending that much time going 'huh?' to oneself rather detracted from keeping up with the 'plot'.

An opportunity wasted.

Why did we watch it? The house has been bedlam and we felt charitable. It was (only) just about worth it for that one line from Carlyle, and even then only partly because of the Scottish accent...

Forthcoming Clare

New Book! New Book!

Chuckling about the title too...

Oh Sweet Marie: for all our joy, the 'might-have-beens'...

Doesn't just reading this from Marie make your heart beat a little faster?


And no, she hasn't let us down.

Though I suspect some may be plotting how they get to be on her guest list for the next party...


Monday, March 10, 2008

Selectadisc make me nervous

A 'For Sale' sign over their Nottingham site, and a vinyl sale ongoing gave us both the hee-bees on Saturday.

It seems that the originator and owner of Selectadisc is retiring.

All being well though things will remain the same.

Please let it be so.

Friday, March 07, 2008

House in progress

Of course this would all make more sense if you saw what it looked like before the expansion!!!

The kitchen used to stop at the edge of the unit where the washing machine is currently (the bit of top where the kettle and sugar are used to go into a shelf alcove - the second window was actually in our old downstairs bathroom). The doors are new. The units and appliances should be going in a week on Monday...

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Things missed, things done and things ongoing

Missed: JJ's birthday (noted via Reidski as clearly my own calendar birthday reminder 'system' is rubbish). With the CD production line currently still in damaged limbo I can't even offer a compensatory Rullsenberg compilation to the poor gal.

Then again, she may be happy about that.

Attended Mary Dearborn's talk at the British Library about Peggy Guggenheim (in association with the current excellent Breaking the Rules exhibition). It was a delight to meet Mary at last and to see such a great audience turn out on Tuesday evening to hear more about Peggy. It was also nice to be able to finally turn off the 'I have to take notes on this' mindset that chased me through the PhD years. Sitting back and just relishing the 'I know this stuff!' and the 'ooh, ooh, what about when she said/did that as well' was a joy.

Ongoing: the kitchen. If I hadn't packed the wrong cable I would have loaded up a picture of the current boarded state of the new kitchen. You'll have to wait on that one. We're hoping next week sees the arrival of the -dum-dum-dah! - new kitchen units. We may even have a functioning sink again soon...

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Viva "Vivo": Stapleford restaurant

Part of the 'joys' of having your kitchen developed is that when you aren't putting together yet another quick pasta/tomato sauce, or scrounging a dinner place off neighbours and friends, is that you feel able to take up some take-aways and eating out opportunities.

Before Xmas a new restaurant opened in Stabo Stapleford, Nottingham. With a number of other places (mainly the swish Creme) it suggests that Stabo may be on its way up. Really?

Well, I think in addition to the independent music, photography studio, and Tile Shop, it also still needs some quality indie food providers(greengrocers, deli, butchers etc) to really get on the ladder of quality. But the arrival of 'Vivo', a new Italian restaurant, has got to be going in the right direction.

Hearing Italians chattering as they run the place always helps in an Italian restaurant (how many have you been to where they don't seem to have much hands-on knowledge of Italy?!) - even if there were some training-up locals as well. Given it was a Monday night it was pretty darn busy. And judging by the sign in their window thanking everyone for making it such a huge success but apologising that they were now exhausted so had had to shut for some of their usual Sunday opening dates... well, that suggests it's made a real impact.

I had a glorious leek and potato soup with croutons and enough garlic to keep the vampires in the next county. Lovely very fresh homemade bread too. I then had a delicious dish of layered aubergines with tomatoes and mozzarella and a side salad. Neil had had a ratatouille with cheese and garlic bread followed by penne pasta with the most moist meatballs I have ever tasted (he let me have a little piece) along with a side salad. Stuffed to the gills, we had to stop there, but the meal was lovely and the atmosphere really friendly. Most people coming in were hugged and welcomed like old friends and they were lovely in saying bye to us when we paid and left.

Lunch and early evening (before 7pm) it's two courses for £7.95 which ain't bad. We will definitely go again!