The Oscar Nominations


Oh dear.  It’s not a great year, is it?

Nine nominations for best film and none of them were;

  • Drive – The Best US movie I’ve seen this year
  • Senna – The Best documentary I’ve seen this year, and not even a nomination for best documentary (or for Project Nim)
  • A Separation.  The best film I’ve seen this year, although it does get, and must surely win, best foreign movie and remarkably it has broken out with a best Screenplay nomination.  Why not best movie then?

Instead we are left with;

  • The Artist – nice but ridiculously overrated
  • Hugo – often derided by the critics but leads the way with 12 nominations overall
  • The Tree of Life – Great in parts, abysmal in others
  • War Horse – after initial good noises largely slagged off in the press and written of as sentimental tosh.
  • The Descendants.  Will see it next week when it opens.  Sounds like a good movie that’s nothing more than that.
  • The Help.  Oh please.
  • Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.  Not much to go on this one but it’s a surprise choice and a 25/1 outsider.
  • Midnight in Paris.  A return to form by Woody but has largely sentimental and fairly forgettable by all accounts.
  • Money ball.  A baseball movie.  Enough said?

If I was pushed to vote I’d say The Tree of Life (because I haven’t seen The Descendants yet).

It won’t win.

At least the lousy Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy didn’t make it (12 BAFTA’s, I ask you) and Gary Oldman might as well save the air fare because he ain’t got a chance against Clooney for best actor.

 

 

Adele. The phenomenon.


A year to the day since its release (24 Jan 2011) Adele’s 21 returned the number one spot on the US album charts.  It’s pretty much never been out of the top ten in the intervening 104 weeks and 16 of them have been in that coveted top spot.She’s had 19 weeks at the top in the UK.

It’s a remarkable achievement for a singer who has, in that period, become nothing short of a national treasure.

OK, I know a lot of us are sick to death of her, but not me.  I think it’s fully deserving of the 3.84 million units it has shifted in the UK (17m worldwide) especially as it has been without the help of Simon Cowell and on an independent label; XL records.

Shame, by Steve McQueen. How appropriate


There’s a scene early in Shame where Michael Fassbender languorously wanders, completely naked, through his flat and stands at the toilet before slowly micturating as we watch voyeauristically.  It sums the film up.  Pish.

Hunger, McQueen’s debut,  was my movie of 2008.  McQueen and Fassbender pulled off a coup with a brilliantly thought provoking and totally engaging story about Bobby Sands and the dirty protests in the Maze prison in Belfast.  It was a horrifying journey to hell and back with a miraculous central peformance by Fassbender.

This movie attempts to do something similiar, performance wise at least, by stripping Fassbender back literally to his skin.

It’s a story about unsaid things.  Clearly Fassbender and his sister (Sissy, played by Carey Mulligan) have a past that has severely damaged them emotionally and their onscreen relationship hints, at times, of near incestual closeness but this is kept at bay by extreme aggression to each other.

Sissy is a self harmer, Fassbender a sex addict.  Neither evoke any sympathy whatsoever, because McQueen has set out to make a movie that moves glacially and observes the action with a remoteness and aloofness that is chilling and utterly unengaging.

The truth is, this is a self absorbed piece of film making that leaves one cold, in fact, pretty bored actually.

It’s unsympathetic stance towards the central characters actually ends up with you not caring by the end.

A cold, uninvolving self indulgence of a movie that I’d recommend avoiding.

An interesting start to the week…


I’m off to the Lyceum for the first read through of the script for “of Mice and men:”.  John Steinbeck’s classic.

Very excited.

It comes to the theatre in mid- February and here is the synopsis as posted by The Lyceum…

Armed with nothing but hope, and the dream of one day living and working on their own land, George and his childishly innocent companion Lennie start work on a ranch.

New friendships are made and at first life looks good, until gentle Lennie, unaware of his own immense strength, unwittingly shatters their dreams in one disturbingly tragic act.

This is theatre at its most powerful.

Cast:

George…………………William Ash
Lennie………………….Steve Jackson
Candy………………….Peter Kelly
The Boss/Whit………Greg Powrie
Curley………………….Garry Collins
Curley’s Wife………..Melody Grove
Slim……………………..Liam Brennan
Carlson………………..Mark McDonnell
Crooks…………………John Macaulay

.

I stumbled upon this astonishing poem today


Thanks to my old mucker, Bruce Haines who was President of the IPA back in the day when I sat on the President’s committee.  He now resides in Seoul so I’m sure he could have a lot of fun teaching this to the locals.

It’s an astounding vocal trickery  game really that has to be read out loud.

A wonderful celebration of the English language.  Enjoy.

If you can pronounce correctly every word in this poem, you will be speaking English better than 90% of the native English speakers in the world.
After trying the verses, a Frenchman said he’d prefer six months of hard labour to reading six lines aloud.

Dearest creature in creation,
Study English pronunciation.
I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse, and worse.
I will keep you, Suzy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy.
Tear in eye, your dress will tear.
So shall I! Oh hear my prayer.
Just compare heart, beard, and heard,
Dies and diet, lord and word,
Sword and sward, retain and Britain.
(Mind the latter, how it’s written.)
Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as plaque and ague.
But be careful how you speak:
Say break and steak, but bleak and streak;
Cloven, oven, how and low,
Script, receipt, show, poem, and toe.
Hear me say, devoid of trickery,
Daughter, laughter, and Terpsichore,
Typhoid, measles, topsails, aisles,
Exiles, similes, and reviles;
Scholar, vicar, and cigar,
Solar, mica, war and far;
One, anemone, Balmoral,
Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel;
Gertrude, German, wind and mind,
Scene, Melpomene, mankind.
Billet does not rhyme with ballet,
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet.
Blood and flood are not like food,
Nor is mould like should and would.
Viscous, viscount, load and broad,
Toward, to forward, to reward.
And your pronunciation’s OK
When you correctly say croquet,
Rounded, wounded, grieve and sieve,
Friend and fiend, alive and live.
Ivy, privy, famous; clamour
And enamour rhyme with hammer.
River, rival, tomb, bomb, comb,
Doll and roll and some and home.
Stranger does not rhyme with anger,
Neither does devour with clangour.
Souls but foul, haunt but aunt,
Font, front, wont, want, grand, and grant,
Shoes, goes, does. Now first say finger,
And then singer, ginger, linger,
Real, zeal, mauve, gauze, gouge and gauge,
Marriage, foliage, mirage, and age.
Query does not rhyme with very,
Nor does fury sound like bury.
Dost, lost, post and doth, cloth, loth.
Job, nob, bosom, transom, oath.
Though the differences seem little,
We say actual but victual.
Refer does not rhyme with deafer.
Fe0ffer does, and zephyr, heifer.
Mint, pint, senate and sedate;
Dull, bull, and George ate late.
Scenic, Arabic, Pacific,
Science, conscience, scientific.
Liberty, library, heave and heaven,
Rachel, ache, moustache, eleven.
We say hallowed, but allowed,
People, leopard, towed, but vowed.
Mark the differences, moreover,
Between mover, cover, clover;
Leeches, breeches, wise, precise,
Chalice, but police and lice;
Camel, constable, unstable,
Principle, disciple, label.
Petal, panel, and canal,
Wait, surprise, plait, promise, pal.
Worm and storm, chaise, chaos, chair,
Senator, spectator, mayor.
Tour, but our and succour, four.
Gas, alas, and Arkansas.
Sea, idea, Korea, area,
Psalm, Maria, but malaria.
Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean.
Doctrine, turpentine, marine.
Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion and battalion.
Sally with ally, yea, ye,
Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, and key.
Say aver, but ever, fever,
Neither, leisure, skein, deceiver.
Heron, granary, canary.
Crevice and device and aerie.
Face, but preface, not efface.
Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.
Large, but target, gin, give, verging,
Ought, out, joust and scour, scourging.
Ear, but earn and wear and tear
Do not rhyme with here but ere.
Seven is right, but so is even,
Hyphen, roughen, nephew Stephen,
Monkey, donkey, Turk and jerk,
Ask, grasp, wasp, and cork and work.
Pronunciation (think of Psyche!)
Is a paling stout and spikey?
Won’t it make you lose your wits,
Writing groats and saying grits?
It’s a dark abyss or tunnel:
Strewn with stones, stowed, solace, gunwale,
Islington and Isle of Wight,
Housewife, verdict and indict.
Finally, which rhymes with enough,
Though, through, plough, or dough, or cough?
Hiccough has the sound of cup.
My advice is to give up!!!

Come and see my pal Kirsty Whiten’s stunning new exhibition


Kirsty Whiten is one of Scotland’s most respected young contemporary artists.

I commissioned a painting of Tom by her in her artschool days (when she babysat for us) and 1576 bought one of her paintings for our reception.

Her work has become increasingly challenging and this latest exhibition pulls no punches.

It looks amazing though so get along this Saturday 14th January…

Opening party – **note it’s afternoon!!** for Breeder Badlands, my solo show is this saturday, 14th Jan 3-5pm. Come along, bring a friend!
Check my artist page for details of other linked events (artist talk at 2pm etc).

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Kirsty-Whiten/187569244594660

Exhibition runs until 10th March. Gallery hours are Tuesday – Saturday 10am – 6pm
http://www.edinburgh-printmakers.co.uk/

ladle threat

making

Readying

threat

 

 

 

Who took the ( ‘ ) out of Waterstone’s?


Some fucking dick in the Waterstone’s marketing department thinks the apostrophe is an inconvenience in the digital age.

Yeah sure it is in a url, but we all know that urls don’t need punctuation and everyone, even Lynne Truss, will live with that.

However, to use that as an excuse to rebrand Waterstone’s as Waterstones is absurd.

It’s a fucking bookshop.

It should be the last bastion of proper syntax for fuck sake.

It is utterly unforgiveable.

It’s like the Driving Standards Agency hiring blind people to take driving tests.

Before you know it we’ll have section’s for biographys, comic’s, childrens book’s, and busine’ss section’s.

Bastards.

Or is that bastards’ or bastards or bastard’s or bas’tards or bas’tard’s or bas’tard’s’

I give up.   In apoplexy.

The Artist Directed by Michael Hazanavicius


It’s been a long wait for this much heralded movie, the notices from Cannes were enthusiastic to say the least and early user reviews on IMDB have anointed it with must see status.

So, I went along today with an open mind and a hope that it justified its early 8.5 rating on our esteemed website.  I have to say that it doesn’t but there is much to love in this delightful movie novelty.

First off, this is a novelty.  Once you’ve enjoyed its fare you are left wondering “what exactly was the point of making that” because it has no real “agenda”.  I saw no political, religious or cultural allegory.  What I saw was a lovingly crafted, beautifully photographic, gorgeously scored, excellently acted, arthouse homage.

It’s kind of a big idea but without an idea, instead it’s a film built around executional excellence and in that respect is often near to perfection with some lovely retro cinematography and illusions.

There’s a particularly nice touch when Peppy Miller’s movie opens in a cinema called the Reine (an in joke and nod to the production company that made it, La Petite Reine I suspect).

I didn’t know the story before I saw it and I won’t spoil it for you here because the story is fairly slight and not that big a deal, it’s merely the skeleton for a series of set pieces and fun.

It’s held together principally by the delightful Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo), an up and coming “talkies ” star who worships the ground that fallen idol George Valentin (surely a nod to Valentino) played brilliantly by Jean Dujardin walks on.  However many scenes are stolen by the delightful Jack Russell terrier who is Valentin’s only constant soulmate throughout the movie.

There are also two good cameos from American actors John Goodman, as the studio magnate, and James Cromwell, who you’ve seen literally hundreds of times without perhaps realising who he is, as Valentin’s loyal manservant.

It’s shot in a, 1.37: 1 ratio that these days, is virtually unseen, but was the format of choice in the 20’s.  This, for me added further authenticity, as do the beautiful credits, captions and monochrome photography.

Sound is used cleverly throughout and the final scene had me grinning from ear to ear.

I really liked this oddball movie.  No it’s not one of the greatest ever made and I doubt will do much at The Oscars outside of the technical categories but it’s a great hour and a half and an unusual and worthwhile feelgood movie experience.

Dreams of a Life


Carol Morley has come up with a really interesting idea.

She’s written and directed a documentary about the mysterious death of a beautiful West Indian 39 year old girl (Joyce Vincent) who was a major hit with the lads “People said she was as good looking as Whitney Houston; I thought she was more attractive than that.” and had hundreds of friends and admirers and a huge family to boot; four sisters.

The film is not so much about how she died but the fact that it took three years for her body to be discovered.  In her flat.  Watching her TV which was still on.

No Electricity company shut her utilities off; the council never chased the rent; no one complained about the smell; none of her friends visited; none of doting ex’s; none of her family.  Nobody.

Carol Morley builds a documentary mixing dramatised re-enactments of her life and “Touching the Void” type real life storytelling to get closer to the truth than the police ever did.

It’s a fascinating idea and in places nicely shot with some interesting music (although hardly a career high for ex-Magazine bassist Barry Adamson).

Why then is it so unengaging emotionally?  Why do we not really care about poor Joyce Vincent?

I think because the story is dragged 30 – 40 minutes past is tell by date.  It’s just far too long.

It’s a shame because I really wanted to like it and applaud almost everything about it; including the fact that it was funded (in part by the Irish Film Board!?) and the incredible detective work that Carol Morley did to unearth so many of the people in Joyce Vincent’s life when the police found not one of them.

In the end, it just makes the police look ridiculous.

And poor old Martin, the batchelor who lost the love of his life.

Bless him.

Greed. And why it’s bad for you.


Did you see The Bank Job on Channel 4?

Brilliant.

For a week the winning contestants in each nightly episode collectively pooled their night’s winning money into a collective pot.

Tonight the five finalists duelled one another in a process of elimination until only two were left.  (Two greedy blokes as it turned out.)

One was a lucky and hopeless player, the other a cool cat who thought he had it in the bag.

But the producers of this magnificent Game Show had one last twist up their sleeves (it transpired they had two in the final denoument though.)

So, each finalist was given two boxes with about £230,000 in one box and Trash in the other.

The next bit was tricky.

They had to decide if they wanted the full £450,000 or were happy to split the winnings.  But they couldn’t say it outright, they had to convince the other that they would share or that they were gambling for the lot.

The deal was, they gave their opponent either the box of Trash or the box of dosh.

If only one handed over the dosh the recipient took the lot.

If both handed over the dosh they spilt it.

But if BOTH handed over the Trash they BOTH lost and the dosh was split between the other three losing finalists.

What would you do?

Me?

I’d take my chances on my felllow man and assume that he too would rather have half than nothing and hand over the dosh, after all there was a two in three chance of losing by not taking this approach.

What did the greedy chaps do?

They both handed over the Trash and both left empty handed.

Served the greedy shites right.

A triumph for Channel 4 and a lesson in humility for all involved.

Shame on them.