The Lobster: Film review.


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Extraordinary but, actually, whisper it, a bit dull.

Having slept through fairly long tranches of this movie I’d nevertheless call it a success.

In part.

Colin Farrell is quite wonderful as the central character who is consigned to a form of detention in a hotel in the depths of Ireland after his partner dumps him.  With his brother in tow (a Border Collie names Bob) he has 45 days to find a new partner or face being turned into an animal of his choice which is a lobster.  Why?  Because they live over 100 years and are fertile throughout their lives.

On arriving he faces a gentle interrogation as to his sexual preferences in which there is a slight suggestion that he may in fact be homosexual but faced with making a decision he opts for straightness.  It’s an odd moment that isn’t actually played out in any underlying way in the movie that follows.

It’s a dystopia in which no-one has any names and humans are not just transformed into animals but are also hunted in a nearby forest for hotel extensions.

His quest for love is challenging and results in his escaping the, presumably government run, facility to join a band of guerrilla terrorists where he finds his match in Rachel Weisz.  However the terrorists ban love so a complex sign language evolves between the pair as they seek to develop a relationship.  It’s kind of silly but also kind of funny.

It’s part farce, part surrealism and has several laugh out loud moments but it’s too slow, dragging endlessly in parts. Yet the juries at Cannes nominated it for their top prize.  I can see why, but I can also see why it failed to scoop.

The director, Yorgos Lathimos, is renowned for his satires and this is his first English language excursion and has much in common with previous outings.

This is Farrell’s movie from start to finish as he is rarely off screen.  He demonstrates his knack for off kilter humour that had us rolling in the aisles in In Brugges, but this a very different kettle of crustaceans.

Nevertheless he pulls off his task with aplomb.  It really is as quite remarkable performance ably supported by John C Reilly, Ashley Jenson and Olivia Coleman.

Odd? Yes.

Great? Not quite.

My favourite New York Street Art.


In the city of a thousand art galleries you don’t actually need to visit a gallery to enjoy world class art.  Here is a selection of my favourites that I have photographed over my last two visits.

There are many more.

I photographed this astounding Tristran Eaton portrait of Audrey Hepburn in Mulberry Street in Little Italy that he painted in 2013.  It prompted a special visit for me and Jeana on our recent trip to pay homage.  It’s my favourite street painting in the whole goddam city.

Audrey

This one isn’t far behind mind you.  It’s by Eduardo Korda and you can catch it from The High Line and is based on the iconic 1945 photograph “V-J Day in Times Square” by Alfred Eisenstaedt.

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And then there’s the Einstein, also on the High Line (but certainly modelled on) Banksy.

I loved this Joey Ramone painting at the entrance to Bleeker Street on The Bowery by John “Crash” Matos and Solus.

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And I’m a fan of this by Nick Walker called Love Vandal, you’ll find it above a car park at 17th and 6th Avenue.

I love

This one, four storeys high, also in Mulberry Street in Little Italy is called Terror Tot and was painted by Ron English.

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The following bunch are all in Williamsburgh…

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Hidden: Lyceum Youth Theatre. Review


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(Picture Credit:  Douglas Shirlaw)

I have to share my congratulations with the Lyceum Youth Theatre.  I’ve seen many of their productions in my time as a board member of The Royal Lyceum Theatre Company but none have been as absorbing and original as this.  Conceived and developed by the company themselves and boasting no fewer than four directors (Mark Thomson, John Glancy, Christie O’Carroll and Amanda Gaughan) it’s a showcase of Lyceum directing and producing talent past and present and a fitting way for our amazing theatre to celebrate its 50th anniversary as one of the stars of this site specific production is the theatre itself.

We get to see dressing rooms, the undercroft, behind the bars, a now unused Victorian staircase and the dusty old ‘Gods’ as we are ushered around the building by a series of guides, one of whom turns out to be a performer in disguise.

What the production itself consists of is four ‘Penny Dreadfuls’ that are anything but dreadful as they spookily explore the mysteries of the Lyceum’s Victorian building, its ghosts and the secrets it may contain.  Particularly affecting is John Glancy’s contribution in ‘The Gods’ in which a group of animal-masked performers summon up demons and appear to sacrifice the biblical Abel.  The disused and peeling Victorian stairwell gives Mark Thomson a fantastic canvas on which to paint a picture of ghostly Victorian trauma with a number of particularly creepy vignettes.

The back stage area was used effectively to show a group of actors preparing for their stage performance in pale white light casting effective shadows in the gloom, and the undercroft hosted a particularly effective scene with three Cheshire Cats (or were they dastardly rabbits) that whirled the audience of only 25 about their space demonically.

The scariest moment was reserved for the bar area where we passed through another Victorian Bedlam.  Pity the poor lady audience member who was first in, as she was met by a shrieking madman, caged to her left, in a moment redolent of Silence of the Lambs.

The dressing room sequence also had some particularly Kubrikesque moments that would not have been out of place in The Shining.

Throughout the hour long performance the young cast were entirely inscrutable as they delivered their otherworldly creepshow to perfection – not easy to keep up this degree of deliberate underplaying so consistently.

All in all a superb theatrical experience that had all of the audience laughing nervously as they approached each play within a play within a play full of trepidation.

Excellent.

Memento Mori. Creepy photos of the dead popularised in Victorian times.


I’ve missed this whole concept of Memento Mori but read about it on Yahoo’s home page today.

it’s weird and means “remember that you have to die” in Latin.

it is rooted in Christian tradition although it’s popularity as a photographic record of your lost ones died off very quickly after the advent of photography which the Victorians seemed to take to with some gusto.

Here are some examples.

n.b. NOT FOR THE FAINT HEARTED

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Live Music Review. The Sleaford Mods: Live at La Belle Angele, Edinburgh. 14/10/15


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To start with it, was probably not my best move to spend the evening of my wife’s birthday in a nightclub listening to Britain’s most interesting band.

The Sleaford Mods are like no other band ever and yet are like an amalgam of many; PIL, Mark E. Smith and John Cooper Clarke spring immediately to mind on the vocal front underscored by The Prodigy.

The set starts slowly(ish) and immediately it’s apparent that, good as it is La Belle Angele’s sound system is, it is not subtle enough to enunciate each of Jason Williamson’s vitriol-fuelled words; Jolly Fucker and Bunch of Cunts being two fairly representative song titles.  What follows is a gradual winding up of the tension spring as each song adds one or two bpm’s to the tempo and the volume gradually cranks up in tandem with the speed.

Or so it seems.

The hatred of working class life and utter disgust at austerity UK lays the foundation for this 55 minute set of songs rarely longer than two minutes long.  I say songs but we are talking poetry here as very few melodies stray into Williamson’s performance.  That said, it is a tuneful, rhythmic affair as Andrew Fearn drives the groove through his laptop.  His set consisted of beer drinking, slouching (upright admittedly) with both hands in the pockets of his jeans and the pressing of ‘play’ every other minute.

And yet his contribution is every bit as vital as Williamson’s as the groove flirts with disco, dubstep, rave and heavy metal in a relentless thundering of bass, drum and keyboard.

It’s an extraordinary contrast to the ever more demonic performance of Williamson who reaches the set end drenched in sweat and surely with a larynx in spasm.

They call it post punk/hip-hop.

I call it mesmerising.

Don’t fear the cowbell.


Cowbells have their place in rock music.  And this is one of the places…

But can you imagine the recording session?

UPDATE:  My friend Keith Stoddard suggests that The Move did a better cowbell than Blue Oyster Cult and he is right.

Any other suggestions?

UPDATE: Here’s another…

UPDATE:  The stakes are rising

UPDATE: And another

UPDATE:  Maybe we can go no further than this…

When in Rome… (Or Alphabet City for that matter)


On Friday Jeana and I are going to visit our daughter Amy in New York once again.

We are staying in Lower East Side/East Greenwich Village and I discovered the other day that specifically the area is known as Alphabet City.   Its name comes from Avenues A, B, C, and D, the only avenues in Manhattan to have single-letter names.  We’re staying between Avenues A and B.

Anyway, We’ve decided to host a dinner party in our Air B’n’B apartment and invite some of Amy’s pals.

So, this has to be the starter…

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Foxcatcher: Review.


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OK I admit I am late to the party on this one but I missed Foxcatcher’s fairly limited release in the UK and have only finally viewed it on DVD.  But it was worth the wait.

It’s a uniquely paced thriller in that it’s almost plotless.  The dynamics and emotional drivers of all the main protagonists, two wresting brothers (Mark Ruffalo and Channing Tatum) and their errr ‘mentor’ (Steve Carell), are never revealed.  It’s sinister from start to finish but it’s never entirely clear why it’s sinister particularly if, like me, you don’t know the story that it’s based on.

But suffice it so say the direction by Bennett Miler (two Oscar nominations under his belt now for this and Capote) is outstanding and grips you from start to finish, despite the fact that very little of any consequence actually happens.

There’s an elephant in the movie theatre with this film.  And that is homosexuality.  Lots of men getting sweaty and grappling with one another on the floor is not the point.  It’s the unstated relationship between the two main characters that is.

Is the relationship between billionaire wrestling freak Du Pont and Schwartz homosexually charged?  Maybe yes, maybe no.  Du Pont may wish to be seen as a father figure but it goes much deeper than that in my view.

Is the drug taking and drinking that Du Pont introduces to his Olympic Gold medallist charge some form of seduction?  Maybe yes, maybe no.

Is the relationship that Du Pont ‘enjoys’ with his mother also related to his sexuality (Oedipal almost)?  Maybe yes, maybe no.

Certainly it has enraged the real life Schwartz who clearly is not in any way inclined to the male sex but that’s not the point.  Miller has created a movie that is undeniably homo-erotically charged and that is not in any way a criticism.

The movie is a beautiful enigma wrapped up in a conundrum and all the better for it.

But ultimately what you are left with is the extraordinary performances of Tatum and, especially, Carell in a career defining outing that will surely be hard for him to beat.

And one last point; the outstanding soundtrack by Rob Simonsen is a pretty fundamental contribution to the whole mood of the piece.

The Martian: Review


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I can’t quite whip up the enthusiasm for this movie that many others have.

It’s fine.  Good even.  But no more than that.

Mars to me looks very, very much like Colorado although it turns out it’s Hungary and Jordan in fact.

Matt Damon’s performance is likeable but not endearing and actually I couldn’t particularly empathise with anyone in the cast.

The major plot ‘twist’ is predictable.

The effects are good but nothing we haven’t seen before apart from possibly the opening sandstorm sequence.

And then it kind of turns into Gravity.  A movie I detested.

I didn’t detest this but it’s a long way down Ridley Scott’s list of achievements.  In fact I’d rate it below Prometheus, a sadly under-rated movie.

Oh, and it’s too long.

A different take on Take Five


Paul Desmond’s Take Five made famous by Dave Brubeck in his 1959 recording is the biggest selling Jazz single in history and is one of my all time favourite jazz standards.  It sounds as fresh today as when it was first recorded.

Here’s an early film of it…

It’s hard to beat but I heard this cover of it on Desert Island discs as the opener from Glaswegian Pakistani poet and artist Imtiaz Dharker.  I would’\t go as far as to say it was in any way superior to the masterful original but it’s certainly entertaining.  I bring you Sachal Studios Orchestra’s sitar rich take on Take Five.  (You’re gonna thank me for this, I promise.)

Take it away boys…