Monday, February 26, 2007

Some awards or something..

I think I speak for all of us when I say, "This town...(aah-aah) Is becoming like a Ghost Town (aah-aah)..."

No, wait. What? Ah, yes. The 79th Annual Academy Awards. Mostly Yays, a couple of Nays but nothing to get sulky over. I was only able to see the highlights on RTE 2 tonight because A) I don't have Sky Movies and B) I was not arsed staying up till 4am watching them anyway. So, I spent all of today avoiding newspapers, radio and anyone who might know who won the awards I had any interest in. I don't have too much to say because I didn't have a pen to hand to jot down any amusing/interesting things, so I'll just hope I remembered this stuff right.

Things I liked:

Pan's Labyrinth winning Cinematography, Art Direction and Make-Up. Even though it deserved to win Best Original Screenplay and Foreign Film, at least the beautiful look of the film was honoured. Guillermo del Toro just rocks, I've never seen the man look annoyed or bored or pissed off.

Alan Arkin getting all teary-eyed at his speech. There were a lot of tears, actually. Not to an embarrassing extent, mind. Just...nice.

Future Ex Vice-Presidential Nominee (or whatever he calls himself) Al Gore winning for An Inconvenient Truth.

I also thought it hilarious that Dreamgirls didn't win any of their three Best Song nominations! They just kind of screamed their way through the songs, and although Randy Newman is a personal hero of mine, his song with James Taylor put me into a coma for four minutes. Melissa Etheridge deserved to win for her song from An Inconvenient Truth.

The two montage thingies I liked best were the Foreign Film and Ennio Moricone theme music one. I enjoyed spotting all the films in the Foreign Films montage, well, some of them. So happy that All About My Mother was there. I didn't like...yell and point at the screen in happiness. Eh, no. Not at all.

Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst walking out to the strains of the Spidey theme music.

One part I so did not get was when Ellen DeGeneres (who was a pretty good host) was hoovering up in the front row. What was that about? Funny though, especially Meryl Streep just sticking out her legs to avoid the hoover and Penelope Cruz's frantic rush to gather up her huge skirt out of the way.

My favourite part of the evening was Martin Scorcese finally winning his Best Director Oscar. When they announced his name, my sister and I jumped up. He was so cute and disbelieving.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Rick. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Please, please. Thank you. Thank you. Could you double-check the envelope, please? I mean, I'm overwhelmed with this honor from the Academy and also the honor of being presented by my old, old friends. We go back 37 years. I'm so moved, so moved.

And afterwards, when The Departed won Best Picture, Marty was just standing in the wings looking slightly bemused. Whippie!

Things I didn't like:

Those fucking penguins won Animation. What the ho? I never saw it, but screw 'em. Monster House was such a great film.

Everyone knew I was still rooting for Penelope Cruz for Best Actress - but I wasn't too shocked when they called Helen Mirren. She had a very gracious speech though and from the clips I've seen, her performance was astounding.

Forrest Whitikar's speech was too long. I'm still glad he won, but poor Peter O'Toole looked devastated. Aww.

Diane Keaton needs to act her age and stop with the hand movements. Her and Jack Nicholson were kind of irritating presenting the Best Picture. Didn't he present it last year, and make that hilarious "wtf" face when Crash won? Hah. No such surprises this time.

My favourite award: It's got to be Marty.
My least favourite award: Um...Happy Feet.
Best Presenter: George Clooney
Worst Presenter: Cameron Diaz. She totally fluffed her lines.
Best Dressed: Hard. I liked Kate Winslet's dress and Penelope Cruz's one too. Meryl Streep looked kind of drunk, but still good. The men are obviously harder to judge because they all had tuxedos on.. Actually, Ellen had some funky suits.
Worst Dressed: I hated what Kirsten Dunst was wearing, but I fear my hatred toward her is clouding my judgement. Nah, it was just an ugly dress.
Funniest Moment: Unintentionally funny, when Ennio Moricone was giving his speech and Clint Eastwood was supposed to translate, but just stood there like a wooden plank. Awkward silence. Then, Eastwood says "Yeeeeah". Which was just...hilarious. His speech (when Eastwood finally copped on to himself) was very touching though.

I really need to get to bed now, so I'll leave you with some pretty pictures.

Okay, pretend George Lucas isn't in this one. He angers me. The other three are cool though.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

A Public Service Announcement from David Lynch

"Hi, I'm David Lynch. You may remember me from such headfuck mind warps as Eraserhead and Blue Velvet. I was also an Eagle Scout and I enjoy disecting fish for pleasure. Ah yes, in between weather reporting on my website and launching my own range of coffee, I have a new film coming out in a few weeks. It's called INLAND EMPIRE and has Laura Dern in it. There's probably some other people too, but mainly Laura Dern. Who I'm not in love with, yeah? Basicly the plot line is "A woman in trouble" because anything more than that would just confuse people, and also I hate when people talk about my films. My films are what they are, like Popeye, except more grammaticly correct. Anyway, INLAND EMPIRE makes perfect sense, you just have to meditate for a couple of hours beforehand and consume a lot of cheese. The Academy snubbed INLAND EMPIRE, even though I stood by the roadside with a cow to promote it. Some people, eh?"

I bought Empire today, while sheltering in Superquinn from the torrential rain and read it in their upstairs cafe. I was very interested and excited to read that they gave Inland Empire a glowing review with five stars. Five?! The review reassured me on two levels: first off it was a fabulous review and secondly, I found out the rating. Thankfully, it's a 15 age limit, so I'll be able to get it in! I was expecting an 18, so that's good news. I now need to find someone to see it with...

My week and the Oscars

First off, I would like to take this occasion to curse the internet, computers, faulty wires and my left foot. I had most of this entry all typed up when my foot dislodged the wires connecting the laptop to the mains, therefore turning off the power, thus losing everything. Excuse me while I raise my fist to the sky and lament my misfortunes…

…okay. Now, I just cannot fathom that it is already Saturday. You see, Saturday will inevitably lead onto Sunday, which will, in all probability, lead onto school. Sunday also means the Oscars, but to be honest it’s the return to school that’s making the most fuss in my head right now. Not that I can complain too much about my midterm break, it was quite enjoyable, if brief. I saw a lot of films, took up walking every day and went to the cinema. I’m going to start with the cinema trip, because I’m a sucker for that moment when the the lights dim and the music starts…

Notes on a Scandal (2006) Richard Eyre

Back in late 2006 I read the Zoe Heller novel and loved it. I thought it was gripping, well written and fresh. The characters were deftly drawn and it employed the use of unreliable narrator, that old trick that still works time and time again. And yet, when this film was released, I didn’t immediately run out to see it. I’m not sure why, just a lack of incentive.

After finally viewing it on Thursday evening in Cineworld (I love this cinema so much, I need to give it a name drop now and again), I still feel a little…underwhelmed. Notes on a Scandal: based on a magnificent novel, with a competent director and screenwriter at it’s helm, two seasoned and versatile actresses in the leads, with a score by Philip Glass. It ticks every box, and yet somehow I felt that this film was less than the sum of it’s parts.

Let me start with the score: Glass, although not my favourite contemporary composer, is a guy I like and admire. “Einstein on the Beach” is a masterpiece and his score for “The Hours” is probably my all time favourite film score. I’ve listened to that cd innumerable times, and so, it appears, has Glass. It sounds like he struggled with creating an original score and nicked from his previous work. The familiar motifs, pulsing strings, repititive piano lines increasing as the tension in the film increases; they’re all here. The music works in the context of the film, but unfortunatly the main purpose it served was to remind me of the (far superior) music in “The Hours”.

Both leads are great, Blanchett easily embodying the flighty, fey art teacher caught up in an affair with a 15 year old pupil, and Dench presiding over everything with her frightening eyes and disaproving voice-overs. A friend commented, of Dench’s preformance that it was a hard role to play badly, which is true, but I think she managed to inject enough pathos into the aged History teacher to make me both supremely terrified by her and also sorry for her. The casting of an actor of roughly the right age for Stephen Connolly was a brave move.

I’m still not entirely sure why this film didn’t completely work: the tension felt a little forced at times, or maybe it was because I enjoyed the original novel so much, but something made this film fall at the last hurdle just short of being a Great Film.

I do need to give it props for including a totally random conversation about Siouxsie and the Banshees. Yay!

Other films I’ve watched this week include The Deer Hunter, Blow Out, Taxi Driver, Casablanca, The Big Sleep, Little Miss Sunshine, The Graduate, Twin Peaks Season 1 (okay, not a film), Laura, Jezebel and Live Flesh. As I’m not arsed writing out a big post about all these films, I’ll just mention some highlights:

Christopher Walken in The Deer Hunter: I stayed up till 4am this morning watching this film, because I literally couldn’t find one moment to stop watching. Robert De Niro was always going to be great in it and Meryl Streep fleshed out her character well, but for me the standout star was Walken. Cast away any images of him dancing around a hotel to the strains of Fatboy Slim; this is a young Walken, nervy and hollow cheeked (he achieved this look by eating nothing but bananas and rice), playing his character with such sympathy and wild-eyed destructiveness that you root for him until the very end. Without giving away any spoilers, I’ll just say that how his character ends up is one of the worst (in a good way, I mean) and most emotional moments I’ve ever seen on screen. The transition from floppy-haired innocent in the first third of the film to the vacant monster he becomes is rendered even more awful by the way Christopher Walken plays it with such subtle intensity.

"La Marseillaise" in Casablanca. When I first saw the film I think I was too young to understand most of the themes and the storyline, but that scene where Victor makes the band play "La Marseillaise" moved me alot. Watching it again earlier in the week, I was in tears. It’s a beautiful, stirring scene in a movie full of memorable moments. My other favourite scene is...oh, it's a tie between when Rick is left at the train station with the note and the final scene at the airport. I also love reading all the stories about the filming of Casablanca; how the mechanics tending to the plane were all actually midgets, how Ingrid Bergman asked the writers which guy she was supposed to be in love with and they hadn't a clue so they instructed her "Just play it down the middle", the fact that "As Time Goes By" was going to be taken out in favour of an original song but was left in at the last minute, how Ronald Reagan (!) was going to play Rick...I love trivia like that. They really don’t make films like Casablanca any more, and no, The Good German doesn’t count.

The Graduate. This, for me, was the biggest surprise. I rented it from the library for no particular reason, I have no great love for Dustin Hoffman and I didn’t know too much about the film. It was a revelation, the music, cinematography and storyline combining humor and sadness in a beautiful wa. It’s a subdued film, filled with quiet moments of reflection between the funny parts and the hurtling chase of the last twenty minutes. I already want to rewatch it!

Every film (and tv series) I watched over the week had something going for it, whether it was Humphrey Bogart’s rapport with Lauren Bacall in The Big Sleep or Bette Davis’ pop-eyed fury in Jezebel.

Now, onto the Oscars tomorrow.

I’ll freely admit it, I’ve seen very few of the nominated films. For example, the Best Picture Category:

The Departed
Letters From
Iwo Jima
Little Miss Sunshine
The Queen

Out of these, all I’ve seen is LMS. Which, incidentally, I enjoyed – great ensemble work, moving, humourous, some parts didn’t quite work but a sweet little film. I’m longing to see The Departed and The Queen and will be most definitely be catching them on dvd.

Anyhow, I’ll run through the main categories and pick my favourite. Disclaimer – not who I think will win, who I want to win.

Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published
Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

Children Of Men
The Departed
Little Children
Notes On A Scandal

Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly For The Screen

Letters From
Iwo Jima
Little Miss Sunshine
El Labertino
Del Fauno (Pan's Labyrinth)
The Queen

Best Achievement In Directing
Clint Eastwood (Letters From Iwo Jima)
Stephen Frears (The Queen)
Paul Greengrass (United 93)
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (
Martin Scorsese (The Departed)

I do kinda think it would be hilarious if Marty lost out again, but another part of me feels sorry for the guy. Just give it to him, already!

Best Performance By An Actress In A Supporting Role
Adrianna Barraza (Babel)
Cate Blanchett (Notes On A Scandal)
Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine)
Jennifer Hudson (Dream Girls)
Rinko Kikuchi (Babel)

Best Performance By An Actor In A Supporting Role
Alan Arkin (Little Miss Sunshine)
Jackie Earle Haley (Little Children)
Djimon Hounsou (Blood Diamond)
Eddie Murphy (Dream Girls)
Mark Wahlberg (The Departed)

Best Performance By An Actress In A Leading Role
Penelope Cruz (Volver)
Judi Dench (Notes On A Scandal)
Helen Mirren (The Queen)
Meryl Streep (The Devil Pears Prada)
Kate Winslet (Little Children)

This is the category I’m most interested in, having seen three of the nominations. It’s most likely going to be a walkover for Mirren, which is not a bad thing, but I’m still hoping for Penelope Cruz. Volver got so snubbed this year at the awards and unjustly.

Best Performance By An Actor In A Leading Role

Leonardo DiCaprio (Blood Diamond)
Ryan Gosling (Half Nelson)
Peter O'Toole (Venus)
Will Smith (The Pursuit of Happyness)
Forrest Whitaker (The Last King Of

Although Will Smith was great (and is the only performance here I’ve seen), I think they should just give O’ Toole the fricking award. He’s waited long enough.

Best Motion Picture Of The Year
The Departed
Letters From
Iwo Jima
Little Miss Sunshine
The Queen

I can’t wait until I see The Queen.

Right so – it’s nearing 5pm and I’m still in my pjs. Sayonara!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

20 Greatest Film Directors

So, I was bopping over at EmpireOnline earlier to check out their movie news and the likes when this caught my eye. Irked by the misuse of the word "your" on the title screen, but intruiged enough to play, I logged in and quizzed. I've taken various Movie Quotes quizzes over the years and this one was especially tough, I felt. Well, kinda. Many were the very obvious, famous movie quotes ("Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn!", "Rosebud", "Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night") and some were just stupid ("E.T. Phone Home" Ooh, ooh, I know this. I know this. Don't tell me..On The Waterfront, right?) but others just stumped me completely. In the end, my score was a pitiful 36 out of 105. Ouch. Made me consider the huge, gaping holes in my movie knowledge. For example, let me indulge myself and run down through Empire's 20 Greatest Directors of All Time, which I have here in my hands.

20. Sam Peckinpah Haven't seen a single Peckinpah. Don't particularly want to, mind. He doesn't seem like my type of director.

19. Billy Wilder I'm okay here, I've seen "Sunset Blvd" and "Some Like It Hot", both of which I love. The former more than the latter though, the ending of "Sunset" gives me chills.

18. John Ford Nada.

17. Sergio Leone

16. Oliver Stone Again, zilch.

15. Francis Ford Coppola I'm starting to embarrass myself here. I've never seen a Francis Ford Coppola film and yet I've seen two Sofia Coppola's. This obviously means I've never seen The Godfather. Hmm.

14. James Cameron Yeah, I've seen Titanic along with everyone in the world. Except my sister. But I didn't like it. And I dislike Cameron from what I've heard of him, so yadda yadda.

13. The Coen Bros. Seen "The Hudsucker Proxy", such an underrated little flick, and "The Big Lebowski". Never seen "Fargo".

12. David Lean Sorry, Mr. Lean. I haven't gotten around to seeing Lawrence yet. One day, I promise!

11. Clint Eastwood Thinking...thinking...nope.

10. Woody Allen "Manhattan" and "Hannah & Her Sisters". Have to be careful with Allen, he seems very hit and miss. Still, I've been careful to the point of obsessive avoidance. Will see "Annie Hall", "Everyone Says I Love You" and other essentials. Eventually.

09. Orson Welles Will I redeem myself by saying I always mean to rent "Citizen Kane"? Thought not.

08. Quentin Tarantino "Pulp Fiction", "Reservoir Dogs", "Kill Bill Volume 1". He doesn't have a huge output - I'll see the rest soon enough.

07. Peter Jackson *brandishes LOTR Extended DVD Trilogy boxset* Also, "Heavenly Creatures" is a creepy, brilliant film.

06. Akira Kurosawa "Ikiru" is on my "To-Watch" list.

05. Sir Ridley Scott Seen "Thelma & Louise" and "Matchstick Men". I didn't know he was a Sir. Hmm.

04. Stanley Kubrick "A Clockwork Orange" and "The Shining".

03. Martin Scorsese "Taxi Driver", two Christmasses ago at about 2am. Made a big impression on me.

02. Alfred Hitchcock Thank God for Hitch, else I would've made a complete fool out of myself. "Psycho", "The Birds", "Rear Window", "Dial M For Murder", "Rope", "Vertigo", "Strangers on a Train", "Notorious" and "Rebecca". I think that's it...still missing some good ones, I'm sure.

01. Steven Spielberg Umm..Indiana Jones, E.T. and that' Really? Yeah, in so far as I can remember.

So, there we go. As you can see, gaping holes. I feel there are some great directors missing up there, most notably Howard Hawks (who does make the top 4o, but Cameron > Hawks? Pfft. Show me another director who so effortlessly switches from two genres so unlike as screwball comedy and film noir, and I'll eat my proverbial hat) and Pedro Almodóvar. If Pedro was there, I could easily reel off his films that I've seen (Talk To Her, Bad Education, Volver, All About My Mother, Atame!). That reminds me, I still have "Live Flesh" to watch, on dvd upstairs. Yo.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Blow Out

I watched Blow Out on Film4 last night because I hadn’t seen a film in a while and I thought I needed to see at least one Brian De Palma film before I died. My verdict? Stylish thriller with some areas of intrigue, but ultimately vacuous with no emotional investment.

John Travolta plays Jack Terry, a soundman currently spending his time working on cheaply made horror/porn films. On night, while out recording the wind by the river, Jack accidentally witnesses a car swerving on the road and tumbling into the creek. He has also inadvertantly recorded the sound of the whole accident on his tape. Impulsively, he jumps into the water and rescues a girl who is trapped in the back seat of the car. In doing so, he immediately gets caught up in a case of political assassination.

To tell you the truth, I’m very bad at understanding the plots of thrillers. I’m grand when it comes to Kaufman/Lynch weirdness, but as for thrillers I’m usually happy to go along with whatever is happening on the screen without too many questions. I’m not the kind of person who leaves the cinema saying “That was good – lots of holes though”. Unless the holes are the size of a grand canyon, I usually won’t spot them. I did have a few quibbles with this though, mainly why the whole thing happened in the first place? What the hell did Jack Terry see in Sally, a whingeing bimbo? And just what is up with that ending?

However, the film is interesting enough to just sit back and let wash over you. De Palma has enough visual ticks and homages up his sleeve to make Blow Out a decent watch, even if it has faults.

De Palma is a very visual director. Every scene is arranged with care and the use of lighting is especially notable. Seeing as the events in the film were all leading up to Liberty Day, the continual use of the American flag was obvious, but whites, blues and especially reds were utilised all the way through the film. In one scene, Jack and Sally are talking – his shirt is blue, hers is red and the wall behind them is white. The same colours are repeated throughout, right down to the car Jack drives. Red seems to be the most prominent of colours on De Palma’s pallet and many scenes are bathed in a dark red light, giving an air of claustrophobia and voyeurism to the whole proceedings.

There are also many allusions to other films. The very beginning of the film was very reminiscent of John Carpenter’s Halloween with the POV of an unseen murdered treading his way throughout a house, the references to Hitchcock are many (the scene in the train station, the voyeurism, boy meets girl and gets caught up into murder case) and Jack Terry handles his sound equipment with the same ardour as Travis Bickle fondles his guns in Taxi Driver. This “borrowing” leads me onto another point; is the whole of Blow Out all Heightened Reality?

Let me explain what I mean by Heightened Reality. Blow Out is full of events that would never, ever happen in real life. Warning, spoiler ahead (highlight text to see) "The ease of how the kidnap takes place, never mind that the man is kidnapping her in the middle of a busy street. The way the hospital gladly discharges Sally the night of the accident, even though she’s just been involved in a serious car accident and nearly drowned (I suppose you could argue that they were eager to get rid of her because of the political angle, but still, hospitals can’t be that immoral!)". Even down to the way John Travolta drives his car when he’s taking Sally to the motel; his hands on the wheel are moving way too much for him to be actually driving coherantly. These could all be mistakes by De Palma, but I doubt that somehow. In my opinion, they take place in a fictional reality, a sort of Movie World, within a movie. John Travolta can drive straight on the road while his hands are going ninety on the wheel because that kind of thing happens in films. Using Heightened Reality, you can do pretty much anything in your film. It doesn’t work on sci-fi or fantasy movies though, because mad shit is to be expected. Bear in mind I did come up with this theory around 3am, so that may have made an impact on my thought processes! I’ve heard Tarantino waffling about his own films using this “heightened reality”, but whether De Palma was using this technique or is just a bit dopey is up for debate.

Anyhow, back to the film. The acting is erratic, a sleep deprived John Travolta is good, John Lithgow plays the freaky bad guy with ease and Nancy Allen awful as the girl (her casting in this film had nothing to do with the fact that she was married to the director, nothing at all!). The script had no notable passages, not one line of dialogue or conversation sticks out in my head as memorable. The use of music was good, but that’s to be expected in a film all about sound. Finally, my biggest problem with this film was that I just didn’t care about the characters. John Travolta was likeable enough, but in the end I couldn’t quite bring myself to care whether he saved her or not. Indeed, Nancy Allen’s character was so limp I kinda wished she’d get her come-uppance.

I did enjoy the ending though – a darkly comic, twisted ending that settled things up quite nicely and brought the film to a complete circle. Quite humorous, but you think – why did I bother?

Sunday, February 18, 2007

"I've made a huge mistake..."

Take a science-fiction dish, add a dash of romance and a sprinkle of comedy and simmer with one of the most underrated comedy actors currently working today and what have you got? Space Invader (such an original title, no?) , a sci-fi rom-com love triangle set in a space station (oh...right) set to star Will Arnett. For the uninitiated, Arnett plays Gob Bluth, the pathetic failure of a magician, in Arrested Development and he has definitely proved himself as a competent and exciting comedy actor. Here's hoping that he gets a chance to do his "Final Countdown" routine somewhere during the film...The writers, Mike Lisbe and Nate Reger, previously worked on the charming 1990s stitcom, Just Shoot Me (that reminds me, anyone have an mp3 of JSM's theme tune? I love that song). With Arnett also producing, this film may be the vehicle to catupult him to superstardom....and beyond!

Saturday, February 17, 2007


In general, television gets a bad rep. What with today's brainless reality shows, gormless quizzes with idiots lining up to win toaster ovens and ridiculous soap operas clogging up the schedueles, it's no wonder that watching televsion is seen, in some circles, as being a lowbrow form of entertainment, akin to mud-wrestling or bucket-spittin'. While it's true that the majority of tv is brain-cell killing, addictive trash, there are a couple of programmes that I genuinely love and think are as well-made, enjoyable and informative as any film, book or play.

"Arrested Development" (2003-2006)

Comedy takes many forms. From the the multi-layered (The Simpsons) to the wacky (Monty Python), satire (Father Ted) to sketch ( the awful Little Britain) and everything in between, the art of making-people-laugh on camera has been tried and tested since the dawn of time. Or, at least, the dawn of cinema. In 1895, the Lumiere brothers showed off their comedy short, "Le Jardinier " in which a gardener gets sprayed by his own hose, which presumably was the height of hilarity back in the 19th century. But I digress. My point in all this is to highlight The Greatest Comedy Of My Time. I exclude The Simpsons only because it's peak was in the mid '90s, which I do not consider "My Time".

Arrested Development follows the turbulent life and times of a formerly wealthy family, comprised of the biggest bunch of dysfunctional freaks you'll ever lay eyes on outside of the Big Brother house. However, unlike the washed-up celebrities and whiny attention-seekers that habituate BB, the characters in AD are all loveable in their own, screwed up way. Jason Bateman is the show's centre, as the continously put-upon Michael Bluth, the only sane member in a family full of alcoholics, convicts, magicians and "Never-Nudes". The dialogue is witty and sharp, the action is interspersed with supposed "archival footage" like police records, security camera videos and newspaper clippings, and Ron Howard is the voice of narration, calmly explaining the events on screen. The humor ranges from satire to slapstick, intricate word-play and utter nonsense in glorious, convoluted storylines.

It's hard to pinpoint one standout character. A personal favourites of mine include Dr. Tobias Funkee, a closeted, flamboyant psychaitrist with acting aspirations who is a "never-nude", a serious and rare condition which prevents him from ever being completely naked, even in the shower. "There are literally dozens of us!", Tobias protests, defending his condition to a disbeliever.

Arrested Development was seriously mistreated during it's short time on air. Cancelled time and time again, shoved to erratic time slots much to the annoyance of fans, the series finally grinded to a halt in 2006. The first two seasons are already out in Ireland and are amongst my most watched dvds. It's hard to accurately convey the brilliance of this show, so y'all better watch it yourselves!

"The West Wing" (1999-2006)

Okay, I haven't seen too many episodes of TWW, but I'm working my way through Season One on boxset and Season Two on More 4, plus I've watched assorted episodes here and there over the last few years. Already, I count it among my top three favourite shows, so I feel the right to wax lyrical about it.

American politics has always fascinated me, and with The West Wing I finally came across a show dealt with politics in a truthful, moving and witty way. With the brilliant writer Aaron Sorkin at its helm this political drama set in the White House tackled big subjects with empathy, humor and pathos. Featuring a brilliant ensemble cast (nearly all my favourite programmes have large ensemble casts, they seem to lend themselves to complex, emotional storylines), the West Wing informs and entertains without ever being preachy.

The pilot introduces us to the main characters, Chief of Staff Leo McGarry and his boyish Deputy Josh Lyman, Press Secretary C.J. Cregg, Director of Communications Toby Ziegler and his deputy Sam Seaborn, each with their own individual quirks, traits and foibles. As the episode draws to a close, Martin Sheen makes an appearance in what has to be one of the greatest onscreen entrences, bursting through a door to intone
"I am the Lord your God. Thou shalt worship no other god before me."

Jed Bartlett is probably the best president America never had. His skewed humour, intelligence and genuine concern for his country will never fill the position of Commander-in-Chief in real life, but in the show Jed Bartlett does his job beautifully, aided by his dedicated team of workers. Critics may angrily point out its "Liberal Agenda", but the leftwing bias is not as rampant as it might seem. Anyway, as most of The West Wing aired during Dubya's reign, it's understandable that the writers yearned for something the polar opposite to the way their country was, and is, going.

W.G. Snuffy Walden's rousing theme tune, coupled with the intense faces of the cast in the opening credits accomplish the considerable feat of making me feel hopelessly patriotic towards a country I've never been to. God Bless America!

I could also write about other television shows, but for the time being my fingers and brain are becoming jaded, so I'll stop. Only to say, this post was inspired by another programme which I've only recently started watching (eh, last night...). I'm talking about the weird, the wonderful Twin Peaks, the first series of which I've just rented. After the first five episodes, I'm hooked. Whatever David Lynch is taking, I want some!

"That's a damn fine cup of coffee..."

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Random ravings and the Mozfather

Listening to Rufus Wainwright while doing my French homework earlier, it occured that maybe I should write up a review of his wonderful debut album. Now, I have to admit that his sophomore effort, "Poses" transcends everything he's ever done. And I also have to admit that it also probably transcends my vocabulary and writing skills, so I'm leaving it alone for a while. His 1998 self-titled, on the other hand, is something I can handle. And hopefully will, so expect a write-up in the next few days. Perhaps depends how it goes.

I've just started a first draft of the review, and I came across another album review that I wrote back in 2004 for Morrissey's "You Are The Quary". Reading over it is slightly embarressing, I tended to quote a length from the songs without actually saying too much about them and I also employed the skull-wrecking song-by-song approach, while just looks amateur. But I'm giving the album another whirl and therefore I feel I should post the review here.

Morrissey, "You Are The Quarry"

Just who is Steven Patrick Morrissey? The skinny intellectual from Manchester who yelped and writhed his way onto Top Of The Pops? Or the lonely awkward fanboy, who spent his teenage years holed up in his room idolising the New York Dolls and James Dean? Perhaps the self-proclaimed prophet of the fourth gender, a twisted sex symbol who promoted vegetarianism and celebricy? How about a semi-racist ageing gentleman, residing in sunny LA and having misinformed views on immigrants..? The actual fact of the matter is Morrissey is all these things and more. And we get one step closed to revealing the secrets of the man himself with the release of his 2004 album, You Are The Quarry. I was curious about this record, it being my first venture into the foray of
"solo-moz". It also sports a rather dubious front cover, with the man dressed rather dapperly in a pinstriped suit brandishing a Thompson sub-machine gun against a red curtain background. I brought it home apprehensively and slid it into the cd player.

It opens with almost a backbeat, then a twirling guitar chord and then in comes that voice, deep and fragile, instantly assuming the know-it-all tone we all love, the authorian beauty intoning that America...your head's too big, because America...your belly's too big. He continues to request (in his polite, English way) that America shove their hamburgers where the sun don't shine. The track, named America Is Not The World, is a scathing attack at the most powerful country in the world. However, it ends with Morrissey (who now lives in America) repeating I love you. It's not the best song he has ever penned, but it does its job well.

Next up is the instantly recognisable juttering guitar of the single Irish Blood English Heart. The vocal starts out almost as a whisper but rises to a glorious call to arms. Altogether now "I've been dreaming of a time when the English are sick to death of Labour, and Tories and spit upon the name Oliver Cromwell ". One of the rockiest tracks here, the rousing chorus and layered guitar work make it an excellent choice for his first single.

The next song is the controversially titled I Have Forgiven Jesus. The starting keyboard is reminiscent of Beck's version of Everybody's Got To Learn Sometime, but this illusion is shattered when Morrissey comes in what seems like far too early. He pleads slightly at the start, reminding God how he was a good boy. He scorns the Almighty for deserting him and giving him so much love with no one to share the love with. It contains one of the funniest lyrics on the album, the Craig David style Monday: humiliation, Tuesday: Suffocation, Wednesday: Condescension, Thursday.... is pathetic.

Come Back To Camden is the next track, and one of my favourites on the album. It features a piano and one of Morrissey's best vocal performance. He implores a nameless person to come back, he pleads from the bottom of his heart. The lyrics paint a quaint view of England "Where taxi drivers never stop talking, under slate gray Victorian skies" and it is beautifully sad. He is not sarcastic, or scathing, merely talking from the heart. And it suits him. Wonderful.

The next one took a while to grow on me, but I gave it time and now it's amazing. I'm Not Sorry is a slow mournful song, lamenting the fact that the woman of his dreams never came along. In fact, he rethinks the situation. The woman of his dreams.... well there never was one. He seems to accept his age as he sings that he is slipping below the water line, or is it something more sinister than that? Then, the best bit on this album comes in quietly after the voice fades - a flute solo. It sounds awful on paper but it captures the entire feel of the song in one felling swoop, the glorious sound of misery and hope.

Nobody is safe in the following song. The police force, the people involved in the law, pop stars who are thicker than pig shit are all lashed out at because quite simply The World Is Full Of Crashing Bores. This is an excellent vocal take, and in it Morrissey wonders is he now a 'crashing bore" that he once mocked. Humble and self-doubting? I hear you cry. But never fear, at the end he is reassuring himself that he is not one, and the old familiarality returns. Great song.

We are now halfway through the album, and what have we learned so far? That he hasn't changed one bit, but is perhaps showing a more gentle side to him. He is certainly ageing, but is doesn't get in the way of his sharp tongue. The rest is up to the other half of the cd, and it gets off to a bad start.

How Could Anyone Possibly Know How I Feel? is the title of the next track. This is probably the sole song in which the tune is superior to the lyrics. It is rather brutal and obvious, So how can anybody say, They know how I feel, The only one around here who is me, Is me. The police get another loving mention, And as for you in your uniform, your smelly uniform. It is the worst on the album, but is still not bad enough to be skipped over.

Los Angeles! You are too hot! A male voice intones at the start of The First Of The Gang To Die amid rocky guitars. This is set to be the next single and you can see why. The poppy nature, likeable chorus and tale of gang violence are all winners here, and you can almost tell he's having fun. Almost. This is Morrissey we're talking about y'know.

Let Me Kiss You is one of two straightforward love songs (the other being I Like You). It tiptoes around his (now redundant?) vow of celibacy, as he implores the object of his desire to close your eyes and think of someone you physically admire, then let me kiss you. A nice enough song, with an odd layered voice effect on the words Let me Kiss you. This features some very nice guitar parts. We're up to song ten now, the rather confusingly titled All The Lazy Dykes. Now, when I first saw the name I was taken aback. The first time I heard it, I had no idea how this song was going to sway with me. I was pleasantly surprised. It starts with a little electronic noise, then the drum beat. A delightful guitar chips in, and then we have All the lazy dykes...sung in such a solemn way it's almost funny. A slow track, with various uplifting bits. I find it to be terribly sad, like the sound of someone giving up all hope. It is my favourite track here, which seems to be quite unusual. The end of it "At last your life begins" brings more hope into the song, and completes the masterpiece. For me, the album could have ended on this note, but there are still two more songs. First is the aforementioned I Like You. It is a great tune that instantly endears itself to you, and you hope that Morrissey has indeed found someone he likes. He plays with the idea he is "shamed" because he likes this person. The liked one could be a real person, or for all we know they could be completely fictional. Whatever the truth, this is an exceptional song. Last up is You Know I Couldn't Last, a scathing look over his career to date. It is a cousin of The Smith's Paint A Vulgar Picture in telling of his disgust at record companies exploiting the bands and singers. It is a rousing song, experimenting with dynamics, going from tinkly piano to huge guitar styling, that voice and someone banging on the piano keys in a fit of rage. The verses are nice enough, if unremarkable. However, he explodes like a bomb loaded and aiming right between your eyes, Cd's and t-shirts, promos, God knows, Oh you know I couldn't Last . The ending is amazing, simply because it has nothing to do with the rest of the album. The Squalor of the mind he falsettos repeatedly. Nothing, and everything to do with the rest. And so it ends. As heartbreaking, hilarious, provocative and tuneful as we expected, even more so maybe. He's attacked more things you can shake a stick at, and declared his love for many things as well. We may not have figured out who the hell he is, but with something this good who cares? I stared at the cd booklet in my hand, and pressed play once more.

What else, what else? Oh yes, went to Walkinstown library today:

Henry David Thoreau, "Walden"

Maureen Lipman, "Lip Reading"

Augusten Burroughs, "Magical Thinking"

The Big Sleep on dvd

"Hamlet" by some dude.

Nice mix of the comical, the intellectual and the Bogart. I also filled out one of those little white cards, requesting a book of Gogol short stories from another library. Wahey.


Happy St. Valentine's Day!

Ah, I love the smell of commercialisation in the morning.

To mark this wonderful (cough) holiday, I propose a toast. Ladies & Gentlemen, raise your glasses to Moulin Rouge.

It's a little bit funny, this feeling inside
I'm not one of those who can easily hide
I don't have much money but boy if I did
I'd buy a big house where we both could live

If I was a sculptor, but then again, no
Or a man who makes potions in a travelling show
I know it's not much but it's the best I can do
My gift is my song and this one's for you

And you can tell everybody this is your song
It may be quite simple but now that it's done
I hope you don't mind
I hope you don't mind that I put down in words
How wonderful life is while you're in the world

I sat on the roof and kicked off the moss
Well a few of the verses well they've got me quite cross
But the sun's been quite kind while I wrote this song
It's for people like you that keep it turned on

So excuse me forgetting but these things I do
You see I've forgotten if they're green or they're blue
Anyway, the thing is what I really mean
Yours are the sweetest eyes I've ever seen...

All together now, awww.

What I'm love-ing at the moment: this tuna roll I'm currently engaged with, Buck 65 and the song "463", writing in French, choir (especially "Cantique de Jean Racine"), The Guardian, stripy socks and black coffee.

Okay, that's enough love for one post. For some light relief, I'll post my piece for the writing workshop today, which got a fairly good reception. The pitch? Write a dialogue piece set in a broken-down lift between two characters, with some conflict. Here's my effort, the two characters have different fonts and italics are thoughts:

Back in the Day.

I cannot believe it. I just…no, it can’t be. It is. It is…oh, damn. That’s Paul Johnson there, two feet away from me. Paul “Punch” Johnson. In this lift. With me. Oh, God. Hurry up…hurry up..


Woah.. Oh, no. No, no, no. This is not happening. This lift did not just stop. Hah, how do you like that? With a shudder and a jolt, all my worst nightmares have come true. Stuck in a lift with Punch Johnson. Just my luck.

Tch, that’s a bit of a nuisance, isn’t it?
Why is he looking at me like that?

He knows its me. He knows. Oh, crap. Why didn’t I take the stairs?

I’m going to be late, now. Board meeting, see. Ah, well. Nothing we can do about it, I suppose.
Look at the way he’s staring at me. Just my luck, getting stuck in a lift with a madman.

Look at him, all calm and cool in his Armani suit. He’s wearing an Armani suit? Rich bastard. He’s just waiting…biding his time…

Hang on, didn’t you go to..
Is that Frank Greene? He looks different.

He knows. He knows. I’m going to die, right now. I’m going to die.

No, you did... St. Damians, right? Graduating class of ’94. It is you, it has to be. I never forget a face..

…yes. I did, yeah.
And it’s begun. This is it. Goodbye, cruel world.

Haha. Fancy that. Funny, how you run into people like this. I’m Paul….Paul Johnson. I doubt you remember me, I was a bit of a quiet lad back then.
Well, this is nice.

Paul, yes, I remember. Ahem. Frank Greene.
Smarmy bastard, who’s he trying to kid? “Quiet lad”? Punch Johnson was NOT quiet…I remember that much.

People used to call me Punch, back then. Kids are dreadful cruel, aren’t they?
Wow, I haven’t brought that up in years. Still kind of stings…

Yes…I vaguely remember that nickname.
Cruel? CRUEL?? You, my friend, were the cruel used to go around beating up innocent people, I heard the stories, I heard them...

I hated school back then. I was teased something awful…
I can’t believe I’m telling him this.

..really? I don’t recall that..
Liar. Lying bastard.

Yeah. It was because of my, eh, my nose. You know, Punch. Punch ‘n Judy…
It feels good to get that off my chest. God, I never even told Gloria about this stuff.

What on earth is he going on about? Punch Johnson, called so because you punched people. It’s that simple. Deluded fool..



Well, at least we’re moving again.
Thank God. I can’t believe I told this guy all those painful memories.

Yeah, I’…going to be late now.
Thank God. I can’t believe this guy’s such a liar. At least he didn’t hit me..

Well, here’s my floor. It was nice seeing you again.
That was a pleasant, if slightly awkward, chat.

Yeah, you too. See you round.
That was a close one. Git.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

My take on this year's Baftas.

"We are not amused..."

Yep, I'm probably a day late to be writing this, but I was hell busy yesterday and only got home at 11pm, whereupon I made a cup of Zinger tea and retired to bed to watch The West Wing. Ooh, my life is so eventful.
Anyway, watching the Baftas on Sunday night was an infuriating, if entertaining way to while away some hours. I laughed, I cried, I yelled at my tv screen in anger...well, I smiled, frowned and tutted mildly. Without further ado, here is my take on this year's awards, my good points and bad points, in roughly chronological order..

Seeing Almodóvar and Cruz walking up the red carpet together (for some reason I found it unusual to see him at an awards ceremony), Pan's Labyrinth winning Best Foriegn Film and del Toro's adorable speech,the cameraman focusing on Ian McKellen throughout the ceremony, Helen Mirren wildly mouthing something at the camera, Kylie Minogue, Jennifer Hudson getting Supporting Actress, okay, now in my notes I have "During LMS tribute thing clip of Sufijan Stevens played" although I can't for the life of me remember what song...Penelope Cruz's dress was gorgeous, Forest Whitikar walking off the wrong way after collecting his award, Helen Mirren's speech for her award, Ian McKellen presenting Best Film and sporting his King Lear beard, some guy from The Queen wearing red converse with his suit (I haven't noted down his name)....and sin é.

Not having seen most of the films (ssssh!), Volver not winning, Jonathon Ross and his lame excuses for jokes (Stephen Fry, come back! They could at least have gotten a presenter who has the ability to pronounce every letter of the alphabet properly...), the long white runway thingy that presenters had to trot down in a hilarious fashion, Happy Feet winning over my beloved Flushed Away, Andy Serkis thinking "cueball" is a good look, Nick Daubent the Location Guy and his whiny voice, Paul Greengrass sounding like he's deluded and believing he's won an Oscar ("I'd like to thank the Acadamy...", oh please, when anyone hears "Academy" they think the Oscars, loser), Thandie Newton wasting her life by a) wearing an exploding dress and b) appearing in Norbit....and sin sin.

Oh well, roll on the Oscars. Whenever the hell they are. 25th? 26th? Whuteva's.

Okay, on a totally unrelated note, in yesterdays G2 Germaine Greer wrote an article about libraries. While there was nothing too controversial about this piece, I was unnerved to read that the library she holds in high regard is situated in none other than Cavan, in the "Republic of Eire". Who calls Ireland that?!? Anyway. My point being, how scared would you be if you, a simple Cavan-er, walked into your public library in a fairly innocuous fashion...and saw Germaime Greer excitedly taking notes? Speaking for myself? Very.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Chronicles of a music listener

Look around, next time you're on a bus, or in town or on a train. Chances are, every second person you see will be, as Cliff Richard would have it, "Wired for sound". Plugged in to their tiny white boxes, people are happily oblivious of outside noise, scrolling through their music collection with an idle finger, bopping away to an inner soundtrack.

There is no doubt that the advent of Soulseek, iTunes and their ilk are great assets to the modern music listener. They allow people to download music they've never heard before, discover new bands, revisit old classics and build up a music library that our mothers and fathers would never had been able to acquire without a lot of time and money. With the click of a button we can instantly purchase an artist's entire discocraphy. I, myself, am a healthy advocate of the online trend and it has proved useful in checking out the latest trends.

There is a part of me, however, that laments this.

Music is one of the most important things in my life. Many, many people say that but it doesn't take away from the fact that it's true. I listen to music every day; while I'm online, when I'm lying in bed, plugged in to my headphones when I'm on the bus. When I listen to music I love, I make a connection. For example, when I listen to Siouxsie & The Banshees, I can remember being twelve years old, sitting in my friend's house looking at a cassete tape full of Banshee's songs, a battered old cassete with a hand-written cover. And looking at this tape made me unbearably excited and nervous and happy, far more emotion than is natural for an inaminate object. My delight stemmed from the fact that at the time you couldn't get Siouxsie and the Banshees records in Ireland. I remember being enthralled with the handful of songs I could get my hands on and the giddy excitement I felt listening to them. When I finally got my hands on two albums (purchased on a school trip to Italy. It's a testament to my love for this band that the discovery of two of their cds in a dingy record shop in Verona is my happiest memory of this trip) I was head-over-heels. Now, if I had discovered SATB a few years later, I would have been able to hear these songs in one happy rush. While it doesn't really matter how I heard them, I do feel my deep love for the band would be somewhat diminished if I didn't have to wait.

Which is why, as a new project, I am going to relisten to every album I own.

Well, maybe not every album. I don't know if I could bring myself to listen to Sum 41 again, or Linkin Park. But the most of the rest are worthy to listen to again. Glancing over my shelves, I see albums I've neglected, old friends that have lain untouched for far too long, artists that I haven't thought about in years. Sadly, it seems that the internet, while opening up my eyes to a wealth of new bands and genres, has simultaneously dulled my (slightly obsessive) love for music. I'm not the worst offender, by any means. I still purchase albums and fixate on artists, but probably not with the intensity I did before I hopped onto the download-bandwagon. So, without further ado, here we go.

Neil Young, "Harvest"
One Saturday morning, about four years ago, my mam made a trip into town. I had made a request - I asked her to pick up Dirty by Sonic Youth. I was itching to hear some New York art-rawk, and the hipster's seminal 1992 smash seemed to be their most accessible starting off point. I knew where she could get it, a second-hand music stall in the George's Arcade. There, I had longingly lingered over the cover and track-listing for weeks. When my mam returned from her shopping expedition, she handed me the Sonic Youth album, along with another cd.

"Listen to this," she instructed. "I used to love this album."

I looked at the cover, a pale yellow background with the artist and album title in swirling black cursive. Neil Young. Harvest. I knew of Neil Young already, of course. I was familiar with his name, at any rate. Nearly everything I knew, admittedly, had come from my then-obsession with Nirvana, feverishly reading everything I could get my hands on. Young had come up a few times in my readings and I vaguely knew "The Needle And The Damage Done" as a hymn to junkies. I'm sure at the time I was a little doubtful about being handed this folksy album, as I was yearning to listen to the noisy art-rock of the 'Youth. But, I listened duitifully. And I loved.

Harvest is one of Neil Young's quieter albums. Although there are moments of quiet anger and despair, there's none of the raging fury of "Like A Hurricane", no blazing guitar solos or feedback. Nah, this is Neil kicking back with some friends and playing some country-ish guitar songs. It is also one of Neil Young's most popular albums, the back of my version gives a little bit of history, informing me:

Released in February 1972, Harvest quickly captured the national number one slot in sales, and sustained its popularity to become the album best seller of the year. It's most prominent single cut, "Heart of Gold," still stands as Neil Young's most purchased record.

It's easy to ascertain why this album was so popular. It bridges the gap between devout music listener and casual fan with it's stirring choruses, steel guitars and Young's winsome, unusual voice. Was there ever a rocker with such a distinct voice? High, nasal and capable of wrenching his heart around a tune like no other. It's filled with shuffling odes to love and heartbreak ("Heart of Gold") and singalong stompers ("Are You Ready For The Country"). At some moments it's like one big party, with its harmonies and the rustic Americana feel and yet its imbued with quiet moments of introspective like "Old Man". It's impossible, however, to write anything about Harvest with mentioning it's penultimate track, the best song on the album, the beautiful "Needle and the Damage Done".

With the opening guitar and the line "I caught you knocking on my cellar door..", I'm gone. In under two minutes, "Needle..." manages to evoke pity, despair, loss, failure, redemption and hope, all softly delivered over the cyclical guitar line that is still my favourite thing to play on my acoustic. It's utterly beautiful, and so short that when it abruptly stops, I still get a jolt of surprise.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Toy Story 3 Announced

Yep. Those shocked faces are justified, I've got big news, guys.

I kid you not, the long-awaited Toy Story threequel is in the works. According to EmpireOnline Lee Unkrich will be the director. Unkrich, co-director of Toy Story 2, Monsters Inc. and Finding Nemo, has the full support of original TS man John Lasseter. I'm presuming they'll get Tom Hanks and Tim Allen back on as the cowboy and astronaut, Randy Newman to write the music etc. Add the fact that Pixar have obviously come on in great leaps as far as animation is concerned, and you have one excited Catherine.

I still remember seeing both Toy Story's in the cinema really, really clearly. Number one, my dad brought me to see in The Square Cinema (what an awful place) even though I was slightly unsure about the film, after seeing the tv ads. I think I thought it was a war film, because of the soldiers. Luckily, my dad convinced me to see it and I loved it. Number Two we all went to see together as a family and I got really nervous at the trailer for some dinosaur film (it went on for so long that I began to worry we were in the wrong cinema). I loved Toy Story 2 almost as much as I did the first. Sigh, memories! Hey, looking up Toy Story on the IMDB I see that Annie Potts (the hilarious Iona, Molly Ringwald's boss and friend in Pretty In Pink) played Bo-Peep. Hah, I never knew that.

Roll on 2008/9!