Archive for October, 2008

Inanimate Objects 3: A Sequel Too Far

Posted in Nothing Really with tags , , , , , , on 31 October, 2008 by Ally

In a fit of abject boredom, I was moved to take some more photographs. Since I barely ever go anywhere, they are all once again confined to household objects and pets. And thanks to inadequate lighting, many of them appear to be the digital equivalent of “grainy” (which is sadly far less pleasant than film grain). Ah well, there are a few colour ones this time.

Looking Through the Glass

It Must Be Winter

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Quote of the Day: The Third Man

Posted in Film, Of the Day with tags , , , , , , on 28 October, 2008 by Ally

Anna starts rummaging in her handbag for money — in the process some of the contents tumble out on the counter including a photograph. Martins picks it up.


Yes. He moved his head, but the rest is good, isn’t it?

Upon watching The Third Man for maybe a third or fourth time, that line affected me as it never had before. It’s just a small moment, but it perfectly mixes humour with sadness. First I laughed, imagining a blurred head on a botched photograph, but then the poignancy of it overcame me. That Anna would keep even a botched photograph of her dead love, and even carry it with her in her handbag, is too sad for words.

So I shall say no more. Except The Third Man is a truly great film on all levels.

Inanimate Objects II: This Time It’s Impersonal

Posted in Nothing Really with tags , , , , , on 24 October, 2008 by Ally

The light was playing most pleasantly through the windows this evening, so I was inspired to take some more photographs. Click the thumbnails for big versions on Photobucket. For instance:

Special Branch

Noir Door

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Burn After Reading

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 23 October, 2008 by Ally

WARNING: This review may or may not contain sensitive information. If you want to know absolutely nothing before seeing the film, it is recommended that you do not read this.

Joel and Ethan Coen, 2008

Burn After Reading is the latest film by the Coen Brothers, the two-headed director known to their friends as Joel and Ethan. It’s not an easy one to categorize, other than to say it’s “a Coen Brothers film”. You could say it’s a satirical screwball farce which blends verbal wit, visual gags and moments of genuinely shocking violence. You could say that it’s a high-tech screwball modernization of The Big Sleep, in that it’s difficult to explain but easy to enjoy. The gist of the story is as follows:

CIA analyst Osbourne Cox (John Malkovich) furiously quits his job after being handed an unexpected demotion. As revenge for this injustice, he begins writing a salacious memoir. He is unaware that his wife Katie (Tilda Swinton) is having an affair and intends to divorce him. Having been advised to do so by a divorce lawyer, she secretly copies all his personal and financial files to a blank CD. When the lawyer’s forgetful secretary leaves said disc at the gym, it falls into very much the wrong hands. The wrong hands in question are Hardbodies gym employees Linda Litzke (Frances McDormand) and Chad Feldheimer (Brad Pitt). They decide to seize the opportunity and attempt to blackmail a deeply confused and increasingly furious Osbourne Cox, assuming that they’ve got their grubby little mitts on “secret CIA shit” and not just the egotistical rantings of a lowly analyst. Continue reading

Try This, Kids at Home!

Posted in Film, Film Noir, Nothing Really with tags , , , , , , , , , on 20 October, 2008 by Ally

I’m sure we all remember, or at least know of the controversy surrounding colorization. You know, when Orson Welles told Ted Turner to keep his crayons away from Citizen Kane, and film critics dedicated entire shows to preaching about the evils of colorization. As well as it being completely at odds with the artistic vision of the filmmakers, colorization’s biggest crime is somehow managing to look simultaneously garish and washed-out. Especially when it’s done wrong, giving Frank Sinatra brown eyes for example.

In short, it’s shit.

But have you ever considered viewing a colour film in black and white? I believe it was Billy Wilder that claimed black and white photography was best suited to performance-based films, as there are no colours to distract you from the acting. All you need to do is turn the colour down on your television and you have an instant decolorized film.

It’s a mere novelty, but sometimes it can allow you to appreciate certain aspects of a film that were previously hidden to you behind dazzling colours and effects. I tried it last night whilst watching The Big Lebowski, and you know what? It’s actually quite fun. The noir flourishes are more apparent in black and white, highlighting the Chandleresque plot rather nicely. I’m sure the Coen Brothers would be mortified to learn that their film was being viewed improperly, but fuck them. It’s my telly.

Quote of the Day: Almost Famous

Posted in Of the Day with tags , , , , , on 19 October, 2008 by Ally

Almost Famous is one of my favourite films from a purely emotional perspective, and I think one of the best ever to be made about music. If you haven’t seen the extended Untitled cut, I recommend it – it makes the journey last that little bit longer.

There are certain moments and certain lines in the film that truly encapsulate what it is to be a music fan, “to truly love some silly little piece of music, or some band, so much that it hurts.” A particular favourite of mine is spoken by Lester Bangs, a real-life critic and mentor for the lead character, teenaged rock journalist William Miller. As an eternally unhip person, I will forever cherish this advice.

The only true currency in this bankrupt world… is what you share with someone else when you’re uncool.

– Lester Bangs (Philip Seymour Hoffman), Almost Famous

Songwriter of the Day: Irving Berlin

Posted in Music, Of the Day with tags , , , , , on 15 October, 2008 by Ally

Irving Berlin

I have been admiring the songwriting of Irving Berlin of late. I recently purchased two great albums which showcase his work; Ella Fitzgerald’s Irving Berlin Songbook, and a cheapo (but flawless) Fred Astaire compilation called “Let’s Face the Music and Dance”. The latter isn’t entirely devoted to Berlin, but both are packed with classic songs performed impeccably in the singers’ respective styles. And the Fred CD actually features the recorded sound of tap dancing, which will never cease to bring joy to my tiny jaded heart.

Irving Berlin was one of the few so-called Great American Songbook composers who wrote both the music and lyrics to his songs. He was astoundingly prolific, so naturally there are plenty of songs in his oeuvre which don’t appeal to me – “There’s No Business Like Show Business” is particularly grating, for example. But he wrote more than his fair share of classics, many of the best ones introduced by Fred Astaire on stage and screen. Take “Top Hat, White Tie and Tails” for example.

Fred Astaire in Top Hat (1935)

The chorus melody (“I’m… puttin’ on my top hat…”) is bordering on inane, but it gives way to this insanely complicated bridge packed with internal rhymes, awkward accidental notes and dizzying syncopation. “I’m going out my dear to breathe and atmosphere that simply reeks with class.” Somehow it manages to sound elegant and memorable despite the difficulty in actually singing it. What I wouldn’t give to be able to pull stuff like that out of my head. And paired with such a charming and inventive dance routine… don’t get me started! Absolute magic.

The entire Ella Fitzgerald album can be heard on, although the tracklist rather awkwardly merges the songs from both discs. Highlights include laid-back, swinging interpretations of Astaire gems “Cheek to Cheek”, “Isn’t This a Lovely Day” and “No Strings (I’m Fancy Free)” – which includes a brief scat interlude. And then there’s the heartbreaking “Supper Time”, about a wife’s reaction to the news of her husband’s lynching. Ella doesn’t get much room to break out into her vibrant improvisations on the album, but her interpretations go straight to the heart of the songs.

Whether it’s Fred or Ella, you can hear great performers at their best, singing the work of a great composer at his best. Everybody wins, don’t they?

Video of the Day: Peter Serafinowicz

Posted in Nothing Really, Of the Day with tags , , , , , on 15 October, 2008 by Ally

I stumbled upon this most entertaining video by Peter Serafinowicz. You may remember him from his (frankly more miss than hit) sketch show on BBC2 last year. Or you may remember him more fondly from Look Around You, that wonderful parody of 1970s educational programmes which are still boring schoolchildren today. He can also be seen in Spaced, Shaun of the Dead, and indeed most decent British comedy series of recent times. He’s a veritable Kevin Eldon, so’s he is.

Anyway, this is one of those irritating “50 Impressions in 2 Minutes” deals, with the delightful twist that all of his impressions are of imaginary celebrities. Non-existent catchphrases include “this isn’t goodbye; it’s greatbye” and “I’m gonna commit you-icide!” Admittedly some of it is decidedly puerile but Serafinowicz’s brand of parallel universe comedy, where his bizarre imaginings are passed off as common knowledge, never fails to amuse me. Well, I suppose a lot of it did fail to amuse me in his sketch show, but we’ll just forget about that and remember Look Around You.

Thanks, Peter. Theter.

TV of the Day: Only Connect

Posted in Of the Day, Television with tags , , , , , , , on 14 October, 2008 by Ally

Heartbreaker of the day: Victoria Coren

BBC4’s latest highbrow (read: impossible) game show is Only Connect, broadcast on Monday evenings and hosted by the… by Victoria Coren. I was going to precede her name with an adjective of some sort, but I feared picking an appropriate one would leave me paddling doe-eyed into the choppy seas of admiration and, let’s face it, nerdy schoolboy lust. So, just “Victoria Coren” it is. I’m not happy about it, but I’ll have to go along with it. Ich nichten lichten

Anyway, the theme of Only Connect is lateral thinking. Although mostly it’s so dumbfoundingly difficult it leaves me literal-blinking. The first round is (deceptively) simple enough. Two teams take turns to find the link between four seemingly disparate clues – be they words, numbers, phrases or pictures. These clues are often rather reminiscent of the kind of cryptic crossword that makes you swear never to buy that fucking newspaper ever again!! And to make matters worse, they are only given the first clue automatically. The following ones are then revealed at the team’s request, and the fewer clues they use to guess the connection, the more points they receive. For example; bowl / cistern / brook / beagle. They all end with the names of birds, see? Tricksy ain’t it…

The second round involves identifying the fourth item in a sequence, the points again decreasing as the teams request more clues. For example; shoe / horse / rider… (Even I got this one, amazingly enough. It was “battle”. For want of a nail the shoe was lost and so forth.) Then there’s THE WALL, in which the teams arrange a grid of sixteen items into their respective groups of four. Points are awarded for arranging the groups correctly and identifying the connections. The frustrating thing about it is that certain items could fit into multiple categories: Does Marlowe mean Kit or Philip, so does it go with the playwrights or the fictional detectives? Is pound a measurement, a coin or a cake? Will our heroes escape unharmed in time for next week’s adventure? Is there a God? (Probably not.)

I love Only Connect, as it’s one of the few quizzes that doesn’t have me screaming answers at the television. I am often genuinely impressed by the contestants’ feats of lateral thinking. And if I ever do find a connection from my own tiny mind, I can enjoy that overwhelming sense of smugness that comes with being proven right. And the whole thing is hosted with great wit and charm by the endlessly attractive, intelligent and altogether wonderful… Stop. It’s all hosted by Victoria Coren who is good.

Photographs of Inanimate Objects

Posted in Nothing Really with tags , , , , , on 12 October, 2008 by Ally

I had a bit of a play with the family camera today, because I was that bored. After using Photoshop to make the pictures look slightly nicer, there were a few that came out pretty well I think. The first is clearly the best, but never mind eh?

The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul

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