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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Flying solo

I’m off to the UK tomorrow, but with M&Bs in the States already I’ll be doing the journey alone. In recent years I have become accustomed to travelling with the kids and all of the paraphernalia that implies, originally nappies and milk bottles and later lollies and activity pads. It’ll be strange to be going with just a big fat Trollope for company.

Two things meme

Another meme post (via Con)

Two names you go by:
1) Tom
2) Wee Tam

Two things you are wearing right now:
1) Brown jeans
2) A weary expression

Two things you would want (or have) in a relationship:
1) She makes me laugh
2) We look after each other

Two things you like to do:
1) Scuba diving
2) Learning new stuff

Two things you want very badly at the moment:
1) Some sleep
2) Some more sleep

Two things you did last night:
1) Accidentally lassoed a sheriff when attempting to capture an outlaw, and consequently had a bounty put out on me
2) Laughed at Raymond Domenech

Two things you ate today:
1) Pumpkin and feta Turkish
2) Apple and walnut bread

Two people you last talked to:
1) Moko
2) Cassie

Two things you’re doing tomorrow:
1) Watching England and Australia both limp out of the World Cup
2) Catching a flight to the UK

Two Favorite Holidays
1) Any time in London
2) NYC

Two favourite beverages:
1) Beer
2) Diet Coke

Two things about me you may not have known:
1) My hand is visible in the video to Bruce Springsteen’s “Spare Parts
2) I know all the words to Joseph and His Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. With my friend Blutakgirl, I once attempted a mash-up of Joseph and Hamlet called “Bodkin!”.

Two jobs I have had in my life:
1) Selling table linen at Selfridges
2) Cold call telephone surveys. Worst job ever.

Two movies I would watch over and over:
1) Vertigo
2) This Is Spinal Tap

Two places I have lived:
1) Forest Gate
2) Manor Park

Two of my favourite foods:
1) A good Indian curry, chicken dhansak maybe?
2) London broil

Two places I’d rather be right now:
1) Salt Lake City
2) BFI Southbank

Monday, June 21, 2010

What I Do When Nobody Is Watching

M&Bs have started their Big Trip 2010 already, having spent 4 days in San Francisco and then gone on to visit Sara and family in Salt Lake City. M called me this morning and it sounds like they're having a smashing time.

Of course, I have had to keep myself occupied for five days, which is a bit of a challenge for me. I had a reasonably extensive to-do list(e.g. "clean the bathrooms"), but so far that has taken second place to more important things like "watch too much football" and "play Red Dead Redemption". I am comically bad at the latter, showing my age I guess, and my cowboy has a tendency to accidentally shoot sheriffs or ride his horse off a cliff. Really cool game though.

DVDs have had their place too, including the devastating weepie Make Way For Tomorrow and the 5h15m 1900, which features the unforgettable sight of Donald Sutherland headbutting a kitten to death (no, really). There is alo some sexual shenanigans featuring Robert De Niro and Gerald Depardieu that I won't detail here, but the Goofs section of the film's imdb page will give you some idea...

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Sydney Film Festival 2010 round-up

I got to 8 movies this year, my choices determined by a combination of what I knew about the films/film-makers and prosaic scheduling considerations. Here are a few thoughts on the films I saw.

White Material (Claire Denis)

Sight and Sound claimed last year that Denis is currently the best director in the world, so it wasn’t surprising how powerful this was. The always interesting Isabelle Huppert plays a coffee farmer doggedly staying at her plantation in Africa despite increasing social breakdown that soon encroaches on the family itself. Excellent stuff, though I was baffled by the denouement.

Lourdes (Jessica Hausner)

Pilgrims visiting Lourdes in the vain hope of receiving a miraculous cure from debilitating illness doesn’t sound like a natural subject for comedy, but this deadpan satire pulls it off. The horrible corporatisation of religion is demonstrated without it distracting from the desperate, doomed hopefulness of the characters. The cast is very good, in particular lead actress Sylvie Testud who has one of those wonderful cinematic faces.

Life During Wartime (Todd Solondz)

I missed the end of this due to an over-run, which should really disqualify me from commenting. From what I saw, though, it was far inferior to Happiness, to which it is a kind of sequel.

Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll (Mat Whitecross)

This biopic of Ian Dury was overly derivative of the masterpiece 24 Hour Party People, but rescued by outstanding performances from Olivia Williams, Naomie Harris, Bill Milner, and an ebullient Andy Serkis as the great man himself. Afterwards, we all wanted to know more about Chaz Jankel who seemingly brought all of the musicianship to the Blockheads but had to put up with a horrendous amount of bullshit to do so.

Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Inferno (Serge Bromberg & Ruxandra Medrea)

A delight for film nerds, this documentary details the disastrous, aborted production of a movie that just may have become a masterpiece. Certainly the unearthed footage of star Romy Schneider playing around while the technicians experimented with various lighting effects is startling. Sadly an excess of money sent the project spiralling towards destruction, but I couldn’t suppress a snicker when we learned that the moment that finally induced a heart attack in Clouzot was when he was filming a Sapphic clinch between his two leading ladies.

The Killer Inside Me (Michael Winterbottom)

The kerfuffle about its allegedly misogynist violence rather coloured my expectations of this noir, and even though the killing of Jessica Alba’s character in particular is really gut-wrenching I felt it was justified, unlike in a lot of exploitation movies and so on that don’t get the media so excited. There is a lot to admire here, including Casey Affleck’s fine central performance and the use of music, but as the subjective description of events becomes increasing detached from “reality” the film loses its way.

I Am Love (Luca Guadagnino)

Swoon! I loooved this, a slow burning, sensual treat that reminded me a lot of In The Mood For Love. It’s one of those films in which you can taste the food, smell the fields and touch the skin; I found it really intoxicating. There’s also lots of fun for cinephiles spotting the references to classics by Visconti, Hitchcock and others.

Wasted On The Young (Ben C Lucas)

This was a strange experience because I’m acquainted with the director, so as I was being impressed I also had a little meta-narrative in my head consisting primarily of phrases like “Holy shit, I can’t believe Ben made this!” Anyway, I posted a full review on imdb for your pleasure (short version; very impressive).

Having written all that I realise what a great festival it was. Barely a dud movie amongst them, and a few real treats.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

TV meme

(Some of the Australian library bloggers that I follow are throwing a few memes around at the moment, so if you don't enjoy such self-indulgence please forgive me. I'm not sure where this one originated, apologies)

Do you snack while watching TV?

Whyever wouldn't you?

What is your favourite TV show?

Impossible to say. It's horribly obvious, but The Wire is rather special isn't it?

What TV show makes you run to change channels?

A Current Affair is everything that I despise about everything I despise

How do you view your TV guide: online, on-screen, newspaper, magazine, other?

Online ususally

Have you ever been surveyed for your TV-viewing habits or do you know anyone who has been?


Do you watch TV news and/or current affairs regularly?

Not regularly, no. I have a radio in the car and I read the papers online so it would be superfluous.

Do you watch any TV “soaps”? (Truth please, even if it is embarrassing.)

Heavens no.

What other series shows do you try not to miss?

I "miss" everything (except sport) and come back to it later. It seems strange to lock oneself into watching a certain channel at a certain time each week. That's what DVD box sets are for

Any previous series or shows you really liked?

Loads, here's a sample. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy; A Very Peculiar Practice; I Claudius; The Larry Sanders Show; The Prisoner; The Sopranos

Do you have pay TV or are the digital channels enough?

Much as I dislike handing my money over to Mr Murdoch, my scruples are as nothing to my need to watch Arsenal at strange times of night.

Do you only watch certain TV shows online?

ABC stuff including Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, QI, At The Movies and Mediawatch

Do you regularly use services like ABC catch-up or other online replays?

I refer the honourable gentleman to the answer I gave some moments ago.

Do you ever pay any attention to the adverts?

Not consciously, but they know what they're doing these people.

Do you multi-task while watching TV & if so what else are you doing?

Yep, especially if it's something in which the audio is paramount. None of your business what I get up to though.

Is there a TV show that makes you laugh out loud?

The Wire and The Sopranos are funnier than any comdies I've seen recently.

Have you ever said no to a social invitation to stay at home and watch TV? (Truth again please.) Mind telling us what the show was?

Not that I can recall.

Do you record TV shows & if so why and how (VCR, DVD recorder, TIVO, laptop, etc.)?

No need.

Least favourite TV personality/actor/character?

Off the top of my head...let's say Glenn Beck.

Most popular TV personalities/actors/character?

Alec Guiness doing George Smiley is hard to beat. For entirely different reasons, I'll also mention Christina Hendricks in Mad Men.

Have you ever seen anything really memorable on TV (not news/events - made for TV drama, etc.)?

A sex scene featuring Janine and (I think) Richie was kinda unforgettable...

Do you prefer TV series or stand-alone shows?


Is there a specific show you find yourself recommending over and over?

All of the above.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Book meme

Book meme (thanks to Con).

Do you snack while reading?

I am reading pretty well all the time, so I would probably suffer from malnutrition if I didn't.

What is your favourite drink while reading?

Beer is my favourite drink under any circumstances.

Do you tend to mark your books while you read, or does the idea of writing in books horrify you?

Never, and I hate reading annotated books from the library. The notes are invariably irritating.

How do you keep your place? Bookmark? Dog-ears? Laying the book open flat?

Bookmarks. I try to pick them up wherever I go, but somehow always end up using postcards, shop receipts, old to-do lists etc.

Fiction, non-fiction or both?

Fiction mainly, I would guess to a ratio of about 6:1. It tends to be better written.

Do you tend to read to the end of a chapter or can you stop anywhere?

Anywhere, I actually stopped mid-word the other day (there was a page break and I was rushing to get off a train).

Are you the type of person to throw a book across the room or on the floor if the author irritates you?

I only remeber doing this with The Da Vinci Code. I got through the execrable The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo without doing so, somehow.

If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop and look it up right away?

If I can. Latest example was "chid", which turns out to be simply the past tense of chide.

What are you currently reading?

Hitch 22 by Christopher Hitchens and Chocky by John Wyndham.

What is the last book you bought?

Solar by Ian McEwan.

Do you have a favourite time/place to read?

I actually really like reading in the pub. I think I picked this up because I am always the first member of a group to arrive, usually a little early, so I can grab a pint, pull the paperback out of my back pocket and settle in.

Do you prefer series books or stand-alones?

Usually stand-alones, but that's only because I tend towards literary fiction rather than genre stuff. Having said that, Anthony Powell's ten-volume A Dance To The Music Of Time was one of my greatest reading experiences.

Is there a specific book or author you find yourself recommending over and over?

This is hard, because my favourite books are often very wordy and very specifically English. I used to buy Iain Pears' An Instance of the Fingerpost for all and sundry, these days I might go with something by David Lodge or Evelyn Waugh.

How do you organize your books (by genre, title, author’s last name, etc.)?

To my professional shame, I don't really have a system. I have 2 dedicated "to read" shelves, everything else is grouped either by spine colour or by non-ficiton theme. That is to say, on one shelf I may have all of my orange-spined Penguins and on the adjacent one all of my movie books.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Big Trip 2010

If it’s June, it must be time to start getting excited about the next Big Trip to the mother country. This year it’s going to be quite different for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, M&Bs are leaving Sydney 8 days earlier than me and taking in a little bonus trip to the USA, specifically San Francisco and Salt Lake City. The latter is to visit her old school friend Sara (after whom B1 is middle-named), the former having no function other than to annoy me on the grounds that it will be M’s third trip to that fine city while I’ve still never been. Grump.

Secondly, my Dad is moving to a home in Bristol this coming Thursday. This is tough stuff, obviously, but looking after him at his home has become too great a burden for the heroic combination of social services and my mum (who, after all, divorced him 20 years ago). The upshot of this in terms of Big Trip is that I’ll be spending more time in Brizzle and less in London/Brentwood. Still, I hope to see as many people as possible while we are around town. Get in touch if you want to book us up.

In the meantime, wish me luck for the 8 days on my lonesome. If only there was some kind of sporting event coming up that could serve as distraction.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

A pictorial history of the last week or two

A thoroughly pleasurable and variegated few days.

The Powerhouse Museum was ace, and the kids really enjoyed it:

M became a comedy hairdresser:

M & B2 looked angelic:

Until B2 became Satan:

Next up, the Sydney Film Festival.