It's a completely cool, multi-purpose blog.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Gangster wrap

As with most movie fans of my age, male ones at least, my first cinematic loves were probably the Star Wars movies, followed at a later age by a lot of 1970s stuff by Coppola, Scorsese et al.

The first person to really pull me into the age of black-and-white, classic Hollywood where I've been residing ever since, though, was Jimmy Cagney. I remember watching White Heat on telly with my Dad, and it was an exhilarating experience. The rat-a-tat dialogue, the amoral brutality and that iconic "Top of the world, ma!" climax have stayed with me ever since.

On Sunday I went to a day-long "study day" all about Cagney, but it was less study and more of an indulgence from where I was sitting. 10 whole hours of it, from 9.30 to 7.30, taking in 4 movies. I'd seen 3 before (The Public Enemy, Yankee Doodle Dandy and One, Two, Three) and one was new to me (the terrific The Strawberry Blonde), and I enjoyed every moment.

Apparently it was a beautiful day in Sydney.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Red Dead Redemption, Scott Pilgrim and the future of narrative cinema

There’s been a lot of media chatter in recent years about the challenge that computer games offer to traditional forms of narrative, in particular movies. The consensus view is that kids raised on open-ended games in which they are active participants will not be so interested in the more passive form, in which they are simply viewers.

I’ve recently had a couple of experiences that got me thinking about this.

The first is my current obsession with Red Dead Redemption on the PS3. It’s my first real console game experience and I love it: immersive, addictive and huge fun. I’ve been surprised, though, at the linear storyline.

It’s a gritty Western in the Sergio Leone tradition. By all means you can steal horses, shoot lawmen and generally cause mayhem, but when it comes to the material that actually moves the plot along you are obligedto act in a reasonably ethical and occasionally self-sacrificing way. In game terms this is fine, it’s the most enjoyable thing to do, but I couldn’t help but feel that the outcome had been pretty well pre-determined.

So much for open-endedness.

The second experience was watching Scott Pilgrim vs The World, a highly entertaining movie based on a comic book but aesthetically inspired by classic arcade games. There was a lot enjoy, in fact I laughed a lot, but the film’s failings stemmed entirely from its adherence to gaming concepts; repetitive fights on a gradually increasing scale that soon become a bit boring, and the relegation of the female lead to something approaching a trophy awarded for completing the quest.

In short:

Games following movie conventions; good.
Movies following gaming conventions; problematic.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


This is the 500th post on this blog, which I started back in June 2004 as a way of keeping in touch with friends in the UK, Australia and elsewhere. I'm glad I've maintained it since, partly because people still look at it now and again and partly because it serves as a diary of sorts for my own amusement.

I have definitely begun posting less often, largely because its original purpose has been largely superseded by Facebook. I intend to keep it alive, though, both as a link to non-FBers and as a space for more lengthy/discursive content.

By coincidence, today also sees the 500th post on Wrapped Up In Books, my book blog.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

The Worst Book I Have (n)Ever Read; An Anti-Review

In the past I have tried to make a point of completing any book that I have started. Dan Brown, Stieg Larsson, Jack Kerouac – I have suffered them all at length in honour of this ideal. I even waded through Samuel Richardson’s 1600 page borefest Clarissa, despite the fact that the blurb on the back gave away the ending.

I have now discovered my breaking point and it is the the reprehensible, the lamentable, the despicable:

Lennon: The Definitive Biography by Ray Coleman (1995 ed) aka The Worst Book I Have (n)Ever Read.

The 1995 is relevant here, because I didn’t get past page 70 of the preface to the new edition. I’ll say that again; page 70 of the preface to the new edition.

The scale of the task ahead of me in articulating the nature of this monstrosity is beyond my modest writing ability, so I will revert to bullet points.

• A complete absence of structure, rambling aimlessly from topic to topic to no evident purpose, combined with individual paragraphs so garbled as to denude the text of any meaning whatsoever.

• The apparently random insertion of adverbs such as ironically or tortuously, without any understanding of what the meaning of such a word may be. Page 66 boasts a typical example: “he had always been ‘bitterly ashamed’ of his Twist and Shout vocal – coincidentally, this writer’s favourite Lennon rock’n’roll track”. In what way is that coincidental, exactly?

• Treating the reader like an idiot, as in the phrase “the drug LSD”. Dude, I’m reading a John Lennon biography, I am likely to know what LSD is without your help.

• A complete musical/cultural tin ear, including a complete dismissal of Paul McCartney’s talents. At one point he describes a charity concert including “rock stars of the calibre of Eric Clapton and Phil Collins” and the “Russian singer-songwriter Mikhail Baryshnikov”. Really? REALLY?

By this point I was physically hurling the book away with such force that I was endangering our home fittings/children. The ever-wise M calmly placed her hand on my shoulder made the radical suggestion that I really should just…stop reading the dreadful thing.

And you know what? She was right.

Monday, September 06, 2010


Yesterday was Father's Day in Australia, which is a blatant Hallmark holiday but I got to stay in bed until 11 so I won't quibble. Even better, I got to eat this in bed:

The afternoon was spent with Clan Player celebrating various paternal relationships and playing on a tractor:

Bring on more American-import, faux traditional, commercially inspired events, say I!