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

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

This post sucks

I’ve had a bloodsucking few days, reading Kim Newman’s ace Anno Dracula and watching Kathryn Bigelow’s renowned vampire movie Near Dark.

Here’s the Anno Dracula review, cross-posted from my book blog

This terrifically enjoyable mash-up of vampire tale, the ripper murders and a whole lot more besides sees Count Dracula, having defeated Van Helsing, reigning over the Empire as Prince Consort to Victoria. The undead are increasingly ubiquitous, and turning to the dark side is a route to social success. In a witty touch, we know from the start that, rather than the obvious option of the ripper being a bloodsucker, the murderer is actually a vampire slayer seeking revenge for past wrongs.

Much of the fun stems from the rampant references to both fictional and historical figures who pop up and effect the action. What fun to have Henry Wilcox from Howard’s End rub up alongside Dr Jekyll, Mycroft Holmes, Lenin and Joseph Merrick.

There are sequels. There will be blood.

Near Dark takes the Victorian notion of the vampire and brings it bang up to 1987 – big hair, Tangerine Dream soundtrack, blue lighting and all. It’s a mash-up with the Western genre, essentially, with many a shoot-out, thin-eyed sheriffs and a memorably sick version of a bar-room brawl. 

The trailer gives you a, ahem, taste:

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Missed opportunity

I had mentally written a post a week or so ago but never got around to actually, y'know, typing it out in actual words and now the time has passed.

It was going to document the purchase of some particularly tasty bread, as well as our attendance at a couple of fine shows from Bill Bailey and Rufus Wainwright.

It would have been called Rye And Gigs.

Next time...

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Meme post (kind of)

This is a callback to my friend Diane, a writer, whose blog The Spy and the Storyteller I heartily recommend to anyone interested in creative endeavour. (I'm passing on the Liebster thing because I don't read enough blogs that are really eligible.)

What problem do you dwell on over and over again, large or small?

I’d have thought this was the same for everyone; mortality. It’s a bummer.

Who do you wish you were more like and why?

My greatest shortcomings are laziness, lack of creativity, and a failure to live up to my own moral standards. To be fair to myself, these are not uncommon human traits. So, the person I would most like to imitate would have to be hard-working, creative and morally upright. 

Just because I’m wearing a Born to Run t-shirt today, I’ll go with Springsteen, my first real hero as a teenager.

What’s the best place you’ve ever been to and why?

London, no contest. Even though I only actually lived there for 3 or 4 years after graduation I consider myself a Londoner. I know my way around and I love walking around the place with friends from elsewhere and telling them little bits of local history or myth that I’ve picked up along the way.

I particularly love idiosyncratic spots like the Soane Museum, the doorunderneath a lion statue on Westminster bridge where police officers used to put their feet up and have a cup of tea, and the gravestone for Giro the Nazi Dog. On my next trip there I want to go to the spot in Clerkenwell where you can put your ear to the pavement and hear the “lost” Fleet River passing below you.

What reliably inspires you time and time again?

Pop music. Countless are the times I’ve been in a glum mood when a favourite song pops up on the shuffle and three minutes later I’m singing along with a huge smile on my face.

What’s your favourite book – go with your first gut instinct on this one!

OK, my gut instinct is Tristram Shandy. I suppose it is partly because of its importance, and the fact that it is so playful that it could have been written at almost any time.  It certainly fits every description of post-modern literature that I’ve ever come across.

I love it when a book is both technically interesting and a rip-roaring read. This novel makes no sense at all in narrative terms but keeps you entertained with a mixture of japery, humanity and sheer chutzpah.

There’s also a brilliant gag on page one about the narrator’s conception.

Monday, September 03, 2012

The ten greatest films of all time (according to me, and subject to change on a daily basis)

Having finally gotten around to reading the latest Sight and Sound, including the results of the once-a-decade “Greatest Film” poll, I started thinking about the ten films that I would nominate for such a list.

I generally prevaricate when asked what my favourite film is, because naturally it’s an impossible question. The basic problem is that there are no criteria. Do I go for very serious works of art that I massively admire but rarely view, in which case Bresson, Dreyer and Ozu would be high on the list? Can I justify movies that are regularly plucked from the DVD shelf but are, when you get down to it, a bit shoddy (think Star Wars or The PrincessBride).

The list I have come up with is less high-brow than most critics have gone for, although 3 of my selections also appear in the S&S Top Ten. I've tried to maintain some objectivity but, when in doubt, I've tended towards emotional rather than intellectual impact, with inevitable subjective consequences.

I would also like to record my regret at completely ignoring Westerns, Australia, silent film, the entirety of Asian cinema and Marlene Dietrich. Something had to give.

(The numbers in brackets give the film’s rating in the S&S poll).

In no particular order:

Citizen Kane Welles, 1941 (2)
Technically masterful on every level, so much so that the gripping plot and emotional heft feel like a bonus

Vertigo Hitchcock, 1958 (1)
Endlessly mysterious, it works on some subterranean psychological level that any number of plot absurdities cannot destroy

Young Girls of Rochefort Demy, 1967 (235)
The musical is the purest expression of emotion that cinema can offer, and while the keynote emotion here is joy there is no shying away from the darker sides of life. Also, Gene Kelly.

This Is Spinal Tap Reiner, 1984 (447)
No movie has given me more laughter, which alone justifies inclusion here, but this is also beautifully performed and extremely influential

Aguirre, Wrath of God Herzog, 1972 (90)
Herzog and Kinski stare unblinkingly into the face of madness

Shoah Lanzmann, 1985 (29)
The greatest work of art that I know of about the most devastating event in human history. (Incidentally, a documentary top10 would be far more weighed towards the recent past, with Senna, Man On Wire and Anvil: The Story of Anvil all up for contention)

White Heat Walsh, 1949 (894)
Jimmy Cagney has to get a mention from me, and this is his most extreme, almost primal, performance

The Philadelphia Story Cukor, 1940 (588)
Here representing Hollywood's genius for star-driven charm fuelled by sheer charisma, and allowing me to include three of the greats (Hepburn, Grant, Stewart) with one pick

La Ronde Ophuls, 1950 (894)
A little bit shaky this one, based as it is on a single viewing a number of years ago, but Ophuls' camerawork is sublime and the great Anton Walbrook was never better

A Matter of Life and Death Powell & Pressburger, 1946 (90)
My only British pick (for shame!), this features my favourite opening scene of all time which just about pushes it ahead of The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp