Thursday, March 20, 2014


Yesterday, in the wake of the latest Budget announcements, Conservative Party Chairman Grant Shapps posted the following on Twitter:
There are lots of things I could say about that, but I know that you are already thinking the same thing, so I’ll skip over it to get to this next bit - an excerpt from George Orwell’s 1984. Emphasis in the following extract is mine. (And a h/t to Tom Muller for pointing me towards this):

“So long as they continued to work and breed, their other activities were without importance. Left to themselves, like cattle turned loose upon the plains of Argentina, they had reverted to a style of life that appeared to be natural to them, a sort of ancestral pattern. They were born, they grew up in the gutters, they went to work at twelve, they passed through a brief blossoming-period of beauty and sexual desire, they married at twenty, they were middle-aged at thirty, they died, for the most part, at sixty. Heavy physical work, the care of home and children, petty quarrels with neighbours, films, football, beer, and above all, gambling, filled up the horizon of their minds. To keep them in control was not difficult.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Michael Bay's The Birds

It was announced today that Michael Bay, frame-fucker extraordinaire, will be producing a remake of Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds.

I'll let that sink in for a minute.

Regular visitors to the blog will be familiar with my antipathy towards Mr. Bay's oeuvre. This afternoon, I just couldn't help myself. Which is why I went on a crazed tweet spree imagining Michael Bay as the auteur steering this remake. I have Storified those tweets for posterity. Nothing You Have Ever Witnessed Before Has Prepared You for Such Sheer Stabbing Shock!

...And remember, the next scream you hear could be your own!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Heart of the City

This morning, as I made my way across London, my mind wandered (as it is wont to do at this time of year) to thoughts on Valentine’s Day. And I was thinking about how deeply strange it is that we associate this day with romance. There are many stories about Saint Valentine that differ in a variety of ways, all of which may well be apocryphal, but they do all have a number of common strands. Bishop Valentine lived in Third Century Rome, and on February 14th (of an indeterminate year) he was incarcerated, tortured and finally beheaded. And we commemorate this with chocolate and flowers and gushy, hollow sentiments.

So when someone says “Be My Valentine”, they are essentially saying “I want to decapitate you”. We are a population of surreptitious skull-fuckers…

Whilst all of this was rattling around my head, I was battling the reliably unreliable London Underground and, for reasons far too dull to enumerate here, my journey forced me to be disgorged from the Tube at Charing Cross. As I brought myself back to street level, I found myself in Trafalgar Square, and I stopped in a little bit of breathless awe. I looked across at the entrance to the National Gallery, and I looked up at the granite slope of Nelson’s Column. I was surrounded on all sides by the four bronze lions, their surfaces slick and shiny with rain.

Amongst all the concrete and grey, over on the fourth plinth I could see Katharina Fritsch's Hahn/Cock, a splash of bright blue popping on a grey landscape. I turned my face to the sky to feel the light bite of the drizzle falling from the flat slate grey sky and I just thought that it was All So Damn Beautiful. All of it.

I've lived in London from the day that I was born, in University College Hospital. Can’t get much closer to the heart of the capital than that. That’s over four decades moving around and over and across and beneath this city. And I find it endlessly surprising and infuriating and delightful. It still shows me new sides of itself. It still finds way to please and stimulate me, even when I’m not in the mood. And I thought...Now, that is love.

Happy Valentine’s Day everybody.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Philip Seymour Hoffman 1967 - 2014

"I know this sounds silly and I know that I might sound ridiculous. Like this is the scene in the movie where the guy’s trying to get ahold of the long lost son, you know, but this is that scene. This is that scene. And I think they have those scenes in movies because they’re true, you know, because they really happen. And you gotta believe me. This is really happening. I mean, I can give you my number and you can go check with whoever you gotta check with and call me back, but  do not leave me hanging on this. All right? Please. Please. See, this is the scene in the movie where you help me out." -- Philip Seymour Hoffman as Phil Parma in Magnolia

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Full Clip #5

Struggling to focus on any one thing for any prolonged period of time this week. I keep flitting from task to task, which means I’ve just got a heap of half-finished bits and pieces in front of me. In an attempt to corral my skittish tendencies by forcing myself to actually finish One Damn Thing today, I’m putting on my crown as The King of Displacement Activity to bang out a blogpost, as I herald the entirely-unplanned return of The Full Clip, a collection of things I've tripped across on the internet when I really should be doing something else. Here we go...

At Buzzfeed (I know, shut up), Mark Slutsky talks about his blog Sad YouTube, which curates and preserves the stray shards of heartfelt and personal anecdotes buried in the slurry of comments under YouTube videos. We’re so used to the tedious accepted narrative that Reader Comments Are Sick And Wrong, and that’s demonstrably untrue. Sure, comment sections are the global water colour for loons of every stripe but, honestly, we’re all adults here. It’s easy enough to skate past the lunatic ramblings to actually dig deep for the good stuff. In Slutsky’s words: “It’s a repository of memories, stories, and dreams, an accidental oral history of American life over the last 50 years written by the site’s millions of visitors every day.” Read the rest in his article Sad YouTube: The Lost Treasures Of The Internet’s Greatest Cesspool.

Over at her blog, Sarah Werner eloquently skewers the likes of @HistoryInPics and similar twitter streams that churn out “vintage” photos, frequently with little or no context, attribution, citation or accuracy. “These accounts capitalize on a notion that history is nothing more than superficial glimpses of some vaguely defined time before ours, one that exists for us to look at and exclaim over and move on from without worrying about what it means and whether it happened.” It really is worth clicking through to read the rest of it: It’s History, Not A Viral Feed.

It only came to my attention the other day that jazz guitarist Ronny Jordan had recently died. I remember seeing him play a terrific set at Ronnie Scott’s back in the day, and fans of The West Wing undoubtedly cherish the scene where C.J. Cregg performed The Jackal. Of all his songs, that’s the one I return to the most often. Here’s an obituary at The Guardian and here, one more time, is The Jackal:

On a lighter note, check this out. In the 2015 of Back to the Future Part II, Marty McFly is briefly menaced by a lurching hologram that attacks him as part of an advertisement for Jaws 19, directed by Max Spielberg. In 2014, we still haven’t got any further than Jaws: The Revenge (the fourth film in the series and the one that killed the franchise stone dead). So we’re still fifteen Jaws sequels away from the world glimpsed in the Hill Valley of 2015. But, history can still change...A fan has issued a call-to-arms to cobble together another fifteen Jaws sequels before October 21st 2015. Read more about this glorious folly here, and good luck to him: The Jaws 19 Challenge.

One last thing: Peter Capaldi is The Doctor. David Tennant riffed on Peter Davison. Matt Smith travelled through time and space in the wake of Patrick Troughton. And Capaldi? I think we all know Who he likes the best…

Reverse the polarity! Here's hoping he can bust out some Venusian Aikido too.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

They Call Him The Bandit

There’s no getting away from it. The New Year has begun, and I find that sometimes it helps to clarify my approach to the next twelve months with some sort of Statement of Intent. This year, I will be hewing closely to the words of the prophet Jerry Reed:
Yes, for 2014, I will be adopting the Bandit as my spirit animal. I've got a long way to go and a short time to get there. Just watch ol’ AKA run.

Keep your foot hard on the peddle...Son, never mind them brakes...

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Listomania! My Favourite Films of 2013

I really wasn't intending to write another blog post this year. And I certainly wasn't planning on doing a "Best of the Year" list. But in my idle moments, my mind shuffled a list together without my explicit permission. Damn brains. They never do what they're told.

To exorcise this list from my unruly grey matter, I'm putting it here. For a more sprawling / detailed / shambolic look at My Movie Year in 2013, I refer you to this earlier blogpost.

In some sort of vague order, here's my Films of the Year list, and in at Number One with a silver bullet is:

The Lone Ranger (Gore Verbinski)

Comfortably sitting in second place is:
Spring Breakers (Harmony Korine)

The rest of the top five are rounded out by, in no particular order:

Du zhan (Drug War) (Johnnie To)
No (Pablo Larraín)
La grande bellezza (The Great Beauty) (Paolo Sorrentino)

Bubbling under, pop pickers, the final five are:

La vie d'Adèle (Blue is the Warmest Colour) (Abdellatif Kechiche)
Wreck-It Ralph (Rich Moore)
Django Unchained (Quentin Tarantino)
The Kings of Summer (Jordan Vogt-Roberts)
The Paperboy (Lee Daniels)

And now I really am going to get lost for the last few dying days of 2013. See you next year.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Punching Out

That's it! I am now officially off-the-clock for the rest of 2013, so I'm winding things up here on the blog for the year.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all my friends and readers. See you on the other side.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

My Movie Year 2013

I promise you, right now, that every single thing in this blogpost will appear on this one single, solitary page. You won’t have to click “Next” to go to another page for an infinitesimally small portion of more “content”. Only bastards with contempt for their readers would do that.

(“Integrity with a growl”. I should put that on some business cards.)

(There will be occasional, optional referrals to other pages of Cool Older Shit and I make no apologies for those.)

(Also: Nothing that appears on this blog is “content”. Ever.)

Not doing a list this year. I did think about it. But, honestly, shuffling films into some sort of “this is better than that” hierarchy is a massive, meaningless, time-consuming and ultimately fruitless endeavour / ballache. So, I’m just going to rap a while about the things that I dug in 2013 in no particular order. Although there were five films that towered above all others for me this year. So I’ll start here, with:

Pablo Larraín’s No - A two-pronged celebration of both the outcome of Pinochet's 1988 plebiscite in Chile and the grungy lo-fi joys of U-matic videotape. Just glorious.

Spring Breakers - I've rhapsodised about Harmony Korine's day-glo feverdream at great length already here.

Drug War - I love everything that Johnnie To does, so you won’t find me wheeling out hackneyed phrases like “return to form” here. An exhilarating police procedural that is as hugely entertaining as it is, ultimately, bleak. Imagine To's PTU shot through with the sensibility of David Simon's The Wire.

The Lone Ranger - Another film that I've already written about at passionate length here.

Paulo Sorrentino trained his camera on The Great Beauty of Rome and the expressive crevasses of Toni Servillo’s swaggering, insouciant, hangdog face in this magnificent film that plays like Antonioni’s La Notte spiked with a hypodermic of Lynchian dissonance.

Those were the five standouts, but there were some other moments that have continued to percolate insistently in the last year:

Both Warm Bodies and Oblivion reassured me that, regardless of your apocalyptic flavour of choice, when the end of the world comes, we’ll all go back to listening to vinyl.

The most sensual moment of Blue is the Warmest Colour is fully-clothed - bolognese sauce smeared clumsily across Adèle’s lips as she devours a family meal. A manipulative, exhausting, intimate, intense and enthralling film where nothing feels like a performance - it feels more like eavesdropping or voyeurism. Adèle Exarchopoulos's open, raw vulnerability in particular is extraordinary.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Nicolas Winding Refn is essentially a gifted trickster plagiarist. With Only God Forgives, Refn raids his DVD collection and appropriates his favourite cinematic surfaces (Chris Doyle & Wong Kar Wai; Noé; Cronenberg; Park Chan-wook; Lynch; Argento; Carpenter) but forgoes substance. It isn't a bad film - it's just very irritating and ultimately it isn't about anything. It's all just a pose. Refn is having a WongKarWank. However, the moment where Kristin Scott Thomas casually tosses off the insult “How many cocks can you entertain with that cute little cum-dumpster of yours?” will stay with me for some time...

I was one of the few people happy to see Walter Hill back on the big screen with Bullet to the Head, even if it is just a minor footnote to an amazing body of work. Turns out they do make 'em like they used to. Racial tension, bar brawls and gun fights, all shot through with Hill’s preoccupation with tenacious, brutally-efficient men. “Kinda fun, isn't it? Just you and me, two professionals, only one gets away.” Bullet to the Head makes for a solid triptych with 48 Hrs. and Red Heat. Welcome back, Walter. Don't stay away so long next time, OK?

Quentin Tarantino returned for another rip-roaring rampage of revenge with Django Unchained, a film peppered with memorable moments in the tradition of Howard Hawks ("A good movie is three good scenes and no bad scenes."). From the sight of Dr. King Schultz’s wobbly tooth wagon riding into town, to the immensely satisfying moment when Django utters the endlessly quotable “I like the way you die, boy”, to the scene where Leonardo DiCaprio’s Calvin Candie slams his hand down on the table against a crystal glass, gashing it open. Unplanned, unscripted and entirely unintentional, no-one breaks character as the blood begins to pour.

Other notables that gave me great pleasure this year include the realisation of all my 8-bit dreams writ large in Wreck-it-Ralph and the woefully-underseen and entirely magnificent The Kings of Summer. And the only real fault I can find with Pacific Rim is that terrible, unrepresentative title, which only evokes watery anilingus.

Two films that I seem unable to separate in my memory are Stoker and The Paperboy, straddling both sides of American Gothic a little bit like Nicole Kidman straddling Zac Efron to see if that hoary old chestnut about pissing on a jellyfish sting is true. Stoker comes at things from the chilly, clinical razor-sharp outsider’s perspective of Park Chan-wook, whereas The Paperboy roots around in the dirt in all its sweaty, lustful, grimy squalor. (And I heartily recommend taking a look at Park’s process in staging the spider scene in Stoker via his storyboards here).

A look back at the year would be lacking somewhat without two squat yellow dildo-shaped things giggling uncontrollably over the word "bottom". Over to you, Despicable Me 2:

My highpoints in the head-cracking, explodo stakes included Nick Frost busting out the bar-stools at The World’s End, the President of the United States accidentally dropping a rocket-launcher in the middle of a car chase on the White House lawn in White House Down, and the sight of Mjölnir navigating the curves and corners of London searching for its master in Thor The Dark World.

Ron Howard’s Rush was a blast and is a fine companion piece to Asif Kapadia’s Senna. The real star of Rush is the sound design. Second billing goes to Anthony Dod Mantle's cinematography. In third place, Daniel Brühl. And whoever decided not to have Russell Crowe cameo as Richard Burton (as rumoured) deserves an Executive Producer credit.

It was a fine year for the London Film Festival too. Keep a look out in 2014 for the documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune, in which Jodo recruits a crew of spiritual warriors (including Moebius, HR Giger and Chris Foss) to dream a film that reverberated through the future of science-fiction cinema for almost forty years and counting. And it never even got made. Heartening, beautiful, funny and even occasionally awe-inspiring.

Another LFF treat was Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani’s The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears, a gorgeous, gloriously opaque giallo (or should that be "jaune"?) that was enhanced by the fact that the house curtains accidentally closed five minutes before the end, resulting in the projection of the denouement directly onto the curtains, adding an additional layer of woozy unreality. My initial impression (and this is a film that requires far more than just one viewing): Berberian Studio Apartment.

Loath as I am to talk trash about stuff I didn't like, sometimes I've just got to be that guy. The Most Heinous Piece of Shit award goes to V/H/S, which I've already griped about enough for one lifetime. To revisit that particular tirade, click here.

Runner-Up: Frances Ha. I know a lot of people like this sort of thing, but I’ll never, ever get it. Because I just don’t see the appeal of wallowing in the grumbles and gripes of self-entitled middle-class white people. (You know, every time I hear the theme tune from Friends, I want to stick my fist through a TV screen.) Frances Ha is a Greta Gerwig film where, for a change, Greta Gerwig plays the least irritating character. This isn't an endorsement. I just don't get the whole Greta Gerwig thing at all. She just seems to be Zooey Deschanel 2.0.

I didn’t like Man of Steel much at all. A Superman film can be a lot of things, but I don't think "joyless" and "humourless" should be two of them. Smeared with a grim, bleached-out colour palette, and spectacle that indicates that the visual effects of 1978 are superior to those of 2013, it's jarring to watch a film that clearly cost a lot of money, yet makes an effort to look so grubby and cheap. That effect that looks like a camera pulling focus on CG objects that aren't there? I don't like it. The saddest thing about Man of Steel for me is that it seems embarrassed and apologetic about being a superhero movie. Embrace the hyper-reality & absurdity! Yet, having said all of that, there is one moment that I just can’t shake: Jonathan Kent (Kevin Costner) taking one last proud, wistful look back at his son Clark before disappearing into the eye of the storm. But I think that probably says more about me than about the film. Have at thee, Jungians!

And that’s a wrap.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Birthday of the Doctor

A foggy night in London, fifty years ago today. A policeman on his evening patrol passes by a building with a sign outside that reads: "I.M. Foreman, Scrap Merchant, 76 Totter's Lane". Inside, all manner of rubbish is strewn across the floor. And in the corner, there's a blue police telephone box. At least, it's something that looks like a police telephone box.

Let the Adventures in Space and Time commence! Today, the single most important piece of serial fiction in my life is fifty year's old. Happy Birthday, Doctor. You don't look a day over 906.

Splendid chaps. All of them.

"I Tolerate This Century, But I Don't Enjoy It"

"There are some corners of the universe which have bred the most terrible things. Things which act against everything we believe in. They must be fought."

"Courage isn't just a matter of not being frightened, you know. It's being afraid and doing what you have to do anyway."

"Well, of course I'm being childish! There's no point being grown-up if you can't be childish sometimes."

"There's always something to look at if you open your eyes!"

"Rest is for the weary, sleep is for the dead. I feel like a hungry man eager for the feast!"

"There are worlds out there where the sky is burning, and the sea's asleep, and the rivers dream; people made of smoke and cities made of song. Somewhere there's danger, somewhere there's injustice, and somewhere else the tea's getting cold. Come on, Ace. We've got work to do."

"I love humans. Always seeing patterns in things that aren't there."

"Nine hundred years of time and space, and I've never been slapped by someone's mother."

"I'm the Doctor. I'm a Time Lord. I'm from the planet Gallifrey in the constellation of Kasterborous. I'm 903 years old, and I'm the man who's gonna save your lives and all six billion people on the planet below. You got a problem with that?"

"Amy Pond, there's something you better understand about me 'cause it's important and one day your life may depend on it...I am definitely a mad man with a box."

"I've seen whole armies turn and run away. And he'd just swagger off, back to his TARDIS. And open the doors with a snap of his fingers. The Doctor. In the TARDIS. Next stop: Everywhere."

UPDATED: Because I really wanted to capture all thirteen: