Wednesday 26 March 2008

Dave Gorman's Book Launch. In Galway.

Dave Gorman is one of my favourite comedians. His is an intelligent and insightful brand of humour that is becoming all too rare nowadays. It is a happy occurence then that he shall soon be in my town of residence, namely Galway. His reason for doing so? To launch his new book, America Unchained: A Freewheeling Roadtrip In Search of Non-Corporate USA.

Whilst the book will be available from the 3rd April, Dave shall be in the Róisín Dubh on Sunday 27th April for an official launch shindig. His appearance comes as part of this year's impressive Cúirt programme. Literature and comedy enthusiasts take note, it shall all commence at 4pm and tickets are a trifling €8. Acquire them here.

I'm really rather looking forward to this. The documentary of the same title was very interesting indeed:

Saturday 22 March 2008

I Am Cuba

Mikhail Kalatozov's Soy Cuba (I Am Cuba). An absolute miracle of the cinema. An epic and poetic homage to the tenets of communism. Four almost wordless vignettes are dexterously woven; each one meant to underline the dichotomous and immoral nature of Batista's pre-revolution regime in Cuba. Grinding poverty versus mindless excess. Be under no illusion, this is propaganda at its most potent. However, not even the most apolitical amongst us could fail to be moved by the beauty and mobility of Kalatozov's direction... The funeral procession sequence blows my mind every time:

Film criticism can but flounder when attempting to adequately discuss genius such as this. Even so, this is my compendious take on the subject: I Am Cuba is irrefutable verification of the cinema's existence as an art form. Utterly peerless.

Why the random hyperbolic praise of Soviet cinema? Well, I finally picked up a copy of this film on DVD yesterday. Anyone with even a passing interest in the medium should do likewise. Click here, it being quite ludicrously cheap. Go now comrades!

Thursday 20 March 2008

Lawrence Of Arabia. In Topman.

INT - A Trendy High Street Mens Clothing Boutique. By The Accessories Stand.

A man dressed entirely in white robes strides up to an immaculately coiffured but quite vacuous shop assistant. The man in white robes is none other than T.E. Lawrence, a man perhaps more popularly known as Lawrence Of Arabia. He carries himself with an unmistakable air of dignity and decorum. Derek, the assistant, is texting somebody with unerring rapidity. He does not even glance at his newest customer.

Lawrence Of Arabia:
Good day to you sir! I was wondering if you could be of assistance.

Derek exhales slightly. He still refuses to look up. He tosses his fringe in a spasm of misguided nonchalance. His thumb is a blur.

Lawrence Of Arabia:
Indeed... You see young man, I am about to embark on another military expedition with my Arab cohorts - their rebellion being most dear to me - and I wish to acquire some much needed clothing and supplies... First off, where do you keep your keffiyehs?

Our wha?

Lawrence Of Arabia:
You know, your keffiyehs. I saw some youths gathered outside the local phonograph emporium. They were all wearing keffiyehs. And when I inquired as to where they obtained them, they said to come here.


Lawrence Of Arabia:
Damn it man, do you not even know what a keffiyeh is?

Afraid not bud.

Lawrence Of Arabia:
How bastard tiresome of you!

Lawrence then storms out of the shop, knocking over a basket of checkered neon belts and string vests on sale for €2. Derek is about to settle back into his texting groove when another customer slowly enters the shop... It is Yasser Arafat.

Alright Yasser man! Those new scarves you ordered came in! They're deadly, go really well with me scruffy Cons.

Yasser Arafat:

Wednesday 19 March 2008

Go Away Muse!


Your new live CD and DVD is terribly irritating. You are not Queen. This is not bombast. It is an excessive ego wank. Seriously, a room at a Holiday Inn, a roll of Bounty and some old Q reviews would have been way cheaper lads.

Muse... Bon Jovi for teenagers who wish they were only children.

Tuesday 18 March 2008

In Bruges. A Review.

Martin McDonagh. A bona fide gifted playwright. Martin McDonagh. An Oscar winner. Martin McDonagh. A man whose scripts are prone to the odd expletive and even odder socially irresponsible diatribe... In Bruges. Martin McDonagh's debut feature as both screenwriter and director. In Bruges. A very satisfying and worthwhile cinematic experience indeed. Which is nice.

The buddy/crime/hitman templates have been well battered by mainstream movie makers over the years, yet they still permit a talented scribe a lot of room in which to maneuver. Thankfully, McDonagh is such a scribe. Theatre enthusiasts will already be aware of his effusive dialogic style - the Aran Islands trilogy, The Pillowman. The question is then, how his distinctive style translates to a tried and trusted cinematic (sub)genre. Allow me a brief digression, if you will... Thomas Schatz, a film theorist, once wrote that genre is both "a static and a dynamic system". There are tenets and conflicts within a genre that must remain constant throughout a genre's development. Yet the techniques with which the writer/director tackles this essential conflicts can change. Fluidity is key... Old Tom was spot on really. Basically, it is up to the writer/director to prescribe to or fuck with generic rules as he sees fit. A craftsman will always attempt to do both. As does McDonagh here.

Take the setting for example. Crime films and Belgian towns do not make for common bedfellows. Therefore the intrigue is instant. As is the subtle majesty of Bruges. The medieval architecture is bewitching and ethereal. It helps to lift McDonagh's narrative out of the dregs of genre - casinos, inner city whorehouses, country clubs - and allude to something more substantial. Yet the fairytale aesthetic constantly reinforces the fiction of proceedings. Is this meant as a parable? Entirely up to you.

The most important thing is that this is a bloody entertaining film. For me, McDonagh's dialogue here is on a par with any of his previous creations. His ear for the intricacies of Irish camaraderie/vulgarity remains unparalleled. The "fucks" and belly laughs are plentiful. This film is a twisted equal opportunities offender, yet is nevertheless in possession of an insistent heart. That heart's beat is supplied by the chemistry between the two leads. Ken (Brendan Gleeson) and Ray (Colin Farrell) are two lovingly drawn characters, but McDonagh would have been stranded without the pitch perfect realisation from both actors... Gleeson is brilliant as the withered and worldly Ken. His hitman-beginning-to-see-the-bigger-picture is one that effortlessly sidesteps the clichés normally associated with such roles. However, it is Farrell that steals the show. His is a blistering performance, alternating rapidly and seamlessly between slapstick comedy, vicious outbursts of violence, tender sweetness, and an all consuming depression. Ray is an idiot at times, but he is always a relatively well-intentioned sort. A man who is perhaps not really cut out for his current line of work.

Alas, it is time for a complaint or two. Whilst an impressive debut, there are still a few faults to be found in Bruges. McDonagh displays some moments of inspired directorial ability - the coke scene, the playground scene. However, he also quite often highlights his relative filmic inexperience. There are some occasional shifts in tone and pace that just don't sit right. Especially in the final reel. Which brings us to the ending. It is a very fine exercise in screenwriting technique and formalistic invention, but it grates somewhat with the breathless and irreverent messiness of what goes before it. The fervent machinations (and characters) of McDonagh's mind seem to have been reined in by the need for an oh-so-clever denouement. The result? A serious bang of contrivance. A pity. It's a confusion that often permeates a first feature. A narcissism on the part of a fledgling director coming from a sphere of prior adulation? Perhaps.

Ultimately, however, these are only minor quibbles. Any late upsets - and slight ones at that - are completely overshadowed by the fiercely enjoyable and energetic first two acts. This film is hilarious, yet there are also moments of visceral pathos and emotion. As the strength of the relationship between Ken and Ray becomes more apparent, one cannot but be touched by their respective moral dilemmas and existential ennui. A sense of decency and a nagging moral compass,
"gay beer", and a contractual obligation to murder... Never easy is it?

"I had no time for shenanigans! No time!"

Good day to you all. Posts have been appallingly scant over this past week or so. Please accept my sincerest apologies for this blogospheric aberrance. The reasons for this lack of activity? I would like to say that it was due to some higher pursuit on my part, a bitchin' Zen quest to inner fulfillment and what not... It wasn't.

The truth is just that work was quite busy. I simply had no energy in the evenings. Especially not for the vaguely vitriolic ráiméis that usually seeps forth around these parts.

This lack of energy can also be attributed to the fact that I was quite sick last week. Which was something of a pity as it was my birthday at the weekend.

Yet fear not dear readers, as this ailment did not stop my frenzied oscillation betweens the craggy plateaus of chemical dementia and chemically induced guilt... And whilst it was all incredibly entertaining, I have come to realise the I am the Danny Glover of Bucky drinkers. Never again.

There are pictures. Apparently. Facebook. Bollocks.

Sorry again folks. It's just, like, that I was really, really, really sick:

Wednesday 12 March 2008

"Come on, look, who cares about tomatoes?"

One cannot begin to even guess as to the reasons why, but apparently a remake of seminal cult "classic" Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes is on the cards. Kent Nichols and Douglas Sarine, creators of the hit interweb series Ask A Ninja, are penning an adaptation of the 1978 original. Apparently, the basic premise shall remain unaltered. That is to say that there shall be killer tomatoes, erm, like, killing people. And stuff... The theme song was moderately amusing I suppose. Sort of:

Sigh. For those of you who may be unaware, it was in
Return Of The Killer Tomatoes - the somwheat aptly monikered sequel to Killer Tomatoes - that a certain George Clooney got his first big break. He was fairly shit in it though.

Then he slept with his pet pig. Then Lisa Snowdon. Then he won an Oscar.

The End.

Monday 10 March 2008

Predator: The Musical

Mr. R. Kelly, you can stay firmly trapped in your closet sir. For the following work illuminates the true path to a successful merger of the rules of narrative progression and the tenets of hip hop. Or something like it:

Apparently this opus took two years to complete. An impressive feat?

State Magazine. Sweet.

Having spent the weekend sporadically delving into the new Irish musical payload that is State Magazine, I would like to take this opportunity to offer a "bloody good show" to all concerned... A fresh and clean design, smells lovely too... An eclectic range of content, offering insights into the REMs of this world as well as the !Kaboogies... And most importantly of all, a talented and engaging pack of scribes.

I await the second issue with considerable interest. Until then, I shall make do with the second State podcast. Starring Choice winners Super Extra Bonus Party, a click forth would be quite worthwhile.

As is this fantastic blog, the Dalston Oxfam Shop. It is a treasure trove of nostalgia, bygone cool and kitsch. It is a library of old cassette tapes found on the dusty shelves of charity shops. The nuggets are numerous. And all available for download... The requisite hat tip must go to Nialler and his exceedingly high Blog Standard buzz.

Sweet find dude.

Friday 7 March 2008

Patrick Boivin et la fin du Néolibéralisme. Un auteur prometteur.

Recently I have been quite unable to get enough of the work of Patrick Boivin. This writer/director's style could be best described as the fulcrum around which the aesthetic inclinations of Chris Cunningham and Michel Gondry pivot. He's never as obliquely surrealist, nor as sentimental, nor nearly as accomplished as the aforementioned duo... Yet in this dude's mind lies a sizeable reservoir of imagination and technique.

First up, "Happy Meal", a vitriolic micro short denouncing the tenets of neo-liberalism. It stars a clown whom you may recognise:

Secondly, a pissed off Bumblebee wreaks his own brand of FM havoc upon an unsuspecting Optimus Prime. Listen out for dialogue from a certain Mister Alan Ford:

If you ain't made the connection yet, he's also responsible for this well Dugg homage to the Evolution Of Dance dude... Worth keeping an eye on is this one.

Thursday 6 March 2008

"We call upon the author to explain!"

Well, actually, no. We don't.

Nick Cave... Genius... Lyricist... Gentleman... Sporter of one mean moustache... Now, there are those amongst you who may not find his new album to be quite as impressive as some of his back catalogue. And I would be inclined to agree. However, that said, a marginally sub-par Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds release is still infinitely superior to the vast majority of indie alternatives. Some would slit throats for a lead single of such seamless magnitude:

You got me, I'm a fan. Your thoughts on the Lazarus buzz?

Mongrel. RIP.

This is the cover of the very last copy of Mongrel Magazine:

A sad time folks. Despite my very real grief, I now present you with my epitaph for the publication. Composed in the idiom of their famous music reviews:


Mongrel Magazine.
Mongrel Press Ltd.

Oh, the merriment. A bunch of Trinners types with delightfully pointless humanities degrees - probably - decide to festoon their witticisms and scorns upon Joe Public. Whoever the fuck he is. They nestle ironic editorials and willfully obscure slices of investigative journalism into a carefully manicured hedgerow of hipster ads. Who cares if the shops aren't even to be found in the country? Get with the times you square. Get the in-jokes too, or expose yourself as a retrograde culchie with damp turf for teeth. Where's your keffiyah, Snack Box? This really should be an annoying pile of shite. Trouble is, the writers are brilliantly funny. And namedropping it makes you cool... Bastards.

The cur is dead! Long live State!

Wednesday 5 March 2008

There Will Be Blood. A Review.

My word. What a brilliant piece of cinema. A magnificent and strange beast. An insistently grim and austere glance into the true depths of humanity. Depths that are seldom entertained. Depths that defy scrutiny. Depths that are nonetheless laid bare with a gripping level of exactitude and care by P.T. Anderson. A director at the very height of his considerable powers.

First, the technical stuff. The script? Measured and brilliant, the work of a scribe completely in tune with the possibilities of his medium... The direction? Utterly unequivocal. Anderson knows exactly where his film is going, exactly why it shall reach its crushing destination, and exactly how uncomfortable/entertained his audience should be. Those opening fourteen minutes without dialogue are mesmerising. I honestly cannot remember the last time I witnessed such exposition of character with such economy of technique.

The cinematography? This film is a collage of some of the most ruggedly gorgeous shots I have seen in years. Robert Elswit is a genius. Utilising only the listlessness of the harsh Texan terrain and the murky gloom of oil spurts and wood shacks, he weaves one hell of a tapestry. The verve with which that first explosion was orchestrated left me breathless. It sears itself into the mind of the viewer; the fire a moment of exponential beauty amidst the consuming darkness. Vivid, visceral.

The music? Atonal, challenging, yet always operating as an invaluable aid to the characters on screen. In my humble opinion, Johnny Greenwood has gone as far as to re-invent the motion picture score. His work here really is that good.

And now onto the main event... The performance. Daniel Day-Lewis will never better this. Consider those words again. I mean them. His Daniel Plainview is a creature for the annals. An elemental and brutal force, the very embodiment of hate and desire. So twisted is Plainview's soul that it manifests itself in his physical appearance. The further he strives to disconnect himself from all that is basically human -
"I want to earn enough money so I can get away from everyone" - the more golem like Day-Lewis' Plainview becomes. Eventually, he will limp, he will stagger, he will cough, yet importantly he will never relent. His voice will never quiver. And what an assured and charming voice it is too. Rich and textured, the vessel through which Plainview imparts many witticisms and wisdoms. Yet it never successfully disguises the viciousness within.

So what does it all mean? Who is Daniel Plainview? What is the point of There Will Be Blood, his story? Why should we care if he is just an evil bastard? Daniel Plainview is a metaphor. Daniel Plainview is greed. He is capitalism taken to its logical and unemotional conclusion. In fact, he is the very definition of meritocracy. Whilst intrinsically violent, he is nonetheless an impressively skilled and meticulous oilman. Be it through violence or trade, he will take what he is able to. Though you may wish it to be some form of quixotic nightmare, Plainview's course is clearly plotted via the core fundamentals of the American Dream. He
is Horatio Alger, mutilated or not. His resplendent physical ends justify his murderous means. Always.

Some people may find this excess to be offensive, even tedious. Some people may argue for a lack of redemption, a lack of soul. They will ask why Plainview is the man he has become. Why does he hate his fellow man to such an extent? What are the Freudian implications and subtexts to his misanthropic ways? Where is his back story? Did his mother not hug him enough?

Rubbish. Plainview's is not a world that permits such emotional and intellectual considerations. They are meandering follies drowning in his ceaseless vitriol. They are like the grandiose and delusional Eli (Paul Dano, also astounding). They too shall perish; screeching, limbs flailing in attempted escape from the incessant demon Planview. Curiosity is ego. Ego is humanity. And it is totally redundant... Uncomfortable yet? Yes? Then ask yourself why this is so.

The answer is simple. You are uncomfortable because you have done exactly what Anderson intended you to do. You have peered into a fragmented mirror of your own soul. You have recognised your inner Plainview, your own aberrant wishes and dreams... And uncomfortable as it may be, you must scrutinise him too. Remind him of your control over him. For in us all lies that potential for unfettered evil. In us all lies that untapped and immoral charisma. There is no reason for it. There is no structure to it. It has no narrative. It simple is, as it always has been, since first we came forth from the slime.

It cannot be ignored. Plainview cannot be ignored. This film is a total mindfuck. This film is an absolute masterpiece. I'm finished.

Tuesday 4 March 2008

Casiotone For The Painfully Alone. Go.

Casiotone For The Painfully Alone, coming to Ireland for a few gigs this week, and certainly worth checking out. Owen Ashworth's is an often ramshackle but always engrossing style. He is a creator of minute yet tender vignettes, his mild baritone countering the melodic insistence of his battery powered electronic soundscapes. For those unitiated, the gorgeous video to "Nashville Parthenon":

These are the places and times during which you can observe said vignettes:
  • Róisin Dubh. Galway. Friday, March 7.
  • Black Box Cafe. Belfast. Saturday, March 8.
  • Whelan's. Dublin. Sunday, March 9.
If you find yourself in attendance, then do keep your fingers crossed for a performance of Springsteen's "Streets Of Philadelphia". A mean cover, it is easily located on his MySpace. Go forth, via yonder above linkage.

An Inner Monologue Through Which Justin Timberlake Realises The Grand Folly Of His Musical Repertoire. Or Something Like It.

INT - A Utopian Record Store Situated Deep Within The Mind Of The New(ish) Journalist.

Pop star Justin Timberlake slowly makes his way to the cashier's desk. He is fidgeting, nervous. He puts both hands on the counter whilst rubbing the back of his neck. An impressive feat.

Justin Timberlake:
Hey! I'm bringing sexy back!

Yeah? Do you have a receipt?

Justin Timberlake:
What? Actually, no I don't.

Oh, right. That could be a problem.

Justin Timberlake:
Well, it's still in its packaging. I never actually used it.

Oh, okay. Well, I suppose you could exchange it for something else.

Justin Timberlake:
Awesome dude! You got any coolness or credibility?

Nope. Fresh out of those.

Justin Timberlake:
Golly gee. Well dude, what do you guys have?

Let me see... Erm, we just got in some brand new sense of humour.

Justin Timberlake:
Oh gosh! A sense of humour? That all you got?

Yup. The ladies love it.

The cashier then proceeds to take a cream pie from underneath his counter and smacks Justin Timberlake right in the kisser. Both men remain rigid whilst the
Benny Hill theme tune builds to a deafening crescendo in the store. With a polite insistence a newly formed tear struggles through the opaque dairy produce atop Justin's left cheek. He had just exfoliated that very morning.

Huzzahs & Bloggies!

My First Irish Blog Awards. Thoughts? Well, I must first express my surprise at this dignitary's appearance. What blinding gravitas and wit:

"Savage." I had such a good time on Saturday night. Such an orgiastic stew of pleasantries. Such a welcoming and friendly buzz. Such a surprise to witness the sweetness of Twenty in person. The necessary shoutouts then to the following: the awesome duo that is Nialler and Aoife, Ian the gentleman photographer, the Arts & Culture behemoth that is Sinead, Eddie Sans Clarity, a tequila slamming Una, and The Humblest of Housewives... There are many more people with whom I would have liked to shoot the breeze, but I was unfortunately unable. There were many shiny things in the room and somebody had swapped my Ritalin for stale orange Tic Tacs. Bastards.

Hearty congratulations to the deserving winners. A wizard show all round. Take a bow Mister Mulley, take a bow!