Fuel for flaming youth

Jan 09

“Study a packed cross-Channel ferry if you want to see a modern ship of fools. There they all are: working out the profit on their duty-free; having more drinks at the bar than they want; playing the fruit machines; aimlessly circling the deck; making up their minds how honest to be at customs; waiting for the next order from the ships’s crew as if the crossing of the Red Sea depended on it.
I do not criticize, I merely observe; and I’m not sure what I would think if everyone lined the rail to admire the play of light on the water and started discussing Boudin.
I am no different, by the way: I stock up on duty-free and await orders like the rest of them.” — Julian Barnes, ‘Flaubert’s Parrot’, 1984. Another less grand but thoroughly accurate summary of humanity and the observant writer. I have no idea who Boudin is, by the way. 

“Amongst those who go to sea there are the navigators who discover new worlds, adding continents to the earth and stars to the heavens: they are the masters, the great, the eternally splendid.
Then there are those who spit terror from their gun-ports, who pillage, who grow rich and fat.
Others go off in search of gold and silk under foreign skies. Still others catch salmon for the gourmet or cod for the poor.
I am the obscure and patient pearl-fisherman who dives into the deepest waters and comes up with empty hands and a blue face.
Some fatal attraction draws me down into those innermost recesses which never cease to fascinate the strong.
I shall spend my life gazing at the ocean of art, where others voyage or fight; and from time to time I’ll entertain myself by diving for those green and yellow shells that nobody will want.
So I shall keep them for myself and cover the walls of my hut with them.” — Gustave Flaubert, 1845. Probably no better summary of the artist and the human race. 

“I don’t care much for coincidences. There’s something spooky about them: you sense momentarily what it must be like to live in an ordered, God-run universe, with Himself looking over your shoulder and helpfully dropping coarse hints about a cosmic plan. I prefer to feel that things are chaotic, free-wheeling, permanently as well as temporarily crazy- to feel the certainty of human ignorance, brutality and folly.” — Julian Barnes, ‘Flaubert’s Parrot’, 1984. 

“The artist is a”loner”, a fastidious observer who will suddenly seize a character from life and inflate it dramatically into a vision of loneliness, ugliness, or even horror.” — Mervyn Levy, from the introduction to ‘The Paintings of LS Lowry: oils and watercolours’, 1978, Book Club Associates, London, p. 13. 

: The Impossible depiction of foreign tragedy in the West? -

readhassanvawda:

The Impossible, a film that ever since I heard about it has made me uncomfortable and sad by seemingly epitomizing the condition of mainstream Western perceptions and representations of tragedy of the other. I am not arguing or questioning at all about the films technical credentials or artistic…

This is the best thing I’ve ever read on tumblr, from a friend of mine. 

(Source: readhassanvawda)

Jan 08

Humans are such social creatures.

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Lowry, ‘Railway Platform’, 1953, Oil on board.

Every time you enter a room, or step onto a bus or train, everyone looks at you, as if they want you to be someone else: an old friend, a new lover or just someone to talk to. They always turn away, disappointed. 

A thought.

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I now think its wrong to gather your favorite books or films or albums or plays or paintings or whatever, strap them onto a tiny raft, and hunch over them as you rage against a heaving ocean of culture. We should dive into that sea, and catch all the fish we want. 08/01/13

Jan 07

'Berberian Sound Studio', 2012, cert 15, GB, dir Peter Strickland, 2/5.

Seen 06/01/13

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Sometimes, you’re sure that you’ve seen a good film, and the critics say it’s good.  You just can’t see why.

Toby Jones plays a British film sound technician named Gilderoy, who arrives in an Italian sound studio in 1976, where they’re recording the soundtrack for a horror. Tensions among the crew rise, and Gilderoy becomes increasingly alienated and disturbed, though he doesn’t show it, since Jones gives a great reserved performance, communicating isolation with as little emotion possible.

This film works best as a tribute to ‘70s Italian horror and the art of film sound effects. Watching the sounds of mutilation being provided by hacking up vegetables, and demonic screaming being produced by weirdly talented vocalists are the movie’s most fascinating elements. Technically, the film is impressive, with great lighting, sound, and shots, all creating suspenseful atmosphere.

Unfortunately, the film only offers suspense, which never builds up to much. It felt like an experimental indulgence in technology that shunned sense, confusing and excluding the average film-goer  Some scenes questioned film violence and expectations of the horror genre. Overall, however, it tried to say something without saying it, which annoyed me.

Though original and inventive, it felt atmospheric and menacing just for the sake of it. As much as I applaud cinematic strangeness, a film is only threatening if it shows what it’s threatening you with. The fact that the film tried to say lots through the exclusive setting of a sound studio just felt (though I hate using this word) ‘pretentious’. 

Aug 07

'Ted', 2012, cert 15, dir Seth MacFarlane, 2/5

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I don’t care what anyone says about Family Guy, American Dad or any other cartoon Seth MacFarlane’s involved in. These shows have displayed an incredible streak of savage satire combined with crude and surreal humour. So even when I saw the trailer of Ted, I felt a little let down.

Some of the MacFarlane ingredients are still there. There are moments of humour on pop culture, celebrities and mild racism, always flirting with controversy. But if you’re expecting a continuous stream of laughter or something unique and challenging, stick to the TV shows.

It is charming how much MacFarlane got involved with his first film (he directed, wrote and voiced the funny but not very outstanding character of Ted). However, for someone who has been pushing the boundaries of television comedy so far, his first step into the movie world has been extremely disappointing. The story of a thirty something office worker (Mark Wahlberg) trying to balance life between his walking talking teddy bear best friend and his girlfriend (Mila Kunis) feels too much like every other romantic comedy we’ve seen and which MacFarlane himself mocks within the film (in this case, Bridget Jones).

There are laugh out loud moments but there’s much more room for comedy instead of the endless tiring clichés attempting to depict a romantic relationship. Is this MacFarlane trying to prove there’s more to him than toilet humour? If so, with dull characters and plotting, this is not a promising start to his film career. 

Jul 25

'The Dark Knight Rises', 2012, cert 12A, dir Christopher Nolan, 2/5

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There’s one event connected to this film that highlights the danger of hype. When a Rotten Tomatoes reviewer gave The Dark Knight Rises a negative review, he received death threats from people who haven’t even seen the film. However, when the reviewer compared Dark Knight Rises to Transformers, I was inclined to agree; not that it’s that bad.

I guess the important question is: is this as good as its predecessor, the now classic Dark Knight? I’m prepared to say no. In fact, I’m not even a big fan of director Christopher Nolan’s second instalment in his Batman trilogy. The only thing I really liked was Heath Ledger’s creepy performance as the Joker, and even the scariness of that has been overrated.

The intensity and the scale of the events in this latest film have been stepped up somehow. The new villain is satisfactorily unnerving and Anne Hathaway surprisingly sizzles as the latest Catwoman. However, all the film seems to offer is intensity. The audience is bombarded with dramatic events that take place and are resolved so fast they have little time to leave much impact.

Like the other Nolan Batman films, Dark Knight Rises attempts to be smarter and darker than the average blockbuster but there are still the old clichés and questionable politics. Although the film looks good and the action is enjoyable, I think too much is trying to be said with an unbelievable set up and story. So unless you’re a comic book fan, don’t believe the hype.