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Showing posts from December, 2019

SINCE THE WORLD’S BEEN TURNING [214]

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With so many end-of-year and end-of-decade lists scattered around, I decided to draw a line under the 2010s by recounting a couple of things that happened to me in 2019 that could not have been contemplated in 2010, and what that means for me in 2020. The thought of starting a video version of “Leigh Spence is Dancing with the Gatekeepers” had not entered my mind even at the start of 2019 but, starting with equipment I was using for other things, namely my iPhone, iPad, and a £10 tripod, I ended the year having already made seven videos – expect more of these in 2020, because bringing my words to life appears to be working out very well. Making semi-professional video as easy as possible to create was the iPad - introduced in 2010, was by no means the first tablet, but it was the one that eliminated the desktop PC from many homes. Using your fingers on a screen to correct colour levels in videos, when you have overlaid a picture of yourself onto a photograph via a green scr

OUT OF SIGHT IN THE NIGHT [213]

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I first saw the 1955 film “The Big Combo” fifteen years ago, as part of my degree studies, so to find it a year ago in HMV, then newly released on Blu-ray, made it a no-brainer purchase. It is almost a stereotypical example of a film noir, with hard-boiled dialogue, hard-boiled actors and hard-boiled shadows. However, I was originally shown the film for the uncharacteristic degree of hopefulness that lied behind the film as it was being made. “The Big Combo” is known as a “nervous A” picture, released by Allied Artists, which had been set up by the B-movie company Monogram as a unit for more lavish and interesting, but still cheaper, productions - it is this thinking that led Jean-Luc Godard to dedicate his first film, 1959’s “A Bout de Souffle” (known in English as “Breathless”) to Monogram.  Therefore, “The Big Combo” was an example of a film where the use of low light to mark cheap sets, using fewer camera set-ups, and using a jazz-influenced score over a full orchestra,

SOMEONE MUTTERS AND THE STREETLAMP GUTTERS [212]

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For the benefit of anyone reading this in the years following the 2019 release of “Cats,” the film version of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s stage musical, there was actually quite a backlash at the time. Basically, an embargo on reviews of the film, led to a number of scathing reviews being released at the same time, disparaging the choices made in the adaptation, most notably for replacing stage costumes and make-up with computer-generated cat ears and fur, placing Edwardian London in the centre of the “Uncanny Valley.” I decided to watch the film anyway, not put off by the reports of reviews, and mainly because I would rather make my mind up on such matters. It would be hypocritical for someone that writes about films to swear off a production based on what someone else wrote. I am so used to analysing films that I don’t much care if something is spoiled, because how those spoiled moments are reached may be just as interesting. That said, “Cats” brings up an old British saying:

WE’RE ALL GONNA ROCK TO THE RULES THAT I MAKE [211]

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It is unlike me not to engage with politics, or to even follow it, as my writing here attests, but when it came to the 2019 General Election, and the inevitability of a Conservative win in order to end the deadlock over Brexit, I switched off very quickly. I received my postal vote nearly three weeks before the day of the election, and put the completed vote through my town hall’s letterbox hours before the Conservative Party announced their manifesto. Once the exit poll was declared at 10pm on Thursday 12 th December, declaring a Tory victory by 80-plus seats, I lasted fifteen more minutes before needing to watch something else – I missed the election-night tradition of looking into the counting taking place at the UK’s enormous variety of sports halls. I consider myself politically to be slightly left of the centre, meaning I usually vote for a different party with each election, but never the right-wing Conservatives. Then again, my home town has had a Conservative MP since a

TAKE ME DOWN WHERE THE GOOD STUFF GROWS [210]

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My Sony Walkman holds my CD collection of over twenty years, spanning hundreds of discs, and thousands of songs, with a few downloads squeezed in too... and yet, why do the same ten tracks swirl around in my mind? It’s time to look at what the algorithm is currently suggesting to me – not YouTube or Spotify’s algorithm, but the one in my head. Warning: contains Eighties and synthesisers. 1) HIP TO BE SQUARE – Huey Lewis and the News Far from needing Patrick Bateman of “American Psycho” to recommend it to you, the tight rock guitars, organ, brass and saxophone hides an often missed ironic statement: Huey Lewis is not saying it’s hip to be square, he’s saying, “I can tell what’s going on” – the slick, professional, business-suited bands of the time were just another trend. Punchier than “The Power of Love,” “Hip to Be Square” has no quiet moments, and never lets up its pace – both its sound and message are timeless. 2) GOOD STUFF – The B52s The Netflix special “Rocko’s M

FORGETTING YOU IS A THING THAT I CANNOT DO [209]

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In the bad movie canon, because there is one, the 1966 film "Manos: The Hands of Fate" is a dubiously cited as the worst film ever made, even over established dreck like "Plan 9 from Outer Space," “Troll 2,” and “Myra Breckinridge.” It is one thing for industry professionals to produce a film that ultimately fails, as the successes will write off their costs. However, the notoriety of “Manos,” a film mostly spoken about to highlight its mistakes, may have helped it to survive and, having watched it, the film’s ongoing story may now have brought closure to the people that made it. “Manos: The Hands of Fate” is the very simple story of a family getting lost on their way to a holiday home, and stumbling upon the lair of a cult. All human life is here - the innocents, the "Master", his henchman, the followers / wives / concubines, and the guard dog. Add eerie imagery, darkness, a creepy portrait, and many images of hands – the title is liter