December 14, 2009

7 classic French films in 7 days @ The Auteurs

Writing about web page http://www.theauteurs.com/stellaartois

Stella Artois is bringing  French classics of the '60s to The Auteurs for 7 days starting tomorrow. This is UK only and do remember to drink responsibly!

I remember studying French and German cinema back at Warwick for a while as part of my History degree. It gave me a better insite into classic films in general (and if you're doing History now I think the module was History of Germany) - we covered Weimer films and I wrote an essay on the post-war cinematic reactions of France and Germany.

These gilms are from the '60s and the roster is:


Lola - 1961

The 400 Blows - 1959

Jules and Jim - 1962

Masculin féminin: 15 faits précis -1966

Vivre sa vie - 1962

La Jetee - 1962

Hiroshima, mon amour - 1959






June 05, 2009

James Purnell

Writing about web page http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/8083585.stm

So Purnell has resigned and written a letter asking for Brown to step down for the sake of the party.  He cares so much for the party that he:

1) colluded with the media to get this letter out just after local elections;

2) claimed for things like fridge magnets (£247), accountants (nearly £400) and thousands of pounds in rent on the public purse; and

3) did not resign immediately - as he should have done - when news about his expenses broke.

Perhaps he should reconsider whether he has enough honesty and personal integrity to continue doing anything remotely linked to politics.


August 08, 2008

And so the Olympics

And what sporting event would be complete without terrible bbc jokes and puns?

So far the worst:

‘a countdown Carol Vorderman would be proud of..’ – particularly terrible because she was recently effectively sacked.

‘Not so much House of Flying Daggers as House of Falling Stars.’ – terrible

Meanwhile the fireworks and drumshow were great.

Edit And sports presenters should probably shy away from broad cultural and historical statements – Zheng He is not Zhang Yi


July 16, 2008

Iron Man

Movie image
Title:
Iron Man
Rating:
5 out of 5 stars


I was never really a fan of the comic. When I had the time, money and interest for comics, it was mostly spent on X-Men, Spiderman and the occasional Superman or Hulk comic. I did watch "Marvel Action Hour" on Saturday or Sunday mornings (or whenever it was scheduled), which featured an Iron Man cartoon. It was the better of the three cartoons shown (Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk and The Fantastic Four), despite (or perhaps because of) all the camp on display.

But then I saw the trailer. And it just oozed cool. And stereotypical Arabs. I just had to see it. And it made for the perfect pre-exam treat. So I went and watched and loved it.

It's not without its flaws but even those are (unintentionally?) hilarious. Big Bearded Arab Henchman actually speaks Arabic, albeit with an accent that suggests he was born in the US/Britain. Effeminate Villainous Arab (or Indian? A bit of an Art Malik-alike) Baldy is so wildly over the top that you've simply got to laugh. "Oh Tooony Starrk, I want your Wiponz, you will make them forr me or I will torture your friend with coal". No Crimson Jihad bollocks. Verdict: Probably not racist.

The plot is the usual cliched Superhero movie fare: Man finds/invents powers, encounters horrible death/accident/tragedy and after a training/inventing/fun montage uses those powers for good against an impossibly evil/insane supervillain.

But here's where Iron Man gets it right. It uses that cliched framework and fleshes it out with wonderful, self-referencing, wry humour and characters you'll love.

The action is spot on. Iron Man actually feels like a hero. The science behind everything is ludicrous and the director/screenwriter just picks up on that and goes with the flow, throwing in a witty, sarcastic computer (Paul Bettany) into the mix.

I don't want to get too much into the plot details, because there are some "twists" which you should be able to see right from the beginning, especially if you get the "Ten Rings" reference. Go watch the movie, definitely one of the better ones of the Summer and it puts The Incredible Hulk to shame.

Oh and if you have the patience, sit through the near-infinite credit sequence* for a nice post-movie fanboy minute.

*Speaking of which, I was sure as soon as I saw the second trailer (above) that the riff at the end was from the Black Sabbath Song Iron Man (right) which tried as far as possible to distance itself from a certain comic book character to avoid potential lawsuits. I didn't see the song credited, though a variation of it (without the nonsensical lyrics) is used. The riff does fit perfectly though.


June 06, 2008

Tube Talk

Travelling on the tube to Arsenal during rush hour is boring at any time of the day, particularly when you've only got notes to keep you company (exams are fun eh?) and you're missing your MP3 player because you don't want it to get stolen by some random while you're focusing on whether you should be writing about the EU's "Democratic Deficit" or Freedom of Establishment (where the hell was my Art. 234 essay you gits?).

Anyhow, some real peaches so far have included:

Two young American girls board the train and start doing their teen talk thing. My ears perk up when they talk about the case of the transsexual who bears a child

Yank 1: Oh did you know like a man gave birth to a baby?

 Yank 2: Oh really?

 Yank 1: Yah, he's having a baby! I don't know how it's biologically possible but he is.

Yank 2: That's impossible.

Yank 1: No seriously! Maybe he grew a womb.


 I couldn't help chuckling, but kept silent (the transsexual was/is a female-to-male. They hadn't performed a hysterectomy). And then there was:


British Guy: I don't know why they don't install air conditioning on the underground! There's no reason why they couldn't.  

Yes, except that installing aircon on every train that serves the tube would be prohibitively expensive, not to mention quite environmentally unfriendly. There are reasons why the underground is hot and and smelly and it's probably going to stay that way :'(.

 

 

 


May 28, 2008

What was everyone complaining about?

Writing about web page http://www.indianajones.com

Most film geeks have been anticipating a possible Indiana Jones film for years. I gave up hope quite some time ago, because Ford wasn't getting any younger and actors are as mortal as the rest of us. Let's be honest with ourselves: Ford is Indiana Jones.

When I heard the news that the film was in actual production, I was excited. Everyone was. Then I heard the title. Oh dear George. Clearly a crap title, particularly when it coincided quite unfortunately with Damien Hurst's rubbish project "For The Love Of God" (*Groan*). I expected special effects galore and perhaps an appearance from Jar-Jar or one of the Ewoks. 

Luckily, Stephen Spielberg seems to have retained some control and prevented it from being turned into a CG Crapfest. You can tell where George's personality is trying to break through - CG gophers among other things - but for the most part, the same old gritty stuntwork, models etc. appear to have been used. And the film is all the better for it.

It is, at its  heart, simply an Indiana Jones film. It is packed full of decent action, fun, cliches and everything you want from a decent action film. The ending is atrocious but still exciting. It is better than The Temple of Doom (KA-LI-MAAAA!). Filled with various archeological and mythological tidbits and a compliment of decent actors. I was looking forward to Blanchett's performance but her Russian-accent English annoyed the hell out of me skipping from typical Hollywood Russian (See Ford in K-19: The Widowmaker) to an odd British English accent. Ah well, the film loves the camp I guess. 

And we get camp galore at the appearance of Shia Lebeouf. They clearly tried to emulate Brando but came off with a bit of a YMCA moment. The character would probably try to limply stab you if you questioned his sexuality, but you know there's a little bit of the old manloving waiting to break free. Shia is still great. One of the better actors of this generation and I can't imagine a different actor being able to pull off the role.

The "Twists" are obvious. The general plot structure is recycled from the other three (but let's face it, that's what we bloody wanted). Ford is in amazing shape for 65. George Lucas gets his Star Wars moment in the final two minutes. Stephen Spielberg (and possibly Lucas) may or may not continue to pursue his weird Alien fetish he now seems to have in every other film. Either way, if you leave your geeky reservations at the door, everyone has a good time. 


March 26, 2008

10,000 reasons not to watch this movie

Movie image
Title:
10,000 B.C.
Rating:
1 out of 5 stars

While listing those 10,000 reasons would probably be more interesting than watching this film, I've already wasted enough time watching this expensive tripe.

This is yet another miss from Emmerich responsible for some decent stupid films (Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow) and some terrible movies (Godzilla and The Patriot). This film is in its own terrible category. Which is a shame, because it did have potential.

Like many of you, I love alternate theories about the origins of man. I don't buy into them, but they are interesting. And this movie has tried to combine a whole group of them.

Ancient Egyptians might be aliens (visitors from the sky)? Check.

Ancient Egyptians perhaps descended from survivors of an advanced sunken city (ie Atlantis)? Check. 

Human civilisation began (a little) earlier than expected? Check.

The pyramids and the Sphinx built by this advanced race using the help of slaves and hundreds of wooly mammoths and led by some giant sheet-covered white man? Erm....

I don't know how they managed to do it. I have no idea what the budget was (the internet is curiously silent on the matter) but it was clearly large and it seems to have gone entirely in to the CG.

The plot is complete rubbish despite being framed on pretty much the same basic plot points as Apocalypto aside from certain hints to interesting roots (ie the above listed theories). In fact it often borders on the racist with a white European 'chosen one' leading other black tribes to defeat the evil but advanced giant white man. 

The acting varies from atrocious to mediocre. The lead is uninspiring and clearly had trouble working with a desperately stupid accent. Everyone else looks embarrassed to be there (and so they should). A completely unnecessary 'wise woman' is both unnecessary and terrible.

If you want to go see some reasonable CG mammals, then you might be interested in watching snippets of this. Your best bet would be nipping off to the Natural History Museum for a few hours. If you desperately wanted to watch a bad film, then there are plenty that I can recommend that won't have you wanting to scratch your eyes out. Start with Big Trouble In Little China. 

Don't watch this film. 


February 12, 2008

Fun With Law II

Writing about web page http://blog.wired.com/27bstroke6/2008/01/oakland-califor.html

Not a particularly funny case at its essence: Linux developer accused of murdering his wife. But the quirks come with the details.

 

The officer also testified the defendant flatulated in his face when the authorities were snapping nude photos of him Sept. 28, 2006. The officer said Reiser told him: "'You're about to experience chaos' and, for lack of a better term, he farted in my face."

"Did you make a report of that?" DuBois asked the officer.

"No. But it stays vividly in my head."

 

 


January 31, 2008

Fun With Law I

English law is not as dry as it appears. Every so often you'll run into a case like this:

Parrott v Park [2007] EWHC 210

 A contributed £73,000 (55%) of the purchase price of the yacht "UP YAWS", which was then registered in B's sole name. There was no evidence of an intended gift.  
 Can you imagine having to sue someone to claim your share of a yacht called "UP YAWS"?

January 29, 2008

ES: Setting the standard for Islamophobia

Writing about web page http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/?ito=1640

I've recently written a couple of blog posts on some hideous pieces of recent Daily Mail tripe. It is only fitting that the next paper I should have a rant about is The Evening Standard. It is of course owned by Associated Newspapers Ltd. (responsible for other such tripe like The Mail on Sunday and The Metro).

If you're a Londoner as I am, it's not unusual to glance at the Evening Standard headlines from time to time. Has Madeline been spotted? Let's print a hideously inappropriate story! Red Ken cares about the environment? Let's print another hack attack! You get used to it.

 Today was slightly different. Making my way home the Standard forced me into a double-take. I felt compelled to buy the issue to see any justification for the headline. What was the headline?

 Evening Islamophobia 

"MUSLIM PLOT TO BEHEAD SOLDIER" - Wonderful. Imagine encountering "JEWISH PLOT TO KILL MAN". What do you think your reaction would be? More importantly, do you think the Evening Standard would in any event carry such a headline?

  It's disgusting, offensive and I'm going to telephone the ES tomorrow to ask for a comment.

 


January 17, 2008

Did Tom Cruise™ fall over and hit his head on Xenu™?

Writing about web page http://gawker.com/5002269/the-cruis...s?autoplay=true

Dummy TomJust to make my feelings on the "Church" of Scientology™  perfectly clear:

It's a dangerous cult created by an outrageous, lying conman (L. Ron Hubbard™). If you'd like to know more, then please visit Operation Clambake.

I was linked to this video today and it is one of the most bizarre series of clips I've encountered on the internet (recently).  I'm not going to host the video - I wouldn't put it past them to send teams of ravenous lawyers funded by their giant scamology™ after even a poor student like myself - but here it is:

Tom Cruise is a catchphrase machine.

Disclaimer - Tom Cruise, Black sweaters, Scientology, The Church of Scientology, This picture, Half of Hollywood, Old Mother Hubbard, Thetans, Operating Thetans, Crazy Xenu Rubbish, E-meters and a bunch of other crazy shit are all probably trademarks of the Church of Scientology. 


January 15, 2008

It's The Daily Mail again: This time 'I have big problems with [Chinese] culture.'

Writing about web page http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/worldnews.html?in_article_id=506153&in_page_id=1811

I have big problems with animal cruelty. Torturing animals for any reason is morally reprehensible. I do not (generally) consider the use of animals for medicinal (testing) purposes, food, pets and agriculture a form of torture/cruelty. Bear baiting, cock fighting, the conditions in battery farms, cows hooked up to milking machines: all disgusting.

When it comes to the eating of animals, I don't eat seafood, pig flesh or anything that is carnivorous/omnivorous. I find it hypocritical that people who love nothing more than chomping on their bacon, sausages and blutwurst will cringe at the idea of eating dog meat. Rare steaks dripping with blood and finding tiger penis soup gross? Very odd. 

How about the keeping of animals in captivity? I don't generally have a problem so long as they are looked after. Domestic pets are fine (and yes, animals are abused, as are children), although I have a problem with the caging of birds. Zoos are a necessary evil in that they are often of limited space (see the Gorillas in London zoo, or bent-fin Killer Whales in any aquarium) but they preserve rare species or species on the brink of extinction.

What has all this got to do with The Daily Mail and "Chinese Culture"? 

Well I came across this recent article on a random Google search and I gave it a read. Some choice tidbits:

"It's almost a form of child abuse," says Carol McKenna of the OneVoice animal welfare group. "The cruelty of Chinese zoos is disgusting, but think of the impact on the children watching it. What kind of future is there for China if its children think this kind of cruelty is normal?

"Zoos like this make me want to boycott everything Chinese," says Emma Milne, star of the BBC's Vets In Practice.

"I'd like to rip out everything in my house that's made in China. I have big problems with their culture."

"Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised by their behaviour towards animals, as the value of human life is so low in China."

I think Emma Milne is bordering on racist there. "I have big problems with their culture... the value of human life is so low in China". Disgusting. Perhaps we should boycott her? 

The Chinese do have some serious problems with animal cruelty. Zoos and supermarkets alike. I've seen videos of monkeys beaten by street performers, images of tigers having had their teeth shaved to the point of exposure of the roots and I've personally witnessed crabs, lobsters and fish kept in distressing conditions in run-of-the-mill Beijing supermarkets.       

Does this provide a stunning indictment of "Chinese culture"? I don't think so. You will find such cruelty in any developing country, especially one so difficult to regulate (through geographical and population size). Moreover, even in "developed nations", animal cruelty is common. I previously mentioned battery farms: if you've seen the pictures and videos they are vomit-worthy. Cows screaming with milk-swollen udders waiting for the machines to kick in;  chickens dragged through electric baths, cows still alive because the bolt hasn't killed them first time around; animal culls; cosmetic testing (and let's not pretend that's not cruel); the list goes on and on.

Let's get back to Emma Milne. Here's a BBC article in which she's quote with regards to her views on dog-breeding:

Emma Milne, from BBC One's Vets In Practice, described the dogs as "mutated freaks". She claims inbreeding to produce show dogs has led to damaging genetic weaknesses.

"Modern bulldogs can't run, they can't breathe, they can't give birth," she tells the Real Story programme.

"They have enormous problems with too much soft tissue in their mouth and it adds up to a dog that is struggling for air all its life."

The breed, once pitted against bulls in fighting rings, is now a regular at competitions where champion bulldogs are worth up to £50,000.

Males and females with the flattest faces, biggest shoulders and smallest hips are mated to produce the purest possible offspring.

I agree. This sort of dog-breeding is disgusting. The animals are, as she says, essentially "mutated freaks" and it is cruel to breed them in this fashion to win dog shows so that rich housewives (and househusbands) can show their wealth and cruelty to the world. I don't see the same sort of criticism of "British culture" though. Perhaps it's not so obviously cruel? Watching a tiger kill a chicken is nasty and inhumane. But keeping a little dog as a fashion accessory..? 

How about the "child abuse" with some children witnessing animals feeding on chickens? It may be terrible and it may verge on abuse. I saw Jurassic Park when I was about nine or ten and I remember seeing a T-Rex (which I found quite realistic at the time) eating a chained-up goat. Veliciraptors  tearing apart  a live cow (off-screen). Not a great example? Seeing a realistic polar bear swipe off the jaw of another polar bear (in the rubbish Golden Compass)? Perhaps seeing what appears to be a lion killing and eating a deer (in I am legend)? Or the strangling of one's own dog (again I am legend). What about the brutal stabbing of a tiger depicted in Gladiator (not to mention the number of grisly deaths)? Will this have less of an impact on a child than seeing a tiger killing and eating?

There's much to fix in China. There's also much to fix over here. There's no use climbing on your high-horse because people here don't like to witness what goes on in an abbatoir while they're busy using their lipstick (that may well have been tested by rubbing it over a monkey/ape's eye) and carrying fashion-accessory pets. 


January 10, 2008

Daily Mail still hates the law

Writing about web page http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=507355&in_page_id=1770

The Daily Mail doesn't usually mince its words. The mincing comes with its understanding of the law. Usually it's issues of self-defence where the misunderstanding of what exactly constitutes 'Reasonable Force' (ie subjective Necessity and objective Proportionate Force) leads to the defence of some people who have been put away either by a jury or by their own guilty plea because the "Nanny State" does all it can to 'protect the criminals'.

Its right-wing vitriol isn't limited to attacking the legislators and courts for juries putting away murderers,  but also towards any council or town that observes health & safety regulations. Naturally the Mail doesn't quite realise that many of these regulations are in place to help protect councils from potentially heavy claims in tort. 

Here's the thought-provoking Daily-Mail headline:

Health and safety killjoys order award-winning village to take down its hanging baskets  

Wonderful, isn't it?

The Daily Mail goes on to criticise the council for its "politically correct" decision to ban placing these heavy (20kg) flower baskets on what the paper itself calls "crumpling" and "old"  lampposts which are due to be replaced in 2010 .

Here is what is really the key issue, brought up by a sensible member of the council:

Simon Mutten, the council's environmental services manager, said: "A risk has been brought to our attention by professionals and we cannot ignore it because if we did and something, however unlikely, happened then we would be taken to the cleaners."

If you have foreseen a risk (and it doesn't necessarily have to be huge: Denning, cricket and all that jazz) with something that is your responsibility and you neglect to do something that is reasonably within your capacity and you have a well-established duty of care (as councils generally do) and someone does die or is harmed by your omission, you leave yourself up to all sorts of claims.

You may see this as a problem with the law/claims culture (see Atiyah)  but that is something not easily changed, precisely because the development of the law has been trying to be as just as possible to all parties. The legislature is not (at least I hope) going to turn around tomorrow and rubbish the last 100 years of development in tort law because a bunch of farmers want to hang heavy baskets on "crumbling" lampposts. Nor should they. 

This being the case, the council has taken reasonable measures to ensure the safety of its residents.  The locals have substituted the flower baskets with roadside viking ship displays. They might not win a decadent flower show. Let's hope they don't turn to forming wierd vigilante cults.


January 08, 2008

At long last…

Writing about web page http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P5B6nysheec

Der Erlkönig

When I was in elementary school, we used to have a special assembly every week where one of the teachers would talk about a subject they were particularly interested in. I don't remember many of the subjects (bearing in mind this was nearly 15 years ago!), probably because it was little more than a teacher's show and tell. But one of the assemblies that I remember vividly involved our humanites teacher. He brought in his music player and gave a brief introduction about why he loved classical music. Then he told us all to close our eyes and listen. And he played a German piece for us.

At the time I didn't know much German except for the odd phrase, so the meaning was completely lost on me, but I remember that when I was listening blind to the peice, I found it intensely moving and one phrase stuck with me "Mein Vater, mein Vater". I would repeat that line to myself every-so-often throughout the years, but I was never really able to find the song (this is long before wikipedia and google ladies and gentlemen!).

I was thinking about it the other day, so I flexed my google muscles and within moments I'd found it: Der Erlkönig. A Schubert piece written to the words of a Goethe poem. I can't comment on the history of it or the politics about it, but I'm going to try to learn more. It's a great piece.

Close your eyes and have a listen.


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