August 20, 2007

Franceland.

Writing about web page http://mathendacil.free.fr/blog/

Hi folks,
this is a belated entry to let you all know that I am back in Franceland. I already miss Warwick terribly, and that even though I know that I’m going to be coming back soon! [actually for a week-end before term starts!]
Here in France, things go on as planned, and I’m ok.
I don’t really know when my account is going to expire and when I won’t be able to write entries in here any longer, so I’ll give an address (inexistant so far) where I’ll put the sequel to this blog when I can’t edit it any longer! (I’m actually quite surprised it still let me write this!) Here it is: http://mathendacil.free.fr/blog/
Hope all is well for you, I love you and I’m missing you.


June 25, 2007

The beginning of the end

This is the time of the year when you start to feel – well, that it’s getting over. Soon. Very soon. Things just wrappung up quietly around you.
This week, for me, was marked by two relatively big blows – thursday, and, well, tonight, with some continuity between them.
Thursday was my last Warwick Rev rehearsal (I dare not say ever) – as well as my last proper DMed show at the Student Cinema. The Science of Sleep was awesome by the way. But as I said, the beginning of the end.
It went on Friday, with my lovely Oxfam friends throwing me a surprise thank you party – I can’t believe, in retrospect, that I fell for the trick the manager used to keep me in the shop. As if he needed one. But it was really really nice and very much appreciated.
Saturday. Two of my housemates have now definitely left, and I’m home alone (but my third housemate is coming back tomorrow :-) ). I see lots of people from WiM again. [geek moment]And it is the first part of this year’s final episode of Doctor Who – which, for the first time since… Daleks in Manhattan (!) watch without John or pizza. Fortunately, Stu was there ! [/geek]
Sunday, aka today. What it all built up to. The Piazza concert! Now that was awesome, and we had lots of people turning up and enjoying themselves, despite the rain – and quite frankly we sounded great :-) and people laughed at the drama and (unexpectedly) at the dance. I have rarely had as much joy as during the encores of So Good and My Redeemer. But it was also the last I was seeing of lots of friends. So after the concert it was lots of hugs. So fellow Revvers, thank you for these two terms, that I have been able to enjoy so much with you. You will always have a special place in my heart.
And right now, I’m typing from the office of the Student Cinema, where the last L3 show of the year is being done – Full Monty is on at the moment – and the very last WSC show is going to be on tuesday (the outdoor screening of Ice Age).
So yeah, I am feeling quite emotional at the moment. But I’d rather have it this way than wishing it were over more quickly.
To all my friends – carry on doing what you’re doing, because you’re just the best!


June 16, 2007

Big Finish (Finish it is indeed)

Follow-up to Oh boy, am I excited! from Procrastination man

Well. Expectedly, I didn’t make it. Even though, technically, I haven’t received the rejection email, Simon/ConcreteElephant has announced on Outpost Gallifrey that the shortlisted 25 had been contacted by email. Mind you, I’m using my university email for that so it may well be a Warwick Mail failure. Aren’t we all used to that now?
Which is why I am not putting my story online for all to see just yet. It would be stupid, wouldn’t it, to get an email a bit later saying – oh you’ve won but not anymore because you’ve published it. However, once I get this email, the story will be available here (yes, in pdf because pdf rules).
For now, thanks to Big Finish for giving this opportunity to unpublished writers like myself; and congrats to the winner, whoever he/she is. Thanks to all of you if you have supported me.
Once the story is up and online, I’d appreciate any comments.

Edit – 19th June 2007 – the names of the winners are up on the Beebs website, so I have put my story online.


June 10, 2007

Thank you

I just thought tonight that there were quite a lot of people I should say thank you to, and have not done so quite enough. So here goes:

  • Thanks to Casper for making me discover the world of Rev. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to thank you enough for that.
  • Thanks a lot to Jason, Judey, Rich, Sam Bond, Liam for welcoming me so warmly there. You’ve been good friends since my very first rehearsal.
  • Thanks to Hazel for her communicative enthusiasm and her great variety of tea. And for taking me to Elim and telling me about Globe Café.
  • Thanks to John for letting me watch Doctor Who, taking me to Jubilee, and for being a good friend.
  • Thanks to Simon (from WiM) for his insightful chats and for the book he sent me.
  • Thanks to Ben, Adam, Sam Burrell, and the other members of the new exec… for being an awesome exec!
  • Thanks to Alex J (from WiM) for her natural cheerfulness, and for being a nice friend.
  • Thanks to Adair for the barbecue, between many other things.
  • Thanks to Tim, Amalia, Steve, Jonny, and the others, for various reasons.
  • Thanks to James Mac for putting me back on the right track at the beginning of term. I needed it and didn’t see it, so sorry if I have been a bit cranky about that. Really.
  • Thanks to George for the Doctor whos
  • Thanks to Ellie for her hugs
  • Thanks to Andy for the very intriguing innuendo-full conversations
  • Thanks to Tom for being a friend
  • Thanks to Aiden for being the Brummie he is
  • Thanks to James C for being friendly, chatty (most of the time) and nice
  • Thanks to Austin for being a good friend, and for being able to deal with me more than any human should.
  • Thanks to Matt for being an awesome buddy and preparing me nicely to my arrival in the UK
  • Thanks to Jess & Rachel from Rev for being friendly and taking me onto RAG wildness.
  • Thanks to Pidge for being so much fun to be around.
  • Thanks to Warwick Volunteers for giving me that many opportunities
  • Thanks to Jamie (from WMS/Beauty & the geek) for being the down-to-earth but never too worried kind of person you like to have around.
  • Thanks to Ben & Sue from the International Office for their great job throughout the year.

Finally, thanks to anyone I have forgotten. If I have met you this year, there is very probably a reason why I should thank you. Thanks for making me smile, and enjoy this year more than I ever thought I could enjoy something. You made me smile, you made me happy, you made me live this year to the full.


May 24, 2007

UK, the greatest nation on Earth. Truly.

Writing about 'This is the greatest nation on earth' from Chris Doidge's Blog

A couple of weeks ago, in his resignation speech, PM Tony Blair declared the UK was the greatest nation on Earth. And this seems to have stirred quite a debate.
In order to agree or disagree with him, though, one has to look into what it means to be the greatest nation on Earth.
  1. Nation – what is a nation? To me, it means a set of cultural heritage, that binds people together. It is more than waving a flag around – oh no, that is only for people who uphold a vision of the nation that is different from what actually is, and need a symbol to rally to. [aside]Interesting enough, by the way, that these were brought in the French presidential debate.[/aside] The nation is some marks you can actually identify, in this case, the UK with.
  2. Greatest. Tony Blair chose his words carefully – he did not say most influential or most powerful, or any such thing the French might come up with. He said greatest; and in terms of nations, what does it mean? It could mean loveable, but that would be entirely subjective, and not quite fit in. Though I am sure the ex-PM is in love with his nation. What I think he meant there is that, no matter what, the UK has still a unique feel, an unbreakable set of chartacteristics, and a creative culture. And he is well right.

The UK is, nowadays, patly based on immigrant population. They remain within small or large communities; but still take on a big chunk of British culture – from the language to tea. And the oddity to drive on the left. Etc. etc. – they may be thought of as foreigners, but truly they are British. And that’s without having to wave a flag around.

This is why, truly, the UK is the greatest nation on Earth. And I am proud to live in it.
(Disclaimer: abuse at the French is purely jocular)


Spidey

Title:
Spiderman 3
Rating:
5 out of 5 stars

The main problem with Holywood sequels is that they try to top off what has been done before. Thus, Spiderman 3 could be dubbed bigger, better, with this time not one, not two, but three villains. Quite ambitious to bring the Sandman, Venom and Goblin mark II in one single movie.
And, to be honest, it doesn’t work. Well, that is, at the beginning: too much time is spent on the Sandman’s background, without quite convincing us; and Spidey/Pete’s bliss is borderline boring. You see a new Spiderman, full of pride, which is quite a leap from the one we had seen in the first two parts.
However, this all serves a purpose, and builds up to what can be named a masterpiece. For this movie revolves around one central theme, as did the previous two; but more subtly, and with a more general scope than before. What Spidey 3 is about, ultimately, is not exploring the dark side of the superhero – because that cannot work – it is about forgiveness. And it is seen from every possible angle: forget but not forgive, at the beginning – which clearly leaves some guilt in the “culprit”; Aunt May’s “forgive yourself first”; revenge; forgiveness that brings peace of mind; rejected forgiveness… I don’t think there’s any other way to tackle the issue; and yet it does not feel hackneyed in the film; on the contrary, thanks to the long and slow-paced beginning, it just feels right.
So we’re ready to forgive some awkward scenes (such as the French maître d’), and to focus on the amazing performances given by the lead cast: Tobey Maguire is, as ever, very good – even when he becomes the baddie; Kirsten Dunst is annoying but only when she’s supposed to be, and, for this once, does not give a flat, boring pretty-face act; and finally, Harry is just great! Suspension of disbelief works in every single scene he’s in; and that was important in order to make a farfetched twist quite believable. The supporting cast is quite good as well, especially the arrogant Eddie.
So, yeah, the storylines from the previous two movies are dramatically altered (who killed whom?), and yeah it’s overcrowded with villains – but it is all for the best, and iit works!

Spiderman 3 will be shown next term in the Student Cinema – worth the 2 or 3 quid!


May 21, 2007

An ideal break from revisions: Notes on a scandal

Title:
Notes on a scandal
Rating:
4 out of 5 stars

It’s time, it would seem, for another review. The very good Notes on a Scandal was on last night at the Student Cinema; and will be shown again tomorrow tuesday (21st May) at 7.30pm. In the following review, I will give out bits of the plot; but since it is not an action/suspense-led movie, they are not spoiling much.
The film is, basically, about Cate Blanchett, playing a young arts teacher, falling in love with one of her 15-year-old pupils, as seen by Judi Dench, who plays an old, upper-lip teacher believing she loves Blanchett. One could see three acts in the film: the beginning of a friendship; Dench discovers the scandal and decides to use it to her personal benefit; and the end of lies. Just like on-stage drama; which would probably suit the story a bit better.
However, all the boxes are ticked: it is an interesting, nice story; the casting couldn’t have been more accurate, at least for the leading two ladies: a manipulative, old shrew Judi Dench (the best actress in British cinema); and a young naive/candid Cate Blanchett. The story editing works perfectly, the pacing is right and conveys the feelings of the cast; directing and photography are (just) ok, and the music is awesome, even though it suffers from what I now shall call the Murray Gold syndrome: it is so good that post-producers decide to put it in the film just a tad too loud.
So, with no apparent flaw, surely, this would deserve a five star? Well, no. The story is, ultimately, about lies; and whilst the film manages to show bourgeois happiness is just a facade, it fails to go far enough in denouncing Judi’s lies – lies to herself, especially about her love and friendship with Blanchett. Hers is the quest for power over other people, and the delusion of having it, but not love. The same is true about Blanchett, who lies to herself about the state of her marriage, etc. And I resent Notes on a Scandal a bit for not focusing on this, just a tad more than it did.
Still, an all-around enjoyable film (yes, like every film that is on at the student cinema: Epic Movie was a fragment of your imagination and was never ever shown in L3!); and it also deserves praise for being only 97 minutes long, which is rather a counter-trend in post-Lord of the Rings overlong/overstretched cinema.
An ideal break from revisions!


May 20, 2007

Excellent PR stunt.

The very controversial new president of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, is manipulating the media with quite an impressive ability. And, I’d say, has done so for quite a while now.
His latest PR stunt is quite twisted: right after the election, he decided to take a leave – for a “well-deserved rest”, and to “inhabit the presidential function”. Bang. Controversy all over the media in France, and the socialists just go for it. Scandalous; where does the money come from – and when it turns out it’s not the taxpayer’s but an industrial’s – has there been traffic of influences? Truly enough, the amount spent during these days was quite high (I can’t remember the exact figures, but it’s not very relevant anyway). And true, it is quite weird that a newly-elected president leaves the country right after the election. But it is entirely within his rights, all the more so as he was not invested yet.
What are the real consequences of this controversy? Something that, I’m very much afraid, we’ll have to endure during the next five years to say the least. Media that are focused on the person – the president himself – and not on the policy he seeks to implement. They fell for it this time, and also did before and during the campaign, when all you could hear was that he was a dangerous man, quick to lose his temper etc. – and the much mediatised divorce from Cécilia. Talking about her, weirdly enough, she reappears in the front of the scene – and guess what? the media don’t fail to notice and say it.
When the media focus on the person, instead of on his actions and policy, we enter a very dangerous society; and the cult of personality is only one step ahead. An example – about slavery. This year is the 200th aniversary of the abolition of slavery; and Sarkozy, as he should, attended the ceremony (note he didn’t attend the ceremony for the end of World War II, which is a bank holiday in France) – the media picked up on the fact that he had condemned “repentance” as “self-hatred” during the campaign, and insisted on the fact that he contradicted himself. Instead of looking at Sarkozy’s actions, once more, they focused on the person, taking his words about repentance as unalterable truth.
Now – it is true that the personality of a president is important – especially when world politics as concerned; but focusing on it is a very, very slippery slope.


Travis' latest album

Title:
Rating:
3 out of 5 stars

Travis are back, after a three-year hiatus, with a fourth album, The boy with no name. It is definitely more pop than rock, this time – and marks quite a change from 12 memories. The boy with no name draws upon all the positive sides from the previous albums (some instrumentals remind of Quicksand; Selfish Jean belongs definitely more to Good Feeling than any other album, and My Eyes rings a bit like Fear. And the pop bits are from The Invisible Band, and remind especially of Side.
So, it should be a masterpiece. And yet the magic doesn’t work – granted, some pieces are just awesome – especially My eyes – but all these songs are just – well – sung. They do not convey any feeling, where the whole of The invisible band was transmitting a general feeling of hope, The man who sadness and insecurity, Good feeling buoyant happiness, and 12 Memories anger. And not conveying any feeling makes The Boy with no name achieve only a three stars. Interestingly enough, the video to the first single, Closer, happens in a supermarket – and that’s basically what some of the songs are: supermarket music, lacking energy and originality.
Pity, because we all know that Travis is able to do so much better!
So – yes – individually, there are some great songs: My eyes, One night, and Selfish Jean. But as a whole, the new album is a disappointment.


May 19, 2007

The Perfume (the movie)

Title:
The Perfume
Rating:
4 out of 5 stars

The Perfume – the movie – was, at its very core, ambitious, this for many reasons. Most obviously, it is extraordinarily difficult to transpose the olfactory sense, which is at the very centre of Süskind’s novel, onto a media that is mostly graphical. Secondly, the book itself is a masterpiece and has some wonderful descriptions, which, again, inevitably would fail to be rendered on a screen. Also, the leading part (almost the only part) is that of a twisted soul, but one which has charisma and appeal: casting had to be really fitting for this role. So – quite a challenge!
It would have been easy to focus on how obsession drives Jean-Baptiste crazy- though that would have departed slightly from the book. Too easy, probably – and studies about obsession-driven people are abundant in nowadays’ cinema (The Prestige is an exampe of them, and a very good one); so this path was not chosen. Being factual is, also, not an option- because the olfactory sense is the most subjective of our senses. The film is avoiding all these clichés and focus on one (maybe the main) aspect of the book – that, ultimately, Jean-Baptiste is some sort of Devil. Which is more obvious when you think of it – hints are plotting the whole book and film, for instance Jean-Baptste’s last name, Grenouille (frog, a creature associated with the Devil as far as I can remember). Whilst this becomes progressively obvious in the book, the same is not true of the movie – and one can easily mistake such references for random elements of the script: the word weird came quite a lot when I discussed about some scenes with friends. But – think about it – the deaths that occur to Jean-Baptiste’s carers right after he leaves (malediction element), deception, crime/murder, obsession with perfection – somehow trying to better God – and, more interestingly, the orgy scene towards the end of the film – symbolising lust. Now, this scene – which is gratuitous if you don’t have the Devil interpretation in mind – is quite controversial. It leads to quite a lot of giggling from the audience, but still is pivotal for the whole film: this is the culmination of Grenouille as the Devil, with him finally deceiving everyone into lust; but also entailing the central notion of Redemption : the first tears in Jean-Baptiste’s eyes, and the acceptance of death through the arms of the father as final redemptory act. Every symbol is there, even the cross. Now, as far as I recall, there is no orgy in the book, so this scene was added. And it is a stroke of genius. For once, story alterations actually add depth to a story, instead of, say, just adding a plotline (as the Aragorn/Arwen relationship in The Lord of The Rings). The very last scene keeps on adding some depth to the fallen angel ongoing theme: as the voiceover says, all that mattered was for Jean-Baptiste to be loved.
So the adaptation is, overall, genius. There are, however, still some defaults: the story being, ultimately, centred on Jean-Baptiste, so much time should not be spent on showing that the perfumer’s business was derelict, no matter how famous the actor is. Why do producers feel they have to use famous actors? Cameo is perfectly fine as far as I’m concerned! Also, one may say that, because of this focus on the Devil side of things, the story becomes very linear, and lacks transversal dimension. Which is true, but it somehow works in this particular film! Graphically, it is superb, except from the first couple of scenes: in order to show the olfactory sense at work, the director flashes evocative pictures. Quite fortunately, he quite rapidly gives up on that – fortunately, because the movie is about smells, which you, intrinsically, cannot show. The help comes from the amazing performance of the lead actor. He manages to pull off a tormented, yet disgusting and touching performance, as well as makes us see him smell. Suspension of disbelief is really easy (well, until the orgy scene) and that is moainly thanks to him. From the orgy scene onwards, he switches to allegory mode, which – again – works perfectly well!
But the film is not all good: there are a few minor issues. The voiceover is the one that I have most difficulties with: it is clearly a wrong choice when all you’re doing is following Jean-Baptiste around. It is, really, a lazy choice. But it gets worse: it would have been fine to have some voiceover; however, to have it speak like someone telling a children’s tale just doesn’t work. Because the story is so adult, and the tale mode does not work when you’re talking about the Devil. The other thing i hold against the Perfume is the music. Except for the one bit before Jean-Baptiste’s final murder (which is, by all my standards, brilliant), the music is unoriginal at best.
But this is all I can find to say against the film. Did it achieve what it had set out to do? Only partially – it fails to show as clearly as the book that Jean-Baptiste is an incarnation of the Devil, which makes it a failure for, say, half the audience- I personally did not like it that much the first time I saw it! So to all of you my dear readers, this film deserves a strong four. Go watch it again, or buy the DVD, because it is worth it!


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