03/01/10

And before we move on to matters of more weight I made up a joke today:

What’s grey and sings jazz songs?

Elephants Gerald.

I didn’t say it was a good joke.

There was significant football this lunchtime: Manchester United v Leeds in the FA Cup third round. The match didn’t, on initial inspection, appear to be on TV but that was probably for the best I thought. I take an inappropriate amount of personal responsibility when dirty Leeds are up there to be seen by the public, like they are my kids in a shambolic school nativity play or something. Leeds have been on Sky a couple of times so far this season and what I have seen (with my eyes closed) is admittedly mightily impressive. There’s a widespread belief that we have underachieved recently, and that we are playing two leagues below where we should be playing. I go along with this. There’s a strong sense of identity at the club backed up with a very long memory. It would be great to see us go up automatically this season rather than bottle it again in the play-offs.

If we do go up I hope we make a good job of decompression in The Championship and don’t succumb to the footballing bends.

What with this afternoon’s match not being televised (to my knowledge) I committed to listening to it on the radio – no hardship, I love a good radio commentary. And I still had options I thought: Five Live were covering it, but I also imagined I would have the wonderful, unashamedly partial Radio Leeds commentary available to me courtesy of a Digital Radio app I have on my iPhone. Sadly though, for contractual reasons, Radio Leeds weren’t carrying the match. Fair enough, I rationalised. What can you do? So I was thoroughly enjoying the Five Live audio spectacle when a pal texted me pointing out that the match was on the English ITV stations which I have via Sky.

So, hurrah. I saw one of the most exciting football matches I’ve ever seen. Leeds turning Man U over at Old Trafford for the first time (I am assured) since 1981. Bloody hell. There was everything that is great about football in this game: ferocity, determination, elegance, passion, comedy. It was, without being hyperbolic, beautiful.

Television viewers in Scotland had Kids Do The Funniest Things instead.

My question is: Why?

I notice that I have been blogging for three consecutive days now (ooooh, get me) and I haven’t previously mentioned my iPhone. I mean there’s loads of stuff I haven’t mentioned: family, job, whatnot and, you know, whatnot. But an iPhone’s an iPhone. How have I not mentioned it yet?

Me and My iPhone is almost a by-the-numbers romcom. We met cute. I hated all its swanky friends who just couldn’t stop going on about how bloody marvellous it was. And then we fell in love.

I’ve had it since November and I’m still deeply in love with it. We hope to marry soon. I mean I really hate to be the voice of conformist orthodoxy here, but is there anything it can’t do? Phone, email, internet, TV, radio, iPod, photo album, dictionary, encyclopaedia, alarm clock, appointments calendar, games console, star chart, GPS, synthesiser, drum kit, mixing desk.

Man, that’s a lot of convergence right there. I’m fully expecting to soon be able to download an app that toasts bread and another that irons my shirts.

It seems to do it all quite well too. I like to stress out a gadget in its early bedding in phase. There’s no room for electronic shirking in my 365 hour a day, 24 day a year lifestyle and I like my kit to know what kind of a regimen it has committed to. I have surprisingly, but alas not entertainingly, no serious quibbles at all. Improvements? Umm, longer battery life, maybe. That’s all I’ve got. Really.

There was probably a time when Betamax inspired a similar level of awe in people, and the future may not be kind to my current infatuation, but for the moment the thing is just chuffing lovely. If you sent it back in time to 1980 the 15 year old version of me would probably think it came from the 24th and a half century. I’d certainly find it barely credible that it would be a commonplace item in my lifetime.

It’s nice not knowing what’s round the corner.

***

 

I’ve eroded a bit more of my looming DVD mountain too today.

 

Performance, directed by Donald Cammell and Nicolas Roeg in 1970, is remarkable. It’s exactly the sort of film you’d expect to get made as the end result of a process in which two genius-level young cinematic free-thinkers take a lot of drugs and then stare into a mirror for a couple of days. I don’t know if that’s the exact genesis of the film, but it wouldn’t surprise me. I’m also not completely convinced that there is a philosophical coherence behind the film’s splintered, reflective surface, but at least the makers appear to have engaged with serious questions. Questions like: Who are we really behind our superficial performances? And, how many more shots of Anita Pallenberg’s breasts can we legitimately incorporate in the final cut?

(The apparent answers to those questions are: I don’t know, and loads.)

Roeg, who had started his career as a cinematographer for Roger Corman, David Lean and Francois Truffaut, went on to make Walkabout, Don’t Look Now, The Man Who Fell to Earth, Bad Timing and Eureka, an astonishing run, before derailing slightly with Castaway, Insignificance, Track 29, The Witches and the like. His technique of cutting up the narrative and presenting scenes non-chronologically has been much-imitated but never, I think, equalled. Performance (especially in this sharp print) still looks and sounds contemporary in many ways, but it also serves as a thrilling document of swinging sixties London and its dark, gangsterish obverse side. There’s an intriguing straight line to be drawn from Blow-Up to this to Get Carter to The Long Good Friday.

Cammell had less success than Roeg. He directed the superbly alienating science fiction/horror hybrid Demon Seed, and White of the Eye which I’ve never seen. His last completed film was Wild Side (again I haven’t seen any versions of this) and it was purportedly the re-editing of this without his consent that led to Cammell committing suicide in 1996.

RIP Donald.

***

 

I’m not sure what I was thinking when I bought The Burrowers (2008). Probably something along the lines of “I wish I wasn’t in this supermarket” because this has all the signs of being a late night Tesco purchase. I have never taken drugs and I haven’t drunk alcohol for over three years, but there is something frighteningly narcotic about the atmosphere in Tesco. I tend to come out with lost time and a hole in my bank where my money used to be.

Probably what swayed me in this instance was the five star review on the front cover of the DVD in which GoreZone Magazine proclaims it to be the “best creature feature since The Thing”. I don’t know who GoreZone Magazine is or are, but they sound like my moral and intellectual superiors so I’m prone to believe them. And anyway what they have lucratively happened upon is my almost total biddability in matters pertaining to The Thing. And here I am talking about John Carpenter’s The Thing rather than Howard Hawks’ The Thing From Another World.

Hawks’ film is fine, brilliant in many ways, but it is Carpenter’s version with its Rob Bottin special effects and simple, brutal Bill Lancaster script that is a movie touchstone for me. It single-handedly has stopped me from ever prejudging remakes. Mostly they are ghastly misconceptions but not, aha NOT I say, always. There will ever be Carpenter’s majestic counterexample.

Also The Burrowers is a horror western, and how many of those do you get? Jonah Hex is excitingly on the horizon (oh that could be good if they get it right) but what else is there? Dracula Versus Billy The Kid? Yes, it’s a real film, and actually not a bad one, John Carradine as Dracula – it was released with Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter, but irritatingly I’ve never caught up with that one. Tremors 4? Near Dark (sort of)? It’s not a huge genre.

The Burrowers works well on its own, appropriately base, level. It is manifestly low of budget and perhaps a titchy bit po of face, but its dark little heart is in the right place, and there are enough unique grace notes to make it memorable. Clancy (Kurgan) Brown and William Mapother (Ethan in Lost) star and it is to writer/director J. T. Petty’s considerable credit that you’re never quite sure who will live or die from minute to minute.

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