rfbooth.com :: blog archives

Moments in time, preserved to embarrass me later.

21-7-2004 (archived)

I was going to post about Spiderman 2 today, but I'm sort of tired from spending two hours up very large ladders, beset by rain, wind and trees, splicing coaxial cables after my TV aerial blew down. Still, now I not only have decent picture quality back again, but I have that warm feelingly of Manly Sufficiency that I imagine is the reason people fuck about with this DIY stuff in the first place.

That and the fact that I've saved enough by doing it myself to, eg, buy a freeview box. Not that I actually watch much TV, but it's still tempting.

22-7-2004 (archived)

This week's first film review is “Spiderman 2”, an astonishingly highly-praised superhero sequel.

There's a lot of good things about this movie. The effects are brilliant, but that cuts no ice these days - we expect it. Molina's Doc Ock is wonderful, and the scene where the prosthetic limbs attach themselves into his spine is chilling and uncomfortable, exactly the sort of thing you don't expect to see in a PG film. J K Simmons again is a delight as the overblown monster of a newspaper editor.

As for the rest, I will confess that my views may have been tainted a little by the audience, comfortably the worst-behaved I have ever been seated with. I've never liked Maguire as Spiderman or Parker; his little-boy voice and earnestness just don't really do it for me. Praise is due for making an attempt to focus on the character and his problems, but the most interesting side of Spiderman - the cocksure overconfidence, that tendency to go out looking for trouble - is lost completely in favour of puppy-dog-eyed shallow philosophising and idiotic agonising. It's not all a dead loss, but this more-than-two-hour film drags badly between (the excellent) action scenes. The people calling this the best superhero movie ever must have missed several others that were just more fun, notably the X-Men films, and the flawed but beautiful Hulk. And then there's the equally fully storied, far funnier and darker Batman, which was never toe-curlingly dreadfully scripted and acted.

And this is, twice. The scene in which Aunt May effectively persuades him back into his vocation is bad enough, awash with saccharine, sanctimony and cheese; I cannot understand how some people have taken it seriously. The dead Uncle Ben scene has apparently been accepted as risible, too bad to even contemplate, by everyone.

Despite all this abuse, it's not a bad film. Maguire doesn't suit me, but he's not bad; Dunst is really pretty good; the action is great, and even some of the rest is pretty decent. It's an enjoyable, not unambitious movie, and it'll be one of the better handful of its type this year. But it's not great; it's probably the action flick of the year so far, but it's had no real competition. If we finish 2004 with it still holding that crown, I'll be disappointed. I am aware that my view is probably Internet treason.

See it, but don't expect the earth.

25-7-2004 (archived)

This week's second film review is “Nathalie”, a very, very French film indeed.

Casting Beart, Ardant and Depardieu, this was always going to be watchable, and it's actually quite a bit better than that. There's a gentle, unemotional closeness here as we watch the three central figures (Depardieu mostly off-stage) quietly becoming victims of their own lives. I didn't see it as smugly presenting a “fatuous belief in it how daringly sophisticated it is”, but then I don't think that the subject matter is particularly daring or sophisticated. Indeed, it seems to have been reviewed in general with an injured vitriol I just don't understand; perhaps some were disappointed at the completely unerotic affect of a film with so much sex in it. We thought it was really rather good. Your mileage may vary.

26-7-2004 (archived)

This week's first film review is “Fahrenheit 9/11”, Michael Moore's anti-Bush, anti-Republican polemical documentary.

Nobody familiar with Moore's style will be surprised by this film, and it falls down in the same ways as his previous ones: over-sentimentality, occasional pushing of the line past “suffering with” and arguably into “exploitation”, and shots so cheap that even his sympathisers can't help but feel dirty.

Similarly, nobody who's been paying attention to the issues will find much in the way of material to surprise them here; sure, there are lots and lots of things that smell funny, and when you put them all side by side it's really hard not to believe that somebody's been “up to shenanigans” somewhere. Like his previous film, it pretty much works for me, but then I'm an anti-Iraq-war anti-Bush anti-huge-businesses-in-politics damned hippy liberal.

And there, in a sense, is the problem. People don't believe pretty much what Moore believes will come out of this completely unconvinced. That's inevitable, but it does reduce Moore to the kind of liberal-cheerleader role that Chomsky's best known for (though he's far less extreme). That's fine; we need some really vicious attack dogs on this side of the fight, there are so many slaveringly insane ones on the other side. This may not be entirely truth (though it may), and it's certainly not beauty, but it is politics.

If you're already angry about what's being done to, and in the name of, western civilisation, then this will be funny, infuriating, cathartic, and cleansing. If you're not, you probably weren't going to watch it anyway.

(I know, I know, three film reviews in a row. Blame the studios for piling up all the good stuff before people jet off on holiday.)

28-7-2004 (archived)

This week's second and, I promise, last film review is “Around the world in 80 days”, a kid-film vehicle for Jackie Chan and (to a lesser extent) Steve Coogan, awash with celebrity cameos.

It was clear from the trailers that this was not going to be a good film in any comprehensible-to-adults sense, but there was nothing else watchable out that we hadn't seen already and we like Chan, so why not? Good choice.

Sure, it's rubbish, but it's good-spirited, over-blown, tremendously entertaining rubbish. Chan is as immensely likable as ever, the action scenes are great fun, Coogan is not bad, the supporting cast ham it up as required, and the fact that it's completely unrelated to Verne's novel is irrelevant. (Incidentally, all you people who claim Verne was the first science fiction writer, you mean “fantasy”; and you're wrong either way. Thank you for your kind attention in this matter.) Even the completely undeserved kicking given to the (in real life) astonishingly capable and talented Lord Kelvin couldn't put a damper in it. Possibly the most relaxing, enjoyable two hours I've spent in a cinema this year.

30-7-2004 (archived)

I was going to write about how I cunningly solved an intermittent computer problem, but of course it has just become clear that I actually haven't, so I can't. Dammit. So, you get lots of links, many of which were already in b3ta, coz I know most of you don't read it.

My typing this evening has been vastly impeded by the kitten, who has decided that the absolute best place to stretch out and purr is along the line of my collarbone, balancing atop my chest and snuggling into my throat. In keeping with this, here's lots of particularly excellent pictures of cats.

There's a particularly magnificent interview with Steve Lukather up at MelodicRock. Long, honest, funny, and full of insight. Since this has been all over #ukmg and came to my attention through James, most of the likely readership for this probably already have, but even for non-musician rock enthusiasts this should be worthwhile.

Finally, the Department of Vague Paranoia is a brilliant parody. Sadly, as you can see from the links near the bottom of the site, the government have exactly as much of a sense of humour as you'd expect.

I must go now; the kitten is trying to eat my bedroom door.

3-8-2004 (archived)

The weather has been annoying a lot of people. It doesn't annoy me, that's what other people are for, but it can stop me functioning completely. That does annoy me; as ever, the most irritating thing in my world is myself.

Today is a lovely little minature of the situation. At 2am it commenced to rain hard enough that the noise of it landing woke me up. Then there was thunder. And I was delighted, because suddenly it was much less humid, and while I can cope with warm, sticky breaks me completely. I arose early, had a great workout, and walked to work in the warm rain feeling fantastic.

And then it stopped raining, and within minutes everything was steamy and tropical, and I melted into a valueless sack of guts like a man made of butter trapped in a microwave. My father is dark and tans, my mother is blonde and doesn't, and in the genetic gamble my cards came up with a straight flush of northern European; I'm large and blond, and I simply don't tan at all. If I stop shaving I very quickly look like I'm wearing a collie-fur balaclava. I have no problems coping with the cold in winter, and I'm perfectly adapted to glean vitamin D from overcast skies. But I really can't cope with these steam-bath summers.

Incidentally, my basically black-clothed pale-skinned look is (as should be clear to anyone) not a fashion choice so much as an inevitability. I'm not pale because I'm a goth; I'm pale because that's how nature made me, and the black clothes are pretty much the only coherent look for people this colour. The Sun is not my friend.

I suppose this makes teaching a good career choice; I'll be off work when this sort of weather happens. But right now, I'm trying to work, adminning serious production computers, and on days like today I'm afraid to take root in case I wipe out the whole damned machine. Here I am at home, it's just gone 11, and suddenly it's cooled off enough that I'm wide awake and spewing out stream-of-consciousness website rubbish.

Can I, I don't know, get some sort of refund?

5-8-2004 (archived)

This week's first film review is “King Arthur”, an attempt to place the legend in some sort of half-way believable history.

The cast is incredible; the amazing Clive Owen, Ray Winstone, Ioan Gruffudd, Stellan Skarsgard, and a surprisingly decent performance from Keira Knightley. Some have complained about the use of various modern-day accents; it seems to me that they're no more inappropriate than any other voices would be, and it lends the film a very English feel.

This is not quite the Arthur, Merlin and companions of Mallorian legend, but none the worse for it. The acting ranges from excellent to surprisingly good, the pace never really flags, and the whole effect is tremendously evocative and emotional, like a much less obviously manipulative and annoying Braveheart. The battle scenes are stupendous, and Owen's central performance and character, a man gradually betrayed by his empire, his church and his god, is moving. Of course it's easy to mock a film like this, and if you want to pick holes in the “history” or the script it won't be too hard. But if you have the mental muscle to suspend your disbelief, this is a tremendously enjoyable and rewarding film.

6-8-2004 (archived)

The last film review for a while is “The Stepford Wives”, which critics are obligated to pan, because, after all, it's a remake.

Liz called this the film of the year so far; I'm not sure I'd go that far, though this is comfortably the best and funniest script I've seen filmed in 2004. The cast list should speak for itself, but in case you're in any doubt, there's nothing wrong with the acting (or the timing), and the jokes range from subtle and silly to unsubtle and sillier. It's a genuinely funny movie.

However, the reviews have been really really bad (even the Guardian reviews, which normally give the impression that the qualifications required to write them are an unbridled ability to miss the point and a pathological hatred of cinema, are unusually savage). So who should you trust, us or them?

Well, us, of course. No, it's not sharply satirical; no, there's no shocking denoument as the inhumanity of the wives is revealed. This is a different film made in a different era, folks. To remake that satirical point would be redundant; instead, the target here is the apparent desire of the Republicans (and, now that “sixties liberal” is a term of New Labour abuse, even the centre-right) to return to 1950s values; none of the guff about liberty and equality, thanks, we want dinner on the table and the beds made.

Is this scary? Well, it's sort of getting that way as it gets less and less controversial, but really it's sort of ludicrous. It's hard to believe that those battles are anything but over, and so of course this movie is free to go for light comedy; and what point is there in saving the plot reveal for the end? Anybody who doesn't know the Stepford Wives were robots already is asleep enough that they're going to need the whole movie to absorb the idea anyway. We might as well have some fun with it. Still, at least one Grauniad writer got the point, so there may be hope for them yet.

This isn't a perfect film. What it is, if you take it as the piece of liberal cheer-leading entertainment it is, is very very funny.

9-8-2004 (archived)

We played pretty well on Saturday, to a crowd no less enthusiastic for having seen us two weeks earlier. We're not playing again for four weeks; various people are on holiday. I'm going to miss it.

I seem to be playing fewer, better-chosen notes. I like this.

I've broken four strings on stage in a little over two years. Two of them were in the last two gigs. I don't like this.

I can almost sing the way I want to now. I still need more work.

Trev makes an excellent emergency-guitar-change roadie.

Edward Van Halen was a much better guitarist than his relaxed approach to the instrument made him seem. And Sammy Hagar can really really sing.

Their songwriting wasn't too shabby either.

I need to take two or three showers a day in this weather. That's not a practical proposition. Neither, it seems, is a coherent single-issue post.

Happy birthday tomorrow, darlin'.