rfbooth.com :: blog archives

Moments in time, preserved to embarrass me later.

8-11-2004 (archived)

Today for your delectation a brace of old-school horror movies, one a prequel and one Japanese remade. It is quite an achievement to start with so many strong, deeply affecting symbols and achieve so little with them, but “Exorcist: The Beginning” manages it. I would pick out some of the good points of this waste of film, if I could think of any. It's not scary, not funny enough, not shocking, and not original. It's fairly short, though. Unmitigated toss.

Enough on that subject. “The Grudge” is yet another remake of a Japanese horror picture; this one, directed by the original writer/director, is a bit of a mixed bag. There's nothing even vaguely new here, but it manages a strikingly effective mixture of American 80s horror rail-straight plotting and that powerful Japanese way with images. At no point does anything surprising happen, but even though we know exactly what's coming, and almost exactly when, it still gets us jumping and adrenaline pumping. The opening scene made me think we were in Final Destination territory, but the rest of it was nothing like as laughable; and, even when funny, it still works on that visceral level that this sort of film should. Not great, but definitely worthwhile for fans of the genre.

11-11-2004 (archived)

Yes, I know, yet another film review. I'll write something else soon, honestly.

In the mean time, “Birth” is an interesting, unusual, distinctive film, and one about which I'm still not quite decided. The premise isn't, to me, particularly interesting, and while Cameron Bright is probably the best Spooky Little Kid out there I'm growing very tired of said SLKs. The pace is very, very slow, making the 100 minutes seem longer, but it does hold the attention. Mostly that's because of a stunning performance from Kidman; the long, slow, close-up scenes (particularly the seemingly endless, silent, astoundingly expressive single shot at a concert) are minature masterclasses in screen acting. The plot is stronger than it at first seems, too. I'm slowly coming round to the view that this is probably a very good film, and it's certainly remarkably well acted and shot, but it didn't really satisfy me.

13-11-2004 (archived)

There's an organisation rejoicing in the name of “Whalley Range for Peace and Justice” that, every Friday for a long time now, sets up on the corner of my road with signs protesting the way in Iraq, the manifold evils of Bush, and so on. They are rewarded by a barrage of (solicited) car horns, which is mildly annoying but not infuriating. Their objective, one assumes, is to make people thing, and they certainly make me think; but what I mostly think about is why these people, with whom I agree about almost every one of their publicised positions, are mostly so...

What's the right term, I wonder? Annoying is right, but it doesn't cover it. Comical? Pathetic? I am, after a fashion, a bit of a hippy myself. I have no problem with unconventional dress or bleeding-heart liberalism. But these bearded high-fibre motherfuckers trouble me enormously. If I, surely a part of their natural constituency, am moved not to indignation and righteous anger but weariness and amused contempt, how much less converted will be those who didn't agree with them in the first place? As a mind-changing exercise, I can't see them being any better than neutral, and I suspect they're actually counterproductive.

I got a leaflet the other day from one of these guys, while waiting at the traffic lights on my way home. This very night, there's a gig by this guy up the road. Logo: an acoustic guitar with a clenched fist, “songs of social significance”. I have, as a service to you, my gentle readers, read some of his lyrics and listened to a couple of his songs. I've heard worse; he's competent, he can string a rhyme together. So why does the overall effect make me want to bomb a third world village?

We need something outside of our political system, two parties with only one real worldview; but surely we can find something that isn't either smug and laughable or hectoring and mad? I want much of what these people want, and their company troubles me.

15-11-2004 (archived)

Despite being linked by Weebl, I didn't notice Fat-pie's Salad Fingers cartoons until Ian drew them to my attention. They aren't exactly funny. Beautiful, grotesque, and genuinely, cringingly, spine-twistingly disturbing, yes. If I may dip briefly into pretentiousness, they seem to me to exist in the area between entertainment and serious, thought-provoking art; I'm still not sure why they are as viscerally effective as I found them. I recommend them all (1, 2, 3, 4), but definitely not just before bed time.

18-11-2004 (archived)

Showing up at a school concert, good. Participating, good. Going out for a drink with the music department, good. Staying out for a curry and not getting home until 1:30am on a school night, good but not smart. Doing so with packing for the weekend still to do, dumb. Sitting up writing blog posts about it all, really dumb.

What with one thing and the other, there will be a very short hiatus here, missing maybe one or two posts from the normal schedule. Do not adjust your sets; service will resume by the end of next week.

23-11-2004 (archived)

Ladies in Lavender” is quiet, delightful, utterly British and thoroughly restorative. Judi Dench and Maggie Smith are as remarkable as ever, there's not a weak performance in sight, and Natascha McElhone is still ridiculously beautiful. I'd've liked at least a gesture in the direction of explaining Marowski's appearance in these quiet Cornish lives, but you can't have everything.

I can't remember the last time I saw a film that made me feel so much better about the world. Not earthshaking, but highly recommended.

25-11-2004 (archived)

Lazily, this is going to be an almost straight paste of my newsgroup post, in-jokes and all, about this year's uk.music.guitar “national”, in which we book a hotel in Wigan for the weekend and converge for reunions and performance. The centrepiece of the weekend is arguably the Saturday night gig, in which the songs various of us have been working on (for several hours, in some cases!) come together into surprisingly good attempts in front of an appreciative audience. I ended up singing on fourteen songs on the Saturday (thirteen planned) and one, unplanned, in the Sunday morning acoustic session. A list, of what and whom, will follow.

Personal highlights were all tied up with seeing people I don't see enough of; for many of the Southern and Scots contingents, this was the first time I'd laid eyes on you since last year. It's always great to spend yet more time with the Manchester PU crowd, too :). No offense to anyone not mentioned, bue picking some names: Jose, whom I'd not seen in what seems like forever, and first-time meetings with chatroom regulars Tom Lofi and Jeremy 5x5, survivors of the Happy Bus. It was great to see Clive and the Edwards Brothers again.

Any weekend in which I get to spend time with Justin Otto is a weekend well-spent. Enough said.

Musical highlights: I didn't volunteer, this time, to play anything I didn't actually want to, and I again wanted to leave the guitar playing to others, so everything I was involved in was tremendous fun for me. Special mentions must go to No Justice (Harem Scarem being a favourite band for us all), Can't Get Enuff (Winger likewise), Shy Boy (Clive and Greg being absurd), Live in Japan (a ridiculous choice that we astonishingly got away with, and one of the very best songs I know). Stand Up, though, was the one for me; brilliant playing from Pablo, Mark, Ian and Steve, one of my favourite songs by the singer I'm utterly obsessed with at the moment, and the one song of the night on which I was completely happy with my vocal tone. I was pleased that the range lasted as well as it did, only the last top E in "sweet child" really missing and then not by much, but it was all rather more Chris Cornell than I would have preferred. I will do better next time.

I've been amazed, and of course gratified, by the enormous response to Damn Good on the Sunday morning. We hadn't planned it, there was less than ten minutes from Clive suggesting it to us getting up and doing it, and I'm still not quite sure why it's been as appreciated as it was. But I'll take it ;).

Sadly I didn't hear as much of other people's stuff as I'd've liked; I was getting through enormous quantities of water trying to keep my throat in shape, and going back and forth to the toilet in the other building rather than across the stage (and stepping outside to warm back up). All of my other highlights, then, were first-time singers: Clive and Greg on Saturday, Justin, inspirationally, on Sunday.

It was great to finally get Pablo onto the stage. Next year, we'll use that drill! Another man who really has no idea just how good he is.

And then there were the bass players. Many, of course, were well-established, and jaw-dropping though Shy Boy was we all knew Greg was ludicrously talented and massively entertaining already. Paul Creedy's quality was a total surprise to me, though; I was sure he'd acquit himself well, but just how well surprised me.

Then there's Ian Myatt. To go from one terrified, relentlessly-practiced song on guitar last year to a double handful of confident, relaxed, perfectly grooved songs on bass this year is a stunning achievement. To do it while growing in musicianship, stage presence, and outright humanity, and even do justice to some backing vocals, is otherworldly. I had a hand in dragging him up on a stage for the first time, and I'm prouder than I know how to say.

To finish, because I didn't quite say it often enough on Saturday: gentlemen, I give you... Steve Fuckin' White!

Electric: I Believe In A Thing Called Love (The Darkness), Can't Get Enuff (Winger), Crying in the Rain (Whitesnake), Just Like An Arrow (Magnum), No Justice (Harem Scarem), Enter Sandman (Metallica), Shy Boy (David Lee Roth), Live In Japan (Mike Keneally), Detroit Rock City (Kiss), Run To The Hills (Iron Maiden), Sweet Child Of Mine (Guns'n'Roses), Born To Be Wild (Steppenwolf, impromptu intervention). Acoustic: Damn Good (David Lee Roth). Musicians played with: Tom Burnell, Adrian Clark, Paul Creedy, Jose de las Heras, Andy Dempster, Mike Edmunds, Greg Edwards, Ross Edwards, David Galbraith, Paul McCrone, Mark McGuigain, Jeremy Kimmons, Clive Murray, Ian Myatt, John Pinchin, Trev Ridney, John Rimmer, James Screaton, Pete Spaldin, Andrew Stelmasiak, Mike Whitaker, and the astonishing, relentless Steve White, who drummed for almost five hours with almost no rest.

27-11-2004 (archived)

Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason” is not far from being a slightly funnier reprise of the first film. Zellweger again proves that she can do comedy, especially physical comedy, with surprisingly naturalness and that she's a great deal more attractive thirty pounds up on her usual skinniness, Colin Firth does what he always does, and many of the scenes work very well (a few are frankly weak, but never mind). The major problems here are two. One, at least for this viewer, is that the empathy we are to feel for Bridget really failed me; she's just too self-destructively, self-righteously, repeatedly stupid for me to really believe, let alone like. The other, much bigger problem, is that Hugh Grant is by far the best thing in this film, and he's not in it nearly enough. A perfectly decent Working Title staple, and no doubt it will run for months, but still... must try harder.

29-11-2004 (archived)

I Heart Huckabees” has had a truly mixed response; some people loved it, some belittled it, and not a few seem to have been genuinely offended by it.

Well, fuck them; it's great. Complicated, witty, clever, touching, and brilliantly acted by everyone involved, unlike anything else I can remember, and beautiful to look at, this is adventurous film-making without being difficult viewing. I could reprise the plot, but there's really no point. This is a film to immerse yourself in. Brilliant.

2-12-2004 (archived)

This is the 400th post, and so it's introspection time again. The 200th came up after just a year, the 300th about eight months later, and this is just under eight months more. I don't have quite the time and energy for this I had early on, but that's not the only reason updates have slowed. I think, as I said 100 posts ago, the glorious bubble of linklogging may have been and gone. My suspicion is that the rate of cool stuff being produced is not all that different to what it was seven or eight years ago, when the 'net first started hyperexpanding, but that when blogging took off we used up those first five or six years' worth of links in a year or two. Now we're having to make do with logging at one year per year, and of course there's less.

What that means, for me, is that most of my posts are generated in between my ears rather than coming from browsing, especially during term when I have little browsing time. The film reviews are still a lot of what comes up here, not least because so much of my social life revolves around the cinema. There's probably more original content here than ever, but I'm acutely aware that if you're not interested in the film reviews there's probably only two posts out of every five that are really for you, and that's unlikely to change much until vacation time. I like the reviews and enjoy doing them (or I wouldn't), but this was never meant to be a cinema blog.

This got me thinking about the life cycle of blogs. Who, really, turns out good, original, content regularly and has done so for a long time? People have periods of brilliance: Mark Pilgrim for much of late 2002 (all my old links into here have, tragically, rotted), Paul Ford almost always, but less often regularly, and padraig back when he had time to write regularly. There are others. Richard Herring is regular and often funny, but Warming Up is a slightly different endeavour, a diary rather than a blog in the sense of these others. Girls Are Pretty is daily and brilliant, but again of a different nature. bOINGbOING is the One True Linklog, and more than a linklog, but isn't the sort of pure, concentrated excellence I'm thinking of. Am I missing somebody?

Realising the fleeting nature of great blogs has cheered me up rather. If Paul Ford, a writer whose keyboard I am not fit to clean, can't turn out three pieces a week that meet his standards in his spare time why should I expect to? Of course I don't scale the heights he does either, but I shouldn't, I think, be too hard on myself because not every post is brilliant and not every review quite as succinct and witty as it might be with more time and a small, buxom, editorial staff. I have, of course, tried the other route: when I didn't post pieces until I felt they were really ready, I put up three over five years, and none of them were all that good anyway. I was never thinking of giving it up - I have found I need this - but I'm sure once again that what I'm doing is, for the moment at least, the way I want it done.