rfbooth.com :: blog archives

Moments in time, preserved to embarrass me later.

11-4-2005 (archived)

We spent yesterday afternoon at the movies, and if you added up everything we saw you might get one really worthwhile film. This was the roundup of low-priority movies that we've finally got around to, and what it mainly showed is that we're doing pretty well at setting priorities.

First up was “Valiant”, a pathetically unambitious animated britpic about wartime homing pigeons. It's ok for the very young and undemanding, but there's nothing here beyond the very minimum, much of the humour is watered-down Allo Allo jokes, and it's a criminal waste of a strong cast. It's watchable enough for a Sunday lunchtime, I suppose, though if I were going to make a movie about pigeons I might, I dunno, hire an animator who could draw them, indeed who appeared to have at some point seen a pigeon.

Next was “Be Cool”, a lazy followup to Get Shorty. If you took out all the references to the first film and the embarrassing Pulp Fiction reprise, you'd have about ten minutes left, but if you disengage all of your higher mental processes there's plenty of cheese to enjoy. Rubbish, but kind of fun.

Last and decidedly least came “Ring Two”, which is just shit. It's not even entertainingly bad. Really the only worthwhile element of this movie is watching the extraordinarily talented Naomi Watts do her very best with an unsalvagable picture. It abandons the internal rules and coherence of its predecessor in favour of near-random squibs, the oh-so-spooky atmosphere isn't, the obligatory Weird Haunted Kid isn't very good, and it's generally a monumentally tedious damp failure of a movie. I'd actually rather re-watch Catwoman than see this again; at least that was unintentionally funny.

13-4-2005 (archived)

Normally I'd leave yet another film review a few days longer to ring the changes, but I'd hate to think that anyone who might see “Bullet Boy” didn't because I wrote about it too late. This extraordinary British film comes from a documentary director and a cast as many of whom are Hackney locals as professional actors, and has a real documentary feel about it. The acting is flawless and naturalistic, with no feeling of fiction. I have no special insight into urban youth or gun culture, but from what I do know (living in inner-city Manchester on a street that's been closed to investigate drive-by shootings several times during my residence, and having worked in exactly the sort of school to which these characters go for a time and talked with them) the atmosphere and the language are spot on. The film's analysis of a young man trying to leave violence behind but being sucked in by a mixture of machismo (mostly other people's) and an in many ways admirable sense of honour and obligation rings very true to me, and the disturbing effect of what we're seeing is greatly heightened by the sense of utter reality. Particularly well-observed is the cultural gulf between the youths and their parents; they do not have the same accents, the same vocabulary, the same mores, the same basic understanding of the different worlds in which they exist. This is a remarkable and powerful film, and if you're interested in cinema as a medium of reflection and social commentary as well as as entertainment and art form, you need to see it.

16-4-2005 (archived)

So, a New York court has ruled that material is not in the public domain even when out of copyright, at least when it comes to recordings. I can't help but feel that this isn't that much of a change, it just means that the entertainment majors don't need to lobby for period extensions every time it looks like Mickey Mouse might come into PD, but I still lament the apparent loss of the principle.

Copyright is not a natural right, it's an artificial monopoly granted to encourage artists to create and to release what they create. It's always been temporary, just as patent rights still are - and surely 50 or 75 years is enough for any creator (even if not for the monolithic companies that actually exploit the laws). Public domain matters.

18-4-2005 (archived)

The most surprising thing about the Hundred Greatest Albums show (which I didn't watch, being easily irritated) is that it's a fairly well balanced list, in the sense of balancing critical credibility and cool with popular sales. Since I'm not particularly interested in either, my own roughly-300-album collection overlaps this list in exactly three places, which is about what I would have guessed. Comparing it to this slightly unconvincing list of the best-selling albums in the UK (I can't find any other source, but I'm not sure I trust this), there's no doubt in my mind that the channel four list represents a better quality; the only albums I have from the best-selling 66 are a couple of hits collections.

I don't have a conclusion, except that while I don't often agree with critics and voters, I apparently agree with punters significantly less. No surprise there, then.

21-4-2005 (archived)

I don't know if this is too, too cute or just horrible. Or, indeed, both. It's like a vampire hamster as imagined by Gary Oldman. (Via jwz).

23-4-2005 (archived)

So we have a new Pope, and while many people have entirely reasonable criticisms of his background, beliefs, and indeed the very idea that a 78-year-old fanatic should be put in charge of anything at all, it was very different once. Like royalty, popes used to be far more entertaining than they are today, and for me the real high points were around 1100 years back. Still, the Cadaver Synod was peculiar even by the standards of a peculiar time.

During the proceedings, the decomposing body of Formosus, who had been dead for nine months, was dressed in his papal vestments and seated on a throne while his successor, Pope Stephen VII, read the charges against him and conducted the trial. A deacon was appointed as Formosus's counsel and instructed to answer on his behalf, but the deacon said little or nothing while Stephen shouted accusations and insults at the dead man. At the end of the synod, Formosus was declared guilty, his election as pope was declared invalid, all of his acts as pontiff were annulled, his corpse was stripped of its vestments, and the three fingers used for consecrations were hacked off. The body was then dressed in ordinary clothes and buried. Shortly thereafter it was exhumed and thrown into the River Tiber.

Stephen, incidentally was not the pope immediately after Formosus - that was Boniface VI, who served only fifteen days before Stephen removed him. Stephen himself lasted only a little over a year before he was strangled to death.

The story isn't over for Formosus yet, of course. The next but one Pope, Theodore II (who served all of twenty days before dying; there were a lot of popes around at this time) reinstated all Formosus's appointments and had him buried in St Peter's (apparently his body had been fished out of the river in Portugal), and the pope after even had the records of the trial burned (he served two years, so the ashes even had time to get cold). A few popes were then (possibly, the records are unclear) murdered or executed by their successors shortly after acceding, Leo by Christopher by Sergius, who stuck around long enough to dig poor old Formosus back up and put him back on trial (ignoring the fact that one of the intervening popes had had the wit to make it unlawful to try the dead), finding him guilty in possibly the most predictable outcome in history (you don't try a corpse unless you're trying to make a point), and then had what was left of him beheaded. His successor was widely believed to be his own illegitimate son, taking us into the Pornocracy.

There surely cannot be many people who've died, been dug up, put on trial, mutilated, buried, dug up, drowned (if you can drown a corpse), dried out, reburied, dug up and beheaded. We just don't try hard enough any more.

There are plenty of other good periods, including Benedict IX who was pope three separate times (sold the Papacy to Gregory VI for a vast amount of money, reinstated and then deposed, reinstated and deposed again and finally excommunicated. Nobody really knows what became of him in the end). It makes the current pope having been in the Hitler Youth and served as head of the Inquisition seem a bit ordinary, somehow.

25-4-2005 (archived)

The Interpreter has been widely misunderstood, because it looks like a thriller. As such, it doesn't work very well, because that's just a disguise; what this really is is a slow, backstory-rich character study of two extraordinarily gifted close-up actors, Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn (a man good enough to get away with looking remarkably like a Fraggle). This isn't a great film, but what it does it does quietly, powerfully, and memorably.

28-4-2005 (archived)

In the latest installment of “Dear Japanese People...”, we present Ganguro, the opposite of goth. David Lee Roth could carry this off. Most of them just look... actually, I'm at a loss here. Answers on a postcard. (Via pretty much every reader of Something Awful on my list.)

1-5-2005 (archived)

We went to the Manchester Guitar Show today, and it was mixed. On the one hand, the stock on show was the most boring yet, with only a handful of unusual guitars at the whole show. The shops seem, increasingly, to be simply taking along the stuff they sell lots of day-in, day-out, but if you want that sort of “normal” gear you'll just go to your local shop and buy it. The whole point of a guitar show is to buy something you didn't know you wanted, or something you wanted but never expected to find.

On the upper hand, the demos were great, with hardly any rambling about gear about which there was in any case little to be said, and a great deal of good playing by bands without backing tapes. Chris George looked much more comfortable than in previous years, and the Marshall band's drummer was a true star, Alex Van Halen fishface stylings and all. The JJ demos, by Pierre Frampton and Escape Committee, were if anything even better; the rest of the band weren't particularly special, but Frampton had a terrific voice and some of the best guitar playing I've seen for a long time, a totally fluent all-round exhibition. Great stuff.

I bought virtually nothing, as did we all, but I may yet go back tomorrow for another look at some of the unusual, and cheap guitars on one of the stands...

3-5-2005 (archived)

I had occasion to typeset some tablature today, so I decided to give Power Tab a try. Well, I may have been particularly dense this evening, but while it's pretty good when you get the hang of it it's nonetheless hard to get going on and Broken in a few minor but deeply irritating ways. Ranting here.