Truth And Fiction

Many of my favourite films of recent years have been classified as documentaries (The Fog Of War, Cave Of Forgotten Dreams, Inside Job, Beware Of Mr Baker, Nostalgia for the Light, Stories We Tell….) but the one that won the Bafta in that category last year takes the genre into brave, new territory.

In The Act Of Killing, filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer puts in front of the camera a handful of the gangster* paramilitaries who helped the Indonesian army torture and kill around a million ‘communists’ in 1965/66. He then encourages them to create fictionalised versions of their acts. Being still highly-regarded by the current regime, they are keen to do so and, being fans of Hollywood films, they use the language of the Western, film noir, the musical and the gangster film.

The result is a devastating, upsetting, mesmeric, often surreal, portrait of corrupted humans who are celebrated and still valued by a corrupt government. It is now available on DVD/Blu-ray and I urge you to see it.

*The label ‘gangster’ is worn as a badge of honour, as it is understood to mean ‘free man’. Hence the use of Born Free in the film.

Continue reading

Spill Awards 2013: Vote Vote Vote!!!

The nominations have been collected, scrutinised, tabulated, analysed and stared at with a blank expression for half an hour; my, aren’t we an eclectic, not to say completely random, group of people? Considering that we all read the same paper and visit the same music blog, there’s an astonishing lack of unanimity on more or less every topic under the sun except for the ghastliness of the current UK government – and even there we can’t agree on which individuals deserve the greatest degree of loathing. Over fifty different albums were suggested for Record of the Year, and the five shortlisted are the only ones that received support from more than one person.

So, time for the voting. We’re keeping things simple: one vote in each category. even if you haven’t heard any of the records or seen any of the films, feel free to vote according to any other criteria you like, as it’s only a bit of fun and the more the merrier. Polls will remain open until the end of the month, and the award ceremony will take place some time in early January once I get my act together – in response to overwhelming public opposition to the idea, not on Twitter…

flight or fight?

Ali’s photo for Earworms reminded me of two fantastic videos – The Hidden Camera’s video is so powerful it takes over the brilliant song. Based on an old comic Joel wrote – it’s been a live favourite for a while. The short film has been shown at festivals in Berlin and Canada to much acclaim. The freedom of the birds over the field at the start is rather significant.

Another film that uses the flight of birds as a metaphor for escape is Leonard Cohen’s – First We Take Manhattan, their flight is deliberately juxtaposed against the songs beat to discombobulate.

cheery Tuesday post, eh?

Llamalpaca’s A Waste Of Space. The Concert Movie.

Stop Making Sense

“The best concert movie ever made”

Heard that a few times haven’t you? Talk about damning with faint praise.

I’ve paid good money in to see quite a few stinkers: vanity projects, over-hyped and massively over-dubbed. I’ve seen one or two reasonable efforts. But are there any great ones?

Now you may hold views on the concert movies which might be too withering in their honesty for publication over on RR. Here, however, you may choose to pay homage to your favourite such flick, delight in cruelly exposing ambition/narcissism interlaced with a bewildering lack of talent, or diss the concept of the concert movie and yes, even a considered meh is fully acceptable.  Any stance should be supported with some form of evidence or justification.

Off you go then.

The Wheels In The Brain Go Round And Round

If you like films that have such an effect, go and see Holy Motors.

Monsieur Oscar bids goodbye to the children, they wish him a good day at work and he gets into a stretch limo to fulfill nine appointments around Paris. In the limo is a sophisticated make-up table, which he uses to play different characters when he steps out of the car.

So, it’s about films? Acting? Playing roles in life? Memory? Who we are? And, more concretely, what exactly are the Holy Rollers? And, for bish, can a barely-recognisable Kylie be singing a distinctly non-Kylie Neil Hannon song among the Paris rooftops without a nod to Moulin Rouge?

I’d love to get others’ opinions so, as I say, go and see it. This is the trailer, which seems to have a different opinion to me.

Coming Of Age In Vienna

We’ve all seen a ‘coming of age’ film or ten. Some are good (e.g. The Last Picture Show) but most are fairly dire (I’m sure you can provide your own examples). They generally involve conflict, bad behaviour and parental lack-of-understanding that leads to catharsis, epiphany and ‘learning something’ (a process rigorously satirised every week by South Park). Just like real life isn’t.

I saw an Austrian film yesterday that fits perfectly into the category but has none of the clichés: Atmen (titled Breathing for English-speaking audiences). It’s about an 18-year-old boy in a Juvenile Detention Centre who is coming up to a parole hearing. He’s withdrawn and unco-operative and seems to have little expectation of success. His Probation Officer (I’m translating to the apparent UK equivalent role) is pushing him to get a job, as that will impress the review panel, and he lands a trainee position at the Vienna City Morgue, collecting and delivering corpses.

I urge you to see it, if you can. There are no car chases or gross-out comedy scenes, obviously, but neither is it a pretentious Arthouse movie. It is one of the most humane films I have ever seen. Despite our hero’s lack of expression, we can see him start to understand life (and death) and gradually gain some insight into why he is where he is.

This is the trailer, which gives away more of the plot than it should, perhaps. Trust me: just go and see the film.*

*No, I never trust anyone that says ‘Trust me’ either….

Safety Last!

No, it's not the bit with the clock. It's before that.

I’m a huge Harold Lloyd fan, and so are my children, so I was really pleased when SpottedRichard told me about a showing of the film, with live musical accompaniment, in Oxford last week. I collected both my daughters and one son-in-law, and we met SR at the cinema where a fine time was had by all!

And don’t tell Naomi, but I’ve bought her the complete films of HL on DVD for her birthday…hoping I’ll be able to borrow them when the novelty’s worn off.

You can watch the whole of Safety Last! on YouTube:

So who’s YOUR favourite silent film comedian?

The Ballot-Box Stuffing Starts Here!

Nominations for this year’s Spill Awards have been scrutinised and evaluated, and – as is the way with all such processes – all the unique and eclectic suggestions have been weeded out in favour of bland consensus. Or at any rate a shortlist of those albums, films and tv shows that at least two of us liked this year. Rarely more than two, as we’re a pretty diverse lot, and I expect this to be reflected as usual in the Festive Spill; award ceremonies like this, however, are, as always, all about conveying our target demographic…

So, get voting: you have three votes for the Album of the Year, and one vote each for best film and tv show. UPDATE Please note that the system is supposed to permit only one round of voting – so you have to tick three albums at once, rather than doing them one at a time. However, it manages this using cookies, and the result is that you can actually vote several times using different computers or by cleaning your cache. Hence it is possible for someone like Tatanka to remedy their error in voting for just one album by having another go, and I’ll just have to hope that all the rest of you are scrupulously honest in not taking advantage of this flaw…

Votes close at New Year, and the results will be announced at the usual glittering, star-studded ceremony on Saturday 7th January.


Michael Cacoyannis, the Cyprus born-filmmaker and screenwriter who directed the 1964 film classic “Zorba the Greek,” starring Anthony Quinn and Alan Bates has died, he was best known internationally for the Academy Award-winning “Zorba the Greek” — the 1964 adaptation of Nikos Kazantzakis’ novel, he joined up with composer Mikis Theodorakis whose score for the movie remains an enduring Greek anthem. This is one of my all time film favorites, it introduced me not only to Greek culture but to Greek music, here’s a short taste.

Billions of blistering blue barnacles!

Having read every Tintin book a million times as a boy, I do have an interest in the boy reporter – but I really don’t know what to make of this! Have a look at the full trailer for the new 3D animated film and let me know what you think!

I still think it’s going steer into the uncanny valley (like the unwatchable “Polar Express”)…

Immigrant Song

Who’d have thunk that i’d love a cover of my favorite Led Zep song? Trent Reznor and Karen O do a bang up job on it. I know Shoey said that he was dreading this film remake, but now i’m thinking that i had best put myself on as 38th on the wait list at the library for the book, and see the original film then.

Remakes (and Birthdays)

Anyone else out already on this week’s topic?

Got to thinking about the movies we haven’t seen from Barbryn’s thread. I really see very few movies these days. Mostly due to logistics – I’m in the boondocks now and not a city, and i don’t drive. My tastes are admittedly fairly narrow. And i just seem to get irritated at all of the remakes – can’t anyone do anything original anymore? Continue reading

The Spill Awards 2010

So, here we are again. I do seem to recall being in a slightly more cheerful and optimistic mood this time last year – can’t remember why, but it did make it easier to think of some humourous mock awards to scatter amongst the genuine categories. Still, this year I can at least offer you an all-singing, all-dancing extravanganza, with added Phil Collins (whenever I feel the urge to flee the country, I keep repeating to myself, “Yes, but do you really want to be another Phil Collins?”). First, however, the usual cornucopia of recommendations for Book of the Year, in case anyone gave you book tokens for Christmas; if not, you can always play Guess the Recommender…

David Abram, Becoming Animal
Michael Connolly, The Reversal
Jenny Erpenbeck, Heimsuchung
Jonathan Safran Foer, Eating Animals
Tim Harford, Dear Undercover Economist
Peter Heather, Empires and Barbarians
Barbara Kingsolver, The Lacuna
Andrea Levey, The Long Song
David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas

And now for the main event, the Villains, Heroes, Films and Albums of the year, I give you…

The Spill Awards 2010: VOTE VOTE VOTE!!!

Right, you’ve had a couple of weeks in which to send me your nominations for this year’s Spill Awards, I’ve worked through your suggestions to identify those which get a reasonable amount of support and so more than one of us will have heard of them, and we’re now ready for the voting!

You have ONE vote for each category EXCEPT for Album of the Year where you have TWO, partly because that’s the most important category and partly because it’s the biggest. Voting closes on December 31st at midnight, GMT, more or less. Of course, I’m not sure if this is actually going to work properly, as I’ve never tried doing anything with polls before, but let’s see…

And don’t forget that I’m still willing to accept acceptance speeches to be included in the award ceremony, either accepting an award yourself or doing it on behalf of someone else. Probably best if you talk about receiving “this award”, rather than tempting fate by specifying a particular award, and obviously I reserve the right to edit your speech down to fit in with the advertising breaks. Anyway, send mp3 files to abahachi at by the end of the year, please.

Unfamiliar Energy

Two things came to mind when I saw this clip, first David Cameron and this Charlie Brooker piece, especially this bit:

Like an ostensibly realistic human character in a state-of-the-art CGI cartoon, he’s almost convincing – assuming you can ignore the shrieking, cavernous lack of anything approaching a soul. Which you can’t.

I see the sheen, the electronic calm, those tiny, expressionless eyes . . .

and second the line from Jay Electronica’s Exhibit C:

That’s why when you talk the tough talk I never feel ya.

You sound real good and you play the part well, but the energy you givin off is so unfamiliar.

Oh Captain, My Captain

We’ve been over on WordPress for many months now so it may come as a surprise to some of you that this is my first post since we moved into the new place.

It was my choice for the Toffee Family Sunday evening film this week and I chose the wonderful Dead Poets Society – a film that I haven’t seen for over twenty years.  I was very impressed by how well it’s dated (yes, I know it’s a period film) and the two (not-so) Little Miss Toffees were suitably impressed and inspired.

Now, my previous choice was Steve Martin’s The Jerk – and I was hugely disappointed to find that it hadn’t dated well at all.  The girls laughed dutifully at the correct points but I could tell that they were finding it hard going.

So, the question to all you ‘Spillers is what good and bad experiences have you had when revisiting favourite old films?

PS. Now that I’ve mastered (I hope) a basic post the Bhundu Boys Album Of The Moment can’t be too far away.

PPS. Wow – it worked!

Oh, Sweet Pea….

“All these… weirdos, and me… getting a little better every day right in the middle of ‘em. I had never known… I had never even imagined for a heartbeat that… there might be a place in the world for people like us.”

Sometimes you watch a film and a song really stands out, and then you have to wait until the end credits to try and work out who it is, and sometimes the writing’s too small or it flashes by too quickly or you cant work out just from the song titles which one it is. But then you do find out who it is, these days with the internet, it’s all lot easier, and then you do a bit of research and find that jasonaparkes has already bigged up the exact song in an Amazon review and made mention of the exact sequence of the film that it’s from (saying that it’s the best dancing onscreen since Band A Parte, no less).

And then you realise that if you post the song on The ‘Spill, the chances are that you’ll find out a lot more about the song and the singer, and probably which exact hip-hop artists used the suspiciously sample-able drum break in the tune, and possibly more.

Am I wrong?

Any good?

Has anyone seen Noah Baumbach’s new film Greenberg yet? It’s on this afternoon, and I’m swithering about going to see it. The trailer looks good, but I found all the characters in The Squid & The Whale unlikeable (see also Wes Anderson’s entire canon) and I’m worried that the same will be true of Greenberg (despite the way the trailer is cut). If it didn’t have LCD Soundsystem, would the trailer be as good?

Top musicians explore mental health in Scotland

Nice place for working on an album - Rossie Ochil in Perthshire

A GROUP of prominent Scottish musicians have
been busy writing an album of songs to
promote awareness of mental health issues.
The songwriters – including Emma Pollock and
James Yorkston from Idlewild – spent a week in
February collaborating on the album at Rossie Ochil,
in Perthshire.
The project, in particular, aims to help promote
the work of Breathing Space and is being part-sponsored
by the phone line and website service.
The musicians will now head to the studio to
record the songs and the album will be released
later in the year.
Idlewild guitarist Rod Jones, who is leading the
project, said: “We’ve just done the writing session.
It’s coming together really well and we should have
16 good songs.
“The last day of the songwriting collaboration we
had snow and had to cut the session short – we
had to get out while we could.
“We’ve given a deadline of April to get a rough
demo of the finished songs. We’ll rehearse in May
and record in June. The album should be ready by
Other musicians involved in the project include
James Graham (Twilight Sad), Scott Hutchinson
(Frightened Rabbit), Alasdair Roberts and Karine
The project has grown out of the successful
Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival
(SMHAFF) and follows several years of using music
to raise awareness of mental health issues through
live music performances.
The album will form the basis of two
performances, in Glasgow and Edinburgh, during
the SMHAFF in October 2010 and a launch event
will take place during September 2010.
This year’s project will focus on childhood as a
creative theme. The project is aimed primarily at
young adults.

One for me and Blimpy!