Crabwalk @ NGCA 

Checked out this great exhibition at the NGCA in Sunderland, today. Particularly liked this:  

  

It’s called The Cortical Night by Alex Dordoy. The canvas shows a cerebral cortex manifested as a forest against an opaque backdrop. Forests traditionally serve as a great mythological metaphor for transformation and change. This is also reflected in the spherical orbs representing the moon. Of course the moon is the ultimate methaphor for transformation. Those distant enchanting spheres that exist in the space between wakefulness and sleep, before disappearing to be reborn again. It’s a truly stunning interpretation of the dreamscape intertwined with the waking consciousness.

 
Also, I really liked the work of Jennifer Douglas which is designed to represent the current condition of Kazmir Malevich’s suprematist masterpiece ‘The Black Square.’ I’m a great fan of Malevich and I continue to lament missing the 2014 Tate Modern exhibition. Nonetheless, her work here serves as either individual (fractured) canvasses, or as a complete constructivist composition for which the picture below doesn’t do justice. 

  

Well worth a look.

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Favourite Movies: Alphaville

  
“Machines generated new problems. Problems the human mind couldn’t solve.”

In the first part of an ongoing series about why Jean Luc Godard is a genius, this is about one of the most stunning and engrossing movies I have ever seen. Alphaville. A science fiction film without special effects. Set in a dystopian world that looks identical to Paris and takes us on a visual tour around some of the cities early 1960’s modernist architecture. A movie that is also part Chandler, part film noir, part Orwellian nightmare with a dash of Louis Ferdinand Celine and Jorge Luis Borges.

We meet the leading man Lemmy Caution, who looks like he’s walked out of every Bogart movie you’ve ever seen. He has a look of steely determination. It’s the classic 1960’s movie archetype of a man with purpose. When accosted by a beautiful woman (a level three seductress no less), she’s not given so much as a first glance let alone a second. This is a man with a job to do and he’s intent on doing it. You got this in the early Sean Connery Bond films before the role was ultimately softened and Bond was made to atleast exchange a glib or flirty one liner with the woman. Here, it is the textbook Gregory Peck determined scowl and an assertive “Clear off.” Also on another note writing a hard-boiled character like this also produces stronger women characters within the story as a result, as the women have to be actually y’know relevent and play a part in driving the story forward rather than just eye-candy for the leading man or there to engage in a bit flirty banter or provide a shoulder to cry on, such is the case in most modern movies.

I digress. This is is such a fantastically shot movie and the strength of Godard is in the confidence he has in his actors and the rare ability to just put the camera down and fix a scene where there isn’t actually a lot happening. Few directors can do this. The best recent example of such quality directing would be Steve McQueen in Hunger when he sets a camera on Fassbender and the priest for twenty minutes and lets the dialogue unfurl. There’s no reliance on providing constant stimulation to the viewer and changing frame every two seconds to maintain engagement. Having the confidence to do this is rare and not only does Godard have faith in his actors, he trusts his viewer. As a result, his movies play out to their conclusion with pretty much all violence and nudity left to the imagination – and the end result is actually all the more satisfying for it.

It’s the simplicity of the movie though which provides the most satisfaction. Taking a familiar concept such as the hardboiled detective story and then setting it against an innate threat which is actually probably more pertinent in the current day and age than it was in the sixties. The nacent threat is a technocratic society where lives are controlled by machines and the people are systematically conditioned in semantics (see:  modern PR, marketing, media or as it’s sometimes known, propaganda).

One of my favourite concepts:  The bible prevalent in every hotel room scene, in what is a lovely twist is actually a reguarly updated dictionary where words are removed and made obsolete whilst more appropriate words are freshly added. This builds on one of the most frightening parts of the movie: In attempting to control the limits of thought, the manipulation of language is perhaps the most foundational tool of all, for an individual can only think in the vocabulary available to them. In colonial societies the effect of this has been devastating. By suppressing language you suppress culture and identity. I have wrote about this previously, Alphaville takes this concept to its extreme.

In what is an inverse allusion to Camus’ The Outsider, the idea is to create a logical society free from emotion. This is actually very much pertinent to the kind of secular and self-defined rationalist society desired by many atheists and humanists these days. In reducing everything to scientific lines, we’re left with a Christian society sans God, ran on terrifying technocratic lines for big business and profit. Although the great tragedy is that no-one will actually know what money is for, as we got rid of all abstractions: poetry, art, music along with irrelevant distractions like kindess, affection, love, friendship in the process. Fortunately, as the movie helpfully explains, there is no reason to ask “why” we should or should not have such things, just say “because.”

The villain of the piece: the machine if you wish to rationalise, is actually a light and a fan with an eery low pitched croak. If you wish to be more abstract and upto date, you can imagine it’s the eyestalk of a French speaking Dalek. However, to look at this rationally or abstractly actually does a disservice to what manages to be massively unnerving. Presenting   a quasi-ominiponent menace controlling everyones thoughts and aspirations in a fashion that everyone can strongly relate to makes it horrific and a brilliant piece of film-making. Tremendously done.

In the Heart of the Sea. Review.

One of my favourite – and one of the most beautiful – books I’ve ever read is Leviathon, or the Whale by Philip Hoare. It’s a stunning portrait of the authors obsession with these mastadons of the sea. Whales possess something of a mysterious aura, perhaps more so than any other creature of the deep. Mesmerising and intelligent, the book enshrines the terrible beauty of man’s relationship with the whale. The depth of the writing justifies the mystique which we hold the leviathan.

I was pleased to see ‘In the Heart of the Sea.’ An enchanting dramatisation of the story that inspired or perhaps preempted Moby Dick. Whilst I didn’t think the movie lent itself well to the 3D format and wasn’t without its flaws, I was still perhaps a little disappointed to see such a low turnout for such a movie. 

‘In the Heart of the Sea’ tells an enormous story, one that can most certainly be described as an epic. From director Ron Howard, whose previous work includes Apollo 13 about a group of men stuck in a capsule in outer space, this movie is bigger. There is a massive performance from Chris Hemsworth. Engaging and engrossing, embodying everything we expect of the archetypal mythic hero. There are also a number of other standout performances including that of Benjamin Walker who I thought had good chemistry with Hemsworth.

Perhaps in trying to tell such a story in two hours, some of the suspense and tension is lost. Ironically, the role of the white whale is perhaps the least satisfying aspect of the movie – becoming an inconvenience and distraction from some terrific human drama being played out between Hemsworth and Walker. The inevitable shipwreck at the behest of the whale within the scope of the movie is almost superfluous. The ship could have ran aground or been hit by a meteor, the whale is a minor detail. Jaws this is not. On some level this is a disappointment, as the role of the leviathon in such a movie should be to enhance the tension and drama to truly Odyssean levels. I think the movie also suffers from the backdrop of the story being narrated through a world weary Brendan Gleason to Ben Whishaw’s (who is ostensibly in every movie this year) Melville, who in turn is taking pointers for Moby Dick. Whishaw in particular does nothing to enhance or move the story forward. His performance is particularly flat in a movie which ultimately relies on the fine acting driving it. 

Without this Treasure Island-esque narration – which let’s be real is a writing cop-out and/or a director not having confidence in the story he’s telling – and rather, had Howard invested the screen-minutes between Gleason (who I usually like) and the woeful Whishaw in building the tension on the ship towards the encounter with the leviathon, whilst utilising the  tremendous acting talent at his disposal, this movie would truly have been an epic – in the cinematic sense – for the ages, rather than one that tries to do a little too much in two hours.

I’d associated Hemsworth with the Marvel: Thor abomination. With Thor of course being retconned as an alien rather than a Norse God, so the retarded American Bible Belt wouldn’t be offended by the notion of other deities. He really is a talent though, hopefully they’ll put him in a few more serious films to showcase his abilities.

Unforgiven

A prostitute is disfigured by a cowboy after laughing at the size of his manhood. The local sheriff is perceived as being lenient on the assailant after he demands only that the local brothel-owner is reimbursed for his ‘lost investment.’ The prostitutes collate their capital and offer it as a reward to whoever murders the assailant and his cohort. 

Will Munny is a retired assassin and windower living on a failing remote pig-farm with his two young children. He’s approached by a boastful young gunslinger which leads him to set off in search of the reward…

Unforgiven is a spectacular treatise on the American Western, capitalism, law, feminism, justice, youth, folly, growing old and the value of human life.

There are enormous moral questions raised throughout the film. The role of the prostitutes in events extends far beyond patriarchal ownership. It leads us to look at the nature of modern capitalism where the employee is reduced to a functioning asset of the employer with an effective shelf-life, with the state having a protective interest only as far as capital is concerned. Rather, the person is not protected by the state, capital and investment is. 

The ultimate question in the fashion of Peckinpah’s love of world weary loners is to display the aging reformed gunslinger, who aspires to do the right thing in such a world of nihilism and brutality that we must question if there is such thing as decency, a moral life beyond an abstract ideal and whether such things are even possible? The tawdry implications of such questions are not limited to the periodic Western.

There are no easy answers.

The Hundred Most Irritating Shows of 2015

The end of each year is the time to role out the most obsequious, irritating TV format going. The ‘100 Best TV shows/moments/movies/songs/highlights of the year.’

The production of such shows goes as follows:

1. Select 100 TV shows/moments/movies/songs/highlights of the year.

2. Get irritating z-listers: people who aren’t interesting enough to be on ‘I’m a Celebrity,’ a ‘comedian’ no-one has heard of because they’re not funny, just bitter and twisted, someone from the 1970’s who should’ve stayed there and someone else no-one has heard of or cares about but wrote an article for The Guardian once.

3. Aggregate into list form. 

Here’s the part that really pisses me off:

It works. People watch this shit. 

The people who produce these shows are too lazy to come up with content of their own, so they compile a list. Lists are the ideal form of entertainment for a generation brought up on Twitter and Facebook, as every list comes with an unspoken guarantee to the viewer that they won’t have to invest too much time any mental energy by viewing anything that may actually challenge them. If lists had small print, it would read:
YOU WON’T HAVE TO THINK ABOUT ANYTHING YOU SEE FOR X MINUTES. YOU ARE GUARANTEED TO SEE A BUNCH OF PICTURES IN NUMERICAL ORDER. THIS LIST WILL NOT REQUIRE YOU TO EXPEL ANY MENTAL ENERGY. ENJOY YOUR JUNK FOOD, COCKTARD.

Sound stupid?

That’s because it is, you retard. Stop viewing this rubbish.

Know what else would be better than watching a show about a list of shows/movies/songs deemed to be the best of the year in lieu of original content? Showing those shows/movies/songs in FULL.

This is the culmination of the very worst didactic tendencies.

Let’s put this into perspective: what is the difference between art and pornography? Art ‘stills,’ whereas pornography is anything that is designed to elicit a stimulus, whether that be lust, excitement, fear, loathing, disgust. Pornography isn’t just people fucking.

Nonetheless, you know how porn movies (in the known sense) get derided for the terrible near non-existent plots, acting, music, production? Significantly more effort went into generating the content for the most derided, terrible porn movie than goes into compiling a list. That is how retarded you are for watching this shit and lapping it up.

Just putting that out there.

The Highest Grossing Box-Office Movies Ever.

There has been a lot of hype and speculation about how the new Star Wars movie will perform at the box-office. What records will it smash? Will it be the biggest of all time?

Frankly I doubt it. However, we can ascertain a few things from the highest grossing box-office movies of all time.

Avatar was terrible. The success of it was down to innovation in 3D. People love 3D, it’s tremendous. Any successful box-office movie has to be 3D and must in turn serve to enhance the 3D spectacle.

Looking further down the list, we see people also like to watch dinosaurs, ships and Leonardo Di Caprio drowning.

There’s some tedious Marvel superhero stuff, Harry Potter and Frozen.

If I wanted to write a box-office smash, I would write a story about a young woman who has magical powers – which she is intensely frightened of – travelling onboard a ship with her pet dwarf. She meets an enchanting rogue who seeks to find his father who has absconded to Iceland, which is where the ship is headed. In the meantime, a deranged Leonardo Di Caprio has created a race of dinosaurs upon the ship which rapidly spiral out of control after being injected with growth hormone (probably stolen from the lab of Tony Stark or some shit). He seeks to take them to the new world. In the interim, he uses his dinosaurs to take control of the ship. The young woman is saved from a velociraptor, although badly injured after her dwarf nobly sacrifices its gender neutral self and with some help from the rogue. After moving her to safety, the rogue seeks to fight the dinosaurs who are slaughtering everyone onboard armed only with a pump action shotgun which he has been hiding. The Remington pump is symbolic of his dark, morally ambivalent past. A fight ultimately breaks out between the rogue and Leonardo Di Caprio and Leonardo Di Caprio ends up drowning. However the rogue is mortally wounded in the process. He seeks out the young woman to bid his farewell, then dies. The tragedy of this causes the young woman to unleash her power which destroys the dinosaurs and the ship, but saves civilisation from being overrun with baby Tyrannosaurus Rex’s.

This is human drama.

The Revenant

The Revenant is an upcoming 2016 Western from director Alejandro González Iñárritu. We can see from the trailer which features some exquisite cinematography, the almost always tremendous Tom Hardy, Leonardo Di Caprio being savaged by a bear and most crucially a soundtrack by Ryuichi Sakamoto that this is the best movie of next year and will win many awards. 

2015 has been a great year for cinema, all because of Mad Max: Fury Road, which is the greatest movie of all time. It features an inspiring soundtrack, although it could’ve been better if Ryuichi Sakamoto had composed it. It also includes the most unsurpassed chase sequences in the history of film and a flame-thrower wielding guitarist riding a mobile death concert. 

I am hoping for a year of innovative film-making to try and reach the bar of cinematic creativity set by movies like Mad Max. The Revenant looks to be a good start. 

C3Po Must Die

Some thoughts from the Force Awakens screening: 

Daisy Ridley is exceptionally strong. She is the standout performer and she salvages some of the overacting from others through the strength of her own performance. She’s extremely engaging. It’s no exaggeration to say she is by far the best thing about this movie and the only cause for optimism going forward. The only thing you’ll really remember down the line about this movie is how awesome Daisy Ridley’s character is. Maybes her and Chewbacca shooting people and blowing things up too. A tremendous talent.

C3P0 is irritating. He just ruined the emotional impact of Han meeting Leia again. He should be decapitated, the irritating bastard. Seriously, he is the worst character going. After all the heat that Jar Jar Binks gets, they persist with this? For the sake of moviegoers, I sincerely hope they get rid of him before the next movie by having him fall into a blender off-screen. Sadly having Kylo Ren or any of the main villains murder him, would have an adverse effect and only aid their popularity. He is that loathsome. He doesn’t even serve any purpose. He’s a translator, great. The new main protagonist can speak alien languages and talk to the metal beeping ball, so he’s an irrelevant piece of shit.

Not that the other droids don’t continue to be an irritant, atleast the beeping ball served some functional purpose in the context of the plot, now that purpose has been served, please move on. 

Another thing that irritated me was how much Poe the pilot overacts at the beginning. They could have left him dead, rather than leave it basically unexplained how he’s still alive and somehow swiftly got off the planet without anyone noticing which niggles me more than it probably should.

The CGI for Maz and Stoke/Snoke/Spoke was overkill. I prefer real people or even puppets, I don’t like to feel like I’m watching an uninteractive video game. I liked Domhnall Gleeson’s character, as an understated villain. He actually has a lot of promise and I personally thought was probably more effective than Kylo Ren. 

Kylo Ren is effectively a cross between a polished up Anakin on steroids and a low rent Alan Rickman from Harry Potter. There’s massive development required for the character going forward in order to build him up as someone who will hold interest and be a sound adversary over the course of three movies. An emotionally unsound foe who has already been bested by the main protagonist in the final battle of the movie doesn’t carry much hope. In hindsight they should have had the fledgling Rey struggle against him far more and have her be somewhat overpowered, or threatened. I say that even as someone who loved the sequence where she gets the lightsabre. In the context of a trilogy though, try imagining the original Star Wars movies if Luke had been an untrained farm boy with potential beating the much more experienced and ‘powerful’ Darth Vader senseless in the first movie. Where do you go with that? Darth Vader certainly wouldn’t have been seen as a persistent, engaging threat. We already know unless something happens to give Kylo Ren the upperhand, Rey already has his number and is a more powerful jedi, without any training. If you haven’t seen the movie and don’t want spoilers, don’t read this last paragraph.

The movie is still a distinct improvement on the last three prequels. Where it ranks with the originals is difficult to say. It’s a tour de force in its own right and Daisy Ridley deserves huge recognition. It’s a welcome return to simpler story-telling and escape from the overbearing, convoluted nonsense of the prequels which was bizarrely coupled with a confusion over whether Star Wars was for children or adults. Of course, Lucas ultimately concluded Star Wars was for eight year olds, because eight year olds are really drawn in by ridiculous political machinations. Not to mention the abundance of characters no-one gave a shit about. JJ Abrams and Disney atleast deserve credit for not being drawn into Lucas’ later films’ awful formula.

I had serious concerns about killing off Han. Some of this was alleviated by a reasonably passable handing of the baton to John Boyega, who gave a sound account of himself. Nonetheless, I still have concerns going forward. I am interested to see the development of Rey and where they’re going with her character, however. She is the saving grace. Although you’re still left with the over-arching sense that the Star Wars universe now basically centres on an incestuous family feud.

For an order such as the Jedi who are supposed to be the magical upholders of peace and happiness in the universe, we’re kind of getting to the point where we’re all thinking, you know, this Skywalker dynasty are a lot more hassle than they’re worth and the universe would’ve been better off if they’d never existed. Although it transpires incestuous family feuds are the hot cinema theme of this winter. They did the same with the James Bond movies too, where it turned out all the bad shit in the world, terrorist attacks, massive death tolls was just a conspiracy being driven by his step-brother with a major grudge. I don’t know how much capital is in having huge cinematic heroes as people the universe could really do without, like an inverse It’s a Wonderful Life, but hey.

Language and Death in Montreal 

After arriving in Montreal I decided to go to Irish language classes. I’m referring to the native language of Ireland which is ‘gaeilge.’ Not how to speak English slang in an Irish accent, “Tell yer man to stop givin’ out. Great craic like so it is. Get a caravan for me ma in periwinkle blue. Watch the dags.” Irish is a protected European language and one I’m actually fairly proficient in, as I spent a lot of time with my West Cork family growing up and also spent time in the gaeltacht areas where Irish is in everyday usage. My foray into Irish language classes was more to do with finding likeminded people. Whilst not a dying language gaelige is somewhat endangered, limited mostly to the declining gaeltacht areas mainly on the west coast of the island.

As it happens, I would have been better served taking lessons in Québécois. As it happens Québécois French is similar to French, in the same way Irish gaeilge is similar to Scottish gaelic. They’re effectively of the same genus, but it’s like comparing a German Shepherd to a Husky. They may look similar but the differences can be profound. In essence, languages like animals can be broken up into categories and sub-categories. A man and women may not appear similar, but they’re extremely similar when compared to a monkey. A man and a monkey are nigh on identical when compared to a dog, but a man and a dog are more closely aligned when compared to a shark.

French is a romance language and shares characteristics with other central European Romance languages which have evolved from Latin such as: Italian, Spanish, Catalan and Portuguese.

English is Germanic, as is Dutch and by result of colonialism Afrikaan, Swedish, Norwegian, Dane.

Irish shares characteristics with Celtic languages such as French gallic, Welsh, Scottish and the natively deceased Manx language. You can however find some commonalities with English if you know where to look (just showing off).

I find whereas French is quite formal, Québécois is much more idiomatic and certainly takes quite a bit getting used to as a result. Infact the idioms make it more difficult than speaking say, Spanish and then going to Catalonia. As at least the format of the languages in how they’re spoken are basically the same.

I find language a pretty fascinating topic. It’s interesting how much of an impact language has on how you think. This is why languages like Irish and others further afield were suppressed by English colonialists. It wasn’t simply a case of convenience, but an act of cultural defenestration enacted against natives. Including changing names/surnames. My own family name in Irish is Laighin, from Laigin. The Laigin were a population group of early Ireland. The name is actually an ethnonym denoting a distinct ethnic group. The Laigin also give name to the province of Leinster, which in Irish is actually Cúige Laighean (pronounced cooga layan) Literally, ‘Fifth of the Laigin.’ The Laigin are by virtue are also highly prevalent in the early cycles of Irish mythology, some of the oldest recorded on the planet.

The rebirth of my interest in the Irish language in the last few years was to do with reading stories and poems in their original form which as is often the case, do not carry over well when translated into another language. Again, Irish poetry and literature are amongst some of the earliest recorded. Thus, it is not simply a language that is endangered, it is a massive amount of cultural and literary history too. This is why I strongly believe in participation in the language and have such an interest in its perseveration.

There was debate during the Irish revival at the turn of the last century about its continued usage which I believe is quite pertinent, however not for the reasons set out. The great Irish writer James Joyce briefly studied Irish under Padraig Pearse the leader of the Easter Rising. However, Joyce who would go on ironically to be perhaps the greatest proponent of the English language of all time, found the Gaelic League’s revival of the language to be essentially ‘backward.’ I think he was essentially correct. There is and certainly in the case of the Gaelic League was very much a prevalent conservative instinct. Although I do believe it was well intentioned, I believe the same conservative instinct is prevalent in the well-intentioned people who are trying to preserve and save the language to this day. For a language to survive it must be allowed to evolve and grow. We’ve seen this with the English language which is almost distinctly unrecognisable from the time of Shakespeare. I recently watched Macbeth starring Michael Fassbender, anyone unfamiliar with the play may have felt like they were by virtue thrown into watching a foreign film. Evolution is healthy for language.

Joyce as he demonstrated with his later works was anything but backward looking with regards to language. Ulysses and particularly Finnegans Wake are imbued with linguistic inventiveness, playfulness and creativity. Joyce in Finnegans Wake in essence opted to invent his own language which was based around puns, English, Irish, Greek, Latin and drunken rambling. Far from being frustrating and unreadable, these are the works of someone having a laugh. My experience in Montreal furthers my conviction, that rather than being an frustrating exercise in unraveling idiomatic French or wishing for more formal syntax, it is beautiful to see a language thriving. Irish language enthusiasts and revivalists would do well to learn from theses examples. It is best not to be conservative when it comes to the rules of a language. A language lives and dies by its efficiency and ease of usage. Then the languages possibilities which aren’t finite may again wake [terrible, don’t care].

Spoiler.

Okay I’ve actually given this way too much thought. “The Hybrid is not a half-Dalek, nothing is half-Dalek. The Daleks would never allow that.” Apart from that offshoot of Clara who gets made into a dalek in her first appearance because of her baking skills or some shit, who subsequently goes on to destroy the daleks. Therefore hybrid is Clara because Moffat is a fucking douchebag.