2015 in films ‘n’ stuff

As for… probably the last 7 years, I remain largely not much of a blogger anymore. Every year that I’ve attended the London Film Festival, I mean to write about what I saw and…. never get round to it.

Well. Here goes – a few words about all the new films I saw last year. At least I got into the practice of keeping a list of all the new films I saw over on Letterboxd and every time I added to it, took a look to re-arrange everything in order of how much I liked the films.

In reverse order then, starting with the film I enjoyed the least.

  • Avengers: Age of Ultron – Ugggh. This film was mostly just disappointing. What was going on with the Natasha Romanov/Bruce Banner thing? It came from nowhere and the relationship seemed out of character for both Romanov and Banner. Probably more because there was no lead up for us to see how it could have developed. Maybe…Nick Fury and Maria Hill were consistent with the rest of what we’ve seen in MCU? Everyone else? Not so much. 🙁
  • I Am Belfast – A kind of wandering essay film about Belfast. It was nice to look at and the people in it were great to hear from. That’s all I’ve got.
  • Blood Of My Blood – Half the film is set in 17th Italy and the other half in the same village in the modern-day. Amusing but felt kind of like there were 2 different films that didn’t have quiet enough story on their own kind of smushed half and half together.
  • Exotica, Erotica, Etc. – So I saw this film and then a few days later I saw Jay Malinowski at the Lexington (ditching one of the films I had planned to see at LFF because live music will probably always trump a thing I can see on DVD later) AND it felt like both things kind of mixed together – Jay Malinowski’s set was largely stuff from Martel, an album with a sort of nautical journey theme woven through.
  • Elstree 1976 – A documentary about some of the actors who appeared in the original Star Wars trilogy and how the films has affected their lives. I
  • Office – I can’t say that I ever thought I would see a Chinese musical in 3D entirely set in the corporate world but there it was. I only wish I understood the language to better enjoy it because I am CERTAIN there was clever wordplay that could not be contained in the translation.
  • Truth – Even though I was about 20 in 2004 I had no idea that the events in this film were even happening so it was fascinating to watch.
  • Youth – All I remember is that while I enjoyed this film, it felt like nothing really happened for a really long time which may have been the point. Also, Rachel Weisz was awesome in it.
  • Suffragette – Enjoyable enough but the main character Maud was a bit empty and obviously it was implausible for a newly minted suffragette to be at all the big moments of the suffragette movement at the time BUT I guess they had to somehow have a self-insert character for the audience to move through the story with? Maybe. Perhaps a film that followed the story of a real woman who was fighting for the vote would have been better.
  • Twinsters – SO I heard about these two sisters who had been adopted as babies by parents in different countries and who had found each other on Facebook a while back BUT THEN I guess they made a film and people I follow on twitter mentioned watching it and THERE IT WAS on Mum’s Netflix so I watched it and it was delightful and moving and heart-warming and all the things.
  • Magic Mike XXL – A DELIGHT from start to finish. I don’t think I have ever watched a film where every single person in the cinema with me had such a good time.
  • A Perfect Day – I don’t think I expected to watch anything so funny when I bought the ticket for this film, thinking “Oh yes, a film about aid workers in a war zone will be interesting,” but it was and I recommend it to everyone.
  • The Man from U.N.C.L.E. – All I knew about the series that this film was based on was that it had Robert Vaughan and Ducky from NCIS. Lots of fun to watch and obviously features Henry Cavill eating a sandwich as a key point in the film.
  • High-Rise – The thing about the London Film Festival is that I buy all my tickets in one go based on what the BFI website says the film is about and then I forget ENTIRELY what I have signed myself up to see. And it’s not like I know much about JG Ballard or Ben Wheatley anyway. I knew that this was about a futuristic apparently utopian 70s tower block with its social hierarchy arranged on the various levels and everything then degenerating into a dystopic horror show and at some point Tom Hiddleston got his kit off. It turned out to be GREAT and a DELIGHT and HILARIOUS.
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens – I feel like I have only just seen this film (and kind of yeah, that’s true) and that I want to see it again in the cinema really soon BUT it is still my sixth favourite film of the year. Finn and Rey are ENCHANTING and I wouldn’t mind just watching a film where they go on an space-road-trip and discover the galaxy and everything they’ve never imagined.
  • Mad Max: Fury Road – While it feels like I only saw The Force Awakens five minutes ago, it feels like I watched Fury Road at least a year ago – even though this was my birthday film and that was only in May. I liked that this was basically the story of Furiosa and the Wives rather than Max.
  • John Wick – The violence and killing and everything was great and my Mum and I both enjoy violent action films but the REAL HIGHLIGHT was Keanu Reeves hanging out with a puppy.
  • Spy – So I guess a lot of my top ten includes film that were pretty funny but Spy is probably the funniest film I saw all year.
  • The Martian – I don’t like watching bad things happening to astronauts SO the idea of an astronaut being stranded on Mars was a bit daunting but this film is great and heart-warming and well-paced.
  • Jupiter Ascending – OF COURSE Jupiter Ascending was going to be my favourite films this year. It was ridiculous and awesome and Jupiter is a great heroine. It totally filled 2015’s Pacific Rim shaped space in last years cinema-going.

And that’s it. Who would have thought that Jupiter Ascending would have been so much better than Avengers: Age of Ultron at the beginning of the year?

On Mass and Moshpits

I’ve thought about this, on and off over the years, and while I tend to be fairly loathe to really get into it about anything to do with religion 1, I figure sometimes you have to gather your thoughts and brain-dump them somewhere.

That and I’ve never been one for paper journals. Child of the internet and all that.

Plus I’ve been reading The Power of Place by Winifred Gallagher which touches briefly on some of the thoughts that I’ve had.

So. What was I thinking about? Mostly, the similarities between the experience of being in a moshpit and of going to Mass. Admittedly,  it is possible that there isn’t an obvious connection. For the most part, I suspect it’s a very subjective thing – which, yes, that is entirely what experiences from my viewpoint are. That’s the thing with personal experience. 😉

To begin: The first proper gig I went to was AFI’s Nightmare After Christmas 2 show at the London Astoria in January 2002 – before that, I’d been to the Reading Festival a couple of times. I would have been 17. It was amazing. AFI were and still are a band that I love with all of my heart – in the way that the bands you love as a teenager stay with you for the rest of your life and for me, it’s not just the music they made then, when I first got into them. I’m lucky enough that the direction their music has taken has coincided with the spread of my own taste in music.

Being there at the front, surrounded by other fans of AFI, was a phenomenal experience. It felt kind of transcendent – like we all had the same joy in our hearts and were all part of the same one thing. Which I suppose we were – we were all in the same crowd, pressed together with all the heat and sweat of the pit, connected by love of the same band. I’ve had the same kind of feeling at other gigs since then – usually when I’ve seen AFI but also at a few Alkaline Trio and Gaslight Anthem gigs. I think there’s something special about the first band to really grab your heart though.

Now, as some of you might know, I’m Catholic. I believe in God, transubstantiation, the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection, blah blah blah and all that.  I go to church on Sundays and holy days of obligation. I go on pilgrimage to Walsingham every year 3.  I don’t feel especially religious 4, but I guess to a lot of people I am due to my somewhat active involvement with my faith. On the other hand, I guess since I’ve got a foot in the door, I get to see all the other people on the inside who are far more involved and active and who I would consider as “religious”. Now, that feeling of almost transcendent oneness is a feeling that I sometimes feel at Mass – mostly when singing certain religious songs, hymns or particularly rousing requiem Masses in Latin. It’s a thing that happens.

Now, I’m sure I had a point (other than this whole thing being a bit interesting) back in August when I started writing this post – but I remember that I got interrupted halfway through and it’s been sitting in my drafts ever since. I figured I should at least round it off a little and release it into the wild.

To finish, however, is a comment I posted on Frank Turner’s reddit AMA on a thread where someone was asking about reactions to his atheist hymn “Glory Hallelujah”.

I really like Glory Hallelujah as a song. I also really like singing along at gigs – it gives me a comparable high/buzz to when I’m really into it singing in Latin about death on Good Friday at church or like…a really good worship hymn that doesn’t make me cringe while I’m singing it.

I have discovered that I can’t sing along to Glory Hallelujah. At all. I open my mouth and nothing comes out. I think my brain short-circuits at the paradox.

 

 

 

1 Because, hey, each to their own really, so long as it doesn’t impact negatively on others.

2  Which after a bit of searching is apparently the greatest show that AFI ever did. Or so I am told.

3 This one is a story all on its own, involving the unlikely but apparently somewhat miraculous event of my conception. Probably not one for sharing all the details.

4 There’s probably also a story here where I talk about how atheists/agnostics I know have told me how “normal” I seem for a practising Christian, how with the blue hair etc I look a little unconventional and how my faith, appearance and taste in music are all tied into not caring if I’m like anyone else.

Alkaline Trio @ Camden Barfly 12/05/12

I LOVE ALKALINE TRIO. I also love Dave Hause, who supported. I thought what I heard of The Dear & Departed was quite nice.

Now, this gig would have originally been on Guy Fawkes Night last year… but Matt Skiba’s foot got run over by a truck or something so obviously it had to be rescheduled and the best date to do it was the day before my birthday. Clearly, they love me. 😀

The Dear & Departed were on earlier than I was expecting so I only heard like… the last 3 songs of their set. They were awesome enough that I was crushingly disappointed to discover they’d sold all their CDs already and had to console myself with a Dave Hause T-shirt. I know, I know.

Dave Hause
Dave Hause

Dave Hause however was just as awesome as I was expecting. If a tad unnerved by the quiet crowd. I reckon we were all a bit dazed from the sunny weather during the day. Totally explains it. Randomly, in the last month I’ve managed to see Dave perform three times – first at the Twas the Night Before Wembley  gig on 12th April before Frank Turner’s awesome …uh… Wembley gig (did I write about that one? Possibly not). Then there was 11th May at the Black Heart annnnd of course, this gig supporting Alkaline Trio. Don’t ask me to remember what he played – I only know that I could sing along to only half of them, which clearly means that I need to listen to the album more. He also played two new songs – one of which (the “shine on” one) he played back in April and I really love.  Dan Andriano came out to sing with him for a bit before disappearing off for a costume change for later (really). Every time I see Dave perform I wish that I had thrown caution to the wind and stayed for the whole of his gig at the Windmill in Brixton last year. Although on the other hand, poor weather and dodgy trains aren’t things that go together (coupled with a longer than expected walk to the train station, I know, I’m kind of lame)…

Dave Hause and Dan Andriano
Dave Hause and Dan Andriano

Then it was time for Alkaline Trio. Who proceeded to saunter on stage and announce that in the interests of saving the planet or something, they’d not printed a setlist and that it was going to be an all-requests show. I prefer to think that they decided to do it because they’re awesome. If inviting a logistical nightmare – I have no idea how they managed to hear any of the requests (that and Matt can’t remember some of the songs – oops).

Clavicle, Cooking Wine, Queen of Pain, This Could Be Love, In Vein, Mercy Me and Blue Carolina were all highlights (but is it a highlight when you’ve included nearly half the setlist?) as was Emma, with added Dave Hause.

Dave Hause, Matt Skiba and Derek Grant
Dave Hause, Matt Skiba and Derek Grant

Radio was, as always, a cracker of a song to end the set on. I think I would have liked to hear Sadie, Crawl and Dine, Dine My Darling or perhaps Love Love Kiss Kiss. Or just more songs where Dan took the lead because he does have a lovely voice, even though Matt’s songs are pretty kickass. In fact, I think I could have listened to them for a couple of hours more. All in all, it was probably the most fun gig I’ve been to recently.

Randomly, either Alkaline Trio have a high ratio of attractive female fans or drinking gives Skiba the horn. Either way, it was entertaining. 😉

Continue reading “Alkaline Trio @ Camden Barfly 12/05/12”

Hot Water Music @ The Old Blue Last 2nd May 2012

CONFESSION TIME. I’d never actually gotten around to listening to any of their music. Not really. I had an mp3 of Jack of All Trades somewhere and I’d heard one of the new songs but that was it.

Which is really weird because back when HWM did that split with Alkaline Trio, I got hold of all the Alk3 tracks and liked them and thought “well, you know, the HWM tracks will probably be good too right?” AND THEN JUST NEVER LISTENED TO THEM.

Weird. I know. I even saw Chuck Ragan on The Revival Tour last year and once again (like.. a decade after that Alk3 moment) thought “I should really listen to Hot Water Music, I like all of their friends’ music…”

So yeah. I jumped on getting a ticket for this because…I figured that it was as good a time as any to really listen to a band for the first time and OMGOMGOMG IT WAS AWESOME. :D:D:D:D

Admittedly, that’s somewhat similar to my reaction to the Avengers film when I saw it last week. You get the point though.

And they played the two songs I was vaguely familiar with, so bonus.

HildaMay were cool. I confess here that I didn’t look them up online anywhere so was genuinely expecting a girl band because of the name. I still liked them though.

Sharks were the same as they usually are. I’ve realised that I keep seeing Sharks when they’re supporting someone else. I don’t think I’d put the effort in to see them headline, but they’re ok.

Tinnitus Awareness Week

Since it’s now about halfway through Tinnitus Awareness Week, I figure I should actually get around to saying something about it.

Some of you who know me in real life (and probably a few who only know me online) might be aware that I suffer from what I would call fairly mild tinnitus or that whenever I go to gigs or sing-a-long movies or anything potentially loud, I wear earplugs. My tinnitus is pretty much down to going to gigs and rocking out at the front and totally not looking after my hearing while I was at university. Looking back, I remember seeing Alec Empire at Reading when I was about 17 and being almost completely deaf for a little over an hour after leaving the tent he was performing in. Alec Empire was great and with all the excitement of seeing all the other bands I wanted to check out at the festival, I didn’t really give my hearing any real thought – other than it was a bit inconvenient that I couldn’t hear how much credit I had left on my mobile. I was young and invincible, right?

After that I went to other gigs. I remember marvelling that coming home after seeing Queens of the Stone age, my ears didn’t ring half so much as they did after I’d been to see Idlewild. Incidentally, that Idlewild gig left my ears ringing constantly for over a week. Again, I was young and invincible.

Until, after one gig I went to (and I don’t remember which one) the ringing didn’t go away. It just stuck about. Pretty quietly, but there.

Most of the time, I don’t notice it. I’m doing other things or listening to music and so long as my hearing hasn’t really been overstimulated during the day… I can go to bed and it’ll still be very quiet and I can just go to sleep like most people. Sometimes though, if I’ve been somewhere loud or right after doing the vacuuming, the ringing in my ears dials up to 11 and stops me from being able to get to sleep. Now, there are ways of dealing with it and I tend to turn the radio on very quietly and then my brain can latch on to that sound as something to pay attention to, instead of the riiiiiiing in my head (I find Ancient Faith radio or Classic FM to be pretty good for this).

The best thing is not to get to that stage in the first place and that’s why I now wear earplugs at gigs. Also, when I vacuum. It always feels like my hearing’s been pretty sharp anyway so I carry my earplugs everywhere and if I think something’s too loud, regardless of what it is? In they go. Best investment ever. I have custom earplugs which are moulded to fit my ears exactly and they are great. They live in a little purse in my handbag and I take them everywhere.

So. If you like going to gigs, wear earplugs. They don’t have to be the custom fancy pants expensive kind – for years I used to pop into Superdrug every so often and pick up a box of the foam kind. They don’t tone down the sound with the same kind of quality, but they still protect your ears and really, that’s the important part.

And finally, a word from Eddy Temple-Morris on Tinnitus, because he’s a boss and I got a discount on my earplugs thanks to him.

 

British Tinnitus Association

Chapel Club @ Shepherd’s Bush Empire 18/10/11

Confession time. I only really know the one Chapel Club song – All The Eastern Girls. This will be important later on.

So – Elephant. Two guys and a girl. One of the guys had a fascinating jumper & Mr T-style gold chain combo going on, which was a tad distracting. The other guy… he kept disappearing. No idea why. The girl had an elephant pendant on a really long chain. Other than that, and that one of the songs had purring in it… I can’t remember their music at all. Sorry guys.

Other Lives on the other hand were amazing. Everyone in the band appeared to be a multi-instrumentalist. Their music is pretty epic (possibly in part to the breadth of variety of instruments available – kind of sweeping and layered and generally rockin’. I’d definitely see them again.

The main event of course was Chapel Club. I’ve already admitted that I only really know the one song (though I do own it on vinyl and took the trouble to record a mp3 of it for ease of listening), so it’s no surprise that I was a bit wary of the musical plan for the evening – there was a first set of entirely new music and a second set of old music. The new stuff was less guitary than the Chapel Club I’m used to, but ok. The old stuff (if music probably at most 2 years old can be called old) was pretty much what I was expecting. Chapel Club have a sort of warm languid sound – something like being tucked up in a warm bed on a cold day. I left after All The Eastern Girls, even though I think there was probably another song left at least…mostly because I was tired and wanted to buy Other Lives’ album.

All in all, it was pretty ok.

The Revival Tour @ Shepherd’s Bush Empire 15/10/11

OMG. The Revival Tour was amazeface. I love Alkaline Trio and the Gaslight Anthem, and I saw Chuck Ragan when he was supporting Gaslight Anthem last year so I HAD to go. HAD TO.  I think looking back at the gigs I’ve been to so far this year and the ones that are yet to come… the Revival Tour was the best gig of the year. For reals.

Over on tumblr I sad that it was  like an epic bromance folkpunk musical, and I think Brian Fallon mentioned it on the night too. Throughout the performance I really got a sense that these guys hang out together and are real proper friends (as opposed to just acquaintances or ships passing in the night or something). It was lovely. Rather shamefully when I don’t know who it was played a cover of a song by Tom Gabel, my immediate reaction was “Oh, he’s the husband of Heather who designed a lot of Alkaline Trio’s artwork and stuff” rather than um, the frontman of Against Me!. Oops. I did see Against Me! when I figured that I should get over to the stage that Alkaline Trio were playing at last years Slamdunk festival and definitely enjoyed what I managed to catch of their set and it seems that they’re supporting Frank Turner later in the year. So I’ll try to see about sitting down one day and actually listening. I know my friend Shaun <3ed them before.

But back to the Revival Tour. The guys did a few songs together, then Dave Hause did his thing (with various folks wandering in and out for songs), then Helen Chambers and Sam Russo and this other guy who sadly, I can’t remember the  name of did a song each, then Chuck Ragan was his adorable self, and Dan Andriano (who when Brian came on stage to do Crawl with him, ad-libbed a fun little ditty about the guy somewhere over to my right who kept shouting “I LOVE YOU BRIAN”) did a few numbers and then Brian Fallon did some songs annnnd then they all came back on stage for the epic finale.

I think the highlight of the evening for me was when Brian was rambling for a bit (as he does, it’s nice) and then went down to the front row and pulled this girl out and got her up on stage to sing. She was a little out of her mind with omgomgomgomg but she was totally ace. The guy behind me said that she’d come with her friend all the way from Germany for the gig.

I maintain that Dave Grohl has a serious contender for his nicest man in rock crown. But they’d probably be so nice about it to each other that they’d just both be the nicest men in rock together or something.

Stuff I tumbld about the Revival Tour: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5,

Youtube playlist of some of the video from the night 

On The Radio

So. I’m going to ramble about the radio I like to listen to. There’s going to be a lot of rambling. You might want to skip this one.

Continue reading “On The Radio”

Morning Parade @ The Scala 26/09/11

It was pretty handy that I didn’t have any lectures on Monday, because I discovered on Wednesday that the journey on the train takes a fair amount of time and… I would have missed this gig. Which would have been unfortunate.

Veto were the support band – I had been expecting two for some reason but I was kind of glad that there was only one in the end. They were pretty good – the singer reminds me a bit of a friend of mine, only my friend didn’t have quite such an epic beard.

Morning Parade were aces. Apparently the guy standing behind me has known the singer for TEN YEARS. SINCE THEY WERE THIS TALL. TEN YEARS. YOU KNOW. TEN YEARS.

Yeah. I got the picture after the 5th or 6th time he told me. Mostly that he’d been drinking.

Then after about ten minutes some other guy behind me grabs my shoulders and says “This is your fifth time?”. So I turned round and was BAFFLED by what appeared to be Frank Turner asking me a question, only… Frank’s had a haircut AND he’s on tour in the US. So clearly, this was not Frank Turner. Just some guy. So I told him “no, this is only my third time seeing Morning Parade.” Random.

Incidentally, the first time I saw Morning Parade they were supporting Feeder and Grant Nicholas FORGOT their name. Oops. He was adorable about it though and got the in the end. The second time I saw them… they were also supporting Feeder (do you see a theme here?) and Grant did remember their name.

I’ve got a couple of Morning Parade vinyl singles, but nothing more. I should really sort that out. It’s occurred to me that if the Stereophonics made music that was catchy and danceable and that I liked, they might sound a bit like Morning Parade.

In other news, I’m sure I installed a last.fm plugin into my wordpress blog but it appears to be missing. 🙁

The Kill Van Kulls @ The Social 11/07/11

I <3 The Kill Van Kulls. Really I do. They were an unexpected bonus when I saw The Naked & Famous last year and when I heard that they were releasing a new single and doing a small gig to launch it… well. I was sold. They remind me a little of Tears for Fears crossed with Patrick Wolf, which is actually a pretty nice-sounding hybridisation.

Anyway, they were great. Their music really filled out the venue (yeah, I know it was small, but still… you’ll see what I mean later) and, of course, they played the one song that I really know too. I guess I should really try to hit up more of their music, but have a sneaking suspicious that there isn’t really a lot of it about.

Also, as soon as they have a tangible EP or album out? It shall me mine. Definitely. And yeah, I know, CDs are getting a little old-fashioned now, but I like having music I can hold. Especially when you’ve had several hard drives die on you.

Support came from Ben Burrows and We Human. We Human were OK – as it’s over a week since the event, I don’t really remember much. I know I thought they were OK, but they could have done with being a bit louder somehow or bigger sounding (the music didn’t really fill the place, like I mentioned TKVK’s doing before) and maybe it was down to there not being that many people there… but I don’t know. Maybe there wasn’t enough banter between songs. Maybe the sound needed turning up. They were OK. That’s all I’ve got. They’ll probably be more to my exact taste in time.

Ben Burrows was pretty good. Just him, his guitar and his laptop with a sizeable chunk of “you know, I think he listens to a lot of Jeff Buckley” with a smidgen of “a bit ramshackle” for flavour. In contrast to We Human, he really filled the tiny stage and not just because he’s like… a giant (seriously, he was really tall). There was chitchat, there was poking the laptop to make it work without making it fall off its stand and there was guitary bits with some drum bits. I liked it. There was one song that had a one word title beginning with L, I think, that I really liked and now can’t remember the name of.

So. In conclusion, We Human were OK, Ben Burrows was pretty good and The Kill Van Kulls were aces because I don’t go and see bands I don’t think will be aces. Unless someone else has kindly given me a free ticket.

And now that I’ve had some time not trying to remember that Ben Burrows song? I think it was called “Lariat”.