Saturday, 8 March 2014
We'd left the pub mid-evening and decided to see Twelve Years a Slave, the story of Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man from Saratoga, New York. He is tricked into a visit to Washington, where he is kidnapped and trafficked to Louisiana, and sold as a slave.
Artist/director Steve McQueen shows the Northup memoirs as a harrowing tale. It's from the slave's perspective showing the violent treatment by 'owners' towards what they considered their property in the form of the slaves.
It's unremitting, Northup is passed around from owner to owner, with casual violence in each locale. The wives of the owners are as desensitised, with the slaves mainly treated as little more than livestock.
The narrative creates a range of brutal episodes. It's a tough one to watch because of it, with slow cuts and long scenes to drive home the point.
In parts the camera is closely involved, and at other times there's an almost documentary stillness to painterly yet often harsh scenes.
As the final accelerated ending played out, it left me with mixed feelings about it as a movie. Worthy, yes. A story that needs to be told. Undoubtedly. Closure. No, or at least only partly. There were many things left unresolved and a rushed conclusion.
It's a part of a huge and somewhat suppressed story about the institutional supply chains that supported America's foundations, too vast to encapsulate in this single film.
Posted by rashbre at 23:59
Friday, 7 March 2014
Working until late most days this week, plus evenings at a selection of Moroccan, Indian and Brazilian restaurants.
It wasn't until Thursday that I had time to flop in front of the Temporary Television That Has To Be Treated With Care.
That's because although it has a wide selection of channels, it doesn't very easily go past '5'. It's something to do with the remote control, I think, and I've tried pointing it from very close and pressing the buttons firmly, but it'll usually give me a sporting chance to get as far as ITV1 and on a couple occasions I even found Sky 1.
Otherwise, it flips to various sales menus. Would I like high-speed internet access? Maybe a recent movie? Something -er- salacious?
It doesn't tire of offering from around these selections, but it does mean I've been somewhat limited in what I can watch. I suppose I could phone downstairs to get it fixed, and it's probably just tired batteries (the telly's or maybe mine?)
Instead I've remembered that I loaded episode two of True Detective onto the iPad. That will do nicely for an evening's amusement.
I'm still only at the second episode, where there's various quotes from the mysterious 1895 Robert W. Chambers book 'King in Yellow' which is about a play that drives people mad. Chambers set this prismatic story in an unnerving future of 1920.
freebie at the moment. If there was ever a real live time traveller (as well as Thomas Pynchon) then I'd plump for Chambers as a strong candidate. Oh, okay, and William Gibson. Adding to the fun, I see the Amazon book was transcribed by a community of volunteers to get it into Kindle format.
So, television problem solved. Watch the episode and then read the book. Starting with the macabre Repairer of Reputations.
...And maybe admire the mocked-up magazine cover art on Slate.
Posted by rashbre at 09:56
Sunday, 2 March 2014
I've been watching Line of Duty on catch-up.
I'm not sure if its because I've been away from home, but it's a Wednesday evening "don't miss" type of programme, whilst tucked in my temporary room. Good enough that I watched it again when I got back home this weekend.
I already know I'll miss the next episode because of a business dinner somewhere. It's like the old days of television where you have to be there at the right time. I guess I'll find it on iPlayer afterwards if I'm still away.
The underlying plot involves a deadly witness protection car ambush with Detective Lindsay Denton in charge of the convoy and now the chief suspect.
There's conspiracies, twists and a bit of potential corruption, with other important players not surviving into the second reel.
No need for subtitles from Nordic. Some would call it a police procedural, but I'll call it a proper drama.
I've also just watched the cinematic first episode of the Matthew McConaughey/Woody Harrelson True Detective series set in a moodily drawn Louisiana. It started deceptively grounded in procedure - a murder, ritual, scenes at the morgue but simmering underneath is a kind of Lovecraftian/Edgar Allen Poe mysticism. There's various bumps and screams under the surface which I assume will reveal over the coming weeks.
McConaughey's character frequently trips off on little speeches about existence, “This place is like someone’s memory of a town and that memory’s faded,” he says. “Stop saying stuff like that,” comes Harrelson's more grounded retort. I'm guessing the rather skewed camera angle on the scene above isn't an accident. Look how everything else in the scene is so well arranged.
There's also various occult artefacts. A kind of devil's trap made of twigs. I remember seeing some of these eerily hanging in a wood in Canada once. More work to make than a circle of salt or a pentagram? And possibly a mandrake wrapped in the centre of the trap? Don't they scream and try to kill whoever pulls them from the ground?
I'm expecting this show to go weirder and already have the second episode ready to watch when I get a moment.
Posted by rashbre at 12:27
Saturday, 1 March 2014
I've been carrying one of those beanie hats this week because even on short walks there'll be sudden downpours of rain.
It seems to fit with the look on the tube too, where parts of commuter uniform include (a) those hats - mainly more stylish than my plain black one (b) various types of running shoe or similar sports footwear (c) a digital device to read - definitely not a newspaper in the morning. (d) an optional copy of the Standard, Time Out (Tuesday) or bizarrely Decanter(Thursday) to read on the evening tube.
Yes, I'm not commuting by cable car at the moment, but instead picking my tube doors wisely.
Posted by rashbre at 12:17
Thursday, 27 February 2014
I'm temporarily living in the shadow of the Shard.
An interesting building which somehow dominates the view late at night.
Stand three steps further back and the main cityscape is of its always-on lights.
I've mused over why different levels of the building use different colour lighting, and why some apparently empty areas are fully lit whilst others are always in shadow?
But it's mainly one of those examples of where I'm 'in the scene' instead of 'observing the scene'.
Maybe next week I'll slow down enough to have time to take a better look.
Posted by rashbre at 12:38
Saturday, 22 February 2014
After I saw that recent movie about the '60s folksinger, I flipped to listening to some Bob Dylan again in the car. Not exclusively, but when on recent circuits of the M25, it's formed a lyrically intense soundtrack.
On my bike, if on a turbo instead of the road, I listen to higher beats per minute stuff that's good for the cycling.
I've noticed there's often not much to the words though. Kind of "feel my body heat, yeah, come close to me' repeated about 50 times. I also know pain points like when Red Oktober by Ex-Plosion comes on during the hill climb in Hell Hath No Fury. Old school synth with a bad bass line. Same with Krystal Nation on another damp tee shirt climb.
So back with the Dylan I'm on track 192, which my car steadfastly informs me is about 60% through the list.
It's Isis and worryingly I seem to know all the words. "A man in the corner approached me for a match. I knew right away he was not ordinary. He said, "Are you lookin' for somethin' easy to catch?" I said, "I got no money", he said, "That ain't necessary" Just that little piece already outdoes my cycle-listening lyrics and that isn't even the full setup for the story.
And there's the ones I've played twice. Like the Dylan poem about Woody Guthrie. So much packed into seven minutes. Although I'm not sure it would urge me up the hill in the same way as Ex-Plosion.
When yer head gets twisted and yer mind grows numb
When you think you're too old, too young, too smart or too dumb...
Check out the video.
Posted by rashbre at 20:29
Friday, 21 February 2014
Yes, we decided to see that Lego Movie.
I suppose there was a hint of product placement within this movie, but it was a hoot of a story, which also managed a good twist before the Lego based credits rolled.
The story revolves around Emmett the construction worker (yes, one who reads the instructions) and a plot to blow up everything that is weird (i.e. stuff made without the instructions). A bit recent Lego vs Old School.
We saw it in 3D and some of the scenes were breathtakingly fast and frenzied. It felt as if I'd ingested a few E numbers within the first ten minutes of the action and somehow continued to ramp up throughout the movie.
The big screen scale of the Lego scenes was astonishing, just watching the orderly traffic flow on the motorways or a sweeping scene across the Arizona desert of the Wild West.
Naturally there's adept repurposing of Lego blocks at every opportunity although some Lego characters are better at it than others. The blue 1980s spaceman springs to mind as someone who only really knows how to make a...spaceship. Others could recall Lego parts by serial number and quick fire assemble just about anything.
Further to add the movie's tongue-in-cheek commercial appeal is a cheesy song,"Everything is awesome", which the construction workers will spontaneously start singing, and then continue to sing for multiple hours. "It's a small world", anyone? Oh, no, that's from the competition. And newsflash, I just found the Tegan and Sara version, featuring The Lonely Island. Once heard, never forgotten.
There's rapid-fire humour too, including pokes at the movie itself: "blah-blah-blah - interesting back story - but we know you want to get to the next piece of action"
Weirdly, I'd actually like to see this again (as long as they don't try to blow me up).
Posted by rashbre at 14:41
Thursday, 20 February 2014
Saturday, 15 February 2014
Thursday, 13 February 2014
After the fire alarm a few days ago, things have settled. Even the tube strike was called off. The weather has been interfering with my ongoing cable-car commute, because of occasional high winds closing the Air-Line.
Nonetheless, this morning it was working and I could get a view of the Thames Barrier. It was raised again for the umpteenth time this year, to protect London from the highest tide for 60 years.
They explain it's the gulf stream's route that is causing the deluge and that the water is being picked up around the other side of the world. Fluid mechanics in action.
Posted by rashbre at 20:00
Monday, 10 February 2014
Sunday and I'd just unloaded my bags when the alarm sounded. I was alone in the almost empty car park. There were sirens and a rising set of voices the other side of a row of screened fencing.
I realised I'd have to repack the car and follow the little green signs towards the exits. The first door was locked. A fire exit, eh?
Then I noticed the 'break me' button.
The button didn't break, instead it slid down and the adjacent door opened into a stairwell full of people. They immediately started asking me questions in broken English, assuming that if I'd appeared through this door I must know something.
I didn't and instead made my way downstairs and out into the street.
Quite a few people were wrapped in tinfoil. Space blankets - the sort of thing to pack on a hike, just in case. I couldn't work out how so many people would be this well-prepared but it did add a further dream-like quality to the scene.
I headed to a nearby store to buy some groceries.
By the time I returned the story was that someone had left the steam-room door open.
Posted by rashbre at 21:55
Sunday, 9 February 2014
Fellow blogger Kitty Hannah suggested Amélie Nothomb would be a good read and so I planned to download a novel onto Kindle. It wasn't to be, because only the French editions were available.
I persisted and ordered the paperbacks in English, which arrived in time for me to take them to my temporary bunker on the east side of London.
The two I picked are both autobiographical of what I learn to be a thoughtful and quirky individual.
In 'Fear and Trembling' she's working in an office in the hierarchies of Japan. She's become an office flower/OL/office lady/shokuba no hana and has a female boss, who should, by rights, have left the office to get married to a salaryman. It's the story of demeaning tasks, a stilted office protocol and a real type of fear built into the system.
It unpacks slowly and with several very graphical scenes, as well as some interesting mind diversions, almost all within the closed walls of the office. I found it a fascinating evocation of the very strange working world seen through western eyes.
And for another author, here's three of the different cover-arts.
Then backwards to China, where she was at a younger age, in the ghetto of the diplomatic classes, again locked away behind walls this time in '70s Beijing.
Aside: Notice that my copy at the top of the post has a different typeface from the one below. Marketing to bring the set to a consistent look?
There was a moment during the week when a 'blockbuster TV show' was about to start - something I'd usually enjoy - but instead I found myself thinking I'd prefer to see how Amélie was getting on with Elena in 'Loving Sabotage.'
I found them both highly enjoyable reads, and an insight into the author's thinking. Thanks, Kitty, for what proved to be an excellent suggestion.
Posted by rashbre at 11:27