Category Archives: Films

Hello Again!

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It’s been a little while – hope everyone’s been well. I hadn’t had much time or inclination for blogging, as I was dealing with insomnia and anxiety in October and November. I get spells on and off and they last for a couple of months at a time. Maybe sometime I’ll write a longer post on it, but for now, I’ll leave it at the fact that I feel better and I’ve been getting more sleep.

We’re now in Gregorian calendar year 2016 – 2015 whizzed by, eh? Sadly, most of the news seemed to be dominated by terrorism, xenophobia, killing and war. I’m hoping that underneath it all, evolution is happening on this boondocks planet. I always try to remain optimistic, but it’s really, really tough sometimes.

Anyway, before I get off on a massive rant about stupidity – I did have some good times in 2015. My holidays in Lyme Regis and Great Malvern were pretty good (though the cottage in Great Malvern left a lot to be desired). The weather in the first half of the summer was lovely – lots of sunshine and low humidity. I didn’t see that many films – in fact, I don’t think I saw any in the cinema. The newest “Mad Max” film looked pretty good and there were a few others, but largely I wasn’t impressed enough by Hollywood’s output. Not much change there, then. There’s a new “Star Wars” film out now. From what I can gather, the plot’s a retread of the original 1977 film, so I’m not too bothered to catch it in the cinema. Maybe I’ll rent the DVD when it’s available – I left my “Star Wars” nerd-dom behind a long while ago. I did watch “Slackers” on DVD, for the first time in years and I still enjoyed it. It’s dated a bit, but I’ll take the 90s hipsters over the ‘millennial’ version – perhaps I’m just getting old. “Toast Of London” and “Horrible Histories” (all five series) were also a mainstay in our house – we’ve had to stop watching both for a while, ‘cos we’d seen them so many times.

Sadly, I didn’t get to many concerts last year – my gig attendance has been pretty shocking. In my slight defense, there wasn’t much on in Oxford that I really had to see. I did see Gryphon at the Union Chapel in London in May, which was a treat and a great show. They’ve since been named as part of the line-up for the 2016 Cropredy Festival, so I may get to see them again – if we decide to go. I wanted to see Matt Berry & The Maypoles in December, but the closest they got was London and I didn’t have the cash. Hopefully, they’ll do an Oxford show sometime. Some ginkus gave their show a negative review, in The Guardian – apparently, they thought they’d be attending a musical comedy gig. Tsk tsk.

Pixie and I also saw the Patrick Marber adaptation of Ivan Turgenev‘s A Month In The Country, titled Three Days In The Country, at the National Theatre in September. The cast featured John Simm, Mark Gatiss and Amanda Drew. I enjoyed it and Mark Gatiss in particular was excellent – a great comic role for him. We lucked out and had a nice, sunny September day in London. There were loads of people out on the South Bank enjoying the weather and the coach ride back to Oxford was fairly relaxing.

There were a load of new albums I meant to buy, but didn’t get round to – here’s some of them:

Unknown Mortal OrchestraMulti-Love

Flying LotusYou’re Dead

Sunn-O))) & Scott WalkerSoused

Fuck Buttons –  Slow Focus (released in 2014)

EarthPrimitive And Deadly

Six Organs Of AdmittanceHexadic

Field MusicMusic For Drifters

The Chemical BrothersBorn In The Echoes

The OrbMoonbuilding 2703 A.D.

There were a load of reissues, too – the four Yes reissues with bonus tracks and surround-sound disc, the deluxe reissue of Jethro Tull‘s “Minstrel In The Gallery”, the deluxe Procol Harum reissues are just a few I’d like to add to the collection. I also bought quite a few LPs, but I won’t list them all here.

I don’t have too much planned for this year – but I may get the Kaleidophonic Stroboscope podcast up and running again, even if just to post the old shows in a new site. We’re having the house re-decorated and getting a new boiler, which is going to soak up most of the cash, so I’ll have to see what I’ve got time for. Stay tuned, kids – I’ll keep you in on the skinny.

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Cinema Corner #315: “Dear Zachary” & “Bitter Lake”

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I was doing a bit of Wiki-hopping. You know, where you look at one Wikipedia page, then follow a link to a different page and so on. I bought a used copy of Spiritualized‘s Songs In A&E last week. Running through the other tunes are short tracks all named “Harmony” (with slight variations on the title). I thought I’d check the Wiki page for “Songs…” and discovered that the tunes are named that after Harmony Korine, the actor/screenwriter (most famous for writing the screenplay to the 1995 film “Kids“, a bleak look at da yoof in 1990s New York City). I then looked at the page for Korine and remembered reading about his film “Gummo” a while back. Apparently, it’s quite a difficult film to watch. That led me to one of those list-articles on Buzzfeed, about the “25 Films That Will Destroy Your Faith In Humanity“. Now, it is Buzzfeed, so expect a lot of hype – but some of those films seem to be really draining on the psyche, just from the descriptions. Amongst the violent revenge flicks like “Oldboy” and “I Spit On Your Grave“, is a documentary called “Dear Zachary“. Unlike a lot of the films on the list, it’s available to watch on YouTube. I was curious as to how it ended up on the list, so I gave it a go.

Essentially, it’s the story of Andrew Bagby’s murder in 2001, carried out (or so the evidence seems to show) by his ex-girlfriend, Shirley Turner. Bagby had a relationship with Turner while they were both in medical school. Bagby broke it off and Turner, unable to take being jilted, drove from Iowa to Pennsylvania and (again, as the evidence seems to show) killed him in cold blood after he agreed to meet her one last time. Kurt Kuenne (which he pronounces “Kenny”) was a childhood friend of Bagby’s and Bagby acted in a lot of Kuenne’s amateur films when they were students. There are several talking-head interviews with Andrew’s school friends and work colleagues and even his relatives in England, describing his personality in glowing terms.

Bagby’s parents, Kate (an ex-pat English nurse) and David, are given special focus, as they were the main campaigners to get Turner brought to trial in the States (Turner was a Canadian citizen and fled to her native Newfoundland after Bagby was murdered). Turner then revealed she was pregnant with Bagby’s child (she also had three other children from previous relationships). Bagby’s parents moved to Newfoundland to work on Turner’s extradition and then to get custody of ‘Zachary’, as the baby was eventually named. The Bagbys are awarded (very tenuously) joint custody of Zachary and Kuenne drives up to Canada to meet and film The Bagbys and the child.

Tragedy then happens a second time when, realising that her extradition may be imminent and that another episode involving a man jilting her caused Turner to become unstable – she strapped Zachary to herself and jumped into the Atlantic Ocean. Both drowned within minutes. It’s made obvious that the film, while being a tribute to Andrew and Zachary, is more of a tribute to The Bagbys and their resilience in coping with the loss of a grandson and a son and taking on the caprices of the Canadian justice system.

The film, despite it’s depressing content, is well-made. Kuenne probably could have relied less on the musical score for emotional cues (such as the Bernard Hermann “Psycho”-like music for the parts where Turner is shown). Turner is never really investigated, either – her family aren’t interviewed, her background isn’t researched or presented at all. She becomes mainly a cypher and a villain for viewers to project all sorts of ‘evil’ onto. Now, she was more than likely guilty of murdering a man in cold blood and she took the life of a child in a ghastly selfish way. Still, we never know what motivated her to behave that way. She clearly had mental health problems and was quite unstable. Also, the Canadian justice system seems quite flawed – but was this a case of a small community protecting one of its own? Particularly in the wake of 9/11, was there a broader link between the foot-dragging of the extradition trial and the central Canadian government (vis-a-vis: distancing itself from the U.S. government)? I suppose that may be veering into conspiracy theory, but it could be an interesting avenue to explore.

Adam Curtis, the UK documentary film-maker, announced on his blog a short while ago, that he was producing a doc to be shown strictly on the BBC iPlayer. It was to be about Afghanistan and its relationship to Russia, Saudi Arabia and The West.

It finally arrived (called “Bitter Lake”) on the iPlayer in January and I watched it as soon as I had a couple of hours to really absorb the film. It starts with Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s meeting with King Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia, on an American warship in 1945. The U.S. needed oil to run it’s growing industrial complexes and fuel it’s new-found military might. Abdulaziz agreed to produce the oil, but his condition was that the U.S. not interfere in the Saudi faith. That faith is Wah’habbism, a very conservative branch of Islam. F.D.R. also agreed to a massive dam project in Afghanistan, that would help work to ‘modernise’ that country and create a Western-style democracy in the Middle East.

The film then presents a dizzying lesson in Afghan history since 1945, using archival footage, interspersed with unedited BBC news footage shot after the 2001 invasion by U.S. and UK forces. The West, seeking to create a Middle East idyll in Afghanistan, runs afoul of the Saudis after the U.S. overtly supports Israel in the 1950s. The democratic Afghanistan does well in the the 1960s, but then Western student visitors bring leftist ideas with them in the early 1970s. A few years later, after the 1973/1974 oil crisis, which gave the Saudis even more leverage in world affairs, due to ‘petrodollars’ flowing into their coffers – Communism (with a capital ‘C’) started to flourish in Afghanistan. This didn’t sit too well with the Saudis.

Russian citizens, encouraged by this development, started to move into the country. There was a backlash, however, and soon things started to get ugly. The Soviet army invaded Afghanistan in 1979 to back the failing Communist regime. Groups of disparate tribal fighters (with Wah’habbists among their ranks) rebelled against the Soviets. The U.S., seizing an opportunity to fight a proxy war, trained and armed (via the C.I.A.) these groups, who came to be known as the ‘mujahedeen’. The roots of what then morphed into the the Taliban were formed in the mujahedeen.

Some of the uncut footage is extraordinary, unsettling and shocking, sometimes all at once. Footage of then-President Karzai’s motorcade wends it’s way through Kabul. Three men sidle up to Karzai’s SUV to greet him – suddenly automatic gunfire rings out and seconds later, the men are laying heaped in the street. U.S. soldiers are shown boasting about being ‘born killers’ and ‘off command’ kills (presumably that means civilians or people the soldiers themselves suspected being Taliban combatants, but weren’t confirmed as such). In one really lovely bit, a British soldier holds a small bird that has landed on his rifle, while a Middle Eastern pop song plays as a soundtrack.

The British presence in Afghanistan, particularly Helmand Province, after 2001 is shown to be largely an exercise in futility, as the soldiers couldn’t tell who were the ‘real Taliban’. Curtis argues that many of the locals were fed up with Karzai’s corrupt police forces and saw the British as backing the police. The locals decided to attack the British, which emboldened the Taliban to return from Pakistan – so essentially, the British were fighting on two fronts at once.

Things changed yet again after the 2008 financial crash, when the ‘bankers and techno-crats’, trusted by the leaders in The West to work out the complexities of the markets, failed to do so. Money was flooded into the U.S., UK and Afghanistan economies in an effort to prop up the system. A lot of the money injected into the Afghan economy was siphoned out to Dubai, further frustrating the Afghan people.

In the end, Curtis argues, despite many different leaders trying to imprint their version of Islam on radical groups, Wah’habbism was still the driving force behind even the newest group of fighters, ISIL (the Islamic State of Syria and Levant), or ISIS. The original strain of Islam that the king of Saudi Arabia tried to wipe out in the 1940s is alive and very much kicking. Curtis also states that The West had to confront the notion that all of its efforts to transform Afghanistan amounted to nothing, but like the lake on the planet in the 1972 film “Solaris”, Afghanistan has left an effect on the Western psyche.

You can watch “Dear Zachary” online here

You can watch “Bitter Lake” here (UK only) and here (rest of the world)

 

Gregorian calendar year 2014: R.W.C. stylee

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You’ve probably got used to me typing this, but jesu crisco, did this year zoom by! It’s been a bit of a weird one, to be honest – not particularly for me, but world events-wise. I’m not sure what anyone’s got against various Malaysian airline companies, but they’ve lost not just one plane, but two, in the space of 8 months – not counting another which was shot down over Ukranian air-space (which was either the fault of pro-Russian rebels, or the Ukranian government military, depending on who you talk to). The only thing I can be certain of is that the insurance affiliates of those airlines are going to busy with claims for the next five years.

Things kicked off again in the Middle East: the Syrian civil war is still raging, with thousands of refugees fleeing to Turkey and Jordan. Meanwhile, in northern Iraq, which has been left as a power vacuum, after the botched invasion and occupation by U.S. and UK forces, a curious army of hard-line Islamic militants managed to defeat the ‘trained’ Iraqi military, seize a lot of their equipment and rampage through most of the towns and villages in their wake. Calling themselves the ‘Islamic State’, they threatened the Turkish border and moved into parts of Syria. Once again (as in Libya) – a Western coalition was formed to “bomb the crap out of them” (in layman’s terms). Has that been effective? Time will tell. Meanwhile, Pres. Obama authorised 1500 more U.S. troops to head back to Iraq in the fight against I.S. – hmmm, I suspect it’ll be “Iraq Invasion – Part III” in 2015. Happy Happy Joy Joy. Israel also had its own conflict in the summertime, as it’s government decided to launch another attack on Hamas. As always, hundreds of Palestinian civilians were killed, along with some Israeli soldiers. Most of the human rights abuses appear to be on the Israeli government’s hands, as shown by an Amnesty International report. There seems to be a cease-fire on at the moment – how long it will last is anybody’s guess.

Back in Blighty, things looked pretty grim as well – the coalition gubberment continued its austerity bullshit. Scotland had a vote to determine whether the people wanted to remain in the UK. Both sides campaigned fiercely – even “Dave Scameron” had to make a grovelling speech, sounding like a jilted lover. In the end, the Scots said they’d stay…for now. That bunch of clowns UKIP gobbled up air-time and web-space for winning a parliamentary seat in a by-election. It almost became impossible to look at anything without seeing Nigel Fart-age’s rictus grin plastered on it. The fact that some critters are entertaining an ex-banker’s notions as their own (as ‘one of the regular folks’) just shows how much that ‘this shit just got real’. I just hope people get some sense for the general election in May. We shall see…

I don’t want to be a total downer, so here’s a list of things I enjoyed this past year:

I had a brill holiday in Amsterdam in April – my first trip to mainland Europe. The missus and I stayed with a friend, which saved loads of cash, so we were able to check out the Reijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, the Hash Marihuna and Hemp Museum and a few more. I walked by the famed Paradiso (didn’t get to go inside, however) and I saw the Concertgebouw, too. We checked out the Cat Houseboat, which was a highlight (well, if you’re a cat person, it is) and did a boating tour of the canals and the harbour outside the city. I met up with my MLA pal Steve Fly at the 420 Cafe and we had a laugh. I was even allowed to do a bit of record-shopping and I picked up a few goodies. We covered so much in a week that it was actually quite exhausting. I loved it, though, and I want to go back sometime soon.

TV: I didn’t watch many series this year – I haven’t seen any Breaking Bad or Game Of Thrones or Boardwalk Empire. Other than a few BBC Four history docus, the only show I watched regularly was the excellent Toast Of London, with comedian/musician Matt Berry in the title role. The second series was shown in November and December and it’s even more surreal than the first series. Nice to see Berry’s Garth Marenghi cast-mate Matthew Holness in a bit part in one of the episodes. I also watched the Black Mirror X-Mas special. I didn’t catch the second series (still want to watch it sometime), but when I saw an ad for “Black Mirror: White Christmas“, it looked intriguing enough to me to see it. It seemed quite clever to me, with the three stories intersecting each other, though that wasn’t fully revealed until the very end.

Music: There were loads of albums released this year which I haven’t checked out yet. Hell, there’s still albums from 2013 I haven’t added to the collection. Flying Lotus released “You’re Dead” and Sunn-O))) teamed up with Scott Walker and released “Soused“. Mike Oldfield returned with “Man On The Rocks” and Beck‘s “Morning Phase” was rumoured to be pretty good. Karl Hyde (out of Underworld) and Brian Eno released two collaboration albums, but again, I haven’t heard anything from them. Pink Floyd (or ‘Pink Three’, really) released “The Endless River“, culled from sessions in 1993 and ’94 – it’s the final recorded appearance of Rick Wright and, according to David Gilmour, the last P.F. album ever. Peter Hammill (of Van der Graaf Generator and a long and varied solo career) and Gary Lucas (mostly known for being a member of Captain Beefheart‘s Magic Band and Jeff Buckley collaborator), got together and produced “Otherworld“. Those are just some of the albums I meant to buy. I did buy the newest Mastodon record (on disc – I don’t have the space to buy everything on LP), “Once More ‘Round The Sun“. I’ve only listened to it once and the verdict so far is pretty good, but I need to give it a few more spins. There were also the usual hundreds of reissues, but the ones that got the most attention were the release of the complete “Basement Tapes“, by Bob Dylan and The Band and the massive Led Zeppelin box set reissues, for each Zep album (the first five have been released so far). Luckily, the albums are also available in 2-disc sets, so you don’t have to shell out for the super-deluxe boxes, to get the extra tracks. The Quietus website published an excellent article on what they consider to be the epitome of psychedelia at the moment, which led me to check out The Cosmic Dead, Demdike Stare and UK stoner/doom merchants Electric Wizard. There’s a great D.S. DJ set from the Boiler Room in 2012 that you can watch here. I’m going to listen to more from those bands in the new year. Concert-wise…well, I saw Kate Bush in September – ’nuff said there. I also saw The Orb in November, which was a treat as I hadn’t seen them since 2001. I hope to see more shows in the coming year, provided I can afford tickets.

Film: The only film I watched in the cinema was Wes Anderson‘s latest, “The Grand Budapest Hotel“, which I enjoyed, possibly even a bit more than “Moonrise Kingdom” and definitely more than “The Darjeeling Limited“. I’m not usually a big fan of Ralph Fiennes, but I thought he was excellent as ‘Gustave H’. The supporting cast were great as well, including Jeff Goldblum and a very sinister Willem Dafoe. I meant to watch “Gravity” in the cinema, but I waited too long and the run finished. “Interstellar” looked interesting as well – a decent sci-fi flick amongst the usual Hollywood dross. One cool thing I discovered is that The Filthy Critic is back in business. I used to read his reviews all the time in the early 00s – but a few years ago, he seemed to give it all up. I happened to check his site a couple of months ago and found he’s back at the movies – seeing a lot of shitty Hollywood films, so I don’t have to (though he and I disagree about “The Grand Budapest Hotel”). Good times!

Theatre: I only watched a few plays this past year. I saw “Strangers On A Train” at the Gielgud Theatre in London in February. It was pretty good, though Hitchcock‘s film still seems the definitive version. This stage adaptation covered more of the psycho-sexual aspects of the story and characters. Jack Hutson was especially good as ‘Bruno’. I also saw “Dial M For Murder” at the Oxford Playhouse in March (yet another Hitchcock connection). The staging was quite clever and the cast were competent and didn’t try to be slavish to the film. The Oxford Shakespeare Company put on another of their brill outdoor productions this year at Wadham College. It was “As You Like It” this time and we watched it in early September, on the final night of the run. I also caught “Electra” at the Old Vic in November, featuring Kristin Scott Thomas in the title role. She did pretty well, though the cadence of some of her line-reading seemed a bit strange. The rest of the cast were quite good, too (though I would have rather seen Amanda Drew as ‘Chrysothemis’, but Liz White was O.K.), aside from Tyrone Huggins (as ‘Aegisthus’), who seemed to want to be a bit too “actorly” in his part.

Books: I started the massive published version of Philip K Dick‘s “Exegesis” (whittled down to 1,000 pages from a much, much larger archive) – but the sheer volume of ideas and concepts in it caused me to put it down a few times, to let my brain process what I had read. In between, I read a crime thriller (“The Bat” by Jo Nesbo), an atheist call-to-arms (“The God Delusion” by Richard Dawkins) and several weirdo/speculation books (Charles Fort‘s “The Book Of The Damned” and John Michell‘s “The Flying Saucer Vision“, among them). I actually finished more books than I thought I would this year, which I’m happy about – squeezing reading time in between work, making mixes and internet time. I even read a couple of online ‘books’ on my phone on the work commute: Swift’s “Gulliver’s Travels” and David Keenan‘s “England’s Hidden Reverse” (which, like the Quietus article, turned me onto a few artists I hadn’t heard of and re-introduced me to Nurse With Wound). I’m looking forward to starting on David Mitchell‘s “The Thousand Autumns Of Jacob De Zoet” and “The Bone Clocks“, Nick Awde’s Mellotron” and my friend Matt Bartlett‘s “Gateways To Abomination“. If you want to see all the books I read last year – check the Goodreads widget in the margin of the blog.

Well, kids – that was my 2014 – as a last note, I’d like to shout out to my pal, Singing Bear, who’s also a co-author of this blog. He had a pretty rough year. I won’t go into detail, but he had a shocker. I wish him the best for 2015 and I’ll try and cajole him to maybe post once or twice here in the next twelve months. In the meantime, check out his own blog, Grown Up Backwards.

Onward and outward, friends!

Cinema Corner: A Field In England

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Hey now! July already??? I apologise for the long delay – I was fairly busy throughout June. I left my job, having worked where I did for three years. There were several reasons – an announced recruitment freeze, meaning that if one person left our team, the rest would have to pick up the slack. I was determined that I wasn’t wasn’t going to be a slack-picker-upper. I also didn’t like the team management, their…ah…style didn’t really suit me. A few other things, too – I had it in mind to leave sometime this year, etc. etc.

In any case, I’m now job-hunting again. So far, it’s not gone as smoothly as I’d hoped. I was hoping to at least have an offer by now. I’ll keep on keepin’ on, though.

I also visited my family in The States for two weeks in June. My father has not been well for the past year and has been in and out of hospital. He also turned 71 this past June, so I thought I should go visit. You never know with age and illness and we could all travel to the bardos at any time. I meant to post about my visit, but I didn’t get much time while I was there. Perhaps I will at a later date – depending on my work schedule (heh heh…)

Now, the reason for this post is the newest Ben Wheatley film, called A Field In England. Pixie and I recently (six weeks ago?) watched his dark romantic comedy Sightseers and I quite enjoyed it. I’d recommend it, but with the caveat that there are moments of gruesome violence, if you’re a bit squeamish. “A Field In England” was launched with simultaneous releases in the cinema, DVD, pay-to-view and shown free on Film Four. I think that has been done with a few other films – but this was the first time for a very low-budget independent film.

I’ll try not to include too many spoilers, but the plot concerns a group of deserters from an English Civil War battle, from both sides of the conflict. There are four men, three are common soldiers, but one, Whitehead (played brilliantly by Reece Shearsmith), is educated and reveals that he works for a ‘master’ who has alchemical knowledge. There’s the promise of an alehouse ‘just over the next field’, by one of the soldiers, so they head in the direction he suggests.

After that, things get strange. They arrive in a field ringed by mushrooms (which turn out to be of the psilocybin variety). After eating a stew made from them, they free a necromancer (another great performance by Michael Smiley), by tugging on a rope wrapped around a wooden cylinder found in the field. The necromancer, called O’Neill, knows Whitehead and enlists him in a search for a ‘very valuable treasure’ located somewhere in the field.

What follows is by turns creepy, trippy and confusing, but at the end, a transformation. The characters themselves go through metamorphoses (metamorphi?), so that the real alchemy becomes about the changes in people, not lead to gold. Maybe it’s the mushrooms, or maybe it’s the circumstances – we’re never told. I quite enjoyed the film, the cinematography seems superb, all shot in crisp black and white. The dialogue veers from salty swearing to quasi-magickal pronouncements and while not completely in the language of the Stuart era, still seems ‘realistic’ enough.

It may not be your cup of (mushroom) tea, but I’d recommend “A Field In England”. A strange, psychedelic period piece that attempts to do something different. In an ideal world, it would be the film of the summer.

Film As Language? Kubrick’s “The Shining”

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My first year of high school was spent in a Catholic one. I had attended a Catholic middle school and some of my good friends were opting to go to a Romish institution, rather than a public high school (that some other of my friends had chosen to do). I took the entrance exam and was accepted. Most of my classes were in the second-tier strata. The top level classes were called the ‘Honors’ cirriculum. I was only placed in one ‘Honors’ course, called “Literary Arts”.

The course was taught by a white-haired and goateed rotund man called “Allen”. Come to think of it, he looked a bit like Robert Anton Wilson‘s evil twin. He seemed quite pompous and pretentious, too. Our first day in class, he had us write down a speech that started “You are the salt of the earth….” – I wish I could remember the rest and I don’t have my old notebook anymore. It’d be hilarious to read it now….some ghastly prose. Apparently, he had a thing for the young ladies, too. Allegedly, he would get a bit chummy with some of them and there were rumours that he touched the legs of a few (skirts were required uniform for girls – I don’t think trousers were allowed) to make sure they were wearing tights/nylons (I can’t remember if they were required as part of the girl’s uniforms as well). I suspect that was an urban legend amongst the students, though – I can’t imagine that would’ve been tolerated, even in a creepy Catholic school.

I found the course pretty dull, and Allen’s jibes at the counter-culture (though, to be honest, I didn’t know all that much about the late 60s at the time) and his utmost allegiance to “tradition” rankled me at the time, even if I wasn’t quite sure why that bothered me. He would bleat on about people getting married “under porches” (hey???) and jumping out of planes and coruscate them for not following tradition. I got the feeling he didn’t like me much, either. I didn’t raise my hand a lot and didn’t chuckle at a lot of his cheesy put-downs of people not like him. As such, I got a lot of “C”s and “C+”s on assignments. I’m not saying he graded me low because he didn’t like me – if I’m honest, I just didn’t get enthusiastic about a lot of the coursework.

The one part of the course I did really enjoy was the bit about ‘Literary Archetypes‘. I can’t remember if he went into anything about Carl Jung and psychological insights – but I do remember him briefly discussing that there’s only ‘x’-number of stories/myths and they are continually being re-told, but in different ways. If you learn to recognise certain ‘clues’ in a story, you can figure out which original story/myth the new writing alludes to. He then led us through analysing a few different short stories and novels – such as Shirley Jackson‘s The Lottery and John Knowles‘s A Separate Peace.

I can’t quite recall which myth Jackson’s story covers – but it’s definitely on the ‘harvest-sacrifice’ tip. He told us that the colour black almost always signifies death (the black dot found on the ‘chosen one’s card). The names conjure up symbols, too – ‘Mr. Graves’ and ‘Mr. Summers’ and ‘Mr. Warner’ (geddit?). There’s more, but those are all the ones I can recall and I don’t have my notes anymore. “A Separate Peace” ‘is’, according to the archetypal analysis, a re-telling of the Jason & The Golden Fleece myth, set on a boarding-school campus. Some of the clues are a bit obvious (“The Golden Fleece Debating Society”), but there’s loads more that are well-hidden. “Phineas” represents Poseidon (his nickname is “Finny”), or something like that. I’ll really have to see if I’ve kept my notes – I don’t think I have.

That stuff seemed pretty cool – I liked the way the ‘clues’ added up to show the myth buried under Knowles’s novel and Jackson’s short story. As I say, the rest of the course seemed pretty dull – other than when we were learning about poetry rhythms and we read some rock song lyrics as poetry (even old Allen had to admit the rhymes were clever), like Eleanor Rigby and The 59th Street Bridge Song. I left the school at the end of the year, for various reasons, and finished the rest of my high school days at the public one.

Where is all this leading, you ask? I’ll tell ya’s! A friend posted a link on FaceBook about a cinema in New York City showing Stanley Kubrick‘s The Shining, both forwards and backwards at the same time. The cinema staff decided to do so based on a comment from a site run by someone called The Mastermind. The comment was that “The Shining” should be viewed both forward and backward. The Mastermind studied the film and picked out ‘clues’ to it’s hidden narrative – in a similar way to Archetypal Literary Criticism, with dollops of Jungian symbolism thrown in. The theory is that written language is coming to an end, and a visual language, particularly via film and video games, “is” the future of communication. Now, I’m not quite sure about that, but who knows? He or she may be correct.

You can read the original post here. It is quite long, but fascinating. Each scene is inspected, with possible motives for camera angles and placements of objects. “Is” it what Kubrick had in mind? I don’t really know and I don’t think Stanley ever revealed his true intention for the film. Still, as an interpretation, The Mastermind certainly did his/her research!

Here’s a clip of the forwards/backwards showing of “The Shining” – pretty trippy:

The Shining Forwards And Backwards, Simultaneously, Superimposed (Excerpt) from KDK12 on Vimeo.

Bargain Basement Films: Deadfall (1993)

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Following on from my post about Sarah Trigger yesterday – I had a look at her filmography and she appeared in a film called Deadfall, which was released in 1993. The photo I added to the post is a still from that film (I couldn’t find any good ones from “P.C.U.” or “Bill And Ted…”).

I couldn’t recall ever seeing it, or if I had, I completely forgot about it. Reading some online reviews, it seems it’s better that I did forget it. Directed by Christopher Coppola, but unfortunately showing none of the family-name’s flair – it stars Michael Biehn (who seemed to have wandered into B-movie territory in the early 90s after his Aliens triumph in the late 80s) and James Coburn, in a dual role, as crime-gang brothers. It purports to be a neo-film-noir, but according to what I’ve read, falls pretty short of the mark.

Sarah appears as “Diane”, part of Coburn’s con-game crew and girlfriend of “Eddie”. Now Eddie is pretty much why this film is even remembered, apparently. Played by Nicolas Cage, Eddie is a slimeball hitman/henchman to Coburn’s “Lou” (“Mike”, Coburn’s other character, is Lou’s brother). Cage, for some reason – maybe because he’s Coppola’s brother and was doing him a favour – decided to play the part as some sort of “Tony Clifton on meth” (as another reviewer described Cage’s…er…performance). Not only does he seem hopped-up on goofballs, he becomes goofballs. He talks in a strange staccato rhythm in an indiscernable accent, makes ridiculous hand-and-arm gestures and just generally hams-it-up in overdrive. Seriously, I’ve watched some clips and it makes his turn in the lame Wicker Man remake look like Peter O’Toole in Lawrence Of Arabia.

Biehn and Trigger try to play it straight, but are hampered with poor dialogue and a plot so over-done, you can see the double-and-triple crossings coming from miles away. Besides, whenever Cage is on-screen, his dynamo scenery-chewing dwarfs all of the other actors and dialogue. Cage’s character does get killed mid-way through the film, but then his absence leaves the rest of the proceedings fairly lifeless, aside from a cameo by Charlie Sheen, looking like he raided Hugh Hefner‘s wardrobe and a hair-product shelf in a Walgreen’s. I won’t even get into the other crime boss, with golden shears for a hand. You can read a full synopsis of the plot, such as it is, here.

Trigger also just seems to be far too fresh-faced and inexperienced to be the con-moll/femme fatale. Yes, she looks sexy in her stockings-and-basque outfit, but she just looks out of her depth playing this character. Why her character would shack up with a complete freakazoid like Eddie is beyond me as well.

Needless to say, the film bombed on it’s release – not even making back a fraction of it’s cost. Biehn and Trigger probably signed on thinking this would be a breakthrough picture, given the Hollyweird pedigree involved. Not to be – it was straight to late-night cable and the video shelves. I’m really, really surprised this one hasn’t become a midnight-cinema-gathering staple, much like The Rocky Horror Picture Show and The Room – seriously, there could be fun to be had with Cage’s screams, tantrums and nonsensical utterances.

You didn’t think I was going to end the post without showing a glimpse of “Eddie” in action, didja? Bask in the glory, my friends:

Where Are They Now? Sarah Trigger

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If you lived in the U.S. in the 1990s and you had a cable teevee subscription, chances are you saw either Bill And Ted’s Bogus Journey or P.C.U., or maybe both, on some lazy Saturday afternoons.

I was listening to Funkadelic‘s brilliant debut album the other night and I remembered that the El Supremo funkateer, George Clinton, had a cameo appearance in “P.C.U.”. The film is a comedic send-up of militant identity-politics on college campuses in the 1990s, on both right and left, which would be epitomised in earnest by John Singleton‘s Higher Learning, released a year later*. I also remembered one of the lead actresses, Sarah Trigger, who played new student “Samantha” and wondered what had happened to her.

I crushed on her for a while in the 90s, but then I’m a sucker for ginger hair and green/blue eyes. I didn’t realise she was born in London, which would’ve made her even more attractive to me. She apparently moved to the U.S. when she was eighteen. Her birthday is five days after mine, though she was born two years before me. She seemed to do a good job of hiding her “Laaan-dan” accent, ‘cos I was convinced she was American.

My favourite role of hers, though, was in the ‘Gen-X’ (blech!) romantic comedy/drama (blech!) Don’t Do It, which was released in 1994. Trigger played ‘Alicia’, struggling through a relationship that seemed doomed from the beginning. I don’t remember much from the film, other than Trigger projected a vulnerability that cut through the knowing smarm of some of the other actors’ lines and performances. ‘Course, now everyone probably remembers the film only for the appearance of an up-and-coming Heather Graham, before her big breakthrough as “Roller Girl” in P.T. Anderson‘s 70s/80s epic, Boogie Nights. I suppose I’ll have to watch “Don’t Do It” again, to see if it’s aged well – I’m guessing maybe not.

After that, well, she sorta dropped off the radar. She did appear in a few teevee movies and in the Tarantino-lite Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead. I do recall watching a bit of that, but never got all the way through it. Her last appearance (according to IMDB) was on CSI:Miami in 2005. She went on to marry Jon Cryer in 1999. Cryer, who most of us remember as indie-kid misfit “Ducky” in John Hughes’s “rich-boy/poor-girl” 80s romance, Pretty In Pink, had a string of teevee flops before having a ‘hit’ with Two And A Half Men. Yep, the very same show that Charlie Sheen was appearing on before he had his spectacular meltdown/burnout. I couldn’t tell you about the quality of it, as I’ve never actually watched one episode.

They had a son together before splitting in 2004. Things started to get a bit weird for Sarah after that, it seems. She married David Dickey (no idea who he is) and had another child and then she and Dickey split up. She took up with a guy named Eddie Sanchez. Meanwhile, she was battling with Cryer over child support payments that he wanted to drop. Cryer lost the payments battle, but things got sinister for Sarah.

In 2009, she was arrested for child neglect. The child in question was her second, not her son with Cryer. Then came the strange allegations that she was looking to hire a hitman to dispose of both Cryer and Dickey. Of course, these are the allegations of Hollyweird gossip vultures, but they’re enough to effectively kill off her acting career once and for all. Even if she returns to the UK (very unlikely), her reputation and the child-neglect arrest will certainly follow her.

Most of the public support fell to Cryer, with Trigger being called a “bitch”, “whore” and “gold-digger”. It’s a sad situation and as with these things, no-one really knows what went on in their marriage. Perhaps Cryer was neglectful or even mildly abusive – or possibly Trigger does have psychological issues. Nothing more has been reported about the child-abuse case and the news stories stop in 2011.

I hope for her sake that she is alright and if she needs help, getting the help she needs. I also hope she doesn’t become just another footnote in a seedy Hollyweird gossip book. She was a promising actor – good-looking and talented. I mean, she may never have reached Streep-level, but she could’ve carved out a nice career for herself. As Bill and Ted would say “Dudes, this is bogus.”

*”P.C.U.” may also be a lightweight college gross-out comedy, the “Animal House” of the 1990s, as well.