Big Skies 28/8/11


I’ve been finishing off the album and it’s been affecting me quite negatively. All these songs about love lost, love twisted, love never even returned in the first place… well, listening to them so many times each day is painful. There are only two happy songs on the album and even they make me sad when I hear them now.

So, I take my camera and I go wandering on my own, snapping pics. If you click the pic above, you’ll see some I took a couple of days ago of some very big skies in Derby.

Connecting with nature and architecture can sometimes help the increasing sense of disconnection I feel with the people in my life. The sky is always there, both caring and oblivious, a blanket and a blank face, forever asking ‘WHAT?’

I probably need to take a break. But there’s too much work to do and this album has to be right. It has to be good.

Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes

rotpota

About half an hour ago, I got back from seeing ‘Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes‘ (henceforth ‘ROTPOTA’ for brevity’s sake) and I’m buzzing about it so I want to do a review before that fades.

I am a huge fan of the original Apes films. I watched them on telly as a kid, I was obsessed with the TV series and the cartoon series too. Roddy McDowall was amiably wonderful as Galen in the TV series but he was stunning as Cornelius and Caesar in the films. The Tim Burton reboot of 2001 was even worse than his reboot of Willy Wonka. And that was godawful. So I was very worried about ‘ROTPOTA.’

I loved it!

But first:

WARNING SPOILERS AHEAD!

(Well, they won’t be major ones but, like ‘Super 8,’ one of the reasons I loved this film is that I didn’t know every turn and weave of the story before I went in. The trailer is really quite clever in the way it shows, obviously, elements from the film but actually doesn’t give away major plot points. So I’ll hint at stuff but I won’t be explicit. Why are you even reading this – go and see the film first!)

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I love all five original Apes films but my favourite is ‘Conquest Of The Planet Of The Apes’ in which a young, talking ape called Caesar (played by McDowall, of course) leads an ape revolution. ‘Conquest’ is a perfect science fiction film: ostensibly about apes it is actually about the nature of humanity, our brutality and willingness to engage in mass slavery and other horrors.

‘ROTPOTA’ is kind of a remake of ‘Conquest’ but not really at all. The premise for how apes get uplifted to (and beyond?) human intelligence has been changed, there is no involvement of apes from the future and the new Caesar himself isn’t as garrulous as McDowall.

This entire film rests on that new Caesar’s shoulders. A totally digital character, Andy Serkis breathes life into him in a way I’ve never seen before. I’m not a huge fan of CGI because so much of it is so poor that it completely ruins my immersion in a film. That’s not the case here. Caesar’s face is shockingly expressive. Every nuance of brow movement, his eyes, even when he’s huffing and puffing in distress at the glass separating him from his human family, it’s all beautiful. Serkis and the animators deserve an Oscar for how they make Caesar real and made me forget he’s a collection of polygons and shaders.

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Turning to the fully human cast, James Franco as Will Rodman (the scientist who inadvertently uplifts apekind) delivers a moving, detailed performance. He pitches it more like an indie film than the summer blockbuster it actually is. The only criticism I have for John Lithgow (Rodman’s Alzheimers-crippled father) is that he’s not in the film enough. I loved the chemistry between Franco and Lithgow and also between them and Caesar. How often have we witnessed characters smiling / crying at the space they think a CGI character will be? Not in ‘ROTPOTA.’ From being a tiny, cute ape baby to his full alpha malehood, Caesar is embedded in the family. Yes, that’s partly due to the hyper-realistic CGI but the rest of it is Franco and Lithgow selling it to us. Freida Pinto was good but under-used, I felt. In narrative terms, she could easily have been written out. I did feel someone at the studio must have said, “HEY! Where’s the love interest?? Throw a girlfriend in there!”

Props to one of my favourite actors, David Hewlett, as long-suffering neighbour Hunsicker. If you follow all the shit that happens to this poor bloke, it’s actually a very dark comedy. Hewlett was excellent in the various Stargate shows and also twitchily irascible in ‘Splice,’ it’s good to see him in a major release like this. Also very good was Tom ‘Draco’ Felton as one of the handlers at the Primate House Of Doom. I only noticed his American accent slip once and his performance was convincingly nasty. As a nice little nod to us old people who like the originals, Felton gets to utter Charlton Heston’s immortal line. No, not that one at the end, the one where he’s in the net. Where I hope that Hewlett doesn’t typecast as beleaguered / grumpy bloke, I also hope that Felton doesn’t get stuck with being the nasty guy. He should do a silly romcom or something similar next.

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The story of how Caesar ends up leading the ape rebellion unfolds with a great pace but also with enough time that we become emotionally involved and invested in the characters. Something films like ‘Transformers 3,’ ‘Green Lantern,’ and (apart from Magneto) ‘X-Men: First Class’ failed at this year. Yes, this is a big action film with action set pieces. The extended ape escape is thrilling! Logically I know that’s a CGI silverback hurling a CGI parking meter at a cop car but it all feels very real. The drama is in the emotional connection we have made with the apes. When we see Franco and Caesar hugging in the end scene and Caesar says the words, ‘I am home,’ there’s real emotion precisely because the film put in the backstory. We’ve seen Franco holding baby Caesar, we remember how cute he looked as he bottle fed himself. And now here he is, the Lenin of the ape world.

And on that note, this is probably the most socialist revolutionary film to come out of Hollywood in a long time. Caesar at first longs to go home to his human / ruling class family. But, eventually, he voluntarily decides to stay with his brothers and sisters in the ape house. There’s even a sign exchange between him and a proto Dr. Zaius where he explains the power in a union. Billy Bragg must have teared up at that bit. The orang replies, ‘Apes are stupid,’ before ambling off. He probably votes New Labour, the reformist.

Essentially, ‘ROTPOTA’ can be seen as a monster film. And you know a monster film is great when you find yourself siding with the ‘monsters’ against humanity. Like the best of the original Apes films, ‘ROTPOTA,’ makes us question our own morality and also our status as alleged top species on this planet. What gives us the right to torture sentient species in order to develop new wonder drugs? (Or, more likely, new cosmetics?) What is our speciesist arrogance based on?

I adored ‘ROTPOTA’ and if you get the chance to see it in the cinema, in all it’s huge, widescreen glory, please go. Not just for the spectacle of the action scenes but so you see every touch, every interaction between the fabulous Caesar and the damn dirty humans he eventually overthrows.

London & HDIF DJing 20/8/11

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On Friday, I travelled down to London to see my friend Amy. We had a great time wandering around (to me) exotic and sumptuous Leyton. The cake shops! Mmmm… Those little Portuguese thingies, with the pastry and the custardniess are deadly.

Then last night I DJed again at HDIF (How Does It Feel To Be Loved?), a wonderful indiepop clubnight run by Mr. Ian Watson. I’d originally been cheeky and asked if I could get Amy and I in on the guestlist. Even better than that, Ian said, how about DJing since the scheduled bloke couldn’t make it? Of course I said yes.

So, I DJed and then I danced around with a load of mates who seemed to have gathered from everywhere. It was a lovely night, full of new and old faces. Click the pic above to see a gallery of them!

Today, Amy, Sean and I had a slap-up Sunday dinner at The Lexington on Pentonville Road before getting yet more cakes at St. Pancras. I would say I’ve eaten my own weight in cakes this weekend but seeing as they’ll be increasing my weight, I think that’s some kind of maths thing I don’t understand? A convergent series?

London was beautiful and ugly, rich and poor, tasty and nauseating. It always inspires me and takes me out of my everyday sense of self. I hope I can hold on to some of that feeling back in Derby.

And here’s what I played:

Papa Topo – Oso Panda
Army Navy – Last Legs
[ingenting] – Tack.
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Heart In Your Heartbreak
McCarthy – The Well Of Loneliness
Moustache Of Insanity – We Need More Awesome
Butcher Boy – Clockwork
Crystal Stilts – Half a Moon
Sonic Youth – Kool Thing
My Bloody Valentine – (When You Wake) You’re Still in a Dream
Comet Gain – The Weekend Dreams
Pavement – Trigger Cut / Wounded Kite At 17
La Casa Azul – El Momento Mßs Feliz
Barry Gray – Joe 90
Best Coast – Crazy For You
The Lucksmiths – T-Shirt Weather
The Shins – Kissing The Lipless
Milky Wimpshake – Cherry Pop
Thee Headcoatees – Come Into My Mouth
Velocette – Get Yourself Together
Huggy Bear – Herjazz
Big Troubles – Modern Intimacy
The Wedding Present – Everyone Thinks He Looks Daft
House of Love – Destroy The Heart
Deerhoof – Super Duper Rescue Heads !
of Montreal – Coquet Coquette
The Jam – David Watts
The Hidden Cameras – I Believe In The Good Of Life
Let’s Wrestle – I Won’t Lie To You
Cats on Fire – Higher Grounds
The Legends – Call it ours
Erland & The Carnival – This Night
The Field Mice – Sensitive
Cure – In Between Days
Yazoo – Don’t Go

Busy Bee – New White Town Singles

I’ve been mad busy the last couple of weeks, mastering album tracks and also making pop vids. It’s been hectic!

For this album, I’m planning to release a vid for every track on the album. It’s partly because people only seem to share YouTube links for music now and partly because I want to push myself further as a film-maker and this is an excellent way to do it.

Here’s the first one (excluding ‘Cut Out My Heart‘ which I made last year):

‘Missing Her Again’ is a track I wrote way back in 1987. I decided to re-visit it for this album as it seems to fit my life again in lots of ways, sadly. I recorded a version way back then and it’s funny listening to my voice with a different, younger timbre.

And here’s the one I stuck up yesterday:

This song is a year old and it comes out of a similar place to ‘Missing Her Again’ in that it’s a love song written about someone who isn’t around any more. Here’s a more detailed explanation from a Facebook exchange I had:

shes

And I filmed another vid with my friend Laura on Tuesday. I’ve got a little production line going! 🙂

US Drone Attack, 21 Pakistanis Murdered

A US drone attack has killed at least 21 militants in north-western Pakistan, local intelligence officials said.

The drone fired two missiles, destroying a vehicle and a compound near Miranshah town in North Waziristan tribal district, on the Afghan border.
(Source: BBC News)

As always, these weren’t militants or even ‘militants.’ The only people claiming they were are the US military and they’ve shown the world time and time again, from My Lai up to their mass slaughter in Iraq of 1.2 million civilians that they simply don’t care about human life.

So, when you switch on the radio or TV and you hear politicians wailing about how much they abhor violence and criminality, terror and the death of innocents, remember, it’s all lies.

Or else they would be talking about the 2,000+ people killed by the USA’s illegal, terrorist attacks.

And they aren’t. Nobody is.