One of my recurring dreams finds me in a big city. It’s New York, but no New York that really exists. And in the dream I am in the city and also on it. I’m low down, where the pipes and the steam and the bricks are, looking up at bridges and freeways in the sun. But at the same time I’m on the bridges and freeways, riding over the city, looking down on the chaos. The city is the biggest city I have ever seen. And I’m so small in it, but I can also contain it. It’s a mess and it’s clean; it’s sunny and shady; it’s big and it’s small.

And then along comes the poster for Synecdoche, New York and it’s the nearest thing I have ever seen to my dreams.

synecdoche_new_york_poster2

I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am about this movie. It came out in America last October. However, waiting, passing time, may be appropriate for something like this. It’s by Charlie kaufman, the writer of, among other things, Being John Malkovich, Adaptation and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. This is his first film as writer and director. And look at the cast; Philip Seymour Hoffman and a big bunch of great women. And a soundtrack by Jon Brion, the musical master behind Magnolia, Punch Drunk Love, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, I Heart Huckabees. it’s going to take me a lifetime to realise just how good this film is.

Laura Barton interviewed Charlie kaufman for the Guardian magazine, and, if it is ok for me to pinch some of the stuff he said… well, I don’t know if it’s ok… I’m going to do it anyway. Look, if it causes problems. They’re his words, and they were spoken to Laura Barton. She did the work, he did the speaking, I’m just doing the copying.

“I was trying to present a life, with it’s moments of nothing”, he says softly. “There is something that happens to people when they get old, which is that they get sidelined. There isn’t a big, dramatic crescendo and then their life is over. They’re forced out of their work, the people in their lives die, they lose their place in the world, people don’t take them seriously, and then they just continue to live. And what is that? What does that feel like? I wanted to try to be truthful about that and express something about what I think is a really sad human condition.”

And now, to get yourself in the mood, to get ready to go and see this film, have a listen to this. I should warn you though, you may find it a little sad.

Advertisements
robert-lloyd

Robert lloyd out of The Nightingales

I’m reading Renegade; The Lives and tales of Mark E. Smith at the mo and it’s a right old read. The Fall; a band that’s had 10,000 members, all hired and fired by Prestwich’s finest living man. Ok, some of them walked, but they don’t count. I haven’t got a clue what The Fall are on about most of the time, but that’s ok by me. It takes me about 20 years on average to get to grips with lyrics. The sound comes first and then maybe later I’ll fill in some gaps. Or not bother. Yes, not bother. if I just want words I’ll buy a book. That’s what I did with Renegade and it’s a book that won’t shut up.

So, that’s a long roundabout way to get to the Nightingales. I’ve never known of them, but they’ve been around a bit, and over the years they’ve hobnobbed with The Fall. That’s it. That’s the connection. I think Mark E. Smith may like the Nightingales; may even be friends with Robert Lloyd, the band’s singer and songwriter. But then again…

Watch this and read this and see where you are. I know this; Mark E. Smith always makes me think of my Uncle Ken. I’m not sure why. Something to do with pubs in Prestwich.

So, last night I went along with Ben Norris to see The Nightingales. Although we were firstly there to see the support to the support to the support, David Cronenberg’s Wife. See them sing My Best Friend’s Going out with a Girl I Like.

The support to the support have gone from my mind, but the support was the marvellous and wilfully perverse Ted Chippington, a comedian who does his best to make an audience, well, angry. A comedian reading from notes, in German… or Russian, or Polish. I don’t know. A comedian who calls out for subject matter from the audience and then refuses to make a joke out of it.

When me and Trev started doing comedy in 1982 as The DevilfishhornClub we used to tell these “jokes”.

Joke 1. My dog’s got no nose. How does he smell? He can’t, he’s got no nose.

Joke 2. Have you seen my mother-in-law? No, course you haven’t. I’m not even married.

Joke 3. Doctor, doctor, I feel like a pair of curtains. You need to see apsychiatrist, you’re obviously mentally ill.

And so on. You get the idea. Anti-jokes. Then we got into kids tv and had to start smiling and pointing at each other on publicity cards.

I think we were maybe a little Chippington-esque. We certainly did enough hard gigs supporting local bands at the International in Rusholme. We even attempted comedy at the Hacienda, along with the Buzzcocks and the Redskins at a Lesbians and Gays support the Miners gig. Now there’s a combo-title you don’t see too often these days.

Anyways, I’m going off the point. Ted Chippington was great and awful, good and bad. Stewart Lee and his wife were there and me and Ben said hello. I muttered somethig inane about how his current show, The Stewart Lee Comedy Vehicle (BBC2), has had me laughing out loud. I’m a fan, and as a fan can’t help acting like a fan. He was very gracious about it. And like Ted, Stewart will push his audience, taking a joke as far as he possibly can, taking it all the way around the world until it comes back at you, anti-funny. And funnier. I wanted to find Stewart Lee talking about the rappers but couldn’t so have a look at him taking on Joe Pasquale in this great clip. Then, for a treat, watch Stewart Lee track down Ted Chippington.

I know. That’s a lot to make you watch. If you choose one item from the above links choose Stewart Lee does Joe Pasquale.

cue-at-100-club

"get to the end of the cue"

I’d been playing pool all day; Interleague. My team, Waterloo 2, won all three matches, but no thanks to me, only managing 2 out of 6 frames. I had to take my cue to the 100 Club. I left it propped up by the photo wall. By the end of the evening it had gone. The staff weren’t much help. Eventually I tracked it down to behind the bar. They guy behind the bar, before handing it back, quizzed me as to what it looked like. A pool cue. He brought out the box. He wouldn’t hand it over. He wanted to know what colour it was. I think they were a bit pissed off because I hadn’t paid to put it in the cloakroom.

“If there was a career ladder Ted would have been carrying it rather than climbing it.” James Brown.

“I suppose there’s a case to be made, he was this country’s Andy Kaufman.” Phil Jupitus.

the joys of cycling

April 25, 2009

Well, there aren’t many. I used to cycle a lot. I even had two bikes; a touring bike and a racing bike. I loved my bikes, and then, in what must have been a true moment of madness, I sold them both, or rather traded them in, for a soulless mountain bike. if I was still using my battered old touring bike I’d have put a picture of it up for you to see, so pleased was I with it. No picture of the mountain bike, for I hate it.

My touring bike had been to France with me. In the early 1990’s I cycled around France on my own, covering something like 800 miles in two weeks. I was sad, lonely and sunburnt but I look back affectionately at that trip. Now the bike’s gone.

My racing bike was rarely used; a Giant; a perk from my TV days, where, thanks to meeting a man called Tim who worked for Giant, we managed to get these great bikes half price. Trev still has his.

I sold my Giant bike, and my touring bike that had cried with me through France, for £80. For both of them. And I got an ugly mountain bike. What was I thinking? As for regrets, and mistakes; in my list of Top Ten regrets and mistakes this most probably figures about… well, about 13th. it doesn’t quite make it in to the Top Ten. After all, they’re just bikes.

My mountain bike has been out of use for a couple of years. Why did I ever buy a mountain bike? If I go over a pebble I get jittery. At no point will I ever cycle up, or dow, a mountain. Well, I’ve got it out, oiled it, pumped it up… Blimey, I sound like a review of an 80’s Schwarzenegger movie… and today I went for a little bike ride. All with the aim of lowering my blood pressure (currently 2574/3). And if I hadn’t gone for a bike ride I wouldn’t have seen this:

morris-dancers

Morris dancing by a Lewisham bin.

Right. That’s the bike back in the shed.

peckham-trees

peckham-heron

Fake holiday

April 22, 2009

I’d like a holiday. I’m sure a bit of sun makes everyone think that. I’m not sure when I’ll get one. I’d like to say I’m too busy. Yes, that’s it! I’m too busy! But something inside me tells me I’m not too busy at all. Just too poor. Shut up you voice of truth. Let’s all go on a Fake Holiday!

Last year I ran away for four days to Sardinia. Today I’ve gone back there, in my head. I’m having a beer, a cigar, a coffee, a hat. I’m reading books, and just being.

The place is more colourful than when I last went there. More like a picture postcard from the sixties.

If you’d like a fake holiday, just have one. Feel free to share mine.

book-in-sardinia-2

book-in-sardinia-1

sardinia-town

Now join in with my whimsy.

Sooty slumps

April 20, 2009

sooty

Those bastards from The X Factor have gone and sabotaged poor Sooty. Or is the spaceless Sooty being sabotaged by gravity? Or is the idiot who put these posters in place in Broadstairs useless? Even the Same Difference/ Leon the Pig Farmer is wonky. I guess though it’s more wholesome than last year’s double bill.

odd-show

Mono no aware

April 20, 2009

blossom

blossom-tree-spring1 blossom-tree-autumn1

Rubek’s cube

April 19, 2009

There is no sense to the title of this post. I should have just called it Rubek but I suffer from a form of punning Tourette’s. Rubek is Matt Burke. Or rather, his band. I met Matt last Tuesday at the launch of his new album Tender Hooks. I’d been invited along partly because our podcast producer and recent album launcher in her own right, Andrea Mann, was playing keyboards and offering Emmylou Harris-like harmonies to Matt’s Gram Parsons. Not that I should be comparing Matt to anyone but himself (if that’s possible), but hell, I’m no music journalist. Find out more about Matt and see his brilliant video for My Best Plans on his MySpace space. For what it’s worth, which is little, as I’m a more poorly version of Paul Morley (it’s the puntourette’s again, sorry) Matt reminds me of Jon Brion and Mercury Rev … a bit. This may be just a cheeky way to get you to go and look at these clips on YouTube. And check out more of Matt’s stuff too while you’re there, you won’t regret it.

rubek1Anyways, Matt launched his album at the Cavendish Arms in Stockwell, a sweet pub with a small concert room with stage and a fine line in pies and chips (well, only two types of pies- meat or vegetarian- and one type of chip, but lovely nonetheless). And, despite having never met me, Matt trusted me to do the meat raffle. Yes, a meat raffle. I thought it was a joke, but apparently these things happen. Particularly in the North of England. That’s something that’s passed me by in my life, until now. I did the meat raffle and someone won a big cow leg. Not bad, considering you got your raffle ticket for free, and entry to the gig was only £2.

So all round a most marvellous night and I urge you to visit Matt’s MySpace space and buy his album. He might throw in a chop as well.

I was off around London Town yesterday; a casting for a commercial. If you read my blog every now and then you may be familiar with how this goes for me. If not and you’d like to know, look here. This one was for a car commercial for Holland; to be filmed in Amsterdam. Great! It’d be like a mini holiday. For one day I could be a drug-taking sex tourist, who also nips into Anne Frank’s house.

I won’t get it. I had to wear a shirt and a tie and a jacket but not a suit. When I got there I was told I was an important man on his way to a meeting at the G20… yeah, that’s me. When the casting director commented on my long-haired slightly beardy look, I pointed out that the man who had gone in before me had a big beard. She told me it was because he is  appearing in a Russian play. I said I was writing one. She said “really?” I won’t get it.

So then I killed my day by wandering the streets, going to the pictures, going into cafes, pubs, and of course, the Trocadero. Still haunted, still a place of living ghosts and zombie kids. And Pasaje del Terror isn’t even open yet.

I saw my first film of the day in the Trocadero. Crank; High Voltage. This is the sequel to Crank, a film I haven’t seen. But I have seen Transporter 1 and 2, and here’s daft old me thinking the Crank ones would be more of the same. Well, in The Transporter films Jason Statham plays a man who says little and drives around a lot. He fights, he drives, he fights, he scowls, he drives, he fights… but there’s also a quiet, troubled side to him. And his best mate (if you can have mates in the existential world of fighting/driving/scowling movies) is a French cop who likes to cook. Oh, and all the ladies wander around in high heels and long coats, which they whip open to reveal guns in suspenders; you know the kind of thing. The Transporter films are half French half American, and somewhere along the way Luc Besson (Nikita, Leon, Angel-A) plays a part. They’re fun, sexy, violent, charming, action-packed (PeeWee), and, in a daft way that shouldn’t make sense in films where everyone dies the most brutal and imaginative death possible, their heart is in the right place.

In Crank; High Voltage, Jason Statham talks a lot and calls everyone a ****.

Still, it passed some time.

Though when I came out of the darkened cinema, to enter the darker Troc, it wasn’t even 2pm.

Good. Chance to get another film in at the pre-5pm cut price deal available to all those with nothing to do.

I wandered until 3.55pm. In and out of Fopp, in and out of a pub, in and out of a Japanese fast food place.

My second film was going to be either The Damned United or In the Loop. Well,  years ago I was offended by Armando Iannucci… Oh damn, I guess I can’t write that without going into it, and it’s all so absurd, and if he ever read this and saw it as a reason for not seeing his no doubt very funny and clever and good film, he would rightly think of me as a mad man, but I can’t help it. Things stick and eat away at my soul. Here goes… a crazy little story… true too…

Me and Trev walk through Soho. Outside a cafe sits Steve Coogan and Armando Iannucci. We’ve never met Armando, but we’ve met Steve often enough to say hello. And so we say hello. To both of them, but we don’t know Armando and he doesn’t know us. This and that gets said, and Steve asks what we’ve been up to. We say we recently did a gig where we had a few thousand students swinging  their pants and Armando says “that’s how Hitler started.”

Now, no doubt Armando was just trying to be funny and friendly (as I was with my misfired “writing a Russian play” line earlier). But I didn’t know how to react. I didn’t say anything, the remark hung there in the air, and a moment or so later we said goodbye and walked away.

To this day I fester over Armando’s Hitler comment. And if you think I’m joking, ask Trev. Trev by the way, is much more easygoing. I like all of Armando’s work, particularly The Day Today, all the Alan Partridge stuff and Time Trumpet. But Hitler never made people swing their pants. Did he? Am I like Hitler? For years I’ve pondered and fretted over this. And now, if someone shouts “swing your pants” to me in the street, rather than smiling lamely I lose the plot and bellow at them “Who do you think I am? Bloody Hitler?”

So, I pick The Damned United. A film where one man lets a perceived insult fester year after year (did Don Revie snub Brain Clough… did Don Revie say “that’s how Hitler started?”) Heck, I’m so mad (as in crazy, not angry) that I’ve made myself the anti-hero Clough to Armando’s thuggish Revie.

Go and see The Damned United. Even if you don’t like football. Even if you didn’t like Red Riding (by the same writer, David Peace). In fact, all the more reason to go. The Damned United makes Red Riding look like a murky brown thing that’s damp and smelly and should be put at the very back of a cupboard you’ll never go back to. The Damned United crackles with style, wit and fervour from the beginning; an exterior shot of the walls of Derby County Football club, windows in the wall where a press conference is taking place. Outside, the weather is hell, rain pouring down. But the lighting comes from within. The lightning flashes are cameras going off, photographing Cloughie. There is a greater charge in this room than anything God up in his clouds could muster.

Go and see The Damned United. Even if you don’t like football. It’s not about football (well, it is, but you know…) Like Peter Morgan’s other films (The Last King of Scotland, Frost/Nixon, The Deal, The Queen) it’s about battles and fights and love and, if not death, respect. Unlike the two way battles of Blair/Brown, Blair/Queen, Frost/Nixon, Idi Amin/Mr. Tumnus, this is a three way love/hate affair between Brian Clough, Peter Taylor and Don Revie. And even if Clough is sometimes what Jason Statham might call a ****, he’s a lovable one, and a forgivable one.

It’s a shame the Clough family are unhappy with this film. I can understand why, and if I was a member of the family I think I’d be furious with a film that takes great liberties with the truth about a dead relative. But I’m not. And if they can take any consolation, and I doubt they can, I came out of the film thinking of Brian Clough as a great and likeable man; a man who achieved great things. Sure, as hubristic as hell, but also a man who would get down on his knees and ask for forgiveness. Hubrism and humility; there’s a mix.

So, one more time, go and see The Damned United. If you do, I’ll go and see In the Loop.

thedamnedunited_wallpaper1_800

circus-of-evil

This post is going to be about The Lord of the Rings. No suitable photos for that, so instead I’ve put up the flyer from our Circus of Evil tour (they tried to get us banned in Jersey- who they? The Church of course!) It looks a little like that bit in the LOTR- the flaming eye bit. the Eye of Salamander or whatever.

So, last night I went to see The Lord of the Rings- the Fellowship of the Ring. At the Royal Albert Hall. With the London Philharmonic Orchestra and a bunch of choirs providing the soundtrack. And that’s a bit of a weird thing to do. After all, the music isn’t like a stand alone piece, a symphony say, where listening to it is the be all and end all. It’s there to serve the film. Should it not be as distracting as seeing some hairy hobbit hobble off the edge of a 70mm screen only to be touched up by someone from makeup?

But it works. Beneath a huge suspended screen stood the 200 or so singers and musicians. The conductor had a monitor in front of him, showing the film. A red vertical line would glide across the screen, followed by a green one; conductor traffic lights, telling him when to go. And once they were off a circular blip would pop on and off to, I guess, help him keep time.

I like the film, but I’m no Middle Earth expert. I wouldn’t say I thought Gandalf was a gangster from The Sopranos (that would be silly) but I was under the impression that Frodo went off to destroy the ring with his best friend, Sam Mendes. I now know better. Watching it with all those people doing their thing it was easy to forget they were there, so perfectly were they servicing the epic story unfolding (sadly for them) behind. And then you’d look at them all, singing their hearts out, bashing drums, blowing trumpets (I know my orchestra stuff) and it would amaze. The only downside? Epic music goes with epic scenes, what to watch? Well, the film of course… back to what the job of the soundtrack is. But then a quick look at who is doing what can really make you… well, cry.

When whatisname dies. Sharpe. Sean Bean. Red Riding. I’ll get there. Barrowman. You know the one I mean. A man, I think, not an elf or a hobbit or an orc. Anyways, he dies a noble death. After been tempted to take the ring from the little one, a scene showing the dark heart lurking in all men, he repents and dies saving the others from an attack of creatures with bad teeth, bad hair, and covered in oil. He dies by multiple arrow wounds, like a Yorkshire Saint Sebastien, and as he dies he is accompanied by the voices of the choir. But the women remained seated and the orchestra (mostly, I think) remained silent. The voices were of the males in the choirs (the men and the pre-voice break boys). And looking at them it brought home something that wouldn’t have been at the forefront of my thoughts if I had just been watching the film. The film spoke , and they sung, of the passing of innocence; how time and age leads us to temptation, how we grow old, and how we can redeem ourselves through doing the right thing at the right time. As James Gandolfini says, “all we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”