JUST AN OBSERVATION

Monday 28th November

 

With less than a month until Xmas –four weeks yesterday to be exact- it may be time for me pretending it isn’t happening and submit to the inevitable and make my first forays into channelling my inner festive self. That may take some time though as usually it isn’t until about the week before that I get into the swing of the season. It seems everyone I speak to mentions how they are stripping things back this year due to the recession and this is a relief as it was always the need for unnecessary extravagance-alongside forced false jollity- that sat most uncomfortably with me. The need to spend vast amounts of cash on people you make little or no effort on the rest of the year as a means of assuaging guilt always felt insincere and cold. Times of crisis do have a habit of making people realise what is really important and after a turbulent year –riots in several British cities, the tsunami in Japan- it may be a good time to take stock of what we do possess, even if it feels inadequate rather, than obsessing over that which we don’t. The news this weekend that Welsh football manager Gary Speed committed suicide drives home the point that someone who seems on the surface to have everything going for them is still unable to find consolation and happiness in his achievements and is still plagued by deep unhappiness that resulted in him taking his own life. As yet details have yet to emerge as to what forced him to believe this was the only course of action for him to take so speculating on the reasons behind it are fruitless.

Someone else who, during her lifetime, appeared to have everything going for her and was still unable to find happiness was Marilyn Monroe the subject of the newly released Simon Curtis film My Week with Marilyn. Set in England in 1956 during what was ostensibly her honeymoon with third husband Arthur Miller it documents that already her marriage was in crisis. Consumed by alcohol and propped up with pills-long before Michael Jackson Hollywood doctors had a lot to answer for- her insecurities only intensified until they totally took over. It is a familiar story and Curtis coaxes an astounding performance out of Michelle Williams as Monroe that is surely deserving of an Oscar nomination. The film as a whole somehow seems to have set its sight on some of the prizes scored by The Kings Speech but unlike that film which told a tale that many were unaware of Monroe’s story has been told many times through films, documentaries and numerous biographies. The best of the latter category is still probably Anthony Summers’ Goddess which affords its subject matter great insight and never teeters on obsequiousness or paints her as a victim. The latter is a common error in many biographies about Marilyn as it is impossible to get to her position in Hollywood without having a steely core. I always feel when people moan how hard it is to be famous that it is so much easier not to be and at some point it was a choice they made. Olivier points this out in My Week with Marilyn when frustrated by the sympathy she seems to engender that he spits out how she knew exactly what she was doing. A full review is here.

As a counterpoint to this the film they were working on The Prince and the Showgirl was on the television this weekend and it is one of the few Monroe films I have never seen from beginning to end. After about forty minutes I realised why this was as it really is quite an insipid effort from these two great stars and therefore proves that great tension does not always beget great art. Another film that I endeavoured to watch at the weekend and found myself lasting a mere twenty minutes before I switched it off was Prince’s Purple Rain. I remember attending the premiere when it first came out and thinking then it was awful but time has been very unkind as it was truly diabolical, Best stick to playing the music as this still has a potency.

Caught catches of the X-Crement Factor over the weekend and it really is well and truly played out. The judges and contestants seem to know it is flagging and it really is limping along to what promises to be a not so grand finale. I did discover this week that apparently The Red Hot Chilli Peppers are considered an alternative act in X- Factor world. This was news to me as I did not realise that playing world tours in stadiums and selling millions of records globally could be considered alternative so it just goes to show how mistaken I was. Misha B thinks she is a star already-the thing that calls itself a Tulisa told her she could shift millions of albums and sell out arenas. Optimistic or what? – and has started referring to herself in the third person although she may have been housing a third person in those (over) stretched leggings of hers. Surely Marcus the neutered Little Richard is not a serious contender to win this shambles. If so then pop music is in an even worse state than I imagined. Every week he turns out a bland and forgettable version of the same uninspiring slop that is only fit for light entertainment at best but if the cultural behemoth that is Olly Murs can make it as a pop star then anything is possible. He even dragged the Muppets on stage with him to afford him a little credibility, which must surely go down as a desperate act by someone who is aware he has little or no talent. I do love how the judges go on about being versatile whilst saying the same thing week in, week out with no sense of irony. Also the constant claims that it is not simply karaoke when the same songs seem to be on rotation series after series also seems to contradict that statement.

A much better bet for weekend viewing is the Danish crime drama the Killing 2 which is showing all the strengths and intrigue that the first series had. This time around there has even been a slight –very subtle-intrusion of humour as well as a mild flirtation between Sarah Lund and her sidekick the aptly named Strange. This is an exquisitely handles drama that although entertaining is also thought provoking constantly demanding the audience review and re-assess the information they have at their disposal. It certainly kicks the shit out of any of the other slop clogging up the weekend TV schedules. Mind you December is the party season so perhaps TV schedules are not so important. Mind you if it snows like it has the last two years it may be our only companion so best follow The Killing even more studiously.

This weekend saw photographer Gavin Evans’ opening Silenced at The Institute in Roseneath Street in Marchmont showing his stunning portraits of,among others, Iggy Pop, Chrissie Hynde and Bjork as his subjects. Definitely worth checking out whilst enjoying one of the many coffees or fine teas he has on offer. More events at this venue next weekend with details to follow.This week the Scottish National Portrait Gallery is re-opening after a multi million,three years in the making refurbishment so that is definitely on my agenda alongside a film about the emergence of Black Power in the late sixties and early seventies The Black Power Mixtape as well as the Axolotl Xmas show on Friday night.

The new Black Keys album out next week is surely a contender for rock album of the year-EMA’s Past Life Martyred Saints and PJ Harvey’s Let England Shake are the others- so as a taster before the albums release here is their latest single Lonely Boy and its great  accompanying video.

MY WEEK WITH MARILYN

My Week With Marilyn

 

This Simon Curtis directed film about Hollywood legend Marilyn Monroe’s involvement with one of the crew –third assistant director or more accurately gofer-during the film shoot for The Prince and the Showgirl in 1956 is an entertaining insight into the star at the pinnacle of her powers and success. Michelle Williams gives a star performance as Monroe; one which is probably the best portrayal of this actress who had such an indefinable quality that no-one, despite many attempts, has ever been able to capture the essence of what made her so very special. Williams succeeds on many levels and whilst this is the films main strength  Kenneth Branagh as Laurence Olivier ably supports her and their onscreen chemistry is greater than their real life counterparts.

Ostensibly it should have been a happy time in Monroe’s life having just married celebrated playwright Arthur Miller and embarking on a project with British theatre royalty Laurence Olivier. In reality it was merely the beginning of the downward spiral that culminated in her death, still shrouded in mystery and myth, six years later. This film concentrates on the fact that her relationship with Miller was already in crisis whilst her working life alongside Olivier was faring little better and probably even worse as he found her working ‘methods’ intolerable and at one point huffs that ‘teaching her to act is like teaching a badger to speak Urdu’. Enter Colin Clark (Eddie Remayne) a well to do clean cut young man who wants to make it in the film industry and through family connections ends up working with Olivier. Befriending Marilyn on set and in her darker moments he forms a close bond with her after Miller abdicates his duties and ‘abandons’ her to fly back to the states in order to see his children. It is this week that lends the film its title though it is never clear how far their relationship progressed and there really is no need for such a sense of propriety in a 2011 film even if it is set in the still sexually uptight 1950’s. This reticence is not apparent in Williams’ performance however. The usual Monroe trademarks are all over the film from her luminous, platinum incandescence through to the wiggle, pout, the booze and the many pills. It is an over familiar story though and any Monroe fan will feel disappointed in the fact there are no new revelations although to a younger generation it may introduce Marilyn to a whole new audience.

The cinematography on the film is excellent and combined with the camera work it does a great job of evoking the era it is attempting to portray. On occasion it does feel like a tour guide of beautiful England what with thatched cottages and Windsor Castle both getting a look in. Likewise the supporting cast seems to have been drafted in from Luvvie Central. Judi Dench, Dominic Cooper, Zoe Wannamaker and Doug Ray Scott and Emma Watson are all present and correct. At other times it seems that the film has its sights set on a few of the accolades garnered by The Kings Speech and Williams must surely be a contender for best actress but as a whole the film sometimes feels a little too like a BBC period drama to be a attract those kind of awards. Despite this it is still an extremely well made and enjoyable film that perfectly captures both the era and the star at the centre of the maelstrom she created on her visit to these shores.

JUST AN OBSERVATION

Friday 25th November

 

After an unseasonably warm November today it feels like the winter has finally arrived. Last year at this exact time was when the snow started falling and more than outstayed its welcome hanging around until early January causing mayhem, distress and general discontent. There really is nothing like a little bad or inconvenient weather to get the gander of Scots folk up providing endless sources of conversation that invariably all lead to the same conclusion i.e. the weather here is generally pretty shit. Apparently not as shit as life in the public eye however as the Leveson inquiry  has been revealing this week whether you are a celebrity or just a poor unfortunate who has been unwillingly thrown into the coliseum-like arena of public attention. The phone hacking scandal at the centre of this inquiry looks set to run and run and usually the whinging of multi-millionaires and self obsessed celebrities who seek out what ever attention they can when it suits them often comes across as self pitying bleating. This case however has awoken that several do have legitimate complaints as the methods deployed by the media in the search for a story are despicable. None of these tales however compare with the tragic tale of Milly Dowler’s family who due to her voicemails being hacked mistakenly believed their daughter was still alive due to this interference. It also hindered the police investigation at a crucial stage and this alone is wholly unforgivable and those responsible need to be held to task.

Coincidentally an early victim of press intrusion and instantly created media celebrity Joyce McKinney is the subject of an excellent film, Tabloid, showing at the Filmhouse at the moment. I would wholeheartedly recommend this film to anyone not simply because it contains lurid tales of kidnapping, bondage, accusations of male rape, impersonation-of on different occasions two deaf mutes and Indians- incarceration in prison, Mormons and so much more. It is taken to a higher level due to the appearance of the central protagonist herself who makes such a willing and incredible witness and re-teller of the events that still remain at the films denouement somewhat clouded. Giving a testimony that seems at odds with those around her McKinney reportedly armed with a gun and chloroform apparently kidnapped and repeatedly raped an unwilling Mormon who had caught her eye and established himself as the object of her unquenchable lust. The story is surreal, fascinating and totally compelling and proceeds to the present day where Mc Kinney reveals she has had five pit-bulls cloned from the dog who saved her life after her guard dog attempted to kill her and they now seem to fulfil the role of slaves-answering the phone, fetching her drinks etc.- within her bizarre life. If you can catch this film I would suggest you do. A full review can be found here.

This weekend also sees the release of My Week With Marilyn that details the uneasy working relationship between Monroe and Laurence Olivier on the 1959 film The Prince and the Showgirl- which BBC2 are very kindly showing on Saturday afternoon to tie in with the films release- which led to her befriending a young stage hand as a means of escaping her turbulent life at this time. It looks like a fascinating document of an interesting time in Hollywood history and Monroe is someone else who has suffered at the hands of the press though in her case it has been as much, if not more, since her untimely death therefore she has been unable to defend herself. During her lifetime it is clear that happiness constantly eluded her and this film focuses on a time when still in the throes of a new marriage to her third husband  playwright Arthur Miller–the film trip doubled up as a honeymoon of sorts- she should have been blissfully happy but clearly wasn’t.

Also this weekend is the Neu! Reekie End of Year Screemer at the Scottish Book Trust in the Royal Mile this evening that promises to be a worthwhile event. Featuring spoken word, musical interludes and animation among tonights contributors are Davy Henderson-of Fire Engines and Win fame or infamy if you prefer- Richard Jobson, Billy Liar and several others. Presenting a collective array of local talent this night is essential in that it draws together various outlets for different artistic threads and draws them all together. Certainly worth risking adventuring out on what feels like will be the first truly wintry night of the year.

Over in Laid In Chelsea this week things limped to a rather dull conclusion despite the fireworks display and the fireworks generated by the fact that uber-sneak Rosie- she of the stary eyes and the need to take the moral high ground in everyone else’s affairs- had been sleeping with Hugo behind supposed close friend Millie’s back. Cue lots of actual tears from Millie accompanied by a face that crumpled and resembled that of a three year old having her favourite toy taken away from her. The Spencer and Caggie faux-mance dragged on –and on- and surely cannot continue into the next series. Please. Francis bored, Amber unconvincingly vamped, Jamie irritated-a lot-, Proudlock stayed in the closet and Mark Francis dazzled. Glad it’s over but Monday nights will seem empty without it.

On recommendation I was told to turn my gaze to the new series of Shipwrecked which I dutifully did and was fascinated what I encountered which was little more than a collection of self  obsessed, buffed up and bronzed idiots all vying for a prize that can only be attained by shafting each other. In a metaphorical sense that is although some seem to take it literally without realising that every time a couple does this on one of these ‘reality ‘ programmes their days are inevitably numbered as aligning and ostracising yourself in this fashion generally alienates the others. The token ‘weirdo’ among this group is a young guy going by the name of Kitten who prances around in a fur coat-on a tropical island- and seems to have studied at the Pete Burns school for being obnoxious. Unfortunately unlike Burns he has no charisma to speak of and merely comes across as an irritant although in comparison to some of the others – the ladies man and all around Jack the lad Bear and his concubine the abrasive Anna seem particularly vile and struggling to maintain a civil façade to the others- he is a bit of a, well, kitten actually. What is it with TV and the need for people to suddenly adopt ridiculous names such as Kitten, Bear, Caggie, Cheska Binky etc, etc ad nauseum. Personally if I was the producer of this programme I would open a phone vote to see whether  the contestants of this ‘competition’ should be allowed to leave this remote island or whether they should be forced to remain there and indulge in even more Lord Of The Flies staged scenarios. I personally would opt for leaving them there indefinitely.

Have been watching the last three episodes of My Transsexual Summer and must admit that Channel 4 have approached a highly sensitive subject with great sensitivity and warm intelligence. It initially seemed like a random idea to house male to female and female to male transgendered people together over a series of weekends over the summer but it has been an interesting journey both for the viewers and the participants. No silly stunts or contrived situations to create tension and aggro-read boost ratings- but just a group of outsiders who initially had little in common aside from their various sexual dystopias but have bonded to forge strong alliances and in probability some long-term friendships as well as providing some information for those who were previously unaware, ignorant or simply uninformed concerning this state of being. Well done Channel 4 for taking a subject still considered relatively taboo and granting it some normality.

So what is going on in X-Factor world this week? Is it still on? Has Gaaaary Baaaarlooow finished his sentence from last week yet? Is anyone still watching?…. No, me neither.

For those staying in tonight and in anticipation of Prince night on BBC4 here is something for your delectation.

 

TABLOID

Tabloid

 

In a week when the Leveson inquiry is investigating press misconduct through phone hacking this film arrives in cinemas harking back to the late seventies when although technology was not as advanced the methods deployed by the tabloid press were still as underhand and condemning as today. Focussing on the tale of Joyce McKinney a former beauty queen-Miss Wyoming-and a young Mormon, Kirk Anderson, who she allegedly kidnapped, held captive and forcibly had sex with it is still, even after viewing the film, unclear what actually happened so clouded with prejudice are the preconceptions instigated by the press. Matters are not helped by McKinney who although an extremely and intelligent interviewee in possession of a high IQ -168- and charming manner of discourse when recounting her version of events comes across as a delusional fantasist and therefore a less than credible witness.

The drama starts to unfold when McKinney first lays eyes on Anderson who she describes as a handsome desirable man though others point out that he was hardly an obvious object of lust weighing more than 300lbs and being of less than average attractiveness. This does not deter McKinney however who sets out to ensnare her man at whatever the price. Apparently some sort of compromise is reached and the two embark on an affair but when Anderson is removed to England as part of his Mormon training the trouble begins. McKinney believed he had been spirited away from her clutches and sets out to reclaim her true love and does what any (ab)normal person would do in those circumstances  enlisting the services of an accomplice-JK May- she then hires a bodyguard, a pilot and private jet then armed with a bottle of chloroform and an imitation gun flies to England to ‘persuade’ Anderson to impregnate her thus destabilising the hold the Mormon facility has over him. Where the financial backing she needs to fund such an elaborate plan derives from is never made clear but minor trivialities or reality never stand in McKinney’s way when her determination in overdrive. Along the way the bodyguard and pilot opt out so with May in tow as a loyal lapdog she tracks Anderson down and here matters become clouded in the various participants’ memories. According to the press McKinney held him captive and chained him up spread-eagled whilst she forcibly encouraged him to have sex with her repeatedly. McKinney however states that Anderson willingly accompanied her and chose to have sex with her and the handcuffs and manacles were merely sexual role play with him as her sex slave. The tabloid press, in the shape of the ever reliable Daily Mirror, cotton on to the story adding their salubrious sensationalist twist and immediately it becomes front page news and a national topic of conversation.

The subsequent coverage follows its way through the court case and after McKinney serves several months on remand is released on bail, Moments of notoriety then ensue including an infamous appearance at the premiere of The Stud where her presence even upstages that of the films star a certain Joan Collins. The story continues to become even more surreal after her release however as disguised as deaf mutes both she and May flee Britain only to turn up elsewhere as two unconvincing Indians from Calcutta. Meanwhile the press, in particular the Daily Mirror, have a field day and all manner of unsubstantiated stories are paraded as truth across their front pages. To counterbalance this the Daily Express attempt to tell Mc Kinney’s version of events and she suffers the confusing problem of having two radically alternate and differing stories about the same set of events spread across two of the biggest newspapers in the country at the same time. From the testimonies given by those involved at the time it would transpire that the truth is somewhere between the two events detailed but as no-one seems to be totally credible even this is debatable. What does become clear is that truth is a minor factor when it comes to selling newspapers or scandalising a nation by preying on those with petty morals to buy into their own brand of righteousness.

Tabloid is a thoroughly engaging film and McKinney remains to this day a fascinating character. All wide eyed disbelief and a raucous raconteur with ribald storytelling abilities who at one point, tellingly, insists that all the drama lessons she had have stood her in good stead. She reveals herself to be a thoroughly engaging if not wholly convincing or reliable interviewee although the tales of treating those around her as slaves still persist only nowadays it is the five Pitbulls she has had cloned –really- from her beloved soul-mate Booger who fulfil this role dialling phone numbers and retrieving drinks from the Fridge!! As all this is revealed at the end of this captivating and often unintentionally hilarious film it becomes clear that McKinney can quite accurately be described as barking mad.

JUST AN OBSERVATION

Monday 21st November

 

This weekend was fraught with disappointment as the film I had been hotly anticipating as part of the French Film Festival Beloved starring the legendary Catherine Deneuve turned out to be a badly conceived musical as opposed to the serious drama it promoted itself as. Perhaps if I had done a little more research prior to attending I may have been aware of this but nothing in either the programme or trailers made this clear and I could tell from the looks of bewilderment of those around me the first time one of the cast burst inappropriately into song I was not alone in my chagrin. It wasn’t just a musical however as being French it tried to do it seriously-imagine opera delivered over a Serge Gainsbourg backing track- but music and lyrical translation did not meld together at all and the overall effect was highly risible. At one juncture whilst trying to stifle my own laughter-one ‘number’ tried incongruously to match lyrical points of the Clash’s London Calling with the Smiths’ Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now- and observed a whole row of heaving shoulders obviously trying to conceal their own mirth, Unfortunately the whole ambience and message of the film suffered due to the unwelcome intrusion of these musical interludes. Prior to its screening the director of the festival informed the audience that the film was yet to find a British distributor and if it was unsuccessful in this department then we could consider ourselves fortunate enough to number ourselves among the few lucky enough people to see it in this country. I am not quite sure how lucky I felt at the films conclusion but if luck can be measured by how relieved I was the whole experience was over then I am among the luckiest people in the country indeed. A full review can be found here. Today I am off to see Tabloid about Joyce McKinney who abducted a youmg Mormon, held him captive and used him as a sex slave- mink handcuffs and all. I wonder if a young Boy George was an early fan?

One thing that certainly didn’t disappoint this weekend was the second series of the Killing on BBC4. Everything was there intact from the first series the spine tingling music, the darkness, innumerable suspects, the closing pulse of the collage sequence demanding you watch again next week and, of course, Sofie Grabol as Sarah Lund and her supporting cast of thick knit sweaters. The first series of the Killing had me hooked when it was shown earlier in the year proving itself intelligent and well executed superior drama and this sequel looks like being just as strong and powerful. Once again a murder opens up a sequence of events which apparently unconnected eventually draw together showing that crime-like art- does not operate in a vacuum. This time terrorism is brought into the mix though the equally fraught worlds of politics and family intrigue still have their parts to play in the unfolding drama. At this moment there are no front runners in the suspects department and if the first series was anything to go by then it would be unwise to fall into the trap of believing the obvious though paradoxically in the first series the killer eventually turned out to be totally obvious in hindsight.

One thing that was predictable –though many will proclaim shock- was Craig’s exit from the Lame Factor this weekend. Like several of the acts he has been giving the same performance for weeks that of Alison Moyet soundalike with a phony and unconvincing Elvis sneer. This week however saw an ill-judged attempt at one of the most ineffective and ridiculous Bond themes-anything after Live and Let Die qualifies for this award- Licence to Kill looking for all the world like James Bond after a month in a biscuit factory-incidentally where he may be returning now his tenure in this farce is over- and a performance that was more Brooke Bond with a case of Digestives on the side. I am not sure whether he was the worst performance of the week however as the standard, which has been declining along with weekly viewing figures, was mediocre at best and piss poor in general. This week saw Marcus visually become a eunuch version of Little Richard whilst staking out his next career move as a Butlins Redcoat –an obvious direction to take- but considering his overtly camp nature and choice of wardrobe perhaps that should be Pinkcoat. Hi de Hi! Meanwhile sulky faced Baaaarloooow was deeply not chuffed –aaaahh my nose bleeds for him- to be losing another of his acts whilst Kelly is delightedly basking in the fact she still has three in the competition. Dermot O’Weary probably caused several hundred thousand more to switch off with his embarrassing dancing at the start of the programme. Stop. This. Now. Please. The thing called Tulisa claimed that few would recognise Aretha Franklin’s Think as it was not a well known song. What????? Cue Tumbleweed moment and look of disbelief from the other judges. This is beyond generational and verged on absurd. As for Louis Walsh is he still there? And if so why?

Tonight is the series finale of Laid In Chelsea and I must admit that I am quite looking forward to seeing the tearful Millie attack the stary, bitchy ,stirring Rosie as I have been hankering after seeing someone do this since episode one. I am not sure how none of them have recognised that she is a shit stirring, manipulative bitch as it is obvious to the viewers. Don’t they watch their own programme? Mind you I can’t really blame them for this as every time I switch on I say goodbye to another hour of my life with very little payback. Mind you compared to some of the drivel masquerading as ‘reality’ TV –something featuring a billionaires daughter Tamara Ecclestone was recommended to me and I lasted less than five minutes before switching over in disgust- it could be considered high drama. Apparently that programme about bullying celebrities in the jungle is back but I feel that anything that gave us Peter Andre and Katie Price as a power couple should be launched into orbit and forgotten about. Also it doesn’t say very much about us as a society if we class watching people suffer and committing degrading acts as entertainment. It really is bullying being carried out by mass votes and I find the whole debacle pretty mind numbing and insulting to the intelligence.

Especially for the thing that calls itself a Tulisa here is the amazing Aretha Franklin performing the song she claims to have never heard before but is still considered to be someone knowledgable enough  to mentor acts on the Farce Factor.

JUST AN OBSERVATION

Friday 18th November

 

This week has been spent mostly acquainting myself with the new Kate Bush album 50 Words For Snow and admittedly there are less pleasant ways to spend your time. As with most of Bush’s work each new listen yields something different and stirs different emotions and this definitely ranks amongst her finest works. A full review and chance to hear the album in its entirety is available here . It is reassuring to have an artist of Bush’s talent and integrity still making valid contributions as her career has now spanned thirty four years and in that time she has neither pandered to current tastes or trends nor the dictates of record company pressure and has simply followed her own artistic vision even if not always with complete success. Even when she falters-The Red Shoes springs to mind-there is still always something commendable and interesting to be gleaned from her endeavours. On top of this she has always carried herself with dignity and restraint comfortable with both her talent and success. The current crop of celebrities with their seemingly never ending quest for attention through blatant and desperate self promotion could do well to take lessons from her. Then again very few-if any- possess one modicum of her talent so perhaps this is a wish too far.

It is unfortunate that many still associate Bush with her debut Wuthering Heights even though this is not representative of the experimental nature of much of her canon. The novel it was named after also comes under much misguided criticism with many feeling it is a girlie, romantic novel to set teenage hearts all a flutter. It does possess a love story at its core but it is a dark, twisted unfathomable love and the novel is driven by its deep dark mystery and not Barbara Cartland ideals of romantic fiction. Director Andrea Arnold recognises this and her new  adaptation of Emily Bronte’s book delves into the darkness and offers up a new twist on the period costume drama that will horrify and intrigue followers and new converts to this idiom in equal measure. Never afraid to explore gritty realism-witness 2009’s triumphant Fish Tank- Arnold re-imagines Wuthering Heights by presenting the childhood Heathcliff and Cathy as wild animals writhing around in the dirt and communicating through little more than the occasional grunt. The drama unfolds at its own pace-at times it is ponderous-but there is no denying it is a work of extreme power that will dispel any myths of Wuthering Heights being a novel for lovelorn teenage girls. A full dissection and analysis is available here.

Something else worth checking out is the Beholder exhibition at the Talbot Rice Gallery –part of the University- which houses a collection of works from artists as acclaimed and diverse as Yoko Ono and Carla Black. Based on David Hume’s ideology that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and each mind perceives a different beauty. Although one of my companions observed it was a bit ‘pick and mix’ I felt this worked to the exhibitions advantage as opposed to detracting from its many qualities. Although it is difficult to take in much of the work on display during the hustle and bustle of an opening-and the wine on offer to lure you away at any given moment- I will certainly be returning to take a closer look as several pieces definitely piqued my interest.

So what of this weekend then? Well there is the opening of the upstairs of De La Sole on Rose Street this evening featuring clothes from one of my new favourite designers Christine Watson. Beloved with Catherine Deneuve and her real life daughter Chiarri Mastroianni is showing as part of the French Film Festival tomorrow evening so that will be worth checking out. For those staying in the return of The Killing on BBC4 is not to be missed television. The first series had me totally captivated when it was shown at the beginning of the year and I have been tempted to knit myself a Sarah Lund-unflattering fisherman’s sweater for the uninitiated- in anticipation of its return. Although I will be out at the cinema when it is on I will definitely watch on my return or ,more likely, on Sunday. It certainly is a welcome relief from the brain rotting banality that usually clogs up the Saturday night schedules. And yes X-Crutiating Factor this does mean you.

As this years programme limps like a wounded soldier onto what looks like will be a very anti-climactic finale it is time to wonder what horrors this weekends programme may have in store. Will; Kelly Rowland force Misha B into wearing  ill advised tight fitting leather trousers again-the only thing of her size that should be seen in leather is a sofa- with a top that resembles a badly wrapped Quality Street as a means of portraying her ‘attitood’. Seriously she looked more like an ad for DFS last weekend as opposed to the next big pop star. Will Louis the odious child-catcher figure explode due to all the bile that is so obviously eating him up. Will the whole of Liverpool get behind Craig for the first time since he held up the queue in the kebab shop as he ordered more and more extra portions? Bitchy Louis keeps comparing him to a young Gaaaary Baaaarlow and the reception this receives from the self appointed head judge is worth tuning in for alone. The thing called Tulisa becomes more and more invisible week by week and her role has diminished almost as quickly as her acts were eliminated. At least we don’t have to deal with the irritating Frankie or Kitty anymore and last week may have been the best of the series as his dismissal or her elimination should have happened weeks ago. I mean do we really need another Lady Gaga? The real one is irritating enough.

The shenanigans of those from the stable born of Laid In Chelsea also appear to be coming to their conclusion. This week Caggie took up with a well fit French lover Thomas much to Spencer’s chagrin who then took to driving his Range Rover looking like action man after a month in a biscuit factory. After obviously catching a glimpse of himself in the wing mirror he then indulged in a frantic work out to no avail. Millie spent most of the time close to tears yet again. How boring is this woman and when will she accept that Hugo is just not interested? Rosie continues to be scary and stary and why anyone trusts her with anything is beyond me. The self appointed minx Amber was back with her eye and knicker flashing and along with Mark Francis-surely the campest thing on TV ever-organised a charity bake off for Chelsea Pensioners. Ollie wanted to write a book about 21st century males as if he knows anything about them whatsoever whilst Binky looked on vacantly-as she does- and Cheska continued to get up everyone’s nose. Sad as I may sound I am going to miss these poor excuses for human beings simply because they allow me to feel better about myself as I realise that no matter how bad things are at least I’m not one of them.

Time then to return to Kate Bush and 50 Words For Snow and I must confess to a kind of longing for the first snowfall of the winter although perhaps I should be careful what I wish for as the last two years have been long, harsh and brutal winters and the snow has mainly been to blame for this. It is however really beautiful to gaze at when it first arrives and this year has the perfect musical accompaniment to complement it.

KATE BUSH-50 WORDS FOR SNOW

Kate Bush-50 Words For Snow

A new Kate Bush album signals a sense of elation in her loyal fanbase so this her second release of 2011-The Directors Cut has only been six months in existence even if its contents were considerably older- will likely send them into unequalled paroxysms of pleasure. This sense of hastened productivity is especially surprising considering Bush’s usual work rate. After her groundbreaking Hounds Of Love in 1985-a record that positioned her alongside Prince as the most influential, avant-garde and sonic daring artist during the artistic bankruptcy of the eighties- it was four years before she followed up this mighty opus with The Sensual World and then another four years again before delivering 1993’s The Red Shoes. A twelve year hiatus ensued with the silence being broken with the release of the adventurous and panoramic Aerial in 2005. Hardly prolific then but Bush has always successfully managed her career on her own singular terms.

The release of two albums this year is deceptive as The Directors Cut was really a re-examination and re-fashioning of Aerial’s two predecessors with the songs stripped back and given space to breathe in contrast to the over-cluttered production values that  swamped the fragile beauty at many of the songs’ core on their original versions. The Red Shoes, in particular, is generally considered to be the runt in the litter of Bush’s canon so to hear the songs in their new incarnations was refreshing and this years earlier album served as a palate cleanser before the release of the wholly new material of 50 Words For Snow. It was also an indication of the musical direction the album would be taking and served as the missing link between Aerial and the new album’s sonic soundscapes although, as always, Bush follows no-ones lead apart from her own including a selection of unlikely contributors and 50 Words For Snow doesn’t disappoint here with Elton John, Stephen Fry and her son Bertie all making an appearance as required by her dictates.

Opening with Snowflakes and its simplistic circular piano motif the song takes its own time in getting where it is going and is an extremely promising opener promising an extremely potent journey ahead. The second track Lake Tahoe follows on this theme with celestial choirs along for the ride drifting in and out of the mix. Up next is Misty and its tale of a love affair with a snowman which is a subject only an artist of Bush’s imagination, talent and calibre can pull off as she has a way of taking simplistic or ridiculous subject matter and turning it into something magical, mysterious, compelling and wholly believable. The song builds with swells and slips back into moments of introspection and melts like the snowman of the subject matter. Wild Man continues this theme in a more upbeat tempo-shades of both Grace Jones and Bowie in this one but needless to say still totally Bush in execution and atmospherics- with a song about an endangered  Yeti which made an unlikely but fascinating single when released a month prior to the albums release. Snowed In At Wheeler Street is the duet with Elton John and admittedly Bush has coaxed his most convincing performance out of him in years-decades?- whilst the musical backing drifts beautifully creating a backdrop that haunts and swirls in equal measure. The dialogue swoons and intertwines with tales of love affairs set in a burning Rome, Occupied France in 1942 and New York on 9/11. 50 Words for Snow up next contains exactly that with Stephen Fry listing them whilst Bush exhorts ‘come on Joe you got thirty two to go’ until each one has been delivered to her satisfaction. Among Angels the album closer rounds things off beautifully leaving the listener feeling they have been on an amazing fantastical journey of Bush’s imagination but somehow awakening their own.

50 Words for Snow is very much a winter album and is the perfect accompaniment for cocooning with in the chill of these dark, desolate months with its simultaneously warm, glacial and spatial atmospheric sonic soundscapes and imaginative lyrical subject matter. After spending several days acquainting myself with the album each listen rewards me with some new experience and discovery and that is the beauty of Bush’s best work as it holds an endless supply of experiences and relies less on initial impact than longevity. It almost makes me long for snow and after the extended and inconvenient big chills of the last two winters I never thought I would wish for that ever again.

Hear the album in its entirety mediaPlayer.html?action=1&t=1&islist=false&id=142133269&m=142188918