Posts Tagged ‘ entertainment ’

JUST AN OBSERVATION

Just An Observation Friday October 25th

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Well the long awaited revolution so many of us have wished for gained some screen time on Newsnight this week and arrived not courtesy of the latest highly educated whiz kid politician but from the unlikely source of comedian/actor, Russell Brand. in a thoroughly engaging and convincing interview with regular curmudgeon Jeremy Paxman, or ‘Jeremy darling’ as he will henceforth be known thanks to Brand’s affectionate terming of this supposed political heavyweight, the entertainer put forward a thoroughly convincing and impassioned argument.
Admittedly never a great admirer of Brand’s in the past finding his stand up irritatingly puerile and the least said about his acting abilities-never mind his choice of roles and former wife, the even more irritating Katy Perry- the better. However he has gone someway to reconstructing himself as a social and cultural commentator and in this area I feel he is pretty much unsurpassed in addressing issues politicians, journalists and most other celebrities-Morrissey a notable exception occupies a lot of the same territory but more about him later- simply do not. Dismissed by Paxman as a ‘trivial man’ Brand’s calls for revolution may on the surface come across as exactly that but dig deeper into what he is actually saying and the truth provides a concrete basis for his vocal exhortations and facial grimaces. A cheesy smile occupied his face for most of the interview and Paxman would have done well to remember the old adage ‘Beware the smiling assassin’ as at the interview’s conclusion there was no doubt as to who had trounced who.
‘Profit is a filthy word’ and ‘not voting out of absolute indifference’ were just two notable quotes in an argument which at times was peppered with florally enhanced adjectives but still managed to put across its basic terms. There is no representation in politics for a huge part of our society and I am part of that section which has no representation. The best vote open to me is for the lesser of two evils
which may go someway in preventing the greater evil triumphing.
This option however is riddled with a fatal flaw as anyone who voted for the Liberal Democrats in the last General Election discovered. I remember speaking to a young first time voter shortly after the election when the Lib Dem’s had joined forces with the Tories in the disastrous collision still in power and he was already disillusioned as voting Liberal-which he considered the most humanitarian and fair option open to him- he had found himself complicit in electing the Tories into power when his objectives had been quite the opposite. This is the disillusioned and disenfranchised populous Brand was referring to who, from what I can see, are all around me and I number myself amongst them.
As for revolution well, why not? If the EDL can make political inroads in opposition to the fairer aspects of our political system why can’t we take charge and oppose the less fair ones. Sometimes it really is that simple it is just important to not let complacency get in the way. That is the real enemy!
As mentioned earlier Morrissey is just as much an activist and has spent his career being a proverbial fly in the ointment. It is unimportant whether you like his music or not although this week The Smiths album The Queen is Dead was voted the best album of all time in the NME in a chart which, for a change, seemed to possess some integrity and validity-two of my personal top three Patti Smith’s Horses and The Velvet Underground and Nico were there with only The New York Dolls missing from the top ten- but as an artist he has always spoken out on subjects others were too scared to address or considered taboo.
His Autobiography however is redefining that overworked genre and is brilliantly written in an area where the likes of nineteen year old Harry Styles- grew up in privileged background, entered talent show, made millions-proliferate and , that filthy word again, profit. It is also obvious that he has written this book himself and the use of language is impressive, evocative and wholly descriptive. Having grown up in the greyish blacks and whites of Manchester in the sixties and seventies this harsh reality never really left him even when, as the last of the international playboys, he is breakfasting with David Bowie. Intermittent snippets of conversation between these two figureheads and reluctant representatives of different generations allow us to discern that the world of the celebrity is mundane and all most of them have in common is their status and prestige. One senses he feels more comfortable with and in awe of the low rent ‘Carry On’ stars of his childhood than the Bowies, Julie Christies and other A-Listers he encounters.
As for his much publicised admission of a sex life, well that is done in true Morrissey fashion by alluding as opposed to out and out confession. If one gains any sense of a true love in Morrisey’s life then it can be directed towards the New York Dolls rather than any individual. Jake Walters would appear to come closest to capturing his heart but even he emerges as a temporary fixture whilst the Dolls are a constant source of joy and love throughout.
Definitely an autobiography which lives up to its apocryphal title and provides what most of us want from such a tome in that it names and shames constantly and he doesn’t stop at grinding his axe but continues to swing it with reckless abandon much to the reader’s delight and amusement. It is about time someone used their position to tell it how it is and just as refreshing is his deeply descriptive telling of pivotal life moments which also are not your typical fare.
Tonight sees 2013’s last instalment of Neu Reekie with an impressive line up including Withered Hand, Kei Miller, Rachel Mc Crum amongst others. The main act for me tonight bthough has to be Teen Canteen who are also promoting their excellent debut single ‘Honey’ coincidentally released on the Neu Reekie record label-these people are already following Brand’s doctrine of getting off their arses and making something happen. This is just one of several live gigs lined up around the country over the next coming weeks including one at RAMMED in the Voodoo Rooms on November 16th. Definitely one of the best Scottish acts on the circuit at the moment catch them while you can at these more intimate venues as it is only a matter of time before this changes as their star is very much in the ascendant.
Here to get your weekend off to a flying start is the video directed by Jonathan Feemantle of that aforementioned single ‘Honey’ released this week.

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PRINCESS GRACE:MORE THAN AN IMAGE

Princess Grace: More Than An Image

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 This exclusive archive collection by Scottish knitwear specialists Pringle based on the style of Princess Grace of Monaco-who initially found fame as a Hollywood glamour icon under her own name of Grace Kelly- and drawn from her own private collection was a lesson in understated but classic chic. Timeless, effortless and exuding both class and glamour whilst the opulent surroundings of the Signet Library simply enhanced these features commendably without distracting from them.

 The Princess Grace theme was not just a gimmick  tagged on to promote sales, as in the case of too many high street stores and the never ending round of non entity celebrities only too willing to  lend their name, promote their egos and share their style ‘secrets’ with the public, but a genuine attempt to capture the essence of this ineffably chic lady and her ever enduring style conscious look. To complement the look however Pommery Champagne was served and the catwalk show’s musical accompaniment was Camille Saint-Saens’ cello piece ‘The Swan’ in reference to her wedding to Prince Rainier where the former was the drink of choice and the latter the music.

 As for the collection itself- sixteen pieces in all- it was like its muse in that it was understated whilst making a statement. The colours were mostly muted greys and blacks, vivid blues and pinks, whilst some were emblazoned with motifs and others accessorised with fake fur trims but all were highly covetable. Each piece is a limited edition however and with only the finest Scottish cashmere being used this makes them even more desirable as well as long lasting both in style and endurance terms.

 Available exclusively in Jane Davidson’s Thistle Street store this collaboration is already highly prestigious and before this show even took to the catwalk many orders had been taken for several of the pieces.

 In essence the collection is that of a fairytale princess literally straight out of the Hollywood film archives but in reality the clothes at its core are down to earth and basic but simultaneously overwhelmingly luxurious and effortlessly stylish; much like their muse!

 For further information about this collection and its availability please follow the link below

 http://www.janedavidson.co.uk/designers/pringle/

JUST AN OBSERVATION

Just An Observation Friday July 5th

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 Allegedly there is a heatwave on the way! At last, is all I can say, as I really need to see lots of lobster coloured people walking the streets of Edinburgh moaning about the unbearable heat and forgetting that only a short while ago they were complaining just as bitterly about the cold/wind/rain/wind (delete as applicable or don’t delete if all apply) and wishing it were a little warmer/ sunnier/drier (delete as applicable again). It is about time we had a semblance of a summer in Scotland and 2013 has not been too bad thus far although the traditional storm clouds gathered and torrential rain made a fleeting appearance as soon as the Scottish school holidays began.

Perhaps we should just reconsider when these holidays take place or whether they are necessary at all! It is definitely worth a try suspending them indefinitely if the end result is we all get better weather.  Just a thought!

 The Edinburgh International Film Festival ended last Sunday and I must admit it was with more of a whimper than a bang. Totally underwhelmed not only by the films but also by promotion of the event I find it amazing that when I am out and about so many local residents are unaware  it is even taking place. Being one of the world’s longest running events of its kind s to sweep it to the side is pretty unforgivable and shows a lack of concern for Scottish culture which is constantly undervalued anyway. Apparently one of the big sells this year was that they were showing many films which had been refused by other similar film festivals although whether this is a good or bad thing is still unclear in my mind. Did we show the cream of the crop or were we scraping the dregs from the bottom of the barrel.

Not everything was bad however and for a more detailed report of what is and isn’t worthwhile just click here for more detailed insights and reviews.

 Next week sees T in the Park make a return which means that inevitably so will the rain. Last year was more T in the Swamp and turned into a totally washed out mudfest. I am being pressured into going to see Kraftwerk on the Friday evening-which I am convinced would be really quite something- on the premise that I will be in the VIP area. I must admit to being tempted but would be more tempted if I was being transported in and out via a specially chartered helicopter.

Much as I love Kraftwerk I have seen them live before in much more suitable pristine surroundings and they were simply outstanding and among one of the best live shows I have ever seen. I am not sure I want this memory sullied by mud and the indignity of portaloos.

 This weekend there are two interesting events occurring though as luck would have it they are both on at the same time. First up is the launch of Neu! Reekie co-founder Michael Pedersen’s debut poetry collection, Play With Me, at the Scottish Storytelling Centre. Several years of hard work finally comes to fruition at this event which also features appearances by former Fire Engine and current Jesus! Baby singer Davy Henderson alongside fellow Neu! Reekie cohort Kevin Williamson among others. Definitely one to check out if you can although if you miss it there will be a similar follow up event on Friday 16th August as part of the International Book Festival.

 Elsewhere an intriguing and adventurous new night featuring live music within a club environment called Rammed is launching at the Speakeasy in the Voodoo Rooms at 8pm. Its creators claim they are trying to put back some of the elements missing from Edinburgh nightlife over the last few years whilst adding a few new elements to ensure that proceedings remain both current and relevant. Musical acts for the launch are the unforgettable Homesick Aldo and the riotous Andy and the Prostitutes with DJ sets by the Baron and Anna Kissed. There is already a buzz about this event and if toxic glamour and excellent music is your thing then I suggest you make sure you don’t miss it.

 That is it for this week and I am off out to bask in, what I am hoping by now is tropical sunshine. Either that or I am staying indoors to hunt out a pair of wellies and parka to go and see Kraftwerk. Now that is a sentence I thought I would never write!

Edinburgh International Film Festival 2013

 

Edinburgh International Film Festival 2013

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Well that is it for another year then. The A-List stars have departed whilst the opening and closing galas provided a maelstrom of dramatic flourish, flamboyance and glamour to our usual grey days and the momentum of the event provided ceaseless conversations amongst the locals. Except none of the former really happened did it?

 In fact the whole event passed pretty much unnoticed to local residents- and even to me who was a participant- and if pushed for a comment many would even have failed to notice it was actually taking place. Matters weren’t even helped by the fact the weather was remarkably pleasant with sunshine days and warm balmy evenings being the norm. Compare and contrast with last year when it rained torrentially and incessantly.

 The ultimate disappointment though must lie in the choice of movies selected with few of the films making too much of an impression either way. If honest I must admit the best film I saw during the whole thing was the 1971 Richard Fleischer classic, shown as part of a retrospective, 10 Rillington Place starring a suitably creepy Richard Attenborough as serial killer John Christie. It was the only film among the many I attended that held the audience in its spell throughout with a tension which was palpable; a matter confirmed when at a crucial moment I tore my eyes away from the action to observe an almost trancelike state audience caught up in the drama. I witnessed nothing like this sort of effect at the many new films I attended.

Mind you this may be because I attended mainly press showings but everyone knows how cynical a group of film critics can be. I am not sure this still applies to the younger ones who appeared to be barely out of diapers but wore their miserabilist tendencies in plaid with carefully selected geek chic glasses.

 Of the new films premiered the best, in my opinion, were Svengali, The Great Hip Hop Hoax, Oh Boy, We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks and a Russian offering, Betrayal. The latter I haven’t got around to reviewing yet but it is an Almodovar styled film with the vivid colours and fiery passions replaced with Soviet chill to disorientating effect. The plot is highly implausible and relies on the viewer’s suspension of belief, but somehow this works to its advantage as opposed to its detriment.

 The opening film Breathe In starring Guy Pearce and the patriotic, set in Glasgow, closer Not Another Happy Ending with Karen Gillan were slightly underwhelming if the truth be told. As were the opening and closing parties which followed if I am being even more honest. In fact the best party I attended during the twelve day duration down as the most memorable film festival of recent times it is also not the most forgettable was nothing to do with the film festival but was held in an empty art studio with a bunch of non celebrities who could show the organisers of these stilted industry affairs how it should be done

 On the plus side the event was still a step in the right direction away from the low key efforts of 2011 which abandoned all parties and celebrity attendances. It also had the best and most consistent weather of any Scottish festival in recent years and perhaps this onslaught of sunshine distracted from the event as who wants to sit in a darkened cinema when it is sunny outside. Particularly to a nation as deprived of vitamin D as us Scots are.

 Now that it is all over however I must say that the best summary I can offer is that although 2013 will not go!

MISTER JOHN

 

Mister John

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Featuring a flawlessly understated performance by Aidan Gillen Mister John adopts its own languid pace and despite threatening to erupt into something more dramatic and thrilling on several occasions it somehow manages to reinforce restraint and draw itself back in thus achieving individuality as opposed to generic type. This does not mean it is without its shortcomings however, it is just that often these shortcomings work in its favour.

 Travelling to Singapore after his brother John’s death-the Mister John who lends the film its title- Gerry(Gillen) attempts to sort out the estate of his more financially successful brother. After his luggage goes missing he borrows some of his brother’s clothes and in the process slips into imagining the alternative lifestyle of his more flamboyant sibling. For someone seemingly so withdrawn and wearing a cloak of sadness this new role is an extremely attractive proposition.

 It would seem sex is seemingly permanently on offer to Gerry as he assumes this new role but he has trouble connecting emotionally as he is still haunted by his wife’s infidelity back in London. Stranger still he becomes emotionally drawn to his late brother’s beautiful widow Kim(Zoe Tay) and the tension of their encounters teeters on the precipice of an affair but his emotional withdrawal prevents him from embracing this complicated entanglement.

 More of a character study than anything else Mister John relies heavily on the plausibility of Gillen’s performance and he manages to capture the pathos of his character in sublime fashion. His awkwardness is cringeworthy and this is what gives the character credibility and emotional depth.

 The screen writing and director team of Christine Molloy and Joe Lawler made a brave and admirable decision in not allowing their vision to be tampered with merely to fill a specific genre or type as this emerges as the film’s main strength.

WE STEAL SECRETS:THE STORY OF WIKILEAKS

 

We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks

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Surrounded in hype, recriminations , accusations and clouded truths, when the scandal surrounding Wikileaks- a website intent on revealing the fog of war and revealing the true nature of the twenty first century- and its founder, Julian Asssange, broke it was hard to decipher any semblance of the truth. With one faction claiming the documents which were leaked were in the interest of the public, the other denied this and counteracted the very same information placed the public, and whole countries, in severe danger.

The truth is hardly any clearer after watching this documentary by Academy Award winning director Alex Gibney, which admittedly falls on the side of Assange and his organisation, but what is clear that accusations of a smear campaign against Wikileaks and its founder are lent a considerable amount of gravitas whilst those who went out their way to destabilise their credibility-including some of the most powerful people in the world- are left looking rather suspect.

 The leading cast in this tale include the formerly named Assange- a blonde haired Australian hell bent on discovering the truth about the war in Iraq- a teenage hacker and Bradley Manning, a gender confused American soldier serving in Iraq with access to highly sensitive documents and footage. Without thinking of the consequences Manning shared this classified information with Wikileaks and to this day still languishes as a detainee in jail even though he has never actually had a trial convicting him of any specific crime.

 Assange on the other hand was briefly awarded rock star status when he leaked the contents of the documents on his site but this small victory was soon snatched from him when two accusations of rape in Sweden arose. These is where things get rather cloudy and off balance as the accusations of rape seem to come from two women who had consensual sex with Assange but one freaked out when the condom broke during the act whilst the other claimed he never used one. This led to claims he may have impregnated them or shared a S.T.D. and  a warrant was issued for his arrest. When he refused to take an HIV test the charges were immediately changed to rape and thus the conspiracy theories about a smear campaign began.

 At this juncture a media campaign to discredit Assange and Wikileaks-interestingly the Guardian and New York Times who shared the information he provided were absolved of any blame- began and in one of the films many incidences of black humour the phrase ‘he has blood on his hands ‘is trotted out ad infinitum via various major news stories around the globe as if to detract from the real issue at hand; war crimes being committed in Iraq.

These war crimes provide some of the most shocking images in the film and early on we are shown a helicopter attack on innocent civilians and Reuter journalists after one carrying a camera with a long lens is mistaken for a Militia with an Ak47. What is almost as shocking as the horror of this footage is the clearly audible laughter, sheer flippancy and derogatory remarks emanating from the attackers about the dead bodies they have left on the ground. Further footage showing innocent families and children being slaughtered-either through carelessness or incorrect intelligence- is equally unsettling and Assange’s claims that this is what the public need to know about the realities of war start to make a lot more sense than the counter argument that knowing and seeing such things places us all in greater danger.

 A fascinating and revealing insight into a recent scandal- Assange is still under house arrest in the Ecuadorian Embassy-this documentary provides very few answers but it does raise a hell of a lot of questions.

THE COMPLEX

 

The Complex

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‘Ghosts don’t haunt places they haunt the human mind’ is a choice phrase uttered during this Japanese psychic chiller directed by Hideo Nakata and it would be one well remembered by the films central protagonist, Asuka. At times resembling a more convoluted plotline devised by esteemed author Haruki Murakami the film relies more on cleverly constructed atmospherics than clever dialogue or acting skills. Despite falling slightly short of becoming a classic of its genre it is not wholly unsuccessful and building to a hysterical climax it is certainly worthy of note and investigation.

 Asuka (Atsuka Maeda), a young nursing student, moves into a housing complex with her parents and younger brother and straight away feels ill at ease as the complex feels abandoned apart from a young lone child playing. After befriending the child immediately strange occurrences start to happen and a shifting of emotions pervades.

 Strange noises from the next apartment and an alarm clock which goes off every morning at 5.30 am arouse feelings of unease which are not assuaged by friends at college informing her the complex has a reputation for being haunted.Matters only worsen after she discovers a malnourished corpse in her neighbouring apartment but she also forms a bond with one of the young men, Sasahara (Hiroki Narimiya),  drafted in to clean up the apartment.

Things however take on even more sinister twists and turns and strange happenings conspire in Asuka no longer able to distinguish between what is real and what is merely a product of her obviously disturbed state of mind. It would be unfair to divulge too much of the plot but matters become more frenetic resulting in a frenzied exorcism to rid her apartment-or is it her mind- of the evil spirits which torment  and occupy a place in her psyche.

 Skilfully executed The Complex is relatively successful on its own terms however it will not trouble classics of its genre and although compared to Japanese classics such as The Ring it is simply not in the same class as that film. It is still worth checking out though as it does compel the viewer to try and distil the reality of unfolding of events from what is simply imagined or feared.

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