Wednesday 22 February 2012

Motion Blur

I was sitting in the pub, quietly sipping a pint of ale when Blur came in and sat at the table with me.

"Did you see it?" Damon asked, his eyes shining with an excitement that belied the aged skin around it.

"What, you guys at the Brits?" I asked. "I actually did. Well done, that was a good show."

"Yeah. Yeah, it was. And did you see that we're on the Olympics closing concert as well?" He asked, nudging Alex James.

"I did. Congratulations. You must be very excited."

"We are." he said. "We're totally excited. We're not messing around this time. No new stuff. Just wall to wall, balls out, classics."

I realised that I wasn't going to get to drink my ale in private, so I put it down and attempted to properly engage with the conversation.

"No new stuff?"


"I thought you wanted to write, like, new stuff all the time. Like opera."

A glimmer of sadness formed in his eyes, and he briefly looked like a little boy lost in a man's set of clothing. Much like Richard Hammond. "All I ever wanted was to speak to God," he said. "He gave me that longing."

Then he focused and the sadness was replaced with anger.

"No, not this time." he said.  "I didn't want to do it this time. The Olympics, they asked me if I would, right, but I didn't want to. Alex wants us to - "

Alex interrupted him. "I have this great idea for a new chorus. It goes 'Doo doo doo doo doooooooo....I'm loving it'".

"Shut up, Alex." Damon said. "But we're not doing it this time. We're concentrating on what works."

"That's good," I said, beginning to look for my nearest exit. Damon was looking a little bit manic.

"And do you know what the best thing is?" He asked.

", Damon, I don't know what the best thing is."

"It means we win."

"You win?"

"Yeah," he said, nodding his head. "We win. You saw The Brits. You saw Noel Gallagher. Reduced to duetting with fucking Coldplay. He didn't even win Best Solo Male Artist."


"It proves we were best. Nineteen Ninety Four, 'Country House' versus 'Roll With It'. We won then, but people thought we lost the war. Everyone was all 'oooh, Oasis, they're brilliant', but look at them now. Where are they now, eh? Nowhere, that's where."

There was a dangerous glint in his eyes that scared me.

"Do the rest of the band feel the same way?" I asked him.

"Who cares what the rest of the band felt?" he responded angrily. "Noel Gallagher, right,  didn't even win best solo artist, and then everybody cheered for us. We won. Like we should have won all the time."

"Damon," Alex said, "Wait. Think about this. If we lose all the anger at Oasis, we can just have fun again. We can project a nicer image, and maybe get corporate sponsorship, like McDonalds. And McDonalds is brilliant, isn't it Damon?"

"Shut it, cheese-fucker." Damon growled. I couldn't help but raise my eyebrows as Alex looked sadly at the ground.

"Maybe you're being a bit obsessive." I tried to say to Damon.

"Everyone's going to be saying how brilliant we are at the Olympics, while Noel Gallagher is sat outside with a piece of card saying 'I used to be relevant, why did I ever argue with Damon'. That's what he'll be doing. While I walk out as the fucking God of Brit-Pop."

"Look, you need to calm down" I said, as Damon continued to raise his voice.

"You know what my last concert is going to be? It's going to be us doing a concert on Noel Gallagher's grave. We're going to dance all over it and sing Song 2."

"I'm going to leave now," I said.

"Woo-hoo, Chris! Woo-Hoo."

As I left, Damon continued shouting "Woo-hoo", getting more and more out of breath.

Alex ran up after me. "Look, I just wanted to say..." he said. "...I don't fuck cheese. I just really like it."

"I know, Alex," I said. "I know."

Sunday 12 February 2012

Review: The Woman in Black

The movie of "The Woman in Black" is far from the first time this story has been told. Susan Hill's novel has previously been a well-received TV adaptation and the second-longest running play on the West End (behind Agatha Christie's "The Mousetrap").

I went to see the stage version last month. If you're in London, I cannot recommend it enough. It's a superb, old fashioned ghost story, and elicits some genuine jumps from the audience. This is particularly impressive considering it's performed with a very small cast. It also (along with the television version) takes liberties with the original novel. In the book, the main character is an old man who tells the story about his youth. In the play, the old man is looking for advice from an actor who helps him to tell his story.

This version is far more stripped down and straightforward, which is good, because the story is fairly simple. A young lawyer goes to a remote area to work on the paperwork of a recently passed woman. While he's there, he starts being stalked by a ghost. To give much more away would be to do you a disservice.

It's not quite as strong as the stage play, but it's still a fairly fresh movie and belies it's 12A certificate by being genuinely quite frightening in places. Some may say that the jumps that are elicited are "cheap", but that's only fair when it's in a movie that doesn't have anything else to offer. The jumps in this are the punchlines to the increasing tension created by each scene - in fact, some of the moments that work best are the ones where you're expecting something to happen and nothing does.

Daniel Radcliffe is good in it, playing a man recently bereaved. He constantly looks pale and drawn out, and actually has to carry a lot of the film almost entirely by himself. In silence, no less.

To give you an idea how well this suceeds, it can be compared favourably to the movie where John Cusack spends a night being haunted by a hotel room ("1408", based on the Stephen King movie of the same name), which was interesting but flawed. Radcliffe comes off better here than John Cusack did. And I say that as a John Cusack fan. And, for that matter, a Stephen King fan.

The film looks beautiful throughout, internally and externally, and it uses darkness better than any movie since "Rec". The cinematography, the design, the lighting - all excellent. Great work by all involved, and all brought together well by veteran Horror director James Watkins.

The only major issue I have with it is that it kind of falls betwixt and between the 12A and 15 rating. It feels like it occasionally wants to be more unpleasant than it is, and I'm not massively keen on the slightly tacked-on ending. While I like the narrative turn, I think the choice made softens what should be quite a hard blow, and that felt possibly a little too intended not to upset anyone too much. It's a shame, because the ending could have been so, so effective, and it's slightly neutered.

Otherwise, though, Jane Goldman is the real star of this one. After Stardust, Kick Ass and X-Men: First Class, she's become the queen of adaptations. "The Debt" was, I believe original, and she cowrote a solid screenplay there, but I'm now massively interested to see if she can turn out something completely original and entirely in her own voice.

Overall, it's mostly successful. It's nice to see the new Hammer Studios working well with the kind of material that the original studio made its name with. Hopefully, there will be more where this came from.

Monday 6 February 2012

The Knight in the Library

The forgotten characters sit quietly in the library. They look at each other occasionally with sad and sometimes hopeful smiles.

They are afforded privileges based on age and popularity. After all, an older, popular character has lost more than a minor character in a recent novel.

Once, some of them were loved. Once, some of them inspired people. Now, they sit there, gathering dust.

He is one of the oldest of them. A Knight, who was one of the group that inspired the Knights of Camelot. One of the group who fought alongside of the original King Arthur, but one who had failed to be recreated the second time around, and who had just grown progressively more forgotten.

Every day, he comes in, and sits patiently, hoping to be remembered. He does not complain. He does not feel sad. He is a Knight and Knights have dignity.

Also, every day, he gets to see her. The ancient African princess, who is beautiful, wise and kind. She makes every one of his days better, and the endless purgatory worthwhile. They don't talk much. Nobody talks much after so long. But they always find something new to say each day, and they always make eye contact, and he can always make her smile.

She likes to see him. Some days, that's all that matters.

Today, he waits, and she does not come.

He looks around the library, but she is nowhere. He talks to the world's first detective (a fat Chinese man who laughs a lot) and he talks to the golden calf (that spoke to Eve in the garden and became so popular that God himself got annoyed) but neither of them know why. But neither of them care as much as he does.

The Knight has only rarely spoken to the Librarian. There has never been any need. But today, he clears his throat and enquires after the princess.

"Oh, her? Got rediscovered", the Librarian says. "Some fantasy writer sort of updated her, and the book came out this week. Very good reviews. There may even be a movie. You won't see her back again."

The knight thanks the librarian, and makes his way back to his normal chair, where he sits and waits.

He looks at her chair, but it is empty.

He waits.

And waits.


And waits.