james debate
james debate

Saturday 26 February 2011

song of the week: "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots: Part 1" by "The Flaming Lips"

thing that makes me smile today: Waking up, sans hangover thanks to the 2-pint water trick.

pic of the day
got your backIN:
Tower Hill
Champions League
Beady Eye

Liverpool St
FA Cup

Thursday 24 February 2011

academy awards 2011

This Sunday, Hollywood's famous Kodak Theatre will once again play host to the biggest day on the cinema calendar, the Oscars. People all over the world will tune in for that most tragically popular of pastimes, celebrity watching, followed by four hours of forced laughs and real tears. This year the hosts will be James Franco, who is himself up for a best actor nomination, and Anne Hathaway.

As always, my loyal readers, I present to you some predictions for the big night. Some of you may not have seen the big films this year, others may not be familiar with the latest hype tearing through tinseltown; consider the following a crib sheet for what lies ahead this weekend, and perhaps even a sneak peek at who might just be walking away with the big prize.

Best Picture


  • 127 Hours
  • Black Swan
  • The Fighter
  • Inception
  • The Kids Are Alright
  • The King's Speech
  • The Social Network
  • Toy Story 3
  • True Grit
  • Winter's Bone

Who Could Win:
Once again I will bemoan the recently changed format for this award which sees the number of nominations increased from 5 to 10; ostensibly intended to avoid offending film makers, all that it really accomplishes is the cheapening of a best picture nomination.
This year the race is essentially between two films. If you had asked me two months ago who would win, I would have told you the Social Network, hands down. The film's buzz was through the roof, receiving universal acclaim, and given its topical nature and fresh approach to filmmaking it was highly expected to win favor from an Academy that is eager to shake its fusty old image. In fact the film had already done so with the early awards, sweeping both the Los Angeles and New York film critics' awards. Meanwhile The King's Speech was suffering from severe image issues, and a smear campaign appeared to be afoot regarding the script's accuracy with regards to the Royal Monarchy's prewar views on Nazi Germany, an issue which carries a lot of weight in Hollywood of all places.
However this has all changed in recent weeks, following the King's Speech winning the Directors' Guild award, typically seen as a reliable barometer for the Oscars. All of a sudden the King's Speech has an air of inevitability about it, an unstoppable force that has to be considered the favorite going into this weekend.

The King's Speech

Best Director

  • Darren Aronofsky - Black Swan
  • Ethan Coen and Joel Coen - True Grit
  • David Fincher - The Social Network
  • Tom Hooper - The King's Speech
  • David O. Russell – The Fighter

Who Could Win:
Typically you will find that the best picture and best director awards go hand in hand. For this reason we have to consider Tom Hooper, though I would be surprised if he won it. In all honesty he's a bit green for such an honor and though the King's Speech is a fine movie, the direction itself is not what stands out. Personally I would love to see Darren Aronofsky pick up his first Academy Award, but I feel his movie Black Swan will be considered "too weird" to win. My pick for this year's prize has to be David Fincher. If Social Network wins best picture this will surely be a formality but even if it does not, Fincher has drawn enough kudos for his work to be considered a narrow favorite here.

David Fincher

Best Actor

  • Javier Bardem – Biutiful as Uxbal
  • Jeff Bridges – True Grit as Rooster Cogburn
  • Jesse Eisenberg – The Social Network as Mark Zuckerberg
  • Colin Firth – The King's Speech as Prince Albert / King George VI
  • James Franco – 127 Hours as Aron Ralston

Who Could Win:
Probably the easiest one to call, I don't think there is a single person in Hollywood who is in doubt over who will win this award. One must feel bad for James Franco, as his tour de force performance could so easily have won in another year, but this time around the prize will definitely go to Colin Firth. Having come so close last year only to lose out to Jeff Bridges, there has been something of a sense of inevitability about this one since long before anyone had even seen the King's Speech, and Firth did not disappoint, turning in a masterful performance that will almost certainly, and deservedly, win him the ultimate prize for acting at last.

Colin Firth

Best Actress

  • Annette Bening – The Kids Are All Right as Nic
  • Nicole Kidman – Rabbit Hole as Becca Corbett
  • Jennifer Lawrence – Winter's Bone as Ree Dolly
  • Natalie Portman – Black Swan as Nina Sayers
  • Michelle Williams – Blue Valentine as Cindy

Who Could Win:
While a lot of positive things have been said about Annette Bening, this one too has a pretty clear favorite. Natalie Portman has wowed audiences with her raw and disturbing portrayal of a ballerina who figuratively and emotionally loses herself in her work. Pretty much a sure thing.

Natalie Portman.

Best Supporting Actor

  • Christian Bale – The Fighter as Dicky Eklund
  • John Hawkes – Winter's Bone as Teardrop
  • Jeremy Renner – The Town as James "Gem" Coughlin
  • Mark Ruffalo – The Kids Are All Right as Paul
  • Geoffrey Rush – The King's Speech as Lionel Logue

Who Could Win:
Geoffrey Rush is an actor of the absolute highest quality, and in a year where the King's Speech could well sweep the Oscars it is a distinct possibility that he could ride this wave to his second Academy Award. My pick, though, has to be Christian Bale, whose performance as the washed up, drug addicted ex-boxer Eklund was absolutely unforgettable and pitch perfect from the very first scene.

Christian Bale

Best Supporting Actress

  • Amy Adams – The Fighter as Charlene Fleming
  • Helena Bonham Carter – The King's Speech as Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon / Queen Elizabeth
  • Melissa Leo – The Fighter as Alice Ward
  • Hailee Steinfeld – True Grit as Mattie Ross
  • Jacki Weaver – Animal Kingdom as Janine "Smurf" Cody

Who Could Win:
Finally a contest that's a little more difficult to predict. There's a lot of hype surrounding 14 year old Hailee Steinfeld, but I suspect it is mostly wishful thinking, as often happens with Oscar nominated child actors. Helena Bonham Carter is another good shout, especially if the King's Speech has a good night, but my crystal ball is telling me that she will go home empty handed. Melissa Leo gets my pick, with the veteran actress in fine form in the Fighter.

Who Will Win:
Melissa Leo

Best Original Screenplay

  • Another Year – Mike Leigh
  • The Fighter – Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, and Eric Johnson
  • Inception – Christopher Nolan
  • The Kids Are All Right – Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg
  • The King's Speech – David Seidler

Who Could Win:
Good marketing will win this one for the King's Speech, a film that has been pitched time and time again for years until eventually landing this year.

The King's Speech

Best Adapted Screenplay

  • 127 Hours – Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy from Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Aron Ralston
  • The Social Network – Aaron Sorkin from The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich
  • Toy Story 3 – Michael Arndt, John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, and Lee Unkrich; characters based on Toy Story and Toy Story 2
  • True Grit – Ethan Coen and Joel Coen from True Grit by Charles Portis
  • Winter's Bone – Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini from Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell

Who Could Win:
I would love to see 127 Hours win this one, a delightfully underrated film whose screenplay accomplishes the impressive task of taking two hours of one person talking to himself and turn it into something truly compelling. That being, said the clear winner here is the Social Network's excellent script by Aaron Sorkin. It is convenient that the Oscars' two big favorites have landed in different screenplay categories, and I would bet good money that they will both win, one serving as an indicator of a victorious wave to come, the other as consolation.

The Social Network

Various Technical Awards:
Expect Inception to do very well in these categories, the winner of the best picture will doubtless pick up a few as well. Personally I hope to see 127 hours do well here, which to my mind was a pretty much flawless production with regards to technical aspects.

So there you have it, my picks for the year. Enjoy the Oscars this weekend, and when the results go exactly as I've predicted, remember that you heard it here first!

Tuesday 22 February 2011

Genre Rock
Label Beady Eye Records
Producer Steve Lillywhite
Release Date 28th February

different gear still speeding beady eye

Liam Gallagher is the first comeback kid of 2011. Best known for his work as the frontman of 90s brit-pop sensation Oasis, most fans will nevertheless tell you that sibling Noel was the brains behind the majority of the band's hits, while Liam's role was to provide the charisma.

That being the case it may come as a surprise that this debut album from Liam's new band is actually quite good. Sometimes it takes a shock to the system to revitalise an artist, and the unexpected collapse of Oasis in 2009 certainly seems to have done the trick here.

While the music here never hits the heights of early Oasis and the likes of Wonderwall or Don't Look Back in Anger, it far exceeds the stagnant plod of their recent work. At it's best, Different Gear, Still Speeding is fresh and creatively diverse, while exhibiting a far greater level of nuance than anything we've seen from Liam in the past ten years.

The music beats with the telltale influence of classic masters such as the Who, the Rolling Stones and of course Liam's favorite inspiration the Beatles. But perhaps what impresses most about this latest work is his willingness to break away from the archetypes of which Liam has come to be expected, sometimes to the point of outcry among his fans as was the case with the high tempo debut single Bring the Light, which seamlessly blends an unexpected jaunty fifties piano riff with more modern pop sensibilities.

We catch a peek of Liam's gentler side with the excellently chilled For Anyone. Serving as a bridge between the boisterous, hard-rocking first half of the album and the more melodic second, the song channels the instantly catchy and light-hearted pop of the Beatles with staccato acoustic chords, playful bass line and airy vocals.

Wigwam, meanwhile, is pure John Lennon. One of the more musically evocative songs Liam has written, this serves as a highlight of the album. The music builds gently during the first half of the track, but gives little hint of the cathartic climax which awaits as Liam seems to vent the sum of recent struggles and shows us a falsetto which I for one didn't know he had in him.

Three Ring Circus takes us once again in a completely different direction, with a bluesy number that oozes classic rock, the undoubted pinnacle of the album follows with The Beat Goes On. Another unashamedly Beatles-inspired track, by all accounts they may just have perfected the sound here. Certainly the best song on the album, probably the best to come from a Gallagher since Don't Look Back in Anger.

The album finishes with another strong number in The Morning Son, a soulful and epic track that begins with faint acoustic murmurs but slowly progresses into a full on psychedelic belter. A perfect closer.

If this first effort is anything to go by, Liam Gallagher is certainly back in the limelight of the music scene after many years in the dark. The varied talents on show here bode well for the future of this latest musical project, and certainly come together in one of the stronger albums yet released in 2011.

Must Listen
The Beat Goes On

No link yet.

Bring the Light

The Morning Son

Saturday 12 February 2011

song of the week: "Harvest Moon" by "Neil Young"

thing that makes me smile today: Working in the Houses of Parliament.

pic of the day
drunk awesomeIN:
House of Commons
Neil Young
Gareth Bale

House of Representatives
Ink Spots
Luka Modric

Wednesday 9 February 2011

Directed by Jeremy Herrin
Written by Richard Bean
Starring Juliet Stevenson, James Fleet, Johnny Flynn
Theatre Royal Court Theatre

the heretic royal court review

Few British playwrights are considered more provocative right now than Richard Bean, who has seemingly built a career on mingling adroit social comedy with slightly more tone deaf political sensationalism. I recently had the pleasure of attending one of the preview performances of his latest play the Heretic, his return to the Royal Court Theatre which has been billed as another "daring" thought provoker designed to make the audience question the accepted norm of contemporary science.

Juliet Stevenson plays an Earth Sciences professor at Yorkshire university where she is ostracized and ridiculed for her controversial stance on climate change, at odds with the established wisdom of anthropogenic mechanism. She paints herself as an intellectual agnostic, drawing contrasts between science and faith while dismissing her detractors as zealots who have more in common with those who once blindly believed in the "flat Earth" model while scoffing at the unconventional hypotheses of Galileo.

Her ideals eventually land her on the receiving end of death threats from environmental activists and a suspension from the university at the hands of her boss and former beau, played by James Fleet. Elsewhere Stevenson's estranged daughter falls in love with a new student, played by singer/songwriter Johnny Flynn, two characters whose thematic purpose in this play seems to be little more than to serve as caricatures of today's impressionable and impulsive youth.

While I don't think a theatre review is the place to discuss climate science, ultimately I don't think it will matter as this play is unlikely to stir up much debate or controversy despite its best efforts. It's pretty clear that in researching this project Bean has sadly emerged much more muddled than he began.

I may disagree with his politics, or find myself bemused by his tenuous historical parallels, but there is no doubt that his underlying message is an important one: the need for distinguishing between science and faith, and the pitfalls of blindly accepting convention as opposed to always asking questions. The problem is that his message here is simply not particularly well thought out.

His observations are often hollow and superficial, with the implication being that his character's climate denial hypothesis is somehow made more credible by the fact that it is considered outside the mainstream. Presumably that would put the likes of David Icke or the "hollow earth theory" on a similarly valid footing. Unfortunately this seems to be as far as Bean takes his premise; needless to say it is hardly compelling food for thought for the audience to mull over.

This is my only criticism of this production, but it is a pretty major one; it tries so hard to create controversy without putting much thought into its conceit. This play is desperate to be a caustic political commentary, and it sadly fails in this regard.

In other ways the play is more successful. The dialogue is sharp and often hilarious and the comedic delivery is pretty much pitch perfect from its talented cast. If nothing else, you will have a good laugh and an enjoyable two and a half hours.

Bean attempts to explore the relationships of his characters; the mother daughter relationship, Stevenson's fizzled romance with Fleet's character, and young love. Often comparisons are drawn between these relationships and the play's larger themes, for example a series of photos showing Stevenson's daughter growing up alongside a tree that represents the body of her prized research, the two of which almost share the same fate as the scenes progress.

By this fashion Bean links the story's various conflicts, academic, political and personal but never seems confident enough in any of them to explore much further than is superficially necessary. As far as satire goes, the end result is more Richard Curtis than Mark Twain.

Even though so far I have been mostly negative about this production I have to say I did enjoy it. It's never as sharp or as poignant as it so desperately wants to be, but it is a witty and enjoyable night out, well acted and produced. Of course, this being a preview showing there were clearly a few wrinkles still to iron out, but I suspect the final product will be a lot smoother by next week when doors open to the general public.

Saturday 5 February 2011

song of the week: "Time to Wander" by "Gypsy & the Cat"

thing that makes me smile today: Finding work to keep myself busy for a few months.

pic of the day
nic cage fanIN:
Fernando Torres
Fair Play

Andy Carroll
Playing Fair

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