Saturday, 26 February 2011

Black Swan

Black Swan has been lauded by everyone it seems and it has a lot going for it, but I'm not sure it deserves quite the level of praise it is getting.

Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) is a committed member of a ballet company who are about to put on Swan Lake. The role that she wins proves to be the start and not the end of her problems.

Her insecurities run wild and spin her into destruction.

Portman puts in a brilliant performance as both sides of Nina that I would struggle to fault, but the film overall doesn't quite seem to deliver on my expectations.

What is being played out is all too clear and the characterisations are truly wonderful, but at times it is simply too brash and stilted.

It is hard to put my finger on exactly what I didn't like about this film, after all the supporting actors are perfect and the characterisations life like, but I just wasn't left as wowed as everyone else seems to be.

I guess I just feel it's almost there, but not quite, ironic in the extreme for such subject matter.

It seems to want to be as much horror as drama and I'm not sure it works.

It doesn't help that Swan Lake has never been a favoured plot of mine.

I prefer Coppelia, the woman is still standing at the end of that one.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

A shocker hidden inside The Guardian

Turn to page 16 of The Guardian today and you might just find yourself smiling.

Admittedly their front page leads with "Defector who triggered war on Iraq admits: 'I lied about WMD'", a worthy front page.

But you have to go 16 pages in to discover "Berlusconi sent for trial over paying for sex with teenager"

They are actually putting Silvio Berlusconi, who has been in power in Italy for what feels like forever, on trial.

Berlusconi oftens gets himself into hot water where women and prostitutes are concerned, but it is normally brushed off as a case of an important man being a bit naughty - good for a joke but nothing is really going to be done about it.

This time they're doing something.

The case will be presided over by three female judges, which gives me confidence that it is being taken seriously.

Also, this might finally spell the end of the man who seemed undefeatable.

I guess anything is possible if you wait long enough.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

127 hours of absorption

I imagine a lot of you out there will have heard of 127 hours by now.

Unfortunately all you may have heard is: "I had my knees up to my chin, it was horrifying."

I think that is a shame for such a well crafted, moving and insightful film.

Danny Boyle has to be up there with my most loved film directors, I'm not sure I've ever seen him make a film that puts a foot wrong.

The plot

127 hours essentially focusses on the true story of one man getting stuck down a canyon and having eventually to go to extreme lengths to survive.

But that makes this film sound grim and interminable.

In fact it is the most gripping, absorbing and hopeful piece of storytelling that I have seen in a long time.

The character portrayal is well rounded and infinitely believable.

And yes there are some fist biting moments, but there is also a lot of complex emotions played out on screen and felt as an audience member.

Final word

Both Danny Boyle and James Franco should be given awards for this film.

Between a Rock and a Hard Place is the next book to be added to my reading list.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Whipping up a storm

Gig time again.

I spirited myself (via tube) to The Old Queen's Head in Islington to see Sound of Rum perform in celebration of their single release of Slow Slow.

Kwaking in anticipation

I'll get to the rum lot in a minute, but first I need to dedicate a bit of word space to Kwake who Kate introduced with such great respect.

Kwake normally plays with The Speakers Corner Quartet, who I stumbled across playing for free at Tate Britain sometime last year and was truly impressed.

His solo performance was in the same spirit as the work of the quartet: trippy, haunting and inventive.

Kwake being a drummer was perhaps more beat driven, but I was still transported back to the feeling of calm and inspiration that hit me on stumbling upon him playing in Tate Britain.

A bit of poetry

Kate Tempest (Sound of Rum lead vocalist) gave an equally warm reception to Chester P, with the words: "If you don't know who this man is I don't know what to say to you."

I guess we won't be having many conversations from now on then...

The man certainly had swagger and the kind of biting anger that is good to see in a poet, but he needs to build the kind of command that means his words leave people awe struck.

Rum time

After greeting each performance with a gusto and love that is hard to match Kate Tempest was left to introduce...

Herself and the rest of Sound of Rum.

It's a good job she's such a funny compere.

I have reviewed Sound of Rum before and a lot of the comments still apply.

The music is masterfully, yet talentedly understated.

The lyrics are passionate, um, lyrical and relevant.

And Kate sweeps you into a journey of enthusiasm and anger that leaves you buzzing and hopeful.

Modern day orator

It is a delight to hear such heartfelt and original lyrics, but I was really very near to tears of joy and laughter when Kate launched into the story of Prometheus.

If Homer and his like had been alive now, they would have told it like that.

Hats off to you girl.

And great respect to Ferry and Archie for weaving their instrumental magic to finish it all off.

Go and buy the single, go on...