Wednesday, September 30, 2009


You know when something's pointed out to you for the first time, you suddenly start seeing examples everywhere that used to go unnoticed? Or at least in your conscious mind. See, ever since I watched that damned documentary Helvetica, a cursed lucidity has been bestowed. (And another welcome opportunity for me to have a rant.)

So it was the same upon learning of the underhand techniques of major UK supermarkets. One aspect in particular: the fact they're all just big fucking refrigerators - essentially to maintain the fresh-looking appearance of the fruit and veg, which can be up to 12 months old and therefore about as non-nutritious as all the other overpriced multinational mass-produced convenience crap that fill their sorry shelves. Even in a state of ravenous hunger, I can now wander around Tesco's for hours with my will to stay alive through voluntary oral sustenance ebbing away at an alarming rate.

Anyway, back to the horrors of Helvetica Culture. It first became noticeable during the recent trip to the London museums, in particular the wretched Natural History Museum and much of the Science Museum. Things took a further turn for the worse once the full extent of the plague became apparent in eating and drinking establishments. You really do start seeing this typeface everywhere, especially on menus and pricelists. And, truth be told, it's not that I have an issue with the font's creators and its venerable origins; it's the subtext of its usage that's the problem: proprietors paying big bucks to bring in the design squad zealots. The triumph of style over substance. Looks over taste.

Except that,
as far as I'm concerned, and just as with people, without substance and taste you ain't got no style. So when a bistro, gastro-pub, or café, uses Helvetica as a menu or logo font, you just know that the food is going to have about as much flavour as your semi-reheated cardboard croissant on British Airways, and that's if you can even generate some kind of appetite for it in the first place. Ready for your yummy watery microwaved pasta penne freshly slit open from its plastic pouch, or did you go for the 'Mexican' chili? Didn't think so. Problem is, if you're like me, you've suddenly gone and excluded yourself from 90% of the UK's eateries.

To extend this convenient metaphor, the designer's job is to neatly and competently lay the cutlery and glassware on the table before the diners arrive. That's it. That's the extent of their importance.

Monday, September 28, 2009


After mentioning it in my recent BIRDS 6, here's another poignant example (for the sceptics) of that most powerful symbol of the new totalitarian state we inhabit. Never, ever, trust a man (or woman) in a yellow reflective jacket.


The Nose - Nikolai Gogol
Red Star Over Russia - David King
Babywatching - Desmond Morris

Clubs - The Durian Brothers (EP)
Il Corpo Di Linda - Riz Ortolani
Big Fat Arse - ACL

American Swing
What Happened On The Moon




Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Is a metaphor mixed if there's inherent double meaning? I couldn't possibly say. No posts for a few days, so I've decided to punish you with an abundant flurry of these movie reviews - actually, it's a bumper crop.

Deadgirl (*)
if directed by Pascal Laugier (Martyrs) then maybe, but as it is, this film is a dreary teen/horror/comedy/romance/allegory hybrid that fails on all counts - in fact, the final act gets so boring that you don't care how the film ends, just that it ends; oh, and anyone making a movie with a premise as sick as this shouldn't get all coy about showing graphic sex and violence

Long Weekend (Nature's Grave) (*)
in this 2008 remake we have on display an implausible, nay senseless, narrative along with the woefully inept acting skills you'd expect in soaps like Home And Away and Neighbours; this is all pleasingly set in the undeniably dramatic and spectacular Australian outback, but even that cannot compensate for what is a dull movie experience

Smash Cut (*)
Sasha Grey's role in The Girlfriend Experience was much better suited to her normal attractively cool detached energy, but sadly her acting skills are badly exposed in Smash Cut, an excruciatingly poor indie horror/comedy verging on the unwatchable, more notable for cameo roles from David Hess and Michael Berryman, neither of whom cover themselves in glory either

Sauna (**)
Finnish mediaeval drama that is pretty to look at, but dour even for my taste, and the overly melodramatic symphonic music is intrusive and annoying

District 9 (*****)
the best scifi film ever made, pure and simple - how a preposterous plot about aliens living in South African slums can be made into something meaningful and believable is simply genius

I Sell The Dead (*)
unfunny in the extreme

Summer School (*)
execrable indie effort

Wild Strawberries (*****)
half a century later it's quite clear how influential this surprisingly heartwarming movie (by Bergman's standards, at least) was

Shame (*****)
a Bergman film about war with special FX is surreal indeed - though once again it's about people, not events, and the trademark abrupt ending hits you hard (as usual) as you attempt to come to terms with what you've just experienced

Persona (*****)

Cries And Whispers (*****)
perhaps the most beautiful horror film ever, and certainly another extraordinary Bergman masterpiece where we ultimately find ourselves transcendentally uplifted by small gestures of love and redemption within an uncompromising descent into depression, lust, self-loathing, morbidity, and pain

Brief Crossing (**)
a brave attempt by Breillat at gender reversal in a casual relationship between a young boy and more experienced older woman on board an overnight ferry crossing (hence the double meaning in the title) - unfortunately, the film capsizes spectacularly as it unintentionally degenerates into a floundering farce not helped by the totally unbelievable interactions, calamitous continuity errors, and silly bloopers; furthermore, the boring-as-hell little pipsqueak French boy inspires no more in you than the urge to punch him, hard - and Alice, the decidedly manly 'seductress', is but a psycho whose interminable insufferable monologues seem little more than extended extracts from a Breillat essay (compare the similarly disappionting Anatomy Of Hell)

City Of Life And Death (**)
what starts out as a well-documented feature of the massacres of Nanking - with some amazing locations and effects ably depicting the sense of widescale confusion and disorientation, gradually descends into the usual stereotypically portrayed human interest war stories and tragedies, none of which seem credible; this has the inevitable effect of weakening the emotional impact such a film should elicit

Riben Guizi (Japanese Devils) (****)
Japanese documentary compiling chilling revelations and atrocity confessions from Japanese veteran soldiers in China, including those involved with the notorious Unit 731 during the occupation of Manchuria; the candour and seeming remorse they display whilst recounting the horrific deeds committed makes it all the more compelling - the film aslo features some extraordinary contemporary footage of street clashes in Japan between those for and against Japan's behaviour during WW2

Winter Light (*****)
a film that plays like a note perfect baroque cello suite - as dazzlling and absorbing as it is grey in tone, Winter Light lingers on in the mind long after its brief symbolic duration from noon till three

Ingmar Bergman Makes A Movie (*****)
highly inspirational 5-part documentary into the making of Winter Light - Bergman has a beautiful zen-like quality throughout: funny, perceptive, wise, calm, thoughtful, candid - with no affectations, apologies, nor signs of vanity

Grace (**)
there's something wrong with baby Grace: although full of squeamish childbirth related moments, this small budget horror fails to deliver (pun unintended, already regretted) on some promising setpieces and characterisations, and you end up feeling thoroughly cheated by the experience (allegory intended, merely hypothesised)

Une Vraie Jeune Fille (****)
Catherine Breillat's debut film is a rare, and likeably surreal journey into the manifestations of the perverse mind of the anomic teenage girl


Tuesday, September 01, 2009


And it did finally come to pass: The Final Destination 3D.

Before getting the chance to see it however, I noticed a review of it in Friday's Daily Mail, which I feverishly read, not in the expectation that such a tabloid paper would 'get it', but in the nervous hope that the producers hadn't blown it by getting big-name real actors on board, a decent script, and a compelling narrative.

The way I see it, anyone whingeing about the FD franchise's deficiencies in these departments completely misses the point; in fact, for the purposes of this unique format, these paucities are compulsory: to avoid upstaging the film's works of art, the consistently brilliant collections of ingeniously gruesome setpiece kill-scenes.

So a huge relief. No sooner had reviewer Chris Tookey j0ked about the one-dimensionality of the characters in a three-dimensional movie, nor had labelled it 'ugly, repetitive, and sadistic... with lots of meaningless sex, and death in spectacularly gruesome ways', nor had given it a paltry single star, than I knew we were on to another winner in the series.

And this was proven to be correct on last night's maiden viewing. It admirably delivers in all the ways you desire; plus there are no good 'performances' nor snappy dialogues to get in the way of the trademark breathtakingly elaborate kills and exquisitely gory thrills. The 3D effects, although often CGI produced, are also an excellent novelty that really adds to the sense of visceral fulfilment.

As a genre, Final Destination occupies its own glorious inimitable domain, one that relies entirely on the endeavour of pure artistic creativity, that most difficult ingredient to imitate.