Monthly Archives: February 2012

My Favourite Film Characters

A favourite film character doesn’t necessarily have to be one notable of awards – although a couple of mine are – and they don’t necessarily have to have been a major role. For me, a favourite film character is one that you find yourself instantly intrigued by, whether because you identify with them or because by some random cosmic force you find yourself pulled to them, like some giant cinematic magnet is drawing you to the screen. That for me is the magic of film – really any kind of artistic work – when you are unconditionally drawn to an aspect of it. The beauty of film is that you can watch your favourite character as many times as your heart desires. So here goes:

Paul Bettany – Geoffrey Chaucer in A Knight‘s Tale

‘and anyone else out there NOT sitting on a cushion!’

So unashamedly theatrical, so well delivered and so hilarious. I have watched A Knight’s Tale an embarassing number of times. I woke up on New Year’s Day a few years back to find I’d unrelentingly spent 8 quid buying this film on iTunes the night before. Clearly I’m a drunk with cinematic priorities. And still this character still makes me laugh if not smile broadly at more or less everything he says. Paul Bettany fits this role so well and brings an exaggerated comedy that the film would have sorely lacked had it been left out. This pick just about beat Bettany’s turn as Doctor Maturin in ‘Master and Commander’, simply because it was one of the first films I watched where I immediately identified a theatrical actor significantly standing out in a Hollywood film, and doing a fabulous job.

Mila Kunis – Rachel Jansen in Forgetting Sarah Marshall

For a long time Forgetting Sarah Marshall was one of my favourite films, for the wonderful humour combined with the chilled-out Hawaiian vibe and saturated colour so everyone’s tan looks ace. It perhaps has personal meaning for me in pulling me out of a personal slump much like the heartbroken Peter’s with its heartwarming and upbeat story. And also the puppets. Puppets are chill. The character of Rachel isn’t a huge one, but it got Mila Kunis noticed since That 70’s Show ended and it led on to films like Friends With Benefits and Black Swan. I loved Mila Kunis in this film and she remains one of my favourite actresses since I first watched it. Rachel is chilled out, free-spirited, funny and pulls Jason Segel’s heartbroken Peter out of his slump and into the Hawaiian sunshine with her own sunny philosophies on life. Mahalo, dude.

Natalie Portman – Nina Sayers in Black Swan

‘I felt it – it was perfect’

This film is still hands down in my top 5 favourites. And I wouldn’t call her a favourite because I particularly warm to Portman’s character. Hell, she’s damn annoying for most of the film. But she’s also so brilliantly layered: timid, neurotic, cripplingly insecure and in need of validation from others, yet also cold, manipulative and scheming. And when that savagely animal and sensual Black Swan finally bursts from her in a mess of blood and black and white feathers you can see how Portman swept the awards board in 2010.

Tom Berenger – Sgt. Barnes in Platoon

This character is not nice. Not nice at all. Back during my obsession with Best Picture Oscar films I watched this and instantly was drawn to the brutal character of Barnes. Scarred yet still ruggedly handsome beneath it, this man may well have been some kind of weird sexual awakening in my early teens all the way from the ’80s. Berenger was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for this role and with no surprise. He brilliantly captures the figure of authority in a time where the young hippies of the West were saying ‘fuck authority’, striding unflinchingly through gunfire, grenades and napalm to rant at his lieutenant. Arguably his best scene is when he boozily confronts the weed-smoking, ‘peace and love’ section of the platoon, swigging bitterly from his whiskey as he spits at them ‘Death? What do you know about death?’ For this doomed youth, Barnes IS death.

Christoph Waltz – Colonel Hans Landa in Inglourious Basterds

The Jew Hunter

The best saved till last. Christoph Waltz had never had such a highly-billed role in mainstream Hollywood cinema, and perhaps no such Hollywood unknown has ever made such a huge impact on the English-speaking audience. This Austrian actor will be among the ‘Best Villains’ and ‘Most Memorable Film Characters’ lists for years to come thanks to his role as ‘the Jew Hunter’ in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds. The opening scene between he and French actor Denis Ménochet (fantastic in this film) is a perfect example of how Landa can be the jovial polite Nazi in his clipped, formal French and swiftly transform into a ruthless, calculating and insanely intelligent hunter as he informs Ménochet’s Monsieur LaPadite in English that he knows there is a Jewish family hidden beneath the floorboards. But the transition is so perfectly subtle that the audience themselves realise only too late, and the tension of the scene bursts into tragedy. Simply unforgettable.

So there is my weird ‘n’ wonky little list of favourite film characters, for all their eccentricities and madness. Till next time folks! “In case i don’t see you; good afternoon, good evening and good night.”

How To Cope With The Brits If You Have Any Taste In Music Whatsoever

This’ll be quick. The Brits are shit. I don’t need to go into this. It was true last year where it seemed the only purpose of its existence was to attempt to ‘break’ America. Don’t believe me? Rewatch it. Look how many times they mentioned getting artists like Tinie Tempah and Adele to play and sell in USA. It wasn’t, isn’t and will never be a celebration of British music. It was, is and will be a cynical marketing tool to get more money for lowest common denomenator music while artificially manufacturing the latest mega-sellers. By this I am referring to the ‘Critic’s Choice Award’. Which can just fuck right off.

Anyway, here’s how to stay sane on the night that anyone with any taste will feel like Britain, the home of the greatest musicians of all time (The Beatles, The Stones, Led Zep, Black Sabbath, David Bowie, The Sex Pistols, The Smiths… the list goes on) has forfieted all right toits musical heritage.

1 – The Shit Choice / James Corden Drinking Game

This is a very simple competition. Every time their is a stupid result – like Bruno Mars winning anything – Drink an entire bottle of vodka. Without stopping. You’ll never worry about their choices again.

The slight variant is just to drink a pint every time you see James Corden, just at all – if he’s in the background, if he’s presenting. For bonus shots drink everytime he does that massive laugh OR acts really serious. This means you spend all your time looking for him on the screen and can forget about the nightmare in front of you.

2 – Your choices through the ages.

This is more serious, but better with other music fans. Every category (e.g. best british group) you have to decide on a winner for all of time (answer: The Beatles). If played properly, serious arguments will ensue as to whether or not you can put Morrissey in best british male or whether ot not there were any good british female musicians ever. (answer – PJ Harvey, biatch).

3 – The Alternative Category Game

Wait till you know the nominees/winner, then together with some mates, discuss the probable category that they just won. E.g. Ed Sheeran  ‘artist most likely to be someone your friend went to school’ with or ‘most popular ginger’.

4 – Listen to something decent.

Seriously the best option, you can just forget this ridiculous charade exists and play some awesome music by the many good artists Britain has produced. Here is an array of videos that might just restore your faith in England.

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Wild Flag – Review

The Rainmaker reviews an album by all-girl post-punk outfit Wild Flag

Those who know me and my music know I have recently become very obsessed with a number of all-girl groups. Saying something like this tends to need a buffer like “but not in a weird way”, and let’s face it, if you were to say “all-girl band” to almost anyone the first responses you’d get would amost certainly be the standard pop girl groups like The Spice Girls, Atomic Kitten, or Destiny’s Child. These ‘groups’ all have the pop clichés of not playing instruments and not writing their own songs. So when I tell people that I’m really into a bunch of girl groups, they think I’m either musically insane or just, frankly, perverted.

While I certainly will look into why ‘the girl band’ isn’t anywhere near as prominent as it should be on another post, I will say that all-female bands can make some of the most awesome music out there in an industry that is surprisingly sexist when it comes to female artists (just look at how artists like Rihanna are advertised – Adele being the exception). But recently I’ve been listening to some great music by artists like Warpaint, Cat Power, L7, PJ Harvey, Tune-Yards, 2:54, She Makes War, Patti Smith and even Blondie. The latest of these groups to grab my ears is Wild Flag. Watch them on US TV below.

Two of the members were formerly in Sleater-Kinney, a new-wave band that was part of Grunge’s Riot Grrrl feminist movement (which produced some amazing music), and have toured with Pearl Jam among others. Wild Flag maintains the new-wave feel of SK and combines it with an angular, jerky electronic sound, that is suprisingly poppy. In an interview singer Carrie Brownstein explains this by saying she listened to a lot of top 40 music to try and capture that catchy effect that artists like Rihanna have prefected. And frankly, it really works.

Wild Flag make music with great success, and the album is a great collection of these new-wave indie-punk songs. Rather than a bass guitar, they use a Keyboard, skilfully played by Rebecca Cole (ex- The Minors drummer) and as a result the songs have a very strong guitar/riff focus, with the keys doubling as more bass and as bouncy harmonies over the top.

The album opens with the single ‘Romance’, showing off their ability to fuse catchy melodies with the hard-rocking sound of the punk they are rooted in. It soon develops, becoming meaner as it hits ‘Something Came Over Me’ and the fantastically hard-rocking ‘Boom’, which contains surprisingly Johnny Rotten-esque faux-cockney vocals, reminiscent of some of the more annoying British artists, but here it’s pulled off surprisingly well, mainly due to some cracking guitar playing.

It then settle pretty solidly into a sequence of 1st album Arctic Monkeys style indie-punk tunes, ‘Glass Tambourine’, ‘Endless Talk’ and ‘Short Version’. This takes us to the other single from the album, ‘Electric Band’. The video of which is below.

Following this is the superb ‘Future Crimes’, which sounds like a long lost Strokes B-side. It closes with the boisterous ‘Racehorse’ and then the raw ‘Black Tiles’, which serves as a suitable epitome of the Wild Flag sound, and ends the album very well. However, despite the many qualities there are some issues.

The Wild Flag sound, which they have perfected very well, can get a bit grating if you put the album on too many times in a row (which tends not to happen unless you’re writing about it), but it may just be a natural byproduct of having such a fantastically ferocious opening. The lyrics take a while before they get really interesting, which is not to say that the early lyrics are bad, in fact they all focus on the joy of making good music and having fun in a band that is enjoying itself, a fact which really comes across in the music.

Wild Flag are a breath of fresh air in a rock world that has become dominated by either anthem producers (Kasabian, Kings of Leon, Coldplay) or intentionally quirky indie-folk (Two Door Cinema Club, Bombay Bicycle Club). It is great to hear a band playing music that rocks out without pretentions and is just honest. And, if the reviews I’ve seen are to be believed, they are a force to be reckoned with live which is not surprising considering that everything except the vocals on the album were recorded live. In the words of Kurt Cobain: “The future of rock belongs to women.”

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