I've since seen Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
Friday, 31 July 2009
I've since seen Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
Tuesday, 28 July 2009
I took a ride on the Corkscrew rollercoaster at Flamingoland, a few weeks ago. Of all the sensations one expects from a fairground ride, respect, nostalgia and a sense of connection with history are not high on the list - but The Corkscrew is a piece of rollercoaster history. When the Corkscrew opened at Alton Towers back in 1980, it was the first double-loop ride in the UK and for a long time it was the archetypal white knuckle ride. The manufacturers Vekoma sold other, near-identical Corkscrew rides to other theme parks including the version at Flamingoland which opened in 1983. At Flamingoland this historical position is reinforced by the Corkscrew's next-door neighbour, the newer, faster and louder Velocity ride with horizontal catapult launch. There's a point on the Corkscrew where for a split-second you can look ahead and to the side and get a cool view straight through the ammonite-spiral of the double loop.
Video not taken by myself!
Rollercoasters are already widely used as a metaphor for emotional lability (as well as economic change, the transience of fame and "life," generally by songwriters.) I also read this BBC News review of the Saw ride at Thorpe Park. Saw briefly held a record for the longest coaster freefall drop until another coaster, Mumbo Jumbo, opened at Flamingoland. More interestingly, Saw is heavily enhanced with theatrical elements - the reviewer suggests that this is the next coaster trend. As the limits of human tolerance and the different ways of exerting forces on the body within those limits are gradually exhausted, coasters will rely more and more on psychology to produce additional thrills - in other words they will literally be emotional rollercoaster rides.
FYI Jigsaw posted some videos and comments about the Saw ride here.
Sunday, 26 July 2009
This week I have been mostly reading Stephenie Meyer's The Host. Full review coming up shortly - in the meantime this chart came from thinking about why I'd chosen to read this particular book:
Friday, 24 July 2009
Thursday, 23 July 2009
Wednesday, 22 July 2009
Monday, 20 July 2009
Blood is a very international movie. Set in Japan and filmed in Japanese and English, it brings together the considerable talents of French director Chris Nahon, South Korean, American-Italian and Japanese actresses Gianna Jun, Allison Miller and Koyuki, and Hong Kong producer William Kong who also produced on Crouching Tiger.
The three female leads are superb and each brings a different quality to their character: Gianna Jun has an alien beauty and is completely convincing as the vengeance-driven, unstoppable halfling Saya - I had no trouble believing that, were she not supplied with fresh blood by the mysterious Council this character would kill without hesitation to survive; Allison Miller's character Alice remains terrified by the paranormal world she has been drawn into - and significantly, despite learning to trust Saya, does not conquer this terror. Koyuki is suitably eerie as Onigen. Male supporting roles are less convincing although this may be about the plot rather than acting per se - this is not a film about men.
The fight scenes are O.K. but given producer William Kong's oversight should have been far better. The genius of Crouching Tiger was to make slightly impossible moves in early scenes, such as running up walls or flying from rooftop to rooftop, credible - the suspension of disbelief then continues through most of the movie even as the stunts get sillier. This kind of credibility is needed in Blood, particularly for the scenes where Saya faces down large numbers of enemies single-handed while defending petrified Alice. These scenes are exciting but not always convincing, and there's a tendency to speed up or slow down the footage that just confuses the action further.
On the plus side, there's a point where Alice revives Saya, Little Shop Of Horrors-style, that could have been extremely silly - it's a measure of the excellent general direction that the intensity is maintained even during scenes like this.
Friday, 17 July 2009
Jason Rhoades' work, The Creation Myth, for example fills a room with a bizarre, Heath Robinson-like machine representing the creative process - there's a trail of cables taking you through a series of sub-processes. It's a disturbing exhibit; sound, movement and smoke effects keep you uneasy, and Rhoades uses a lot of pornographic imagery - this has led to some discussion in the press but is completely appropriate in the context of portraying the range of thoughts that pass through a human mind, or the creative process; to my mind it also makes the work honest and personal.
Yoshitomo Nara also takes a literal approach, building a one-room house storing memories and personal, meaningful possessions, while you can explore Thomas Hirschhorn's mind in the form of a network of caves made from cardboard and tape. Yayoi Kusama creates a more surreal, beautiful experience - walking into a red and white polka dot universe which extends onto this balcony:
Science fiction also grapples with this theme from time to time - say, Stephen King's novel Dreamcatcher where an alien presence banishes a character into his own mental space, or The Cell, where a psychiatrist literally enters her patient's thoughts to diagnose and heal them. It's a difficult concept to make convincing, just as it's difficult to invent realistic dreams or simulate insanity, and both these examples are flawed. This exhibition succeeds because each installation seems to communicate something real, and surprisingly frank, about the mind of its' creator.
Monday, 13 July 2009
While no-one was looking, most of the 48 Hour Film Challenge entries have been uploaded to dailymotion.com. This gives me an opportunity to share two more of my favourite humorous entries - one clearly inspired by The Office, the other simply inspired.
Uploaded by SFLTV. - Watch feature films and entire TV shows.
Saturday, 11 July 2009
I've particularly enjoyed this Art 2.0 experience: looking for the pianos took me on a tour of familiar and unfamiliar London, and it's been fun watching the mini-events, friendships and collaborations form spontaneously around the pianos, playing or singing along myself, and meeting other piano-seekers of all abilities. Different locations have drawn City professionals or citizens, travellers or tourists, giving the crowd around each piano it's own feel.
I'd like to acknowledge D-n-K, the awesome musical trio that were aiming to produce a charity album on all 30 pianos in one day; the lovely Korean illustrator who accompanied my Bridge Over Troubled Water at the Millenium Bridge; the young girl whose parents couldn't tear her away from the Liverpool Street piano; the duo who filled the Plaza with Hero; a chance meeting and chat with fellow blogger and underground chef MsMarmiteLover at Devonshire Court, and everyone I met who also just felt like having a go.
Streetpianos and One&Other have in common an artist who, instead of creating the art themselves, is facilitating involvement by hundreds of users. Of the two, Streetpianos feels more spontaneous. Both Art 2.0 projects say something about our willingness both to participate in creativity and to watch others; the friendly supportive crowds make these events very different from the sinister world of reality TV as there's no competitive side. Streetpianos is a nomadic festival moving from city to city and I look forward to a return to London some day.
Thursday, 9 July 2009
Anthony Gormley's Art 2.0 installation, One&Other, has taken over the empty plinth in Trafalgar Square, where members of the public, chosen by lottery, are hoisted up to the plinth and make use of it for an hour. So far a popular use has been charity or environmental campaigning; however other plinth users have sung and played guitar, bassoon or other instruments, photographed people in the crowd, or written random slogans on a chalkboard. It's YouTube - on a stick.This morning saw singer-songwriter voluntas on the plinth with a series of witty, sometimes bawdy and very original songs. voluntas is lift consultant and self-taught guitarist Michael Bottomley IRL; his wife and daughter were present to give moral support and record the event, and he drew a small but appreciative crowd.
Sunday, 5 July 2009
Oskar is effeminate and perhaps a little autistic, and fantasises about killing his school bullies. His school also seems to have serial killer psychology on the year 8 curriculum. Eli is both powerful and innocent; her treatment of her doting father is particularly chilling, yet perhaps because she and her father really do carry out some quite gory acts, her moments of guilt and insight ring true. In general Eli's character is particularly well thought out and she really does think and act like a 12 year old might in the circumstances.
The film is set amongst harsh landscapes in which light and dark spaces are equally creepy, a little like Insomnia, and the plot is just as harsh and uncompromising. Oskar and Eli are played by Kåre Hedebrant and Lina Leandersson, both give utterly convincing, intense and unworldly performances.
In one sense this is a traditional vampire film - there's no real deviation from the accumulated vampire mythology. However the portrayal is also thoughtful and inventive. Some aspects, such as fangs or the power of flight, are never shown on-screen but are cleverly implied; and the film actually provides answers to some important vampire questions:
1. What happens when a vampire eats pic-n-mix sweets - it's grim.
2. What happens if you don't invite one in but she comes in anyway - grimmer.
3. Who would win in a fight between a vampire and a houseful of cats - that's a bet I would have won.
Friday, 3 July 2009
With similarities to Iain M. Banks' later Culture novels, Winter is visited first by secret observers, then by the envoy Genly Ai, from the 80-world Ekumen, an advanced society of humanoid races descended from or created by the Hain hundreds of millenia before. Genly examines this unusual society and the question of gender identity from an external viewpoint - Le Guin speculates about whether sexual drive might go hand in hand with the ability to nationalise or mobilise for war. On a smaller scale, however, the inhabitants "kill each other in ones or twos" and are capable of political intrigue and rivalry to match anything on Earth. The people of Winter are a slow people but Ai has come at a time of change - at least one nation has become more organised, and if this is repeated elsewhere the stage may be set for war. Ai's arrival itself will have enormous consequences for the planet and its' society.
The hermaphroditic society of Winter initially seems contrived, and at times it's unclear whether this is supposed to be an all-male or an all-neuter society, but it quickly becomes a detailed and consistent reality. This is accompanied by a description of a planet with a severe geology and weather system that has shaped it's inhabitants as much as their gender.
Wednesday, 1 July 2009
This was originally an entry in the Sci-Fi London 2009 48 Hour Film Challenge. Nothing can save this film! but this cut includes some additional scenes, my attempt at a soundtrack and credits that didn't quite make the 48 hour deadline. With thanks to all who took part.
Team: Second Foundation
Title: Too Much Too Soon
Compulsory Dialogue: "Choose your spot and mark it with an X - it'll still be there on your return"
Compulsory Props: Three passports from three different countries.
Technical notes: filmed on mini-DV, CGI and titles produced in Cinema 4D, soundtrack mixed in eJay, original cut edited in Final Cut Pro, this cut edited in the Blender VSE.