12/29/10

L*z

"There's a part of me that doesn't want to be a career bitch at all. That wants to raise children and arrange flowers and host bunco nights. I want to grow my nails so long and wear clothes so delicate I can't function without a man. That turns me on. And yet at the same time, I want to do the rock thing."... I hand her the pen. In script that would make Emily Post proud, she writes: "Thank you! I took the best crap!"
I love Liz Phair more every day. This and other things Katy Perry will never say here. Here she is again in a Speakers in Code interview:
Finish this sentence: The hardest thing about being a musician in today's society is...

The same thing that has plagued the artist for centuries. Most people focus on externals, don't place a premium on their inner life, so the artist, whose job it is to nurture that inner life, is subject to undervaluation at the marketplace. Yet if you removed us, the world would quickly feel the absence!
I agree with that view, the exclamation point not so much.

I, Candy

Tron Legacy is incredibly pretty. Fanboys are complaining because it's slow and wordy but so was Tron, so it's keeping with the spirit of the original. I'll write some more about it when my writing muscles have returned... Basically between the light cycles and some average "fight" sequences it's Kubrick's uplit Regency Louis XVI look from the end of 2001 and sparky spacegirls and a nightclub to pill out for, and a pretty fine story, at least thematically – so big ups to the six (ahem) credited writers. I enjoyed it because it was relaxing for the eyes as well as the mind. I was pleased when Quorra turned up, and then Gem arrived and I was even more pleased. If only it wasn't so slow and wordy...

Instant Rothko


Or Rayograph.

12/28/10

You burn me up I'm a cigarette

Daryl Hall is 64. Interviewed in NYMag.com:
As a doo-wop-singing teenager in Philadelphia, he knew future members of the Stylistics and Delfonics. Hall worked with Philly producers Gamble and Huff, and after he teamed up with Oates, they faced the standard challenge of their milieu: crossing over to white people. Releasing classic Philly-soul hits like "She's Gone" years before image ruled pop, Hall & Oates were typically assumed to be African-Americans. After a few years in New York, the image started to change.

"Honestly, we are a New York band," says Oates, calling from his present home in Aspen. "Our roots are in Philadelphia, but our music came from New York." As new transplants, the duo had their first commercial breakthrough when "Sara Smile" crossed over from R&B radio, and, in 1977, their first true pop hit with "Rich Girl." Then Hall & Oates started getting buzzed, morphed, and remixed by one of the most explosive cultural moments in this city's history.
The off-site money quote is from Pitchfork, on how Hall met Robert Fripp:
DH: I met Robert through a friend in about 1974, and we became friends right away. We have a lot of the same interests, and we just got along. I was first starting to spend a lot of time in England then, so I would stay at his house, and he used to stay at my house, and all that. We were really good friends. And then he went away to Gurdjieff Camp, and I was the only person in the outside world he was communicating with.

Pitchfork: Gurdjieff Camp?

DH: Yeah, he decided he was going to follow the teachings of [G. I.] Gurdjieff, which is basically like the boot camp of the mind. And so I was sort of his touch with some form of reality. And after he came through that period, he wanted to reenter the music world, because he had stepped away. And so he and I got together, and we said, let's do some projects. And we got Peter Gabriel and various other people, Pete Hammill, and the Roches-- we had a loose-knit group of people, and I did my album, Sacred Songs, and then we did Exposure, and I'm trying to think what happened after that-- well then he did the Peter Gabriel album [II aka Scratch]. But the Exposure album was the second collaboration with me, and I was supposed to be the singer on that whole album. Because he did my album, I did his album... [But] I was with RCA at the time, and they balked. They wouldn't allow my vocals to be put on his records. All the vocals you hear on Exposure are completely my ideas that were as best as could be done copied by other people, except for two or three songs. And that was really disheartening. That's when I completely fell out of love with the music business.
I bought Exposure – on cassette, FFS, from HMV Oxford Street in 1979. I must have been a fan. Fripp's League of Gentlemen is still a fave. I could never work out the Hall connection.

Now playing


I've made a lot of special modifications myself

I love it when you're into the eleventh hour* of a manuscript and you make one tiny, tiny little change and it's like bolting one of these in.

*Am actually in penalty time but that would be a third metaphor.

12/27/10

12/21/10

Season's Greetings

Daniel Knox - Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas. Recorded live at the Barbican, 2008; a performance I was lucky enough to catch. Think Kurt Weill meets William Riker. Or not.

Merry Christmas, everybody. Hope you get lots of presents.

12/16/10

December without January

Still suffering from Mad Men withdrawal. N*vel proceeding apace. Nearly finished. I. Think. Or as someone else put it:
We work in the dark — we do what we can — we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion, and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art.
That's Henry James quoted by Bertolucci quoted by Manohla Dargis in the NYT. And over at NY Magazine Bertolucci dissects scenes from his movies. The director's reminiscences are not easy going – his comments about Last Tango in Paris alone will probably be deemed unacceptable – but they chime with his complaint at the BFI earlier this year about modern cinema not being "menacing" enough.

Where is the real danger nowadays? Sitting in a TX booth over the weekend I had to watch The Human Centipede and really did fall asleep. Then John Carpenter's The Thing came on and freaked everybody out. (I love it when a first-time viewer asks, 'Hey – what's up with the dog?') I wonder if movies like Tango will survive self-appointed corporate censors when distribution goes totally digital.

(Image c/- GQ)

12/15/10

Tattoo of the Month (First Runner-Up)

The judges were impressed with this entry although ultimately it failed due to lack of John Candy. Points were awarded for leaving a space for the next musician to die aged 27: Stefani Germanotta, the ball's in your court.

12/14/10

Having tea there out in the crowd

I am too old for Bowlie 2. Julian Cope is not; nor is Edwyn Collins; nor are Crystal Castles. Laetitia Sadier is not too old for it, and Mulatu Astatke was bang on. Listening to his set was like flicking through every Acid Jazz compilation and Kid Loco album ever made.

Bowlie 2 was curated by Belle & Sebastian who despite their clever selection of performers, seemed not quite old enough but they were definitely the same age as the audience. The audiences over the weekend were so fucking polite and charming even I started to enjoy myself. If you wanted to go to the front of the stage you just... went there. The Minehead festival tops out at about 5,000 and they all say please and thank you. When Cope finished his set with a hearty protest about student fees ('Before I go I just wanted to say fuck the Tories') the crowd's response was muted, either because the strange old hippie grandmother dressed like a Nazi biker swore or because the kids there know mum and dad will happily pay for their education anyway. Cope has been out there for so long he's not coming back but the point - lost on the young - is that he still sounds like Julian Cope.

Edwyn Collins still sounds like Edwyn Collins when he sings. He sits on stage with a note-perfect band; talking is hard for him, though, and I could only take three songs because I'm sentimental. On my way out I was passed by a barely-twenty couple running inside - 'Hurry!' urged the girl: 'We're missing Edwyn Collins.' My eyes pricked up.

The Go! Team have got older and filled out musically. Franz Ferdinand stayed within everyone's comfort zone, including theirs; the problem with that post-punk Talking Heads / Gang of Four style was always that the songs sound the same. FF are frozen in cleverness. I think they could fix this by doing more covers: since the first LP 'All My Friends' and 'Womaniser' are their only two songs anyone can remember.

The New Pornographers and Dirty Projectors showed the Brits how to do big bands. Enjoyed them both but didn't come out of it humming anything. Laetitia Sadier showed everyone how to be sexy. She sounds like Stereolab unplugged, which I guess she is. Crystal Castles sound like everything plugged in. If Cayce Pollard started a band, Crystal Castles would be it: anonymous, fluid, intense, brainy, fantastic. In the 21st century there is no logical reason to not sound like Crystal Castles. They are right for their age.

Peter Parker were alright. I think the 1900s were good but they might have been someone else. I have notes, somewhere but I'm too busy to write them up as I am working on The F*cking Novel. It's going rather well so I must continue screwing down the lids before any more sunlight escapes. Miss you (all) heaps. Big ups.

PS: Quote of the weekend from an Irish security guard: 'Oh, New Zealand – that's a great tax haven for movies, isn't it?'

Tattoo of the Month

It was that kind of weekend.

12/8/10

How do

I'm not saying I'm perfect. I've done a lot of bad things in my life and there are still a few on the list. However this weekend I will be in Somerset, in winter, and I'm not sure quite what I've done to deserve that. Here's hoping it all turns out well. And if it doesn't and I'm burned alive by the locals, well, you'll all get a kick out of it, right? Laffs all round.

12/7/10

I got nasty habits, I take tea at three

Scan courtesy of the clever Nate & Zoe; poem by Kenneth Koch courtesy of The New Yorker.

In my lucid dreams

Since watching Woody Allen's Celebrity I've had a recurring dream about Famke Janssen running out of the apartment with my manuscript* and throwing it into the harbour one page at a time. For a writer this scenario solves a lot of problems. Also: Famke.

*Actually I'd stop her chucking this one. This one's going like a rocket.

12/5/10

'Cause you know I'm not so sure

Both ends burning. Up late adding words instead of cutting them - now there's a trick.

I am not a number

A fan as I am of exploitation cinema the buck stops when it exploits writers. Collider has done a good job of covering the I Am Number Four movie but the skinny comes from New York Magazine's piece on James Frey's young adult fiction factory which originated the work. The terms being offered the writers who work on these pieces are odious. Writes one potiential participant:
The Authors Guild got back to me with serious concerns over the contract... I later spoke to Conrad Rippy, a veteran publishing attorney, who explained that the contract given to me wasn't a book-packaging contract; it was "a collaboration agreement without there being any collaboration." He said he had never seen a contract like this in his sixteen years of negotiation. "It's an agreement that says, 'You're going to write for me. I'm going to own it. I may or may not give you credit. If there is more than one book in the series, you are on the hook to write those too, for the exact same terms, but I don't have to use you. In exchange for this, I'm going to pay you 40 percent of some amount you can't verify—there's no audit provision—and after the deduction of a whole bunch of expenses." He described it as a Hollywood-style work-for-hire contract grafted onto the publishing industry—"although Hollywood writers in a work-for-hire contract are usually paid more than $250."
Read the article - it's all in the fine print. I was cautious about criticising Frey for the Million Little Pieces fiasco because it wasn't clear whether he volunteered to lie about the book's veracity or was coerced into doing it - and also, the man's so far away from me in space and income that I couldn't really bring myself to care. But I've revised my opinion: James Frey is a gold-plated prick. If you boycott one movie this year, make it I Am Number Four.

It's a turned back world with a local girl

Season four of Mad Men is over and I'm missing Dr Miller already. The ending made sense because Don stereotypes women not as objects of affection but its source, and his desire to put his family back together is fundamental to his emotional rehabilitation and - I know, I know - if he had stayed with Faye then everything would have been perfect and there would be no story left to tell. But srsly: dude. As a character Faye Miller was the daughter of Vance Packard and Tippi Hedren: all blonde, all brains. If she's gone the series will lose its most mature and alluring paramour since Don shacked up with Midge. I lent my paperback of The Hidden Persuaders to someone in 1999. Now I feel like I've lost the damn thing twice.

Robyn Gallagher has written a really good piece on holiday snaps and memory:
The thing is, I can't remember having this photo taken. I can't remember sitting at a table outside the Sydney Opera House and sullenly looking at a camera to provide evidence of having been there. And I can't remember the view from that table, though, having been there a few times since, I can mentally imagine what that would look like.
And while I'm being melancholy about it, Rumi Nealy posted a diary of NZ Fashion Week pics that make me miss home, or at least the rainy downtown.

Cold fingers

12/4/10

Pointe break

I'm more interested than I should be in Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan. I never saw The Wrestler or that thing with the tree (a friend who kicked heroin described Requiem for a Dream as "hard going") but this story has me hooked perhaps because it's based on the idea of dragging fine art down to the level of exploitation cinema -- something which I love. Like Malcolm McLaren's Fans or Roger Corman's A Bucket of Blood, Black Swan makes connections between high and low; petite and driven; black tie and noir; graceful and doomed. The movie also references Powell and Pressburger's The Red Shoes. Apparently. That's all the excuses I've got.

Now playing

12/3/10

Ballet, rush

It's a flat-out Friday. Juggling, cutting, sleeping, eating. Not in that order. Memo to self: Paris.

12/2/10

The Naked Gun

Philip Matthews over at Second Sight likes The American. I did too but there were holes in the story before anyone started shooting. The movie is based on A Very Private Gentlemen, one of Martin Booth's late works. The author describes gunmaking as heavy manual labour, like blacksmithing, and hides his protagonist in an isolated Italian village - which works if Jack is an anonymous craftsman but not if, as in the film, he's a pursued hit man. Being the only American in a village makes you That Guy Everyone Is Looking For; unlike Matt Damon's Bourne, George is too glam to ever be an everyman, Out of Sight notwithstanding. Viewers were told not to worry about this because the movie is an exercise in Style but it did drive me crazy, especially when some of the problems could have been fixed with a few strokes of the pen. Still, The American's heart is in the right place and so is the camera: it's a big, open, chilly movie with more than a few locked-off frames that recall director Anton Corbijn's still work. The setting is new Europe, its generic eateries and phone booths a pleasant contrast to the hills and streams. Cinematographer Martin Ruhe tries to keep things claustrophobic but can't help but be seduced by the open scenery, which is a character all by itself. How nice it is to see mountains in a movie without a fictional battle being waged across them.

George Clooney co-produces with a vision of creating a character different from the type he usually plays, so kudos to him. Silent and staring, his Jack is the anti-George; almost comically so, at moments -- you keep expecting him to crack a joke. Jack is intentionally brooding and solitary but Clooney not talking is a waste of natural resources, like Harrison Ford sitting on his hands -- like the similarly petite Scarlett Johansson, George Clooney is his speaking voice. While the actor's star power frees him to experiment with his performance the production is riddled with the same defensive, let's-underline-this-for-thick-people moments that compromised Up In The Air. I would applaud Rowan Joffe's supermodel-skinny script if the lines that are in it were not so clunky. It's redundant to have someone saying 'Remember last time we spoke?' in reference to a scene which was the last time anyone in the movie said anything.

The movie only gets going in the last few minutes -- or Act as it's signalled -- when Jack dies and George finally comes alive. (If you think that's a spoiler then also be warned that Christmas falls in December.) My favourite sequence, and the most memorable, is the tension-filled exchange of wares in a modern roadside café when Jack meets the person he knows is stalking him. He knows, she knows, we know, but then we don't. Everything is wonderfully quiet, and for a short time The American becomes the terse, godless stand-off it aimed to be - until Joffe's dialogue interrupts, crashing in with a nod and a wink nobody needed. Such a quiet movie: if only it would shut up.