Archives for November 2014

New Flying Lotus album “You’re Dead!”

Flying Lotus' You're dead!

Flying Lotus’ You’re dead!

If secretly, in a hidden corner of your psyche kept secretly secreted just for you, you quietly suspect that that man that young master Zimmerman riles against with such savage enthusiasm on the first of those three extraordinary albums from 1966 is staring back at you from that mirror. And that somehow, inexplicably, you’ve morphed into Jones, Mister, then this is the album to display so loudly and with such pride at the head of your playlist.

In his guise as Flying Lotus Steven Ellison is the man responsible for keeping U2 and Radiohead awake at night as they toss and turn in their tortured desire to stay relevant. Thom Yorke was actually a guest vocalist on Flylo’s – as he’s inevitably been dubbed – last couple of albums, the breakthrough Cosmogramma from 2010 and Until the Quiet Comes in 2012, reviewed earlier here.

Flylo gets grilled by Thom Yorke.

Flylo gets grilled by Thom Yorke.

You’re Dead! is his fifth album, and it’s effortlessly, dazzlingly relevant, and almost casually if triumphantly current. Nominally a concept album, it’s as much an exploration of the texture and feel of sounds as it is of the idea and reality of death.

That exclamation mark, so often so irritatingly redundant, here hits the nail on the head, as they point out on their review on Pitchfork here, where it gets an 8.3.

The album manages to be at once light and airy, and yet clearly contemplative as it considers and ponders the inevitable. The art work perfectly captures that lightheavy, trippy dippy sense of happy resignation propelled and punctuated by the rhythms and tensions of 21st century hip hop.

Ellison is quite simply the man, and this my friend is where it’s at. You can see the video for Never Catch Me featuring Kendrick Lamar here.

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“The Imitation Game” is surprisingly watchable.

Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game.

Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game.

Personally speaking, the prospect of watching yet another costume drama with all of those actors who are in all of the other period pieces is about as appealing as an extra Maths grind on a balmy summer’s eve. But The Imitation Game is surprisingly watchable .

Benedict Cumberbatch is Alan Turing, and Turing was, genuinely, one of the most remarkable individuals of the 20th century. If you’re unfamiliar with his story, and you very well might be as it’s only very recently been unearthed, then I’ll not give too much away here. As all the best stories do, the drama of his life unfolded in both the public and in the private spheres.

In the public sphere, Turing was head hunted by the top secret wing of the then “non existent” MI6 as they desperately tried to unpick the enigma code. This was the code that the Germans used to disguise their daily broadcasts of where their troops were and what they were up to. It had over 159 quintillion – that’s 159 followed by 18 zeros – different combinations that were changed every day. Turing almost single handedly cracked it, and you could make a very strong case for suggesting that his was the most important contribution to the whole of the second World War.

Kiera Knightley together with Cumberbatch.

Keira Knightley together with Cumberbatch.

In the personal sphere, he was demonstrably autistic which inevitably leads to albeit unintended offense. As there’s always the suspicion that your obnoxious behaviour might very well be just that, merely obnoxious and have nothing to do with your autism. And, he was also gay.

Which is all well and good when you are attending the sort of male only public school that the British send their elite to. But which becomes an enormous problem when that same society then condemns and indeed criminalises those boys who grow up to be young men who prefer the company of other young men.

La Knightley.

La Knightley.

Cumberbatch is appealingly prickly as the irascible boffin, and Keira Knightley is as ever much better than anybody ever likes to give her credit for. And yes, obviously mathematicians don’t look like that. But do you really want to go to the cinema and watch a film peopled by characters who look realistically like mathematicians and code breakers?

The Imitation Game is an unashamed love letter to Alan Turing. But if ever an individual deserved one, it is surely he. Whatever device you’re reading this on wouldn’t have been possible were it not for Turing. If any one person can be, Turing can genuinely be credited with having personally invented the computer. His contribution to the world, in war and peace, is immense. And it’s only right that the society that so callously condemned him in his life should belatedly celebrate him in death. And the resulting film is surprisingly moving and appropriately stirring.

You can see The Imitation Game‘s trailer here. And this review also appears on State.ie here which obviously you should all be reading as avidly as you do this.

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Stanley Kubrick at the Light House, great technician but a minor film maker.

The peerless Paths of Glory.

The peerless Paths of Glory.

There’s a season of each and every one of Stanley Kubrick’s films on at the Lighthouse cinema in Dublin at the moment. The best place to start is with his second film proper (his actual fourth) Paths Of Glory (’57).

One of the great anti-war films, it sees Kirk Douglas come fruitlessly to the defence of unjustly accused soldiers in the 1st WW. What’s so striking about the film in retrospect is how gloriously moving it is. There’s a tremendous emotional investment in the figure of Douglas and the result is a searing indictment of war. It was though the one and only time that Kubrick ever allowed emotion sully any of his films.

After that, we have a series of films each of which seems to have its own particular excuse as to why it fails to engage on an emotional level.

The Planet of The Apes.

The Planet of The Apes.

First, there’s the bloated if curiously bloodless spectacle of Spartacus (’60), followed by his understandably cold take on Lolita (’62). You could hardly have become emotionally invested in that kind of a protagonist. Hence the casting of James Mason instead of the younger, darker and more obviously cynical Dirk Bogarde – who would later reprise the role for Fassbinder in the glorious Despair (’78).

Next up, he was appropriately detached for the brilliant political satire Dr Strangelove (’64). Neither it nor 2001:A Space Odyssey (’68), the sci-fi classic that followed had a discernible protagonist, so there was no one there to invest your emotion in. But that’s the nature of sci-fi, seems to be the suggestion. Even though it hadn’t been for the other sci-fi classic that came out in exactly the same year, Planet Of the Apes.

2001 A Space Odessey.

2001: A Space Odyssey.

And you can hardly blame Kubrick for failing to get us to invest emotionally in the protagonist of his next film, Alex in A Clockwork Orange (’72). Or for that matter in Ryan O’Neill’s Barry Lyndon (’75) or Jack Nicholson in The Shining (’80). And while you do care about Matthew Modine’s Joker in Full Metal Jacket, he’s not what the film is about. His are just the eyes through which we view the war. While in his last film, Eyes Wide Shut, he ditches the protagonist, Nicole Kidman, after 90 minutes and we spend a fruitless final hour watching an actor at a series of orgies being directed by the only man in the world even more wary about sex than he is.

Ton Cruise in Eyes Wide Shut.

Tom Cruise in Eyes Wide Shut.

Paths to Glory ends with a female German prisoner being humiliatingly forced to sing in front of her French captors. But as they watch her, they become increasingly moved by the pathetic sight of her, and the plaintive sound of the song that she sings. And they crumble before her, reduced to common tears. The German actress was called Christiane, and Kubrick promptly married her.

And it’s almost as if, having found emotional satisfaction in his personal life, he was never inclined again to invest any emotion in any of his protagonists, and therefore into any of his films, ever again. Or perhaps at that early stage of his career, he just hadn’t found his voice yet. Perhaps engaging emotionally just wasn’t something he was interested in. And having made the mistake once, he made sure never to do so ever again.

There’s no denying the technical bravura of say the lighting in Barry Lyndon, the use of the steadycam in The Shining (remarkably foreshadowed in Paths of Glory by the way), or the performances he gets out of Peter Sellers in Dr. Strangelove, or the sheer dazzling spectacle that is 2001. But in the absence of emotional investment, that’s all they are; dazzlingly brilliant, spectacular, technical exercises.

They all glisten, but none of them are gold.

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