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 here which obvi­ous­ly you should all be read­ing as avid­ly as you do this.

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Stanley Kubrick: great technician, not quite a major 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, with the excep­tion of 2001 (reviewed here), none of them are quite gold.

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