Donnie Darko at 15

Early in Donnie Darko, Drew Barrymore reads to a high school English class from Graham Greene’s short story “The Destructors”: ‘It was as though this plan had been with him all his life, pondered through the seasons, now in his fifteenth year crystallised with the pain of puberty.’ My own pubescent pain is itself crystallised in memory by the approximately seven second shot even earlier in the film that begins with the opening notes of Echo & The Bunnymen’s “The Killing Moon”, as Jake Gyllenhaal’s eponymous 16 year old wipes the sleep out of his eyes, riding his bike in pyjamas down Carpathian Ridge, a perfect encapsulation of the entwined angst and optimism of adolescence. Continue reading

“Do Not Touch Willie.”

Before I proceed, I want to make entirely clear that the following is not a collective statement from everyone involved with Seen Your Video. I’m speaking entirely as myself, not on behalf of Graham or Josh. I know we’ve steered clear of any posts even remotely like this in the past, and I don’t plan on it being the first of a series or anything, but it is, strictly speaking, related to the kind of cultural analysis we strive for, and besides, I don’t have anywhere else to post it, except Facebook, which eugh.

do not touch willie Continue reading

‘I just got the homogenised blues!’: Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?

Randall office dance

Starting with the film podcast that should hopefully be with you by the end of this week, we’re introducing a new feature to both film and music episodes, wherein having dealt with one or two of the month’s big new releases we then give a predetermined classic the same level of attention. Besides talking about them on the podcast I’m hoping to get blog posts about these classic films and albums up on here, at least for my own choices, as a kind of introduction for anyone who isn’t familiar with the subject at hand in advance of the podcast – liner notes, if you like, to guide you through a first time viewing or hearing and prep you for the subsequent discussion. First up: Frank Tashlin’s incredible 1957 comedy Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? Continue reading

Iain Banks, 1954-2013

The Bridge

 

      ‘You know,’ he said, ‘if I had my way I wouldn’t let anybody who believed in star signs or the Bible or faith healing or anything like that use electric power, or ride in cars and buses and trains and aircraft, or use anything made of plastic. They want to believe the universe works according to their crazy little rules? OK, let them live that way, but why should they be allowed to use the fruits of sheer fucking human genius and hard work, things produced only because people better than them once had the sense and the hope to – will you stop laughing at me?’ He glared at her. She was shaking with silent laughter, her pinkly quivering tongue poised to lick another paper. She turned to him, eyes glistening, and held out a hand.

      ‘You’re just so funny, sometimes,’ she said.

– Iain Banks, The Bridge Continue reading

Troy’s back from the gutter, and he’s brought someone with him!

 

I’m aware at this point that it feels like there have been more apologies for neglecting the podcast than episodes of the podcast itself, but what can I say, life keeps getting in the way. This time – i.e. in the six months or so since the last podcast – it’s been because of the process of buying, then moving into, a flat, which has somewhat precluded much activity on this front.

Anyway, I’ve taken the time to give some consideration as to how best to approach the podcast, and I thought an overhaul was in order. So I’m delighted to say that, as of next week, the Seen Your Video podcast is relaunching as a twice-monthly show – one episode on film, one on music – wherein I’ll be joined by either Josh Slater-Williams or Graham Fulton, who’ll act as co-hosts, Josh for film, Graham for music. Their presence doesn’t rule out continuing to bring in guests, but it does mean there’s less of a sense of me just rambling into the ether.

Josh you may remember from the last episode that went up, wherein we talked about all those ‘death of film culture’ articles that were floating about last autumn and subsequently earned the ire of some woman on Twitter who refused to watch films in a multiplex, so that was fun. He also writes for The Skinny, Sound on Sight and his own blog, Read Write Hand.

Graham hasn’t been on the podcast before, having spent much of the last two years in Australia, but any poor souls who ever listened to Left of the Dial, my show on Subcity Radio that somehow ran for three years, may remember him from the last year-end best-of episode we did, or indeed from Screen Shrapnel, the film show he hosted on the station with Nick Green and prior podcast guest Jamie Dunn, or from Modern Highlife, his own solo music show.

Needless to say, I’m thrilled that both Josh and Graham have agreed to do this. Hopefully it’ll make for better listening all round and – he says, once again tempting fate – a regular format for the podcast that I can finally stick to and make work. The first episode – a film show with Josh – should hopefully be available for download some time this week.

 

17 Again: Seeing Japandroids and The Gaslight Anthem through two sets of eyes

 

I’m the eldest of three sons.

There’s a significant age difference between my brothers and I. My usual line for explaining this away is that, in a reversal of tradition, I was the accident. Anthony, who’s come to be known as Anton, is seven and a half years younger than me. Gerard, born in March 1996, is almost a full decade younger than I am, having been born in May 1986. The day he was brought home from the maternity hospital was the day of the Dunblane shootings. Our dad, picking me up from the school bus, seemed torn as to which was more important that I know first: that my three day old brother was home safe, or that, forty miles away, a man had killed several children whose average age split the difference between us.

It’s been a strange experience, watching Gerard age. Not only are we much more alike than myself and Anton, but the ten year age gap is an uncommonly round number for this sort of thing – for whatever reason, it’s much more jarring to realise that the equivalent of every milestone Gerard reaches is now a full decade in my past than it was to see Anton hit them. It’s been like a mixture of the end of It’s A Wonderful Life and a body-swap comedy: I’ve effectively been able to rewatch my own teenage years play out through Gerard, only with a new decade’s worth of technology, culture and political contexts imposed. Continue reading

Great Vengeance and Furious Anger

 

First things first: I’m a big fan of Quentin Tarantino’s work. His first three films were a crucial part of my nascent cinephilia. I fashioned a fake beard out of my own hair and some Pritt Stick to aid my entry into a screening of Kill Bill Vol. 1 six months before I turned eighteen, probably six years before I actually looked old enough to be sold a ticket. I once sat and took minutely-detailed notes on every aspect of Death Proof – the film that many people, including Tarantino himself, claim as his worst – the better to fashion a defence of it as his best film of the past fifteen years. I wasn’t totally sold on Inglourious Basterds upon first viewing, but with some greater sense of what it’s really about have come around on rewatches, although I still consider it his weakest and most problematic. At least, I did until seeing Django Unchained earlier tonight, about which I don’t know quite what to think. Continue reading

Pants-Off Dance-Off: Miguel live at the ABC

I don’t think I’ve ever been to another live show quite like Miguel’s, which peacocked into Glasgow’s ABC last night in a swirl of strobe lights and sleeveless t-shirts. That’s not to say that the show is unique (with all due respect to the man and his skill as a performer, I’m fairly certain it isn’t), just that opportunities to see its like in Glasgow are limited. As a city, Glasgow’s live music scene – indigenous at least, and maybe to an extent that colours touring acts – is still dominated by indie, folk, pub rock, singer songwriters, genres that largely, for better or worse, place a great deal of value in the nebulous idea of ‘authenticity’. Musicians aren’t meant to seem too rehearsed, too artificial, too flashy. It’s all about the music, man. Feelings, an’ that. Continue reading

Slow Boat to China: Films of the Year 2012

I didn’t keep track of how many fims I saw in total this year, but I would estimate it was somewhere between the two and three hundred mark (including a few rewatches). Of those, 71 were either released in cinemas or went straight to DVD/Blu-Ray (possibly after earlier festival screenings) in the UK in 2012, and it’s those 71 that qualify for inclusion in this list. Disclaimers: I missed a few big ones that are making a lot of other folks’ best-ofs for the year – Holy Motors, TabuThis Is Not A Film – and I haven’t seen any of the listed films more than once, so all of this is going off of 1) first reactions and 2) memories of the film from, in some cases, nearly 12 months ago. Bear in mind, any non-UK readers, that most of the big award season contenders – Lincoln, Django UnchainedZero Dark Thirty – aren’t out here until next year, which may also explain the inclusion of some titles here that made a lot of lists in December 2011. I don’t have the time right now to fill out 3,000 words of capsule reviews as I did for the music list, but I did want to get something up before the year was out, so I’ll hopefully come back and do that over the next few days. Continue reading