Friday, 31 December 2010

Jolly Good Films

I am in Anglesey for a couple of days just checking up on the old country estate. All well, serfs not restless etc. The northern boundary has been renewed and this is the first time I have been able to inspect the work of the local artisan ie the bloke who put up the new garden fence. Looks jolly good, gravel boards, the full monty.

I spent an enjoyable day yesterday drafting  a university essay and at its end I treated myself to watching a film I had been meaning to get round to for ages. But first things first. On the night of my arrival (great journey up here in the precious Jag, stereo belching Mozart) BBC4 went some way to justifying the licence fee (but why not shown on terrestrial channel?) by showing a recent Italian classic, Gomorra. This is the antidote to pillocks who find the mafia glamorous - unrelenting, ugly and brilliant.

That was my first night here. Last night I watched something possibly even better. I hadn't seen Donnie Darko, somehow always overlooking the freebie dvd in among the pile of films we keep here. Well I rectified that late last night and what a bloody treat. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. I had seen David Lynch's Lost Highway recently at university and really rated that. There are echoes of that film in Donnie Darko but the latter is altogether more efficiently realised. This is one to watch and watch again. I will be amending the list of my Top 50 Films. A list with which I may bore you in the future. Since I wrote the list a few years ago (compiled at the behest of a friend's film obsessed son who was very taken with our big tv and rather less impressive dvd collection) I have occasionally had to admit new entries (Little Miss Sunshine, Toy Story 3 would be two such) but I have never been brutal enough to relegate other films so my Top 50 now has more than 50 members. This has the ring of a New Year resolution about it. What could be more important than reimposing the internal discipline of a list that noone gives a shit about other than me? For anyone who doubts the vitality of listing and ranking cultural artefacts I refer you to another film on my list, High Fidelity, which I have also re-viewed this week. Here's a mildly provocative statement - I think films of Nick Hornby novels are actually rather better than the books. Heretically I feel the same about Lord of the Rings.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Advent 24

Could it ever have been in doubt? Christmas films come and go (some of them not nearly quickly enough) but one stands preeminent. A Very Happy Christmas to all our readers and may your god go with you in 2011.


Thursday, 23 December 2010

Advent 23

At the risk of upsetting my precious XK8 (nice and warm in the garage just as she deserves) today I share with you my favourite piece of automotive pornography. When I sell the film rights to the novel I haven't even written yet, this is what I'm going to buy myself. This is the Aston Martin DB9. This is design at its loveliest.

Advent 22

Today, another memorable public space. Birmingham's Symphony Hall. Its elegant pragmatism was brought home to me again yesterday at the Christmas concert. This was followed by a very well cooked piece of belly pork swilled down with champagne. We students know how to live.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Advent 21

Today we have my favourite film of the year. The third film in a franchise can be problematic even with the best product: exhibit A- Return of the Jedi (and let's not even go near The Phantom Menace); exhibit B- Godfather Part 3. We can make an exception of Return of the King but when all is said and done Lord of the Rings is really one great big film shown in three manageable segments.

Which brings us to Toy Story 3. With or without 3D trickery this is a lovely, warm, fuzzy, funny film. My daughters and I have grown up together with the Toy Story trilogy. How ironic that by the end of it all they are more mature than I am.

Confused Old Bloke Swallows Own Foot Whole

I hope this is not some sort of elaborate Christmas hoax designed to cheer me up because it just keeps getting better and better. I'm going to start a Facebook campaign to inundate Saint Vince's office with links to the OED definitions of 'prejudice' and 'impartiality'. The story unfolds at just how stupid is this bloke?
Read it and weep. This is our governing class at work.

Confused Old Bloke Claims Possession Of Nuclear Weapon

I've been avoiding general blogging in favour of my little advent project but some things are just too good to miss. Even as one lamented the passing into relative obscurity of Harriet Harman so something almost as good hove into view on the horizon. Saint Vincent of Twickenham, self-ordained conscience of capitalism, can ensure that we poor little people sleep soundly at night, safe in the knowledge that if all else fails he will save the world. Far be it from me to advise such a pillar of rectitude but might he not want to pause to take his foot out of his mouth before he dons his cape of righteousness. The Christmas special edition of the Vince Show is available at Hubristic Knob-Head

Monday, 20 December 2010

Advent 20

I didn't say this was the best play I've encountered this year. That would be a little number known as Othello. No, what I promised you was the piece I most enjoyed this year. And what is not to like about Ford's brilliant potboiler? There is comedy, incest, bawdiness, incest, violence, poetry, murder, religion and did I mention, incest. We finish with various bodies on stage and a human heart skewered on a dagger. People who enjoy Eastenders should be forced to watch this Caroline gore-fest to see what drama really is. Delicious. 

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Advent 19

Nice and simple today. The best book I've read this year is (drum roll, open envelope, knowing smile)

Tomorrow we shall unveil my favourite piece of drama encountered AD 2010

Advent 18

Now this is what you call a picture and this is what you call an essay about an article about an epic latin poem and the same picture. Still with me? No, neither am I but I defend to the death the right of people to be cleverer than I. Thicker as well of course. Picture first.

Velazquez - Las Hilanderas (at the Prado). Bloody beautiful. And now for proof that there ain't 'alf been some clever bleeders (lucky bastards, lucky bastards) [a tad more cultural iconography for you there - Ed] we refer you to 'Enslaved Sovereign'  which makes reference to the mandatory Foucault. Now as any fule no, references to Foucault fall into three categories. The first class referrer will actually have read him and may even take issue with him; the upper second referrer will have read about him; the lower second class referrer (proud owners of an honourable gentleman's 2.2 as we like to call them - my Dad liked his so much he went out and got another one) will have heard his name and thinks it funny. I think it's funny but what do we post-structuralists know? Foucault, it would seem.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Advent 17

At Christmas one should have fine cheese. This is the cheesiest of all the great Christmas songs. One might even say it's a cracker - see what I did there, cheese and cracker, geddit?

Advent 16

I have tendencies to the snobbish but I am getting better. In particular I have come to love an educational institution which has given me more fun and friendships than my earlier 'elite' university involvement. So stand and take a bow Birmingham Polytechnic/University of Central England/Birmingham City University. You done good.

I walked its precincts today, hung-over but vaguely thirsty for knowledge, and I met people I like and who share my passion for the power of the word. Cool.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Advent 15

I did bloody well out of Walsall and, you know what, I rather love the place. It is honest. Ignore the occasionally daft politics and look at the people - honest. And I was part of the town's best firm of solicitors. Not a big boast you might say (you would be right) but it sits fine with me. We created jobs and we helped clients do the same. I can live with that.

Which brings me to the Walsall Art Gallery. Not everyone's cup of tea but my idea of what a public space should do and a decent bit of modern architecture. But what do I know?

Blogging nice and early today. Off soon for a swim and then out on the piss. Peace and goodwill to all mankind - well most of them anyway.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Advent 14

Saw the doctor this morning and the good news is I'm not mad - just dangerously sane.

I've been a good boy and tried to do a bit of work today but concentration is elusive. Tomorrow will be a better day but only because I am celebrating Christmas at university with my kind young friends. Planning to go swimming as an early morning prelude to an afternoon of imbibing. Lessens the guilt if not the headache.

Today we have a radio show. Bill Nighy is brilliant at playing, well, Bill Nighy but he also inhabits the soul of actor/detective Charles Paris. There are series of A Charles Paris Mystery running on both Radio 4 and Radio 7 at present. Radio 7 is one of the best things about the internet Radio 7 homepage. You have to sort through some tawdry old crap but the good stuff is well worth the effort

Monday, 13 December 2010

Advent 13

Another favourite picture and again it is one housed at the National Gallery. It's also a very big picture and I like big pictures. They hide a multitude of cracks. Seurat's Les Baigneuses.

And looking at the big picture is what I've been trying to do today in order to cheer myself up. But it is only partly working because I know the cracks are there and that eventually the whole sodding edifice is going to fall down. Which one might say is the even bigger picture.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Advent 12

Rod's funeral was fitting for the man. Positive, uplifting. This was the final hymn.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Advent 11

This tune is stuck in my head. I'm going to Rod's funeral today. Happy Christmas.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Advent 10

I'm still in a filthy mood, but not with you. You I love.

Another compilation album but one full of nice surprises. I had forgotten how good Johnny Rotten turned out to be.

And the artwork is cool as well. Please do not forget that anger is an energy. I will not forget.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Advent 9

It's deja-vu all over again. I refer you to the entry for 14 October. It's happened again. So no I haven't had a good day thankyou. Truth be told I've had a right shitty day and I don't deserve it. There I've said it. Isn't self-pity pathetic.

What I need is cheering up. So here it is, the very best scene from the very great Green Wing. I feel better already. Just double click on the video box to get full screen if you don't want to see the cropped version. This seems to be a problem with my embedding technique but hey you're bloody lucky I can do it at all.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Advent 8

Nothing can be more certainly middle-brow than listening to Classic fm. Nobody does this who really understands classical music (as I most certainly don't) - they listen to Radio 3 and write to the papers about how it is being dumbed down. They could very well be right but, to my eternal shame, I am just not equipped to comment.

So anyway I am driving to university this morning and Radio 4 is annoying me (Libby Purves, Midweek, just doesn't do it for me) so I flick until I hear the familiar strains of Beethoven's 6th Symphony, the Pastoral. This is one of the few pieces of classical music I own and one of even fewer I can name. Rather obliquely this has to do with 'A' level French and a novel by Andre Gide but I'm not going to go into that since it ends at the low point of my academic career and I don't want to go there again. So that's it for today pop pickers, what young Alex in A Clockwork Orange would have called a lovely bit of 'Ludwig van.'


Advent 7

Sorry, I'm a tad late posting this one. Started last night but then hit a technical glitch. Have now swithched it off and on again a few times until eventually getting the required outcome. Am available for home call-outs at the usual rates.

Advent door number 7 is a serious one - Aung San Suu Kyi is a potent symbol of dignity in the face of oppression. Nice piece about her a couple of weeks ago in The Spectator which commented that hers is 'the true anatomy of courage' and she has 'the self-sacrifice of the early Christian saint.' The full text can be seen at A portrait of the Lady

Monday, 6 December 2010

Advent 6

Today a poem. A rather fine poem, whether read sentimentally or ironically. I can manage both depending on my mood. The poet is buried in Bennington, Vermont and I once visited the grave. Not a pilgrimage, just happened to be in the vicinity. Vermont is magnificent.

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Advent 5

I have received some advance criticism for today's choice which I notified to a boisterous dinner party last night. My motives have been questioned for the choice of what I hold to be a masterful piece of pop music. Check out the video for Kylie Minogue's Can't Get You Out Of My Head to see whether or not my wife is right to be sceptical.

Now that has to be the best use of a bedsheet in recent memory. Tomorrow will be more classy. Possibly.

By way of a contrast please also see Your Dad performing this classic at Glastonbury 2008. The lead singer (if you can call it that) is BCU's very own and lovely Ian Marchant.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Advent 4

If on Desert Island Discs you were allowed to add one joke to sustain you along with the eight records, bible, Shakespeare and chosen book (Simon Raven for me) I think this is the one I would take with me. It is silly, clean and surreal. It works on adults and children.
What's white and can't climb trees?
A fridge.
Now we have to be careful with this culturally vital joke because it is endangered. It has been brought to my attention that people are these days populating their kitchens with refrigerators of non-white colouring. If this carries on then future generations will see this joke and wonder what the hell we were all laughing at. Or maybe, just maybe it will become an artefact beloved of the learned because only they will know the historical context. I hope so. It deserves to live on.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Advent 3

Video killed the radio star. Well actually it didn't, not quite. Radio remains the medium of choice at breakfast time and the Today programme on Radio 4 is surely Britain's most influential news outlet. John Humphries often infuriates but I can put up with that (and he never comes close to the Paxman scale of self-indulgence) while James Naughtie is a national treasure -cool, incisive and clever in an unobtrusive unshowy way (that's right Paxo I'm talking about you.) Naughtie should be on television more than he is but I'm afraid he doesn't really have the face for it. If you ever get word of a programme with him in it, particularly if it is about books, watch it. It is bound to be good.

I nearly elected Woman's Hour as today's cultural icon but wasn't sure how this would stand with my radical feminist credentials. Is it a subtle manifestation of the patriarchy, or even an insidious agent of an oppressive matriarchy? Buggered if I know. What I do know is that, especially when Jane Garvey hosts, it often makes me think. Sometimes I just think, 'that can't be right', but at least I'm thinking. This morning a guest baldly stated that 'there are 12 million disabled people in Britain.' This went unchallenged. It should not have done. Define your terms. Tell me where they all are. Do I count as one? Because noone asked me.

Tomorrow's calendar door will reveal a joke. Bet you can't wait.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Advent 2

As I said this one comes with love from me to you. The Beatles. The Beatles whose cultural importance should not be forgotten. The Beatles who adorn the cover of the two greatest compilation albums ever concocted, the first of which is shown below. I had this on red vinyl. You don't get that with downloads now do you.

Now once again I may have offended the purists by going for the cover of a compilation but I tell you on a student budget the red and the blue were  the ones to go for. Only later did one start to fill in the gaps by buying the original albums.

As I write the snow still lies round about, deep and crisp etc. And the frigging useless Audi lies abandoned on Hillwood Road because it can't make it up the hill. Vorsprung durch technik meinen arse. As you can tell I did Latin at school. Somehow it seemed more fitting than German. I have never regretted it.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Advent 1

I love Christmas. More particularly I love the build-up to Christmas. I love December. Once we get to 1st December I hold that we can start being festive. So as a treat for our readers we at The Overgraduate are going to construct our own little advent calendar. Each day between now and Christmas Eve (which is of course the very best day of the year, better than Christmas Day itself) we will celebrate a cultural artefact of note. These will be a celebration of the Beast's occasionally low, mostly middle-brow, infrequently high-brow tastes.

Let us start with a painting. I used to wander down the Strand to the National Gallery to admire this one. Some think Henri Rousseau rather vulgar. This may very well account for my liking him. Here it is with love from me to you. Which may give you a little clue about tomorrow's calendar entry. See you then.

PS. The original's bigger - go see it.