The Press Photographers Year 2008

Yesterday, me and Sib met up with an old friend in town. I had heard about this free exhibition being displayed at the National Theatre. It calls itself a competition, “Designed for press photographers by press photographers.” and I guess that’s what it is.

Displayed were about 100 or so photos which were chosen as ‘the best journalist photo of 2007’ in a range of categories such as News, Live News, Sport as well as Arts & Entertainment.

The exhibition was free, but don’t let that put you off. If you’re in the London area this is well worth a look at. It’s only when you see these photos, out of their original context and blown up to a very large size that you realise how much emotion can be captured in just one photo, or how one moment can be drawn out of a situation and be made so significant. Also there were many photos from around the world; showing some horrendous conditions which I didn’t know were that bad.

Film Review: WALL·E

OK if you read this blog on the regular, you must think I’m made of money.

What with the amount of plays, films and gigs I go to.

Well, I’d like to clarify that the past couple of gigs have been paid for not by me, the films were on orange Wednesdays and The Lion King was my mum’s treat.

Tonight is no exception to my cheapness, me and Sib went to see Wall·e and it was paid for by collecting tokens from packets of Maltesers.

So there!

I apologise for the outburst, it’s just me, desperately seeking to scrounge the ounce of working class I have remaining in my fibre. I don’t even have a job.

But sadly when I do after the summer, you’ll have artistic reviews coming out of your ears!

Anyway, back to the review.

So this film follows the story of a robot named WALL-E who is designed to clean up a polluted Earth. He eventually falls in love with another robot named EVE, and follows her into outer space on an adventure.

If you’re anything like me, as soon as you heard about this film, saw the endless promotion of it – everywhere; you would have immediately shied away from it. Personally the idea of watching an animated film about a little robot doesn’t particularly excite me. The trailer didn’t even look that good.

Then again I think to myself that these are the people that brought us the Toy Stories, Monsters Inc., Finding Nemo, A Bugs Life and The Incredibles – all 5 star films in my opinion; so it can’t be that bad. I’d also read, seen and heard loads of very positive reviews, and I always put my complete faith in journalist’s opinions so ended up going along with high expectations.

However what we have here is a film which far surpasses all expectations, a film which you mustn’t worry about going along with the little ones to see, in fact you could most definitely go on your own. I heard it being referred to as a fusion of Metropolis and Robinson Crusoe, in this respect I think that’s accurate. In this film we are presented with a dystopia, a world teeming with waste, and completely deserted. The entire first third of the film has virtually no dialogue, a very brave move from Pixar. By the time we get to space, we are faced with images of obesity, consumerism and a virtually defunct human race – run almost entirely by technology.

But lets put all these important lessons aside for one minute, primarily what we have here is a straight love story. Which shouldn’t be so touching and so cute – but is! I don’t know what it is, but when kids or in this case robots, do stuff in films that normal adults would do, when they pick up on those little characteristics – it works really well! It ends up being 10x more cute and/or 10x funnier. Think E.T. if you want to envision Wall·E’s characteristics.

Another thing that I don’t get is, how they can get me to fancy this? –

Talking of nice cartoon characters I don’t know any man who doesn’t find this woman slightly alluring-

Anyway, let’s get onto the issues addressed in the film and what I learnt from them.

  • Waste

The film gives us a great reminder that if we continue in the way we are going, potentially, in a few hundred years the earth will be completely deserted. We are being far too wasteful. I guess we should recycle far more than we do, and go organic etc. I’m so bored of hearing all this stuff, you can’t read or watch anything nowadays without being told to recycle or not be wasteful, so this was a refreshing way of communicating this somewhat pressing issue. The idea that the earth will eventually have to be deserted seems so far removed from the truth, but hey – they are in the process of making space hotels.

  • Living

This theme seen in the film can be summarized in the words of the Captain,

“I don’t want to survive. I want to live!”

Wall·E reminds us that there is a world out there that we need to experience, instead of sitting indoors watching TV, chatting to our friends online or errm…writing blogs.

  • Consumerism

This film was very anti commercialism and also didn’t seem too keen on big companies. The big company in this film was called ‘Buy n Large’, they seemed to own pretty much the whole world and the entire human race. This was seen as a mainly negative thing, it seems that it was this company that had made everyone leave earth and it was this company which was continuing to lead these people further and further down the spiral of obesity and laziness and wastefulness and relying too much on technology and not seeing the real world and being generally rubbish at life.

I especially liked the message put across when we see the moon – branded with the famous American flag, then the camera pans to another flag – an advert for a supermarket.

  • Fatal Flaw, but perhaps purposeful irony.

This film was anti big-company-advertising-wasteful-death-brain-eater. Isn’t that kind of what Disney is?

Well, I’ll leave that thought with you.

___________

The film was visually awesome, funny at the right bits and poignant when it needed to be.

Predictably, the only thing really missing from the film was God. What can’t be gathered from the film is the fact that if we really want to understand our way in the world and our purpose in life, then we need to know God, and only through Christ can we understand that. Maybe that’s the real reason that so many people have become mindless consumers looking for something, but not knowing what they’re looking for. We (myself included) endlessly roam around seeking happiness in entertainment and valuables, when true happiness can only be found in our relationship with God.

But do watch it, it’s well worth using your Maltesers tokens on, or perhaps even paying for!

Feeder @ KOKO

Just got back from seeing Feeder!

They played KOKO in Camden, so it was just up the road. It was all part of this iTunes festival thing going on all month, they give away free tickets, but you have to win them. Providentially I won!

Feeder were one of the first bands I properly got into, along with Coldplay and Red Hot Chili Peppers. I got their album ‘Comfort in Sound’ for Christmas ’03/’04 (?) So they hold a special place in my heart for that reason.

I’m also have an affection to them because of a track from that album (Comfort in Sound) entitled Just The Way I’m Feeling not only because I have fond memories of listening to it on Virgin Radio and on Christmas morning, and not only for it being a cracking track with a very cool video. I also love it because Sibyl adores it just as much as I do, so it kind of became Our Song’. (Awww)

They formed in Newport, South Wales, in 1992, a place very near where my father grew up. I had no idea when I first liked them that they were welsh. I later started a huge debate with my friend claiming they were Welsh when I KNEW that they weren’t, but they were – Grant Nicholas (front man) just doesn’t have much of the unmistakable Newport accent.

So I’ve stuck by Feeder through the years, and they haven’t exactly had the easiest past. In 2002, the band’s drummer Jon Lee committed suicide in his Miami home. So things haven’t been great for them. Which accounts for why some their music, post Echo Park has been a bit wet. But I saw them in 2006 at Reading Festival and they were fantastic. Still rocking, and by no means soppy or rubbish. So today I had high expectations.

Support came from Infadels who funnily enough used to have some trumpet playing done by Sibyl’s amazen brother in law Ivan Anchant. They’re a good band, and have a nice happy sound.

KOKO is a nice venue, intimate yet spacious, ideal for Feeder. I will now outline the top 3 things I LOVED about the gig, followed by the top 3 things I HATED.

  1. They played most of the songs I like! Just The Way I’m Feeling, Buck Rogers, Come Back Around, Just A Day, Lost and Found, Feeling a Moment and Pushing the Senses. Every single one of these tracks were played amezenly, and I would greatly recommend you download each and every one of the tracks above, for some awesome Rock/Metal/Pop action! The two best were Just a Day and Buck Rogers – if you only want to download two tracks download those two.
  2. Most of the people at the venue were great, what I want at a gig is to be able to dance happily, with no inhibitions, knowing that I am very much enjoying the music, and ensuring that everyone around me is in the same position as me. Almost everyone around me were just like this – very much enjoying the music, REALLY enjoying the big tracks, and generally very good. Woo!
  3. We were in a perfect position, not too close to get crushed, not too far away to not see clearly and not be able to dance. So that was great.

Now for the downsides,

  1. As mentioned, at a gig I want to be able to dance happily, with no inhibitions, knowing that I am very much enjoying the music, and ensuring that everyone around me is in the same postition as me. When Feeder just got on there were this couple standing in front of me and Sibyl, who were obviously rock concert virgins. THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT, I would happily say to anyone ‘gig going is not the greatest past time ever, I’d greatly recommend going, but it ain’t essential’ and I have nothing against freshies, who feel to embarrassed to have a good time. What annoys me was that this couple insisted on not moving and on standing very near the front, occasionally having a little wiggle and taking a photo on their camera phone (I’ll get onto that). Fortunately we got away from them, but it ruined the start for me. Now that was one end of the spectrum, but then we have the ones who need to calm it a little bit. There was this huge guy, quite chunky, tall and sweaty; standing next to us. Well I say standing…. Now if you’re big you must take responsibility for your actions, I could have sworn that his head almost went through the ceiling, the height at which this guy was leaping, not only was he leaping about, but he insisted on chucking his girlfriend on his shoulders, which all gig going people will understand, is the most annoying thing ever. AND he was also one with the camera phone.
  2. CAMERA PHONES & CAMERAS are doing a great job at changing the atmosphere of good gigs. Why do people insist on thinking that getting some footage on you rubbish little phone of the gig is going to do any good? Not only does it obscure others vision, it takes away from the atmosphere, there ain’t no fun going on when you’re surrounded by a camera crew. It gets worse – this being a big corporate event, it had to be filmed, they decided to stick a camera man in the audience – right bang in the center; and this camera man has the nerve to give me a dirty look when I accidentally on purpose shove him out the way!
  3. They didn’t play a couple of songs I really love, one is called Shatter and the other is one off of Echo Park and it’s called Seven Days in the Sun I also would hae liked to hear High. Anyway… I was thinking, Feeder will never ever be that cool, they will never be ‘punk-rock’ don’t get me wrong – they are an absolutely phenomenal live band but it got summed up to me when Grant Nicholas grabs his guitar as if he’s about to smash it, but then stops – as if he was child realising that he shouldn’t hit his little sister. BE COOL!

Overall I’d day that it was a highly successful, enjoyable gig. I would have paid for it – the fact that it was free was a bonus.

Why you shouldn’t use translating sites

We’ve all done it, tried to use babel fish or various other sites in order to translate something or other into English. I personally always feel like I’m selling out when I do it, and it usually fails anyway.

But this picture is classic, the owners of this restaurant obviously had no English whatsoever, and have simply copied and pasted their restaurant name directly from the translating site.

Poor them.

Or maybe they just have an amazen sense of humour.

Arts Week

I know thousands of you have been utterly devastated at the lack of posts here this week. I’ve been working in my old school on a thing they call Arts Week – it’s pretty much what it says on the tin. The whole school was divided up into little groups and given various Art based projects. I was involved in a few of the more Drama-ish project.

The year 9’s were given the task of making a film, fortunately they were given a pretty good script (based on Woody Allen play Death, later made into film Shadows and Fog), a very good director and some state of the art filming equipment. Another teacher involved in the film; behind and in front of the cameras was multi talented man – who is a good actor and also has a band who are very cool and have some good tunes.

So in this film project I was mostly running errands or moving lights or telling kids to shut up, but on the last day someone didn’t turn up so I actually ended up playing the part of a relaxed homicidal killer; stabbing a small child – but all in a very comedic way.

I also helped out a bit with a cabaret taking place on the Thursday evening, there were various dances, comedic sketches and musical performances taking place throughout the evening.

I directed a small group of kids on a comedy sketch about rivalry between Geography and History teachers ending in a break-dancing clash!

Little brother Dylan was involved in another sketch about teachers, where they try to ‘get down with the kids’.

Another project I dipped into was the making of a radio play,  An Archers style drama, set in a small country town. It was to be broadcast on the school’s new podcasting station Switch FM but thus far I haven’t spotted it. I did some narration for them, which was fun.

The last big events of the week took place on the Friday night, there was an Open Air Festival / Rock Concert type thing – called ‘LiveStock’, they also had Ibiza – an entire beach was made (!), there was a traditional Garden Fete and also some exhibitions documenting the weeks events. During the LiveStock event lots of kid rock bands had their moment.

Anyway, it was a pretty good week – and all good fun, if not slightly stressful at times.

Mamma Mia! Here we go again… (Film Review)

OK, I went with my Mother and Sibyl to see Mamma Mia!

If you don’t know, Mamma Mia! is a film adaptation of the West End musical, based on the songs of successful pop group ABBA.

I don’t really know what to say about the film.

Maybe it would be better if I portrayed my feelings to the film with a series of photos, chronicling my facial reaction throughout the film.

Here we go:

Yeah, so I hope that gives you some sort of impression.

It’s not that I didn’t like it, it’s just that the only merit I could see in it were the songs. I would rather watch a docu-film about ABBA, which showed their music and charted their rise to success. The only other redeeming feature of the film was the beautiful people and the beautiful scenery.

Don’t get me wrong, they got an amazen cast. Meryl Streep (her off of Manchurian Candidate) Pierce Brosnan (I know! PIERCE BROSNAN – JAMES BOND!) Julie Walters – who I believe is a phenomenal actress, oh and Colin Firth (yeah the one who plays the same character in most films) and other recognisable faces. They acted well. It’s just all a bit bleh.

A post about ABBA can’t go by without crediting them with probably the greatest set of universally catchy hits of all time, ever. There are just so many. I grew up listening to them, as my Mum is quite the fan (who isn’t?).

I wanted to pick my favourite ABBA number and it was between One of Us (a song very rarely credited with a reggae beat) and Does Your Mother Know? I picked the latter, as the video captures the spirit, and One of Us wasn’t even in the film.

Enjoy.

If you fancy some further reading on the subject I read a great book from a great series on the actual album ‘Abba Gold’, by Elizabeth Vicentelli from the 33 1/3 series.

Film Review: ‘Chronicles of Narnia – Prince Caspian’

Our Wednesday evening began with the midweek meeting at church; in which we discussed war in the Bible – specifically in Deuteronomy 7. We were reminded that these killings took place at a specific time and the commands were specific for a specific people. In those times, they were living in a theocracy. The main thrust of the message was that as Christians, these issues of fighting wars apply to us in putting sin to death in our lives.

So with these issues in mind we went to watch Prince Caspian. It’s the second film that Walden Media have made in this current series. We didn’t go with high expectations, as most potentially decent films these days are Disneyfied beyond repair.

The film sticks pretty closely to the plot of the book (I think), which I have read but almost completely forgotten about. But apparently have made a few changes, notably an extra battle scene (?).

So how did I benefit from watching this film? Well as most films are these days, it was visually spectacular, it had over 1,500 special effects shots! I still stand by my thoughts that CGI is used too much in films nowadays – will it ever look ‘real’? However I suppose there is no other way of showing a talking, sword wielding mouse (voiced brilliantly by Eddie Izzard).

Obviously the book has many religious references as it is written by C.S. Lewis. Did they come out in the film? I think they did, though according to an Anglican Journal review, ‘the movie is reasonably faithful to the adventure elements of the book, much lighter on the religious faith aspects, which they found integral to the novel, and deficient on character and emotion.’  Apparently the director, “see[s] Aslan more as the spirit of the planet – this living, breathing planet. That’s what he stands for, for me; more what the native Americans would believe.” Well if that sentence doesn’t make you want to stick your fingers down your throat, I don’t know what will.

Anyway here’s a list of The top 5 religious lessons I learnt from ‘The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. A few of these points were simply stolen from this blog.

  1. The new Narnia can be seen as a parallel to the modern world, with its pathological dislike of both religion and the romantic imagination. “Who believes in Aslan nowadays?” asks Trumpkin when he first meets Caspian. Those who “hold on”, like the badgers, are praised: this links with Lewis’s views on religious faith. Faith is another of the major themes of the film.
  2. As mentioned this ‘faith’ is essential to actually seeing Alsan. Only those with faith, who want to see Him, can see Aslan. In Matt 5:8, the pure in heart are said to be able to see God. If we seek Him with all our heart, He will let us find Him. We see Lucy do this early on, albeit not perfectly.
  3. Aslan says to Lucy the things don’t happen the same way twice. Meaning Aslan does not do it the same way twice. This is a lot like how things happen in scripture. As one example, take Moses giving water to the people. At first, God told Moses to strike the rock to get water ( Ex 17:1-7 ). Then later He told Moses to speak to the rock ( Num 20:8-12 ). There are lots of other examples. The infinite, personal creator God is infinitely imaginative. I bring this up because the movie refers to that truth.
  4. There is one bit where Prince Caspian has given up all hope of winning the war and confides in Nikabrik, a black dwarf (not of Afro-Caribbean descent – just the species of dwarf, though in the film there were some pretty cool African centaurs). Nikabrik suggests that he finds a deeper magic, he summons a hag and a werewolf, and claims that they can help him claim his throne and guarantee Miraz’s death. After Caspian agrees, the hag uses black sorcery to summon the White Witch. From inside a wall of ice, the Witch tries to convince Caspian, who had not realized what Nikabrik’s true intentions were, to give her a drop of his blood in order to set her free. Peter, Edmund, and Trumpkin arrive and quickly incapacitate Nikabrik, the wolf, and the hag. There is a tense moment where it appears the Witch seems to have convinced Peter to release her, but Edmund shatters the wall of ice before the Witch can be freed. This is an incredibly powerful moment. The White Witch is portrayed so perfectly in this bit, she is terrifying yet at the same time alluring. This is a really good illustration for temptation. We are tempted and are perplexed and attracted, even blinded by the sin we wish to commit. It isn’t unless we completely ‘cut off our right arm’ or ‘shatter the ice’ as Edmund does, that we can escape from it. Edmund has been led astray by the witch in the past, and it is clear that he is holding no compromises in this instance.
  5. I quickly corrected myself in my own head when I suggested that Aslan and the summoning of the water man thing was a representation of the Son and Father in the Trinity but having read that ‘Aslan is portrayed by Lewis as the Christian Jesus Christ.’ (OK I knew that!) BUT: ‘Aslan’s father (the “Emperor-Over-Sea”) is God the Father.’ It just started to make me wonder. DISCLAIMER this is my no means a sweeping statement I am making about the Trinity, and I know it is an infinitely impossible subject to understand, and there is NO illustration which explains it. All I was saying was that I thought it was a reference to the different persons in the Godhead. *Pheew!*

You need some YouTube after that! Here’s the trailer –

Yeah so if you get a chance, watch it. It has a lot of fighting which may slightly offend more sensitive viewers, but it makes some fabulous thoughts fly through one’s mind, and makes for great discussions. We should pray for more morally challenging, and religiously enriching films.