True Confessions

Good Vibrations

Sometime in the middle of the 1990s, I spent a week of my holidays visiting the major cities on the island of Ireland. Specifically, I was going to these places to check out their record stores and bookshops. I was based in Limerick, so I made a few day trips by bus to Cork, Galway and Waterford. I also went to Dublin and stayed there with a friend in order to make my first visit to Belfast. This would have been a few years before the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 and I remember a lot of my friends being a bit concerned about me going to Northern Ireland. I wasn’t too worried and was looking forward to visiting the record shops and bookstores I had somehow found out about

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Understated But Elegant: 2011 In Film

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I spent a lot of 2011 reading and watching Scandinavian and Nordic thrillers, but I still managed to find time to catch a few new films on DVD and at the cinema throughout the year. I made it to the pictures about twice a month over the last year, though a few of those visits were in the company of my nephews and none of those films made my final list. On the face of it, 2011 didn’t appear to be a great year for movies, but I still managed to come up with a shortlist of twenty that I’ve narrowed down to a final dozen. Here are the eight films I enjoyed that just missed out on my top twelve: Source Code (Duncan Jones); Captain America (Joe Johnston); Hanna (Joe Wright); The Inbetweeners (Ben Palmer); The King’s Speech (Tom Hooper); Lou (Belinda Chayko); The Guard (John Michael McDonagh); Blue Valentine (Derek Cianfrance). The latter was one of two films on my list to feature Ryan Gosling and I’ll start looking at my favourite films of 2011 with the other one he was in

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All Things Must Pass

George Harrison: Living in the Material World is a return to form for director Martin Scorsese following the 2008 release of Shine a Light, his rather lacklustre concert film about The Rolling Stones. Fortunately, his depiction of the Beatle known as The Quiet One has more in common with Scorsese’s 2005 film about Bob Dylan. No Direction Home was over 200 minutes long and in two parts, but still managed to only cover Dylan’s career up to 1966. Living in the Material World is also a two-parter and is similar in length to the Dylan one, but manages to cover the whole of Harrison’s life up to his death on November 29th, 2001. A major strength of No Direction Home was its newly-recorded interviews with an extremely open and talkative Dylan. Living in the Material World makes up for the loss of its protagonist by drawing on a range of interviews with Harrison at various points in his career. It opens by chatting to two of his uncles who talk about the younger George growing up in Liverpool and also draws upon letters written by George to his parents. These are voiced by an actor and would have been more effective if he sounded like Harrison or, at least, adopted a Scouse accent. Visually, the lack of film footage from this period is nicely balanced by a simple but effective use of black & white photographs. Many of these appeared to be newly discovered and we also get to see a lot of unseen footage from his days with The Beatles

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You Only Live Once

The film composer John Barry passed away yesterday at the age of 77. He’s best known for his work on numerous Bond films but he also won Oscars for Born Free, the Lion in Winter, Out of Africa and Dances with Wolves. All but one of the songs below comes from a Bond film, with four of them bearing the title of the movie from which they are taken. We Have All the Time in the World originally appeared in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, while All Time High was seen as a more suitable choice of title than Octopussy. My favourite piece of music written by Barry, however, was his main theme for Midnight Cowboy. Despite the title of the opening number, it seems, after all, that you only live once

You Only Live Twice (Nancy Sinatra cover) – The Postmarks

The Man With The Golden Gun (Lulu cover) – Emiliana Torrini

We Have All The Time In The World (Louis Armstrong cover) – My Bloody Valentine

All Time High (Rita Coolidge cover) – Jarvis Cocker & David Arnold

Diamonds Are Forever (Shirley Bassey cover) – Arctic Monkeys

Goldfinger (Shirley Bassey cover) – Santo & Johnny

Midnight Cowboy (John Barry cover) – Faith No More

Image taken from here

Ten Kick-Ass Films From 2010

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2010 certainly wasn’t an exceptional year for cinema, but I went to my local picture house a few times and watched many more new releases on DVD. The ten I’ve chosen are evenly split between those I watched at home and those I saw at the cinema and are also finely balanced between adaptations and original films. Some of my favourite directors followed up on earlier successes, but it was my first time coming across three of the filmmakers below. A common theme in many of my choices was the high quality of the female characters on offer and this was matched by some wonderful acting as well. The first film is from Sweden and it introduces one of recent cinema’s more interesting characters. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was actually released in Sweden early in 2009 and throughout mainland Europe later that year. However, it wasn’t given a general release in Britain and Ireland until last year. It is Danish director Niels Arden Oplev‘s fifth film and is the first of three adaptations of Stieg Larsson’s popular series of crime novels. Michael Nyqvist gives an understated performance as disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist who accepts an offer from the head of a wealthy family to delve back into the unsolved case of his missing niece. He is soon assisted by a young computer hacker named Lisbeth Salander, an enigmatic character who is brilliantly played by Noomi Rapace. She certainly plays her part in making this a rivetting and stylish thriller. Inevitably, a Hollywood remake is on its way, though the good news is that it’s going to be directed by David Fincher. Fincher started out directing music videos before making his big screen debut with Alien 3. He then went on to make five thrillers of variable quality, with Seven and Fight Club being the highlights. This year he directed Aaron Sorkin’s fine script of The Accidental Billionaire, Ben Mezrich’s book about the founder of Facebook. The Social Network could have been just an ordinary teen flick, but becomes a fascinating study of greed and power in the hands of Sorkin and Fincher

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Nowhere Boy

It was thirty years ago today that John Lennon was murdered at the entrance to his residence at the Dakota building in New York City. The three decades since his death have seen the release of a number of documentaries and feature films that focus on certain aspects of Lennon’s life. The post-Beatles period and Lennon’s political activism throughout the early seventies is nicely covered in a documentary by Leaf and Scheinfeld called The U.S. vs John Lennon (2006). From 1988, Andrew Solt’s Imagine: John Lennon chronicles his life as a member of The Beatles and then focuses on his solo career. It features edited performances of his songs and uses interviews and archival footage to tell his story. The actor Ian Hart made his first two film appearances playing his fellow Liverpudlian in Backbeat (1991) and The Hours & the Times (1994). The former focuses on the relationship between Stuart Sutcliffe and Lennon as The Beatles honed their craft in Hamburg in the early sixties, while the latter re-imagines an actual holiday spent by Lennon and manager Brian Epstein in Barcelona in 1963. This year, Christopher Eccleston portrayed the singer’s relationship with Yoko Ono and the eventual demise of The Beatles in the BBC film, Lennon Naked. A year earlier, Aaron Johnson (pictured above) played the pre-Beatle Lennon in artist Sam Taylor-Wood’s Nowhere Boy

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