Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Film Pitch: The Bucket List (2007)

Film Pitch 

Don't you think all these modern films are made for the 'younger' audience? These fastest and angry films and the like? Remember the good old days? Yeah the 70s... no there wasn't a potential nuclear winter constantly seconds away. Shut up! Remember the good old days when we used to hang out with our friends and go roller discoing? Those were the days.

What was I saying? Sorry the memory isn't what it used to be... Anyway there's this huge film watching audience which isn't targeted by the current crop of films so we should make the most of this by putting two iconic stars of target audience's youth and have them going through things old people go through. Like free buses or frequent bowel movements. Of course it'll have to be about death. I mean we all go through it right? It's not far from the forefront of your mind when Jimmy doesn't even call on father's day, brat!

We don't want it too dour though so make sure they party too, old people can have fun too! If this film goes well we can make a series of geriatric films... we'll hire Michael Caine for those he does anything for a paycheque. Great for bachelor parties.

Critics Say

So the reaction to the film wasn't nearly as bad as you might expect considering I'm pretty sure that with the exception of Harold & Maude comedy is rarely a old person's game.

Nicholson and Freeman's performances were praised however the script itself was generally put down for it predictable plot-line. Surprisingly the film was selected as one of the 10 best films of the year by the American Film Institute, which is rare for a film which received mixed reviews.

Roger Ebert, who had cancer at the time, took particular umbrage to the film's portrayal of cancer's sufferers and accused the film of "think[ing] dying of cancer is a laugh riot followed by a dime-store epiphany." 

The film has a 7.4 on IMDB and 41% on Rotten Tomatoes. 

Me Says

It isn't one of Freeman or Nicholson's finest but it was surprisingly palatable. The chemistry between the two leads is enticing enough to make the bland plot worth it. There really isn't much to say, the emotional core of the film wasn't particularly resonant and the jokes weren't cutting edge or particularly rememberable.

The film should appease anyone, it's perfect Sunday viewing. The thing is the only reasons to see the film are right beneath the film title.

Staring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman

Sunday, 25 August 2019

Film Pitch: Ishtar

Film Pitch

Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman play tone deaf lounge singers. Yes Tootsie & Clyde Barrow. It's written and directed by Elaine May, half of the famous Nichols & May double act and directer of classic rom com The Heartbreak Kid.

So these two lounge singers, despite their lack of talent or support, decide to take a make it or break it gig in a fictional middle eastern country in the middle of a civil war where they naturally find themselves embroiled in the political conflict and are played by both sides like CIA agent Charles Grodin and French beauty Isabelle Adjani, who plays some sort of Arabian freedom fighter who dresses as a boy for most of the film. Flawless casting, I know.

Hijinks are had, feelings are felt and we all leave the cinema with our wallets full because who wouldn't want to see such a star-studded box office treat.

Critics Say

It was ripped to shreds. It lost money, damaged careers and has been a synonym in Hollywood for terrible films which are also box office bombs.

The Los Angeles Times called it one of the most expensive box office flops of all time and it was nominated for three Golden Raspberry awards.

The film has a 4.4/10 rating on IMDB and 38% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Roger Ebert described the film; 'Ishtar is a truly dreadful film, a lifeless, massive fumbling exercise in failed comedy.'

So I guess it was the worst film ever.

Me Say

Ishtar is a solidly OK film. It isn't a great film which will be stored in vaults and lauded for centuries to come but it also isn't a terrible film which deserve the lambasting and mockery that it's received.

Beatty & Hoffman are good in their roles even if Beatty is very out of his 'Hollywood' persona. They both are convincingly terrible as lounge singers and they work flawless with the often deadpan comedy of the film.

Yes the plot is dodgy and I have no idea why the project was green-light but it isn't a bad film, I'd go so far as to call it a good one. It's a film which has sat covered in insults for thirty years and deserves a critical reassessment. It has all the necessary elements; a semi-acclaimed director, famous fans (Like Tarantino or Edgar Wright) and it has the star-power of Beatty and Hoffman who although obviously less powerful than in the 80s are still distinctly recognisable and attractive names.

Should you go out of your way to watch Ishtar? Probably not. However if it's a choice between Ishtar and any of Hoffman or Beatty's efforts in the past two decades I'll choose Ishtar.

Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Oh The Pretty Things & David Bowie

In 1973 Bowie released Pin Ups, a relatively uninspired cash grab that was meant to capitalise on his newfound success after Ziggy Stardust.

The record features 12 covers of Bowie’s favourite songs from artists like The Who, The Kinks, and The Yardbirds. However two of the songs Bowie recorded on the record are covers of a less celebrated band; The Pretty Things.

The Pretty Things are a band founded by Phil May & Dick Taylor (A original Rolling Stone) who helped create some of the rawest music of the pre-punk era. They were wild (They were banned from New Zealand due to their tour antics) and boundary pushing (They wrote the first ever rock opera before The Who’s Tommy.)

When Bowie was a member of the London scene of the 1960s he was a close follower of The Pretty Things and this in turn lead up to his inclusion of two of their songs on his record. However is that where there relationship ends?

 Oh You Pretty Things!

Is Bowie’s 1971 song off Hunky Dory a reference to The Pretty Things? 

The Pretty Things Are Going To Hell

1999’s Bowie record Hours has a single titled ‘The Pretty Things Are Going To Hell.' Although the title is a nod towards The Stooges ‘Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell’ it is also Bowie blatantly showing his appreciation to another of his early influences. 

Pretty Thing

Is it possible that this Tin Machine song is a nod towards Bowie’s favoured band or is it just a coincidence?

These are The Pretty Things lead singer Phil May’s thoughts on the Bowie:

"With The Pretty Things, you'd have lots of people who'd come around the stage at the end, from Bromley or Sidcup, even at the early art school shows we did. Lost souls who, like us, thought they were weird and different and yet, when they were in a place where music was played, suddenly didn’t feel such a weirdo. David was the one who struck me like a jackdaw. He was collecting, storing and taking in music like a sponge. He wasn’t like a fan. We talked about art, too – we’d been at the same art school.
I’ve always interpreted this song as a fantasy of outsiders taking over. In terms of using our name, I think we were a beacon to him. I’ve never had a conversation with him about it, but there was ‘Pretty Things Are Going To Hell’, too. I think the phrase is a euphemism for how he saw our band when he was starting up – somebody shining a light on his situation, when for the rest of his life, he was on his own."
Phil May, the Pretty Things

Uncut, March 2008

For more on The Pretty Things click here.

Friday, 16 August 2019

Titanic Rising - Weyes Blood

It’s time to look at singer-songwriter Weyes Blood’s latest record, her first sub-pop release, Titanic Rising.

Weyes Blood is an artist who has been working for years at crafting her sound. She’s the sort of artist who you’ve perhaps stumbled upon and listened to once on a late night of YouTube recommendations. You sit there intrigued by her sound of the carpenters meeting the 21st century and sit mellowed out to her songs until suddenly its over and its forgettable, it simply doesn’t grab you, assault your ears and force you to remember it. Instead you look at the name Weyes Blood and think ‘hey I kind of like her.’

For me that was my experience with her song Do You Need My Love from Front Row Seat To Earth (2016), I liked it but I didn’t love it. It soared, it was beautiful but it was shy of great.

With Titanic Rising her sound hasn’t changed exactly. She hasn’t left the Karen Carpenter comparison behind but she no longer sounds quite so pastiche. She sounds as fresh as possible while still wearing her 70s influences quiet clearly on her shoulder.

The emotional peak of the record comes from the song Movies, which mixes a lushly melancholic melody with lyrics that preach the contradictions of cinema, the harshness of dream unfulfillment and how cinema perpetuates dreams of fantasy on their fans.

The record is, unlike its name sake, worthy of all the praise it has got over the past months and is the most complete comprehensive listening experience I’ve heard since Blackstar. It is a wonderful record which while sounding familiar is dashingly fresh and is a strong contender for album of the year despite its early release date.

Now stop reading and go listen to it.

The Must Listens: Everyday, Movies, Andromeda, Wild Time, A Lot Is Gonna Change.

Friday, 30 December 2016

Blackstar - David Bowie

If any event has come to dominate 2016 it might have been the death of David Bowie. It was emotionally impacting for millions and it set the tone to that on-going meme of “Fuck 2016.”

It took me maybe 3 months to listen to Blackstar, not because I was necessarily emotionally distraught but I did love Bowie, I felt a connection to him which I shared with no other artist, as a child his shadow lay over my family and as an adult he came to represent individuality and outsider feeling, two things I personally connect to. 

I’ve also been fortunate enough to interview his long-time producer Tony Visconti for my university paper which has only tightened my love towards Bowie.

The cover was designed by Jonathan Barnbrook, who did all his covers since Heathen

Due to all of that I didn’t want to listen to this album which was instantly dubbed his best since 1980's Scary Monsters and perhaps even before that, and I wanted to hear it without the fact that this would be David Bowie’s final artistic statement. However I can't lie that fact still flavoured my reception of the album. 

I didn’t have to worry though, Bowie did what he always could, he managed to make a contemporary record which felt as depressing as it was ambitious.

Much has been said about the mortality hinting lyrics on the album but to me the highlight is Bowie’s adventurousness in the face of mortality, Blackstar (The song) is strong powerful and awe inspiring, and to me sits above the rest as the song of the album.

The album has been described by producer Tony Visconti as a "Parting gift" to fans

However the likes of Tis A Pity She Was A Whore and Lazarus are also near perfect statements by the chameleon of rock, and the way in which Bowie plays with us and the music is amazing and incredibly emotional for a long time fan.

The album slumps with Sue, Girl Loves Me and Dollar Days but the finisher I Can’t Give Everything Away is powerful and an atypically Bowie song, which I suppose makes it perfect.

Despite my personal adoration of the album I do recognise that it has been canonised too soon, it was dubbed the album of the year before the first month was over, but that doesn’t necessarily mean its untrue, however it isn’t my favourite, but that doesn’t stop it from being the album I believe defines one of the most interesting years of recent memory. 

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Lemonade - Beyonce

2016 was the year of Beyoncé more than any other music artist. It was the year where she became political, the year she got critical acclaim and the year she redefined the concept of a surprise album and the music video. 

I’m not a fan of Beyoncé. Sure she’s released a fair few catchy pop songs that I’ve not minded and I’ve always appreciated that she has a good set of lungs, I also enjoyed her singing Etta James’ At Last at President Obama’s inauguration. I also didn't mind her sister Solange, but I’ve never been a fan of Beyoncé.

Lemonade is an album I expected to hate, I expected to listen to it and think “why is this so well thought of?” then I’d complain until I bored even myself and then I’d never pick up the album again, that’s what I expected.

The artwork for the sixth studio album of Beyonce released in April 2016. 

Expectations though are made to be broken by Beyoncé. Because Lemonade is one of the best albums of the year, although I can’t comment on the music videos which have all gained phenomenal adoration because I haven’t watched them.

Lemonade is constantly catchy, constantly innovative and a never-ending barrage of emotion.

It’s hard to admit that though cause I really expected to hate the album like I had Anti by Rihanna, but Beyoncé didn’t let me, she grabbed hold of my ears and moaned at me for almost a hour and then set me down, while I was sat shocked at the emotion, expressiveness and experimentation that I had previous considered Beyoncé unable of.

Hold Up is possibly Beyoncé’s peak as a emotive and personal artist with lyrics like “How did it come own to this/Scrolling through your call list?” admitting the flaws and weaknesses in her relationship with Jay-Z with whom she has long been seen as a power couple of contemporary music.

The 35-Year-Old artist has been making music since 1997. 

The most shocking moment though aren’t her truthful lyrics or dark confessions instead it comes in the form of Daddy Lessons, which destroys all the pop/R&B conceptions of Beyoncé, as it’s a country-pop song about her relationship with her father.

Honestly Lemonade confused me. Does this mean I’ll suddenly be appreciative of all her past efforts I wrote off after hearing the hit single from the album? Perhaps I should give other pop stars that are more known for catchy hits than innovative melodies?

If you need me though I’ll be posing with my copy of Loaded by The Velvet Underground.