Almost Famous (2000) – A Movie Review
“I have to go home”, fifteen year old William Miller (Patrick Fugit) says to Penny Lane (Kate Hudson) “Shh, you are home”, she replies definitively.
Released in 2000 Cameron Crowe’s semi autobiographical picture ‘Almost Famous’ is a beautifully nostalgic romp through the rock n roll era of the 1970’s. Music, groupies, freedom, love, self-expression, possibility and change defined a generation of young people.
Almost Famous follows William Miller a talented aspiring young Rock Journalist from San Diego who is given the opportunity to go on the road with ‘Stillwater’ during their ‘Almost Famous’ tour of 1973.
Armed with nothing but pencils, notepaper and a simple tape recorder he is asked to compile three thousand words for Rolling Stone magazine (whom after seeing some of his earlier efforts for Creem magazine mistake him for an established Music Journalist) detailing the escapades of this middle of the road band as they strive for fame and success and wealth. Though as we discover through the course of the film still waters run deep in William Miller.
In a time where arguably musical influence and creativity was at its peak the story is in essence a coming of age drama about the experiences William has on the road and how those experiences ultimately shape his personality. The central element of the story is its depiction of how this socially awkward and immature teenager blossoms and discovers who he is and where he wants to go in life. His jaunt across America is about learning how to live outside his protective mothers bubble, discovering sexuality experiencing what life has to offer if your willing to put yourself out there.
The sense of time and emotion is so acute that it is possible to completely immerse yourself in the antics of the band, the hormones of William or the free spirited nature of the early 1970’s wishing you had experienced this, if for only a fleeting moment. The nostalgic vibe is no more apparent than in a scene on the tour bus when after the guitarist Russell Hammond (Billy Cudrup) goes AWOL after a fracas with the lead singer (Jason Lee) and retreats to “find something real”. After gate crashing a house party filled with astonished teenagers he drops acid and leaps of the roof. The next morning having been rescued by Stillwater’s prickly manager the mood on the tour bus is somewhat subdued. As an indisputable example of the power of music the whole tour bus erupts into a spontaneous chorus of Elton John’s seminal hit ‘Tiny Dancer’ a moment that so perfectly encapsulates the experiences and lifestyle of the characters and engrosses the audience.
In ‘Almost Famous’ we are treated to some stellar performances from the ensemble cast. The ever-reliable Frances McDormand gives a subtle performance as William’s mother, a College Professor who abhors rock n roll and believes in progressive politics, vegetarianism and psychological well being. Her character is the party pooper banning rock albums and embarrassing her son William when he goes to a concert shouting, “Don’t take drugs!” from her car window. Despite her outward disapproval of her children’s ambitions Frances McDormand delivers a performance that allows us to sympathise with her individual plight as we recognise that she is simply a mother with her own values who wants the best for her kids.
Phillip Seymour Hoffman gives a typically quirky performance as Lester Bangs the music critic who guides William throughout his experience on the road with Stillwater. Despite only being limited to a few scenes his contribution adds much to the texture of the film.
Patrick Fugit, in his first role gives an assured performance as the socially inept rock n roll fan who when offered the chance of a lifetime makes the most of the experience whilst staying true to his core values and beliefs. As was obviously intended he is completely believable and his naive charm is endearing.
However, special consideration must be reserved for Kate Hudson who as the ultimate groupie or ‘band aide’ ‘Penny Lane’ is the personification of the spirit of rock n roll. Her character is written with particular delicacy and her views on the world and her place in it completely justify her actions throughout the film. Her performance is infectious and leaves the audience wishing that we were like that, or at least knew someone like that. However, the complexity of the character becomes more evident towards the climax of the film and Hudson manages to retain Penny Lane’s allure even though her world is crashing down around her.
In ‘Almost Famous’ the audience is treated to a warm comforting feeling reminiscent of listening so intently to the lyrics of your favourite song one moment to feeling your throat catch and your eyes water the next.
The sheer exuberance of ‘Almost Famous’ is hard to top. Even ten years later I am still in love with this film. It transports you to a different era, well before my time and leaves you wishing that you had been on the road with ‘Stillwater’ in the summer of 1973.
Bright Shiny Morning by James Frey – A Book Review
When Oprah Winfrey, darling of America’s daytime television gives you a very public dressing down, you are certain to gain overnight notoriety and instant fame. James Frey’s first novel, ‘A Million Little Pieces’, initially heartily endorsed by the talk show queen in her book club, provoked outrage and a literary scandal when she discovered that the events depicted were not strictly accurate. Frey using artistic embellishment told a story exaggerating much of the events in his drinking and drug taking ‘memoir’. Winfrey, outraged at the supposed deception Frey had perpetuated invited him back onto her programme to explain himself. Ultimately though ‘A Million Little Pieces’ is a work of fiction. Although somewhat marketed as fact it shouldn’t dispel from the fact that Frey is one of the most accomplished writers the USA has produced this decade. The novel and the subsequent sequel, ‘My Friend Leonard’ are compulsive page-turners and in essence isn’t that all we require from a writer?
After such public outcry concerning ‘A Million Little Pieces’ that even included the his publishers taking the unprecedented step of offering purchasers their money back, Frey would have been justified retreating into literary obscurity. But in remarkable resilience he has returned with a new multi faceted novel about life in modern day Los Angeles called ‘Bright Shiny Morning’.
Such was the public outcry, personal vilification and consistent negative press readers would either feel compelled to completely reject his latest offering, or look upon it with personal scepticism. But to judge the book knowing the chequered history of its author is to do it a monumental injustice. I make no secret of my admiration for Frey’s work. He is an author that consistently provides great characterisation together with intriguing stories that leaves the reader consistently wanting more. Indeed he openly acknowledges the events preceding the publication of ‘Bright Shiny Morning’ in the flyleaf of the book that carries the disclaimer, ‘Nothing in this book should be considered accurate or reliable’.
I am in no doubt that the reviews of the novel will be undoubtedly mixed, but I am of the opinion that you must judge a book on its own intentions. Frey intended to write an honest, vibrant, tender portrayal of modern day Los Angeles and its diverse inhabitants and this he has achieved remarkably well. He has the ability to create interest in characters personalities, social interactions and situations in such a way that holds the readers attention, even if their worlds are completely contradictory to the realities of his reader’s day-to-day lives.
The novel is in essence a redemptive story and follows the plights of four very different stories of the inhabitants of Los Angeles. ‘Old Man Joe’ a homeless alcoholic living in the public restroom on Venice Beach, seems at the beginning the least sympathetic character. His world is alcohol. We are offered minimal explanation for his present circumstance other than Chablis is his drink of choice. Amberton Parker is a tremendously successful Hollywood movie star. He has money, fame, power, a beautiful wife and family. He has a lavish lifestyle and a beautiful Hollywood mansion. He is also a predatory closet homosexual, has serious insecurity issues has little empathy for anyone around him. His deliciously deviant character is among the most prominent in the novel and leaves an indelible imprint on the audience for no other reason than to guess just which of the current crop of Hollywood superstars could he possibly be? Dylan and Maddie are two runaway teenagers from Ohio who have journeyed to Los Angeles in search of a better life, though things do not go quite to plan. Finally, Frey introduces us the Esperanza a sympathetic and self-conscious cleaner with an abusive and racist boss. Her plucky determination is endearing to read, encourages the reader to pull for her and delights us when she seems to get what her heart desires. With a mixture of defiantly clichéd characters Frey creates a landscape to pull the novel in any direction he wants and the unexpected almost always happens.
The book contains historical vignettes of LA tracing its corruption and foibles until inevitably in the best novels the city itself becomes a character; a wild and volatile multi-faceted entity capable of bestowing immense hurt and true love to all those enmeshed within it. The book then transcends fiction to emerge as a searing critique of the world we have created.
Frey has created his own prose he calls “the absence of style’ which is demonstrated in abundance in ‘Bright Shiny Morning’. Reminiscent of Bukowski his voice is assured, yet compassionate. Each story thunders along at a tremendous pace with a certain brute power. Indeed the individuality of Frey’s writing is refreshing though occasionally cohesion is lacking in the overall structure of the novel.
For traditionalists James Frey’s ‘Bright Shiny Morning’ like his other literary offerings maybe a little hard to swallow. A literary patchwork quilt ‘Bright Shiny Morning’ is subjective to the reader’s individual opinions. His narrative maybe unusual but more importantly it is entertaining. He is certainly one of the most controversial writers to emerge over the last decade, but the consistency of his work leads me to the conclusion that his enlightened, cutting edge contemporary works are to be admired. I invite perspective readers to not cut their nose off to spite their face.
The Cove (2009) A Movie Review
Following the impassioned former Flipper trainer Ric O’ Barry ‘The Cove’ is a eco activist cinematic tour de force which is sure to ignite the marine conservationist in any of us. A sustained piece of advocacy film making ‘The cove’ documents Ric O’ Barry’s quest to end the slaughter stemmed from the dolphin drive hunting in Taiji, Japan.
Casting a very wide net the duality of the picture means it is simultaneously a love letter to his beloved mammals and a profound paranoid thriller of moral outrage, where anger and revulsion are awash together with genuine sorrow and huge affection for the friendliest of all marine mammals. Indeed the devastating final images must be viewed to ultimately understand the severity of this annual atrocity.
Upon meeting O’Barry we experience his obvious remorse as he recalls how he trained five dolphins for the popular 1960’s television show, Flipper. As he explained his deep love for dolphins was the driving force to literally ‘finding himself on his hands and knees, knife in hand cutting at the nets’. Since then he has re-defined himself, speaking out against dolphin captivity. He argues that all forms of dolphin captivity, especially for entertainment and educational purposes are so detrimental to these animals that they must cease. And he makes a good point. With the deafening human voices and restricted confines of their enclosures these unacceptably callous conditions are no place for the free spirited, playful and sound sensitive dolphin.
Those viewers who aren’t animal lovers may find themselves having somewhat conflicting viewpoints with O’Barry and his advocates whom appear to regard the dolphin as a higher life form. However, the film does deliver a powerful and purposeful message, especially once the uniquely barbaric slaughter of these animals is explored. O’ Barry is indignant is his opinion of the mass harpooning that occurs in the Japanese port town of Taiji, where the fisherman use sonar to intentionally lure dolphins to their demise.
Ric O’Barry is confrontational, especially with the belligerent fishermen and this leads to compelling, if a little disconcerting viewing. In Taiji he is public enemy number one with the fishermen regarding the activist as best a nuisance and at worst as an individual intent on destroying their livelihoods. The audience is forced to answer the question of whether or not O’Barry’s viewpoint is justified, or whether a greater atrocity is taking place in the cove where cameras have been banned. As O’Barry simply puts in “There is the town with the really big secret”.
‘The Cove’, produced by The Oceanic Preservation Society is the story of O’Barry’s mission to obtain hard evidence and draw the world’s attention of just what happens in Taiji. Writer Mark Monroe’s clear intelligent text traces a conspiracy of many parts, all of which can be chalked up to human stupidity or greed. From the readily availability of dolphin meat (which has been proved to contain unsafe levels of mercury rendering the meat toxic), the mislabelling of dolphin meat so a product with little public demand can be readily sold to the flat out refusal of the International Whaling Commission to take an meaningful action against the perpetrators the conspiracy is proved to be an intricate multi faceted web of lies and deceit.
Midway through the film evolves into a thrilling heist movie of sorts. O’Barry and his colleague Louis Psihoyos enlist a crack team of activists and divers to penetrate the tight security around the cove in an effort to get firsthand footage of the perceived cruelty that happens in the darkest corner of Taiji. However, at this most critical juncture for awhile the film falls a little short of expectation. Despite the crew’s ingeniously subversive methods the footage of their night vision expedition is hard to follow and despite the documented threat of 24 hour security and, as we are lead to believe, volatile fishermen an obvious sense of danger never really takes hold. However, just as the audience exhales a deflating sigh we are privy to a truly harrowing piece of footage that leaves us breathless and shaken.
‘The Cove is truly a must see documentary. The story grips you right from the start and leaves you drowning in a sea of emotion by the end. With cameos from Isabel Lucas and most memorably Heroes actress Hayden Panettiere it delivers a little shimmering star quality. In essence though it is a movie designed to shock the audience into paying attention to a little known secret. The horror of dolphin drive hunting.
Flyleaf remind us to be mindful of death with their new album Memento Mori
For those of you who don’t already know Flyleaf are an alternative Christian rock band hailing from Belton, Texas. Their self titled debut album went platinum driven mostly in part to the success of the single ‘I’m So Sick’, the video of which was predominately displayed in one particular scene of Bruce Willis’ latest addition to the ‘Die Hard’ Franchise ‘Live Free Or Die Hard’. In the closing stages of 2009 Flyleaf have returned with their sophomore effort ‘Memento Mori’, which translated from Latin means be mindful of death.
With the hard rock genre typically awash with artist’s who draw inspiration from pain, suffering and general pessimism, Flyleaf’s lyrics focus on deeper spiritual struggles and encourage us to have faith in a world that many of their fans feel increasingly disillusioned with. Yes, the core members of the band (especially lead vocalist Lacey Mosely) are of the Christian faith they do not identify themselves as an archetypal Christian band, but simply as an alternative band whose members share one faith. Some Christian’s would likely jeer at the occasional outpouring of screams from lead singer Mosely, but her vocals certainly do grab you by the balls and make you pay attention. Together with the redemptive lyrics, ear piercing guitar solos and thrashing of drums their collective sound is nothing if not profound.
The album itself seems a tighter, sleeker evolution from their serrated, if utterly compelling debut. They have progressed as a band and now seem comfortable when dipping their toes into a more pop rock realm. Tracks such as ‘Tiny Heart’ and ‘Treasure’ demonstrate excellent melodies and solid vocals, whereas the lead track ‘Again’ sees the band returning to more familiar territory of the all out hard rock, metal thrashing of their debut. The sounds of Memento Mori certainly range from lighter fare to more all out harder driving alternative rock.
The standout track of the album is most certainly ‘Swept Away’. The lyrics describe Mosely’s pleading with a friend to follow a path to God and righteousness when her own spiritual faith is severely tested. The track has a strong duality as the side of sin and righteousness square off in a battle to save the soul of one particular individual. It is marked with eerie and distorted sounds that are identified in part to an almost inhuman growl. These effects add depth and atmosphere to the song as the dark, almost Korn-esque sounds of foreboding clash with the soaring choruses. This hybrid of styles do mesh well together and with the addition of Mosely’s tight vocals, together with some of the albums few screams we are treated to just what a battle of salvation should sound like.
Potentially Flyleaf has a huge hit on their hands with Memento Mori. It has enough hard metal moments to satisfy the followers of their self titled debut and by diluting their sound ever so slightly they will attract a wider fan base who will appreciate the intentions of their music.
TRUE BLOOD – SEASON ONE REVIEW
Finally a deliciously devilish series we can all sink our teeth into!
Sexy, witty and unabashedly peculiar ‘True Blood’ is a blood drenched southern gothic vampire parable set in a world where vampires have quite literally ‘come out of the coffin’ and walk among amongst us mortals.
Adapted by Six Feet Under’s Alan Ball from Charlaine Harris’ ‘Southern Vampire Mysteries’ series ‘True Blood’ is set in a town well off the beaten track called Bon Temps, surely a delightful French pun on ‘good time’ in Louisiana where the liberal minded folk are hardly abundant and stifling suspicion hangs in the air like a thick fog.
In the opening episode we meet Sookie Stackhouse a sweet and sassy waitress working at Merlottes Bar & Grill. Sookie has a gift, or curse depending on the situation. She is telepathic and has immense difficulty suppressing everyone’s thoughts around her. Her job as a waitress only seems to exasperate her senses. As a result she has developed a very thick skin and an outwardly sunny disposition.
On a crowded night a brooding handsome, yet pale customer walks into the watering hole. ‘Looks like Merlottes just got its first vampire!’ exclaims Sookie with all the excitement of a giddy school girl. From their electric initial meeting and the consequences of vampire ‘Bill Compton’s’ impromptu visit to Merlottes our story unfolds over the course of the series as we follow not only Sookie and Bill’s relationship, but the relationships between other prominent characters including Sam Merlotte, the owner of Merlotte’s Bar and Grill, who has a secret (and it isn’t his unyielding passion for Sookie!) Tara, Sookie’s prickly and capricious best friend who literally has her own ‘demons’ to contend with, Jason Sookie’s egotistical, selfish and dumb brother who simply has a one track mind and a plethora of other characters each as kooky as the next.
With the sheer abundance of vampire related screen entertainment today and with the weight of expectations stemming from the hugely popular ‘Southern Vampire Mysteries’ series of novels ‘True Blood’ could have simply fallen flat, however this is not the case. Credit in part should be due to the excellent casting of key characters whose performances hold the show together in ever more bizarre plots and scenes that are inclined to leave the audience in an incredulous stupor. Stephen Moyer whom portrays vampire ‘Bill Compton’ a 178 year old former civil war soldier, now vampire will surely set hearts racing as the suitably dark and moody protagonist, whereas Anna Pacquin gives a feisty performance as the somewhat innocent yet resourceful Sookie Stackhouse. Throw in the perfectly cast Ryan Kwanten who despite the nature of his character gives consistent depth and quality in his performances allowing the audience is able to emphasise with him irrespective of gender and Nelsen Ellis giving one of the more risqué performances as the gay, cross dressing short order cook who has the ability to be hilariously funny, almost a parody of himself in one scene and dangerously explosive in another and viewing becomes compulsory.
In season one the plot centres around a number of murders in Bon Temps. With the law baffled, the consistently incompetent Deputy Sheriff Andy Bellefluer, played by Chris Bauer is insistent that Jason Stackhouse is the perpetrator for no other reasoning than he appears jealous of Jason’s sexual conquests and cockiness, oh and the fact that Jason seems to have had a prior relationship with the victims (and every other woman in Bon Temps). His continuous ineptitude to find the real killer frustrates Sookie who fears she is next for dinner. Add in a demonic possession or two, numerous confrontations with thirsty vampires who still practice ‘draining’ and everything from sex, drugs to rock n roll ‘True Blood’ delivers a bite into the macabre which tastes good.
True Blood has provided more than adequate sustenance at a time when intelligent and original programming is very thin on the ground. It’s tremendous fun, full of baroque swearing and weird sex. It lays lots of exposition on you without making you feel trapped under it. Vampires still do, from time to time feed on human’s as the synthetic substitute ‘True Blood’ does not always provide adequate nourishment come mealtime. With even the humans indulging their hedonistic urges by gulping down ‘V juice’ or vampire blood good, old-fashioned morality seems concealed in darkness.
A much needed infusion of new…..well, blood!
Paramore gaze upon their loyal fans with brand new eyes.
Paramore’s new album is indeed purposeful. You can see that by just looking at the artwork. They have a point to make. And they make it well.
This is all too evident. The pointed use of lower case lettering in the album title. From the prominently dismembered and mounted butterfly on the cover to the tormented song titles, ‘Ignorance’ ‘Feeling Sorry’ and ‘Turn It Off’ the angst and cynicism has been amplified. Paramore have grown up.
After building a devoted fan base with 2007’s ‘Riot!’ a powerful musical barrage of righteous babe rhetoric that earned Paramore a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist and with their affiliation with the ‘Twilight’ franchise, Paramore’s third album is greeted with eager anticipation from their legions of admirers.
With the release of ‘brand new eyes’ Paramore seem determined to silence their critics, solidify their status and cement their standing in the pop, rock, emo, punk genre they have come to define. Flame haired firecracker Hayley Williams lyrics are consistently direct, potent and uncompromising. This is none more evident in ‘Playing God’ where she proclaims, ‘Next time you point the finger / I might have to bend it back / Or break it, break it off’.
Thankfully Paramore’s new found hostility does not impinge on their ability to produce a catchy, inspiring pop song as demonstrated in the first single released from the album. ‘Ignorance’ slowly builds to a crescendo of yelping, piercing guitar riffs and pounding of drums which is sure to induce potential whiplash after repeated listening. The paradoxical tone means it is dark and brooding and simultaneously fun and frolicking.
‘Brick By Boring Brick’ is the albums philosophical centrepiece. As in ‘Riot!’s’ ‘For A Pessimist I’m Pretty Optimistic’ it outlines lead singer and co-writer Hayley Williams’ perspective on the world. She is a realist. She doesn’t attempt to sugar coat the world around us. The honesty and profound nature of the lyrics she belts out are a welcome change from the shallow and self-indulgent tripe we are so often subjected to from other artists her age.
The formula from the hugely successful, Platinum selling ‘Riot!’ hasn’t changed. Rather it has been tweaked and tightened. This is obvious in ‘Where The Lines Overlap’. A direct correlation can be made between this and ‘Whoa’ from 2007’s ‘Riot!’. It gives something back to the tens of thousands of fans who’ll be bunched together on their December tour. With Williams vocalising, “No one….”you can be assured that the transfixed crowd will reply, “Is as lucky as us!”
Yet amongst all the uplifting head banging, heart pounding euphoria Paramore have chosen to showcase their maturity by including a couple of gentle ballads. This abrupt change of pace is welcomed, if a little surprising. ‘The Only Exception’ seems more a tune to a sappy Kelly Clarkson offering. Williams is the only rock chick able to survive such a comparison and perhaps the only rock chick who has the vocal talent to pull off this lightweight campfire strumming. Her vocals are flawless and sturdy throughout. Even as the song gets soppy, she never does. For this she must be highly commended.
The other downplayed moment is ‘Misguided Ghosts’. It strips the distinctive Paramore sound to the bare bones and replaces it with a sound reminiscent of folksy acoustic finger plucking. Though it does not sound contrived it seems the antithesis of what we come to expect from Paramore. This obvious left field offering should be applauded. However, we’ve got plenty of lady pop stars droning on and on about love and loss. What we need is girls yelling their hearts out and empowering their audiences. Sure the break in pace is welcomed, we all need a breather sometime, but who needs a rest? Paramore should stick to what they do best, because they do it so well.
Indeed Paramore are gazing down on their audience with brand new eyes. I can’t believe they almost hung it up. After all from the sounds of this album their just getting started! An album that should see Paramore elevated to heights exceeding even those they’ve reached so far. Excellent!
A Look At William Golding’s Classic Novel ‘The Lord Of The Flies
It seems presumptuous that I may offer any additional meaningful insights into a book such as ‘Lord Of The Flies’. I feel humbled when reading this book. It seems to me a novel of such superlative qualities that it should be admired as a benchmark of creative fiction. No attempted analysis or critical opinions could offer anything that has not already been said. It is a novel which quiet simply should be revered. It is one of the greatest pieces of published fiction of all time.
As such I implore anyone who professes to be a literary connoisseur of any description to take the time to read this undeniable classic, if you haven’t already had the pleasure. The novel is, in essence the epitome of classic creative fiction.
In over fifty years since it’s publication in 1954 the story has lost none of its impact and ability to hold the readers attention with such unyielding focus. Set during wartime it tells the story of a group of boys seemingly marooned on a tropical island after their boat has capsizes in the water. The novel so unashamedly depicts the boys decent into anarchy that as the reader you are left with such a sense of personal disillusionment with the state of our own hierarchal society and are left sincerely contemplating just how far away our own primal instincts actually are.
The boys themselves are portrayed as symbols. They represent the different singular personalities that encompass our society. Indeed the novel itself is allegorical. The very title ‘Lord Of The Flies’ is a symbolic reference to a slaughtered pig whose head is erected on a stick to demonstrate the power struggle between authority and chaos in an ungoverned situation.
As expected at the heart of the story is the central relationships between the boys. Ralph is an older diplomatic boy. He quickly establishes himself as the leader of the group through election by the other boys. Ralph embodies logic, order and civilisation. He establishes a means of ordered communication, anyone can have their say providing they are holding a conch. He suggests lighting a fire to increase the chance of rescue, erects primitive shelters and allocates a meeting place for all the boys to gather and air their opinions and concerns.
Piggy is a short overweight boy who wears glasses. His true name is never divulged and he suffers from debilitating asthma. He is Ralph’s adviser and a loyal and true friend. He represents intelligence, reason and civilization. Golding uses symbolism to describe Piggy through his refusal to believe in superstitious nonsense such as ‘the beast’ and the fact that unlike the other boys his hair does not grow. The limited influence of civilization in the boys’ current situation is symbolised through Piggy’s the limited mobility compared to the other boys. The deterioration of the influence of civilization is further exemplified when his glasses are stolen leaving him almost helpless.
The character of Jack symbolises the worst aspects of human behaviour when not controlled by society’s boundaries. Jack appears to posses more primitive desires and is exuberated by identifying himself as a hunter, a position of great importance in the tribe. As the novel develops his egocentric nature develops as he dismisses the importance of maintaining the fire in order to hunt causing the boys a chance to be rescued. This causes great tension between himself and Ralph resulting in a division in the tribe. In many ways Jack represents irrational logic, whereas Ralph represents rational thought. With Ralph’s authority undermined Jack’s true nature is revealed. He leads the majority of the boys away from Ralph and forms a separate tribe where the rules and regulations of democracy are abandoned and violence and torture govern the behaviour of the boys. The conflict between Jack and Ralph is central at the climax of the novel.
Simon is a quiet character whom symbolises peace and tranquillity. He is very in tune with the sights and sounds of the island and often is depicted having extraordinary sensations in his experience on the island. He has an extreme aversion to the pig’s head, which derides and taunts him in a hallucination. He is referenced in a comparable way to Jesus Christ and is taunted by the other boys because of his unusual nature.
‘The Lord Of The Flies’ is a character in itself in the novel. It is literally a pig’s head that has been decapitated by Jack and erected on a large stick as an offering to ‘the beast’. A symbol of fear and anarchy ‘The Lord Of The Flies’ was once a sow, clean, loving and innocent, now has become a manically smiling, bleeding image of evil. This is a clear symbolization of the transformation Jack and the boys have undergone during their time on the island. The literal translation of ‘Lord Of The Flies’ is Beelzebub, a demonic figure often considered to be Satan’s right hand man. ‘The Lord Of The Flies’ is a physical manifestation of the evil that dwells within the boys and that Golding believed existed in all of us.
In ‘The Lord Of The Flies’ William Golding has created one of the most profound, challenging and accomplished works of fiction of all time. It is a timeless novel that is bold enough to address the fundamental frailties of human nature. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Inglourious Basterds – A Movie Review
The works of Quentin Tarantino have provoked much argument amongst film aficionados with regards to their individual merit and collective contribution to modern cinema. With the disciples of Tarantino asserting that he has revolutionised what we, as an audience expect as we are seated in front of the cinema screen and that his works should be revered as the masterpieces they are, other movie-goers tend not to fall for the hype surrounding a new Tarantino release. They do not need elaborately profound or erroneously complex stories to be entertained and simply judge each film as an individual story and not part of the Tarantino mystique. Inglourious Basterds is not Deathproof, but neither is it Pulp Fiction. It is Jackie Brown, enough to satisfy the hardcore fans, without upsetting everyone else too much.
Inglourious Basterds is a war movie with no interest in war. It has no interest in moral complexities or the ambiguous nature of war. It does not wish to confront human suffering, heroism, history or the banality of evil, there is no interest in any subject other than cinema itself. As the film unfolds develops into a dreary movie for boring movie buffs. Many of the characteristics of archetypical characteristics of a Tarantino have been buried under a landmine. There is no passion for pop culture that so often elevated his previous works above the crude and obscene depictions they were often conveying.
If you are expecting a historically accurate tale of the allies’ triumph over the Third Reich and the armies of darkness I’m afraid you will be disappointed. Tarantino dealt with the tricky problem of addressing the historical facts in one singular manner – by ignoring them. With Inglourious Basterds he has created his own revenge driven reality obscured fantasy. The film is organised into five chapters, the first of which opens with Colonel Hands Landa (Christoph Waltz arrived with his men at an isolated French farm house. The Colonel is a notorious Nazi Jew Hunter has arrived to question a local farmer over the allegations that he is hiding local Jewish people. This is the best scene in the whole film. With echoes of Sergio Leone it poses more questions than divulges the direction of the film. The scene finishes on an ambiguous note with the audience unsure of exactly what has occurred or the direction of the journey they are about to take.
We pick up the story three years later when a young Jewish girl Shosanna Dreyfus (Melanie Laurent) who escaped from Landa’s clutches. She is now the proprietor of a cinema in Paris. Dreyfus is wooed by a young Nazi hero Fredrick Zoller (Daniel Bruhl). He is the protagonist of a film called Nation’s Pride, a film that Joseph Goebbels intends to premiere at her cinema. This prevents her an ideal opportunity for revenge. Dreyfus knows the gathering of her most sworn enemies is to good an opportunity to pass up. She plots to assassinate the Nazi elite of Goebbels, Goring and Adolf Hitler. However, she doesn’t realise that a group of Jewish – American soldiers known as the Inglourious Basterds have their own ploy for the disposal of the most evil men in the world.
One major flaw with Inglourious Basterds is that it has no obvious voice. It is neither gripping enough to be a serious war drama, nor funny enough to be an amusing spoof. With a group of Nazi killing Jew Tarantino’s premise has many comic possibilities, however the brutal and violent nature of the Basterd’s revenge leaves little opportunity for any plausible comic relief. The team are leads by Lieutenant Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) a Southerner with a penchant for killing Germans. He encourages his soldier’s to brutalise their enemy by requesting one hundred Nazi scalps. Indeed Tarantino portrays the Jewish soldiers as the brutes and the Nazi’s as the victims.
The finest moments of the film involve Christop Waltz, who as Colonel Hands Landa steals the film from Brad Pitt. Indeed when Landa is interrogating a suspect Tarantino builds the tension through trivia, transgressions and repetition. He uses the art of conversation as torture and the audience can feel the ticking of the time bomb.
Inglourious Basterds does allow Tarantino a welcome return to form. The film is in essence an enjoyable a Tarantino film, but a larger question beckons. It has been fifteen years since the release of Pulp Fiction and seventeen years since Resevoir Dogs. Is the once unrivalled king of cool fallen foul of a changing cinematic youth culture that leaves even him asking, ‘Just what are these kids on these days?’
The Phantom Of The Opera – A Theatrical Review
“Feast you eyes, glut your soul upon my cursed ugliness” these are the words emanated from the mouth of the Phantom as his mask is torn from his face. This dialogue so perfectly encapsulates the tone of this gothic myth and makes ‘The Phantom Of The Opera’ one of the most moving, powerful, frightening, magical and romantic musicals ever adapted for the theatre.
The Phantom Of The Opera, based on the novel by Gaston Leroux was created for the theatre for Andrew Lloyd Webber and began its first run on October 9th 1986 at Her Majesty’s Theatre.
The actors treading the boards on that particular evening were Michael Crawford (The Phantom) and Sarah Brightman (Christine). Little did anyone involved in the production realise the success and critical praise the production would garner over the next two decades. The musical itself has been the recipient of numerous awards including, Best Musical, Best Actor and Featured Actress in the New York Tony Awards and critical theatrical acclaim does not come more noteworthy than that.
The story is set in the haunted Paris Opera House. It follows a disfigured and masked musical genius who, acting as an apparition influences a young and beautiful understudy (Christine) when she is given the opportunity to sing the lead. Christine amazes the cast with her vocal abilities, due mostly in part to the teachings of The Phantom and she soon attracts a handsome suitor and childhood friend Raoul. As Raoul and The Phantom battle for possession of her heart and soul the fate of the Paris Opera House hangs in the balance.
The Phantom Of The Opera is a macabre tale of the emotional, all consuming saving grace of love. Andrew Lloyd Webber seems to have an innate feeling for the Victorian theatricality of the story and demonstrates this in the melodramatic overture, with it’s thrilling organ chords, the seductive ‘Music Of The Night’ and the yearning of ‘All I Ask Of You’.
Beginning with a humorous pastiche of a 19th century operetta the plot expands into a gorgeous extravaganza as The Phantom conducts Christine to his subterranean lair and then appears as the Red Death during the second act’s masquerade. As of pivotal importance to the story The Phantom does not reveal his true facial features until the climax of the musical.
The music is astounding. It so completely encapsulates the narrative of the story and fills the theatre with all the romance, obsession and passion of the story.
The Phantom Of The Opera also provides a ghoulishly beautiful visual feast. The sumtuous sets and special effects are simple, though elegant and effective. The falling of the chandelier at the climax of the first act gave the desired effect of foreboding. The sets easily transport you into the world of Christine and The Phantom. The scenery is beautiful and the transition between scenes was smooth. The audience are enraptured with the Paris Opera House one moment and next were lead deep into the ominous chasm of The Phantom’s dwelling.
The costumes are gorgeous and perfectly fit the characters distinct personalities in the musical. Christine looks every bit the beautiful songstress of 19th Century France and The Phantom looks as deliciously nightmarish as you would expect. They further acclimate the audience to the world portrayed in front of their eyes and ensure complete theatrical escapism.
‘The Phantom Of The Opera’ is a superior musical not to be missed. It is certainly one where ‘the music of the night’ should long be played for many moons to come.
Harry Potter And The Half Blood Prince – A Movie Review
The cinematic offerings of summer 2009 have had audiences clambering for tickets to their favourite franchise. Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen has, so far proved the most successful at the worldwide box office, whereas Terminator : Salvation has successfully breathed life into a somewhat stale saga. Hot on their heels is the latest incarnation of J K Rowlings phenomenally successful Harry Potter franchise.
Viewing a Harry Potter film is likened to slipping on an old worn, yet pleasurably comfortable jumper. The familiarity provides you with comfort and the enjoyment comes from re-familiarising yourself with an old friend. But it is to its credit that the sixth instalment, Harry Potter And The Half Blood Prince does not rest comfortably in the realms of familiarity.
From the opening sequence the audience is plunged in a Harry Potter world unlike we have ever seen before. Director David Yeats clearly states his intention to guide the saga in a darker direction. The audience are exposed to an unmistakable feeling of foreboding highlighted wholly with the opening sequence revealing unmistakable evil slicing through the atmosphere and invading the Muggle world. Explosive dark trails pierce the London sky, creating dark storms and destroying the Millennium Bridge.
The monochrome visuals of the film serve appropriately to highlight the tone of The Half Blood Prince. Gone is the time when Harry ventured down Diagon Alley only to be assaulted by the gaudy, energetic spectacles in front of his very eyes, these days even Ollivander’ s Wands has ceased trading. It seems as though all the wonderment has seeped out of the Harry Potter wizarding world.
In this particular instalment Hogwarts Headmaster, Albus Dumbledore enlists Harry in his attempts to understand and ultimately destroy Lord Voldermort. Throughout the school year, along with the trials and tribulations of being a sixteen year old and a wizard, which include blossoming feelings of yearning for his best friends sister, Harry is engaged in a mission with Dumbledore where their aim is to ultimately destroy his arch nemesis.
Harrry Potter And The Half Blood Prince does not benefit from the absence of the saga’s central antagonist. There are surprisingly few action sequences, though there is a fair amount of charm and humour, most notably from Jessie Cave who plays Lavender Brown, Ron’s girlfriend. Her deliciously over the top performance is cringe worthy and yet somewhat endearing at the same time.
However, despite Ms. Cave’s best intentions this potter movie is the weakest of the franchise so far. At 160 minutes it does feel far too long and the story does become tedious in places. It doesn’t help that there is a distinct lack of action sequences to break up the monotony and I couldn’t help but feel that it was dramatically superfluous.
As a drama the film feels inert and crammed with events, minor characters that are spurious, pointless and boring. Unable to warm to the character of Slughorn I found myself losing concentration throughout most of his scenes.
Having read the books I was aware of the events of climax of the story. Throughout the course of the film whilst increasing dissatisfied with the unfolding of the story I waited eagerly for the final confrontations. Unfortunately I was to be disappointed. The scenes felt hurried and not given the care and attention they deserved. The culmination of events in ‘The Half Blood Prince’ is one of the central story arc’s in the Harry Potter universe and after the credits rolled I was left with a feeling of disillusionment.
The performances of the three central friends of Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermonie (Emma Watson) are all mature and confident. These actors have grown up in the roles and now seem perfectly content in their performance. Emma Watson especially gives an accomplished performance as Hermonie in her most emotionally complex Harry Potter portrayal yet. As Ron Weasley Rupert Grint gives a mature and subtle performance and Daniel Radcliffe as the wizarding wonder does his best not to let the side down. An honourable mention should be reserved for Michael Gambon, who as the master of ceremonies in Dumbledore elegantly conducts each of his scenes. Alan Rickman is effectively malevolent as Professor Snape and Jim Broadbent gives a sincere performance as the potions master Horace Slughorn.
Through the Harry Potter franchise J K Rowling has rescued British cinema attendance figures in this country. Harry Potter is still able to conjure a little magic with audiences, though with this latest instalment the hex put on all of us is a little less potent. There is still plenty to admire here, but I have to wonder how would a person rate this as an individual movie, instead of a cog in a franchise. For that reason, I find myself a little disappointed.