Oscars, Schmoscars

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Following Sunday night’s tediously predictable Oscars ceremony, the awards season is over for another year. Anyone with even a passing interest in the film industry could have correctly identified the major winners a month or so ago.

I have no problem with Michel Hazanavicius’ charming The Artist taking home the honours and plaudits. Alexander Payne’s win for adapted screenplay was deserved too – The Descendants is one of my films of this year so far. Because, Hollywood, when considering the best films of the year I go by the Gregorian calendar (January-December) and The Descendants wasn’t given a wide release in the UK until January 2012. Still, it has won the 2011 Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, presented confusingly on 26 February 2012. Continue reading

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Film Review: Shame ****

I went to see Shame on Friday evening, a film surely destined to become infamous due to its content and topicality, which if you didn’t know, concerns addiction of the sexual variety.

Shame stars Michael Fassbender, whose ubiquity in films over the last year or so ensures lazy tabloid hacks invariably prefix his moniker with ‘flavour of the month’ in every single article they write about him.

Fassbender is Brandon; a handsome, corporate, quite literally dick-swinging New Yorker with a penchant for sex in all its myriad forms, and impeccable taste in scarves. The explicit scenes are lushly – but not glamorously – scattered around the film by director Steve McQueen (not that one). We see Brandon masturbate, indulge in cyber sex, solicit prostitutes, engage in ménage à trois, have rough sex with a woman in an alleyway and even receive a blowjob from a bearded man in a gay bar, to assuage his unwavering libido.

Of course we don’t actually see the aforementioned acts in their entirety – this is arthouse cinema, not a porno – though Brandon’s/Fassbender’s penis does make an appearance, in all its, ahem, considerable glory. Continue reading

Gig Review: The Fall – Concorde 2, 17 November 2011

Mark E Smith’s 203rd incarnation of The Fall took to Brighton’s Concorde 2 stage at 10pm on Thursday 17 November for something like their 2,684th gig, delivering a rousing, raucous set to a sell-out crowd of Fallheads.

Such is the unpredictable nature of The Fall, well, specifically MES himself, the gig was notably incident-free, rather a showcase of a band that on paper have no right to be as exciting and frenetic as they proved on the night.

Typically anti-nostalgic, this was no 30th anniversary farewell payday akin to some recently touring first-wave postpunk bands. The setlist predominantly featured songs from the last three albums, drawing largely from the band’s 29th and latest, the acclaimed Ersatz G.B., chucking in a few early hits to satiate the diehards. Continue reading

Gig Preview: The Fall – Concorde 2, 17 November 2011

The Fall, led as ever by the abrasive lyrical genius that is Mark E Smith, will be playing Concorde 2 on Thursday 17 November.

Mark E Smith – MES to Fall devotees – has dictatorially led the band for 35 years that has encompassed 29 studio albums, over 50 members and numerous onstage bust-ups. He is one of rock’s refuseniks: intelligent, shambolic, and autocratic. Though each incarnation of The Fall masquerades as a band, the reality is that the majority of band members are musicians-for-hire – the supporting cast to Smith’s winding, four-decade-spanning solo vision.

Eternal outsiders, despite having released a song every year since 1979, The Fall has never troubled the mainstream. Resolutely idiosyncratic; although the band has evolved since their early ‘80s post-punk beginnings into experimental, challenging areas involving at one point or another every conceivable musical genre, The Fall are very much defined by the late John Peel’s oft-quoted tribute: “They are always different; always the same.” Continue reading

Gig Review: The Antlers – Concorde 2, Tuesday 8 November 2011

Having not previously ventured under the boulevard to the seafront’s Concorde 2, I was to stumble upon a haunt entirely befitting of the American indie music scene’s best-kept secret: The Antlers.

Tucked under the seafront on a fine autumnal evening shrouded under shimmering moonlight, Concorde 2 provided the setting for the optimum gig experience.

The 300 people that descended upon this cosy venue were delivered a live set that brilliantly transposed the emotion and pathos of albums Hospice and Burst Apart onto the stage.

To my surprise, it seems widespread critical acclaim for two landmark albums and the added novelty factor of hailing from the land of the corndog doesn’t even guarantee a sell-out gig in trendy hipsterville, Brighton and Hove. Continue reading

Gig Preview: The Antlers – Concorde 2, 8 November 2011

Brooklynite triptych The Antlers are bringing their brand of dream pop to Brighton’s Concorde 2 on November 8.

The band first came to the attention of music critics following the affecting 2009 self-released concept album, Hospice. The band spent two years recording the album, focusing on such morbid themes as death, abortion and illness.

Lead singer and multi-instrumentalist Pete Silberman’s falsetto vocals are harrowing and at times deeply unsettling as he sings about losing someone he loves to cancer.

Intensely morose, the narrative follows the story of a sick child visited by a ghost. Its heavy instrumental segments add to the overbearing sense of despair that resonates throughout the album. Continue reading