Wa hey! After three long years, Stornoway’s sophomore (not to be confused with sophomoric) album, their first single being a song (in their own words) ‘loosely based on the Rime of the Ancient Mariner.’ They’re playing two shows in the London area, in Kingston-Upon-Thames and in Kentish Town. Time to acquire some tickets.
I discovered Stornoway rather randomly, following a blog of a person I met at a wedding at which I knew approximately 1.5 out of the two hundred people in attendance. I say 1.5 because I only knew one of them very well. I am very glad for some fortuitous seat arrangement, however, as I was seated next to a fellow writer and music enthusiast with whom I was able to while away the otherwise potentially very odd reception, the which involved one of the most hilarious(and unoffensive) best man speeches I have ever heard. Those of you who know of my love for Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard will be unsurprised to learn that he featured in this speech; you may however be surprised that he was wearing boxing gloves. I leave you to form your own mental pictures.
For those of you who already fans of Stornoway, you can hear more of the band’s new music here. In this video they appear to have every instrument ever crammed into what appears to be the helm of a boat. That’s London for you.
In case you have yet to discover the ‘Iceland Wants to Be Your Friend’ tumblr, please don’t hesitate to check it out. What could be better than intermittent friendly messages from an island in the North Sea? Well, probably quite a few things but you get my drift. Brought to you by the land of geothermal energy, excellent music that is not just Bjork and Sigur Ros, the aurora borealis, and a great folktale / mythology tradition.
This always happens: it gets to awards season and I go look up a list of the films/shows that have been nominated for the Globes or the Oscars. Discovering how few of those I have actually seen causes me a small amount of angst about my general lack of cool-factor / culture. I decide it’s not that big a deal, that life is too busy and short to be watching stuff all the time, add a few things to my ‘see these ones eventually’ list, and move on.
Nothing has changed this year. I have seen just two of the ‘top’ 20 films (in four categories: drama, comedy/musical, animated, foreign language) nominated to receive Golden Globes- though I will blame at least part of that on delayed releases of US films in the UK (Lincoln and Django Unchanged aren’t in cinemas here yet, for example). And though I will happily and pointlessly quibble about the superiority of the two films I have seen, Moonrise Kingdom and Brave, in their respective categories, I would rather give my completely ignorant synopses of all the nominees because hey, that’s just more fun. So, by category…
1. Best film – Drama
Argo is a film about the founder of that treasured/loathed lowest common denominator of the UK consumer experience, Argos. Young Argo is a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed young entrepreneur who overcomes significant obstacles by throwing heavy catalogues at them several times a year.
Django Unchained Leo DiCaprio tries not to die.*
Life of Pi Young Asian male, fit, clever, facing spiritual/existential drama on the open sea. 50 Shades of Hemingway.
Lincoln I need to see this film like I need a bullet in the back of my head.**
Zero Dark Thirty Also nominated for the ‘what I would say if I were trying to tell the time whilst drunk’ category, and the ‘incredibly questionable depiction of torture’ category.
2. Best film – Comedy or Musical (* why only one category?)
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel That kid from Slumdog, still scheming, only this time it’s conning every British film star over a certain age out of their money at an ‘exotic’ ‘hotel’ in ‘India.’ And not this hotel in ‘India’.
Les Miserables Can you hear the people sing, singing the songs of angry men? It is the music of a people who’ll be happy never to hear this music again…
Moonrise Kingdom Benjamin Britten, adolescent infatuation, a flood of Noadic proportions, Jason Schwartzman with possibly his least ethical character. Oh, and Edward Norton. Yum.
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen Speaking of one’s baser instincts, this film features thislovelydude. And some heartwarmingness.
Silver Linings Playbook Jennifer Lawrence’s other film of 2012. She’s the girl NO LONGER ON FIRE, THANK HEAVENS, SOMEONE BROUGHT A FIRE EXTINGUISHER ALONG.
3. Best film – foreign language
Amour How has this seriously never been a title of a film before? Anyhow I think it’s mostly about death.
A Royal Affair Sequel to 2011’s ‘Royal Wedding’. To follow in 2013, ‘Royal Baby.’
The Untouchables Daring new documentary focusing on a group of college boys in the suburban midwest, in which the filmmaker actually spent four weeks in a dormitory. Harrowing stuff.
Kon-Tiki Voyage of Norwegian explorer (non-Viking) whose name (too legit to crit) was Thor Heyerdahl. HE IS NO MERE MORTAL.
Rust and Bone The trailer goes like this; ‘In a world where tetanus vaccines had never been invented…(quick shot of a bloody scrape on someone’s leg / a hospital room with a gloved hand holding an empty syringe)…there lived a girl who couldn’t keep away from adventure…(girl getting mauled by the mountain/sea/plains animal of choice)…now the only way to save herself…(chaos in cabin in the woods where girl has crawled, probs some scary-looking hillbillies)…is to remove a limb before they do…(close up of scary-looking tools, definitely non-surgical, definitely scary-looking hillbillies)…this time, it’s for real.
4. Best film – animated
Rise of the Guardians Santa, the Tooth Fairy, Jack Frost and the Easter Bunny join forces to defeat the bogeyman. I’m not even kidding.
Brave What Braveheart wanted to be. Also, takes ‘going all mama-bear’ to a whole new level.
Frankenweenie, n. Definition: The ill-advised cultural practice of hooking up with someone at/after a Halloween party.
Hotel Transylvania Alternate Universe Fan Fiction for Stoker’s Dracula. Vlad has gotten tired of having nobody but three undead vampire-chicks for company, so he decides to open up a hotel, complete with a pub on the ground floor called Impaler’s Arms.***
Wreck-it Ralph Couldn’t care less about this one. Title’s fun to say 15 times fast, though.
So there you have it. See these films (with the exception, of course, of the two that I can vouch for) at your peril. And enjoy the ludicrous acceptance speeches. ‘Tis the season.
* He dies in EVERY EFFING FILM. See this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MJJwtIFyG5g. I dare you not to cry at Romeo + Juliet, or laugh at the LeoPopsicle of Titanic.
So if a filmmaker were to say to me, ‘Why hello, Erinivka, I am going to make a film. What sorts of things should I put in it if I wanted this film to earn a spot on your top films list?’, I would probably list a few things like:
time travel or zombies or both
solid, multidimensional female characters
enough ambiguity / plot twists to keep me guessing
a great score / soundtrack
I have not been talking to any filmmakers recently (that I know of). So when I watched Safety Not Guaranteed last week and it ticked all the things on the list above with many added bits of wonderfulness, you’ll understand how pleasantly surprised I was and how I have been recommending it to just about everyone.
The basic premise is this: arrogant, vain journalist Jeff finds an ad in the newspaper advertising for ‘someone to go back in time with me. Bring your own weapons. You’ll get paid when we get back. I have only done this once before. Safety not guaranteed.’ He decides to travel from Seattle to a tourist trap town on the coast to investigate – but his real motivation is to seek out an old flame who he’s found on Facebook.* He takes with him two interns: surly, antisocial Darius and nerdy yet sensible Arnau.
The trio discover that the placer of the ad is Kenneth Calloway (fantastic-as-ever Mark Duplass), a reclusive grocery store shelving clerk who lives in a house in the woods as dilapidated as he is socially awkward. After Jeff botches his first meeting with Kenneth, Darius tries her luck. She soon finds herself balancing a growing friendship with Kenneth against what seems obvious – he’s delusional, paranoid, quite convinced he is building a time machine and ready to commit robbery to finish it. Meanwhile, Jeff is acting out a real-time version of searching for one’s past; he reconnects with his previous girlfriend and suddenly has to reckon with how he has spent the last fifteen years of his life. What’s brilliant is that the two storylines keep each other from being ridiculous by dealing with the same question – what is it we wish we could go back in time to change, and how would we change those things if we could?
If this all sounds very heavy, I suppose it’s because it is. Despite the heaviness, the film is utterly watchable because it lets the narrative come alive slowly and subtly, with plenty of humor. Kenneth is deadly serious about his ‘project’ and many of his lines sound like he has learned them straight from a bad action film (perhaps he has). Jeff’s hankering for years past and Arnau’s virginal gamer awkwardness complement each other perfectly and their odd-couple conversations about wasting one’s youth and growing too cynical are possibly the most profound statements the film makes. And Darius, though I initially feared she was in danger of being simply ‘Intelligent White Emo/Hipster Female’, proved to be a much warmer, more humane lead than anticipated.
Add in a couple of federal agents, a comically non-secret Top Secret Mission, a dulcimer, a score/sountrack by Ryan Williams of the band Guster and the following first lines between Darius and Kenneth…
Darius: Do you sell guns here?
Kenneth: What kind of guns?
Darius: I don’t know. Something sexy, and affordable, with killing power.
Kenneth: You should try C&R Guns in Welkins. The state of Washington does not allow the sale of firearms on the business premises of a grocer.
Darius: Hmm. What about those thingies, with the spikey ball at the end of the chain…thingies, you know, do you have those?**
Kenneth: What exactly is the intended use? Is there a pest problem or…hunting?
Darius: Well if your ad had been written properly I might have a better idea of what I need.
Kenneth: My ad?
Darius: It was sloppy. I hope you’ve done better with your calibrations.
Kenneth: Hey, my calibrations are flippin’ pinpoint.
…and you have a winning film. Even if there were no zombies.
* I’m thinking I need to keep a list of films in which Facebook features as a major influence on the plot, The Social Network not included.
** I may or may not have said, ‘a morning star, you idiot!’ out loud at this point.