Full name withheld for cultural reasons.
Year: 2017 Director: Jonathan Teplitzky
A bloke called Charlie Galbraith frequented my local pub in the late 1970’s. Today Charlie would be acknowledged as a semi-functioning alcoholic, but back in those somewhat less enlightened times, he was simply thought of by all and sundry as an old souse. In his cups – Charlie’s cups were as bottomless as The Horn of Plenty – he used to recite a mantra, an incantation if you will and it went something like this: ‘Old Winnie Churchill, Old Winnie Churchill, Old Winnie Churchill and he lives down south.’ Now, at that time, Old Winnie didn’t live down south anymore – as a matter of fact, he’d gone south more than a decade and a half earlier, but no matter, in the slap-happy mind of Charlie, Churchill, the man who led us triumphantly through the dark days of the war, was as tangible as cirrhosis of the liver. That was the thing about Churchill. He had presence, even when he quite literally, didn’t. He was, he is, to use an overused expression, legendary, a status unlikely to be awarded any current politician and certainly not extended to the likes of Bonar Law or Henry Campbell » Continue Reading.
Year: 2017 Director: Nick Broomfield/Rudi Dolezal
Towards the end of what is a predictably gloomy, gruelling story told in reverse chronology, a still at the top of her game Whitney Houston is asked how she’d like to be remembered. As befits someone who, as the movie shows, consummately managed to handle characters as diverse as an out of his depth Terry Christian and the pissed-up old perv who was Serge Gainsborough, Whitney answers that she doesn’t much care, but would like to be thought of as ‘nice’. Whitney was nice. In fact, part of her problem might well have been that she was too nice. I certainly didn’t enter the cinema with such an impression. I was never a fan and although I didn’t actively dislike her music at the time, I was very much a take her or (preferably) leave her merchant, finding her vocal gymnastics and obligatory power ballads slightly irritating, if just about tolerable. In latter years however, since her tragic demise, I actually did start to dislike Whitney, or or any rate, her legacy. Every cut-price TV talent show perpetually seemed – and seems – to have a roster full of Houston would-be’s, desperately trying to » Continue Reading.
http://imgur.com/a/T2z0d The show, on Australia’s ABC network, was unbearably pompous and boring. Until this happened.
No, not fake as in, news a politician doesn’t want to hear, but fake as in phoney baloney, spurious, purposeless and quite possibly fabricated. According to ‘The Age’, a ‘sizeable spider’ took up 6 seats on a crowded Melbourne commuter train provoking panic amongst nervous passengers, who judiciously decided to stand in the aisle rather than risk attack. Except. There’s no picture of the substantial arachnid in question, because ‘no one wanted to get that close’ and by the time a brave photographer decided to accept what would have been a risky commision, the monster had scuttled beneath the seat. It gets worse/better. In a clear breach of traditional journalism standards, there’s no direct quote from witnesses, relying instead on an ‘anonymous passenger, who did not wish to be named’. Best still, the picture supplied does indeed show an empty row of seat, with, in the foreground, a young child and dad performing a reasonably convincing impersonation of ‘not actually all that bothered’. This is news? What next? Man doesn’t bite dog? Queen hasn’t got a slight cold? Prince Charles doesn’t want to be his girlfriend’s tampon?
Who thinks the quote – ‘hits like “How Can I Be Sure”?’ is purely coincidental?
Granny Somerville. She was the first – and who knows, quite possibly the only – person in Paisley to make the ton. 103 years old, an existence that was a tribute, in the words of Merle Haggard, ‘to a way of life that had almost come and gone’. Sent to work on the thread mills of the 1880’s, Gran S – Wee Gran we called her – had survived a hopelessly impoverished, Victorian background utterly incomprehensible to almost anyone then left alive. Now being cared for by her two daughters – one of whom was my grandmother – who’d both devoted their life to their martinet-like mother, Wee Gran was no longer a power-broker, but a silent shell of infirmity and old age. Breathing but hardly living, the family Doctor who’d attended her for years declared that her heart was as sound as Big Ben – it was just that everything else about her was fucked. In accordance with the dutiful devotion that had marked their whole life, the sisters refused to have Wee Gran consigned to the Old Folks Home that would probably have been more suitable. Instead, they nursed her with a dogged and sincere love that had » Continue Reading.
Peter Vaughan. Made it to 93 so decent innings. Fantastic CV but remembered in the public eye for Slade prison’s ‘daddy’ – great performance – half comic half sinister.
The other day there, I happened to come across a bloke – late 30’s early 40’s – wearing an Imagine T-shirt, Dr Winston’s mug prominently displayed. After a fairy short conversation it became evident that though this guy knew a few Beatles numbers, he wasn’t what you’d call a Lennon or for that matter, a music fan. Much worse, his son, maybe 12, had no idea who JL was. Never heard of him, nothing. Then I read in ex Newcastle player Lee Clark’s book that few of the young players he’d coached had ever heard of Gazza. Didn’t know that Gary Linker had played football. Never knew England ever won the World Cup. I spent last week working at a school in Northwest Melbourne. Kids from various backgrounds, Lebanese, Afghanistan, Somalia, Cambodia, Vietnam. The boys – and some of the girls – loved their football. They all knew who Pele was. Maradona. Ronaldo. (The fat one). Ronaldhino, Zidane, *Del Pierro, Batistuta, Romario and Bergkamp, they knew the names, appreciated the history. Do we, middle aged blokes from England and Scotland – have a ridiculously inflated idea of our cultural influence? If so, football, if not music, catches us red-handed.
Year: 2016 Director: John Lee Hancock
When it comes to screenplays, Hollywood sure does love its BOATS – based on a true story. It’s the first letter of the acronym that Tinseltown deal-makers appreciate the most of course, since ‘basing’ the story on factual information invariably give them carte blanche to change everything else about it, for reasons of easy audience understanding and hopefully, maximised profit. Usually, this process involves a heavy use of exaggeration, highlighting the good (or even better, outrageously bad) actions of the protagonist, given that flagrant shock value puts bums on seats more successfully than Madchester pop combo James. Therefore, you’d expect The Founder screenwriter Robert D. Siegel to do such a number on Ray Kroc, the man who ‘found’ (as opposed to founded) McDonald’s. By his own admission, as documented in his autobiography, ‘Grinding it Out’, Kroc was a ruthless business opportunist whose idea of compassion and humanity was such that, if he ever came across a drowning competitor, he’d cheerfully attach a hosepipe to their mouth. Knowing this, it’d hardly be a stretch to depict Kroc – ‘like Crocodile but not spelt that way’ – as a classic pantomime villain since, in addition to » Continue Reading.
I’ve always found Australia radio to be an excellent starting point for any incomer keen to evaluate the pulse of the nation. An attractive side project is the fact that Oz radio, with its many community and local stations, boasts more ersatz Alan Partridges than anywhere else on earth.(Having said that, the most Partridge of them all is a bloke called Ian ‘Macca’ McNamara whose nationwide, syndicated show on ABC radio is an unintentionally hilarious homage to crass rudeness, myopic intolerance and self-righteous ego massage.) Yesterday, as I listened to an overnight show, a listener called in, asking the presenter to play ‘her favourite record of all time’, a disc which, utterly implausibly, happened to be the George Martin produced ‘My Boomerang Won’t Come Back’, by deceased comedy short-arse Charlie Drake. ‘No sorry’, replied the host, ‘I can’t play that song, great though it is, as some people – not me of course – consider it “offensive”. ‘The world we live in now’, he went on, making it clear he felt any subsequent cultural change hadn’t been for the better, before claiming he often played the record to his ‘aboriginal mates’, all of whom were apparently ‘rolling around on the » Continue Reading.
Year: 2016 Director: Ken Loach
It’s sobering to think it’s nearly 50 years since ‘Poor Cow’ – featuring the dubious talents of one-time Led Zeppelin enforcer John ‘Biffo’ Bindon, a man so unpredictably violent even the notorious Peter Grant considered him a liability – introduced the unapologetically political filmmaker Ken Loach to the world. What’s even more astounding is the fact that after half a century and numerous films portraying life in Britain, Loach’s work continues to represent a view of the country which is resolutely unjust, inequitable and painful to watch. Such is the case with ‘I, Daniel Blake’, a movie which follows the plight of the titular character, a middle-aged carpenter who, after suffering a serious heart attack, is given the run around by a bureaucratic welfare system deliberately designed to discourage claimants through a combination of obtuse form filling and ritual humiliation. Unable to access the sickness payment his Doctor has recommended, due to not scoring enough ‘points’ in an interview with a so called health professional, Dan is forced to justify his Job Seekers Allowance application by proving he is actually looking for work, despite there being little employment available and no work he could realistically » Continue Reading.
Prematurely killed off by an erstwhile Afterworder, JY has finally hung up his rug for the last time. I suppose when you reach 95 you’re entitled to some touching tributes and Jim’s ‘friends’ at the Beeb have duly obliged.
Apparently it’s not only Scotsmen who aspire to be tight wee bawbags.
Hair. Long beautiful hair. Shining, gleaming, streaming, flaxen, waxen, down to there. In the history of rock’n’roll, in fact in music, the barnet’s been pivotal, every bit as important as tight trousers, attitude and, er, talent. (Much more so than talent actually, since everyone knew that having shit hair meant you could never be a star.) A curio, sure. A one hit wonder, a novelty act, a bit of comedy and you might get away with it – but if you wanted to hang around, be taken seriously and – most vital of all – be seen as sexy, you needed hair that was defiantly long, impressively thick and – best case scenario – recognisable. Hair that entered the room – and therefore the pop psyche – before you did. But time moves on. Not for them of course. Their look – in the style of Her Majesty – (a very nice girl) – remains the same, but your look – well that’s the one, the look of the fan – the acolyte – the follower – that’s the look that does, that must change. Oh, you can try to flog the same old, hairy knackered cheval. You can continue » Continue Reading.
There’s not much sympathy for him these days – I’m not suggesting there should be – but Rolf’s story is fascinating. An Aussie who toured with The Beatles, had a regular TV presence for 40 years and was – eventually – hip enough to play Glastonbury Then there’s the spectacular explosion and overnight transformation from genial reassuring showbiz presence to a figure of revulsion – and sometimes even – cruel fun. Where did it all go wrong? Plenty of evidence in his autobiography, ‘Can You See What it is Yet’, where even the title unconsciously I think, tells us more about Rolf than he even knew himself. Brought up in a rural setting, a Victorian household where sex was never discussed apart from as it applied to the animals, Rolf’s sexual immaturity and repression bleeds out of the pages of a book written in 2001, a full decade before Yewtree. There’s a revealing passage when Rolf talks about his tour with the Fabs – in envious terms he describes the more physical aspects of Beatlemania – knee tremblers taking place backstage, in dressing rooms, shower cubicles and it seems, everywhere but Rolf’s pants. “there were semi-clad young women in dressing » Continue Reading.
I’m not the biggest fan of The A league. But this, as Alan Partridge would say, is a GOAL.
Highlighted by British company Strumpshaw, Tincleton & Giggleswick. Yes, really.
Year: 2016 Director: Ricky Gervais
Ricky Gervais can do no wrong. (I’m well aware when making that comment, that for many, he can do no right, since he polarises opinion to the extent there’s hardly anyone who says; ‘he’s okay, I suppose.’) Where Ricky is supreme however is among the movers and shakers, the big noises in Hollywood and London; not only the stars (and Keith Chegwin) apparently delighted to be humiliated in ‘Extras’, but producers and business corporations, investors prepared to back up Gervais’s various comedy productions with hard cash, despite the fact that not everything RG’s made has hit pay dirt. The biggest reason for this, is The Office’, his breakthrough piece, the magnificently conceived, observed and acted series which gave the world David Brent, chilled-out entertainer, friend as well as boss, self-obsessed philosopher, twat. On the back of Brent’s status as genuine comedy icon, Gervais has been given what looks like a blank cheque – and quite possibly a blank sheet of paper – to resurrect the Slough dilettante, who continues to follow his self-stated philosophy of ‘live fast, die old’. Since last seen Brent has suffered a nervous breakdown, been on prozac, undergone a weight gain » Continue Reading.
Everything about this story is brilliant. From the headline to the content. But best of all is the fact it happened in a real town called Humpty Doo.
Year: 2016 Director: Stephen Frears
Auntie Minnie. That was her name. Great-Aunt technically speaking, my Granny’s sister – a spinster, an ‘unclaimed treasure’, a ‘single fish’ – both contemporary terms for any 50-something woman who hadn’t managed to land a bloke, quite possibly as a direct result of a WW1 induced scarcity. If Auntie Minnie had been cashed-up she could have effortlessly carried off the title ‘eccentric’ but since she worked in a Paisley thread mill, for what would have been the equivalent of the minimum wage – not much – she had to settle for ‘a bit touched’. Auntie Minnie was a truly dreadful singer. A member of the local Church choir, but always I noticed, up the back, well out of earshot when the organ struck up the likes of ‘Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing’ a plaintive number which, I always felt, suited her perfectly in every way other than when she was singing it. Minnie wasn’t entirely tuneless but was just close enough to being nearly-there, to be very, very bad. A blend of sharps and flats, spontaneous key changes and a total inability to hear herself, it was classic comedy singing, because not only was » Continue Reading.
You’ll either laugh or be offended. But if you’re offended you’ve just wasted a couple of minutes when you could have been laughing.
One of the most significant and probably the biggest crossover to country artists, Jerry Lee Lewis is a pioneer of rock and roll who truly deserves the term ‘immortal’. As well as the distinction of being, unusually for such a linguistic epithet, not dead, Jerry Lee continues into his 80’s to be a hard-living, fire and brimstone breathing, booze fumes inhaling, piano bashing, mad-as-a-fucking-hatter, working musician. Celebrate him when you can, because in the true sense of the word, there will never be another like him. Nick Tosches’s book, which is written in a fantastic, classy, almost poetic style, focusses on the part of the story of the part you most want to hear. The early days, dirt poor raised in a stereotypical cousin marrying, rural, ain’t got much learning, back of beyond, Louisiana township, through to adult maturation at age 14 – his father-in-law (well, one of them, he had 7), being his cousin. In addition to also, his bass player, which in some ways is even more worryingly incestuous. As everyone knows, it all went bartlett-shaped for JLL when he came to tour Britain with his 13 year old bride, Myra. Despite a plea for the defence that » Continue Reading.
Year: 2015 Director: Quentin Tarantino
Unlike Forest Gump’s box of Dairy Milk without the helpful map, when it comes to the films of Quentin Tarantino, you invariably know what you’re going to get. A skipful of violence -bloody and graphic – a non-linear storyline, cross cultural, anachronistic references, snappy, whip-smart dialogue and the odd mcguffin thrown in, just because he can. In anyone else’s hands, this would be boring and predictable – some say it is – but for this viewer, QT’s excesses and compulsions make his work anything but – and always, but always watchable. As ever, there’s not much of storyline to work with. Two bounty hunters and an aspiring sheriff convene in the snowy wilds of Wyoming, a totally unlikely premise given the surroundings, but one which serves not only to introduce the characters but also to depict the desperation and randomness of Western life circa 1870. John ‘The Hangman’ Ruth, a grizzly Kurt Russell, is travelling in a stagecoach with his latest prize, Daisy Domergue, a blood spattered punching bag wanted dead or alive in the town of Red Rock for crimes as yet undisclosed but indubitably – to judge by her insolent, sassy demeanour – » Continue Reading.
Only one memorable part in a lifetime of performing. But what a part and what a memory.