Film Discussion – ‘Her’ (2013)

Her is an interesting film written and directed by Spike Jonze, which differs from many films that I have seen. Jonze’s previous credits come from a variety of areas; music video collaborations with artists such as Daft Punk, Björk and Kanye West, producer for the zany Jackass as well as directing Charlie Kaufman’s mind-bending Being John Malkovich and Adaption alongside the highly-anticipated Where The Wild Things Are. (As a side-note here, I have seen and love Being John Malkovich, but have not yet seen either Adaption or Where The Wild Things Are, however it seems likely they are also great films).

This film represents Jonze’s first screen-writing credits and is definitely successful in that respect, winning several highly-prestigious awards in the process. The storyline is a traditional one, yet different from any you might know and incredibly absorbing. For me it was one of those films that draws you in very early on and just holds onto you until the credits are long gone. This I think is due to several different factors. Obviously the writing is very good and the acting performances also warrant mention here, with the top-billing going to names like Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Rooney Mara, Olivia Wilde and Scarlett Johansson – a pretty good indication that something special is afoot here. The acting itself is, as you would expect from these names, of great quality. However this is not where the greatness ends. Visually this film is stunningly beautiful, with the colour schemes and cinematography (provided by DoP Hoyte Van Hoytema, who was also responsible as DoP for several other films such as Interstellar, The Fighter and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) combining to make a film that is simply very, very pretty to look at. This to the extent that makes Lost in Translation look potentially drab in comparison.

In accompaniment to the visual aspects of the film comes the soundtrack. I am a self-confessed lover of film-soundtrack as a genre of music but this one in particular is very poignant. Scored by the indie-rock band Arcade Fire, the soundtrack fits really very well with the film and the world created by the whole package. Creating a state that is deeply emotional but at the same time very calming and relaxed, the score is understated and lets the slightly unusual arrangements and simplicity of the tunes create the perfect companion to the film. If you feel so inclined I cannot advise you enough to simply listen to the soundtrack as a stand-alone activity. Both with and without having seen the film, it is heart–achingly beautiful and calming, and just generally good for the soul.

Here is a link to the Official Trailer which just begins to set the tone for the film and gives a brief glimpse into the world that is Her. Definitely a must-watch.

Sunday Morning Album: Champion Jack Dupree – ‘Blues From The Gutter’

This week’s Sunday morning album is an old blues classic, Blues From The Gutter by Champion Jack Dupree. Born and raised in New Orleans in the first-half of the 20th century, he was often considered to be the last of the great barrel-house pianists. He lived a tough life, orphaned at an early age and then growing up in a rough area of New Orleans he then spent much of his adult life struggling with addiction, a theme that is present throughout this album.

The album itself in it’s remastered format (as I own it) is in remarkably high quality. Many great blues records including those recorded up to the early 60s often suffered from hiss and scratching on the recordings even once remastered for later re-releases. Luckily the master tapes from these sessions must have been of a high-standard as the music is preserved beautifully, as it deserves to be.

Originally released in 1959 on Atlantic, the album consists of a majority of original tunes written by Dupree accompanied by two older folk tunes, namely ‘Frankie and Johnny’ and ‘Stack-o-Lee’. Each of the tracks on the album is a joy to listen to as Dupree’s moaning vocals with slight N’Orleans’ twang accompanied by his deft piano-playing and the rest of the band’s great back-up create a real sense of the old blues. Special mention at this point should be given to the line-up of the band; Pete Brown, Ennis Lowery, Wendell Marshall and Willie Jones. Each of whom fills their role wonderfully. Brown and Lowery with their tasteful solo playing  and Marshall and Jones who provide a solid rhythm section that melts away into the background but is also unfailingly consistent at keeping the groove flowing.

The majority of the tracks on the album take the form of slow blues’ allowing Dupree and the soloists to languish in the laid-back atmosphere of the tracks. There are several exceptions to this however, for example the upbeat, faster-paced ‘Nasty Boogie’ that’ll get your toe tapping at the very least, as well as my personal favourite track of the album, the final ‘Stack-o-Lee’.

A great example of the older blues music preserved for generations to come and some great tunes to listen to as a bonus.

Happy Sunday.

Dennis and the Sticky Buns of Doom: A Cautionary Tale Regarding the Dangers of Morons with Cakes and the Benefits of Networking as an Entrepreneur

Part I: A moron, some cakes, and an idea.

Dennis loved cakes. He loved everything about them. He loved baking them, buying them, eating them, and even just thinking about them. Down the road from Dennis’ house was a bakery that baked and sold delicious cakes. However, what Dennis enjoyed most about the bakery was to go down there and buy a cake, then return home, eat it, and then log onto the internet and bitch about it anonymously. He did this because he was spineless; Dennis had no courage. But as he grew older he realised that his Daddy was a successful businessman who owned a flour company and so was very important man. The more Dennis realised this, the more confident he became.

Eventually one day Dennis returned home from the bakery and logged onto the internet using his own name. He let forth his torrid opinions with one hand whilst stuffing cake into his mouth with the other. By this point Dennis had grown into a large orangutan of a man but was still very much a child at heart. His daddy’s company was still successfully processing tons of flour every day and the money kept rolling in. The response to Dennis’ personal opinion was surprising. People from across the country seemed to delight in his child-like grammar and sense of anger that could only stem from the bowels of a man irritated by years of sugary abuse. The next day he did the same. He came home from the bakery and logged on using his own name and let forth a stream of unedited opinion in the heat of the moment and then sat back, licking the frosting off the keyboard whilst waiting for the responses to come in.

He continued on with this pattern each day, and by now he had become known online in several different countries. However, today was going to prove to be slightly different. As he sat before his computer, snorting lines of crumbs off his desktop, the responses flooded in as usual. But in one of these responses was something very dangerous. In this one response was a stupid idea. But, for a man like Dennis, there are no such things as stupid ideas. Everything is a great idea. This one idea, suggestion, or even mere musing caught Dennis’ eye. It stuck under his skin and began to work its way around inside his little custard-encrusted brain; “You should start your own bakery.” To any rationally minded person with no baking experience, this would be dismissed almost immediately. However to a man of Dennis’ intellect with an ego swelled by the faux-love of the internet, this idea stuck. It resonated with him and his desires to consume cakes and insult bakers. How better to crush that baker than to become a rival with an internet-following that would guarantee success? He became more and more excited and began to bounce up and down in his office chair, clapping his pudgy hands together and salivating at the thought. Unfortunately, no office furniture is intended to undergo this sort of treatment and so the chair in which Dennis was sitting finally gave up the ghost after years of increasing pressure with a final, resigned crunch and disintegrated beneath him.

Part II: One donut to rule them all.

He called the bakery ‘Dennis Thompson’s Cakes’, for that was his name and his ego would allow nothing less. His daddy had given him a large sum of money with which to start the business and was meeting all of the bakery’s flour needs free of charge. This combined with Dennis’ internet following blindly providing patronage regardless of quality meant that business began to thrive. The original bakery down the street that had been the source of Dennis’ confectionary lifestyle up to this point began to struggle. Their customer-base began to decline and very soon they were making no profit at all. They closed up shop and moved away, and no one really noticed. That is, apart from one person; Dennis. He spotted the boarded-up shop front and decided to expand his rapidly-growing business out into a second location. He did not have to spend any of his profits on the new shop however, as his daddy decided to buy it for him as a present for the success of the business.

The cakes he served were terrible, after all he had no baking expertise whatsoever. But he did know that sugar made people happy and so filled his cakes with it. The mixture was full of sugar, the cakes were then filled with a sugary-creamy filling after baking and then iced with a fine-sugar frosting. Each cake was as artificial as Dennis’ new-found fame, but this didn’t stop people coming from miles around to buy his cakes. He continued to spout his ‘wisdom’ on the internet and in doing so continued to induct many new fad-loving nobodies into his soulless world of instant gratification and terrible baking.

Many professional bakers and cake-lovers across the world warned of the dangers that this growing obsession with Dennis and his cakes could cause, but people didn’t listen. Their minds become one-tracked and they craved nothing but the creamy, sugary empty calories of the cakes. Very soon his business grew into an empire and spread out across the world. He gained an almost complete monopoly over the world’s baked goods and confectionary. Almost all the other bakers and confectioners worldwide lost their business and closed their shops, empty-handed.

Part III: The bakers of the world unite and a sticky ending.

One day, some of the last remaining rebel bakers decided to take a stand. They were baking and selling cakes of substance. Cakes that provided energy and used fruit and contained low amounts of sugar. They didn’t stuff the centre with an air-filled cream that puffed them up and made them only aesthetically pleasing. Their cakes didn’t provide that instant sugar hit, but instead gave a longer-lasting satisfaction that led to the better overall health of their consumers. These bakers gathered their few staff and several of their small-but-loyal customer base and together they prepared for the confrontation. They baked long into the night, with clouds of flour rising from the sieves and the whisks gleaming in the artificial light. The roar of the ovens providing an industrial soundtrack to the fevered baking and icing of the rebels.

The morning light rose on rows and rows of perfectly baked cakes. Behind them, a team of bakers stood tired but ready, whisks glinting in the sun. Over the horizon came hordes of sugar-crazed cake-heads, blindly following behind the now-enormous figure of Dennis. He lay on his side wearing a sharp suit embossed with golden trim and a pink candy-stripe lining atop a large, delicately icing-dusted sponge-on-wheels. As he caught sight of the opposing bakers he raised one arm and began making a vigorously rude gesture. Unfortunately, in doing so he disturbed a small cloud of the icing from the sponge which he inadvertently inhaled and began to choke on. This in turn caused yet more clouds of icing to rise around him shielding him from view in a somewhat menacing manner, but also continuing to obstruct his airways. Eventually the coughing subsided and he rose once more from the top of the sponge. He raised a fist to the sky and then dropped it to his side, dramatically signalling for the battle to commence. However, he had neglected to consult with anyone on this particular signal and so it produced a resounding lack of anything. He tried repeating it, but to no avail. People on both sides of the field began to look at one another, wondering what to make of this movement. Eventually he gave up on this and reached down, grabbed a fistful of the sponge and flung it in the direction of the rebel bakers. This seemed to have the desired effect and soon cake was flying through the air from both sides.

The well-prepared rebel bakers were soon beginning to run low on pre-baked goodies and so were forced once more into the kitchens. Electric whisks and ovens were fired up and soon the heat of the baking spread into the battlefield. Sweat combined with icing dust to form thick, globules of icing running down the faces of the frenzied cake-fighters. The heat began to get to Dennis and a sense of panic began to rise inside him. As the walls of his all-too-temporary gingerbread bunker crumbled, he started randomly grabbing fistfuls of cake and shoving them into his mouth. He waved his hands in the air and screamed as he realised what devastation and chaos he had caused. He began running about the place smearing frosting over his eyes to shield them from the devastation and members of both sides began to stop their brawling to watch him. He zig-zagged across the battlefield, nearing first one set of kitchens, then another, before beginning to get dangerously close to the cliff edge. With the thick frosting setting over his eyes and a sense of panic guiding his feet, he finally came too close and tumbled over the edge with his screams and a trail of crumbs following him. This caused a pause in the ruckus as people realised that the great cake-dictator had fallen. Members of his following began to drop their utensils to their sides as they began to realise the one thing they had missed about their leader right from the very start; Dennis was a fucking moron. This silent realisation was short-lived as very soon several of the ovens over-heated simultaneously and exploded in a huge shower of sparks and half-cooked cake mixture which showered the entire battlefield.

Eventually the flour began to settle and survivors began to rise from their hiding places, wiping frosting from their eyes and looking cautiously about them. Cake batter matted their hair and coated most visible surfaces. A silence had fallen, broken only by the creaking of broken mixers in the wind and the dripping of frosting melting in the morning sunshine. All was gone, all was destroyed, all for a piece of cake.