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» Welcome 2014 / Farewell 2013 / Films of 2012


Happy new year and welcome to 2014. On a personal level 2013 was wonderful: Bridie and I got married in San Francisco and travelled up the coast to Vancouver, which was truly wonderful, absolutely perfect.
Artistically it was a hopeless year spent waiting for other people to do things. I felt like I could move neither forwards nor sideways. My own fault too, for getting in that situation. And why couldn’t I get on with something else in the meantime? Anyway, lessons learned and mercifully the Spearmint album is now ready to go and will be released on 12th May.

It is a bit different to previous efforts (‘sounds the same to me’ you will probably say). And we will do a couple of gigs around that time too. More details soon.

Here, about a year later than planned are our favourite films of 2012. 2013 will follow in a week or two once we have managed to catch ‘The Great Beauty’, which is proving strangely elusive for us, the moral being ‘go and see it at the time’. As ever this is a joint list, so some of mine are lower than they would be, and some of Bridie’s are higher than they would be!
‘Margaret’ really sneaked up on both of us, staying with us long after watching. I think it’s a bit of a classic that’s been missed by a lot of people. It’s so ambitious in a quiet way with wonderful cinematography of New York and fabulous use of music (the thing I notice most in a film). It’s admirably ‘not straightforward’… there must be a word for that… what is the opposite of a synonym? An antonym. So what is an antonym for straightforward? Complex? Difficult? Indirect? None of these are quite right. What I mean is that, like in life, sometimes random things happen which then determine the path your life takes – it’s not that things are complicated, they are linear, but just not straightforward. I can understand why you might not like this film, and it is quite upsetting, but we loved it. I think it had been in the can for a few years, and preceded Paquin’s stint in True Blood.
Looking back at this list now, I wonder why the Woody documentary, American Mary and Haywire ended up so low, as I remember them fondly. I remember the year at the cinema as one of being constantly confronted with close-ups of Apple laptops – do people really have to take that money? Presumably this is starting to recede now… I also remember 2012 being a year of Rodriguez: first the albums, then the movie, then the live show.

1 Margaret
2 Marina Abromavic The Artist Is Present
3 The Master
4 Amour
5 Frankenweenie
6 Holy Motors
7 Searching For Sugarman
8 Take This Waltz
9 Moneyball
10 Sightseers
11 Looper
12 Sound Of My Voice
13 Moonrise Kingdom
14 The Grey
15 Martha Marcy May Marlene
16 God Bless America
17 The Hunger Games
18 Dark Shadows
19 Cabin In The Woods
20 Magic Mike
21 Cafe De Flore
22 The Muppets
23 Beasts Of The Southern Wild
24 The Pact
25 Young Adult
26 Shame
27 Berberian Sound Studio
28 The Hunter
29 About Elly
30 Margin Call
31 The Descendents
32 Silver Linings Playbook
33 Hit So Hard
34 Lovely Molly
35 The Raid
36 Once Upon A Time In Anatolia
37 Woman In Black
38 Argo
39 Cosmopolis
40 Life Of Pi
41 War Horse
42 21 Jump Street
43 Ruby Sparks
44 Gregory Crewdson Brief Encounters
45 Sing Your Song
46 If A Tree Falls – The Earth Defence League Story
47 Killer Joe
48 Twilight Breaking Dawn 2
49 Jason Becker Not Dead Yet
50 The Inn Keepers
51 Chronicle
52 Ted
53 Big Miracle
54 Woody Allen: A Documentary
55 Kid With A Bike
56 The Imposter
57 The Dark Knight Rises
58 Tiny Furniture
59 American Mary
60 Skyfall
61 Jack Reacher
62 Your Sister’s Sister
63 Into The Abyss
64 Snowtown
65 Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World
66 Carnage
67 Damsels in Distress
68 Boy
69 Five Year Engagement
70 This Must Be The Place
71 The Woman In The Fifth
72 Now Is Good
73 Paranorman
74 Sinister
75 To Rome With Love
76 The Vow
77 The Island President
78 Red Dog
79 Haywire
80 Queen Of Versailles
81 Pitch Perfect
82 House AT The End Of The Street
83 Tabloid
84 Madagascar 3
85 Dark Horse
86 Forks Over Knives
87 Detention
88 Like Crazy
89 Gone
90 Rock Of Ages
91 Hope Springs
92 Headhunters
93 We Bought A Zoo
94 Marley
95 2 days In New York
96 Safety Not Guaranteed
97 Cane Toads The Conquest
98 Red Lights
99 Rampart
100 Les Giants

[ Continued… ]

» Spearmint, Helmets & Reading Machines


(Soundtrack: Django Reinhardt “Legendary”, Rodriguez “Coming From Reality”)
We had our first Spearmint rehearsal in a while a couple of weeks ago. After all this time some idiot arranged it for an early start in London on the first day of the Olympics. It all turned out fine though, in fact Ronan was the first one there! Jim and I arrived to find him trying to leave, panicked by getting there first, so we grabbed him and led him back in. Bradley Wiggins wasn’t available, so we had to make do with Andy Lewis. Great to see everyone and they are all on really good form. So we are now going to start pulling the new album together. There comes a point in the writing process when the album itself assumes a personality, takes over and declares itself ready. Or to put it less pretentiously: there are now enough ideas knocking around for us to get started.

It has been a bumpy few months, but I am now working in Brighton, and Bridie and I are buying a place down here. Which is exciting! Currently in the admin stage though, which is not exciting. But I can’t wait for us to get in there. Bridie caught a preview of that documentary about Rodriguez (Sugar Man) and it blew her away, so she bought his two albums from around 1970, and I must say they are brilliant. Have been listening to them a lot alongside the Dexy’s and Field Music records, which are both fabulous.

I read quite a lot at the start of the year and found some new favourites. “No Beast So Fierce” is by Edward Bunker. He played Mr Blue in Reservoir Dogs and I think he also wrote that amazing speech Jon Voigt does in Runaway Train (I love that!). This is a gritty semi-autobiographical novel from 1973. It is a brilliant piece of writing, so sharp and entertaining, you can see why Tarantino would love it. I also read another couple of the Martin Beck crime novels from Sweden in the 60s and 70s. There are ten of these and each one is based around a different aspect of Stockholm life. They are nearly fifty years old and yet read like they are written today: so concise and modern, so cliché- free. They clearly inform all crime writers since, and you wonder why anyone else bothers as these books already exist. I am looking forward to seeing Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher, even though it seems ridiculous.

Neil loaned me “Rat Girl” by Kristin Hersh: what an amazing book. Weird to read somebody writing like it feels inside my own head. “At Swim-Two-Birds” by Flann O’Brien made me laugh out loud and gave my imagination a bloody good work-out. As did a couple of Philip K Dick books. I like closing a book and thinking “What on earth happened at the end there?”. Also read some great stuff by Sarah Waters, Iris Murdoch, Irvine welsh, Kafka, and PG Wodehouse.

The pleasure of finding a book and carrying it with me for a week or two hasn’t dimmed since childhood. It’s not just the writing that stays with me. The cover and the feel of the paper and the smell of the paper and the look of the typeface are a big chunk of the experience. I see people on the train holding those machines that help you to read. I can see the weight benefits if you are travelling round the world but other than that they are not for me. Every book you read you’d be carrying the same piece of machinery and reading the same looking text. I know I would have a tendency to give up on a book if it started in a difficult way (which lots do), whereas a commitment to the printed book makes me plough through the early section. It nearly always gets good once you are into it.

It is similar with music. For me, a big part of the pleasure of albums has always been the sleeve and handling the vinyl itself. I found that diminished with CDs and it fell away completely with itunes. If I play a vinyl album I always listen to the whole thing, usually a couple of times. On itunes I feel more like listening to odd tracks rather than an album. There is also a horrible urge to move onto the next song once you get halfway through the current one. Almost like the excitement is about what is coming next rather than what is happening now.

I worry a bit about what will happen with movies when home viewing is totally online. At the moment at home we make ourselves watch more interesting films because they get sent to us by post or we choose them at the rental store. I suspect that when we want to watch something online after a hard day’s work, we will be tempted to opt for comfort viewing, some Ashley Judd or Kurt Russell thriller (nothing wrong with them obviously!), rather than a slow drama from Turkey or an ensemble piece from France. Yet when we have the physical discs sent to us, we make the effort to sit and watch the slow dramas and ensemble pieces, and they pretty much always turn out to be really good, and just as entertaining.

We are a little behind with this year’s movies, so need to do a bit of catching up. Must see “Ted”. Have re-watched some classic older stuff though, including “Once Were Warriors”, “Now Voyager”, “The Thin Blue Line”, “An Affair To Remember”, “Cutter’s Way”, “Mary & Max”, “Rolling Thunder”, “Mildred Pierce”, “Boiler Room”, “A Mighty Wind”, “Sabrina”, and “Heathers”, all of which are superb.
Banged my head rather dramatically in the night and spent yesterday with a headache worrying I had done some serious cranial damage. Finally Bridie made me ring the NHS helpline and they scared me, so I set the alarm for 2am last night to make sure I wasn’t slipping into a coma. Went back to sleep until 4am when as usual the baby seagulls on the rooftops all pipe up and make one heck of a racket. The headache has gone today anyway. Being tall, I have to take care as it is easy to bang my head. Bridie reckons I should just wear a helmet all the time, and she may be right.

[ Continued… ]

» Films Of 2011


Another fabulous year for movies. It is such a pleasure being able to go to the local cinema or rental shop and see bold, thrilling movies like “Kill List”, “Martha Marcy May Marlene”, “Take Shelter”, “Rare Exports” or “Essential Killing”. I love that such cliche-dodging, thought-provoking, wrong-footing treats are so easily accessible.
If we did not like a film from the year, then it is not mentioned on the list. No value in being negative. I hate critique, but I *love*recommendation. I know that not all these films will be to everyone’s taste, yet I find it hard to believe that you would not enjoy movies like “Beginners”, “Who Took The Bomp?”, “Animal Kingdom”, “Submarine”, “The Big Picture”, “Rare Exports” or “A Lonely Place To Die”.
I didn’t expect there to be four Ryan Gosling films in our favourites, nor three with Christopher Plummer, nor three with John Goodman, nor two in the top twenty made separately by a husband and wife, nor one written by a husband and wife team. nor so many monkeys, goats and dogs…
A bumper year, but In the end “Blue Valentine” remained our favourite, in fact grew and grew on us. Not always an easy watch, but so pure, so romantic, so painful and so true – ace performances, a brilliant soundtrack and wonderful end-credits too.
1 Blue Valentine 2 Beginners 3 Take Shelter 4 Who Took The Bomp? 5 Kill List 6 My Dog Tulip 7 Essential Killing 8 Midnight In Paris 9 Animal Kingdom 10 Drive 11 Submarine 12 Little White Lies 13 Attack The Block 14 Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy 15 The Artist 16 A Separation 17 Rise Of The Planet of The Apes 18 The Future 19 Senna 20 The Skin I Live In 21 Melancholia 22 The Inside Job 23 The Big Picture 24 Le Quattro Volte 25 Project Nim 26 Rare Exports 27 Tyrannasaur 28 A Lonely Place To Die 29 Bridesmaids 30 Red State 31 Limitless 32 The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo 33 Romantics Anonymous 34 Mammuth 35 Easy A 36 Potiche 37 Baghead 38 Crazy, Stupid, Love 39 T.T. Closer To The Edge 40 Barney’s Version 41 World’s Greatest Dad 42 We Need To Talk About Kevin 43 50/50 44 The Guard 45 True Grit 46 The Way 47 Julia’s Eyes 48 Meeks’ Cut-Off 49 The Resident 50 Water For Elephants 51 Ides Of March 52 Howl 53 Mission Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol 54 Rango 55 Last Night 56 Cold Weather 57 Never Let Me Go 58 The Loved Ones 59 You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger 60 The Adventures Of Adele Blanc-Sec 61 Black Swan 62 Living In The Material World 63 A Small Act 64 Hanna 65 Seconds Apart 66 Daydream Nation 67 Tree Of Life 68 Source Code 69 The House Of The Devil 70 The Lincoln Lawyer 71 Point Blank 72 Incendies 73 The Rum Diary 74 How Do You Know 75 The Fighter 76 Just Go With It 77 Nenette 78 Trust 79 Insidious 80 Horrible Bosses 81 Super 8 82 How I Ended This Summer 83 Tucker And Dale Vs Evil 84 The Company Men 85 Fair Game 86 H2Oil 87 Rabbit Hole 88 Super 89 The Mechanic 90 Hobo With A Shotgun 91 Johnny English Reborn 92 Stakeland 93 Blitz 94 Gasland 95 His And Hers 96 Life In A Day 97 Oranges And Sunshine 98 Beautiful Lies 99 Bad Teacher 100 Everything Must Go

[ Continued… ]