Saturday, 26 May 2012

Eurovision........Oh well. Maybe NEXT year!

Once again the winner was a song and act for which I just cannot fathom the reason why it won. But win it did - and a runaway victory too, given maximum points by the majority of the 42 participating countries.
    The singer, Loreen, with her song 'Euphoria', sounding every bit the electro-pop we heard so much of in the early 1980s, wasn't exactly bad, but I would have placed it in about 10th place out of the 26 finalists. I'm a great fan of retro-pop, but if attempted in an after-era it's got to be done with a twinkle and a wink. It's killed by over-earnestness as, in my opinion, this was. However, it has already been a big hit in a great part of Europe so what do I know?

  My own telephone-vote was for Italy - an up-beat Amy Winehouse/Lily Allen-type number with a conspicuous nod to jazz. It came 10th. My second choice would have been Moldova (actually coming 11th) and then my number three, Malta, to my intense displeasure, only finished 21st!

    The final results:-
     1. Sweden
     2. Russia (the 'grannies!)
     3. Serbia (another song which I didn't rate at all.)
     4. Azerbaijan (ditto)
     5. Albania (ditto)

And the British entry, sung by 'The Hump'? It came second from last, just above Norway. I thought it deserved better but it was stymied from the start by drawing the short straw and having to appear first. I won't row back from my opinion that it had a fair chance of even winning, or at least of getting a good position. I still maintain it was a brave and imaginative choice of singer. It ought to have come in the top half at least, I reckon. But still, we did better than in some recent years. In 3 of the last 10 contests we have actually come last!
     Anyway, it's some relief that it's now all over - and next year we will have it coming from a much less contentious location.

   Now better get down to those film blogs again. I've got quite a number to write about.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Eurovision Semi-Final 2 - Another rebuff for my choice of winner

Well, it happened again. Last night I voted for the Netherlands and, like my choice of Israel on the previous round, it failed to make it to the final. What is it with these other viewers?  Don't they have taste! ;-)

The Dutch entry sung by a Joan Franko, very strangely attired in wonderful American Native Indian Chieftain head-dress gave us a cheerful, bouncy number. I think she and her gleeful toy-boy backing group thought that they had it in the bag - as I did. Oh, how wrong we were! Another loss for tomorrow night's entertainment.

What would have been my second choice, the dishy Kurt Colleja here, singing for Malta, did get through - and it's not a bad song either. So at least there's something else to look forward to.

My nomination for the title of  'Campest Act of the Night' goes to Turkey for its act of Can Bonomo, an elfinesque singer with an unlikely backing of macho, cloak-swirling, amazing dancing hottie-bears  They also got through - and with another song that was one of the better ones of last night. Looking forward to another view. Great stuff!

This is a pic of the Israeli act, Izala, my choice but who failed to get through on Tuesday (sigh!). Very interesting photo, don't you think? I want to join them under the sheets.

And finally, in case you didn't know, there are still the Russian grannies who, if they don't win tomorrow night, certainly deserve to be highly placed - though I don't want another country on the far-eastern edge of Europe to win yet again! However, 'Good Luck' to them - but even more luck to our own Brit entry, the 'Hump'!

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Eurovision 2012 - It's started!

Last night was the first semi-final in what is the biggest of all international camp-fests - though also probably the only one!
Eurovision Song Contest 2012 got off to a flying start with some gloriously O.T.T. acts - and a high proportion of the songs were pretty good too, a welcome change from recent years.
Twenty countries participated and ten were chosen by viewer votes to go onto Saturday's final. Semi-final Part Two will take place tomorrow night.
The U.K., along with France, Germany, Italy and Spain, are automatic qualifiers for the final in recognition of their being the main financial contributors to the event. The U.K. entry will be the bravely and imaginatively chosen, 76-year-old crooner, Engelbert Humperdinck, who had several monster hits in the late 1960s, and 'notorious' at having been the first artiste to have kept the all-conquering Beatles from off the British Number 1 in 1967 (with 'Release Me' blocking 'Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields Forever'. I remember it well.) His ballad this year is, to my mind, not bad at all and certainly in with a fair chance.
             My major disappointment last night was that the country I would have voted for, Israel, did not make it into the final ten. I find it hard to think why - they had, probably, the campest of all acts  (and that really is saying something!) with a conspicuously hottie (for me) backing singer, not to mention the hairy, yummy drummer, and with their lead singer sporting a single outsize ear-ring, more of a chain-link pendant - and all with a  darned catchy, jolly song that could have come straight out of a 1950s Hit Parade - and I loved it! Shame on you, Eurovision viewers, for not recognising 'quality camp'!
   However, at least two of my other choices, Moldova and Latvia did get through, as well as, very pleasingly, from Russia the group of peasant 'grannies', as they are described, though I would have thought 'great-grannies' would have been nearer the mark. Good, folksy, up-beat song though.

All this takes place in Baku, Azerbaijan, under the politically-ghastly regime of President Aliyev, that country having earned its host status after winning the contest last year. The president and his family-loyal coterie of stupendously oil-rich hacks are squeezing the event for all its propaganda worth. It remains to be seen if any of the expected demonstrations against his cast-iron grip on power and his appalling crushing of all dissent will be manifested at any time in the next few days. His totalitarian style would have made Stalin himself green with envy. Aliyev's glamorous wife, who could give Carla Bruni a run for her money - though she, Mrs Aliyev,  would have lost - is herself in charge of television coverage. Last year, Azerbaijan, at enmity with neighbouring Armenia , not only pettily blacked out its TV screens when the latter country's entry was performing, but the police after investigation of the state's telephone records, hauled in for questioning, with physical force, anyone who had voted for Armenia as a form of protest.
    Aliyev's family, including his three teenage children, are living in such unimaginable luxury beyond the comprehension of the huge majority of Azerbaijani's fantasies, to which our own British Royal Family can hardly hold a candle. 'Filthy rich' doesn't even begin to describe it. At least we can say what we like about our Elizabeth and her dysfunctional family circle - and, indeed, we do!

  So all that leaves a sour undertaste. So many of the winners in recent years have been from politically repressive regimes that it'll be a pleasant change to have it held next year in a location we have less concern about. Though having said that, I'm still very disappointed that we won't be seeing the Israeli act again on Saturday night.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Film '(The) Beloved' - my nomination for 'Turkey of the Year' (so far)

(No, not the Oprah Winfrey 1998 film of the Toni Morrison novel.)

Once in a while I'll leave the cinema before a film has ended because I just can't take any more. With 'Beloved' it's the first time I've done it in well over a year.
As you see on the left, it's a French film, similar to the 1964 'Les Parapluies de Cherbourg' in having songs (not too many), performed/mimed by the actors, punctuating the dialogue. The wonderful Catherine Deneuve actually plays a lead role in both films, but this later feature has absolutely nothing of the whimsical charm the earlier film had, which made it such a pleasant, if slightly shallow, experience.

Lest it be thought that my overall opinion was clouded by what happens well into the film (around 50 minutes, in fact), I was starting to get irritated within the first 10 minutes. The self-obsession of the leading female character was already riling me. After another 10 mins I was beginning to wonder whether it would really improve. By the time half an hour was up the thought had drifted across my mind whether I should walk out. (According to an arbitrary self-ordained rule I set myself way back in the 1960s, I cannot include a film in my 'register' as having been seen unless I'm present for at least 2/3 of it)  So, notwithstanding the fact of wanting to leave there and then, I'd been confined  by my own strictures to endure at least another hour and a quarter of it if it was to be entered as a filmic experience.

It didn't start well when the said leading female character, working in a shoe shop, steals a pair of shoes for herself. Okay, it's such a film cliche to have a shop-lifter stealing and, naturally, getting away with it (Ha ha! - what a lark!). It's as much a hackneyed situation as it is to have a peal of thunder followed within seconds by rain coming down in torrents (Btw: when was the last film in which it rained moderately - or, even rarer, if ever, it just drizzled?). But I can accept the shoe-stealing start as being merely formulaic, even though it always irritates me intensely.
   I'll jump the next tedious 3/4 hour until the young female goes to a live music club and finds herself attracted to the performing group's drummer, a Canadian. Their eyes meet and a spark is struck. They encounter each other again outside. He invites her back to his place for a drink where she starts making advances to him. He (with some regret?) explains that he is gay. She, profusely apologising for not realising it, hurriedly leaves - though, he tries to follow, unsuccessfully. (However, you see, his passion has now been fired!) He seeks her out the next day and - before you can say "ex-gay", he's dragged her into a male toilet and is passionately and, very 'cunningly', pleasuring her with his tongue. (So, if only he'd met the 'right' woman before, he might have been 'cured'!  But why did he say he was gay if he'd actually been bi-sexual, when he could have got straight on to to screwing her? Or was it her overwhelmingly attractive presence which brought on this self-revelation that he was sexually attracted to women after all?)
   After this blistering encounter, they go their own ways - she, having several one-night stands with a number of different men - he, presumably, returning to his boyfriend. But then they meet up again. By now my 'allotted time' to remain watching the film was coming to an end. I left the cinema just as these two were renewing their yearned-for re-acquaintance (they both being unable to forget the other, of course!) - but he warns her that he doesn't think he can supply what she wants as he suspects that he might have AIDS after having experienced a wild time in New York, though he hadn't actually been for a test. (Why say "AIDS"? Why not "HIV"? But, as I didn't catch the precise French words, one can at least blame the subtitles.) But, oh, if only he'd found her earlier - then he might not have been infected! And that was when I left the cinema.
            Must admit I did wonder how the film would end. Would he find that his suspicions about carrying the virus were misplaced and that the two of them could live together - Hap.Ev.Aft.? Or would it twist around and reveal that while he turned out to be clear, she was the one with HIV after all those turns with strangers?  I've looked up the synopsis on the web and found that the ending was neither of those - and quite surprising, at least as far as she was concerned. But I'm now past caring.

      Oh, and on a general point, why is it that in nearly every single French film all the adult characters smoke like chimneys? Far more than in American and British films, where, I think, smoking is already shown with greater frequency than one encounters in real life anyway.

I would normally have included my thoughts on 'Beloved' in my upcoming blog on films seen during May which I'll do in a couple of weeks.  But I had a relatively lot to say on this one, and anyway, it gets it off my chest by devoting an entire blog to it now.

   My irritations with this film are very personal - and some who have seen it may take issue with what I've said. On IMDb site a guy who uses 'gay' as part of his blog-name thought that the film was pretty good, so it's an individual reaction.
But leaving aside the gay element (which was only one strand of the film in any case) I was felt so antagonised  from the very outset that it becomes a self-vindication in knowing that it will certainly contend to be my own 'Clunker of 2012'.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

My April cinema-goings

Just one worthwhile film in the past month of lean pickings:-

My ratings in order of seeing -

Le Havre (6/10)
Headhunters (7.5)
The Cabin in the Woods (5)
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (4)

Le Havre  - Moderately engaging French language offering from Finnish director, Kaurismaki. Often leisurely tale-telling with a few attractive quirky touches. In sum, likeable enough, but hardly exceptional - though I don't think it had intended to aim that high.

Headhunters  - Distinctly above-par crime thriller, in Norwegian language. Multi-twist plot, none of which I saw coming. Discomforts one from the outset in not knowing where to place one's sympathies, but I liked that, keeping me on my 'mental toes'. Not a film for those demanding clear-cut resolutions to finish - AND (a warning!), it features the portrayal of the grisly killing of a guard-dog, though this one was largely off-screen and nowhere near as upsetting to me as seeing the hanging of a dog last month in 'Wuthering Heights', which was, surely, real - even if we didn't see the poor little thing actually die. Overall, 'Headhunters' is a superior film which I'd gladly sit through again.

The Cabin in the Woods  - I seem to be in a minority in not thinking particularly highly of this film. All the reviews I've seen have been positive or very so. The general ratings on IMDb website are higher than average too.
My own score is largely based on the originality of the angle on what has, for decades, become such a tired, cliche-ridden story taken up by scores of horror films, viz a group of largely or entirely obnoxious, mainly sex-crazed young things being terrorised in a confined space and being popped off one by one by unknown forces. Yes, I concede that there's a 'wink' at the horror genre's over-used formula here, but I don't think the film works either as horror or comedy. (Some horror films only work because they are so knowingly funny, but it needs some skill to bring that off successfully without being over-parodic). The main reason why this film doesn't work for me is that the premise of entrapment of the group is undermined near the film's start, revealing that the confined area from which escape must be sought is not the same as that which the preyed-upon group sees it. (It's difficult to give much more away without spoiling it for those who wish to see this film, and who may well enjoy it more than I did). Then, later in the film, the confining walls of this 'box' are re-drawn to unconvincing effect resulting in a plethora of special effects which I just find tedious and lazy. Okay, I'd better stop there. But it certainly is a different film from what most of us might have expected.

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen -  Not having read the book, which I understand is more philosophical than the title might suggest, I was mildly intrigued by this - but only mildly. I really didn't know what to expect . Apparently the film takes a literal reading of the title and makes it a 1 hour 45 minutes film of this scientific and engineering project (with a parallel romantic thread) - and  I found it, frankly, dull, dull, dull!  Not even British stalwarts Ewan McGregor and the ever-watchable Kristin Scott Thomas (playing bossy-bitch right up to the hilt) as well as recent 'flavour-of-the-times'  Emily Blunt, could make the whole thing more than a tiny bit interesting. Too long and too damn boring! Some fine scenic photography, though.


Anyway, let's hope the coming month brings more than one single film that is worth catching.