Thursday, 17 December 2009

The Age Of Cage

He’s done it again! Check out this clip of Nic Cage in the bizarre new Bad Lieutenant film inexplicably directed by the great Werner Herzog:

I particularly like the way he treats poor Eva Mendes like a prop. Her expression of bewilderment is a sight to behold.

Monday, 30 November 2009

La Belle Noiseuse

‘Belle de Jour’, the pseudonymous author of ‘The Intimate Adventures of a London Call Girl’, has allegedly been unmasked as Dr Brooke Magnanti a 34-year-old female research scientist at Bristol University, widely described as ‘blonde’.

Which is quite a surprise. Like most people, I’d always assumed her stuff was constructed by a committee of middle-aged men.

Actually, that’s not quite true. The only time I looked at her blog – about a year ago – I was convinced it had been written by a 30-something British woman of Indian origin. Why? Because her fixation on Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan (and the fact that she went to see his film Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi in its week of release) suggested someone with intimate knowledge of Indian cinema.

Here’s the entry:

lundi, décembre 15
“Speaking of cinema, delighted to notice in Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi that Shah Rukh Khan has a left-side fang just like mine! Wonky teeth rule. Also that in undercover geek mode he looks distinctly like my father's older brother - am now uncertain whether it is strictly kosher to continue fancying SRK.”

An authority on sex, neurotoxicology and Bollywood, Dr Magnanti certainly sounds like fun. We can almost forgive her for borrowing the name of one of our all-time favourite films...

Naboo For Lashes

Let us consider the mysteries of Natasha Khan aka Bat For Lashes.

Is she:

(a) an astral-voyaging musical genius from the other side of midnight.

(b) Natasha Bedingfield in a Halloween costume.

(c) Naboo from The Mighty Boosh.

(Only answers written in blood on a sheet of parchment will be eligible)

Cage Rage!

Unbelievably, a rumour previously reported in this blog has actually come true. Hollywood superstar Nicolas Cage really did turn on the Christmas lights in Bath last week!

However, there was apparently an unfortunate altercation between Mr Cage and one of the staff of Bath council. Someone captured it on film too:

Friday, 13 November 2009

Joss Stone – the white girl who just loves to mangle black music

Did anyone else notice that on the Jools Holland show this week, Steve Martin referred to fellow guest Joss Stone as ‘Josh Stone’?

‘Josh’ (pictured here shortly before being shot with a tranquilizer dart and released into the wild) wore a hideous gigantic hippie blanket and danced like a loon during the other artists’ performances.

She also spent a lot of time trying to chat up soulful blues-rocker Black Joe Lewis. Wonder if he asked her to give him back his cultural heritage.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Anatomy Of A Shirt-Rip Ritual

Remember that iconic gatefold image from the Smiths live album 'Rank'?

Well, it looks like ageing Smiths fans are still up for a bit of shirt-ripping action on former Smiths frontman Morrissey's current tour. Photographer Gavin Roberts took this shot at the Salisbury gig on Monday.

"At the end of the gig Moz threw his green shirt into the crowd," says Gavin. "There was a bit of the usual tussle, but nothing serious. The lights go on and there's about half a dozen separate groups, each with five or six people trying to wrestle control of tiny parts of the famed garment.

"The Security were at first a little bemused but as people stood their ground it went on for longer than they thought. Although it was generally good-natured, a few people were thrown out by Security. They seemed slightly baffled as to why grown men - and women - who should know better would fight so hard for a tiny part of a shirt worn by a greying 50-year-old indie crooner."

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Hurry Up, Simon!

Spotted near Bristol’s Christmas steps about ten minutes ago: Simon Amstell, floppy-haired, acid-tongued and quite possibly self-loathing comedian.

To whom we say: Get a move on, Simon! You’re due onstage at the Assembly Hall Theatre, Tunbridge Wells in a little over five hours...

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Call us immature...

...But today we are being amused by the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons – otherwise known as BAAPS.

Friday, 18 September 2009

"I know it's dangerous - but it sure beats Rikers..."

This year we've already said goodbye to Lux Interior - wild-eyed frontman with The Cramps - at the age of 62.

Today I've been saddened to learn that Jim Carroll has died. He was just 60.

I must confess I haven't yet read The Basketball Diaries (famously filmed with Leonardo DiCaprio playing Carroll). But Forced Entries: The Downtown Diaries, detailing JC’s early ‘70s adventures with the Warhol scene, is a brilliantly evocative memoir of that place and time. A pre-fame Patti Smith used to bring Carroll donuts and chocolate milkshakes every morning for breakfast. And there’s an hilarious anecdote about Allen Ginsberg and a vibrator.

Although primarily a poet and author, Jim Carroll was also a musician. Fittingly his song ‘People Who Died’ is the most life-affirming song about death ever – and one of my favourite New York punk rock anthems. There’s a great version here:

"I salute you, my brother..."

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Geek Of The Week

Hard on the heels of cinema's current alpha nerd Michael Cera is the distinctly sensitive and unthreatening Jesse Eisenberg, who stars in two major films this month.

The first is Adventureland:

The second is, er, Zombieland.

Now that's what we call timing.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Mister River Lover

Described by its distributors as ‘Herzogian’ (Herzog-esque?), Amazon-swimming documentary Big River Man is on limited release in UK cinemas now.

Hmm. Judging by these pics, maybe it should be called ‘Weird Nipple Man’

Or perhaps ‘Small Speedos Man’

More from:

Silly-Named Actress of the Month™

Step aside Tallulah Sheffield (our previous SNAOTM™), and let’s hear it for PORTIA DOUBLEDAY! She stars alongside Michael “same in every single film” Cera in the forthcoming comedy Youth in Revolt. The trailer makes it look quite funny...

Friday, 4 September 2009

Trick Baby

Possibly the most heart-warming film of the year, Andrzej Jakimowski’s ‘Sztuczki’ (‘Tricks’) gets a UK release today, but only in London’s Apollo Piccadilly Circus and Curzon Soho. We earnestly implore you to go see this Polish feel-good gem, and not just because the poster image reminds us of ‘80s Prefab Sprout album cover art...

More info from here:

Masters Of The Geekiverse

Our favourite cult comic writer Rob Williams (of Cla$$war fame) has a new series starting in 2000AD.

It’s apparently called The Grevious Journey of Ichabod Azrael (And the Dead Left in His Wake), and Williams describes it as “a supernatural western with alt-country leanings”.

The artwork we’ve seen makes it look like a mixture of Deadwood, Cold Mountain and Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven (with maybe a smattering of High Plains Drifter). Consider us intrigued.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Tonight I’m Going To Party Like It’s 1939

The world changed forever seventy years ago today.

Without tragedies and disasters we learn nothing, and 1939-1945 is arguably the greatest man-made disaster to ever afflict civilization. Not that there weren’t plenty of horrors leading up to ’39, in theatres such as Abyssinia, Spain and Nanking.

In his pithy new book ‘1939 – Countdown To War’ Richard Overy examines the factors that led to Britain declaring war on Germany on 3 September 1939 (he views France’s subsequent declaration as something of an anticlimax).

What is surprising is how well Neville Chamberlain comes out of it. History hasn’t often been so kind to the ‘arch-appeaser’ Conservative Prime Minister, who was 70 at the time, and due to die of cancer the following year.

What seems to emerge from Overy’s account, however, is that Chamberlain had no illusions about what he was facing, and merely did his best to avert war for as long as possible. If he had an Achilles heel, it was simply the fact that he wasn’t a warmongering psychopath like Hitler and Stalin.

The real villain of the piece is Ribbentrop, the Nazi Foreign Minister - a hateful bully whose despicable machinations were calculated to curry favour with his beloved Fuhrer. It’s some small consolation to know that this brute was hanged six years later, after ending up on the losing side of the war he did more than anyone else to start.

The other surprise is just how weak were the ties between Britain and Poland. Created in 1919 at the Treaty of Versailles, the modern Polish state had a reputation for belligerence. It had scored a major victory in seeing off a Red Army invasion in 1920, and had participated in the 1938 carve-up of Czechoslovakia. To some, Poland’s natural place was as part of a pro-Nazi, anti-Soviet bloc in Europe.

And yet it was Chamberlain’s decision to honour Britain’s treaty with Poland that led to his declaring war on Germany - although Britain and France gave virtually no aid to Poland, and never intended to join the fray immediately. Poland’s determination to fight lent some backbone to the Allied powers, but at an almost unimaginably devastating cost to Poland itself.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Top Of The Goths

What is going on with our favourite gothic New Orleans-based erotic vampire-fiction writers with Louise Brooks hairdos?

Anne Rice has turned her back on the undead chronicles and now only writes stuff that praises Jesus.

Her most notorious disciple, Poppy Z Brite, now only writes fiction set in the New Orleans restaurant industry.

Incidentally, Anne’s real name is Howard. Poppy’s real name is Melissa.

Poppy considers herself a ‘non-operative transsexual’.

The Poster Of Dorian Gray

Sorry - couldn't resist that oh-so-clever pun.

But don't worry, I'm not going to go into a laborious spiel about actor Ben Barnes keeping the poster in his attic and remaining forever young while the poster image ages and withers... Oh shoot, I just did.

Seriously, though, has there ever been a decent film adaptation of an Oscar Wilde story? (Apart from the heart-breaking animated version of The Happy Prince)

To be fair, this crack at Dorian Gray feels like it might actually be pretty good. Ben Barnes is a solid choice (although we'd have preferred Dan Stevens from The Line Of Beauty), there's a strong supporting cast, and the film seems to be playing up the tale's vampiric undertones to attract the Twilight fans.

Our dream Wilde adaptation: Asia Argento as Salome.

"There IS no owl!"

Oh dear. I think they were trying to sell The Fourth Kind as the new Blair Witch Project.

Looks like they got the new Wicker Man instead. The Nicolas Cage version, that is.

No wonder Milla Jovovich is looking panic-stricken...

Monday, 24 August 2009

Bad Girls Go To Hell

But they go to New York first, obviously.
(Author Photo: Maro)

Cockroach Exclusive!
Author of The Forbidden Apple: A Century of Sex & Sin in New York City

1. You’re from Silver Spring, Maryland? Did you ever encounter a really cool ’90s band from there called Devils Wielding Scimitars?
“No, but there was an active local music scene in the DC suburbs at the time. I went to lots of free, all-ages shows with Fugazi, Nation of Ulysses, and various Dischord bands. My favorite local band was a baroque-pop group called Strange Boutique, which put out two albums in the mid-’90s. I considered myself a goth so my taste ran toward mid-’80s British stuff rather than the local hardcore scene.”

2. Very few American intellectuals can claim to have come second in a pub quiz in Norwich. Tell us how you acquired this honour?
“I did a semester at the University of East Anglia during my regular college term – that’s how I found myself at a pub quiz in Norwich. My three friends on the team were really sharp, but I remember one or two rounds dealt with questions about American TV or sports – my chance to shine! We won a case of lager, as I recall.”

3. Do you like it or hate it when people refer to you as “the real-life Carrie Bradshaw”?
“I didn’t realize anyone HAD called me that! I’m honoured, but there are a few differences between Carrie and me. I spent about six years digging through piles of archival records at the New York Public Library for my book about sex in New York City, while Carrie would probably be doing her research over cosmos – inserting herself into the story, as it were. Plus, her shoe collection is far more fabulous than mine, sadly.”

4. In The Forbidden Apple you document quite a few puritanical, self-appointed moral arbiters. Do you have a sneaking admiration for any of them?

“I do, and I’m glad you picked up on that. I certainly don’t agree with the anti-vice attitude or tactics of Anthony Comstock, who seemed driven primarily by his own internal moral compass and tried to impose it by force on others. But I admire his quite dogged pursuit of his beliefs, even when they crossed the legal line. He took chances for what he believed in, just as his moral opposite – someone like Ralph Ginzburg, who went to federal prison defending his erotic journal ‘Eros’ in the 1960s – would do. Comstock was also a rotund, blustery man with huge white mutton-chops, so that image makes me smile."

5. Films like Taxi Driver (1976) and Cruising (1980) offered a nightmarish vision of sex in ’70s New York. How accurate were they?
“I love both movies for the fact that they were both filmed on location, so we have a real picture of Times Square in the 1970s (Taxi Driver) and the gay leather scene in the late 1970s (Cruising). In fact, the two clubs seen in Cruising, the Anvil and the Mineshaft, were closed down permanently in 1985 as part of the city’s anti-AIDS campaign.

“The nightmarishness of the sex in each film, though, I think is disproportionate. No doubt there were predatory pimps and underage prostitutes in Times Square, but I feel these two characters in Taxi Driver symbolize non-New Yorkers’ perceptions of New York at the time – the city as a moral, sexual cesspool with the power to lure such innocent girls into oblivion, with no redeeming value (much like what Comstock thought New York in the 1880s was like). In Cruising, I think the sexual customs, clothing and interactions are pretty accurate! But I also see the film’s negative depiction of the gay S&M clubs more as a reflection of the fear and distrust with which others viewed gay sexuality at the time. Several gay groups protested the film’s release in 1980 for that reason.”

6. You also enthuse about a ’70s movie called Saturday Night at the Baths, while you have a particular affection for the low-budget ’60s output of Doris Wishman. What is so special about these films for you?
“I love Saturday Night at the Baths because a) it was filmed in the actual bathhouse, which no longer exists, with cameos from the real owner and regulars, and b) employs a storyline that went against conventional views of homosexuality in the mid-’70s. The Continental Baths was the best bathhouse at the time, with a disco, cabaret, and stage shows every weekend in addition to a pool, steam room, etc. It played a huge role in gay life in NYC at the time, but few people outside the gay community have ever heard of it. I highlighted it in my book to bring its story to a wider audience and lament its demise. And, even though the Stonewall riot had clued the world in to the cause for gay rights in 1969, most Americans still viewed gay men as perverts or criminals in the mid-’70s. Saturday Night at the Baths made an effort, with a tiny budget, to discredit those views.

“Doris Wishman's films in the 1960s tried to do the same for women, in that her storylines employed female characters who had been victimized by the conventional sexual submissiveness expected of women at the time. In one of my favourites, Bad Girls Go to Hell (1965), the main character Meg wants to be a good, dutiful wife, but her blonde hair and come-hither look work against her best efforts. After she is attacked by a man in her apartment building, she flees to New York, but she is assaulted again and again by male characters who want to exploit her sexual allure. I think Wishman was trying to create a film that would sell tickets, but perhaps unconsciously captured a sense of mid-’60s anxiety about changing gender roles in America.”

7. What are your ingredients for a sexually stimulating night on the town in New York in (a) 1909? and (b) 2009?
“In 1909, if you were a young rake looking for action, I would suggest catching a show at a music hall or burlesque house near Union Square, or seeing a play on 42nd Street with a group of male friends. Then, repair to a silk-hat brothel for drinks, snacks and companionship. Brothels were common near both entertainment districts and customers could spend a few hours with a femme de nuit for a few dollars.

“I think there are fewer options for a young rake in 2009, unfortunately. The over-regulation of sexually-explicit businesses has made it more difficult to find a sexually stimulating night’s action without paying a gigantic sum of money or worrying about one’s safety. So, I would suggest catching one of the neo-burlesque shows at The Box, a club on the Lower East Side with a reputation for raunch as the evening and drinking progresses. It's owned by a grandson of Oscar Hammerstein II. Or, one might go to a semi-private fetish party in the ‘Dungeon District’ (near the Chelsea neighborhood in the upper West 20s). You’d need to plan ahead and sign up for the member’s invitation list, though. The hardest thing to achieve during a sexually stimulation night in 2009 might be spontaneity.”

The Forbidden Apple is one of Cockroach’s Books of the Year.

It’s available from and

For more on its author and her world, go to

Friday, 21 August 2009

Mild At Heart

Okay, this rumour is a month old, but it still makes me laugh.

Hollywood star Nicolas Cage will apparently be switching on the Christmas lights in Bath this year!

The best part of the story is that they got him to do it by sticking a note through his door...

Poor old Nic gets a lot of stick these days for appearing in abominations like the sacrilegious 2006 remake of The Wicker Man. But let’s cast our minds back to the late ‘80s when ebullient performances in Raising Arizona and Wild At Heart made him the coolest actor on earth. Good on ya, Cagey...

Well, I'll Be Damned...

Arguably this year’s most parochial British film – and that’s saying summat - The Damned United is getting a US release. As you probably know, it’s the tale of legendary (and for once the term is deservedly applied) football manager Brian Clough, but in true Brit style it was apparently filmed on a budget of thruppence ha'penny (in old money).

Anyway, it's screening in New York and Los Angeles on 25 September. There's even a trailer for the US market:

Obviously NY/LA are crammed with Brits, but one presumes that Americans will be looking at the trailer and scratching their heads in bewilderment. “There would BE no Derby County without me!” bellows Clough (played by Michael Sheen) at one point.

Like, whatever, dude.

Friday, 14 August 2009

Is Marimbist A Word?

Someone who plays guitar is a guitarist, right? And someone who plays marimba is a marimbist. Anyway, Cockroach has a favourite marimbist – Jane Boxall. A sometime indie-rock drummer and martial arts enthusiast, British-born Boxall moved to the States a few years back to study at the University of Illinois. She got married, moved to Vermont, and last year she released an album, Spherical Music.

As Jane is endlessly explaining with infinite patience, the marimba is a tuned percussion instrument. It has keys like a piano and you hit them with things called mallets. It’s a close relative of both the xylophone and the vibraphone, but all you really need to know is that the marimba produces beautiful sounds. And even if you can’t appreciate Jane’s artistry you can simply groove on her super-trancey music.

We’ve just missed Jane’s UK tour but her new Pyramid EP provides some consolation.

Jane has “lived in five places in the last 12 months”, and currently describes herself as “jetlagged to the point of insanity”.

Get some marimba in your life at

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Drugstore Return With London Gig And New Demos

Anglo-American-Brazilian indie heroes Drugstore are one of very few mid-’90s bands that one does not recollect with a shudder of distaste. Occasionally brilliant on record, they were a consistently fantastic live act - and bassist/vocalist Isabel Monteiro was a peerless frontwoman.

Plagued by ill fortune and financial troubles, Drugstore dropped off the radar after 2001's Songs For The Jet Set.

"Drugstore went into hibernation and I fell into a music-free coma,” writes Isabel. Finding herself at rock bottom, Isabel ended up selling her music gear on Gumtree. "All that remained was a cheap 'n' nasty acoustic guitar," she says. "Which is the one you will hear on these demos.";

Go here to get tickets for Drugstore's London Dingwalls gig on Monday 7 September:

Riot Police Outside Primark

...But are they intended to prevent bargain hunters going on the rampage at the grand-opening of the Bristol flagship store?

Or to contain the protest by 'Labour Behind The Label' activists who claim Primark exploit workers in Bangladesh "producing its clothes for as little as 7p an hour for up to 80-hour weeks"?

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Hippies Walk Among Us

(Picture caption: "This is where Gwen Stefani does her Christmas shopping – well, that's what I heard Gavin Rossdale suggest, right before I almost tripped over her son's pushchair...")

More insights and observations from Paulo, our man (on holiday) in San Francisco...
"Met a few interesting people in the last couple of weeks. A good chat on a train with Clare, a bikini dancer from San Jose. She has to get pretty drunk to get on stage, has done other jobs but they don't pay as well.
"Met 67-year-old Barbara in a launderette. Self-confessed old hippy born and raised in SF. Married to a guy from Fiji who's descended from their royal family, is convinced Michael Jackson was murdered, and once she gets home and puts her laundry away is going to smoke some pot as it relieves her arthritis. She was delighted to discover we were both Geminis and she gave me the peace sign when we parted.
"Hooked up with Matthew whose band toured with [Bristol band] Secret Shine over here. Went and saw Sonic Youth play in Oakland, an amazing gig at a great venue, the Fox Theater. Turns out he works for Adobe and designs the user interface for Photoshop. His girlfriend works for Pixar – it's like a Douglas Coupland novel."

Because Cheese Is The New Crack Cocaine...

...The Great British Cheese Festival returns to Cardiff Castle on 26 September. You can taste “generous samples of over 450 British and Irish cheeses along with fine foods and drinks from around the country”. (There’s CAMRA selected beers for the Real Ale Nazis as well)

Tickets are only £8.50 from and the ticket price includes as much free cheese as you can shovel down your munch-hole.

True Romance

Spotted on Bristol’s Corn Street yesterday at 4.45pm: only Dante Gabriel bleedin’ Rossetti himself! Well, actually it was Aidan Turner, the actor who plays Rossetti in the highly entertaining Desperate Romantics (and, of course, is also Mitchell the vampire in Being Human).

With trademark unruly curls and toting a gym bag, he had the sprightly step of a man freshly showered after a vigorous workout, and seemed genuinely chuffed by the tremors of female excitement his presence was causing.

You can watch all the episodes of Desperate Romantics here (and also a clip of Turner reciting one of Rossetti’s sonnets):

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Gwen 'n' Gavin Spotted In San Fran

Our Man 'Paulo' In San Francisco reports:

"Yesterday evening I was strolling up the main street of Chinatown on my way to the Vesuvio and found myself walking right behind Gwen Stefani with husband (him from Bush), child in pushchair and, I guess, nanny. So close I could've touched her (which I know would've been "wrong"). Annoyingly it was the only time I left my camera at the hotel, otherwise it could've been the start of a great new paparazzi career."

Yes, Paulo. But Gwen's hubby Gavin Rossdale would probably have greeted you with a rude finger-gesture as in the 2006 pap pic above. Top class celeb spot, though - more, please...

Stalkers note, this happened over a week ago so Gwen and Gav are probably no longer 'in the vicin'.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

How The Hell Did That Happen?

Once upon a time, former Brookside actress Anna Friel was notable for just two things: a controversially Sapphic storyline in the aforementioned Scouse soap, and the fact that it sounded like Madonna was singing her name in the chorus to 'Ray Of Light'. But how things change. After marrying noted thesp David Thewlis, catching a lot of people's attention in Pushing Daisies and, presumably, selling her eternal soul, it appears that Anna Friel has joined Hugh Laurie in the How 'The Hell Did THEY Conquer America?' VIP lounge. Bravo, Anna!

Anna Friel's new film, Land Of The Lost, also starring someone called Will Ferrell, is released in the UK on 31 July 2009.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Holy F****ing F***!

When I first visited Toronto at the start of this decade, I noticed numerous flyers for bands with the word ‘F***’ in their names. Everywhere I looked there were acts called things like ‘F*** And The F***s, The F***-Offs’ and The F***ing F***s. My Canadian friend explained that local musos, spawned from a slacker culture of ultra-strong weed and near-sociopathic underachievement, never expected to make it in the wider world, so adopting rude names was a way of annoying the grown-ups and signifying their contempt for the whole notion of success – or even just a career – in music.

But now, well f*** me, but one of those aforementioned bands has only gone and broken through! Here’s a clip of “Toronto electro-rock terrors” Holy F*** earlier this month at Harbourfront Centre’s Beats, Breaks and Culture festival. They’re a highly appealing trancey, Krautrock-flavoured live act, like a slightly harder version of Britain’s Fujiya And Miyagi. God bless ya, Toronto! You f***ing f***.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

A little Piece Of Mischa Barton's Soul - Now Just £14

As Mischa Barton continues to 'do a Britney', some of our favourite gossip whores (step forward, Amy Grindhouse) have noted a curious phenomenon: the mainstream media simply doesn't care. It seems almost unbelievable, knowing the Tabloids' propensity for taking a shattered celebrity life and grinding it beneath their heels, but Mischa's arrest, enforced hospitalization and ongoing treatment have attracted hardly any coverage.

Hopefully this will allow the actress/fashionista to recover in peace before she supposedly joins the cast of The Beautiful Life: TBL on 31 July.

Meanwhile, in the UK you can buy a little piece of Mischa's soul - her range of handbags - at

"Who wouldn't want to nab a slice of Mischa Barton's fabulous style?" ask Secret Sales, who apparently haven't seen the recent pictures of the poor kid looking like insanity on toast.

Friday, 17 July 2009

The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and the Honorary Doctorate

Speaking of Michael Nyman, the peerless film composer was honoured by the University of Leeds this week – the lovely Leodensians made the great man an Honorary Doctor of Music.

Here’s a pleasing video of time-lapse photography set to Nyman’s wondrous ‘Bird List’:

And a stirring live version of ‘Chasing Sheep Is Best Left To Shepherds’:

Michael Nyman, Cockroach salutes you.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Perverted Spanish Genius Quote Of The Week

“All fiction is dangerous and also therapeutic. That’s why we find it irresistible.” - Director Pedro Almodóvar on Broken Embraces, starring Penélope Cruz

Broken Embraces is released in the UK on 28 August 2009

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Lunar Tunes

I loved Moon, the glorious, gritty yet dream-like old school sci-fi thriller directed by Duncan ‘Son Of Ziggy Stardust’ Jones. It’s hard to describe the film in any detail without immediately giving too much away, but I will say that Sam Rockwell delivers a tremendous and, er, multi-dimensional lead performance. Now, admittedly the trailer makes Moon look very derivative – little more than an extended homage to 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Silent Running 1972), Solaris (1972), Dark Star (1974), Blade Runner (1982) and more recent efforts like Event Horizon (1997), Solaris (2002) and Sunshine (2007). However, be assured that it DOES have its own thing going on as well. And where the Event Horizon-type films generally start well before veering off into tiresome gothic horror, Moon’s great strength is that everything in it happens for a reason. In that sense, it also reminds me a little of Gattaca (1997), in a good way.

An important component of the film’s success is the atmospheric original music by Clint Mansell. Once the hell-raising frontman with ‘80s Black Country ‘Grebo’ pioneers Pop Will Eat Itself, Mansell has this year reached the first rank of film composers. His work on The Wrestler (2008) was the culmination of a decade-long partnership with director Darren Aronofsky, but Mansell is probably best known for the epic Lux Aeterna from Requiem For a Dream (2000), which most people recognise as the Lord of the Rings trailer music.

Have a listen to ‘Welcome To Lunar Industries’ at – Moon's thrilling main theme, it sounds like Michael Nyman jamming in space with Eno-era Roxy Music and, yes, David Bowie. It’s a ten-minute track that really kicks in around the 2 minute 45 seconds mark.

Moon is released in the UK on Friday 17 July 2009.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Silly-Named Actress of the Month

With a name like Tallulah Sheffield, the chances are you're going to end up in showbiz. I mean, otherwise how will you ever get to hang out with the likes of Tuppence Middleton (our previous SNAOTM), January Jones, Moon Bloodgood and Honeysuckle Weeks?

Anyway, suitably striking model-turned-actress Tallulah appears alongside Ben Barnes, Colin Firth and Rebecca Hall in the new Dorian Gray film, having previously survived a sweaty clinch with your man James Nesbitt in TV's Jeckyll. Remember, you chuckled at her name here first...

Dorian Gray is released in the UK on 11 September 2009.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Rattle Those Bones

Bones At The Bottom Of The Barrel / Rita Lynch

The Junction, Bristol

Saturday 4 July 2009

She may be forever doomed to have her name prefixed with the tag ‘Veteran Bristol Rocker’, but there’s something heroic about Rita Lynch. Clad in her usual gig attire – spray-on jeans, peroxide birds’ nest hair, lipstick, Fender guitar, no shoes - she is joined tonight by John Langley, the Blue Aeroplanes/Strangelove drummer who is quite possibly her musical soulmate. As they blast their way through tracks from Rita’s self-released new album Good Advice, it becomes apparent that she is an artist – outsider or otherwise – at the top of her game. If Iggy Pop was all about Raw Power, then Rita’s territory is Raw Pain, and the desperate catharsis of her performance is something to behold. For well over six months now we’ve been hearing that 2009 is the year of women in music. An admirable thing, sure, but neither Florence (gap-year Kate Bush), Little Boots (shiny, disposable Topshop pop) nor Bat For Lashes (the Natasha Bedingfield of pseudo-goth tosh) possess one smidgeon of the ravaged innocence and torturously earned experience that Rita distils into her music.

Headlining tonight are the amusingly eccentric Bones at the Bottom of the Barrel. On graveyard guitar and throat-disease vocals, John is a lanky, eyelinered, string-breaking, attention-demanding frontman. On keyboard, melodica and backing vocals, Anna is a natural comedienne and a perfect female foil to John’s boyish exuberance. Migrating to Bristol from Sheffield last year, the duo quickly made an impression as an acoustic act, but their ‘we-like-dressing-up-and-every-song-is-about-pirates’ schtick got tired quicker than your parrot could say ‘Long John Silver’. Well, the good news is they’ve changed. Going electric, and adding bassist Joe Clark and drummer Alice Hyde, the Bones now shake and roll where before they merely rattled. Their new songs are like a trolley-dash through the murkiest aisles of some Trash Rock supermarket, while Anna’s uber-cheesy synth lines suggest their own imaginary version of the early ’80s. The Bones offer little in the way of intellectual endeavour or emotional sustenance, but if it’s a borderline-demented party band you’re after, they’re just about the best in town.

Photography by David Hammonds

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Summer Lovin’

(500) Days Of Summer is a romantic comedy distinguished by quirky casting, genre-defying cultural references and a deft gender reversal (so here it's the man – or rather manchild – who burbles madly about meeting ‘The One’ and generally acts like a relationship-seeking missile). Unfortunately, it’s not as good as I’ve just made it sound. It is, however, a film that’s pretty much composed of self-conscious soundbites (or whatever you call their cinematic equivalent), so here’s a few more to sum it up:

A rom-com for the iPod generation.

A 90-minute Vodafone commercial.

An emotional mixtape charting the highs and lows of indie-love.

A Brief Encounter for the MySpace/facebook/whatever age.

Personally, I groaned at its clumsy, borderline-sacrilegious references to The Smiths, The Jesus and Mary Chain and Belle & Sebastian. It actually feels like a generic rom-con dressed in vintage by a purposefully edgy stylist who then shoe-horned some cool music into it while laughing like a maniac. That said, I thought Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s drunken karaoke version of The Pixies’ ‘Here Comes Your Man’ was better than the original...

Ultimately, the film is an enjoyable, fairly okay piece of work, but it does feel like something constructed by a committee briefed to take the indie-by-numbers formula and clamp it to a rom-com. No surprises, then, that it comes from Fox Searchlight, who previously gave us Juno. Zooey Deschanel is perfectly cast as the titular Summer – a kind of anti-ingenue – but the otherwise likeable Gordon-Levitt just seems too much of a junior yuppie to be truly convincing as alleged indie-boy Tom. The fact that he never goes to any gigs is a little suspicious, but when he ends up hitting on an orange-hued Jessica Alba-type (not-so-hilariously named Autumn) I wanted to shout 'Imposter!'...

(500) Days Of Summer is released in the UK on 4 September 2009