Desolation Row

Years ago I briefly dated a guy we shall call Jay. Jay was a catch, I guess. He had an incredibly successful career and a beautiful Copenhagen apartment, he was handsome in his expensive suits, and his date nights were always carefully planned with foreign films and meals to match. Relatively quickly I realised that Jay had no friends, just colleagues. He had a family but he had no contact with them (nor any desire to speak about them). Jay was lonely and he had no idea how to transcend this loneliness. We went our separate ways relatively quickly - there was no connection and there never would be.

I watched Steve McQueen's Shame yesterday and for the first time in years I thought about Jay. The similarities between Shame's Brandon (played by Michael Fassbender) and Jay are superficial - the walled-up Self and an absolute inability to connect emotionally whilst seeming succeeding in life - yet I was struck by them. I hope Jay is happier now.

Shame has been marketed as a film about sex addiction and carries an 18 certificate (NC17 in the US) with much hype surrounding Michael Fassbender's nudity. I thought it was an intellectually engaging film - and very pointedly unerotic - and I don't buy that it is about sex addiction. The addiction is the symptom, not the cause. This review pokes at some uncomfortable things (spoilers).

Visually it is just stunning as you would expect from a director rooted in visual art: scenes are very deliberately framed, long shots are used to great effect, and the film is drenched in blue-grey hues. McQueen also uses reflective surfaces very effectively hinting at Brandon's fractured Self. I noted a meta-commentary running throughout the film: Brandon rides the New York subway a great deal and the trains have posters framing Fassbender's face: Medical EnhancementA Work In Progress etc. Every single detail matters in this film.

Every single detail matters in this film, so I wonder about some  things. Brandon dresses in well-made, yet bland clothes and lives in a stark apartment where you would be hard pressed to find anything expressing personality - except for his records which are all on vinyl. We see him placing a needle on the record (Glenn Gould's The Goldberg Variations) - in a film so careful about each frame, that tiny detail nags.

My good friend Anne saw Shame yesterday as well and we had a long conversation over the phone about it. She liked it as much as me - although like is a strange word to use in this context. It is a thought-provoking film, it is a beautiful film, but it is not a film for everyone. I think it will stay with me for a long time.

On The Silver Screen

I have seen this link in various places today: Movies From An Alternate Universe. Asking the audience to re-imagine well-known films, the site wonders just who would have starred in a 1950s version of "Drive" or an early 1960s version of "The Hangover"? (The answers are obvious: James Dean is a proto-Gosling; Lemmon/Martin/Lewis are pitch-perfect too). It is a post-postmodern idea that does away with linear time and coherent history. The time is out of joint. Films we know to draw upon the past suddenly become the past - witness the almost lazy re-configuration of "2001" into a Fritz Lang Art Deco futurist epic - and so we have to ask ourselves the age-old question: what is really new?

Or you could do what I did with friends: continue the re-configuration of film history: imagine a 1980s version of "Brokeback Mountain"? A 1940s version of "Pretty Woman"? What about a 1960s version of "Lost In Translation"? The possibilities are endless - and intriguing.

More fun with film: Stephen Wildish is a UK graphic designer who has done some brilliant film alphabets (among other great work - seriously, check out his site). See if you can identify all of these: 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s.

Finally, I like my pop culture hot & irreverent served with smart snark. I get it from Pajiba most days and I like many of their features such as the Career Assessment and their Guides to everything under the sun. It is not highbrow but it's funny. For slightly more highbrow pieces, I would recommend  The Hairpin's look at Classic Hollywood (it is hardly Pauline Kael but it mixes its Classic Hollywood gossip with astute film readings) and also Clothes On Film which delivers sharp sartorial analysis.

PS. Most of these links would quite possibly not be available or would contain illegal material if SOPA & PIPA were made law. Just in case you wonder why you the non-US citizen should care.

Attack of the .. WHAT?

Last night I discovered that my wonderful father-in-common-law (aka D's Dad) will be starring in a low-budget spatter film set in Aberdeenshire. Ah, The Geekiness It Runneth in The Family.

I uncovered a few videos and found this one to be the most interesting - not because D's Dad is it (he is not in this video, actually) but rather because it is filmed where I spend most of my holidays. OK, so it is not incredibly interesting but I thought a few of my Danish pals might want to take a look. Please note that normally the village only houses a handful of zombies and that the video features some colourful language.

Unrelated: is this the greatest headline ever? It's a contender, I reckon.

Some knitting content to follow, I swear. It has been a long time coming, but my knitting mojo has returned.


Ever played the casting game? You take one film or TV series and try to recast it using a specific criteria. One of my favourite ones was the "Lord of the Rings gone Hollywood bad" challenge. That one had Dolph Lundgren as Aragorn and Pam Anderson as Eowyn. My latest recasting involves the Inception cast. Apparently Christopher Nolan presented the idea to a Hollywood film company in 2001. So, if the project had been greenlighted in 2001, who would have played the various characters? The central character, Cobb, a charismatic action hero with underlying trauma? Tom Cruise, of course. He did Vanilla Sky around the same time and was at the height of his career. As a result, I'd say that Penelope Cruz would be a shoo-in to be the 2001 version of Marion Cotillard. Julia Stiles might work as the young architecture student, now played by Ellen Page, but I struggle when it comes to the other actors. Who would have been the 2001 equivalent of Tom Hardy? Joseph Gordon-Levitt? Cillian Murphy? It's a silly game but I have been playing it in my head ever since I saw Inception last week (which is a peculiarly fitting way to think about the film, I suppose).

And now for some knitting.

I cast on for Kim Hargreaves' Opal shawl/scarf last night. I had some Kidsilk Aura in my stash from one of my recent stashing downfalls. The colour is really interesting - it is grey but with a blue undertone. It looks a lot like wet asphalt(!) and also like the colour of the haematite gemstone. Normally I would not touch a colour like that, but I think my Scandinavian minimalist wants out at the moment.

The pattern is incredibly easy - so easy that I decided to mess it up three times by not paying attention to the instructions and just playing it by ear. I find easy patterns the most difficult ones, actually. I got back on track, though, and the shawl is zipping along merrily. I am going to up-size it slightly as a I had a brain-blunder when I ordered my needles. For some reason I ordered 8mm needles instead of 9mm .. and can I just say that the KnitPro acrylic tips are not my favourite? The actual tip of the needle is wonderfully pointy, but the needle itself feels cheap (like bog-standard plastic needles) and the acrylic makes the yarn drag a bit. If I had known, I would just have gone for regular circulars and not expensive interchangeable needle-tips.

Hopefully I will finish it today or tomorrow. Hopefully it'll stop raining so I can post a photo. Hopefully.

Reading, Watching, Knitting, Thinking.

I'm currently reading Colm Toíbín's Brooklyn. I am reading it slowly, taking it in line by line. I always do this with Toíbín's books; they deserve attention and care. Also, Brooklyn cuts very close to the bone with its story about a woman leaving one country to seek a better life in another country. Sometimes a bit too close. Some decisions are not made easily and the outcome is messier that anyone might expect. I'm thinking about what we as readers bring to books and what books bring out in us. Mainly, though, I have been trying to finish my little red cardigan. I have had a couple of DVD marathons (verdict: Oh, I love Gregory Peck, the smallest gestures can be completely devastating, and Neil Finn should ditch the falsetto & Johnny Marr) and I'm now one tiny frill and a buttonband away from completion. I am thinking Synecdoche, New York might work for that. Then, it's upwards and onwards. New things to knit, new projects to fret about.

Oh, because I have certain weaknesses, these blog posts were really amusing: Create Your Own Regency Romance and Call In The Angry Villagers: 10 Clichés We Can Live Without. I swear I haven't touched any such reads in months.

And finally, I just loved this little throwaway line by John Cameron Mitchell: "There's no question (..) that Lady Gaga and Hedwig are from the same clan." So true and now I don't know why I didn't twig this earlier.

The Other Things In Life

First of all, a huge thank you to Fineskylark and Paula. Ms Fineskylark sent me these gorgeous oak buttons (made in her part of Canada) and Paula has given me the official (and very cute) Ravelympics 2010 pin starring Ravelry's mascot, Bob the Boston Terrier. Thank you, ladies. I wish I could say that I knew exactly which cardigan calls for those oak buttons, but my knitting mojo has gone AWOL. I'm about to graft the toe of the first Monkey sock, but my Frankie Says .. pullover is languishing in my knitting bag. I love the pattern, I love the yarn but I'm beginning to have second thoughts regarding the shape of the pullover. I'm, well, "top-heavy", as the professionals say, and I'm unsure whether a cropped pullover in quite heavy silk/cotton will do my figure any favours. I'm beginning to eye Blithe from Rowan 47, but I'm not quite ready to change my project just yet. I might need to talk this over with my knitting group.

Moving on.

I was disappointed in humanity when I came across this MetaFilter post about a recently discovered mass grave in England discovering during work on the 2012 Olympics site. The grave contained over fifty beheaded Vikings, possibly killed during the St. Brice's Day massacre in 1002AD. My disappointment arose after reading several MeFi comments of the "Vikings, LOL!" variety. I know this may come as a surprise to people who generally know Vikings as bloodthirsty barbarians from films, comics or Christian monks' annals, but, hey, they were actual human beings.  Actual human beings who were my ancestors and I fail to find the funny side in beheadings or mass-graves. Show some respect, please. The only good thing that came of the entire Viking thread on MeFi was a link to Star Wars re-written as a saga .. in Old Norse. Now that's hardcore.

Finally, I'm trying to decide whether to go see A Single Man or, ahem, Legion. I need to make my mind up quickly as I suspect neither will be shown in cinemas for much longer..