Category Archives: Blog

General thoughts on life, the universe and everything. Stuff that doesn’t fit in the other categories!

Where have you been?

Some people seem to think that I visit new places just so that I can increment my Country Count. I guess going to three countries in one weekend a couple of years ago doesn’t do much to dispel that accusation, but it’s not true. What can I say? I like to see new places.


create your own visited countries map
or vertaling Duits Nederlands

Having said that, hopefully I’ll hit my thirtieth country this year!

Irr?versible

I watch a lot of movies but I don’t usually review them. This makes “Irr?versible” unusual. This word, in fact, describes much about the movie and my reaction to it.

The movie starts at the end, with a death that the blurb proudly describes as “one of the most violent murders ever portrayed on celluloid” and then works backwards detailing the motivations for it and the complex relationships between the various characters.

It sounded like an interesting premise and I was looking forward to seeing it. Unfortunately I found it to be deeply flawed.

Let’s start with the simple stuff: the quick-fire, “street” language does not lend itself to subtitles, which, on occasion, makes the dialogue difficult to follow. The cinematography is such that the screen is often busy too, making reading the dialogue and seeing what’s happening hard work.

It’s not only my reading comprehension skills that are a problem.

The director decided to make each scene look like one take, with no obvious cuts. Great idea, but it might have worked better if he’d been able to keep the camera on a level. It swirls around in an uncomfortable, sickness-inducing loll. This effect gets less and less as the film progresses and might have been applauded as very creative if it had not been over-done.

And it might have been better received if the sound-track had not followed in a similar vein which, unfortunately, was not the case. Instead we are subjected to a 28Hz hum, which, apparently, is the same kind of sound produced by an earth-quake. This effect was added with the express purpose of getting people to walk out of the cinema.

Why deliberately make a film difficult to watch? Shooting difficult or controversial subject-matter is one thing, but driving people out of the cinema by making things physically unpleasant strikes me as odd at best. Not since McDonalds opened its first restaurant has this been considered good business.

The main issue I have with the film is that the director seems to have used jarring imagery, painful audio and a reverse-chronological narrative not to enhance an already interesting story but as a replacement for it. “Memento” is the obvious comparison point as it also runs backwards, however in this case it works. The lead character can only remember so far back which lends itself to the “backwards” story line, we learn what happened at pretty much the same rate that he does. With “Irr?versible” I’m not sure.

Also used to prop up the weak story-line is the excessive violence and sexual content. I’m no prude, I’ve seen some pretty violent films — I rate “Reservoir Dogs” highly and even “Baise-moi” wasn’t this bad — but this was too much. Does a rape-and-beating scene really need to last twenty minutes? Is it necessary to see someone’s skull cave in after a savage beating? (All in the first forty minutes by the way.)

Most of the best scary or violent films rely not on actually showing what happens but by building tension and suggestion. How much do you actually see in the ear cutting scene in Dogs? This film certainly does nothing to dispute my position on this.

Overall you have to ask yourself whether courting controversy with nausea inducing sound effects, drunken camera-work and excessive violence is a good substitute for a well-written script and more controlled direction. I say no, what do you think?

Wallace, Gromit and Me

Rather than just provide a link to the news that Nick Park’s “Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit” won an Oscar, I thought I’d also point you to an interview:

NETRIBUTION – OSCAR WINNER NICK PARK — Wallace, Gromit and Me

The care and attention that goes into these films is, no doubt, exactly why they’re as good as they are.

On the other hand I have no idea why “Crash” did so well. It wasn’t a bad movie by any means but I thought it lacked the cleverness and brilliance that characterised most reviews I saw of it.

iPhoto 6 Cards

As you may have seen, I was generally quite impressed with the photo books that the previous version of iPhoto was able to generate. I was therefore quite keen to try the new cards that you can buy using iPhoto 6, the version included with the recently released iLife ’06. (Am I the only person that thinks that “iLife” is a really naff name? First that, then “MacBook Pro” rather than “Powerbook.” What next?!)

The first real opportunity was Valentines Day. I picked a picture of the two of us and poked around trying some of the various options. There are about twenty themes, ranging from very plain to unusably gushy (to my eyes). You can then customise the theme, modifying the way the picture is displayed (full page, drop-shadow, etc.) and adding text to the front and inside. It’s a nice, polished interface. Easy to use and just like the photo book process.

When ordering a single card, as I did, postage is more than the actual card! On the expensive side, I’d say, but well within the bounds of acceptability.

So what’s the verdict? What’s it like?

The short answer is that I still don’t know. I clicked the order button a full week before the 14th and now, a week after Valentines Day, it has still not arrived.

I don’t think I’m being unreasonable in expecting a card to take less than two weeks to print and be delivered. I realise that a card is more complicated than a few prints, but I have had my snaps delivered the next day a number of times after ordering through PhotoBox (no affiliation, I am just a satisfied customer!). Apple really need to improve their service in this area if they are to avoid alienating their customer base.

March of the Penguins

You’ve already seen once my disdain for Christian extremists. This week I found one more reason when we went to see “La Marche de l’empereur (2005),” or “March of the Penguins” if you, like me, can only read English.

As you may be aware, the Christian Right have adopted this movie as an example of both monogamy and Intelligent Design. If you’ve seen the film you’ll realise that it’s neither.

The idea that a creature most comfortable in the water walking over seventy miles several times a year is proof of intelligent design is, frankly, laughable. And the monogamy bit is only slightly more convincing. Yes, they do have a single partner but only for one mating season. Next year, should they survive, they’ll find someone new.

Fortunately none of this distracts from the film. It isn’t especially deep or meaningful and it doesn’t go into detail as much as, say, an Attenborough series on the BBC would. It’s beautifully shot. The commentary is generally interesting, although it does lapse into easy anthropomorphism rather too frequently.

Enjoyable and worth seeing, just not necessarily for the reasons that some people tell you…

Dante’s Inferno Test

The Dante’s Inferno Test has banished you to the Sixth Level of Hell – The City of Dis!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:

LevelScore
Purgatory (Repenting Believers)Very Low
Level 1 – Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)Moderate
Level 2 (Lustful)High
Level 3 (Gluttonous)High
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Low
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)Low
Level 6 – The City of Dis (Heretics)Very High
Level 7 (Violent)High
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)Moderate
Level 9 – Cocytus (Treacherous)Low

Take the Dante’s Inferno Hell Test