Tuesday, July 31, 2007


Today’s reviews are all linked by a common theme of corporate mischief. I feel myself aging a little when I realise how many MIFF films I’ve sat through which have devoted valuable screen time to breaking down spread sheets, detailed discussions of share fluctuations, comparing interest rates for loans and generally caressing me into a state of torpor. It’s not like any of these flicks are remarkably bad since none hurt me so much as to invoke an instinctual fight-or-flight response, but I have to wonder if today’s screenwriters aren’t wooing potential investors with promises of high-thrills MYOB action and sexy accountants explaining how the collateral proposed as guarantee for a 30% equity-based funding allowance is enough to get them hot and bothered. All of the films in question were thrillers or horror numbers, by the way. Let’s get into it.


The Last Winter is what you’d get if Al Gore directed John Carpenter’s The Thing. Set in an Alaskan mining outpost, it sets up that same claustrophobic atmosphere to a much less stunning effect. An environmentalist sent to assess the damage being done to the local ecosphere goes head to head with the corporate dudes who want to keep pillaging our natural resources, then everyone starts getting killed off by some creature. There’s probably some deep, chin-scratching message about how nature will enact revenge if we keep treatin’ her so mean, but I think most members of the audience are hoping nature will turn out to be a big gross monster.

There’s some talk in the film about the monster being a Wendigo, which got me going since I love the only other Wendigo-centric film I’ve seen, the highly worthy Ravenous. If you haven’t seen that one, you should go out right now and find it. If you can’t afford it, raid your kid’s piggy bank and if you don’t have kids, quickly find a mate, conceive, give birth to and rear one just so you can sneak into their room, steal and smash their prized money holder and then bury it in the yard before explaining “Honey, I don’t understand, you never had a piggy bank…” tomorrow morning. Then grab a copy of Ravenous.

The score to Ravenous was done by Damon Albarn and Michael Nyman, which should be recommendation enough. But then again, I think it’s one of those films where one element, the score in this case, is enough to forgive any other shortcomings the rest of the piece has. With The Last Winter, it was actually filmed in Iceland (not Alaska) and since I’m so enthralled by that country, I gave TLS a little more credit than it might be due. It’s an ok environmental thriller, but you do feel a little cheated at the end. Unless you want some nice Icelandic scenery. And lots and lots of corporate talk.


It’s usually no more than ten minutes into a movie that I’m quietly asking myself if the main character is actually dead this whole time. It’s an inconvenient truth that I can’t help, and only realised during one of the films of the past half-week. Thinking about it, I’ve pondered the possibility during the following films:

Ils, The Last Winter, Exit, Yella, Severance, The Mourning Forest and Exterminating Angels.

I’ll let you know now that in one of these films, the main character IS actually dead, and my precognition made me deeply angry for spending so long anticipating the obvious ending. It’s sad that I consider the possibility of protagonist-deadness so often, but it’s gotten to the point in modern filmmaking where it would be a surprise if any kind of mystery or drama to an unfolding plot wasn’t solved that way.

I have other things I check off during a film: Is the girl really a guy? Is someone unhealthily obsessed by their childhood sleigh? Will that guy be killed by a red-coated midget in Venice with no forewarning or explanation offered? Admittedly, these questions, when applied to most films, actually enhance the viewing pleasure.

But “they were dead all along”? And I thought “It was all a dream…” had a bad rap.

So, at the end of this post I’ll note which film is worth avoiding if you really can’t stand this kind of “twist”. At the same time, the central character who occupies most of the screen time is really, really attractive throughout, and becomes the equivalent of a Damon Albarn-Michael Nyman score or the landscape of Iceland in that they counterbalance the, ahem, problems of the piece. Perhaps.

And so now, here are the nominees.

Olivia Bonamy (Ils)

James leGros (The Last Winter)

Mads Mikkelsen (Exit)

Nina Hoss (Yella)

Laura Harris (Severance)

Machiko Ono (The Mourning Forest)

(The irritating dude in Exterminating Angels)

ONE OF THESE PEOPLE IS DEAD, PEOPLE. DEEEEAAAADDDD! In the film, at least. Spoiler at the end of this post, as mentioned. Now on with the show.


Billed as “The Office meets Deliverance”, this film is exactly that. If you plonked Ricky Gervais and his wince-inducing TV cohorts down in the woods of Eastern Europe, had them hunted by nasty villains and killed off in increasingly yucky but equally comical ways, you have Severance. This is Shaun of the Dead up a notch, since it’s not got the zombie factor going on but goes for real life ickiness, but the comedy does go a long way to ease the bitter-beer face you might otherwise expect.

A corporate retreat takes a bad turn. The company we’re faced with here are a group who develop and sell military hardware, and on a team-bonding weekend in the woods of a small nation suddenly find themselves targeted by the people they’ve trained and armed to the teeth. Bear-trap, flamethrower and landmine-based fun ensues.

Like Hostel and the rest, this film won’t be doing much for Balkan tourism. But commendably, the women in the piece don’t face graphic violence, the most rictus-inducing moments going towards men you don’t mind seeing dead. And yes, there are bits that will actually have group audiences expressing their response in unison. But the filmmakers understand the thin red line between horror and comedy, and know that the release of inner tensions is pretty much central to both. It’s fun stuff that should really be viewed by nobody.


If this action-thriller had been made in Hollywood it would have starred Harrison Ford and Kevin Spacey, but since it’s Swedish we instead get Mads Mikkelsen and a guy who looks a lot like Kevin Spacey. Mikkelsen’s turn as the villain in Casino Royale didn’t really do him justice, since his effective creepiness in that flick didn’t hint at how strong a leading man he is. He takes the Harrison Ford role here as a beleaguered businessman whose family is put in peril by a sinister figure, but where H-Fo would have had me groaning every time he pulled his “who farted?” face in response to pretty much every dramatic development, Mikkelsen was an enjoyable presence to watch. The women sitting behind me found him even moreso when he emerged from a steamy shower all shiny and bare-chested, and they were nicely voluble about their appreciation, too.

Mikkelsen plays a corporate raider who, along with his boss, informs the guy who built their company that he’s going to have to be laid off. That guy says he’ll take it under advisance and by that I mean he goes back to his office and blows his head off. Seven years later Mikkelsen’s boss suffers an asset reduction, the asset in this case being his own head which faces a merger with a crowbar. Mikkelsen becomes the chief suspect and goes on the run after a shadowy figure claiming to be the first dead guy calls up and says he’s going to take Mads’ wife and kid hostage.

What follows is a very tense and fast-paced thriller with lots of running around Stockholm hiding from the cops, engaging shady underworld characters, trying to get through to the family on the phone and smashing cars into other cars. There’s the obligatory but mercifully short torture scene, in this case involving a dude wanting to do some home renovations on Mikkelsen’s leg with the aid of a nailgun. Look out, that’s a load-bearing leg! Mikkelsen truly proves his action hero chops, though, when he realises that any injury he might sustain can always be fixed up by a long hot shower, thus leading to the hunky pec-tastic scene which provoked oohs and aahs from the ladies in the back row.

Amidst all this action and intrigue is a whole swab of confusing and unnecessary corporate talk that wastes no time in turning its audience completely off the plot, which might be wise since what I did gather didn’t always make a lot of sense. If this were a Hollywood thriller, then, it’d be a pretty middle-range one, but it’s certainly as strong as any of those here-today-gone-tomorrow numbers pumped out of LA at regular intervals.


I’m really torn by Yella, since you’re never sure if it’s great or terrible. That’s mainly because its eerie, understated style hints at something profound going on under the surface, but you can’t tell if it’s just you. What’s on the surface, unfortunately, isn’t that much, so I kept desperately hoping that there’d be the kind of twist that isn’t finally delivered.

Nina Hoss plays Yella Fichte, a young accountant who leaves her abusive ex-husband to start a new life in Hanover. There she hooks up with a slightly dodgy insurance broker and together they start raking in some cash and form a vaguely romantic relationship. Psycho-ex starts stalking her, and her very frequent business meetings are interrupted by his intermittent house calls or tappings on shoulders.

It’s all done in this cool, lyrical way that sets up a very strange mood of suspense when the events themselves aren’t that suspenseful. What saves the film – the one thing, in the manner already mentioned – is in this instance Hoss herself, who makes for a compulsively watchable protagonist. She’s incredibly restrained and brings this unbearable sadness to the role. I kept hoping she’d hook up with the loser from Lights in the Dusk. But it just seems as if every guy in her life has always been complete crap, and she carries this hopelessness that’s heartbreaking. Other than that, the film doesn’t really go anywhere much. Way, way too much talk of investment capital and leverage and other things that might give your average auditor a bit of a buzz, but won’t even register an impression on most audience members.


This is the one film for today that didn’t really have any pointless business prattle, thank god. It’s another Eastern Europe – your destination for death! – films, but it’s a thriller as opposed to a bloody horror. It recreates the true story of a young French couple who move to a town in – I think it was Romania, maybe Hungary – and one night find themselves terrorised in their own home by evil marauders. It mostly unfolds in real time as they try to evade their would-be killers, and the central couple deliver great performances. Again, not much more to it than that (or not much I’ll give away), but this is a minor yet mostly pleasant piece with enough jump-out-of-your-seat moments to keep up some level of interest. Very handsomely shot, too.


If you really, really don’t like Dead All Along endings, then there’s one film I’ve reviewed at some point today or earlier which you should avoid at all costs. In the little list I gave above, it’s the one after the second film to be composed of a one word title. So there ya go.

Monday, July 30, 2007

MIFF report 3


Yesterday I caught a tram into the city to buy a vacuum cleaner and as I skipped down the front steps of my house I set my iPod to random – as I generally do – and was confronted by the Benny Hill theme tune. “Very well, little friend,” I murmured to the traitorous music device, “that’s the way it’s going to be, is it?”

My extreme scepticism towards all things mystic and metaphysical is balanced only by my equally extreme superstition and belief in things mystic and metaphysical. It’s a tough combination. In this case, I sometimes wonder if other people put some kind of portentous faith in their personal electronics. Most of the time, if my iPod’s random setting serves up an excellent playlist of a morning, I’ll take it that I’ll have an equally excellent day. The reverse, of course, is also true.

So during my vacuum-cleaner-purchasing trip, I decided to let every song play out in full to see if things could go uphill from the Benny Hill debacle. And boy, it was probably the best playlist the thing has ever delivered. In order, here is what it gave me:

Howard Johnson, The Sundays, Emiliana Torrini, the soundtrack the 1965 western The Big Valley, Beck, Cold War Kids, Mouse on Mars, Coldplay – WAIT A MINUTE, I thought. Finally, a break in this uninterrupted run of aural perfection. When those unmistakable opening bars of “Clocks” came on, I felt let down. My disappointment was premature, though, when it suddenly transformed into a very good and previously unheard rhumba version. All is forgiven! Then it was onto The Orb – three minute break as I purchase vacuum cleaner – back to Cut Copy, Dusty Springfield, Beastie Boys, Television, M. Ward and suddenly I’m home again. And after all that, yes, the rest of my day was fantastic.

I’m sure my iPodomancy is no more or less irrational than trusting the stars, the weather or a psychic hotline. But then again, what this lengthy and mostly pointless preamble serves to prove is that a collection of music probably isn’t that illuminating an insight into a person’s universe.

But that’s the rationale behind John Peel’s Record Box, a British made-for-tv doco (BBC I think) centred around the world’s most famous radio DJ. When Peel died in 2004 his personal collection of albums numbered in the hundreds of thousands, but a secret box of 100 singles on vinyl was found beneath a desk in his study. These records, according to the film, were his secret stash, his true treasures, the ones he’d want to save from a house fire as everything else goes to hell.

It’s a fascinating collection, too, and we’re given various famous faces (Elton John, Billy Bragg, family and friends as well as artists contained in the collection) who pore over the box and give insights into the man through his chosen few tracks. These range from minor punk bands to Sheena Easton, an unexpected devotion to The White Stripes (20 of the 100 records!) and some odd, jokey bands as well.

But we’re never really given an explanation for the box’s existence, and as my companions noted once it was up, it could have just been the bunch he packed for the previous weekend’s DJ gig. It could have been leftovers he hadn’t sorted yet. It could have been anything.

The interviews and old footage do a great job of delving into the life and mind of an obsessive lover of music, and if it’s a pretty weak hook to hang a film on, it’s still a fairly entertaining piece. The made-for-tv format means that it isn’t exactly daring or ground-breaking stuff, but it’s short and worth a look if it ever does come on the tube.

It was preceded by a local short which I found as interesting, if not moreso:


From the 1950s on, electronic music in Britain WAS the avant-garde when it came to composition. Broadly defined, it was music that didn’t use microphones but was created through the manipulation of signals and frequencies and recorded directly to tape. Some of it was awful, some deeply innovative, and some just a bit stupid.

This short hunts down the pioneers of the form, mainly looking at the trio behind Electronic Music Studios (EMS) who are now getting on a bit, but still plugging away separately. They’re musical geniuses, it’s quickly clear, who were way ahead of their time. Now, as one laments, their legacy is mostly as the guys who invented a pretty crappy synth.

It’s a bit odd that this is an Australian made doco, although one of the guys does now live here. But it's pretty fun to watch a piece about a period when the future really did look like it would be based around computers the size of houses able to generate music that now sounds simpler than the most outdated ringtone. People were predicting this with absolute conviction. Guess you shouldn't have too much faith in such predictions. For now I'll stick to my iPod.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

MIFF report 2


How can you look at this face and not be moved to pity?

I’ve long been ashamed that we in the privileged west have allowed the humanitarian crisis in France to go unchecked for so long. As I type, hundreds of thousands of middle-aged, cigar-smoking dudes with hairlines receding as fast as their youth face discrimination, litigation and even plate-throwing in their own homes. Their crime? To desire nothing more than a string of hot young mistresses to sleep with on demand.

Now I know what you’re thinking: how could we even know that this terrible situation has been going on for so long? Most of us couldn’t even point out France on a map, let alone understand the complex cultural differences which separate us. It could be like Middle Earth over there for all we know. But really, we can’t plead ignorance. For decades the national cinema of the country has been desperately trying to draw our attention to this plight, and a great deal of the economy’s film industry has sought to justify every rotund and heavy-jowled Frenchman’s basic human right to a string of hot young mistresses to sleep with on demand. I’m surprised there hasn’t been some sort of international aid system set up. You know, sponsor a middle-aged French guy unable to find a string of hot young mistresses to sleep with on demand. I can picture the commercials now, tugging at the heartstrings as droopy-lidded Gilles is shown mournfully seated outside a cafĂ© on his own, dejectedly tearing a hunk from his croquet monsieur and stuffing it into his down-turned mouth. How long can you look away?

Exterminating Angels is, then, a desperate cry for help. It follows a film director, played by the film’s director, as he embarks on a soul-searching mission of self-help. He does this by sourcing a number of hot young actresses willing to masturbate for him in exotically appointed hotel rooms. That’s pretty much the whole film right there, and it was inspired by the true story of this same director’s previous legal battles after he ran some auditions in which women were asked to do the same thing and weren’t too happy afterwards. Clearly we need to see that any suffering caused by the whole affair was wholly on his part, though to be honest anyone actually watching this film will do more than their fair share of suffering too.

I can’t even be bothered looking up the director’s name since the very memory of this flick makes me want to unscrew by head and rinse out my brain with a good flush of Draino. It’s less erotic than it is laughable, but even any chuckles of derision which it might inspire are quelled by the constant feeling of disgust that underscores the viewing experience. Probably not the perfect date movie, then.


"Hey, where's your other arm?"

Speaking of which, who could go past a lavish documentary exploring the world of bestiality? This stunning feature recreates, Errol Morris style, the subculture of US guys who take their horse whispering to the bedroom. It was inspired after the director read of the true case of a man who was admitted to hospital and died from massive internal bleeding after his colon was ruptured during a little horseplay. What this director uncovered was a sprawling web of animal enthusiasts whose tastes are a bit out there.

Surprisingly, it’s nothing like the film the subject matter would have you expect. It almost entirely shys away from the more obviously lurid aspects of the material, and instead gets deep inside the minds of these guys who, incredibly, can’t see how their actions might just be a bit unacceptable to most people, and probably enter the category of animal abuse. Their delusions make for fascinating viewing, and there’s nothing graphic to confront your sensibilities too badly – though leaving things to your imagination can sometimes have the same effect. It’s one of the more beautifully shot things I’ve seen for a while, and if there’s one thing that’s certain it’s that this is a helluva conversation-starter. Once again, though, maybe not first date material (unless pets are at concession prices).

MIFF report 1

Alright, some reviews from the Melbourne International Film Festival.


The opening night film of the festival saw maverick documentary maker ™ Michael Moore taking a change of pace by directing a dramatic feature blending thriller, horror and laugh-out-loud comedy. What’s more, he plays the central role of Dr. Gary Hamboner, a seriously demented M.D. with a penchant for bloody revenge! The Doctor is most definitely in!

After Hamboner’s wife (touchingly played by Brit darling Emma Thompson) dies on his own operating table, he is informed by a mysterious phone call (from Morgan Freeman) that her health insurance policy contains some “irregularities” that he should look into. It doesn’t take long before he discovers systematic corruption that goes all the way to the top – the insurance companies of the US are all about making profits, not saving lives. With the assistance of a sexy auditor (Catherine Zeta Jones), a former insurance assessor haunted by his past (Donald Sutherland) and a bumbling intern (the late John Candy, recreated through CGI manipulation of outtakes from Moore’s first feature, the Candy vehicle Canadian Bacon), Hamboner takes a scalpel to the people destroying America from within. As his ironically delivered, Arnie-like catchphrase goes: “Health care? More like Health KILL!” Alright, that could have done with a bit of work.

It’s violent, messy fun, but Moore knows well enough to lighten things along the way with plenty of pratfalls, a firefight at a monster truck rally and a French interlude that really makes you want to visit Paris. His usual grandstanding pontifications are there, of course, but not in the way which makes you want to check your private health cover. Subtle nods to other films including the Bourne series, Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry films and the works of Jacques Tati will keep the cinephiles content, while the rip-roaring pace of events will ensure that cineplexes are filled for at least several weeks.

Then again, like the film itself, this review has been pretty riddled with lies, overstatement, dramatic license and truth-twisting. There’s enough truth to make it worthwhile, however, and very enjoyable in any case. I don’t think that’s such a bad thing. I’d go see the film I’d just reviewed, even if it isn’t Sicko. And I’d recommend Sicko, even if it’s not the film I just reviewed.


We’re only a few days in, but I’m willing to go out on a limb here and declare The Mourning Forest THE feelgood hit of the festival! That’s if you feel good watching old dudes falling over, since that’s pretty much the bulk of the movie. You’ve got the old dude falling into a puddle. At one point he actually falls out of a tree. All of this is just to set up your expectations for the bit where he looks like he’s about to fall over a log and… I don’t want to give it away.

Despite the inherent comic value in this string of scenarios, Japanese director Naomi Kawase takes the unusual option of making the film a drama. I’d pretty much be happy with a light-hearted romp through the woods as a grieving widower takes tumble after hilarious tumble, but Kawase knows that watching a really, really old fogey slipping on muddy paths isn’t enough to score the grand prize at Cannes, so we get some serious stuff thrown into the mix and oddly enough, it works well enough that not a single person laughed during the Funniest Home Video moments. In fact, this reviewer at least was terribly moved by the whole affair.

Machiko is a young girl who takes up a job in an old folks home in a lushly forested, mountainous area near Kansai. Her job seems to basically consist of hanging out with them, which suits her just fine because she’s doing some serious grieving at the mo after her little boy was killed (crossing the road, I think, but there’s this whole “crossing” theme going on in the flick which might just be metaphorical). One of the people she looks after is Shigeki, the really, really old guy who keeps falling over. I’ll give it to him, though – every time he hits the dirt he gets back up quick smart. He’s sort of the energiser bunny of mourning. That’s right, he’s grieving too. His wife died 33 years ago and he’s STILL hung up on it. Machiko cleverly realises that she could learn a thing or two about hard-core, never-ending grief from this guy and that following him on an epic journey to his wife’s grave is just the way to do it. I don’t really know if she realises that but she should have since that’s what follows.

A brief drive in the countryside is interrupted when Machiko’s car ends up in a draft, and the cheeky old codger goes AWOL while she’s off looking for help. When she finally finds him, it’s off on a trek to the top of a nearby mountain and lots of deep soul-searching and silent reflection and falling over along the way. I’ll let you know now – it’s a really, incredibly long walk. You can’t help but feel the overwhelming grief that motivates these central characters, and you mostly feel that grief in your buttocks. But it’s worth the voyage, since Kawase’s terribly nuanced direction, the verdant scenery (I’d forgotten how country Japan is truly greener than anywhere else I’ve seen) and an unforgettable performance by the old dude (Machiko is great too, though) make this film one of those understated, slow-burning films that you always feel a bit worried going in to but are nevertheless unmistakeably changed by during the viewing.


Aki Kaurismaki’s latest is to films about losers what Jaws is to films about sharks, ie it has a really big one in it. Like Spielberg’s blockbuster, too, the loser/shark at the centre is beset by a small group of hardy characters intent on his utter destruction. Of course, they don’t finally accomplish their aim by having Roy Scheider blow up an oxygen canister in our protagonist’s toothy maw, but what this film lacks in high-explosive Jabberjaw detonations it more than makes up for in homely mobster’s girlfriend department.

Grody molls, you say? Why are we only hearing about this now? Well shoot, I can’t go giving that stuff away too early or you’ll get the wrong impression about this flick. And anyway, the moll in question is only there to help ratchet up our hero’s life of misery a couple of notches. His name is Koistinen, a security guard who is laughed at by strangers, snubbed by his co-workers and given pitiful looks by dogs. I know, I know, you’re thinking that this is one of those Harry Potter affairs that almost completely fantastic and only bears any relation to reality on some vaguely metaphorical level. That’s probably because, like me, you’ve always been on the side of the winners, the movers and shakers, asserting yourself by trampling all over losers like Koistinen and laughing at the results. But that’s what cinema is all about, isn’t it? Imagining how the lives of such non-people might really be? I mean, that’s what makes it fiction, right?!

In an odd move, Kaurismaki doesn’t give us an obvious loser. Koistinen is a pretty good looking guy who wins you over pretty early, and you can’t understand why everyone – literally, everyone – treats him like an utter chump from the get-go. He’s a bit poor on the conversational skills but you get the feeling he’s arrived in a Big Brother-like world called “Everyone You Ever Meet Is a Dickhead”.

It’s classic film noir stuff. Koistinen, the eternal underdog, finally meets someone willing to treat him with some dignity. That’d be the gangster’s girl. She befriends him over coffee with condiments, by which I mean she slips him a mickey, steals his security guard stuff and sets him up for a burglary. Her mobster friends aren’t happy to let things rest with some loot, though, and hound the guy till he’s living with the dogs.

The film is deeply philosophical, taking loserdom to existential levels. It’s almost as if Kaurismaki is offering his loser hero as having attained a desirable state of existence – no matter what is done to him, he refuses to respond (for the most part). He simply accepts his lot, which often isn’t pretty. He doesn’t expect anything more. But what complicates the film is the way he hopes for more. The tribulations that he faces are always met with the grudging sense that he’ll be ok in the end, however unrealistic that belief may be.

Then again, all of this guff is just fantasy, remember, and you and I don’t need to be concerned when we exit the cinema. But for some escapist fun, I’ll give this one lots of stars and thumbs in upward directions!

Note: this is the first film in my life that caused me to seek out retail therapy after viewing. In all honesty, I went shopping to reaffirm my sense of self-worth, and bought several items of clothing which I quite like. They were on sale. This is rather out of character, and I’m not sure how it affects my feelings towards this outstanding flick.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Chimps do the Hard Work

I'm on holiday and have a see-lots-of-films pass for the Melbourne International Film Festival, so I won't be mentioning much besides films here for a few weeks (not true), but before I get all MIFFy I thought I should round up some recent (non-films) shows I've seen.

Then again, I'm on holiday, so I'll let the chimps do the reviewing.

Written, directed and designed by Peter Houghton.
Performed by Anne Browning.

This should be better than it is. But it's still pretty good.
Directed by Nikki Heywood.
Performed by Dawn Albinger, Scotia Monkivitch and Julie Robson.
This should be a lot better than it is. It's about...ok.
By Marguerite Duras.
Directed by Greg Carroll.
Performed by Kate Kendall.

This shouldn't be as good as it is. It's GREAT.
By Will Eno.
Directed by Julian Meyrick.
Performed by Neil Pigot.

This is exactly as good as it should be.
They may be hard workers, but they're not the best reviewers.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Stop. Slammer Time.

I feel cheated. All this time, television shows such as Oz and Prison Break have tricked me into thinking that life behind bars is all shivs to the kidney during meal time and the ever-present threat of posterior assault whenever shampoo gets in your eyes. Even relatively gentle film fare such as The Shawshank Redemption or The Green Mile made a jail sentence seem unsufferably horrible - the former by suggesting that the best an inmate can look forward to is a really, really sweet gig in the prison library accompanied by some hot sweaty accounting (they actually devoted lengthy screen and plot time to scenes of Tim Robbins settling the jail ledger - repeatedly), while the latter featured Tom Hanks. Even the riotous 1978 comedy Midnight Express had its serious side and made me think twice about smuggling narcotics into Turkey.

Is it all just a smokescreen, though? Is prison life something very different to what we've all come to expect? I present, for your consideration, the following video in which around 1,500 inmates at a Filipino prison meticulously recreate the choreographed video for Michael Jackson's Thriller.

Right, that's it, I'm off on a Grand Theft Auto-style crime spree, perhaps in the manner of Jarvis Cocker in the clip for "Dont Let Him Waste Your Time".

Friday, July 20, 2007


Two days ago a friend's email made a poignant point:

"On the tram ride into work today I was thinking how little humans and monkeys have the opportunity to hang out together."

Today's choice is between the following two things:


Thursday, July 19, 2007

Traffic Report

Once in a while you come across something that makes you feel like someone's been sneaking into your room at night, plugging a retro betacam directly into your brain, and recording your dreams. This is one of those moments.

Friday, July 06, 2007

A Map of the Human Heart

This is beautiful and simple and effective billboard art from a Polish artist. What I'd really like to see, however, is some of the expressions registering on the faces of couples leaving the McDonalds across the road as they absorb the piece in between facefuls of slimy burger.

Dr J posted some stuff today about We Feel Fine, and it's really exciting. It's a site/web app/thing regularly scours the net for instances where people have written "I feel" or "I'm feeling" and the like, and from the data builds up maps of feelings around the world.

"...the feelings can be searched and sorted across a number of demographic slices, offering responses to specific questions like: do Europeans feel sad more often than Americans? Do women feel fat more often than men? Does rainy weather affect how we feel? What are the most representative feelings of female New Yorkers in their 20s? What do people feel right now in Baghdad?"

"At its core, We Feel Fine is an artwork authored by everyone." My favourite sort, that.

A-grade stuff. Now if only I could upgrade my java app to get it to work.

Also, bookmagazinebook has hit its 34th issue with some months to go. Anyone who hasn't had a copy and would like one, stake your claim now.

PS. The bored should regularly visit Strange Maps, which is dedicated to posting maps of things which don't technically exist, or in ways that don't fit strict cartographical requirements - a postcode map of the UK, New Switzerland (now with ocean views!), a tourist map of Gotham City, or Secret Soviet Plans for the Complete Removal of the North American Continent.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Streets Ahead

I've been a-listening to a lot of music from Iceland lately. The shitty new one from Bjork (sorry, umlauts cost extra); the ace uber-minimalist dance album Forever by Gus Gus; some Sigur Ros (here for the Melb. Fest); perennial playlist incumbent Emiliana Torrini; Maps, an English dude who recorded his album on the tiny island nation; even Cicada, an slightly cheesy Brit electronic duo whose singer turns out to be Icelandic. Still, music aside:

What the Sam Hill is going on in Iceland?

New Rave fashion has clearly infected the place in a way that suggests the poor little people didn't realise it was meant to be a joke, but who are we to judge? (A: no one).

The images above are from Reykjavik Looks, a street fashion blog. I like looking at street fashion blogs, though I didn't even know they existed twelve months ago. They're a great snapshot of cities across the world, despite the obvious editorial bias of the creators, but that's fashion, isn't it? Nonetheless, they're the kind of thing that have me madly pouting in my want to travel again.

Stil in Berlin indicates why it's the coolest city on Earth.

Copenhagen Street Style is an uneasy mixture of the two. With more bikes.

If street fashion blogs are new-ish to me, I'm even more surprised that street art blogs have been so late hitting my radar. I know, I know, this site needs more art the way John Stamos needs more jetlag, but like J-Sta I keep finding myself ill-advisedly rapping my knuckles at the counter and yelling "another round of jetlag, barkeep". Jetlag here obviously a metaphor for art, as opposed to being a metaphor for alcohol or drugs, which it IS IN NO WAY ALLEGED TO BE IN STAMOS' CASE.

Here's some of my favourite street art. Little People is a project that makes me want to fancy-dance around various important world landmarks, record the results and post them on youtube, since that's the way people express themselves these days. That not being an option, however, I'll just have to refer you to the site. Lovely.

But the best without a doubt is this one - simply, but crushingly titled "No".

Look at the way the light hits his face. It's a bit hard to see at this size, but the Little People site has a much larger version.
It also has links to other street art sites and blogs. Some are good.

I was really hopeful when I first found the Wirebreakers - krumpers who begin dancing for random strangers on the street. Krumping is of course one of the rare forms of street dancing, as exciting a thing as any other kind of street art, and at least the best thing to happen to streets since breaking.

I was disappointed to realise that the Wirebreakers is part of a motorola ad campaign. Nice idea, though, sort of.