A few weeks ago I was intrigued by a hefty old queue snaking from the entrance to our city centre Waterstones all the way down the side of the shop and into the next street where it curved around the front of several other shops. In fact there were so many people in this queue that it had actually been split into two with the second part starting in the middle of the pedestrianised walkway a short distance away. All of the queuees were young and mostly female so I assumed that the latest pop sensations were in town. As I wandered to the head of the queue to find out what megastar was in attendance I spotted the book that was the cause of this lunchtime commotion. Turned out it was the new title from vlogger Tanya Burr entitled `Tanya Bakes` in which she does just that. So a book about baking written by a vlogger attracted a crowd this big? Not even Dame Mary Berry would surely command such an army of admirers? Not for the first time it alerted me to the way both media and celebrity have changed. Increasingly where once pop, tv and sports stars were the pin ups of the young, nowadays it is just as likely to be an online star. However these online stars are now migrating like birds seeking warmer climes into traditional media.
The Eighties and it's music faithfully recreated in John Carney's delightful latest film.
It’s good to know that there are still smaller more personal films that are not depressing or cheap horror still being made and Sing Street, just released to buy, is a little gem. Telling that age old but still engaging coming of age story it is also suffused with the 1980s in which it is set. It’s odd to consider that such an era is now `historical drama` because I remember it well! As it seems does director/ writer John Carney (who also brought us Once) because he has assembled a movie that mirrors the moves of many an Eighties teen film yet relocated the narrative to a Dublin that is a long way removed from the middle class settings of Pretty in Pink and company. It works a treat and as a bonus you also get a clutch of sings cheekily inspired by period hits yet still sounding fresh.
Top of the Pops 1981 currently on BBC4. Watched by Chris Arnsby
Richard Skinner: [After a slightly awkward pause in which Richard Skinner pulls a face while waiting for his cue] "Yes it's the programme that brings you the cream of the crop of British pop and we're going to start off with a bit of Startrax Club Disco. Just like this."
Startrax: Startrax Club Disco . Who will rid me of these terrible song medleys? This is the crap Bee Gees one; for those of you who might be getting Startrax Club Disco mixed up with the crap Abba one; or the crap Beach Boys one; or the crap sixties one; or the crap one by Enigma called I Love Music (then why do that to it?) which hasn't appeared in the BBC4 run because it keeps falling on shows presented by the forbidden DJs. Pop Quiz: who's the least charismatic member of Startrax? Answer: the curly haired bass player. Observe how he half heartedly shuffles on the spot, and absent mindedly plunks at his guitar strings, and mumbles as if he's not sure how to mime a falsetto. The red shirted singer is clearly the best. Although he has terrible bags under his eyes. My diagnosis, lack of sleep due to remorse for his crimes against music.
There is something holding Midnight Special back from fully realising its potential. An enigmatic sci-fi slowburn with some superbly visual moments and a streak of realism ingrained in even the most unexpected development Jeff Nichols' film draws particularly from two classic sci-fi movies. Yet lacking the warmth of ET or the sheer sense of wonder that Close Encounters of the Third Kind evokes it just doesn’t reach the same level. Part of that may be because of the times; would we now be so entranced by a film that is not about alien invaders or battles but simply a survival story? Perhaps to compensate for modern day cynicism the presentation is mostly grim and hard edged occasionally interrupted by flashes of special effects. The plot is straightforward in an age when we perhaps expect surprises and spoilers. To say that there are really none makes the film sound dull, which is isn’t, but by the time of the big visual reveal the viewer may well have settled too far into the everyday to accept such a sight.
Anarchic gang add much needed colour to the DC movie Universe.
Now we are over-run with superhero movies, the key to their artistic worth has to lie in what new spin each can add to the genre. Some (especially the Captain America trio) have found their own way of threading wider concerns into the fantastical, others (Deadpool, Guardians of the Galaxy) succeed by way of humour. You’ll notice all of those are Marvel films and their carefully constructed run of linked films has been something of a long term triumph from which we are now reaping satisfying rewards. DC on the other hand have managed to succeed more on TV but their big screen adventures have been patchy culminating in the dour Batman vs Superman which was so deadpan it was almost funny but mostly uninspiring. Suicide Squad promises a lot more; the online hype over the new Joker has been percolating for over a year and the word was that this would be a genre film with its own USP. It’s not quite as out there as we might have believed (and the aforementioned Joker is rather a disappointment) but it does show a vitality and reach that makes you think that just maybe this other Universe would be worth sticking with. (SPOILERS TO FOLLOW IN THIS REVIEW!)
Julien Temple’s notorious film is thirty years old!
It’s amazing to think three decades have passed since Absolute Beginners was first released yet I’d never seen it till now. This despite the soaring title song being one of my favourite David Bowie singles. My knowledge of the film has been wholly rooted in the promo video for that Bowie single to the point where I was half expecting the man himself to be wandering around London at night as proceedings open. More than that though the way the video is edited suggested a look that, obviously, is different when it comes to watching the film itself. Then there’s the bad reputation Julian Temple’s movie had had over those decades being panned and flopping having cost over £8m to make and earning only £1.8m. It’s reputation sank so low that it’s been unavailable to buy for years. Now though it is back in a 30th anniversary edition so time for me to reconcile those fleeting clips slotted into Bowie’s promo with the full film itself. Will I absolutely love it or will I lay down the hard lines?
Top of the Pops 1981 currently on BBC4. Watched by Chris Arnsby
Simon Bates: "Welcome to the summer and the Top of the Pops on a Thursday, with Duran Duran and Girls On Film at number six, over there."
Duran Duran: Girls On Film . Wait a minute! Duran Duran started Top of the Pops with this song last time. Oh, BBC4 has skipped a week because of J*mmy S*v*l*. It's unfortunate that two back to back shows should have such similar line ups (*spoiler 5 songs out of the 10 this week also featured on the last BBC4 edition*). Still, it could be worse the skipped show featured Gidea Park with their "song" Beach Boy Gold followed by Tight Fit "performing" Back To The 60s. Two diabolical song medleys one after the other; the survivors must have envied the dead. Last "week" (note to self, don't do "that" again) I rightly criticised Duran Duran for being boring and competent. Luckily this week Simon Le Bon is wearing a hideous stripped shirt and headband combination, and he's skipping round the stage like a tiny child. Oh, and check out the Duran Duran caption at the end of the performance. It's massive. They've taken a regular caption and blown it up to occupy the whole screen. I don't think we've seen that before.
Over the last couple of years, across Liverpool, unusual graffiti styled lettering has appeared in odd places. It took a while for people to really notice and it’s only since last autumn when there seemed to be more and more of it that it registered widely. The question was- what does it mean? Surely this was some subversive political or social campaign? Under the heading `Sine Missione` there are well known quotes by culturally historic figures such as Martin Luther King, Bob Marley and others. These appear in a stencil style writing reminiscent of certain types of street art but are uniform in colour. They sit on walls or on the side of those metal cable holders or even on the outside of pubs, exactly where you might expect to find graffiti. However is it graffiti at all?