Showing posts from 2013


On the X Factor this year there was a contestant called Tamera Foster. Sixteen years old, blessed with  breathtaking beauty, confidence and passable pipes, Tamera was deemed early on to be a favourite to win the popular karaoke competition. And so it proved for a while: like the other contestants, she would come out on a Saturday in front of the four judges and warble her 'version' of a popular tune, and it seemed fine: she looked amazing, her vocals held up, she was classy and game, like a decent BeyoncĂ© tribute act. But after a while, a weird frailty started creeping in: two weeks in a row, half way through a typically barnstorming performance of some hokey standard, Tamera completely forgot the words. It produced a strange effect, since an ordinary singer in a normal gig would either start again or sing a lalala to cover it up, or do something: but Tamera Foster was on prime-time TV on a Saturday night, and being judged on her performance, and she was an amateur and didn…

The Gull - A Short Story

Jane was sitting on the terrace of the Italian villa that she and Bob had hired for the week. She was eating a combination of breakfast foods and lunch foods.

She sighed and stretched her body out in the wicker chair, and her sigh turned into a yawn. Morning sunlight glinted off the glass table, and she briefly caught the slightly acrid, sweet smell of the cypress trees nearby, which were swaying gently in the breeze.

Bob was still in the shower; she could hear him singing a tasteful slowed-down version of the Macarena. She would shower after him, and then they would walk down to the lake together through the pine forest.

Suddenly a massive gull landed on her breakfast table, making the coffee pot rattle. One of its talons, or is that just for eagles?, landed in her bowl of Mulino Bianco.

Jane shrieked, but not loud enough for Bob to hear her. "Heeey - Macarena, wah HAI", he trilled in the distance, blithely.

Jane was now sitting deep in her seat. She studied the bird, which…


MARIELLA FROSTRUP (smiling) Hello, and welcome to Murder Box.
(Camera pans round the studio, which is black and white with Jackson Pollock –effect blood stains and has a large wooden box in the middle designed to look like an ammunition crate from the Wild West. The audience cheers and claps and the camera returns to a still smiling Mariella Frostrup, who performs a mock shudder)
MARIELLA FROSTRUP You’ve heard the gossip, you’ve clicked on the thingies with your mousepads, but here at last is the actual programme, complete with real, live things in it, for you to watch on your television or at home. Today one person who has never killed before will enter the Murder Box –
(Camera frames her in chiaroscuro against the Box)
MARIELLA FROSTRUP (CONT’D) -and despatch a real, live human. They can use a weapon of their choice, or their own bare hands – it’s entirely up to them. Once the killing has been done, a red light will show up at the back of the box and they will come out to explain what it w…

Thoughts on Heaven's Gate

I wonder if anyone can have an untarnished, innocent view on Heaven's Gate, Michael Cimino's infamous flop from 1980. Getting new, virgin minds to see it and pronounce on its qualities one way or the other would surely be as hard as it must have been to put together an unbiased jury for the O.J. Simpson trial. It might be worth the effort, though, of travelling to the far corners of Outer Mongolia or the primary schools of Milton Keynes, to find a sample group of people who had never heard anything about the film's travails, about its hellish, expensive and overlong shooting period, its demolition by critics, its flopping at the box office to the extent that it sank United Artists, its gradual lauding by certain critics as an unrecognised masterpiece, its remastering. Perhaps we should get this imaginary cross-section of people - they would have to be well-versed in cinema in order to appreciate the film's merits as well as recognise its flaws, all the while having nev…

A few thoughts on French teen cinema

I kindly got asked to join a panel celebrating teen film, where - had I been able to attend it - I would have been asked to select and comment on one or two extracts from teen films of my choosing. The event is Behind The Screen: The Great Teen Movie Debate, at Somerset House on 10th August, and hosted by dear friends of mine. Go to it, it'll be fun. Since I can't be speaking at the event, here are some thoughts on French film that I've been going over.

I grew up in France between 1987 and 1999. This is where I was a teenager - and a crap one, but we'll come back to that - and this is where I started to love film. Being English, I had access to a wider selection of teen films if I wanted, and watched The Breakfast Club, Stand By Me, Clueless. Alongside the American films that my friends and I watched, there was always the noble tradition of French cinema to deal with. Liking French cinema - liking the cinema of my country, damn it - meant liking grown-up cinema. It see…

Amanda Palmer's New Kickstarter Project

Hi dear fans, friends, lovers, community. Dear people. Dear humans. This is your friend Amanda Palmer. Once again I am extending my hand to you and saying, “This gesture from me is a caress across your face, going deep into your soul, and ending up in your pockets” as once again I am forced to ask you for your help to realise my vision.

Not forced. I am not forced. I am Amanda Palmer. Forced is the anti-, forced is the monster. I repudiate the monster, I ask the beast to leave.  

Today I am once again asking you to lift me above you, to bear me aloft. Today I ask to be a cloud - I do not want to tread on the ground, I want to be raised above, held by you, a swaying crowd of my friends and fellow art lovers, lifting me as I sail through the sky. Your arms, lifting me, are dollars.

I need $17,500 for my new project, something which is very close to my pulsating heart, which I need to do. For this new artistic endeavour I require financial help, to complete my artistic mission.

The Story

I fi…

As Thatcher Lay Dying

I cant forgive her for the milk, no I cant. I will agree that for a woman to be dead and dying like her is a shame on this earth, but that she taken that milk from them children is nigh a disgrace and I said so and will always. It does seem a long time back now but well I remember and always will, the noise it made, the children crying and wailing and her not caring, unblinking and stoney in her hard-set face, she did it a-purpose and I daresay even it made her happy, there I said it.

I knew she was going, for ere I looked in her face and her not able to say a word she did always say with her eyes what was not spoke. Maggie my mother was a good woman and she would not unagree when I say she was a bold one too. I heard what she said. I heard what she asked for tho she didnt say it and I did what she asked for too and I am proud to say so. She was ere my mother.

Him coming here sniffing her body saying mother dear like as if he owned her and her legacy on this …

Cannes 2013 - An Excitable Preview

In May I will be going to the Cannes Film Festival for the second time, and I feel just as excited as I was the first time. If you care about arthouse cinema - about world cinema, and independent cinema; fuck, if you use the word cinema rather than movies, I'd say - then Cannes means something to you. For me, Cannes represents the sometimes uneasy tension that exists in cinema, between high glamour - the glitz of films, the starriness and sex appeal of actors - and high art. It manages to find that balance, every year: shiny premieres, hot stars, alongside a drab film from Romania about four miserable friends eating brown bread. The credibility of the festival rests on conjugating bold, brave cinema - in standing up for the craft of film, for its intransigence, its political dimension, its dreamlike quality and poetry - with more populist fare. Since the start of the 90s - the era that saw an explosion in what we think of as 'indie' cinema -  Soderbergh, Tarantino and the …

Django Chained

When I was seventeen, an old woman was invited to speak to my class about her life as a survivor of the Holocaust. She was sent to Auschwitz when she was a little older than us, she told us; she revealed the tattooed number on her arm. She told us about her escape from the camp - an extraordinary story of determination and outrageous good fortune in evading her captors. What made many people in my class queasy -  I remember a long discussion about it in the playground afterwards - was that this woman told us she had been saved by God; she had prayed to Him over and over as she fled, and He had heard her prayer and rescued her, helped her along as she fled. It seemed astonishing that she might not reflect on the people God chose not to help. She did not explain why her life might be deemed more valuable or worthy of saving than that of 6 million other Jews. Looking back now, I still feel awkward about her testimony, but I understand how this narrative might be comforting, possibly even…