Archive for the ‘lists’ Category

Long Players Revisited

whats going on - marvin gaye

Slight change of rules since I put together the best 75 LPs of all time on Long Players 7 years ago – no compilations rule still holds but I’m upping it from one to two titles max per artist/band (to allow for those with a long career which has seen substantial changes) – and I’m not sticking to 75, just as long as the list wants to go…
[I’ll also add in the best track off each album when I get round to it, in square brackets]

Beauty Stab – ABC
The Stars We Are – Marc Almond
Living in the Flood – Horace Andy (reggae LP for late night sessions)
The Last Waltz – The Band
Two Suns – Bat for Lashes
The White Album – The Beatles
Post – Bjork
Go Tell It on the Mountain – Blind Boys of Alabama
Plastic Letters – Blondie
Space Oddity – David Bowie
Love Bites – Buzzcocks
Push the Sky Away – Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
The Clash – The Clash
London Calling – The Clash
* A Love Supreme – John Coltrane
If I Could Only Remember My Name – David Crosby
Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me – The Cure
* Kind of Blue – Miles Davis
Don’t Stand Me Down – Dexy’s Midnight Runners
One Day I’m Going to Soar – Dexys
Hot August Night – Neil Diamond
The Doors – The Doors
The Soft Parade – The Doors
Pink Moon – Nick Drake
Blood on the Tracks – Bob Dylan
Slow Train Coming – Bob Dylan
Ocean Rain – Echo & The Bunnymen
The Nightfly – Donald Fagen
Tiger in the Rain – Michael Franks
* Stay Human – Michael Franti & Spearhead
The Score – The Fugees
So – Peter Gabriel
L’Histoire de Melody Nelson – Serge Gainsbourg
* What’s Going On – Marvin Gaye
Flesh – David Gray
Guys & Dolls movie ST
Passenger – Lisa Hannigan
To Be Continued – Isaac Hayes
Are You Experienced – Jimi Hendrix
Come get it I got it – David Holmes
Gentlemen Take Polaroids – Japan
The Melody at Night, With You – Keith Jarrett
Praise & Blame – Tom Jones (gets to his essence)
Tapestry – Carol King
The Miseducation of – Lauryn Hill
Yarona – Abdullah Ibrahim trio
All Mod Cons – The Jam
Jesus Christ Superstar
Unknown Pleasures – Joy Division
On Song – Brian Kennedy
Steps in Time – King (a guilty pleasure with DMs)
Led Zeppelin IV – Led Zeppelin
Imagine – John Lennon
Cinquieme As – MC Solaar
Candy McKenzie – Candy McKenzie (a Lee Scratch Perry Black Ark LP from 1977 that got lost somehow)
The Snake – Shane MacGowan & the Popes
Madness – Madness
Correct Use of Soap – Magazine
Exodus – Bob Marley & the Wailers
* Solid Air – John Martyn
Glorious Fool – John Martyn
New World Order – Curtis Mayfield
Sings Big Blues – Little Milton
Monk’s Dream – Thelonius Monk quartet
* Poetic Champions Compose – Van Morrison
A Night in San Francisco – Van Morrison
Blues and the Abstract Truth – Oliver Nelson
Tribute – John Newman
Nevermind – Nirvana
Throw Down Yours Arms – Sinead O’Connor
Meddle – Pink Floyd
Water – Gregory Porter
Dummy – Portishead
Metal Box – Public Image Ltd (in the metal box)
O – Damien Rice
Some Girls – The Rolling Stones
England’s Newest Hitmakers – The Rolling Stones
Diana – Diana Ross
Stranded – Roxy Music
Rumblefish OST (Stewart Copeland)
The Crack – The Ruts
WomanChild – Cecile Mclorin Salvant
Abraxas – Sanata
Gymnopedies – Eric Satie
Beyond Skin – Nitin Sawhney
Bring ‘Em All In – Mike Scott
Never Mind the Bollocks – The Sex Pistols
* Songs for Swinging Lovers – Frank Sinatra
The Scream – Siouxsie and the Banshees
Six Days in June
Easter – Patti Smith
The Specials – The Specials
* The Rising – Bruce Springsteen
We’ll Never Turn Back – Mavis Staples
Tea for the Tillerman – Cat Stevens
Brilliant Trees – David Sylvian
* Remain in the Light – Talking Heads
Sweet Baby James – James Taylor
Kilimanjaro – The Teardrop Explodes
Soul Mining – The The
Quick Step & Side Kick – Thompson Twins
Power in the Darkness – Tom Robinson Band
Under Milk Wood – Stan Tracey
Joshua Tree – U2
Signing Off – UB40
Hand on the Torch – US3
Live in Leeds – The Who
Rhythm & Sound – With the artists (a reggae gem from unlikely quarters)
West Side Story movie soundtrack
Talking Book – Stevie Wonder
Harvest – Neil Young
* Road to Freedom – The Young Disciples
Hot Rats – Frank Zappa

kind-of-blue LP miles davis cover

List of Lists

I’ve been thinking about updating some of the lists that punctuate this blog (usually around Christmas when I’ve got a bit of time on my hands and am in a playful as well as reflective mood) so I’ve gathered a few here by way of preparation…

Best Songs

Best LPs

Best Song Lines

Magical Musical Moments

Inheritance Tracks

Best British Films

Blasts from the Pasts (musicians)


Doing the Box 1 (singles)

4 Tracks really worth a listen

I’m thinking of doing next a Best Movies list and revisting Best Songs.

Best of 2014

20,000 Days on Earth

20,000 Days on Earth


20,000 Days on Earth

The Theory of Everything

Male Lead:
Eddie Redmayne – The Theory of Everything

David Oyelowo – Selma

Nicholas Cage – Joe
Tom Hardy – Locke
Benedict Cumberbtach – The Imitation Game
Ralph Fiennes – Grand Hotel Budapest

Female Lead:
Felicity Jones – The Theory of Everything

Rosamund Pike – Gone Girl

Male Support:
Tim Roth – Selma
Steve Carell – Foxcatcher
Ethan Hawke – Boyhood
Tom Wilkinson – Selma

Female Support:
Patricia Arquette – Boyhood
Sienna Miller – American Sniper

Richard Linklater – Boyhood

Iain Forsyth & Jane Pollard – 20,000 Days on Earth

Christopher Nolan – Interstellar
Pawel Pawlikoski – Ida
Paul King – Paddington
Yann Demange- ’71

Paul Webb – Selma
Paul King – Paddington
Wes Anderson – Grand Hotel Budapest
Anthony McCarten – The Theory of Everything

Production Design:
Grand Hotel Budapest

Visual FX:
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Michael Franti & dancer

Michael Franti & dancer

(John Newman – Love Me Again)

Morning Phase – Beck
Tribute – John Newman

With The Artists – Rhythm & Sound
Liquid Spirit – Gregory Porter
(WomanChild -Cecile McLorin Salvant)

Van Morrison on launch night of Nell’s Jazz & Blues Club

Michael Franti & Spearhead – Islington Assembly Hall (with D)

John Newman – Empire Shepherd’s Bush
ABC – Lexicon of Love – Theatre Royal Drury Lane
Peter Gabriel – So – Wembley Arena

A Taste of Honey – Shelagh Delaney – National Theatre, Lyttleton

Fiesta – adapted & directed by Alex Helfrecht – Trafalgar Studios
Oh What a Lovely War – Joan Littlewood & the Theatre Workshop – Theatre Royal Stratford East (Joan Littlewood centenary – with D)
Fings Ain’t Wot They Used to Be – Frank Norman – Theatre Royal Stratford East

Art Exhibition:
Egon Schiele drawings: The Radical Nude – Courtauld

John Craxton – Fitzwilliam, Cambridge
Richard Hamilton – Tate Modern
Abram Games: designing the 20th Century – Jewish Museum, Camden Town
MALBA – Buenos Aires
Museum der bildenden Kunste – Leipzig (with N)

Book: (that I read this year)
Rabbit at Rest – John Updike

Germany crushing Brazil at the World Cup (7-1 semi-final)

Jonny May’s try for England against the All Blacks at Twickenham

Philae probe from European spacecraft Rosetta landing on a comet

Dearly departed:

Joe Cocker
Jack Bruce
Tommy Ramone

Egon Schiele - The Radical Nude

Egon Schiele – The Radical Nude

Best of 2013

Best of 2012

Best of 2011

Best of 2010

Best of 2009

Now That’s What I Call Christmas Music 54

Was talking Christmas music with Catalan Brian and The Luck Habit earlier this week in the wake of my moment on The Robert Elms show last weekend – see Radio Radio. In the good ol’ US of A of course it’s a genre in its own right, as reflected in the iTunes genres/CD metadata which includes Holidays Music or something like that. So we agreed to put together a selection of the best ‘Holidays’ tunes by way of party game cum useful list.

Frank Sinatra Christmas

1. Last Month of the Year – Blind Boys of Alabama

This is the one we kick off proceedings with every year in our house.

Father: Tell me when was Jesus born?
It was the last month of the year

Was it January?
Children: no [etc.]
February? no
March, April, May? no
June, July, August, September, October, November?
It was the 25th day of December
It was the last month of the year

What’s not to love?

2. Children Go Where I Send Thee – Nick Lowe

This was our 2013 acquisition – it was the year I got to really appreciate Nick Lowe. I saw him live at a recording of Songwriter’s Circle a couple of years ago for BBC4 and really started to rethink his music. I’ve always had a soft spot for Rockabilly, right back to when the local greengrocer’s delivery boy was in The Polecats.

3. Fairytale of New York – The Pogues and Kirsty McColl

I’ll get it out the way – at the risk of losing TLH from the discussion. I just love the slagging bit in the middle. And Matt Dillon (Rumblefish era) featuring in the vid. I spoke to Kirsty’s mum earlier this year while writing my book – Jean Newlove – an incredible 91 year old who looked after Dance and Movement for some of Joan Littlewood’s theatrical enterprises. Sinead O’Connor has also played this live with The Pogues in Kirsty’s absence.

4. Jingle Bells – Frank Sinatra

From Frank’s cracking Crimbo LP imaginatively entitled ‘The Christmas Album’. The voice – unbeatable.

5. Merry Christmas Everyone – Shakin’ Stevens

Christmas has nothing to do with good taste.

6. Let It Snow – Ella Fitzgerald

A voice as pure as driven white stuff.

7. Cool Yule – Louis Armstrong

The dude was cool as the white stuff.

8. Santa Baby – Eartha Kitt

Naughty but nice.

9. Silent Night – Sinead O’Connor

What Sinatra is to the male voice, Sinead is to the female voice i.e. as good as it gets. Seems like a good one for this centenary year of the outbreak of the First World War and that Christmas moment in No Man’s Land.

Sinead-O'Connor singer Irish

I’ll be adding more to these over the next few days. In the meantime Brian has got together a formidable list which I’ll post in the first comment. Feel free to add your faves…

The 10 Books which made the most impact on me

A friend of mine, Carol, (aka The Naked Novelist) via my bestman Stuart, passed on a challenge this week: to list the 10 books that have had the most impact on my life. So that’s impact, not my favourite 10.

Here’s my stab at it…

1. ‘Here We Go’ – the Janet and John book I learnt to read with: “Look, Janet, look!”

janet and john here we go book
2. ‘Ulysses’, James Joyce – it’s about everything, and very resonant if you’re a Jew married to an Irish woman “Yes, yes, yes!”

First edition (I'd love one of these)

First edition (I’d love one of these)

3. ‘Paradise Lost’ Books 1 & 2, John Milton ed. John Broadbent – the poetry’s pretty damn good but the footnotes were a revelation – it helped me realise school subjects are artificial divisions and everything’s connected to everything else. “Of man’s disobedience and the fruit of that forbidden tree…”

 'Paradise Lost' Books 1 & 2, John Milton ed. John Broadbent book
4. ‘Asterix in Britain’ – I loved the notion of an invasion succeeding because one side stopped for tea at a set time every afternoon (5 o’clock)

Asterix Chez les Bretagnes

Asterix Chez les Bretagnes

Time for Tea (a fatal weakness)

Time for Tea (a fatal weakness)

5. ‘The Dinosaur Strain’, Mark Brown – got me into the subject of Creative Thinking, led to me making a computer game (MindGym) and ultimately to writing my own book about Creativity, ‘When Sparks Fly’ (5/8 finished, interviewed Jamie Oliver for it today)

the only picture I can find as it's almost extinct

the only picture I can find as it’s almost extinct

6. ‘Romeo and Juliet’, Shakey – emblematic of the year I had an inspiring teacher (English teacher of course – Mr Fitch RIP MA Cantab) who got me really reading

romeo and juliet shakespeare arden edition
7. ‘The Riddle of the Sands’, Erskine Childers – made me realise what a burden material possessions can be in the scene where the protagonist can’t get his trunk into the sailing boat and has to dump all his shit on the quay

'The Riddle of the Sands', Erskine Childers penguin book
8. ‘The Complete Plays of Joe Orton’ – bought it for a 6th form project, turned me on to satire and the Sixties

'The Complete Plays of Joe Orton'  book
9. ‘Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide’ – pored over this fat tome when I first got really into movies as a teenager

'Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide' 1979
10. ‘On the Road’, Jack Kerouac – led me to Allen Ginsberg who in turn inspired ‘When Sparks Fly’ (see above) and is the subject of the first chapter, With a Little Help from My Friend

On the Road by Jack Kerouac


jack Kerouac-On-The-Road book novelIf it’s not too Neknominate, please do share your Top Impact 10 below (or a link to it)…

Shelter from the Storm

get bornWalter Pater, the art and literary critic much admired by Oscar Wilde, wrote that “All art aspires to the condition of music.” I read that as other arts striving for the direct impact music has on the heart and spirit without recourse to any physical medium and being able to by-pass the intellect. Much though I love music I’ve never tended to listen to the lyrics of songs in a coherent and systematic way. Phrases and lines emerge over time in their own way and hook themselves into the brain.

I was jogging along yesterday morning listening to a podcast of the evergreen Desert Island Discs when a Bob Dylan song came on and a line really resonated for me as a perfect expression of what women mean to men. When I got home and sat down in front of my machine for the first time that day I whacked the line into Quotables for posterity – and to look at it on its own for a moment.

“Come in,” she said, “I’ll give you shelter from the storm”

Not particularly poetic. Quite ordinary really. But in its context perfect and to the heart of the matter, to the matter of the heart.

So I felt inspired to pick out 10 great lines from songs that are worthy of the condition of music, that have the resonance and penetrative power of the supreme art. I tried being strict about one stand-out line per song only (only cracked once with a couplet).

1. Bob Dylan, Shelter from the Storm (1974)

“Come in,” she said, “I’ll give you shelter from the storm”

2. John Lennon, Oh Yoko! (1971)

In the middle of a cloud I call your name

A powerful yet simple expression of romantic love.

3. John Martyn, Couldn’t Love You More (1977)

If you kissed the sun right out of the sky for me

Song lyrics straining to capture Love (is there a theme emerging?)

4. Jimi Hendrix, Purple Haze (1966)

‘Scuse me while I kiss the sky

This could be love or drugs that’s fogging Jimi’s brain – either way it’s a great line.

5. The Clash, Garageland (1977)

Back in the garage with my bullshit detector

A spirited (spirit of Punk) response to an early bad review (of a gig with The Sex Pistols at Islington’s Screen on the Green): “The Clash are the kind of garage band who should be returned to the garage immediately, preferably with the engine running”. [Charles Shaar Murray – what did he know?]

6. Bruce Springsteen, Atlantic City (1982)

Well now everything dies baby that’s a fact
But maybe everything that dies someday comes back

Reckon there’s a load of philosophy buried in this couplet.

7. David Bowie, Unwashed and Somewhat Slightly Dazed (1969)

As I am unwashed and somewhat slightly dazed

Loved this phrase for a long time, the “somewhat” is just what’s needed to throw it off kilter.

8. The Doors (Jim Morrison), The Wasp (1968)

Out here we is stoned – immaculate

One of those lines that throws a word into a whole new light.

9. John Coltrane, Acknowledgement (1964)

A Love Supreme

Sometimes you don’t even need a whole line or clause – this is a transcendent chant. They’re the only words in this track and all the more striking for that.

10. Well, why don’t you add this one? What song words do it for you?…

[I’m treating this as a work in progress – going to be putting some more bath time into it]

UPDATE 11.ix.11

After some more bath-time reflection here are some other stand-out lines, plus some picked out by commenters below that strike a chord with me too:

Michael Franti & Spearhead, Oh My God (2001)

I slept with Marilyn she sung me Happy Birthday

Magazine, Song from Under the Floorboards (1980)

I am angry I am ill and I’m as ugly as sin

The Passenger, Iggy Pop (1977)

We’ll see the city’s ripped backsides

Marvyn Gaye/Dick Holler, Abraham Martin and John (1970)

Has anyone here seen my old friend Martin?

PJ Harvey, Let England Shake (2011)

England’s dancing days are done

You seem confused by your own ideals

You will not be able to stay home brother

Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way

It took it 3.5 billion years to decide that you live just where you live [it = the universe]

For FoCs Sake

Juliette Forrest: What does ‘Foc’ mean?
Rigby Reardon: It’s a slang word. When a man and a woman are in love, the man puts his…
Juliette Forrest: No, no. Here: “F. O. C.”

LAST UPDATED: 12.xii.11 (EoC)

In the spirit of the earlier, still in progress 50 People Who Buggered Up Britain – and to avoid, in these troubled times, a ball of anger seasoned with irritation and sprinkled with misanthropy gradually turning into a malignant growth somewhere in this fine body the Big Man was kind enough to lend me – I’ve decided to start a list of the Friends and Enemies of Carlotta. Feel free to suggest candidates for either…

Enemies of Carlotta

  • Corporation tax cheats: Google – they set the standards for taking no social responsibility in the territories they exploit, squeezing the most they can out of a morethansemi-monopolistic situation
  • Corporation tax cheats/duplicitous businesses: Kraft – manoeuvring to take a progressive, visionary Victorian business out of the tax regime of the country which created it – Cadbury’s secret Swiss move will cost UK exchequer millions in tax
  • Duplicitous individuals: Sepp Blatter – robbed £16M in broad Swiss daylight including the cash of hard-pressed city councils (looks like Morrison’s may take FIFA to court on this count in Switzerland)
  • Duplicitous individuals: Jack Warner – not the cozy cop from Dock Green but the corrupt cock from Trinidad & Tobago – see Corruption Charges “FIFA’s auditors Ernst & Young estimated Warner’s family made a profit of at least $1 million from reselling 2006 World Cup tickets that Warner had ordered. Minutes of FIFA’s executive committee indicate that a fine of almost $1 million, equal to the expected profiteering, was imposed on the family. Despite numerous reminders from FIFA, only $250,000 has been paid. // After Trinidad and Tobago visited Scotland for the friendly match on 30th May 2004  in Edinburgh, Jack Warner asked SFA President John McBeth for the cheque for the game to be made out to him personally and not to the FA of Trinidad and Tobago. McBeth refused to issue the cheque to Warner.”
  • Corporation tax cheats: Vodaphone – Watching the backlash from avoiding £6M of corporation tax #mademesmile – now people need to PAC a punch by moving their accounts away
  • Wayne Rooney and the England World Cup 2010 football team – didn’t even look like they gave a damn when they got knocked out, sorry shower
  • Rebekah Wade/Brooks – one can only hope she, Murdoch and the Sky deal get dragged down in the emerging News of the World phone hacking scandal to show how if you operate without morality with a bit of luck it eventually catches up with you (I know the world doesn’t work quite like that but we can dream) [22.i.11]
  • Caroline Spelman, so called Environment Secretary – someone remind her she’s supposed to be protecting the environment, not selling it alongside her own grandma
  • Brian Colemanfat cat councillor/London Assembly member, mummy’s boy, too grand to walk
  • Angela Knight, Chief Executive, British Bankers’ Association – excuses the inexcusable, especially around banking reform. I want my savings insulated from her members’ (in every sense) partially informed gambling.
  • Subway franchise – What the fuck is that smell?
  • Alain Rolland – What the fuck is that smell? The man who ruined the Rugby World Cup 2011 single-handedly (15.x.11)
  • Thierry Henry – he got a statue outside the Emirates last week (w/e 9/xii/11) but he should be remembered above all as a tricheur, the man who robbed Ireland of their place at the World Cup Finals in South Africa (even though it was one of the worst World Cups ever)
  • Colin Barrow, Leader of Westminster Council, who is pretending the proposed weekend and  evening parking charges in the borough are not motivated by revenue generation – perhaps he could start his money raising by paying back the money his hedge fund owes the council & Councillor Lee Rowley, cabinet member for parking and transport, some kind of moron with no experience worth talking of

Friends of Carlotta

  • Voina artists co-operative in Russia – taking on the KGB and corrupt police with Art
  • David Beckham – worthy (emotional and dignified) winner of BBC Sports Personality of 2010 Lifetime Achievement award – I was there when he was sent off against Argentina at St Etienne and how he came back not just as an even better footballer but as a very fine human-being
  • Gareth Bale – bringing long lost joy back to White Hart Lane (or White Hard Lane as I saw on a West End ticket booth yesterday)
  • Alastair Cook, cricketer/batsman – hero of the 2010-11 Ashes series in Oz with 766 runs to his name (with another innings still to play) and 189 today (5.1.11) to pretty much secure the victory
  • Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow, founder of Mary’s Meals, a Scottish charity which feeds and educates 460,000 children in developing countries every day.
  • Rolf Harris – what a lovely man – soon to feature as the Art Teacher in Jamie’s Dream School
  • more to follow

Best of 2009

[this is a work in progress]

film still

Burn, baby, burn - it fired me up

1. Inglourious Basterds – because it reignited my excitement with cinema

2. The Hangover – because it afforded me a fine evening of laughter with the Enfants Terribles
3. A Serious Man – for the uncompromising ending and beautiful cinematography by my former boss Roger Deakins
4. Moon – for being intriguing and thought-provoking
5. District 9 – for realising an inventive concept well
6. An Education – for a supercharismatic central performance
7. Nowhere Boy – for fine performances all round

1. Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds) – couldn’t take my eyes off him

2. Sam Rockwell (Moon)
3. Christian McKay (Me & Orson Welles) – not an easy persona to capture
4. Aaron Johnson (Nowhere Boy)
5. Andy Serkis (Sex & Drugs & Rock’n’Roll)
6. Michael Stuhlbarg (A Serious Man)
7. Adam Sandler (Funny People) – got papped behind him leaving BAFTA (that’s no way to live)
8. John Travolta (The Taking of Pelham 123)

1. Carey Mulligan (An Education) – old school screen charisma

2. Anne-Marie Duff (Nowhere Boy) – did a great, feisty Q&A for us at The Phoenix, East Finchley
3. Emma Thompson (Last Chance Harvey)
4. Katie Jarvis (Fish Tank)

Supporting Actor:
1. Brad Pitt (Inglourious Basterds) – captured the humour whilst retaining the character’s intrigue

2. Alfred Molina (An Education) – also a close second, helped pull off the ending with a pivotal moving scene
3. Ed Helms (The Hangover)
4. Thomas Sangster (Nowhere Boy) – striking screen presence
5. Peter Capaldi (In the Loop)
6. Fred Melamed (A Serious Man)

Supporting Actress:
1. Kristin Scott Thomas (Nowhere Boy)

2. Claire Danes (Me & Orson Welles)
3. Rosamund Pike (An Education)

1. Quentin Tarantino (Inglourious Basterds) – gets it on the strength of the opening scene alone

2. The Coen Brothers (A Serious Man)
3. Neill Blomkamp (District 9)
4. Todd Phillips (The Hangover)
5. Jason Reitman (Up in the Air)
6. Clint Eastwood (Gran Torino)
7. Duncan Jones (Moon)

1. The Hangover

2. A Serious Man
3. District 9
4. Up in the Air
5. Moon

Gavin & Stacey

1. Hothouse Flowers – Community hall, Baltimore, West Cork

Bat for Lashes – The Roundhouse
Christy Moore – Festival Hall
Lisa Hannigan – Festival Hall

Blur – Hyde Park (The Enfants Terribles’ first gig)
Michael Franti & Spearhead – Empire Shepherd’s Bush
David Gray – The Roundhouse

Sea Sew – Lisa Hannigan

The Low Anthem – Oh My God, Charlie Darwin
Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago

1. Glass – Bat for Lashes

2. Say Hey – Michael Franti & Spearhead

The Great Lover – Jill Dawson

Dream – Jaume Plensa

Anish Kapoor – Royal Academy

August: Osage County (NT)
Prick Up Your Ears (The Comedy)

Sports event:
1. Ireland winning the 6 Nations

2. Spurs 9-1 victory over Wigan


Saddest loss:
John Martyn

4 things that are bothering me about the Credit Crunch

McQueenTo celebrate our record recession as marked by today’s announcement of a neat 0.4% shrinkage of the UK economy between July and September, making this recession the longest since records began, here are 4 things that have been bugging me on this front…

Earlier this week I read in the Evening Standard an article celebrating the rise in retail sales figures in September with a woman from Selfridges revelling in all the spending, just like the good ol’ pre-Crunch times. Are we all just going to slip back into buying all that Chinese-made shit we don’t really need?

There seems to be no sign of genuine banking reform. Even Boris Johnson is now feeling stiched up by the bwankers. Short-term thinking (if you can call it thinking) is the nemesis of long-term well being.

In the wake of the oil prices hitting their peak, the moment they started coming down a bit, I remember reading the depressing newspaper headline: Supermarket forecourt price wars. This just after you started noticing people really thinking twice before making a car journey. Our capacity to fall back into old ways is frankly depressing.

People keep referring to it as if it’s another run-of-the-mill, cycle-of-things recession, perhaps a bit worse but still a known quantity. My instinct about it is that it contains elements the like of which we have not seen before and understand no better than the bwankers understood what they were doing when they bought those packages of cancerous debt.

We had a chance for a moment there to stop and reflect and consider where true value lies, make some radical changes and get our lives back into balance, perhaps healing our battered environment to a sufficient degree in the process. I hope that moment hasn’t passed but I wouldn’t bet my bottom dollar on it (if I could afford dollars these days).

Best of British – Top British films of the last 25 years

Mike Leigh's Naked

Mike Leigh's Naked (ooh matron!)

My response to today’s Observer Film Magazine list of ‘The Best British Films 1984-2009’

My 15 favourite home-grown films of the last quarter century (in no particular order) are:

  • In Bruges [not in The Observer list, made by FilmFour, a cracking script by Martin McDonagh]
  • 24 Hour Party People [I’m not a huge fan of Steve Coogan but he’s brilliant in this #24 of 25]
  • Venus [Peter O’Toole and Leslie Phillips make a great double act, not in The Observer list]
  • The Remains of the Day [deeply moving performances by Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson, not in The Observer list]
  • A Room with a View [perfectly executed film of its type, not in The Observer list]
  • Naked [the fruit of David Thewlis’ creativity #14]
  • The Hours [Nicole Kidman shines among a host of brilliant actresses, not in The Observer list]
  • The Constant Gardener [another powerful Ralph Fiennes performance, not in The Observer list]
  • Last Resort [Pawel Pawlikowski bursts onto the British scene, not in The Observer list]
  • Hunger [a bold, fresh artist’s film from (the other) Steve McQueen but not an arty one #16]
  • Chaplin [captures something of the greatest film-maker of all time, not in The Observer list]
  • Secrets & Lies [a culmination of Mike Leigh’s approach #3]
  • In the Name of the Father [powerful acting spearheaded by Daniel Day-Lewis, not in The Observer list]
  • A Month in the Country [a gentle, bucolic one – not in The Observer list]
  • Defence of the Realm [a top-class thriller shot by Roger Deakins, not in The Observer list]
  • The Commitments [energised by the powerful lungs of Andrew Strong, not in The Observer list]

Bubbling under: Borat, Howard’s End, High Hopes, Shadowlands, Johnny English, East is East, The Bounty, Son of Rambow, Billy Elliot

venusI enjoyed flicking through the pages of today’s Observer Film Magazine, The Nation’s Choice, focused on contemporary British cinema as I supped my Cullen Skink outside a pub on the Shore of Leith, winding down from the manic activity of the Edinburgh Television Festival, said soup surely worthy of sitting alongside Tarmac and Lino as a GSI (Great Scottish Invention). [It would have been fun to check out the online discussion the mag urges us to visit but after ten minutes searching for it on The Guardian/Observer site I gave up.]

Leafing through I realised this has been a fairly significant part of my life over the years, despite being more focused on telly – from the photo of my old flat-mate Emer McCourt alongside #21, Ken Loach’s Riff-Raff, to Loach’s producer Rebecca O’Brien who sat at the table I hosted at the TV BAFTAs a couple of years ago; from Mike Leigh who I met at Dick Pope‘s around the time my first son was born (the same son who three years later slammed a heavy glass door onto the renowned director in a Crouch End shop) to Dick himself, one of my first bosses at Solus, who shot #3 Secrets and Lies (and much of Leigh’s oeuvre besides); from Ben Gibson, Director of the London Film School, with whom I was involved trying to set up a South African film/tv scholarship to Ewen Bremner, featured in both #1 Trainspotting and #14 the marvellous Naked, who I met when he was making a training film early in his career (written by John Mole and, unbeknownst to the casual viewer, based on Beowolf).

Beyond this punctuation of connections though is the steady presence of Channel 4, FilmFour, More 4, Britdoc (the Channel 4 British Documentary Film Foundation) – in particular, my esteemed colleague Tessa Ross whose fingerprints are on so many of the films (from Billy Elliot to #9 Slumdog Millionaire), dubbed recently the Mother of British Film-making. Choose Life is engraved on the glass doors of Channel 4’s Glasgow office in recognition of the Channel’s role in bringing the landmark movie that is Trainspotting to life. #11 Touching the Void was commissioned out of Peter Dale’s More4. #16 Hunger was patiently nurtured by my much missed colleague Jan Younghusband in Channel 4 Arts (her ex-husband Peter Chelsom made Hear My Song, which starred my friend Adrian Dunbar and whose script crossed my desk at Solus (and still sits in my bookcase) on its way to Roger Deakins, another of my bosses at Solus – the kind of thing which links the Channel 4 nexus and my pre-C4 web of experiences). The next generation is represented by Mat Whitecross, whose film Moving to Mars is being broadcast on More4 in November and was part-financed by Britdoc, run with flair by former C4 fellow Commissioning Editor Jess Search. I haven’t worked it out exactly but I’d say well over 30% of the Top 25 has FilmFour/Channel 4  input. Stephen Frears’ big break with #5 My Beautiful Launderette. From #17 Shane Meadow’s This is England to #10 Four Weddings and a Funeral, the full gamut. What an incredible record and a significant contribution to the last quarter century of British cinema.


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