Tuesday, 16 June 2009

When the seagulls follow the trawler...

I'm just going to come straight out with it: football doesn't really appeal to me. Barring an oh-so-brief and oh-so-arbitrary childhood flirtation with Liverpool - I think I just liked red, and my older cousins had told me that Manchester United fans were only glory hunters - it has mostly just seemed to me to be a bunch of men in shorts, running up and down after a ball. I could explain to you the offside rule in theory, but not identify it in practice. It's safe to say that the communal bonding aspect of the beautiful game has bypassed me nigh-on entirely.

Good thing, then, that Looking for Eric isn't just a film about football. It is a film about football - and a poignantly nostalgic one at that - but it's also a film about many other things: love, fear, inspiration, hope and (whisper it) redemption. Oh, and Eric Cantona; he's more of a metaphor, though. Inner strength and all that.

The concept is an interesting one. A postman (named Eric, conveniently) is struggling to come to terms with the fact that he's left with nothing, not even the respect of his stepsons. One of whom is harbouring a gun for the local hardman. So he repeatedly hallucinates his hero, Eric Cantona, who helps him to work through it all and get himself back onto his feet.

Having someone, especially someone with as much cultural baggage behind him as Cantona, play a large cameo role - indeed, one which forms the driving force of the entire plot - is always risky. But here Loach pulls it off successfully, incorporating the audience's expectations of the footballer into the screenplay in an arch manner; it's funny, but always manages to fall the right side of ridiculous.

Part of this success also comes from the characterisation of the protagonist. Though ultimately flawed, Eric Bishop is easy to empathise with; he's both heartbroken and heartbreakingly human. Steve Evets occasionally plays him a little flat in tone, but for the most part he's not in the least difficult to emotionally invest in.

This is helped by Loach's realistic filming style, contrasting the absurdity of Cantona as a spiritual guide with the mundanity of everyday Manchester existence. The film's climax, while a little too drawn-out, is the perfect realisation of this - a hundred-odd pseudo-Cantonas storming the palatial house of a tyrannical gang-man in a show of fan solidarity.

Original and emotional, and somehow, incredibly, approaching believable: yet another triumph for Film4 Productions. It'd be hard for even a non-football fan to walk away from Looking for Eric unmoved.


Friday, 12 June 2009

Touch-a Touch-a Touch Me

A little behind the technological times, perhaps, but yesterday I acquired an iPod Touch. I'm the first to admit to skepticism when it comes to touch-screen gadgets; I made the mistake a while back of getting a touch-screen phone when changing contracts, and hated it so much that I eventually exchanged it for a downgrade, just so that I could have buttons.

I was pleasantly surprised, though. To be honest, I'd only really got the iPod as it was pretty much free with the MacBook I was buying - there was an offer on meaning that if I got both, I got £145 off. So the iPod was £20, and I thought that 20 quid for a brand-new iPod wasn't really something to be argued with. Now, I love it.

iPods have always been user-friendly and nicely designed, but the Touch takes this to a new level; it really is a bit of a joy to use. And the Apps are amazing fun - I don't expect them to revolutionise my life (as an article I once read claimed that they would), but I enjoy being able to pop virtual bubble-wrap on a boring car journey. I'm currently also addicted to the Coldplay edition of 'Tap Tap Revenge', which is basically a dance mat for your fingers, set to Coldplay songs. And to think, I once derided the idea of band-related Apps as for sell-outs. Hell, to think that I actually like Coldplay. Should have kept quiet about that one, eh?

I've had an iPod before, but my last one was just a normal black 30GB one, whereas the new one is 8GB. Allowing space for hardware, or software or whatever it is that automatically takes up X amount of space, as well as space for Apps, that's about 6.5GB of music, give or take. In musical terms (as well as in life in general), I'm a bit of a hoarder; why get rid of something that you may, possibly, potentially, at some distant point in the future, wish to listen to again, even if just the once?

Having only limited space to fill has made me somewhat cutthroat about what to add to my iPod and what not to. I've had to make careful decisions about what is, to my mind, essential listening.

There were certain things that were necessary: Morrissey, Belle and Sebastian, Bright Eyes, Nick Cave (barring a few albums, as I had too many), Ash (again, barring a couple of albums and a mass of b-sides). Some things had to be added whole - for example, I came to the conclusion that I couldn't live without having all of Pulp's 'Different Class', The National's 'Boxer or Bon Iver's 'For Emma, Forever Ago'. Some albums just deserve to be listened to in their entirety. I could slice off half of albums by The Sounds and Graham Coxon, though. I needed the whole of the first Long Blondes album, but only half of the disappointing second one.

I've been meaning to streamline the music I carry with me (though not that which is kept on my computer) for quite some time; this has finally given me the impetus to do so. While partially liberating - there was a hell of a lot of dead wood on my old iPod - it was also way more difficult than I was expecting it to be. On the plus side, it's a much more pleasant experience to listen to everything on shuffle, with much less skipping past songs to be done.

I'm not gonna lie, though - 'Tap Tap Revenge' is still the best thing about it, though.

This song definitely made its way onto my new iPod:

Thursday, 4 June 2009


Big Brother
's star is very much on the wane; for all of its self-hype, it has simply become a parody of itself to many. I remain staunchly loyal to the franchise; I bloody love it. All of the reasons which people now use to criticse it are simply reasons which increase my enjoyment of it.

Yes, everyone who enters the hallowed house nowadays is simply doing so as a means of trying to win themselves a poxy 13.5 seconds of gossip-rag 'fame'. Yes, they are all now permanently aware of the fact that they are being filmed. Yes, they are all idiots. So much the better - it makes for more entertaining viewing.

Anyway, it's summer. What would summer be without its yearly freak parade? So,as per usual, there's a redesigned house (this year resembling the aftermath of an explosion in a Lego factory), a (much-dimished) crowd - one of whom, either through irony or genuine reverence, was brandishing an "RIP Jade Goody" sign - and Davina McCall in an ill-flattering black dress. And, of course, the freaks themselves, whose combined stupidity was as overwhelming as ever.

A few first impressions:

Freddie - token posh white-boy reggae fan whose assertion that "I vote conservative but I'm anarchist at heart" was obviously designed to shock Daddy. Could be a slow-burning dark horse in the charm stakes.
Lisa - looks like Kitten from BB5 crossed with Tourette's Pete and managed to irritate me within five seconds simply in her refusal to say anything other than "whhhoooooaaaaaaayyyyy!!!"
Sophie - Barbie Samanda who thinks that being clever and being able to hold a beer bottle between her breasts are her most interesting features. Not sure I've ever heard those two in the same sentence before.
Kris - fit-but-he-knows-it Brand lookalike. Seems boring but will probably endure for a fair few weeks, even if just because he is hot.
Noirin - probably put into the house simply as a result of her hints that she'll either get her tits out a lot or shag somebody in there. Claims to have kissed Russell Brand, so it could well be Kris that gets lucky - watch this space.
Cairon - his nonsensical rhyming probably makes him think he's an urban Auden, but it just makes me laugh. Nearly as much as his sillily-topiaried eyebrows did. He ain't gay, alright?
Angel - it genuinely took me until Davina introduced her to realise that she wasn't a man, and she seems genuinely slightly deranged. Her 'corpse of Sweeney Todd' aesthetic really does scare me a fair bit.
Karly - wanna-wag who will blatantly be duller than stagnating dishwater. I've almost forgotten who she is already.
Marcus - I think the fact that he proclaimed himself "cool as fuck" while sat in front of the electric fire in his mum's living room says it all. Wolverine would howl in shame at that sideburns-and-mullet combo.
Beinazir - amazing hair and looks like Amy Winehouse. One of the most normal in there and actually does seem relatively sane. Obviously slipped through the producers' nets.
Sophia - did the lupus she allegedly had as a child (and there was me thinking it was never, ever lupus) leave her with some form of brain damage which renders her unable to stop her sodding screaming?
Rodrigo - sweeter than a bag of puppies made of candyfloss. Blatant early favourite to win; I love him already. Plus, I think he looks like he ought to have popped straight out of a Manga book.
Charlie - oh my, more crazy eyebrows. Or rather eyebrow, given that the other is remarkably intact. He's lopsided; maybe Cairon can give him lessons in symmetry. Then again, maybe not, as the eyebrow-related speculation you can engage in is about the only attention-catching thing about him.
Saffia - if you're so keen to be a self-created 'bitch', why aren't you trying out for The Apprentice instead?
Sree - has everything chosen for him by his parents and can sport a hangover after just half a pint: he'll either be voted out with incredible rapidity or else get utterly massacred in the house.
Siavash - says his biggest regret is not having a bigger cock. Yeah, from his ridiculously flamboyant dress sense and constant moustache-twiddling, I had guess that he was over-compensating for something.

As well as the fun of making my first judgements (I maintain that this is what they've put themselves out there for, and so deserve them), I love the fact that Big Brother has actually started dishing out ritual humiliation this series. Making Rodrigo shave off Noirin's eyebrows and draw a pair of glasses and a 'tache on her in permanent marker may be harsh, but she did volunteer for it. Making yourself look stupid in the name of TV has never been taken so literally but hey, at least she's a 'proper' housemate now, right?