Friday, October 26, 2007

It’s a Hard Knock Life

This afternoon has involved making lots of phone calls to theatres around the country. Not the best task on a Friday afternoon, but this post is not going to be a moan about the things that are getting my down at the moment (it would be quite a list). This is actually a happy post.

In the course of this job, I was put on hold at one organisation and their hold music was the song ‘It’s a Hard Knock Life’ from the musical “Annie”. This is going to blow any credibility I may have, but I loved hearing that song again.

I had to resist the urge to sing along but my foot was tapping away and I was almost disappointed when I got through to speak to someone.

I loved ‘Annie’ so much as child. I saw the stage play, I saw the film numerous times, I even had the doll (which in retrospect I think was rather creepy looking). I pictured myself in the Molly role. But I really had completely forgotten all this until this afternoon. And now I really want to see it on stage again.

Actually the song is still going round in my head and I’m going out for drinks with friends quite soon, so I really need to get it out of my mind otherwise mixed with alcohol, it may escape out of my mouth, which won’t be good. I'll need to listen to something catchy but credible en route to displace the show tune!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Usual Suspects

Last night it was back to the Raindance Film Club. The end of the festival left a void so it was good to be back in the warmth and comfort of the Raindance organisation once more.

The film being screened was Exhibit A, which I had already seen, but standing with the first twenty and last ten minutes broken up by opening and closing the door, so it was good to see it uninterrupted from a very comfy sofa and with the ultimate Raindance accessory, a free bottle of Cobra beer (something everyone associated with the festival developed an unhealthy obsession with).

The film was good – an interesting idea, well executed. I’m wary of recommending to anyone though on two grounds. Firstly it hasn’t got proper distribution yet, despite winning an award at the festival and being nominated for a few at the British Independent Film Awards, so I’m not sure if/when/how anyone will actually get to see it. Secondly, it isn’t a barrel of laughs – in fact it makes for very uncomfortable viewing, so much so that one woman ran out of the first screening of it and one of the actors said it wasn’t the sort of thing they’d want to watch.

Unexpectedly the screening last night was followed by Q&A with the producer. And here is where I’m going to rant. He seemed like a great bloke, he spoke eloquently but unpretentiously about his film. I had no problem with anything he said or did – but rather with the contributions from the audience. The people who attend these things and ask questions/make comments always confirm to set stereotypes. Of course, I’m not referring to the people I knew there who are all wonderful, witty, talented, smart, cool, amazing people, and noticeably weren’t of the most vocal group. The types I’m referring to are these, who were all presented and correct last night and will always show up at this type of event:

  1. The Over-Familiar Expert – he (its normally a he) will talk to the speaker as if they are old mates and will quite persistently chase for snippets of information. Last night’s was keen to get the nitty-gritty budget details and was pretty dogged about it. He will also lavish praise on the speaker, but in a way that is reflecting back on himself e.g ‘I loved the dialogue. That is exactly how I would have done it’. His exact achievements in the world of cinema are unknown.
  2. The Slightly Drunk, Slightly Aggressive Man with a Strong Accent - his comments aren’t always clear because of the combination of drink, accent and excitement. He is definitely enthusiastic but there is an edge to his comments and you feel things could turn at any minute. Last night’s was Scottish but I’ve encountered them from every part of the UK.
  3. The Very Posh But Arty Emotional Woman – She is super confident, loves the sound of her own voice and is “keen to explore” some issue that is usually way off everyone else’s perception or interest. Despite being very definitely English, she will undoubtedly feel compelled to share some deeply personal information with the room. Last night’s tried to turn it onto the topic of the abuse she’d suffered and whilst I realise that its an awful thing to have gone through (not sure what exactly as the film wasn’t about abuse), my thoughts are that this is a film screening, not the Jeremy Kyle show.
  4. The Grizzled Old Cynic – His comments are brief and barbed in comparison to the others. He’s been there and seen it all before. I actually don’t mind this type that much.
  5. The Dog with Comedy Timing – Actually this one is probably unique to this film club (he was there last month too). I think he belongs to number 4. He had impeccable timing with his barking though and perhaps made the most astute observations of the evening.

I suppose though I belong to a sixth category - the people who will never say anything at all.

Monday, October 22, 2007

My So Called Celebrity Life

Could it really have been a year since the last one? Last night was the Awards do for work and this year I did actually have to work at it, as opposed to previous years where I just turned up and enjoyed the champagne.

It felt strange travelling across London dressed up in the afternoon when everyone else was in jeans and cosy knitwear, but I was pleased to have the opportunity to wear my grey dress, purchased in the summer but unworn (pictured below taken before I’d ironed it!). It has a vast amount of drapey swingey fabric and I love it! I really expected the OH to hate it and he liked it too which is always a bonus.

The event went pretty well but it lacked the decadence of last year’s which was probably for the best really. This year’s celebrity count was higher than usual - as well as some theatre stars and soap actors, we had Stockard Channing and Patrick Stewart The latter was the latest victim of my inability to recognise famous people (not as bad as the time I failed to recognise Kathleen Turner) but as I was polite to everyone it just meant I wasn’t gushing over him and he had to wait in line for his ticket. I don’t think he minded though as he seemed pretty easy-going.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Day of Reckoning

One day, I will snap. One day, enough will be enough and I will fight back. I don't think that day is too far away.

What am I talking about? People playing their music loudly through their phones on the bus, that's what.

Last night for example. There I was listening to my ipod at a normal level so nobody but myself could hear it, but once on the bus I had to turn it right up to drown out the sound of some tinny shitty r'n'b being played at volume through some inconsiderate moron's phone. I was listening to 'Everybody Here Wants You' by Jeff Buckley, a song of sublime beauty, of swooning melodies, of lyrical subtlety. And it was competiting in my earlobe with some distorted clanging grunting noise that I suppose was ostensibly about the same thing, except in that one the singer showed his appreciation for the 'hotness' of the woman by wanting to take her roughly right now. Simply enchanting.

In my fantasy, I will stand up and tell them in no uncertain terms to turn it down, they'll snarl and be abusive of course, but then everyone else on the bus will applaud me and we'll all unite against the noise polluters. Or in an alternative version, I'll travel London with a sack of cheap earphones, dispensing them to the offenders like some sort of music police Santa Claus and I'll become legendary.

Of course, in reality none of those things will happen. If I do say something, I'll probably get stabbed and my fellow passengers will ignore it, or (more likely still) I'll continue to suffer it in silence.

Monday, October 15, 2007

I Spy

As is probably apparent from past posts, my work situation is by no means ideal. So I’m always looking out for other possibilities. Last week I saw an advertisement for MI5 who were looking for English Language Transcribers. I read the ad and thought ‘hmm that’s interesting’ but put it to the back of my mind.

Then yesterday, I watched the film ‘The Lives of Others’ which I heard good things about but failed to see at the cinema. The film is about Eastern Germany in the 1980s and a Stasi employee whose job it is to listen in on the bugged apartment of a playwright. I was slightly concerned before it started that I might fall asleep – not because of the plot or the subtitles, but because I’d had a heroic number of cocktails the night before so my mind wasn’t at its sharpest and it was over 2 hours long (I’m normally a stickler for the 90 minute film). But I needn’t have worried. It was absolutely brilliant and I’ve seen some pretty good films recently.

So it got me thinking about the job with MI5 and this morning I looked on their website and started the application process. Much to the bemusement of the OH, who asked me why I was interested in the job and looked wary when I mentioned the previous night’s film. He didn’t seem to think this was such a good reason to apply. My others reasons, I’m nosey & like listening to other people’s conversations and I’m unhappy where I am, didn’t seem much better. But pig-headedly I applied for an application form (this is how complex the process is – you have to apply to apply!)

But on the way to work, I was hit with some clarity and have abandoned my idea of becoming a low-level spy for a combination of the following reasons.

1. It was London-based and ideally in the future I want to leave London and don’t know what use they’d be for a former spy in Cornwall
2. The pay was less than I earn now and involved shift work
3. I wouldn’t be able to tell anyone other than my partner what I did for a living & I certainly wouldn’t be able to blog about it.
4. Discretion was vital and to be honest I’m not great at keeping secrets – I’d have to tell my mother and she always tells my sisters and aunties everything
5. I may not pass the security clearance thing – I went to some political meetings as a student and have read a lot of books by Che Guevara and Mark Steele so I’m probably already on a list somewhere
6. I don’t think my hearing is actually that good – I’m terrible at making out song lyrics so I’d probably be pretty useless at this which could led to all sorts of trouble on an international scale!

So I'm not going to join the ranks of James Bond and Jason Bourne. I always wanted to be a detective anyway, not a spy.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Step aside David Bailey*

I have enrolled for a digital photography course. Its something I’d been meaning to do for a while but was spurred on by Chocolate & Cherries recent post. Then yesterday, I discovered my local authority offer a course at a bargain price and a convenient time and location for me. So I stopped dithering and phoned them to enrol. I was slightly embarrassed by giving the course title as ‘Digital Camera’ as it is in the course information as I’m sure Digital Photography would be more appropriate, but I made my booking undeterred.

I was feeling slightly smug about being so decisive until I remembered that my past experiences with the local authority’s adult education department have not been great. I have attempted to enrol on courses with them in the past, but they’ve either not sent the appropriate information until after the course has begun or cancelled the course due to lack of interest. And perhaps it will prove to be prophetic that the woman I enrolled with was at pains to take numerous contact numbers for me so they could get in touch “if we need to cancel it or you know something else”.

The other thought that has occurred to me since I signed away my Monday nights is that two hours on an evening in the winter is going to limited what photography we can do. So if it does go ahead (still a big if), look out for hundreds of shots of the inside of class room and west London at night.

* actually I think Martin Parr would be more appropriate, but for the sake of the title I went with the one photographer absolutely everyone knows.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Tell Me About Macclesfield: Control

After the film festival where I managed to see 8 feature films and 5 shorts, you’d have thought I might have wanted a break from the cinema for a while. And ordinarily I probably would have, but Control has just come out and I was impatient to see it. So we went to the cinema on a miserable Tuesday evening.

I really enjoyed it although as with most films I’ve seen in the last two weeks ‘enjoyment’ doesn’t really seem an appropriate emotion. I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting, but somehow I thought it would be more experimental than it was – it was very much a straightforward biopic, albeit a beautifully shot one with fantastic music.

A few years ago I did try to read Deborah Curtis’ book ‘Touching from a Distance’ on which it is based, but the ins and outs of Ian Curtis’ domestic arrangements didn’t really interest me. I think I preferred the image of the tragic artist to the reality, but perhaps it’s a sign that I’ve grown up that the ordinariness is just as interesting. And when I cried at the end (rather embarrassingly as we were soon thrust out into the glaring light of the shopping centre, where my red eyes and trembling lip couldn’t be hidden), it wasn’t so much for the waste of genius, but for the broken family and friends left behind.

In interviews with the surviving members, its always obvious how devastated they were by the loss of their frontman at a ridiculously young age, but as a friend probably more than a creative force (they did after all recover and go on to greater success as New Order) and I don’t think that has ever left them. Control shows that friendship, the laddish behaviour, the ordinariness and their absolute youth which hadn’t equipped them to deal with this.

I do wonder though who is going to see Control besides those who already love Joy Division?
It doesn’t have any big stars in it like ‘Walk the Line’ (which I found hugely disappointing) or the triumphing adversity that ‘Ray’ did that seems to pack ‘em in at the multiplex, and it certainly doesn't glamorise rock n roll death as perhaps The Doors might. To existing fans the story is probably already well known what with the book, 24 Hour Party People, various Manchester music documentaries (which have been in overdrive recently with the death of Tony Wilson and the anticipation of this film). The story of Factory Records and its various bands is something so familiar to me, I suppose as the story of The Beatles might be to someone growing up in the sixties or Bible stories are to a strong Christian. I might have wondered if I really needed to see another film about this but it still brought something new to the subject and especially proves an interesting counterpoint to 24 Hour Party People, which was very much Wilson's story whereas this is undoubtedly Ian Curtis'.

Friday, October 05, 2007

More Dispatches from the frontline of independent cinema

Working in the festival booth has been strange, mainly because it seems to be the first place members of the public go to on entering the cinema. This is a problem because we only do festival passes, passholder and guestlist tickets. We are not the Box Office which is the big thing with flashing screens and the words Box Office above it. But the Box Office must have some sort of invisibility shield around because nobody spots it - they all come to us with their questions. Questions about tickets are easy enough - they are pointed in the direction of the box office which will sudden materalise in the foyer. Its the other questions that I struggle with:

Question. Where is the toilet?(times this question by 1000)
Answer: (I know this one!) There is one downstairs but you have to pay 20p. Or there is one in here but it is once you go through to the screens so you need a ticket.

Question. Is it true that a film showing in one cinema be shown somewhere else in Leicester Square? I don't think that is right.
Answer. That is kind of the system. But we don't make the rules.

Question. Is this film good?
Answer. We don't know - we haven't seen all of the festival films
Question. Where is the best place to change dolllars to pounds?
Possible Answer: A currency exchange I would think but I don't actually know where the nearest one is.

Question. Is there anything showing that has lots of murders in it? All of the films I've seen at the festival so far have been a bit too 'arthouse'.
Answer. Desparately look through the catalogue and recommend anything that might be violent. Secretly want to shout in their face 'What do you expect? Its an independent film festival'

Question. Is this the place to see films?
Answer. Yes. Secretly wanting to say 'Well, it is a cinema, what else would you do here?'

But despite these random questions, the technical hitches and delays, I'm still smiling at everyone and loving it all., and I'm slightly worried that life is just going to be so dull next week when its all over.