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June 8, 2011 / Prof Cupcake.

facebook fiasco

this woman is so overly keen it hurts:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2000559/Facebook-tattoo-woman-gets-152-friends-arm.html

June 6, 2011 / Prof Cupcake.

Win Win’s a Win

This exceptional Indy darling film from Thomas McCarthy is 2011’s BLIND SIDE without the boredom (but still with the platinum dye jobs.)

The film follows down and out lawyer for the elderly Mike Flaherty (Paul Giamatti) who is trying to keep his family solvent in an increasingly harsh economy. After running out of options he opts to become the legal guardian of one of his clients, Leo Polar (Burt Young) who is suffering from the early stages of dementia. Yet his easy payday is complicated with the arrival of Kyle (new comer Alex Shaffer) a sort of down and out youth with no where to go. After bring unintentionally ‘adopted’ by the Flaherty family, Mike and his wife Jackie (Amy Ryan) struggle to figure out just what they are going to do with everyone from Leo and Kyle to Terry Delfino (Bobby Cannavale) Mike’s best friend and a total wreck of an adult.

This film is sensational. With fantastic performances from all of the stars, (except perhaps Alex Shaffer who though great as Kyle comes off a bit dead in the ‘emotional’ scenes.) it is easy to get lost in this fantastic dramadey about life and its many twists and turns.  The writing alone is superb, but it is when it is brought wonderfully to life, particularly by Bobby Cannavale and Paul Giammatti who both clearly relish their characters and the extremes they can push them to, that this film clearly shines.

A truly wonderful film it’s whimsical and witty plot will help you whittle away the hours.

 

win win trailer: 

June 3, 2011 / Prof Cupcake.

Enchanté mr. Bradley Cooper

dear god there are moments when i find myself questioning my sexuality. perhaps i have got it all wrong and i really am straight and this entire gay thing is just a way of dealing with my fear that women might reject me or that i might be like absolutely horrid in bed. I mean there are times when i dont even feel like listening to pop music and have near uncontrollable urges to do things i imagine cowboys (the pinnacle of masculine perfection) would do like shoot there dinner and skin it. but then i start thinking of long nights on the prairie and only other cow boys for company and i quickly remember why i’m not all that straight after all. but i think the matter of my posible hetersexuality was settled once and for all when i stumbled across this. i dont even care what he is saying i am considering giving myself totally to this man:

 

June 3, 2011 / Prof Cupcake.

Abyssinie Swing

Coming in at just 26 minutes, Abyssinie Swing (directed by Francis Falceto and Anais Prosaic) is more a teaser introduction into the rich musical history and styles of Ethiopian rather then a proper exploration. Comprised of publically available YouTube style clips, with garish inter-titles and absolutely no over arching voice-of-god narration, one is mostly thrown into the film with no context and no understanding of that they are seeing. Easily digestible and completely enjoyable I felt merrily carried along in this breezy seemingly substance-less film. There is some incredible dancing not to mention some outstanding lyrics, such as “I love you like I love my intestine.” Yet for the most part blink or pass out, and you’re not going to come back to having missed any of the non-existent plot.

So when the film takes a dramatic shift into showing haunting soviet inspired propaganda songs and dance routines it comes to any one not familiar with Ethiopia’s unique political history as some what of a surprise. Moments later we are some where unnamed tearing down a statue of Lenin and if you were at all like me you were bizarrely shocked.

This film does nothing to illuminate you either, ending as ‘dramatically’ as it began with a news reporter wishing you a happy holiday season. Yet besides for its lack of narrative voice or coherency the film is both enjoyable and worth seeing. The archaic nature of the video clips, coupled with the often scratchy sound and non western influenced musical style allows one to feel as if they are embarking on a personal exploration of a remote past. Coupled with its rough montage style one begins to feel a sense of Ethiopian music spreading out before them like some patchwork tapestry of tonal brilliance.

Context however, would have been appreciated, and luckily for me that came after the film in a brilliant Q and A. As I do think some context greatly improves a viewing of this film, and makes sense of the communist undertones here is a brief summation of that conversation.

Ethiopia has been a Christian nation since the 4th century AD, and do to its interesting geographical topography, (must of it is rather elevated) and forward thinking tribal governance it has only been colonized once and rather briefly by the Italians for 5 years in the 30’s. by remaining rather insular before, during and after this time as well, Ethiopian music has retained much of its original heart and developed into a style where content and heart often matter more then talent. Yet in the mid 70’s with the arrival of socialism Ethiopia under went 19 years of restricted political freedom’s including curfews and lack of cultural expression, forcing political dissidents into communicating in a language already rich with double entendres in a unique way. Now, with the arrival of the internet and more social freedom’s Ethiopian music is exploding both on the world stage, and at home, where musicians strive to combine musical genres and explore there past with their future. A rich musical culture had developed and I recommend any interested check out this film as well as the ETHIOPIQUES music series and the musical stylizing of DUB COLOSSUS who integrates Ethiopian and reggae beats into explorative songs.

With this in mind the film is much more radical then previously thought. The songs and heritage so richly expressed seem more like defiant acts against an oppressive regime. They showcase a remarkable resilience of a culture for so long robbed of the freedom of artistic expression. Their unique vocal tones, the entrancing dancing the community and comradery so easily expressed in group performances, makes me feel nostalgic for a world I’ve never even known. As Nick Of Dub Collossus pointed out there is something haunting in their music, infectious that brings one back to an understanding of home.

Just how this is accomplished I am not entirely sure, but I highly recommend watching this film.

June 2, 2011 / Prof Cupcake.

X-MEN IS SO FIRST CLASS

Every time I get really mad, or am incredibly afraid or super emotional, this though creeps up the back of my spine and whispers softly to me, ‘maybe this experience will unleash your mutant powers.’  It’s seductive and all consuming and before I have really noticed it, by fear or anguish or rage has melted away into a wonderful day dream where I suddenly find myself able to teleport, fly, control things with my mind, turn into animals, ect. Ect. Ect. Now my mutant power is never the same day dream to day dream, but one of the things that never happens is I end up a mutant with really, really lame powers. Like the super fast model, or the guy with the spiky face in x-3.  The realm of lame mutants with silly powers is gloriously avoided in the latest installment of the x-men franchise, X-MEN FIRST CLASS, which is a huge relief.

Helmed by Matthew Vaugh, with an exceptional script from Jane Goldman (and others) X-Men First Class is a return to the humor and delight that populated both X-Men and X2. With some fun characters and some great powers it begins with a punch and ends with a bang.

The Plot follows Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender) on a campaign of revenge against Sebastian Shaw a truly insidious man who warped the mind of young Erik when he discovered what he was capable of. This pursuit eventually leads to his meeting with Charles Xavier, (played stunningly by James McAvoy who bring an element of depth to the character and his relationship with Erik that rivals that of Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian.) and ultimately the gathering of numerous powerful mutants in a bid to destroy the ever powerful Sebastian Shaw.

This particular installment I think particularly great for it allows the characters to grow. Each character manages to have a mini story arch within the larger frame work of the film and thus the climax is made ever so much more powerful by all of their inclusions. Jane Goldman also does a wonderful job at keeping all of the characters well balanced and surprisingly believable considering they all spend have their time shooting lasers from their bodies or ingesting energy blasts like their breakfast.

At it’s heart all of the X-MEN films are allegorical representation of visible and invisible personal differences between members of a society and the social construction of what is ‘normal’.  They are stories that any one who has ever felt different can relate to and it is this universally understood feeling that allows us to develop such personal relationship with such outlandish and campy characters. Yet what is interesting about this film is that the open ended nature of its ending allows for the view to decide which side they come down on. Do they see themselves as cultural ambassadors from the nation of other determined to prove their right to be accepted by main stream society through open dialogue, or do they choose to ignore society and establish their own with like minded individuals.

For me, as was the case with the arrival of X-MEN onto the cultural scene in the 60’s I think it is impossible to see this film and not view it as a coded exploration into the world of sexual identity. It’s not just the camp outfit and the nicknames that lead this film, like other x-men films to queer readings; it is the discussion of performative identity and the hardships one faces between their public and private self. With this in mind I think any watching of this film (or other x-men movie) is deepened as one allows themselves  to see beyond the lyrca and the cold war politics and to the heart of the film, which is all about people just wanting to fit in and get along.

So long story short. I LOVE IT.

 

June 2, 2011 / Prof Cupcake.

Tristan and Isolde get down and dirty

Amidst the splendor of lush and gently undulating fields of Hampshire lies the partially derelict Grange estate. There is something about it with its crumbling roman façade and unkempt gardens that leaves one feeling as if they have left the world of the real behind and stepped into the symbolic.

Which is rather fitting for in the westerly wing of the Grange Estate lies the decade old Grange Park Opera Stage. On this season is a modern rendition of Wagner’s opera TRISTAN & ISOLDE, directed by David Fielding and featuring Richard Berkeley-Steele and Alwyn Mellor in the aforementioned title roles.

The opera in it of itself is worth the trip out to Hampshire. Neatly divided into three acts. Each one has a unique visual and auditory style which is nicely seduces one into forgetting that they are going to be spending the majority of the evening with their eyes fluttering between the stage and the surtitles. The plot is sufficiently operatic so no real surprises as to the ending or the plot, but the journey there is a magical one.

The entire cast is electric and Alywn Mellor is simply captivating as Isolde. In a wirldwind performance of near boundless energy her voice and her actions explode across the stage in a purely raw performance. Yet it is Clive Bayley who plays King Mark of Cornwall who steals the show in the second act as we watch an old man faith in humanity dissolve in the light of an adulterous bride. He commands the stage with his voice and yet is so convincingly humble and afraid that one can not help but feel near endless pity.

 

Now for those like myself who were virgins to the Grange Estate though the Opera is fantastic it is not the only reason to go. The intervals themselves are nearly as operatic in their grandeur and length. Dotting the gardens are lush Arabian style tents one can rent for the evening to dine, wine and relax in. The Grange is an immersive experience in the way Opera was meant to be explored, be you a veteran or a novice to the style, everyone will find something delightful and moving, sorrowful and empowering in the Grange’s production of Trisan and Isolde.

May 31, 2011 / Prof Cupcake.

SILENCE is golden

Nestles in the Hampstead theater, an incredible theatrical space that looks like a futuristic egg, is David Farr’s breathtaking Silence.  Don’t let the name fool you however there is rarely a moment of quite in this play from when it starts with a woman on an empty stage suffering from tinnitus till it comes crashing to a crescendo a 100 minutes later.

           

In proper 21st century style, Silence Follows three characters in a narrative that jumps back and forth between the present day and the early 90’s. There is Kate, a woman torn between her husband and a lover from her past. Her husband, Michael, torn between his love for Kate and his dedication to his life as a documentary film maker and Michael’s assistant who is lost deep within the world of sound.

 

The play is in it of itself fascinating to watch. Expertly acted and wonderfully written it is a great production. Yet it is their use of noise that makes this play sublime. The music, the noise, the click s of a pen and the chewing of toast are more then just the byproducts of life in this play. Noise is a character, Noise is self aware, Noise is guiding these characters through their lives like a Sheppard, even when they are not aware of it.

 

At a 100 minutes flat, this play is unrelenting. Though at times the plot can seem confused, especially the beginning, it quickly develops into a wonderful experience I completely support.