Wednesday, 24 April 2013
Fatal Deviation is a martial arts film from the hotbed of roundhouse that is rural Ireland. Made in 1998 with a budget of about 89p. It's the creation of one Jimmy Bennett, a man who funded, wrote, starred in and directed this cliched tale of a son venging the murder of his father in the vain hope of becoming Ireland's answer to Van Damme.
Except it isnt a tale. It's a staggeringly inept set of scenes stapled together in the hope that the viewer might himself stumble upon a narrative. A young man leaves a strangely deserted reform school and takes shelter in an abandoned hovel in the country. He makes the place halfway presentable and, in flashback, we learn this is where he grew up with his kung fu loving dad. Black and white scenes of happier times, Dad showing his son, fresh from a day's being picked on at school, how to become a killing machine.
In a nearby town the love interest is introduced, being harassed in a supermarket by a pair of extremely old hooligans in the least convincing portrayal of devil may care behaviour ever captured on cheap VHS. Our gallant hero, fresh from making his childhood home halfway presentable, is out for the staples of any high kicking Irishman, milk and eggs. By the foolproof means of leaving a thrust toe inches from a bully's chin in the frozen food section, the gauntlet is thrown down. Bennett's back in town. Scores need to be settled. The harassed girl is instantly intrigued by this display of shopping knowhow and silent deadliness and so the plot, or at least the vaguest hint of one, is set in motion.
Complication time. The girl's already seeing someone! Ah fuck Joe, say it aint so. She's only seeing a local gangster, Mikey out of the rock group Boyzone. Mikey provides muscle for a local criminal overlord with an empire that stretches as far as some caravans in an abandoned quarry. There's talk of deals with Hong Kong. Men stand guard with guns. These men smoke, they swear and they don't like their girls bringing home made cakes to kung fu loners.
All kung fu films need an element of Oriental mysticism to show the zen discipline necessary to kicking a man's ribs in whilst wearing a garish dressing gown. Fatal Deviation provides this in the form of a monk who, whilst looking like a homeless Karl Marx, is here to advertise the town's annual ultimate fighting competition, and to coach Jimmy so he can win the title from one of the local gangsters and shame them out of town. Jimmy needs motivation though, so the monk lets slip the men who killed his father, stand to gain from one of their number coming up trumps.
It's a fairly odd religious order that encourages regulation-free fighting to the death but this is the least of Fatal Deviation's problems. Our hero, Jimmy gets into fights everywhere, without any kind of provocation. Turned away from a pub by bouncers who dont like the look of this Darren Gough on steroids, he kicks their heads in and then wonders why a gun is pulled on him by the landlord. Although we are then afforded the greatest line in the film in the inevitable dust-up. On the most painfully unerotic picnic you will ever see, he assumes the motorcyclists riding nearby are out to get him so he kills them. Needing a montage to join the ranks of Rocky and Karate Kid, we're treated to two. The love that must surely blossom between a monosyllabic psychopathic potato and a dumb blonde is depicted in a tapestry of horse rides, fruit-heavy picnics and a visit to what appears to be the Craggy Island Funfair. The transformation from potential killing machine to all out vengeful kung fu master is shown in a preposterous tableau of woodland based training as Karl Marx decides that sleep deprivation and being forced to wear sawn off white denim shorts is the only route to winning the tournament and the love of a good woman. Which it might well be.
Some sample dialogue.
The last twenty minutes is a crazed mix of badly edited fight scenes, hamfisted attempts at Arnie-like gags and the most pointless bath scene in movie history. It's wonderful. Rarely has a film entertained so much whilst achieving so little. From its Windows 95 era screensaver title sequence through to it's neck snapping finale, this is amongst the greatest things you might waste an hour of your life on, you little bollocks.
Monday, 9 April 2012
Not that they will need much reminding. Make no mistake, the Coalition are leaving nothing to chance. Forget missing out on the World Cup, the Olympics is still the big one. It's the perfect stage for nations of all political ideologies to strut their stuff, to display their cojones to a global audience and, in maintaining a united front of Corinthian valour, sporting nobility and heroic deeds, validate itself in the eyes of its home crowd and the watching world beyond.
Last summer the riots in London effectively gave the greenlight for the biggest mobilisation of our armed forces since 1945. Tens of thousands of troops will provide security for the Olympics. There is no doubt that the Games provide a high profile window for the would-be terrorist but the troops aren't just there for counter-terrorism purposes.
Colin Moynihan, chairman of the British Olympic Association and a former Sports Minister, spoke over the weekend of "idiots" ruining the Games with protests. This is almost certainly a first shot across the bows before the all out attack on civil liberties can properly begin. The Government's vision for 2012 is a fortnight of British triumph being beamed to the world. There will be zero tolerance for voices of dissent.
The BBC, neutered since the election via a frozen license fee, promise an unprecedented digital stream of every event at the games. The Royal Mail, themselves under the threat of further privatisation (job cuts), will be issuing a commemorative stamp for each gold medal that Team GB wins within 48 hours of them standing on the rostrum. This would appear to be not so much a case of capturing the public mood as dictating it.
Many sporting fans feel that politics has no place in sport. Tell that to South Africa, to Jesse Owens, to Tommie Smith. Karl Hudspith, the president of the Oxford University Boat Club, said of Oldfield's protest that "my team went through seven months of hell, this was the culmination of our careers and you took it from us." There's nothing quite like an ideologically minded disruption to ruin a lifetime's professional dedication - just ask the teachers, nurses, firemen about to have their own race disrupted.
So, I'll be avoiding the Olympics this summer. As much as I can. For the press are already keen to play their part in dictating the mood, the Sun counting down the days to this event with each edition. Soon the shops will be awash with Union Jacks and "official" 2012 merchandise, the one eyed mascot Wenlock will be ubiquitous, and the talk down the pubs will be of medal chances, drug tests and dropped batons
This is a government already well practised in deceit and deflection, the illegal NHS reforms swept under the carpet, the Prime Minister's connections to a corrupt and criminal media ignored in favour of convenient rows over taxing hot food. Whilst your Bolts and Ennises seek to wow the crowd, the Coalition will be silently ushering in the next phase of dismantling the few remaining public institutions for private profiteering.
With that in mind, I'll be hoping for a summer of British sporting failings, for each gold medal won will be an excuse for Cameron and the gang to bask in the reflected golden glory of athletic valour.
The Olympic flame initially symbolised the theft of fire from Zeus by Prometheus, a triumph for human inventiveness and pluck in defiance of overwhelming odds and seemingly unopposable forces. It's modern day descendant will not have been alone in its journey from Beijing. It will have been accompanied with a Beijing-inspired distaste for dissent, for oppostion, for the human spirit.
Saturday, 7 January 2012
Last night Liverpool became the first team to make it into the 4th round of the FA Cup by beating Oldham Athletic 5-1 but there will be surely little celebrating amongst the club’s players and management this morning. The alleged racist abuse by Liverpool supporters of Oldham player Tom Adeyemi means that the club will have to take a long hard look at itself and, in particular, its conduct in the aftermath of the Luis Suarez affair.
The game was Luis Suarez’s second of an eight match ban imposed upon him after being found guilty of using racist language against Manchester United defender Patrice Evra in a match earlier this season. Despite compelling evidence and a 115-page legal document outlining the reasons the FA felt confident in imposing such a sanction, Liverpool continued to complain that their player was a scapegoat.
Shortly after the original verdict was handed down, Liverpool’s players made a misguided show of unity by wearing t-shirts depicting their apparently martyred colleague’s face in the warm-up at Wigan Athletic. These t-shirts have become quite a sensation on Merseyside and, initial witness accounts report, were prevalent in the section of Anfield that Adeyemi was abused by last night.
The end result is that a once great football club now finds its reputation absolutely ruined this morning. Their manager, Kenny Dalglish, a man whose compelling dignity and compassion in the months and years after Hillsborough elevated him to an almost godlike status in the city, now finds himself besieged within a fortress partly of his own making.
The club’s refusal to accept the independent commission’s report into the Suarez affair and Dalglish’s apparent approval of his players wearing what, for some people, amounted to t-shirts depicting the image of a proven racist cannot wholly be responsible for the idiotic behaviour of a small number of supporters last night. But there can be no doubting that, for many people, by refusing to accept the punishment quietly, by publicly questioning the commission’s judgements, that the club has done itself a massive disservice.
The commission made it quite clear that they did not believe Luis Suarez to be a racist. By punishing the player with an eight-match ban, they effectively endorsed that opinion, it is a mistake rather than a prejudice, let us move on. Liverpool’s misjudged reaction to the commission’s findings mean that Suarez is now wrongly vilified by some as a racist, and furthermore, means that some scumbags now feel they can identify with this player as someone they wrongly believe to share their hateful views.
The FA Cup will come around again. Banning Liverpool from this season’s competition as punishment won’t mean anything. A multi-million pound business empire will comfortably survive such an arbitrary sanction. Liverpool’s own punishment should be the uncomfortable silence one hopes Dalglish et al find themselves sat in this morning. The efforts of several Liverpool players to comfort Adeyemi last night should be applauded, but their own conduct helped inflame this situation in the first place.
The reputation of Liverpool’s supporters has withstood many dark hours in the last thirty years. Many of them will have understood at some level that the chanting of Suarez’s name will have been a provocative gesture. On internet message boards this morning, there is still a great deal of denial and conspiracy theorising going on, a feeling that the club and its supporters are themselves the victim.
The only way forward now is for the players and manager to publicly condemn, not via some PR-managed press release, the abhorrent nature of racist behaviour, racist language, and racism full stop. Furthermore, they should also apologise for their reaction to the commission’s findings and draw a line under the matter. If the FA fine or punish the club in any way, it will only add fuel to the fire. The Suarez situation has been handled, to my mind, perfectly. The player made a mistake and has, admittedly belatedly, apologised.
In the last twenty years we have allowed ourselves to be seduced by the image that football, with its safe family-friendly stadia, has cured itself of it’s former ills. The Premiership era of multi-cultural football teams with worldwide support was kindly supposed to have kicked racism, if not quite out of football altogether, then at least into some small corner where it could not quite be seen or heard. Compared to other countries, particularly those in eastern Europe, we have come an especially long way. Campaigns such as Let’s Kick Racism out of Football have been seen to have had a massive positive effect. The days when a Liverpool legend such as John Barnes would be pelted with bananas seemed to have been banished forever.
I know many Liverpool fans. Not one of them, to my knowledge, is racist. I imagine them to be entirely representative of the vast majority of the club’s supporters. It’s important that this isn’t seen as a one-club issue. The Suarez incident was a situation the FA could not be seen to get wrong, it is tempting for some Liverpool fans to see that his guilty verdict was inevitable, but it’s the wrong reaction. If the legal investigation was flawed, we’d have heard about it by now, the club’s refusal to appeal against the 115-page findings would certainly seem to say as much.
England captain John Terry will soon be facing criminal proceedings for alleged racist outbursts. The powers of this particular inquiry far exceed those of the FA. How Chelsea, and their supporters, conduct themselves during this investigation will be of great significance to the ongoing rehabilitation of football’s reputation. How all of us, as individuals, as fans, conduct ourselves in future, will be of greater significance still.
Saturday, 31 December 2011
Friday, 5 August 2011
Eve of Christmas Eve. A dark drive down some
rockspotted track. We are silent. Killers.
With gloves from the farmer's wife we trudge
to a cold outbuilding, strip-lit and grey.
Machines and men turn in the shed next door.
Protests and filthy jokes from the doomed birds.
A lesson from the farmer. The upturned turkey
two days from celebration, yawning red
from the pause of his last interrupted sentence.
The floor darkening and the farmer's instructions
lost in our comprehension of christmas lunch.
With one smooth rip the bird is stripped to cook.
The room spins with sudden birds, headless and
warm against our rubber hands. We stamp our
feet to achieve circulation, kicking crimson feathers
in some grim pillow fight between our knees.
The sun not quite risen over the morning hill.
Our tea drunk quietly. Our lunch quieter still.
Friday, 29 July 2011
5 Pairs of Songs With The Same Title That Are Actually Both Pretty Darn Gretchos.
How do you name a song? Surely it's easy, isn't it? You just pick the most obvious part of the lyrical refrain and call it that. Good enough for Noel Gallagher, Brian Wilson and a host of others. It's not as if its important is it. Not as important as an original tune, say. But what if said title's been done already. Dang. You want people to remember your tune, you dont want it confused with somebody else. Such apprehension explains the titling strategies of acts such as Public Enemy (Black Steel In The Hour of Chaos), The Fall (Mere Pseud Mag Ed) and Aphex Twin (Btoum-Roumada).
If you lack confidence in your title's originality, then dont worry. If the tune's original enough, just use whatever title you want.
1: Come Together - Primal Scream and Spiritualized
Now I know neither of these were the first to use the title but I hate the Beatles song of the same name. Sacrilege to some I know but there you go. Such a celebratory, communal, orgasmic title should lend itself to something mind blowing and spiritual, not something lumpen and tired. That's why I celebrate the Primals and the Lized's songs rather than that old bollocks. The Scream's song is the Screamadelica era version of that band in essence - a well chosen sample (Jesse Jackson at Wattstack 1972 concert), a gospel choir, some housey piano, and a throw the kitchen sink at it style of arrangement and production. Spiritualized's song comes from a different angle, somewhere between where the Scream would be at the time of their song and where they'd be at the end of that same decade, a throbbing, vital, angry jazz funk techno avant garde krautrocknroll spectacle. It's an edgier, more menacing affair - old Spaceman famously playing a condemned prisoner in the video - play back to back and celebrate perhaps the two most important bands of the 1990s.
2: Temptation (new order/heaven 17)
For New Order, Temptation marked the point of no return. Leaving behind once and for all Martin Hannett, Joy Division and a monochrome austerity that defined their embryonic post-Ian Curtis releases, New Order's third single is a thing of such epic loveliness, it's amazing it hasn't soundtracked a thousand romantic movies. Blue Monday was a year away but the seeds are here; lyrical non sequiturs, an euphoric momentum, an insistent and motorik beat. Thirty years old next year, it sounds vital even now. Forget everything they did post 89 and listen to this - four people from Northern England changing music forever. From across the Pennines and a year later, Sheffield's Heaven 17 release a behemoth of crazed discosoulgoth - despite their many other fine releases in the first half of the 80s, this would be the millstone around the necks, they'd become songwriters and producers for hire and all on the strength of this one song, their preposterous but ultimately rewarding anthem. In the Heaven 17 song, its worth pointing out that singer Glenn Gregory looks like Rob Brydon playing a Yuppie Rutger Hauer.
3: California (Low/Wedding Present)
California. The Sunshine State. Hollywood. Surfing and earthquakes. The end of the road in all them movies. Who better to sing about it than a bunch of Mormons from neighbouring Utah? Or an even dourer jangly band from Leeds. Low's effort is just unbearably gorgeous, like a Steinbeck story sung by Teenage Fanclub. The Wedding Present's effort stems from their Hit Parade period, California is Gedge at his plaintive best - three minutes of almost summery optimism.
4: Raindrops (Basement Jaxx/Tindersticks)
Coming from opposite ends of the happiness spectrum. For Basement Jaxx, Raindrops are the cleansing and euphoric kind. For the Tinders, they're the unwept tears at the end of a troubled relationship. One of these songs is easier to dance to than the other, but both are fantastic.
5: Here We Go (Stakka Bo/Arab Strap)
Stakka Bo was a one hit European pop star of the early 90s. His song is ludicrously of its time. It was a little bit acid jazz, a big bit Stereo MCs. Despite that, it still sounds good mind. Arab Strap remain one of my favourite acts of all time, this song documents the post-indiscretions row on the way home from the pub familiar to just about every bloke I know. And if that makes them sound like the Streets, I apologise, they're a thousand times better than Mike Skinner - this is genuinely soulful music for the recently dumped clubber....
(Or Famous Chairs in Television)
Picture the scene. Four thirty in the morning, nine tastefully decorated floors above Salford. I’m in a hotel room, ringing room service to see if they’ll supply me with painkillers. The reason I’m up so early is panic, blind panic. The painkillers aren’t for that, they’re for a shoulder I (wrongfully) suspect I might have dislocated slipping in the shower five minutes ago.
In less than twelve hours time, I’m going to be sat in the most famous chair on British television. Not Chris Tarrant’s precariously elevated IKEA stool, not Jim Royle’s sofa of slothful patriarchy, but a chair that inspired the toughest quiz show on television, a show partly informed by the interrogation tactics of the Gestapo.
Rewind six months. John Humphries, white haired veteran of news and current host of Mastermind is asking potential contestants to apply at the end of a show. I, giddy with having correctly answered eight or nine questions from the comfort of my settee, decide that this is the appropriate arena in which to declare my brilliance. Online application filled in, I sit back and wait for the inevitable phone call from Humpers (as I shall no doubt be allowed to call him soon) telling me to pop along.
Months pass, I get a letter inviting me to audition at my local BBC studios. The audition involves me sitting down, talking a little about myself, and answering twenty or so general knowledge questions. My pub quiz gene kicks in, and I find that I’m supplying answers with reasonable ease. The production people don’t let me know if I’ve got any right, however, and so we move on to the small matter of my specialist subject.
For those of you who don’t know the show, and at this point I welcome anyone who’s completely mistyped the Nuts website address, the contestants have two rounds. One is general knowledge, but the first is a specialist subject, handpicked by the contestant at the audition stage.
In 2006, Simon Curtis, having picked the films of Jim Carrey as his specialist subject, scored only one point. Insert predictably snide reference to Dumb and Dumber here. So, it’s best to pick something you actually know something about. An esoteric prowess that made me the scourge of quiz machines throughout the M4 corridor is one thing, actual detailed knowledge of a specific subject is another. I plump for Factory Records. Been done. The Coen Brothers. Done. Martin Amis. Done. The World Cup. Done.
Soon my knowledge of Rentaghost might be called into question but then, out of thin air, I pluck Raymond Carver. The late, great Ray C, chronicler of American blue collar despair and master of the short story. With him having only managed a handful of publications in an all too short life, I think I’ve tactically pulled a blinder. All I need now is the nod for my appearance.
A month or so later, a phone call confirms I’m through. Four months till filming, the fifty years of Raymond Carver’s life to research. Piece of piss.
Except, of course, I do nothing of the sort. The usual everyday pressures of life take their toll on my planned research schedule. That and my default setting of manana when faced with anything more pressing than a bowel movement. Increasingly, I begin to panic. The family and friends who’ve promised to attend, now faced with shame by association, drop out faster than you can say “I’ve Started So I’ll Finish”.
Soon, I’m on a tram to Salford, barely halfway through an only recently purchased Carver biography. Tomorrow is filming day. Humiliation beckons.
Alarm set for half four, I decide on a shower to shock the sleep out of me. Its here I slip and hurt myself. Now I’m in trouble. The pain is too much to even read. The hotel, quite sensibly, won’t give out painkillers. I also realise, at this point, I’ve left my shaving stuff at home. My request for a razor, surprisingly, is agreed to. I manage to dress myself and head downstairs to pick up a razor that might suffice for some things but not a national television appearance. An early train into Manchester to collect painkillers and shaving things. Back to base for five hours panic reading. Then grooming. Then national humiliation.
At the studios, I’m taken to a green room full of healthy vegetables. Insert production staff joke here. The other contestants mingle with their families and answer random general knowledge questions from wives and children. I sit alone, numb on Panadol. It occurs to me that this is a particularly Carveresque situation to be in, a badly prepared man miles from home about to be humiliated, miles from loved ones. The other contestants are all men, all married with children, and all lovely. I’ve been drawn as Contestant 3. Which is ace. Contestant 4 is the one you don’t want to be. Because, at the start of the second round, you have to go in order of reverse scores from round one, meaning you’d be in and out of your chair like a diuretic yo-yo if you had a Curtis moment.
Sitting in a TV studio where the only lights are on you, with the audience to your backs is an odd experience. Soon John Humphreys emerges from behind a dark web of sinister cameras and wires. Filming begins and I want to go home. A sole spotlight shines on the Eames Soft Pad Lounge Chair. Contestant Number One strides confidently into position and rattles off correct answer after correct answer. Shit. Contestant Number Two does the same. All of a sudden, I wish I’d taken the Rentaghost option after all. Without realising I’m doing it, I’m walking across the stage to the famous chair and telling Humpers who I am and why I’m here. Before the first question, I wonder to myself, is this the moment of my greatest disaster? Humpers speaks.
“Fourfoot, you have two minutes on the life and short stories of Raymond Carver, starting now.”
In this manner, the issue was to be decided.
(At the time of writing, I dont know when its going to be on. I'll let you know.)