Thursday, December 30, 2010

KDs albums of the year

Massive year for Aussie music and a disappointing year for Metal.

1. April Uprising John Butler Trio
2. Get Out While You Can Dan Sultan
3. Slash Slash (and friends)
4. The Final Frontier Iron Maiden
5. Flamingo Brandon Flowers
6. Mechanize Fear Factory
7. Omen Soulfly
8. No Guts No Glory Airbourne
9. I Believe You Liar Washington
10. Immersion Pendulum

JBTs new album was unreal as he delved hard rock, hip hop and reggae with his new line up. It's probably a little long but there are a number of cracking tracks. Just an album that both parties hard and makes you think. Dan Sultan's album is just brilliant. An amazing voice who is destined for greatness. The album is split like an old record and starts quite loose and slow before amping up and rocking out in 'side B.' Iron Maiden returned with heir best album since Brave New World and continues their 'prog' extension on their traditional galloping sound. Slash's first solo album had disaster written all over it, with so many different vocalists, but ended up being amongst his better works (alongside Contraband and Appetite). Flamingo was basically the killers without the killers- makin it a pretty good album with some really strong 'Sams Town' style singalong songs and some more poppy/dance tracks.

Honorable mentions to beat ofs by Jay Z and Oasis, There is a hell believe me I've seen it... by Bring Me The Horizon, Sia's We Are Bornalbum, a great funky album Cinema by The Cat Empire and Fistful Of Mercy's debit album. Powderfinger's album The Golden Rule was released last year but was a great album that set the stage for their 2010 farewell. Kanye West's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fanatasy had some great songs in parts but was a typical hip hop in others.

What did you like this year?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Gigs 2010: From Fear Factory to Muse

Didn't see the variety of gigs this year that I had in the past but did fit in a few crackers, including of course the Metallica madness.

January saw the Big Day Out roll around and, whilst I missed the big event, I did jump into two sideshows. FEAR FACTORY, with Dino back on board and half of Strapping Young Lad as the the rhythm section, blew apart the Prince Bandroom with all the brilliance of the original lineup. The non-Dino albums were completely ignored which meant we got some classics (Shock, Edgecrusher, Martyr) and some of my favourite album tracks (smasher/devourer, acres of skin). Easily the heaviest (in terms of size) band in the world, the highlight was the closing "selections from Demanufacture" in which they played seven of eleven songs from the album- brilliantly closing with intense versions of Pisschrist and Replica. It was hot and sweaty and great chance to relive my youth! (8/10)

The next night Mel and I took in LILY ALLEN at Festival Hall. A different kind of pop gig, since it lacked the big production of Pink or Kylie. Miami Horror did a good job to get things going before Lily took the stage. (Little did I know how much I would hear about this band once school started.) Lily came out and got the crowd moving with a succession of new tracks (back to the start, everyone's at it, the brilliant 22) and old singles (LDN). With only two albums to draw from she struggled to justify the hefty ticket price and played for just over an hour. The latest album singles went over best, especially The Fear, and the encore of Not Fair, which was doubled when they launched into a remix version to finish the show. A good time. (6/10)

SOUNDWAVE 2010 was another rousing affair at the Showgrounds. The line up wasn't as impressive as the year before so I arrived late and took in ANTHRAX with John Bush on vocals (6/10) who put on a great how for those packed into the shed. Highlights were Indians and Caught In A Mosh. Actually, Only went over pretty well too. It was a shame they played so many covers though. TRIVIUM (7/10) followed up with a greatest hits set, which means they played mostly songs off their one classic album (Ascendancy). You can say what you like, but must acknowledge Pull Harder On The Strings Of Your Martyr is a great modern metal song and worthy closer as the circle pits opened up. Really though, SW11 was all about the headliner- the reunited FAITH NO MORE (10/10). Words can't describe it. Opening with Don't Dream It's Over and pushing straight into From Out Of Nowhere and Be Aggressive, Mike Patton and Co were on fire. The massive crowd sung along with every word, especially during Gentle Art Of Making Enemies and Ashes To Ashes. The use of a live feed to Chat Roulette led to some humourous moments too. Other highlights included the vocals on CuCoo For Caka and Last Cup Of Sorrow. It was a perfect festival set list with most of the big hits played and a number of unreal album tracks thrown in. Even after all these years the band were tight and Patton was on vocally. The set closer of Epic and Just A Man was brilliant. The huge afternoon climaxed with the final encore of We Care A Lot. Best performance of the year.

Not for the first time (and certainly not the last) Mike and I raced to Festival Hall to see metal. That night in march was to see Hatebreed (who we only caught the end of) and MACHINE HEAD! Now seeing MH for the third time in around two years as part of the Blackening Tour you would think we would have seen it all- but no! This was their first full headlining set and they didn't disappoint. As well as bringing in the majority of 2008's The Blackening, the band played some older tracks that we hadn't heard live in years. Highlights were Clenching The Fist Of Dissent, Imperium, Blood The Sweat The Tears, Blood For Blood, Bite The Bullet, Take My Scars, The Burning Red and of course, the outstanding encore of Davidian. The crowd was wild and it was certainly a different vibe to the last time I was in the hall. At various points there were two or three circle pits on the floor, especially during the Dimebag tribute Aesthetics Of Hate. (8/10).

After the hot summer Winter was fairly quite though a number of tickets were bought for later in the year. Most of these were to see METALLICA. Kicking off with front row at the second September show (9/10) this was a sight to behold. From the ginormous coffins above us to the lasers in the opening That Was Just Your Life, this was an epic metal show, the likes of which have never been seen on these shores. This night had three Death Magnetic songs, which sound great live, and a great load of classics- led by Creeping Death (which wouldn't be played at subsequent shows), Four Horsemen and Battery- and some rarely played gems- Holier Than Thou, The Unforgiven and climaxing in And Justice For All (all 9.44 of it!!). Best of all? I caught one of the giant Metallica beachballs during Seek And Destroy! The supports were quality too. THE SWORD (6/10) were good in the short slot, though FEAR FACTORY (4/10) struggled with sound problems and a poor vocal performance from Burton.

It was therefore a pain in the arse that I had to wait 6 weeks to see them again. November 18 (8/10) was a more diverse set than September, with Shortest Straw, Memory Remains, I Disappear and Turn The Page getting a run. That this was Kirk's birthday made for a memorable moment. November 20 (7/10) was probably the most interesting set list, with a double hit of rare Black Album (through the never, god that failed), and the sixth ever performance of Outlaw Torn! Capping this off with an intense version of Dyers Eve made for a great show. The final night of the three year World Magnetic Tour was amazing and anticipation was high. November 21 (9/10) was therefore a special night for many reasons. Despite being seated in the very back row, Mike and I had a ball. We have now seen all of Master Of Puppets played live (they ripped out Leper Messiah and Disposable Heroes) and saw the tour debut of Call Of Kutulu. Between this and a brief jam on Escape and full performance of Trapped Under Ice, we've seen most of Ride The Lightning. A great set that was full of emotion was the tour, and five nights in Melbourne, came to an end. It was worth the money to see 52 different songs over the four shows. The November supports were hit and miss. Baroness had potential but were ultimately boring, while it is always awesome to see LAMB OF GOD (7/10) even in a short set of main tracks from the most recent albums. They did play Ruin though which is always appreciated and the wall of death for Black Label was a sight to see at Rod Laver Arena!

After this, U2 were always going to be hard pressed to outdo Metallica. Opener Jay-Z was great, really had the crowd jumping early, and played my favourites (Encore, 99 Problems, Empire State Of Mind, Dirt Off Ya Shoulder). U2 followed with all the spectacle you'd expect. This was by far the biggest show I'd ever seen and was impressive from that stand point. But the sound was terrible and it was difficult, in such a large setting, to feel the crowd vibe. The set was mostly hits, all of which were brilliant, and the new songs had enough happening visually to work well. Highlights were Pride, Mysterious Ways, Where The Streets Have No Name, I'll Go Crazy If I don't Go Crazy Tonight and Miss Sarajevo. Overall a good experience but not the best show I've ever seen. (7/10)

Bon Jovi was my second trip to Etihad in as many weeks. Having last seen them at the Music Bowl, during their terrible country music phase, I didn't have high expectations. They certainly exceeded those with a show that featured many classics (You Give Love A Bad Name, Keep The Faith, Sleep When I'm Dead were my favourites) and a few more obscure songs. Things really kicked into gear and crowd lifted the quality of the gig up by the time they played a medley of Bad Medicine/Roadhouse Blues/Shout. The stadium was rocking along after this, even through the ballads (I'll Be There For You and Always the pick of the bunch). The crowd was so pumped that their booed Jon when he donned a Melbourne Heart jersey for the encore! All in all a great show that was fairly low key compared to U2 or Metallica. (7.5/10).

A few days later Mel and I left awards night early so we could hit Rod Laver Arena again to see MUSE. Now having endured giant juke boxes, needles to the sky, muti-colored fire and rotating coffins, the was some query over what experience Muse could possibly give me. Well how about 20ft high light platforms? Holy shit this was amazing! Opening with Uprising the poms made sure they put on a memorable show, one that went off when they got their groove on for Supermassive Blackhole. The newer stuff isn't as strong as their classics, and was overbearing at times, but the light show was phenomenal. Like Tool, the lack of crowd interaction was forgivable in light of the musicianship on display. By the time the climaxed with Time Is Running Out, Starlight and Plug In Baby (which featured confetti filled beach balls) I was out of gas. But the gig year was never going to end quietly and by the time Knights Of Cydonia finished and Muse left the stage I was in RnR heaven. Perfect end to a stellar couple of months! (8/10)

Already there is much to look forward to in 2011. IRon Maiden return for Soundwave, which should be unreal with Queens Of The Stone Age and Slash amongst the other performers and a trip to Byron Bay for Bluesfest (Bob Dylan, BB King, Franti, Harper etc) already booked in. Can't wait :)

What were your favourite gigs this year? Comment!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The beginning of the end of the beginning...

"so this is how the world ends- not with a bang, but with a whimper."
-Southland Tales (a horrible movie, but a decent quote)

It has been said that perhaps my motives can be questioned. That I had some grand design, that I played the game and that I did things for the sole purpose of moving ahead and up. This is not true. There have been benefits to being who I am- just as there have been problems (and perhaps will be problems still.)

It is time to evaluate and look back. The why and how have been dealt with. The question now? What do I leave with?

I leave with memories. Sober ones too (not something that can said of everywhere I have worked.)

I leave having learned a lot about teaching. Most of the lessons were learnt from colleagues: grammar from Judi and Bruna, thinking (and much more) from Damien, leadership from Arthur, Amanda, Barry, Mel and Kristy. I have had the privilege of working with some outstanding teachers and have had some brilliant role models that showed me what to do. And despite my gruff demeanor, I really did take the lessons on board.

I leave with some great relationships. Some will endure, some will not. Either way I have learned something about myself and about people. I genuinely believe this to be the purpose of teaching and if I've learnt nothing else it is this- everything you do teaches. It teaches people about power, respect and humanity. The mark you leave is crucial. Be a prick and you teach people that teachers are pricks. Treat them as intelligent and they will appreciate your faith. Project confidence and they will believe in you. This is what I will take with me next. Any student, and teacher, can learn. They just need to be shown how.

I learnt from the kids who, despite some reluctance, showed some faith in me and followed me even when I put the moon away and cast fog over the path. They shined their own lights and were better for it. And I learnt a hell of a lot about myself, and in a very Paul/Keller way, look back on my own youth in a different way, perhaps with a tinge of regret. (I was an arsehole to this one teacher when I was in year 8- sorry about that.) The class of 09 (my biggest fans?) and still to graduate class of 2011 will always be special. Actually every group I've had has kids I've connected with and have inspired me to do better. Their stories are all different and the time to hear them all is too short. Certainly there is more perplexing problems and challenges for this generation that mine. Their ability to persevere and develop into mature and responsible young adults is astounding and, really, is the the best part of the job.

I learnt most from those I worked closely with and shared the most with. Without these friends (even when we weren't that friendly) I would not have been able to do the things I have. The were my backbone when things sucked and I hope at times I was theirs. Some of our best work involved each other and, when you look at it from a distance, we contributed things and achieved things that made Rosehill a better place. (Here in lies the problem with some of us leaving but I chose not to have that debate.) And I hope this continues now that we call different schools home. Or at least, we make time to get really pissed. Or even maybe I just get pissed and get driven home. Whatever is fine. (I am Jack's closet alcoholism).

Most importantly, I met the love of my life there. And she knows by now she is on my list.

Ok, enough back slapping and self congratulations. Allow me a brief anecdote. When the (then) AP asked me at my first interview why I wanted to come to (then) Niddrie, I answered that it seemed like the perfect place to start my career. And it has been.

There is no ending, no sadness, certainly no bitterness. Whether I planned it or not, the time has come.

It is the perfect time to start anew and take what I've learned to a new setting and a new challenge.

So it ends. No party, no explosion or confetti cannons. Maybe some pyro if you have any to spare.

This is where it starts, with my favourite six word memoir-

That KISS song says it all.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:A new place

Thursday, December 2, 2010

How it came to be

So I have covered the 'why', now it is time to cover the 'how.' I have actually renamed this blog- it was all set to cover my mixed emotions about leaving but I'm not ready to write that one yet. A discussion with colleagues tipped me that way, but ultimately, it is a story for another day. (or more likely I am just not ready to go through what it means to be leaving. It has begun to set in but by-no-means is it there yet.)

I never intended to leave. Despite declaring to some earlier in the year that things could very well go that was if I was dissatisfied, I never took such a boast seriously. Indeed, so close to hanging it up was I that the thought of leaving the profession was closer than merely changing workplaces.

Though of course, I had A&A in my ear. Like two devils on my shoulder they prodded, coerced and most importantly, encouraged me to keep going. When the boss moved to Taylors Lakes SC I only saw opportunity. Certainly immediate opportunity (how quaint then that they would later tell me to be patient) but long term opportunities now that I had actual friends in high places. When the English Coordintator positioned popped up, I was up for it. The pain in the arse KSC (SEVEN criteria with a FIVE page limit!) was the best professional development I have ever done. Forced to list, describe and justify my four year career through the lens of my leadership skills and knowledge. I had done some outstanding things in the classroom, I had made sure I was involved in a number of different areas- sport, music, productions, student leadership, classroom management, peer observation, ICT workshops and leading English and Literacy in different ways. My list of achievements was entirely deliberate and, in some way, had been designed to learn as much about myself from others as I could in the four years I had been there.

The writing though was just practice. Nothing more. Being shortlisted was of course a terrific bonus. It was also the perfect excuse to get a new suit, but it wasn't until the morning of the interview that it occured to me that I could actually go. Now, of course the incumbent got the position, but it was eating breakfast that morning that I realised if I was prepared to interview then I needed to be prepared to commit. Seeing Arthur when I got there calmed my nerves.

And I tanked the interview.

Actually, that is misleading. For the first time in my life there was a job I missed out on. I had already submitted my Strathmore application by then and soon followed with my RSC apps (all frickin FOUR of them- thank god for the Taylors Lakes rehearsal.) Missing the TL one cut deep but only momentarily. The feedback the boss there gave me surprised me (I hadn't dealt with someone that high up before who actually went above-and-beyond for, well, me). Despite my vast number of different experiences covered in my application, I had not managed to convince them in the interview. This knowledge was incredibly valuable, as were the specific suggestions I received on what I needed to include for each question type. His voice was warm as he spoke through his notes and took me through the highs and lows of my application and the interview. It was my inexperience that was killing me. Thanks to his guidance my interview experience had grown. My first failure became my triumph.

By now most know the next set back. Three days, three interviews and four jobs. Zero chance. There were other forces at work, no doubt about it now, but all were a positive experience. I still haven't received feedback and have no intention of asking for any. I was mad. No doubt about that. Let down and disappointed. Had people pumped me up? Certainly, and I would like to think with good reason. I wouldn't have applied if I didn't think I was the MAN. But decisions were made and I understand the rationale, though I clearly disagreed with it. (Do I now? Yes and no. I have moved beyond it.)

So angry was I that I worked double on the interview the next day. I didn't bother with morning briefing, and kept my first class on auto-pilot. I was stopped when I was due to left and presented with a number of alternatives. Generous ones too I might add. But if there is one thing I know about myself- I don't do second best very well. I was in a hurry but couldn't afford to be rude so I politely declined the offer and said I would think about it.

I listened to Megadeth's Peace Sells in the car on the way over.

A fire burned as I headed through the yard in the rain. And my nerves calmed as I chatted with someone from my brother's year at primary school. I entered AUTOMATIC doors (!!) and dried off while I waited. It was the most bizarre of the six interviews I ended up doing (there would be another in between Strathmore's interview and acceptance). No questions in advance. Just my raw notes and little time to think. Dad's tricks (water!) came in handy here, as did the earlier feedback. I eased up quicker than I had in most of the others and chatted generally about grammar and literature, and more specifically about the problems confronting Year 7 and 9 NAPLAN results. It felt good. The fire pushed me through it. I headed back out into the rain knowing I may have another option, and that the setbacks so far would pay off at some point. That I did not know when no longer bothered me. I just needed to keep pushing and keep applying. I drove back and changed the CD to Ben Harper and Relentless7 (Boots Like These and Shimmer And Shine). I went back to my Year 12s, in one of my smokin' new suits, and helped them practice reading time. No idea what they thought. I will admit now that "Holy shit I'm a traitor!" did pop into my mind while they worked. I was better, as I often am, once I removed my tie.

When they rang me to come in I was skeptical. I countered on nothing after the earlier experiences.

Then he said he was willing to take a punt on me.

It was all I had wanted to hear since the journey began.
I was leaving.
And Ashok called me a twat.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Why I am leaving Rosehill

So where to begin?

The question anyone asks when they start to write. Do I begin at the highpoint? The most interesting fact? Do I begin with some sort of famous quote to show how widely read I am? Or do I just put my hand up and shout to the world some kind of unknown and unspoken truth?

Or, perhaps, do I just tell you what I think you want to hear? Do i attempt to engage my audience with something witty? No. This isn't that kind of story. Instead I will begin with a fact-

I am leaving.

The facts aren't why you're here though. And the truth will never be believed anyway since undoubtedly there are other opinions this writer has not considered. But in my story I get to tell it my way. And this is my story.

So to a question. Why? (I realize now that I am stalling).

Among the answers I have given have been half-truths and myths. I have outgrown the place. I needed a new challenge. I was squeezed out in the restructure. Do I believe them? I don't know. Should you? Your perspective on this is much different to mine.

I am leaving because a door opened elsewhere. I think that is the bottom line. To say that doors were closed at RSC is misleading so I won't say that. Alternatives were offered and I turned them down. This year has been a tremendous experience. As a colleague and mentor reminds me- where was I a year ago? I was tapped to be MUs assistant, a role that appeared clerical and uninteresting, and that no one applied for. They convinced me though that it would have some merit though, and with DT absent all year, a new learning opportunity seemed worthwhile. Of course they knew there were possibilities and tempted me as such but to be honest nothing concrete popped into my head. I didn't feel I was "on my way." I was cautious of being abused (an unfounded fear- I have never done something I did not want to do) as one of those who is ridden until they are taken to the glue factory. And in term one I very much felt lost at sea and overwhelmed by the challenges I had been set. I was over it, and with someone constantly mentioning the "five year" mark, I was questioning whether I wanted this at all.

And then something happened. I was left to run the office for a few days and loved it. I was on top of things, consulting, punishing and finding solutions to problems that cropped up. My year 12s, especially the girls (they know who they are) started to get it, and things were just happening. My classes were alive again after several failures. The buzz started there, following some honest self reflection about my teaching, and it followed me to the office. I was back and was ready to make things happen.

A few weeks later I was a leading teacher for the rest of the year. The move was exciting and I can't say I was daunted at all. I had worked alongside the team and knew what to do. I have always been one who likes he responsibility, the chance to do things my way with some authority, and whilst I started slow it's what I wanted to do.

This appears a history lesson but since history is written by the winners, and this is my story, I'm telling it my way.

But to answer your question I am leaving because I have been afforded wonderful opportunities in the last four years and have taken them when they presented themselves. During the process of preparing for the RSC interviews I made a decision that I wanted the role that had the most to do with leading teaching. I had applied for diverse leading teacher roles elsewhere and found I liked applying for literacy or eLearning or English roles the most. For the immediate future this is what I want to do. Like 2010 it will present a new challenge to what I have had before- times by a hundred when you factor in the new surrounds. It is the challenge, the learning, that drives me. To be adequately compensated is nice, but it is not why I am leaving.

In the end, this opportunity wasn't available here. At least not now. At most of the places I applied I was told I lacked experience. (I was also told my application was flawless and my interview fantastic.) That's understandable, and I don't bare the decision makers any ill will for such a decision, it makes sense if that is where things are at.

One place told me they would give me the experience.

From that point of view, in the end the decision was easy.

More to come...

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Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Wash Up (@essendon_fc season review)

Well that sucked.

Gone with a whimper. A season that started with so much promise delivered so little. The turning point? The loss to Sydney by a kick. We were 4-5 with wins over the Hawks, Blues, Saints and Dogs, a win over the Swans and we are still a chance. It was all down hill from there.

Low lights?
Adam McPhee's decision to leave. The three losses to the Eagles and two 10 goal beltings vs the Pies. The disaster at the MCG against the Blues. The capitulation in Adelaide against the Crows. Kyle Reimers' boots. Watching Jay Neagle and Mark McVeigh try to catch someone. Michael Quinn. Prismall's disposal. Patrick Ryder struggling to cope with expectation. Neagle's confidence when he misses the first one. Bizarre selection decisions. Neagle's decision to play on against Geelong in Round 1 (did a moment better define the season than this?) Mark Williams. The on-going saga with the coach and Jimmy and Sheedy and Chocco and the board. Matthew Knights' press conferences. No wins against interstate teams despite playing four games against them at Etihad. Henry Slattery.

We are now as bad as we were when Sheedy left. Veterans who have been delisted, traded or retired have not been replaced. What we wouldn't give to have Lloyd in the forward line to give Neagle some advice on kicking.

There were highlights to be sure:

Gumbleton playing seniors and getting better as the year went on. Jobe proving he was the right choice as captain. Hille regularly proving the bump isn't dead. Our domination of St Kilda. The form of Hooker and Pears early. The longevity of Dustin Fletcher. The twitter account. The growth of Dempsey and Hocking, followed by their struggle to return to form after being dropped. The Lloyd end. David Zarharakis leading the goal kicking. Howlett, Melksham, Myers, Colyer and Hardingham having a crack. Great wins against the Dogs and Blues. Winderlich's form when he was on. Jetta's form when eventually selected.

There isn't any point putting together a best 22 for this year. There isn't one. There were too many changes week-to-week for there to be a consistent team. The coach can wear the blame on that one though injuries didn't help. No one played 22 games. That's a pretty damning stat. The closest was Jobe and he hobbled through the last four games was in.

Instead here is what I think we should look for next year (Knights as coach or not).
We need to get better defensively. We need to develop taggers and guys who can mark small forwards. We are light on pace and class in the midfield but we need to do what we can to develop players there. Jetta, Davey and Colyer are quick. Davey in the backline. Jetta in the midfield. Lonergan and Hocking play run with roles. Use them and give them game time. We need a settled forward line that contains a mix of players; talls, crumbers, midsized forwards. Our spine is great if they stay on the park and there needs to be a way to accommodate them all. Hooker has lovely hands and deserves a chance at full forward. Let Hurley develop as a back. Stick with this line up and see how they develop. Trade Stanton to GCFC or Brisbane and get Rischetelli.

B: Davey, Pears, Fletcher
HB: Howlett, Hurley, Dempsey
C: Jetta, Melksham, Rischetelli
R: Hille, Watson, Winderlich
HF: Monfries, Gumbleton, Lonergan
F: Zaharakis, Hooker, Hardingham

I/C: Hocking, Myers, Ryder, Colyer

emerg: carlise, long, willaims, daniher.

Personally I'm done with watching McVeight labour around the place. Welsh has struggled and is close to retirement. Lovett-Murray brings toughness but not much else. Henry Slattery isn't much of a defender and you might as well play a kid instead. Ditto Dyson as a forward. We need veterans for sure, but we also need to start developing players into a side that is competitive. The gap between best and worst needs to close. At some point Darcey Daniher needs a shot at locking down a spot. No finals next year, unless everything clicks.

We better bloody beat the Gold Coast though!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Film reviews Aug 2010

Its been a while since I blogged so there will a few in the near future. Let's start with movie reviews!

Whoa what a film. Christopher Nolan again proves himself to be the best action film director in the world with an amazing grasp of both sequencing and thoughtful film making. He gives his actors room to shine too, evident in Leonardo DCaprio's brilliant portrayal of a true man of mystery. As seen in Blood Diamond and The Departed, Leo has a grasp of the complex emotions his characters face as a story progresses. The supporting cast (including several of Nolan's previous collaborators) hold up their roles well enough to trap the audience in the intricate plot. Pay attention to the first twenty or so minutes, failure to do so may leave the rest a mess. Once it is rolling though, the action is consistent enough for it to work well as a popcorn flick. The hotel hallway fight is up there with the best bits of The Matrix trilogy. Overall, this is just great viewing that will leave you debating the nature of reality for days. And lets be honest, good films leave us talking.

And the ending? Well, thats for you to decide. 4.5/5

Toy Story 3
Surprise of the year? Well it shouldn't be. The first two were brilliant but there aren't many that maintain that for a third. Never before has an animated feature been so emotional involving. The final adventure of Woody and Buzz has enough new stuff (especially the great stuff from Barbie and Ken) to be original. In many ways this is the anti-Shrek. While those movies were a clever idea with ultimately simple and obvious execution, Toy Story is a simple idea with some rewarding outcomes. The climax is ridiculously emotional. These are plastic toys that bare ready to accept their death? And yet between music and backstory it completely sucks you in. For children and adults a like the final scene is both touching and actually (surprisingly) free of cheese. Part of the magic is the long delay before the finish, I was a young teen who took my toddler brother and cousin to see the first, and the wait has been worth it. I guess this movie reminds you that it's a shame we have to grow up and lose that innocence and freedom of childhood. A time when even toys have a life of their own.
A perfect film. 5/5

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Songs about conflict

Find for inspirado

Nine inch nails - "hand that feeds"
Bob Dylan - "masters of war", "we shall be released" and "all along the watchtower"
Ian Brown - "illegal attacks"
Metallica - "one"
Johnny Cash - "dont take your guns to town"
John butler trio - "revolution"
Midnight oil - "US forces"
Guns n Roses - "civil war"
Killers - "tranqualize"
Iron maiden - "the trooper"
The Beatles - "revolution"
Billie holiday - "strange fruit"
Bob Marley - "exodus" and "redemption song"
Jimi Hendrix - "cross town traffic"
Rolling stones - "gimme shelter" and "street fighting man"
Kelis - "caught out there"
Rose tattoo - "assult & battery"
The animals - "we've gotta get out of this place"
Foo fighters - "the pretender"
Sex pistols - "anarchy in the UK"
Anthrax - "caught in a mosh"
Alanis morrisette - "you outta know"
Smashing pumpkins - "bullet with butterfly wins"
Alice In Chains - "rooster"
Pearl jam - "do the evolution", "world wide suicide" and "Jeremy"

Any ideas?

-- Post From My iPhone

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Nice things to say about..

Since my previous blogs focused on some terrible examples of television writing or, in the case of True Blood, some average plot development, I thought it would be worth highlighting some better examples. These shows work on both an episodic and seasonal level, with well written character pieces and season long plot arcs.

My favourite series of recent years, Dexter has both the ability to create 50 minute masterpieces that further single plot strands and are continually moving the season arc forward. Michael C Hall's protagonist takes the lion share of screen time and doesn't waste any of it. All four series rely on a chief antagonist- whether it is a fellow monster maniac (Ice Truck Killer, Trinity Killer) or someone closer to home (Lila, Doakes, Minguel). The battle of wits between them is usually well planned out with a climax in one of the last few episodes. Altering this formula slightly has lead to some great moments for viewers, especially the last gasp killing of Lila in Paris.

However Dexter's true strength lies in its treatment of subplots. Whilst many started as cop caricatures, including the tough 'out to prove herself' Debra, the 'weird one' Vince, the sleazy Latino Angel or the ex-SEAL with a dark past James Doakes, the small amount of screen time allows these characters to flourish into full functioning members of Dexter's Miami. Debra in particular has become a key figure and the potential revelation of Dexter's secret will be a key thread moving forward.

Another thing Dexter does better than most is that each series is self contained. Whilst some of the character development can be lost by entering beyond season one, each monster is defeated by Dexter within the twelve episodes. Such dedication to providing a resolution is paramount to rewarding an audience's faith in the show, since the writer's care enough to ensure strings are tied up by the end of the current series. That's right- no cliff hangers. Without resorting to terrible gimmicks, Dexter still manages to genuinely engage the audience. The finale of Series 4 remains one of the greatest things I have had the pleasure of watching.

Buffy: The Vampire Slayer
Forget the compromised movie, and forget Dollhouse. Joss Weadon fired on all cylinders for seven seasons. Each had common story characteristics, a 'Big Bad' and common themes centered on growing up. The main character was clearly the center of character development and to track her progress from high school to adult hood is the chief joy of the story's life span. The series worked best when the villains were truly evil and unstoppable (series two: Angel, series three: Mayor Wilkins, series five: Glory, series seven: The First Evil). At it's best there were rarely bad episodes in a single series- for me, series three is the highlight, with Buffy's final year of high school setting the scene for a rich metaphorical base and excellent additions to the cast including Faith and Oz.

Like Dexter, the series uses its secondary characters well. There is no Buffy without Willow, Xander and others who came and went. Unlike Dexter, Buffy's writers grew in confidence and dedicated entire episodes to these characters with minimal interference from the protagonist. These allowed the plot to stretch beyond themes of power and responsibility and to include other roles in the friendship circle. The writer's remained incredibly loyal to their character's history and the constant references to previous episodes are a hall mark of the series. This can make the show difficult to get into but Buffy rewards repeat and concentrated viewing.

Having to sustain a central arc for 22 episodes proved difficult at times, especially in the uneven middle seasons, but the use of 'one-off' single story episodes were great. From the brilliance of the Gentlemen in season fours "Speechless" to the interesting musical episode "One More with feeling" there were numerous attempts to bend the action/drama genre by trying things that were different. There is a sense of gimmick to these episodes but they generally come off quite well and aren't prolific enough to seem like they are trying to cover for a lack of ability or planning (unlike Lost).

The best television writing supports a model. The show will be founded on a single protagonist and will tie up plot ends by the end of the series. The use of an antagonist is therefore essential to opposing and challenging the protagonist's world and causing them to react to the new threat. At it's best, both Dexter and Buffy, manage this consistently.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Finally I have figured out my frustration with True Blood. This was a rare series that I came into with very little knowledge of plot, or notion of concept, and therefore I got to watch it raw. The initial concept intrigued me enough. For the unfamiliar, vampires are real and are now 'out' and, in some cases, living in as part of mainstream society. The opening scene depicts how ingrained vampires now are. Vampires are shown to be holding normal jobs, but there are hints to the subculture aspect that 'out' vampires cause and the bigotry that goes with it. A fine opening which both drives home the homosexual allegory and defines the realistic portray of vampires the show promotes. Sadly the writers didn't maintain this disciplined approach and, personally, my interest waned as a result.

The attempt to build the 'world' is certainly noble, and such ambition should be encouraged, but the drift towards shapeshifters and fairies just didn't do it for me. Certainly any show that contains vampires is fantasy from the outset but with the blood heavy depiction of murder and violence I had the vibe of trailer trash homicide show, and a dose of realism. The rapid departure from this disappointed me as I felt they hadn't entirely spent the potential of disciplined approach to vampires. Bill's character aided this with his expository speeches about the vampire myth. The later vampire court scene and his attempts to guide a new vampire he had sired made for interesting television, though were eroded by the Grey's Anatomy style 'will they won't they' of the romantic subplot. (I'll acknowledge that this may be the whole point of the show, but the relationship jumped around so much that I ended up not caring.)

Add to this the annoying character of Tara, who seems to be in her own show, and I just struggled with the whole thing. There seemed to be this desire to have a million things going on at once with zero attempt to converge them into a climax or resolution. Perhaps not zero, as the revelation of the killer was well done, though without a decent motivation for orchestrating such a massacre. The drug scenes were fun too, as was the interaction with the hillbillies and local vampires. Ryan Kwanton's character is so dumb and wide eyed that he is the easiest character to relate to, since he is confused in his emotional response to his sister dating a vampire, but soon develops his own taste for blood. Stephen Root's brief cameo is great as well, you rarely see such restraint from him, and aids the realistic depiction of loneliness that the series does well. So there are highlights across the series to be sure, but generally I was more frustrated that my initial expectations were not maintained as the series went on.

I'll check out the second season with my expectations readjusted. Don't get me started on the use of the cliff hanger series ending though- that will be another blog for sure.