Category: Television


VIDEODROME directed by David Cronenberg (Canada, 1983)

David Cronberg is commonly regarded as (delete as appropriate) sick / inspired/ depraved /visionary /crazy. It’s probably safest to say he can be all of these things.

Videodrome is widely regarded as a defining work of his early, low-budget period.

Like the majority of Sci-Fi yarns for TV or cinema in the 70s & 80s, technological progress is represented in terms of large unwieldly machinery with a plethora of flashing lights and switches. So while Cronenberg’s virtual reality is clunkier than the mobile gadgetry we now take for granted, the movie’s concepts do not seen so dated.

His depiction of mankind enthralled by, and quite literally absorbed in, the TV screen looks an accurate summation of how our image-dominated culture craves harder and more extreme replications of the real world.

Maverick TV producer Max Renn (James Woods) wants something tougher and more disturbing than soft porn and simulated violence his channels currently broadcast. His search for more sensational, audience-grabbing material leads him into the sleazy world of S & M and snuff movies. His surreal hallucinations come to mirror the violence and degradation he is exposed to.

Inside Videodrome's body horror.

Inside Videodrome’s body horror.

Cronenberg’s so called ‘body horror’ movies revel in the gory detail which makes them off -putting to the casual viewer but it is the psychological distortions which are more disturbing than the graphic blood and guts detail.

His films are part of, and in many ways define, the sub-genre of Mindfuck movies in which nightmare worlds are a little too close for comfort to everyday life.

The increasingly imbedded technologies of the modern world mean that the notion of brains becoming rewired by computers is no longer the stuff of fantasy.

As time goes by, Cronenberg’s dark visions look more and more like social realism. Now that’s scary!

futureislandsAnyone who witnessed Samuel Herring’s manic dancing on the David Letterman show should be eagerly anticipating the release of Future Islands‘ new album Singles which is out on 25th March.

A sneak preview can be found on NPR’s First Listen slot.

The recorded version of Seasons, the song they performed on Letterman, is slightly more restrained with none of the Waitsian growls that Herring specialises in but it’s still a great song.

The boppy 80s synch pop backing  is quite at odds with his passionate, soulful vocals but somehow it works brilliantly.

I’ve a feeling I’ll be streaming this to death in the coming weeks.

50 YEARS OF ROCK EXCESS (Channel 4 TV)

Ozzy Osbourne being excessive.

Ozzy Osbourne being excessive.

On the University of Rochester’s History of Rock MOOC  ‘rude’ words are blanked out and presenter John Covach is careful to paraphrase any of the raunchier lyrics. The notorious Rock’n’Roll lifestyle of wild sex and hard drugs is coyly referred to as if the educational institution is fearful of being seen to condone such lewd behaviour.

The producers of the  Channel 4 rockumentary ’50 Years of Excess’  clearly had no intention of presenting such a sanitized version of events. They revel in exploring what they gleefully refer to as the “depths of debauchery”. The tacky subtitle “Amps, Whips & Rebel Riffs” gives fair warning that a very selective and heavily sensationalized  retelling of the story of rock is in store.

The problem with such a journey into the dark side is that it is so primed towards unearthing salacious details of the ‘rock gods’ that any coherent musical context becomes peripheral. For example, Jimi Hendrix is completely ignored while ample space is found to cover the crude shenanigans of the talentless Motley Crue. Influential genres like punk and grunge are dismissed as passing fads as the juggernaut of classic rock drives on. Continue reading

Not one to stay anonymous, Russell Brand mixes with the Occupy London protesters.

Not one to stay anonymous, Russell Brand mixes with the Occupy London protesters.

Up until now I’ve never been a massive fan of Russell Brand but he went way up in my estimation after making Jeremy Paxman look like a floundering twerp in the Newsnight Interview which has gone viral.

Brand has never made a secret of his serial addictions to drugs, sex and porn or that he is a shameless attention seeker. On the contrary, he has built his stage persona around these vices. He is only half joking when he says that he is going for a look that crosses Jack Sparrow with Spartacus.

It was clear that Paxman didn’t expect him to come up with such an articulate and forceful response to his usual sneery line of questioning.

For someone who has built his reputation on exposing the shameful lies and deceit that is the stock in trade of politicians, Paxman was put on the back foot by Brand’s entirely logical conclusion that voting changes nothing.

Now while Paxman blasts his peers for appearing on Strictly Come Dancing, Brand shows that his backing for people’s democracy by joining the massed ranks of the Occupy London protest.

As a multimillionaire comedian he makes an unlikely revolutionary but by bringing these issues back into the headlines  he’s doing far more good for Britain than David Cameron and his cronies ever will.

So what are we going to watch now Breaking Bad has finished?

I came late to Breaking Bad but, curious to find out what all the fuss was about, I invested in the DVD set for season one.

Like many before me, I soon got hooked.

I found myself obsessively watching all 62 episodes of the five seasons in less than a month.

Now it’s all over I feel exhausted but satisfied at how it all turned out.

What an amazing achievement this show is – easily the best TV drama I’ve seen since The Wire. Continue reading

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