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What are film critics for?

THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE MULTIPLEX. WHAT’S WRONG WITH MODERN MOVIES by Mark Kermode (Random House Books, 2011)

10304270Spare a thought for lonely film critics in the age of streaming. They are an increasingly marginalized and, some would say, dying breed.

It’s not as if we really need them anymore. Often they just ruin our entertainment by over detailed reviews of popular movies. Either that or they wind up smugly enthusing about some obscure art house ‘classic’ that only they and a few of their buddies have seen.

Mark Kermode is one of the smartest and self-aware of this endangered species so is well placed to argue for their preservation. View full article »

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goodreads 2018.jpgSince 2014, I have set and maintained a relatively modest reading target on ‘Goodreads‘ of 50 titles a year. I find this website invaluable at the end of year when it comes to reviewing the books I’ve read.

Being gifted, and being thoroughly absorbed by, Kazuo Ishiguro’s ‘The Buried Giant’ led me to a reappraisal of the Nobel Prize Winner. Up until then, I’d read only ‘Remains Of The Day’ and hadn’t been particularly drawn to his other novels. The slow, deliberate pace and absence of colloquial language put me off but now this actually drew me in. Perhaps it’s an age thing. Ishiguro skillfully takes the reader deep into the mind and, above all, the memories of his characters. The only novel of his I haven’t read is ‘The Unconsoled’. Aside from the uncharacteristically messy ‘When We Were Orphans’, I rated all of his works very highly.

Getting fixated on this male author sabotaged my resolve to read more female writers this year. By the end of the year only 20 of the 50 were by women. Of these, my two favorite novels, one old and one new, were Sarah Waters’ quietly subversive ‘Fingersmith’ and Gail Honeyman’s funny/sad study of loneliness : ‘Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine’. View full article »

Best music of 2018

laura-gibson-tenderness-song

Laura Gibson released my favorite album & song in 2018

In 2018 I reviewed 219 records for the Whisperin’ & Hollerin’ webzine. Of these, the following is a list of my ten favorite new albums and the top 5  reissues. You can read my reviews to all these on the W&H website to find out why.

TOP TEN BEST ALBUMS 2018
1. LAURA GIBSON – Goners
2. SARAH LOUISE – Deeper Woods
3. GWENNO – Le Kov
4. MARISSA NADLER – For My Crimes
5. JOAN AS POLICE WOMAN – Damned Devotion
6. MODERN STUDIES – Welcome Strangers
7. ETHAN GOLD – Live Undead Bedroom Closet Covers
8. THE BEVIS FROND – We’re Your Friends, Man
9. JIM JAMES – Uniform Distortion
10. IRON & WINE – Weed Garden EP

BEST REISSUES 2018
1. BUFFY SAINTE- MARIE – Medicine Songs
2. CALEXICO – The Black Light (20th Anniversary Edition)
3. BERT JANSCH – A Man I’d Rather Be
4. VARIOUS ARTISTS: PARADISE – THE SOUND OF IVOR RAYMONDE
5. DAVE EVANS – The Words In Between

SONG OF THE YEAR:
LAURA GIBSON – Domestication

bollocksThis is not a political blog but I can’t let the year pass without posting at least one piece about Brexit.

This is a topic that has been discussed and debated to death but still nobody seems clear what the actual consequences will be.

My perspective is as an ex-pat living in Italy who, like many others living abroad, found the result of the vote for the UK to exit the EU both shocking and bewildering.

All of my friends in England voted to remain but one from Northern Ireland close the leave path. This was, for me, an unfathomable decision because she had always struck me as rational woman whose radical left-wing views seemed entirely at odds with self-righteous rightists in the leave camp. What follows is adapted from a reply to a letter she wrote explaining her choice.

Firstly, I’d like to say that I didn’t think I was being so blunt about your decision to vote remain in the referendum. Perhaps my shock/surprise came over stronger than I intended but I didn’t set out to offend and I apologize if this is the way it came over. I certainly didn’t want to suggest you were blindly following leaders. I’ve known you long enough to know, and admire, your free-spirited independence.

I think fear of mass immigration was made into a big issue (playing upon inherent racism) but I recognize that this was not the only factor and was clearly was not what swung the vote in your case.

I agree with you that frustration and powerlessness led to people flexing the limited political muscle they had. This is the nature of most referendums and you now see it happening in general elections too.

People are no longer dependent solely on state propaganda or the mainstream media for information. The distrust towards the so-called experts and out of touch politicians is now at a feverish level and anyone with an internet connection now has a voice. However, even in this climate, lies written on buses and cynical poster campaigns still contribute to influencing public opinion. View full article »

WIDOWS directed by Steve McQueen (UK,USA 2018)

widows_282018_movie_poster29There are many reasons why the best TV series are more rewarding and creative than most current movies and Steve McQueen’s latest feature film illustrates why.

There’s something deeply unsatisfying and frustrating about seeing a complex, multi-layered plot condensed into just over two hours. A story divided into one hour episodes can take its time building nuanced characters and the twists, when they come, they don’t feel forced or rushed.

‘Widows’ is based on Lynda La Plante’s ITV series broadcast in the UK in the early 1980s. La Plante had previously written the peerless ‘Prime Suspect’ starring Helen Mirren which proved that ball-breaking women make compelling protagonists. View full article »

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