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WHIPLASH directed by Damien Chazelle (USA, 2014)

“I wanna hear Caravan with a drum solo”  is a line, in the form of an aside, on The Mothers Of Invention’s ‘You’re Probably Wondering Why We’re Here’.

Frank Zappa’s wish is granted in spades for the finale of Whiplash although I doubt he ever envisaged it would look or sound anything like this.

The on-screen performance of this Jazz standard, made famous by Duke Ellington, is dominated by an extended solo by ambitious student Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) who is determined to prove a point to his demanding music instructor Terence Fletcher (J. K. Simmons).

The solo seems to go on forever and we don’t get to see or hear the audience reaction; it wouldn’t surprise me if they had already gone home and left him to it!

The playing is so manic that it brings to mind the depiction of pianist David Heffcott’s mental breakdown during Rachmaninoff’s 3rd Concerto in the movie Shine. The obsessive, and bloody, practice sessions leading up to this climax are otherwise reminiscent of boxing movies like Raging Bull or Rocky. View full article »

THE MAN IN THE WHITE SUIT directed by Alexander Mackendrick (UK, 1951)

Joining forces for the common good - Alec Guinness and Joan Greenwood.

Joining forces for the common good – Alec Guinness and Joan Greenwood.

Built-in obsolescence has become so much the norm these days that most us take it for granted.

Part of this is due to the rapidity of technological advances but as devices get increasingly smaller, lighter and thinner, it often gets to the point when  these ‘improvements’ become simply ways to induce the public to buy the same product over and over again.

It also seems self-evident that it is not in the manufacturer’s interest to produce a perfect product that will last a lifetime.

This is the premise for ‘The Man In The White Suit’ in which Sidney Stratton (Alec Guinness) is a brilliant research chemist in a textiles factory who invents a material that never gets dirty and never wears out. View full article »

THE LITTLE BOOK OF ATHEIST SPIRITUALITY by André Comte-Sponville (Penguin Books, 2007 – translated by Nancy Huston)

I chanced upon this slim volume at the excellent Judd Books in Bloomsbury (a highly recommended source for bargain books if you are ever in this part of London).

I hadn’t heard of the book previously but it proved to be an inspired and inspiring purchase. It makes the case for atheism in a concise and intelligent manner whilst maintaining a tolerance for those who believe in God or some other supreme being.

André Comte-Sponville addresses this question from an overtly philosophical perspective so it is cogently reasoned with numerous quotes about faith and belief from heavyweight thinkers like Nietzsche, Kant, Spinoza and Wittgenstein.

These are not just chosen to make the writer look smart (although he plainly is!) but to illustrate that the big questions – ‘Can We Do Without Religion? ;  ‘Does God Exist?  – are far from new and can be answered in numerous ways.

These questions are the titles of two of the three chapters in the Frenchman’s guide for the perplexed, the third seeks to respond to the query: Can There Be An Atheist Spirituality?

Needless to say, his answers to these three points are, respectively, YES, NO and YES. View full article »

homegrownNot surprisingly, the creators of the National Youth Theatre’s cancelled production of Homegrown smell a rat.

The official explanation given by the London-based company is that the play was not ready and would have failed the meet the theatre group’s high standards. The fact that neither director Nadia Latif nor playwright Omar El-Khairy were given prior notice of this decision means that this seems more a case of censorship than quality control. View full article »

"Put me on a pedestal, I'll only disappoint you" - Courtney Barnett may look cute but .......

“Put me on a pedestal, I’ll only disappoint you” – Aussie, Courtney Barnett may look cute but …….

Courtney Barnett’s ‘Pedestrian At Best’ might just might be my song of the year.

It’s certainly one of the most savagely funny.

Watch the video and check out these lyrics and I dare you to disagree: View full article »

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