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Saturday, August 01, 2009

July: A Memoir

Just a little recap of my favorite things from the past month (in case you were on some sort of crazy space mission and completely missed it all). Enjoy!

Film of the Month: WatchmenThe wait for me was finally over this month as 'Watchmen' came to DVD- as an unyieldingly loyal fan of the graphic novel, I had high expectations- and I wasn't disappointed.
I'll be the first to admit that 'Watchmen' must've been a bitch to make. The hefty novel, chocful of interweaving stories, vast and insightful character development, and a level of detail that many accomplished writers fall short of, a 'Watchmen' film was a vast undertaking for anyone. Many have dreamed of having the cinematic prowess to pull off such a stunt- and Zack Snyder (director of 300) did an admirable job of making a visual feast out of this complex story.
What many aren't told about 'Watchmen' is that it's not a superhero tale in the truest sense- only one character, Dr. Manhattan has superhuman abilities. The rest of the group are everyday citizens who take to the streets in ridiculous costumes to dish out their own brand of gruesome, unforgiving justice. More than any other superhero story, Watchmen is involving and in places very realistic- not only are the psychological profiles of every single crime fighter examined in depth, but also the ethical and political implications of their actions. Is it right for them to play God, to wade into situations and punish those who they deem guilty? If you had the chance to achieve world peace by beating and butchering people, would you do it?
Despite my admiration for the films plot and characterisation, I do have one gripe. Aside from one major plot point, the script sticks almost religiously to the book. Of course, there are certain things that are omitted (otherwise the film would be a day or so long), >but there's nothing particularly new or exciting for fans of the book. Despite the novel's acclaim, it still would've be appreciated if there were certain twists or turns that deviated away a little. Every alteration I noticed was more than welcome- making the characters a little more badass, for instance, I thought added to the visual dynamic of the film, and gave it a little more immediacy for today's audiences. I did enjoy the film immensely- it just felt like I'd watched the movie before. I like a little more originality in my page to screen adaptions.

Album of the Month: 'Lungs', Florence and the MachineI know I had a mini-rant about it here, but I do actually like this album. However, with such awesome demos behind her, I just felt this had the potential to be a much stronger, more resonant album- one of the best of the year rather than just best of the month.
I suppose the main shortcoming of this album is the fact it's too polished and refined. When Florence Welch first came to our attention, it was because she had a quirky voice, a ferocious edge to her sound and songs rich in fantastical and gothic imagery. What we sought after hearing her early work was an album as soon as possible- an album of variance, untapped skill and vast imagination.
What we have instead is a case of too little too late. Like an artist who spends too many hours poring over a picture and ends up doing more harm than good, the album feels overdone. Rather than release an album off the back of 'Kiss With a Fist''s success- an album of feisty and raw as her demos- she's bided her time, strived too hard for perfection; tried to force a clean-cut and polished act that she's not ready for yet. We could've had an album that was far from perfect, but that showcased her spirit and sound, but time and slight over-production means we get too many songs that sound alike.
As I said before, it's a good album- but it had the potential to be brilliant.

Book of the Month: 'Carrie' by Stephen KingI'm quite a slow reader, so I don't have time to keep up with current releases, so I'll just use this as a slot to mention any books I read, regardless of release date. Carrie is a novel many have heard of (y'know, the one where the girl gets covered in pig's blood at her prom) but not many have read. When you do read it, one of the main things that strikes you is not King's ability to spook and scare, but how talented he is at created pathos. You sympathise with a Carrie- a girl degraded, abused and bullied by her contemporaries and her mother for her entire life. But, at the same time, you sympathise more with the town of Chamberlain, who are slaughtered by Carrie who snaps after years of mental, verbal and physical abuse. At the end of the day, it was two loathsome teenagers that tipped the pig's blood on her- and for their heartless 'pranks', a whole town has to die.
I many ways, this level of tragedy puts 'Carrie' in line with many high-school-massacre novels. But, of course, what makes it different is the fact that Carrie doesn't go into her school with a gun- she kills the entire town with her formidable telekinetic abilities. Through snippets from scientific journals, government studies and eye-witness accounts, King builds up a picture of that fateful night through the eyes of many- employing these different perspectives throughout the novel also shows King's prowess and versatility as an author. A marvellous novel- sad, superhuman and utterly involving on every level.

Posts of the Month
3 Degrees of Separation: A new series I started this month. Basically, I aim to link three bands by cover versions of songs. For instance, in the first installment, I linked Yes to Ruby Weapon- Grizzly Bear did a cover of Yes's 'Owner of a Lonely Heart', and Ruby Weapon did a cover of Grizzly Bear's 'Two Weeks'. I think it's a good way to unearth some decent cover versions, and also to honour some lesser known bands (Ruby Weapon, Dappled Cities) and giants of the industry (Yes, The Who) within the same breath.

Eileen's 'Could-Go-Either-Way' Film Picks: In which I commit the sin of judging films before I see them. I pick two films that could be either a triumph or a trainwreck, and ask you to judge for yourself how the movies are going to end up.

What We Missed Out On At...- A little series I'm running about what I've missed out at all of the year's hottest festivals. I have only myself to blame for being stuck at home- if I stopped spending all of my money on books, CDs and DVDs, I too could be lounging around in meadows and listening to awesome bands.

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