Saturday, 23 August 2008

Bald Brummies!

My esteemed colleague and bald Welch No Good Boyo recently pointed out the undeniable but inadequately acknowledged truth that England's greatest writer was a Bald Brummie. Which led me to the obvious thought of who else would make a list of the greatest Bald Brummies of all time. Let us start with the following. All suggestions for inclusion in a future, longer list will be treated with all the respect they're due.

William Shakespeare

The man that got the whole 'Bald Brummie' thing going. Purists will argue that Stratford-upon-Avon isn't in Birmingham, but purists can fook roight off. Shakespeare isn't for purists; he was a proud midlander through and through and - like midlanders today - took a lot of stick for his accent. And he beat the poncy southerners at their own game, so fair play.

Jasper Carrott

Britain's top professional Brummie. Need I say more about his major contributions to art, culture and siring the fabulous Lucy Davies?

Michael Balcon
Born in Birmingham to an East European Jewish immigrant family, he became on of Britain's greatest film producers. Two highlights of his long career stand out - he was the man who first got Alfred Hitchcock to direct, and he presided of the Ealing studios at the time they made the string of immortal comedies for which the studio is best know. He also helped many flee Nazi Germany in the 1930s. A life jolly well spent, all things considered.

Matthew Boulton

Industrialist, key figure in the Birmingham Enlightenment ('The Lunar Society' and its offshoots), technological innovator who helped kick-start the steam age and social reformer. Pioneered corporate structure rather than using outworkers, refused to employ children, and introduced social insurance for his workers. All-round good egg.

Dave Pegg

Bass player, member of Fairport Convention and Jethro Tull, founder of the excellent Cropredy Festival, and bald rights activist.

JRR Tolkien

A man with ambiguous feelings about his Brummiosity; lived most of his life in Oxford and based his description of Mordor on the city (while The Shire was Worcestershire, by the way).

Barbara Cartland

Few realise she was born in Edgbaston and educated at Alice Ottley - the posh bints' school in Worcestershire with the pervy gymslip uniforms. Once a year the scummy likes of Black Country comprehensive-school kids (e.g. me) were allowed to go to Worcester for the county music festival and sneer at the Alic Ottley girls publicly while drooling inwardly. But I digress. Where was I? Oh yes - Barbara Cartland. Bald? Well, in her later years, yes. Sorry.

Francis Galton

Cousin of Charles Darwin, eugenicist, tropical explorer and instigator of pamspermia experiments on rabbits which today would get him sectioned under the mental health act but which at the time led to him being showered with honours by his grateful country. Yet another way in which we are going downhill as a civilisation - even our mad scientists have nothing on their Victorian and Edwardian ancestors.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Film buffery. It's a bloke thing...

A propos of the ongoing film list thing, I recalled today a comment made by a sci-fi nut friend of mine years ago "You have to see it. It's the classic giant ant movie!"
The same sentence with appropriate substitutions could well come from No Good Boyo concerning lesbian vampire films or me about cult comedy films (note that I restrained myself from citing This Is Spinal Tap as being too obvious. I also fought down the urge to include Irma Vep or anything by Tony "look at me I'm a Gyppo" Gatlif, on the grounds that they would be giving away too much information about myself. A deficiency I've just corrected, in the psychological equivalent of shooting myself in the foot. Ah well...)
My daughter's favourite film is Whale Rider, which hits the entertainment needs of her demographic with bulls-eye accuracy.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Watch with Gyppo - III

This is getting trickier. I've exhausted my "must-see" films and am into a random selection from a penumbra of 50 or so flicks that I just like a lot.

Well, shall I be obscure of blindingly obvious? Or a mixture of the two? Decisions, decisions...


Ninth Night: Zulu
"Zulus sir. Fahsends of them..."
I have issues with this film for its historical inaccuracies, but the fact remains it's magnificently and uncompromisingly British. And I do like war films as a rule so I had to put one in.

Tenth Night: Yellow Submarine
Looking back over my choices, there does seem to be a worrying tendency towards illegal substances as theme and inspiration. This film made such a strong impression on me when I first saw it on TV at about age 10. I have recently had the pleasure of sharing it with my daughter, who also loves it...

Eleventh Night: Farewell my Concubine
I challenge anyone not to be ravished by this Chen Kaige offering from 1993. Another one that's too well-known and acclaimed to be cult viewing, but necessary viewing for anyone who thinks that cinema is an exclusively American art-form.

Twelfth Night: Twelfth Night
Sorry, but somebody was going to do that gag at some point anyway...
Again, I felt duty bound to put in something modern, British, and involving Helena Bonham-Carter and Richard E. Grant. So here you are. We love this as family viewing.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Watch with Gyppo - II

Fifth Night - Tjoet Nyak Dhien
Eros Djarot's masterpiece. I felt I had to put an Indonesian film in; and having had that thought it was but a brief inner tussle to choose between this and Daun di Atasa Bantal (The Leaf on the Pillow). They both star the excellent Christine Hakim. Tjoet Nyak Dhien was a 19th century Acehnese women who led a revolt against the Dutch. The film is gorgeously shot and looks superb; and Hakim gives a tremendous performance. I first saw this in a flea-pit cinema in Yogyakarta in 1988 (with Indonesian-language subtitles for the Dutch and Acehnese bits) with rats running around my feet, and thought "Gosh - the Indonesians can make great films!" Unfortunately, they seem to ration themselves to one good film a decade, if they're lucky.

Sixth Night - Up In Smoke
Like The Blues Brothers, a film that the true fan has to use great restraint not to 'sing along' with in the presence of newbies. I showed it to my students in Indonesia some years ago, to their shock and delight - the idea of a pro-drugs film was a bit of a mind-blast for them. A delirious joy from beginning to end...

Seventh Night - Zítra vstanu a oparím se cajem (Tomorrow I'll wake up and scald myself with tea)
Yes - in a spirit of wilful obscurity I offer this Czech sci-fi comedy from the 70s. I saw it on late-night TV in England in about 1982, and for years wondered whether I'd imagined the whole thing. It turns out, to my delight, that I hadn't. It does exist! Trust me, this film has the most complex plot you will ever encounter, involving identical twins, a time machine, a suitcase-sized hydrogen bomb, a trampoline, Adolph Hitler and an acid-bath.

Eighth Night - Monsieur Hulot's Holiday
Another comic masterpiece, from an age when there was time to set up gag sequences properly. For physical comedy, nobody can match Jacques Tati.

Watch with Gyppo - I

My esteemed colleague No Good Boyo has issued the challenge, which I feel it my bounden duty to take up, to nominate 12 films to inflict upon my friends. Lacking Boyo's years of watching bizarre horror films, my choices may be a lot less interesting and verge on the pathetically mainstream at times, but here goes:

First Night - The Blues Brothers
OK, too popular to be genuine cult material, but if you have any friends who still haven't seen it, ask yourself two questions: Is it not your bounden duty to subject them to the entire DVD, with your own running commentary that goes "This is a brillant bit!" and joining in with all the funny lines? And secondly, how come they're your friend?

Second Night - Metropolis
OK, so again a predictably arty choice; but this is the evil robot mother of all subsequent sci-fi and has been referenced so many times by so many directors that it should rank as compulsory viewing. I first watched this on video many years ago in a chemically-enhanced state with my mad friend Gregory, when he and I caused consternation to the only female in the room when we started screaming and waving our legs in the air at the 'robot Maria' bits. Any straight bloke who has watched the film will know why.

Third Night - Dark Star
Possibly the weirdest, cheapest movie ever made; yet essential cult viewing. Strange, disturbing, and hilariously funny in turns. The liftshaft sequence with the malign alien pet - which is clearly a painted beachball on string - is a comic masterpiece.

Fourth Night - Animal Crackers
I have long adored the Marx Brothers. I considered the obvious hard-core Marxist choice of Duck Soup, yet plumped in the end for this early gem - the four Marxes in the high summer of their early success. Groucho's rendition of "Hello - I must be going" and Harpo's knife-dropping at the end are career highlights by anyone's standards.

More anon...