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January 2011
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March 2011

Film Unlimited 1998-2011

#RIPfu Looking at it one way: you can't deny that Film Unlimited had a good innings. When The Guardian's film talkboard finally shut up shop on February 25th 2011, it had been in operation for coming up to thirteen years, and had been in a virtually unchanged format for the last twelve of those. How many other websites do you know that have stayed that stable for that long? If you accept my previously stated hypothesis that internet years are the same as dog years, then 13x7 adds up to a long and venerable lifespan. We should all stand in admiration of its longevity.

Looking at it another way: imagine Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger stabbing your 91-year-old granny in the throat with a broken chianti bottle until she dies. Because that's what it actually feels like.

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On Your Way To Somewhere Else: Pick Of The Year 2010

Pop in for a piss!Yes, you're right, this is appalling. I burned the first copy of my latest compilation CD on December 7th 2010. I took it along to a pub that evening on the offchance that Lou might be there, but he couldn't make it. But that's not the point. The point is that it's taken me nearly three months since then to assemble my traditional discussion of the track listing, as a result of my work life balance going through one of those periods of being massively unbalanced.

So, while I've got a few minutes free, here's what has to be the last possible analysis you'll ever read of what was hot on the music scene in 2010, presented in the form of a 79 minute compilation CD. And if you make it to the end of this page before March 31st 2011, you might even get the chance to win a copy of it for yourself...

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Back To The Future: Japanese Cinema Since The Mid-90s

They should make a scarier version of this called 'Sadako Decides' [this caption for Japanese film geeks only] Whisper it quietly, but I let my ICA membership lapse at the end of last month. I've stuck with them for over a decade, and I appreciate that times are tough for arts funding: but over the last couple of years, the value of the membership fee has been whittled down until it's virtually non-existent. The building is now closed two days out of every seven: the programme booklet has been cut down to a single sheet, and they don't even mail that to members any more.

The final straw was an event of theirs that I would love to have attended - a Comica Festival presentation of a new film about comics writer Grant Morrison - being so lousily promoted that I didn't hear about it until a couple of weeks after it happened. The only contact the ICA has with me nowadays is an irregular email of highlights, and they didn't consider it worth mentioning on there. So sod 'em, I'm out. (It strikes me as symptomatic of the current attitude that there's been no followup mail from the ICA reminding me that my membership's expired.)

Having said that, just five days after I stopped being a member, I had to sneak back into the place as a guest of The Belated Birthday Girl to catch the Japan Foundation's latest programme of little-seen Japanese films. Curses!

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Monkeys On Demand

Yes, I know she's an orang-utan rather than a monkey. Shut up.We've just passed the eleventh anniversary of the launch of digital film distribution in the UK - Toy Story 2 came out on February 4th 2000, and appeared in digital form in a grand total of three cinemas. I remember the scare stories about how they had to keep a 35mm copy of the film in the projection booth at the Odeon Leicester Square, for those occasions when the hard disk version crashed. But, as a distribution technology, it's matured: a large number of upcoming UK releases have that tell-tale (D) next to their title, and the absence of physical prints has subtly skewed the way in which film distribution works. More and more big films are getting UK releases on the same day as the rest of the world: more and more small films are able to get a reasonable showing across the arthouse circuit, without the crippling expense of making copies and shipping them from town to town.

But all of this counts for nothing if you don't actually have an arthouse cinema close to you. Which is why I think that Curzon On Demand is a major step forward.

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Simian Substitute Site for February 2011: The Monkeys You Ordered

The Monkeys You Ordered MONTH END PROCESSING FOR JANUARY 2011

Internet: Hooray for The Lonely Island, the people mostly responsible for the one bit of interesting content I published on this site in January (more on that in a minute). Most of their best video work has been done on Saturday Night Live: unfortunately NBC, like many US networks, block all of their video to international users (although dubious workarounds are available). Nevertheless, Andy, Akiva and Jorma know that any fame they have outside of the US is due to people watching their SNL Digital Shorts on the internet. So they've done a deal which allows just their bits of SNL to be globally available (barring the odd occasional glitch). You can now go to the Lonely Island video page and take your pick from a hundred or so of their excellent sketches and songs. Their recent-ish single I Just Had Sex will burrow its way into your brain after a single listen, and bodes well for their new album coming in the spring.

Movies: I've been mostly seeing the same movies as the rest of you this month. Tron: Legacy never really recovers from the opening caption that effectively reads "only half of this movie is in 3D, but we've got your money now, so fuck you. Love, Disney." The King's Speech is as delightful as everyone says it is, although fans of Charlie Brooker's Newswipe will freak out when the actual speech of the title turns out to be accompanied by Beethoven's Theme For Doug Stanhope Swearing About America, leading you to assume there'll be even more effing and jeffing than there is already. But the best film I saw in January doesn't open here properly till February: Confessions, Tetsuya Nakashima's intense take on the Asian vengeance movie, more psychological and less stabby than its Korean counterparts. It opens at the ICA and elsewhere on February 18th, and should be seen with as little foreknowledge as you can muster.

Travel: "I'm a man of the world," as Australian cultural attache Sir Les Patterson once said, "never two shits in the same toilet." And two highly contrasting business trips have kept me away from updating this site for virtually the whole of January. First to Dubai, where all traces of beer and pork were barred from my diet: then to Munich, where beer and pork are two of the four basic food groups (the other two being more beer and more pork). Dubai's actually quite pleasant at this time of year, its winter being close to a temperate English summer. Lotus Hotel Apartments & Spa are a good place to stay in the Marina area, but don't expect to be able to walk anywhere from there: the whole city is in a permanent state of construction, and frequently pavements just vanish while you're halfway down the street. But the Metro system is stylish, cheap, and can take you to most of the places of interest, including the Dubai Mall and the nearby surrogate penis that is Burj Khalifa. It was a bit of a shock just a week after walking around Dubai in shirt sleeves to find myself snowed in in Munich, and hardly able to leave the Suite Novotel except to make the short daily walk to the office. On the final night I managed to make it out to Marienplatz and grab a bite at a tourist steakhouse, but I'm a little disappointed that the weather didn't clear up early enough for me to do a bit more exploring on the U-Bahn. Maybe next time.

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