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September 2011

Watch Me Move: The Animation Show

Duck Amuck, by Chuck I don’t think this site’s commitment to the medium of animation can be questioned, can it? Aside from all the regular programmes of shorts I’ve reported on from the film festivals at London and Edinburgh, for the last few years I also appear to have been the only person who’s written a review of every single film in the British Animation Awards Public Choice section. That’s a lot of cartoons, and in the case of the BAA articles a lot of exhaustively researched links to film clips and animator websites too.

So you’d imagine that an exhibition like the Barbican’s Watch Me Move: The Animation Show (running until September 11th 2011) would be just up my street. And so it would. If there's any cause for concern, it's with the format - because this isn't a collection of still artwork, it's a collection of short films and clips. You know that irritating feeling you get hanging around outside a film installation in a gallery, waiting for it to go round to the beginning again? Imagine that feeling multiplied a hundred times or so. But if you're patient enough, there are some sights to be seen.

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MOSTLY FILM: Scala Forever

It's that time of the month again. Actually, August should see a couple of appearances from me on Mostly Film, but one of them will happen during the pile-up of posts that occur here during the Edinburgh Festival, so I may not be able to say too much about it at the time.

Anyway, seeing as we're on the subject of festivals, today's post on Europe's Best Website finds me reminiscing about the Scala cinema in London, as a new festival called Scala Forever celebrates the 30th anniversary of its opening. Some of the anecdotes may be familiar to regular readers of this site - a couple were wheeled out for my 1999 review of A Clockwork Orange, a film that's crucial to the Scala's history. But there should be plenty of new stuff for you to enjoy.

And as always, readers of this site get a little bonus material as a present for being loyal to me. Well, I say 'little', but...

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Simian Substitute Site For August 2011: Project Nim


Comics: Back in June 2009, I wrote about a talk given by writer/artist duo Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill, which coincided with the publication of a new story for their postmodern adventure team The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen. They envisioned Century: 1910 as the first in a trilogy of 80-page graphic novels, coming out on an approximately annual basis. Two years on, we now know how approximately they interpret the term “annual”. But now that Century: 1969 is finally in the shops, was it worth the wait? I think so. Century is a much denser work than the Fu Manchu and War Of The Worlds romps of the League’s earlier adventures: denser in terms of the complexity of its themes and plotting, and much denser in terms of the sheer quantity of cultural references thrown at you. The basic story is built around a set of easily grasped touchstones (at least for a British audience), as Mina, Quatermain and Orlando delve into the late 60s London underworld, coming up against a dastardly plot involving memorable pop star Terner. But right from page one – where Terner’s fellow band member Basil Thomas yells “Hello, sky! Hello, trees!” at the point of orgasm – there are whole archeological strata of metatextual fun to be had if you pay attention. (Or, as ever, you can let Jess Nevins do all the legwork for you.)

Internet: Yes, yes, the death of Amy Winehouse is a tragic thing, a ferocious talent cut short by a self-destructive streak and the inability of those around her to protect her from it. But. It's possible to think all that and still find Kunt And The Gang's over-hasty tribute Amy (It's A Terrible Shamey) rather glorious. I do have a fondness for Kunt and his works, with their catchy tunes and utter lack of moral fibre, but he does make it difficult for me to persuade other people to join me for his live shows in, say, Edinburgh. Still, maybe the internet is the best place for him, as he's come up with some ingenious methods to get his filth out to the world. His zero-budget web sitcom Perverts On The Internet has all the charm of a Crackerjack sketch with a shoehorned-in song at the end, although Peter Glaze probably wouldn't have joined in on the chorus of Hurry Up And Suck Me Off Before I Get Famous. And I do like his approach to getting round the repeated banning of his videos by YouTube. "We're using the business model of a paedophile ring..."

Music: It's been an insanely busy month for live music - it started with three shows at the Manchester International Festival that I wrote about for Europe's Best WebsiteTM, and then there were another six in London after that. Eels at Somerset House: just as rocktastic as they were in Edinburgh last year, but with a newly-added horn section adding some interesting textures on top of the racket. Guitar Wolf at Islington Academy: splendidly over-the-top guitar frenzy, virtually played as an hour-long continuous medley, and climaxing with the venue pulling the plugs on the band’s microphones as they constructed a human pyramid out of audience members. They Might Be Giants at Koko: all the hits and some fine-sounding new tunes from John and John, with a special appearance from sock puppets The Avatars Of They (renamed Rebekah and Rupert for this performance). Lamb at Somerset House: good to see them back after several years away – time has made the contrast between Lou Rhodes’ fragile vocals and Andy Barlow’s dance stylings even more fascinating, particularly when played at skull-buggering volume as they were here. Tom Tom Club at Jazz Cafe: my God, they’re in their sixties now, and they’re still as funky as they ever were. Jah Wobble at Stratford Circus: a typically eclectic mix of Japanese-influenced bass-heavy fun before the interval and more conventional jazz after, although the encore – constructed entirely from scratch out of Wobble’s verbal instructions to the band – was a revelation.

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