Books: Good God, this song is thirty years old. January saw the tentative return of Alexei Sayle to the comedy circuit, after several years away concentrating on books. Still, when the books are as ace as Stalin Ate My Homework, I'm not going to begrudge him the time off. A memoir of his childhood and teenage years, it describes Alexei growing up in 1950s/60s Liverpool with his Communist parents Joe and Molly. It's especially good when it covers his growing political awareness: initially happy to play along with the family's party line (especially when his dad's union connections get them special treatment on Eastern Bloc holidays), but slowly losing his faith as he enters his teens. It's only towards the end of the book that the teenage Alexei starts to discover his gift for retelling stories in a way that amuses other people: "in the right hands events could be chopped and shaped and filleted until they came out exactly as you wanted them to come out, just like election results in the Soviet Union." Is there more of this particular set of events to come in future volumes? I hope so.
Movies: A belated kung hei fat choi to all our Chinese readers (ha!) as we enter the Year of the Dragon. The last time I said that in one of these pieces was two years ago, when I marked Chinese New Year by seeing the seasonal romcom All's Well Ends Well 2010. This year, I celebrated with All's Well Ends Well 2012, which has no thematic link whatsoever to the earlier film beyond the title. It's been entertaining watching the UK critics completely failing to understand the cultural context this film exists in: a bit of ultra-lightweight fluff that the whole Chinese family can enjoy during a holiday period when energy levels and standards are low. Eschewing the period setting of AWEW 2010, this edition consists of four modern-day love stories featuring a host of local stars goofing it up, like Donnie Yen in a silly wig playing a failed rock star, and Chapman To as a romantic novelist who everyone insists is ugly as sin. (But unlike co-star Louis Koo, at least he doesn't look like Gary Glitter.) It's full of contrived plotting, incomprehensible regional humour, and musical numbers which build towards an OTT finale which, bizarrely, steals its tune from the closing song from Fame. But it's entertaining enough, and I'd be happy to catch All's Well Ends Well 2013, which will probably be shot in 3D and set inside a video game, or something.
Music: It started off with me finding out about the existence of this and this. Which gradually led to the development of this. Which got me wondering: whatever happened to The Rubberbandits, the Irish guys who went viral in Christmas 2010 with their song Horse Outside? It turns out they've been busy, and have even got a London gig planned for March. In the last few months they've released a double album called Serious About Men, and they've shot a few of those Comedy Blaps things that Channel 4 have been spraying over the internet recently. (See also: Business Mouse, Viz.) Songs like the so-anti-racist-it's-actually-racist Black Man and the deeply emotional Spastic Hawk hold up to multiple listens and without the backup of the visuals, which is hella rare for comedy records these days. Let's just call them The Lonely Ireland and have done with it.
Anyway: The Monkey King. This being a Chinese site, I think you know what we're talking about. It's another adaptation of the classic tale that's already been celebrated in these pages, thanks to the first ever Simian Substitute Site (that's a link to my description of it, as the site itself was giving me malware warnings when I tried to visit it now) and the Albarn/Hewitt opera Journey To The West. And now, sure as night follows day, there's a new 3D animated version of it playing in Chinese cinemas. The big blue buttons on the site give you a synopsis, some behind the scenes reporting, a collection of ludicrously oversized stills, and a full list of credits. You'll have to go elsewhere if you want to see a trailer, though.
And if you want to find out more about the movie, you can always do a Google search on 大闹天宫3D to see what's out there. Just be careful not to get the film confused with the other Monkey King movie coming out in China this year - that one's a live-action production starring Donnie Yen in the title role, sporting even more ridiculous hair than he does in All's Well Ends Well 2012.
Quite a bit of Chinese culture on this page: and there's more to follow on the site later this month. But in the meantime, any comments about anything? Don't be shy.