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BrewDogging #43: Homerton

Pizza to the left of me, beer flights to the right, here I am...[Previously: Bristol, Camden, Newcastle, Birmingham, Shoreditch, Aberdeen, Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Kungsholmen, Leeds, Shepherd's Bush, Nottingham, Sheffield, Dog Tap, Tate Modern, Clapham Junction, Roppongi, Liverpool, Dundee, Bologna, Florence, Brighton, DED Angel, Brussels, Soho, Cardiff, Barcelona, Clerkenwell, DogHouse Glasgow, Rome, Castlegate, Leicester, Oslo, Gothenburg, Södermalm, Turku, Helsinki, Gray's Inn Road, Stirling, Norwich, Southampton]

You know the structure of these pieces by now. Central to each one is a review of a particular BrewDog bar: but to give that review context, I always like to include some discussion of other things going on in the vicinity of the bar, to get a feel for the cultural life of the area.

This particular bar's in a place called... (checks map) ...London. Okay then, are there other things worth visiting in London?

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MOSTLYFILM: Kind Of Funny, Kind Of Sad

I suggested this to MostlyFilm as a new way of rating movies, and they asked me to forcibly insert the Fear-Love Timeline into my anus.Pop quiz, hotshots! What do the films The Happiness Of The Katakuris and Donnie Darko have in common?

Answer: without actually meaning to, I've somehow ended up reviewing both of them three times on the internet. With the Takashi Miike musical, I wrote about it in three very different contexts - an unsubtitled print in Tokyo in the days before Monoglot Movie Club had even been invented, a subtitled print when it came over to the Edinburgh Film Festival, and as a feature in Tartan Video's Asia Extreme Festival.

All of those reviews occurred over the space of roughly eighteen months. The ones for Donnie Darko, on the other hand, are a lot more spread out. I first wrote about the film when it turned up at the 2001 London Film Festival, shortly after its American release. I got to re-assess it a little over a year later, when it was chosen by the Pals as part of the programme for VidBinge 2002. And now, fourteen years after that, Donnie Darko is getting a re-release in UK cinemas all over again, which meant I got to revisit the film one more time for MostlyFilm.

You can read my review over on Europe's Best Website right now: it's in a post titled Kind Of Funny, Kind Of Sad. And if you're looking for some bonus content to back it up, I've got some videos for you right here.

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Täähä Menöö Hyvi! Pick Of The Year 2016

"It's like, how much more black could this be? And the answer is none. None more black. Well, maybe a little bit more."It's a controversial opinion, but I'm going to say it anyway: as years go, 2016 was absolute dogshit. Massive upheavals throughout society, combined with the death of apparently every famous person ever - against a backdrop like that, any personal problems of your own seem magnified as they become part of the overall global catastrophe.

My pal Lou, who's effectively been the patron of these Pick Of The Year compilations since 1993, has always suggested that they provide an insight into what my mood was like each year. Looking at Täähä Menöö Hyvi!, my compilation for 2016, that mood would currently appear to be swinging wildly: downbeat or angry songs interspersed with bursts of unexpected joy.

So, are you ready for one of the most manic depressive collections of music I've put together since I started doing this in 1982? Let's hope so. Here, in a simultaneous broadcast with MostlyFilm (who are including this as part of their general end-of-year roundup), is a CD's worth of tracks that defined 2016 for me. And stick around to the end if you want the chance to win a copy of the CD for yourself (as long as you're reading this before the end of January 2017).

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BrewDogging #42: Southampton

Looking down on the Southampton bar[Previously: Bristol, Camden, Newcastle, Birmingham, Shoreditch, Aberdeen, Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Kungsholmen, Leeds, Shepherd's Bush, Nottingham, Sheffield, Dog Tap, Tate Modern, Clapham Junction, Roppongi, Liverpool, Dundee, Bologna, Florence, Brighton, DED Angel, Brussels, Soho, Cardiff, Barcelona, Clerkenwell, DogHouse Glasgow, Rome, Castlegate, Leicester, Oslo, Gothenburg, Södermalm, Turku, Helsinki, Chancery Lane, Stirling, Norwich]

Some of the bars covered by this ongoing project, just by nature of their location, will get a more cursory visit than others. This is not intended as a diss of Southampton, you understand - I'm just saying that its distance from London means that we can only really cover it as part of a day trip. So, within a single day, we have to get in a couple of beers as well as take in some of the local culture.

That's basically what The Belated Birthday Girl and I did on a Sunday a few weeks ago. Here's how it panned out.

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MOSTLYFILM: Netflix and Chill

This shot comes just over two and a half hours into the Telemark Canal programme: imagine how cheerful she'd be by the end of itChristmas isn't too far away now, and you may even already be making plans for what sort of stuff you'll be putting on the TV for vegging-out purposes. Well, the fine people at MostlyFilm are way ahead of you. A couple of days ago, we published an article entitled Netflix and Chill, reviewing the collection of Slow TV programmes from Norway that have recently turned up on Netflix. They're huge, slow-moving things that require very little intellectual effort on the part of the viewer: real-time depictions of train journeys, boat cruises, burning log fires, that sort of thing. (There's also a knitting marathon, but we didn't have time to review that.)

MostlyFilm's crack review team covered four of the programmes in the piece. There's Ricky Young, watching eight hours of train travel through a Night Nurse-induced haze: there's me, trying to focus on an eleven-and-a-half hour canal journey while trying to shred some old bank statements: there's Mr Moth, spending twelve hours failing to warm to a night of wood-chopping and log-burning: and there's Jake, gearing himself up for a 134-hour Hurtigruten cruise only to discover that the Netflix version has been cropped to just one hour of highlights.

All of these were broadcast on the Norwegian NRK channel, to surprisingly high audiences. And because NRK is a national broadcaster with a public service remit, all four of the shows we reviewed have archive pages on the channel's website, full of surprisingly large video clips and background text, perfect for linking to in this Red Button Bonus Content piece. Okay, so the text is all in Norwegian, but we have Google Translate on our side, so I can't see how that can go wrong.

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Simian Substitute Site Of The Month December 2016: Our Christmas Monkey


Food and Drink: By the end of November, we'd been informed by the Guardian that hygge is basically the Danish word for fascism. It's the sort of news that makes you want to go back to a simpler time: say, the beginning of November, when hygge was merely the latest trendy Scandinavian fad that we'd picked up in the UK. (Advance warning: visit MostlyFilm on Friday December 2nd to find out about the next one.) It partly explains why early in November, I was in a kitchen in Bath attending an actual training course on How To Hygge, purchased for me as a delayed birthday present by The BBG. It was held at The Bertinet Kitchen, which is normally where baking whiz Richard Bertinet teaches his own courses on bread and pastry making. But for this one, he handed over to Signe Johansen, who by the wildest of coincidences has just published a book on the subject of hygge. In brief, that feeling of cosiness that the word implies appears to be largely achieved using booze and fat. Over the course of three hours, we made several dishes - whisky-cured gravlaks, savoury muffins, mussels, spiced madeleines and cherry glogg - and then spent a delightful long lunch around a communal table scoffing them all. This was probably just a one-off session, but the setup at Bertinet Kitchen is really well put together, and I'd imagine the man's own baking courses would be equally entertaining.

Movies: There are certain statements which are so self-evident, it seems ridiculous to even utter them. Here goes, anyway. Abel Gance's Napoleon: now that's a movie, isn't it? It's been difficult to see the 1927 silent classic, though: partly due to its epic length (five and a half hours plus intervals), partly because its triple-screen finale requires a cinema to lay its hands on two additional projectors. Typically, the few screenings it's had in the past have been in concert halls with a live orchestral accompaniment. But now, the latest restoration from the BFI has made the film available to all, with a beautifully recorded Carl Davis score (though he's stolen a lot of it from other composers, in the fine tradition of silent film accompaniment) and a neat digital workaround for the spectacular change in aspect ratio in the final reel. It's amazing to see just how modern this 89-year-old film feels, with its psychedelically rapid-fire editing and unexpectedly mobile camerawork. Its modernity even extends to the acting - sure, most of the cast are gurning it up like silent movie actors do, but in the middle of it all is Gance himself quietly dominating the screen in his minor role as Saint-Juste, as if to say to the rest of his cast "this will look really cool in the future, trust me". Once we hit that finale - which still requires a daredevil move from the projectionist to make it look seamless - you'll be coming out of the cinema wanting to storm the barricades like a good 'un.

Theatre: Three things that are wrong with Lazarus, the David Bowie musical currently playing at the Kings Cross Theatre in London until January 22nd. One: despite its fancy Enda Walsh script and its callbacks to The Man Who Fell To Earth, this is still a jukebox musical, in which a collection of old and new Bowie songs has been used as the starting point for the plotting. The generic antagonist, for example, has to be called Valentine so they can squeeze Valentine's Day into the setlist, which is precisely the sort of nonsense I was yelling at Mamma Mia! for nearly two decades ago. Two: the arrangements of the songs... well, it's hard to describe exactly what's been done to them, but they've been blanded out to sound just like any other piece of musical theatre from this century. The cast give it their all - notably Michael C Hall in the lead, who has the thankless task of trying to make Bowie's songs his own and somehow pulls it off - but the mushy accompaniment works against them at every turn. Three: director Ivo van Hove and designer Jan Versweyveld have given the show a similar design strategy to their collaboration on Song From Far Away at the Young Vic last year, using a simple long, thin apartment set with video projections over the top. This would be fine, except that van Hove then insists on staging a lot of the important scenes at floor level in the extreme corners of the set, which are largely invisible thanks to the rubbish sightlines in the Kings Cross Theatre. It's possible that you may be able to see better if you pay more for your seats than the £35 we did, but it's still not really a solution. Having made all those complaints, there's a lot to like in the performances and the visual sweep of the thing, so if you're prepared to ignore those three points you may enjoy it more than I did.

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