BrewDogging #68: Carlisle

Just try something for me: open up the Warsaw review in a separate tab, and then flip between the pictures on the two tabs. Spooky, isn't it?This'll be the last BrewDogging of 2019, I reckon. (There's a research trip for another one still to be done, but you won't read about that until 2020.) In 2019, I wrote reports on eleven new bars, ten of which are linked to at the bottom of this page: Brixton, Paddington, Dalston, Union Square, Peterhead, Itaewon, Le Marais, Outpost Manchester, Perth and Edinburgh Airport, obviously not counting the one you're going to read about now. The vast majority of these opened this year, so we seem to be just about keeping up with James Watt's plans for world domination.

We should also report that we lost one: Angel, which finally pulled down the shutters after three separate attempts to make it pay its way. (Someone else is currently having a go at making the site work.) Maybe that makes you a bit twitchier about new bars when they open, looking for signs that they'll be able to make it through that all-important first couple of years? Maybe.

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Living For The Weekend: A 2020 Diary By The BBG

More food mama / Give us more food mama / Give us prawn ring mama / Give us anything mama / Thank God my mum has gone to Iceland [not pictured: mum]Your next diary is going to be rubbish, and it's all going to be the Government's fault. (Not that Government, the one before.)

Back in June 2019, they announced that they were going to move the date of the 2020 May Day Bank Holiday. Under the usual rules, it would have fallen on Star Wars Day, Monday May 4th. But for 2020 it's being moved to Friday May 8th, to fall in line with the 75th anniversary of VE Day. 

A change like that is always going to annoy some people, but it was surprising where the main objection to it came from: diary and calendar manufacturers. Because by the time the announcement of the date change was made, many of them had already completed their print run. Some of them had to expensively pulp all their stock and reprint: others have had to go for the messy option of an apologetic sticker on the cover with a correction: a few are just ignoring the situation and hoping not too many people lose their jobs from not going in to work on May 4th.

In those circumstances, a diary that's traditionally put together in a kick bollocks scramble towards the end of December doesn't seem like a silly idea any more, does it?

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Simian Substitute Site For December 2019: Monkeys Music Club

Monkeys Music ClubMONTH END PROCESSING FOR NOVEMBER 2019

Movies: November's always a funny time for movie-going here at Château Belated-Monkey: all those films we saw at the LFF in October start appearing in cinemas, and it feels like the rest of the country is finally catching up with us. (We took a bunch of Spank's Pals along to Knives Out just the other day, for example, and are happy to report that it's one of those films that contains hidden bonuses for people who see it twice.) Mind you, we don't watch everything the LFF has to offer, so sometimes November sees us catching up with unseen festival movies that got unexpectedly good buzz. The Last Black Man In San Francisco is one of those, and you can sort of understand why: director Joe Talbot and cinematographer Adam Newport-Berra have between them assembled some of the most ravishing images you're going to see in a film this year. Having said that, every single one of those images is already in the trailer: the full-length film starts falling apart a little when you consider it as drama. Its two central characters - the dreamer played by Jimmie Falls, and the playwright played by Jonathan Majors - have an interestingly ambiguous chemistry, but we end up seeing everything through the lens of the playwright, meaning that all that glorious imagery is weighed down with overly theatrical plotting and dialogue. It's still worth seeing, on a large screen if possible, but it's frustrating in the way it hovers close to greatness without ever quite achieving it.

Music: It happens to us all in our twenties, I'd imagine: we get blind drunk one night, and wake up in bed next to someone unexpected. Except in my case, as I've previously documented, I woke up one Saturday morning to find I'd been sleeping with a box set of the Philip Glass opera Akhnaten, which I'd bought from Tower Records on the way home from the pub. David Freeman's original eighties production was the first opera I'd ever seen at the London Coliseum,  and I was very fond of it: so I'm not quite sure why I didn't rush to see Phelim McDermott's new production when it played at the same venue earlier this year. Happily, that production's now currently running at the Met in New York (closing on December 7th), and was recently the subject of a live broadcast to cinemas across the world. Having seen McDermott explain his relationship to Glass and his music in his lovely solo show Tao of Glass earlier this year, it's fascinating to see the techniques he uses to visualise the score: in particular, the chorus of jugglers whose repetitive rhythms match the ones we're hearing. (Commiserations to the juggler who ended up dropping a club in front of a global audience of some several hundred thousand, though.) The music and visuals are both extraordinary, and easily distract you from the fact that plotwise the opera could be synopsised on the back of a postage stamp. If your local cinema ends up doing an encore screening, you should go.

Theatre: "How are they going to do that on stage, exactly?" People never asked that question in the early days of theatre: the assumption was that traditional staging techniques and the complicit imagination of the audience would combine to allow you to depict anything you damn well liked. But as we got used to the realism of television and movies, we expected to have our visual images spoonfed to us, to the extent that we doubt what theatre's capable of. For example, if it could recreate the events of Touching The Void, the true story of Joe Simpson's quest to descend one of the world's most inhospitable mountains with no partner, no supplies and a broken leg. Director Tom Morris (younger brother of Chris, fact fans) and writer David Greig have come up with the perfect solution to that problem, one which the movie version of the story touched on a little bit - it's as much about the mental trauma Simpson went through as the physical trauma. The latter is recreated with imaginative use of props and a surprisingly versatile set, but the real focus here is the psychological stress of Simpson's ordeal, which is portrayed using some ingenious theatrical devices. Unlike the film, which goes out of its way to reassure you from the off that everything turned out just fine, there's a real tension in this staged version even if you do know the ending. It's on at the Duke of York's in London till February 29th, and is well worth a look. 

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London Film Festival 1989-2019: An Index

Because Films Inspire... some sort of hideous trainspotter impulse, apparentlyI started going to the London Film Festival in 1989, and I've been there every year since. Thanks to a combination of Spank Gold articles (after-the-fact writeups of the 1989-1997 festivals), reposts (pieces written for the old site between 1998 and 2005) and live blogging (since 2006), I've got a record of every single film I've seen at those Festivals.

Trying to pick your way through all of those is obviously going to be hellish, hence the index below. Similar to the equivalent index I've assembled for the Edinburgh Festival, each year links to the relevant piece on that particular LFF, including a roughly chronological list of what I saw (plus, of course, any additional films reviewed by Spank's Pals). As a bonus, you get a thumbnail-sized history of programme cover designs.

This will be updated each year after the LFF, so most of the time this page should be resident at the top of the LFF folder on the site. Have yourselves a good old browse through, and try not to think too hard about how much the tickets for all this lot have cost me over the last couple of decades.

[updated 05/11/2019 to include 2019 reviews]

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Simian Substitute Site For November 2019: Fire Monkey Pyro

Fire Monkey PyroMONTH END PROCESSING FOR OCTOBER 2019

Music: At the Cadogan Hall in London at the start of the month, an audience largely made up of Japanese pensioners stared silently at comedian Yuriko Kotani for several excruciating seconds. Eventually she continued: "...so, no using the C word with this crowd. Got it." She hadn't been to a gig like this before, and neither had we: because Kotani was merely the opening act for an evening of 1960s Japanese pop classics rearranged in a jazz-funk style, performed by singer Naomi Suzuki backed by England's own James Taylor Quartet. It was part of the Japan-UK Season of Culture, a year-long cultural exchange of events bookended by Tokyo's hosting of the 2019 Rugby World Cup and the 2020 Olympics. I can't imagine any of the other events will be as delightfully odd as this one, with an audience of Japanese oldies nodding along blissfully to tunes they knew played to a rhythm they didn't. Having said that, the gig really took off once the JTQ launched into an instrumental that we all knew.

Telly: Two episodes in, and I'm still not sure what to make of the TV version of Watchmen. On the one hand, I'm amused by the act of ironic leagueofextraordinarygentrification it's performed on its source material: not so much imagining an alternative future for Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' characters, but an alternative future for the world they lived in. (So far there only seems to be one character from the original comic in here, and even they've not been properly introduced yet.) On the other hand, showrunner Damon Lindelof still has the stink of Lost hanging off him, and it does make you wonder if that show was constructed in a similar way to this one: that somewhere, there's a book with a perfectly clear description of the events that led up to everyone being on that island, and Lost is a followup to it which references the original in the most oblique ways possible. There are some good parts to what he's done here (the replacement of 1980s nuke panic with 2010s race panic), and there are some bad parts (at Château Belated-Monkey we're particularly aggrieved by the overly quiet sound mix). At this stage, Watchmen's got a lot of mysterious ideas that don't quite mesh with each other: and with anyone else at the wheel, you'd be prepared to assume that they would all tie together eventually. But not Lindelof. I'll give him one or two more episodes tops, and then we'll see where we are after that.

Theatre: Theatre from 37 years ago that you'll never see again, admittedly, but still theatre. At some point conveniently close to Christmas, expect the release of a CD box set called Not All The Albums Again, a collection of the Not The Nine O'Clock News compilation records from the early eighties. Most of it's obviously grabbed straight from the soundtrack of the TV shows, but one of the records included here is an anomaly: it's the live recording of Not In Front Of The Audience, the spin-off stage show that the team performed at the Drury Lane Theatre in 1982. It's a combination of remixed old favourites (a whole new collection of racist slurs for Constable Savage, that sort of thing) and new material, and the highlight of the latter is a ten-minute musical called Laker!. Ostensibly the then-topical story of the rise and fall of Skytrain, it's actually a high-speed compilation of all the clichés of 1980s musical theatre. ("SHOUTING! We're standing here SHOUTING! It's very EXCITING! Just look at the LIGHTING!") Inspired by the news of its forthcoming re-release (not to mention its debut on CD), I listened to Laker! once for what must be the first time in a couple of decades, and now many of its tunes keep popping up in my head during my every waking hour. So now it's your turn.

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Spank's LFF Diary: The Wrap Party 2019

Note to BFI Marketing: I would buy the HELL out of this as a poster. Note to the rest of you: click to embiggen, where possible.No love at the London Film Festival 2019 for me, I'm afraid. Have a look if you don't believe me:

Galas: 3
Special Presentations: 1
Official Competition: 1
First Feature Competition: 1
Documentary Competition: 2
Love: 0
Debate: 3
Laugh: 2
Dare: 3
Thrill: 2
Cult: 1
Journey: 2
Create: 5
Experimenta: 1
Family: 1
Treasures: 6
Total = 34 (plus one Event)

Of course, The Belated Birthday Girl keeps hoping that Tricia Tuttle will eventually ditch her predecessor's category system for something less chundery, but for now it's all we've got. It's always an interesting way to break down what I've seen, anyway.

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Collabfest 2019

Collabfest 2019 at BrewDog Canary Wharf. If you look carefully, the signs are all there.We drank 57 beers last weekend. What did you get up to?

Regular readers will know what's going on here: since 2013, we've been regular attendees at BrewDog's annual beer festival, Collabfest. Once a year, each of their bars gets together with a local brewer and makes a brand new beer: and then for one crazy weekend, all those beers go on sale simultaneously in all the bars.

When we first did this in 2013, there were only eleven BrewDog bars and eleven beers on offer, and we were able to comfortably squeeze tasters of seven of them into the gap between a couple of films at the LFF. By 2019, that number has grown to, um, 78. Luckily for us, only 69 of them were available for Collabfest in the UK: the Asian and American bars couldn't ship their offerings over here, while Reading's contribution turned out wonky and had to be scrapped at the last minute.

Still, 57 out of 69 isn't bad, is it? Depending on your interpretation of the word 'bad', obviously.

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