People Still Call It Love: #JFTFP19 (part 2 of 2)

I find these days that the anime Salaryman Kintaro really *speaks* to me.At some point, we'll need seriously to address something that regular readers will have noticed by now. Back in 2006, I had a major personal overhaul in two departments: I changed my job to one that was more part-time in nature, and I changed this site to a blog format that allowed for more frequent posting. It never really occurred to me how closely the two were interrelated, or how much work I was doing on the site in the downtime between assignments - until late 2018 when I moved back into full-time employment, and suddenly discovered that I didn't have the free time to write four or so posts a month any more.

In the old days, I'd have seen as many Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme movies as possible during their London run in the first full week of February, and within a couple of days I'd have reviews up on the site, so that people in non-London cities would be able to read them as the programme toured the country. As it stands, I've just managed to write them up by the end of February, which counts as a bit late in my book. Apologies if you've been waiting for them.

Anyway, enough of my work-life balance issues (which, to be honest, are just me learning to cope again with the amount of work that most regular people do for a living). I've already covered half a dozen of the seventeen films in the 2019 Japan Foundation programme, People Still Call It Love, in Part One: here come another half dozen in Part Two. You'll have to fend for yourselves with the rest, I'm afraid.

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People Still Call It Love: #JFTFP19 (part 1 of 2)

This year's JFTFP poster image amuses me, for reasons I'm not going to explain here.The Japan Foundation has been taking its Touring Film Programme of newish and classic Japanese cinema around the UK since 2004 - and I've been writing about it every year since 2008 (apart from 2009, for some reason), either in these pages or over on MostlyFilm. Back in 2008, it was a six film programme, and now it's grown to seventeen plus a bonus ball. I'll tell you upfront that I won't be reviewing all of them this year. Partly it's down to pressure of work: partly it's down to not getting all the freebie preview discs that I used to back in the MostlyFilm days. But it has to be said that quite a bit of it's down to the ICA, still the home of this tour in London. In the past year, they've dropped most of the discounts you used to get for being a basic level member, and made it even harder to book multiple tickets than usual thanks to their shittily redesigned website.

Still, none of that is the Japan Foundation's fault, so let's not take it out on them. But this is why, out of the seventeen films in what they've chosen to call People Still Call It Love: Passion, Affection and Destruction in Japanese Cinema (or #JFTFP19 for short), we only got to see a mere twelve of them during their now-finished London run. Six on one weekend, then six the next. Here's what the first weekend looked like.

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Simian Substitute Site For February 2019: Valentine The Spider Monkey

Valentine The Spider MonkeyMONTH END PROCESSING FOR JANUARY 2019

Comedy: "It's not shit, despite what you might have read" is, let's face it, an entirely typical way for Daniel Kitson to introduce one of his odd spoken word shows. And Keep (which has just finished its run at the beautifully refurbished Battersea Arts Centre) is odder than most, presenting Kitson in a more experimental mode. He makes his plan perfectly clear up front: he's made a complete inventory of every item in his house on several hundred index cards, and for the next two hours he's going to read them all out for us. Now that it's all over, I think I can reveal that it's not too long before he starts deviating from the plan, leading to the wild digressions and delightful turns of phrase we've come to expect from him: though as The BBG noted, part of what makes the conceit work is the suspicion that Kitson is actually capable of a stunt like this. My one concern is that that opening line about 'what you might have read' doesn't come out of nowhere: the reviews for Keep were bewilderingly poor, almost as if Kitson had just read out the entire contents of his house. Did he do a wildly different performance on press night? Or were the reviewers in on the gag themselves? It's a mystery and no mistake.

Movies: It's a challenge to write about the Japanese film One Cut Of The Dead, which has just about finished a short UK theatrical run and is now available on home video. We can talk about the start, I guess. A director is shooting a low-budget zombie movie in a creepy location that has a history: the sort of history that makes it not entirely surprising when the set is invaded by a horde of actual zombies. Which leaves the director with a dilemma - should he get his crew out to safety, or should he grab the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to shoot gore scenes that are way outside his budget? Beyond that, it's best for you to find out for yourselves, but the trick is not to write this off as a simple zombie movie: there are layers that only come to light gradually. You could even, at a pinch, see it as a satirical take on the lengths film people will go to to get that one, perfect shot. After years of Adam from Third Window Films getting screwed over in various ways, his distribution company now has a proper hit on its hands, so give him - and the film - your much-deserved support.

Music: You young kids wouldn't know anything about this, but back in the seventies we did most of our racism in the form of television sitcoms. In retrospect, Never Mind The Quality, Feel The Width was probably one of the more benign ones: it told the story of an Irish tailor and a Jewish tailor going into business together, and managed to sustain their cultural differences for the proverbial six seasons and a movie. It starred Joe Lynch as Kelly, and John Bluthal as Cohen. Lynch managed to stay on telly for many years after as a comic actor with an occasional sideline in singing (my dad used to own a copy of this album), while Bluthal (among other things) became part of the regular repertory company of Spike Milligan. Bluthal died in November last year, around the same time as I decided to make him and Lynch the cover stars of my Pick Of The Year 2018 compilation. Which is a roundabout way of telling you that 'John Bluthal' was the correct answer to the competition to win a copy of the CD. I posted up the question at noon on Christmas Day from our festive hotel room in Cardiff, a little before we headed out for our Christmas dinner. You want to know when Dave sent in his winning answer? At eight minutes past two on the same afternoon, while you were all sat on your fat arses watching Christmas Top Of The Pops. This is why he is better than you. Try harder next year, people: and congratulations again, Dave.

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Picks Of The Year 1982 - 2018: The Video Playlists

Picks Of The Year 1993 - 2008 inclusive. There isn't enough image space on the page to include them all, sorry.[Updated 16/01/2019 to include the playlist for 2018.]

At least one of the links below tells you the full story, so I won't go through it all again. But in brief: since 1982, I've been producing an annual series of Pick Of The Year compilations, collating my favourite tracks from that year's music releases. From 1982 to 1989, they were gargantuan twin-tape affairs: between 1993 and 1997, they were single 90 minute cassettes: and since 1998, I've been burning them onto CDs. (I didn't make compilations at the time for 1990-1992, but two decades later I created some CD-length ones as a best-guess approximation with the benefit/hindrance of hindsight.)

1998 was the year that I started writing about these compilations on the interwub, as they were being produced. The years before then have been subsequently been documented on this site, with a lot of ironic pointing and laughing at the sort of junk I used to listen to. Put all that together, and you've got a hefty collection of tracks covering my musical interests from 1982 to the present day.

And thanks to YouTube, you can hear most of them right now. The playlists below aren't complete, inevitably: some artists are less happy than others about letting their product be heard for free. But the vast majority of the songs I've chosen are there in some form or other - from official record company videos, to slapdash fan-made tributes consisting of a single still image with the song playing over the top. (I guess my own Felix Project videos fall somewhere in between those two stools.)

Anyway, you've got a couple of days' worth of music here that I've liked at one time or another. And I'll be updating this page each time I produce a new POTY compilation. Enjoy.

(For those of you who don't want to look at videos, there are also Spotify playlists available for each year, although they all have at least one track missing. See the relevant pages covering the years 1982-1989, 1990-1999, 2000-2009 and 2010-2017.)

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Simian Substitute Site For January 2019: Brainy Monkey Post Production

Brainy Monkey Post ProductionMONTH END PROCESSING FOR DECEMBER 2018

Comedy: Happy New Year to one and all! (Now buy a diary.) As has been our tradition over the last decade or more, we saw out the old year with a stand-up comedy show. There was plenty of competition in North London for our business this time round, with Good Ship Comedy joining in for the first time, marred only by their venue's insistence that the show wrapped up at 9.30pm to allow more time for the purchase of booze. Monkey Business could have been on our list too, but after the emotional rollercoaster of their previous NYE show we felt that might be a bit too risky. So in the end the Pals and I settled for the familiar comforts - and, let's be honest, familiar jokes - of Ivor Dembina and his Hampstead Comedy Club, this year temporarily relocated at the Albany pub, as it was three years earlier. It was a splendidly balanced quadruple bill - the verbal dexterity of Dan Evans, the eye-watering filth of Arielle Souma, the too-rude-for-Radio-4 songs of Ant Dewson and the previously-seen-in-late-2016 rants of LJ Da Funk. The twin-DJ set in the upstairs bar leading into 2019 had its moments, but they kept playing music that was recorded before either of them were born, and claimed never to have heard of Janelle Monae. Millennials, eh?

Food and Drink: One of our biggest achievements in the year just gone was the creation of www.bermondsey-beer-mile.co.uk, in which The Belated Birthday Girl and I planned to keep a regularly updated record of all the bars currently operating on Sarf Landan's most fashionable pub crawl. It's been quite the success, I have to say: it's currently getting ten times as many page visits as this bloody place does, with amusingly sharp peaks in the hit count every Saturday, suggesting that Beer Milers are actually using it for real-time navigation. It also comes first on a Google search for 'Bermondsey Beer Mile', despite us putting zero effort into search engine optimisation. The one thing we've been a little behind on is those regular updates, although even then comments from helpful readers have helped ensure that the biggest recent changes have already been documented somewhere on the site. Anyway, early in December we went on another fact-finding mission (hic), and the site's had a bit of an update as a result. The main things we've covered are the new bar from Cloudwater, and the reopening of London Beer Factory's The Barrel Project after a lengthy period of refurbishment. I've also replied to the various comments left during our first six months of operation, and only been rude about one of them.

Telly: The ancient Christmas Day tradition of slumping in front of the telly after a massive feed took a new twist this year, as we found ourselves on Christmas night in a hotel room with a Smart TV featuring the Netflix app. I've only ever used Netflix on computers before now, and it's terrifying how addictive the TV version of the interface is by comparison: you could burn up hours just scrolling through looking for something to watch, and on one occasion we did just that. Eventually, though, we settled for a double bill of Netflix Original productions that overlapped in unexpected ways. The Christmas That Almost Wasn't started out life as a 1966 Italian movie in which Santa Claus is about to be evicted by a Scrooge-type landlord, and has to seek the aid of a lawyer: what could be more festive than that? Well, everything could, which is what makes it prime material for a Mystery Science Theater 3000 reworking. Released as a Christmas special as part of their 2017 comeback season, it has Jonah and the bots cheerfully attacking all the obvious targets - the bad dubbing, the worse songs, and the jaw-dropping horror of the special effects at the climax. To be honest, the CGI effects in Netflix's current seasonal offering The Christmas Chronicles also have a bit of a will-this-do quality to them, but that's all part of the tongue-in-cheek approach: taking a similar Christmas-in-crisis storyline to the earlier film, but gently mocking it with every directorial decision it makes, starting with the casting of Kurt Russell as Santa. It's good-natured enough to tickle the same parts of your post-food coma brain as, say, a good Doctor Who Christmas special would: and if you're prepared to cut it the same amount of slack, there's plenty of fun to be had all the way up to the cheeky cameo in the final scene.

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Living For The Weekend: A 2019 Diary By The BBG

Yes, congratulations for spotting that 'Takeshita Street' is an anagram of the rude phrase 'Reheat Steak Tits'.I published my first book back in 2009. You might remember it. Monkey Round The World: Travel Writing 1993-2009 was intended to be the first of a series of books using the facilities of lulu.com to rehash my favourite bits of this website in hard copy form. Since then - more accurately, in the twelve months following then - I brought out three volumes of LFF reviews and two collections of Edinburgh Festival reviews, meaning that I currently have six books in print. That's quite an achievement, isn't it?

Except that now she's published Living For The Weekend: 2019 Diary, The Belated Birthday Girl now has two more books in print than I do. I may have to do something about that over the next couple of years. But for now, let's put that to one side and get on with the annual post announcing that you can buy her new diary for £3.99 plus postage and packing from the usual source.

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First Let's Kill All The Tailors: Pick Of The Year 2018

CADE: I thank you, good people: there shall be no money; all shall eat and drink on my score; and I will apparel them all in one livery, that they may agree like brothers and worship me their lord.

DICK: The first thing we do, let's kill all the tailors.

CADE: No-one's ever said that.I believe this is what the young people today call a 'surprise drop'.

And I can't argue that it's not a surprise. Christmas Day works to a fairly standard formula round these parts: I find a song related to the season, post up the video with a short message of festive cheer, and that's me done in plenty of time for lunch. But I decided that the twentieth anniversary year of this website deserved a little more effort - particularly since it's also the twentieth anniversary year of the CD versions of these annual compilations of my favourite tunes. (Not to mention the 37th compilation overall, but let's not get into that. Hey, try not to make any more Pick Of The Year compilations on the way to the parking lot!)

So, Merry Christmas to you all from myself and The Belated Birthday Girl: and as a present, here's eighty minutes of vintage 2018 sounds, available as both YouTube and Spotify playlists. And if you're reading this before January 31st 2019, you may even be in with a chance to WIN A COPY OF THE CD in yet another one of those competitions that Dave tends to end up winning. Will his luck change this year? We'll come back to that at the end of the page. But for now...

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Portugal 2018: Porto (The Sandeman Can)

Yes, I know, the timeline for these Portugal 2018 posts has become so ridiculously convoluted it could be a season of Westworld.

Let's take it slowly. Towards the end of July, The Belated Birthday Girl and I set out from London on an epic train journey to Lisbon, which took about 72 hours and included stopovers in Barcelona and Madrid. That journey's covered in the first half of Nobody Expects The Spanish Expedition. Once we got to Lisbon, we spent six days there, and they're documented in Free As In Jazz Or Free As In Beer. There's then an awkward gap, and after that there's another epic three-day journey from Porto back to London, via Vigo, Hendaye and Hondarribia: that latter journey is the second half of Spanish Expedition.

So this final part of the trilogy will address that gap in the middle - the three days we spent in Porto. Compared with Lisbon, there's a lot less cultural enrichment, and a lot more travelling around between nice places to eat and drink. You only get the one video this time - that one at the top there - but it shows you one of the best bits of travelling we did in those three days.

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Simian Substitute Site For December 2018: Rang-Tan

Rang-TanMONTH END PROCESSING FOR NOVEMBER 2018

Comedy: Stand-up's changed a lot during the thirty-odd years that I've been regularly attending comedy clubs. Back when I started, people had an act, and if you saw them regularly you'd see that act evolve over time, with new jokes being added and old jokes dropping out. But gradually the standard unit of stand-up became the hour-long show, which periodically would be frozen in a video special and then ditched to make way for an entire new hour of material. This has led to the rise of the Work In Progress show, in which a comic will throw a bunch of ideas at a paying audience (hopefully paying less than usual) to see what works and what doesn't. We went to see Phil Wang do one of these at 2 Northdown this month, and it's interesting to reflect on how it worked. Other people we've seen do this sort of thing - Stewart Lee being a prime example - turn up with multiple variants on the same joke, and use the audience to decide which one is best. Wang's new show appears to be at a much earlier stage of development (assuming he's ultimately preparing for Edinburgh next August): he's got a structure and some funny lines, but every so often has to stop and say "this needs a joke round about here." Presumably the idea is that as he works through the material over the course of a week, those jokes will gradually come to him. Still, there are plenty of laughs even at this stage, certainly enough to justify the four quid entrance fee. And I'll still be interested to see what the finished show looks like.

Movies: We're currently in the perineum between Diwali and Christmas, which presumably explains the glut of star-driven, effects-heavy Bollywood movies we're seeing at the moment. Later this month, Shah Rukh Khan gets himself miniaturised to utterly appalling effect in Zero: this weekend, the man they literally call Superstar Rajinikanth belatedly follows up his viral hit of a decade ago, Enthiran (aka Robot), with a sequel going under the amusingly minimalist title of 2.0. But the blockbuster season started back in November with Thugs Of Hindostan, featuring the once-in-a-lifetime pairing of Amitabh Bachchan and Aamir Khan, which finally answers the question: what would it look like if Alan Moore and Bob Dylan dressed up as pirates and fought each other? Unfortunately, Indian audiences didn't seem so keen to find that out, to the extent that cinema owners are now seeking compensation from the film's producers. Personally, I enjoyed the hell out of it: it's quite obviously bollocks on toast, but it finds new ways to play with the established reputations of its leads, with Khan's character in particular showing a surprising degree of moral ambiguity for what's basically a light-hearted romp. And the action scenes are handsomely mounted, as long as you don't mind them being completely divorced from reality: their epic-scale geometric precision recalls the more decadent days of Hong Kong cinema, and that's always going to work for me. (There's a disclaimer at the start saying that no offence is intended towards any racial group, but given its colonial setting the English are largely portrayed as utter bastards, and that's always going to work for me too.)

Theatre: If you're reading this on the day of publication (December 1st), then you've got until tonight to catch the best play currently running in London. After that, you've missed it, sorry. It's surprising, because Measure For Measure has always been one of Shakespeare's more problematic efforts. A few years ago, a pair of simultaneous London productions pointed up the main problems: the Globe took its multiple climactic weddings as the usual cue for a jolly song and dance, while Complicite at the National pulled back the curtain on the cynicism behind the ending. In a time when #MeToo has become prevalent enough to work as a verb, you do wonder how it's possible to address the issues of Measure in a new way. I was aware that Josie Rourke's production at the Donmar was going to use gender-swapping, but I wasn't aware of the bold way that she'd re-edited the text to do it. By the end of this brilliantly constructed couple of hours, you'll be reassured that Measure isn't so much a misogynist play, more an even-handedly misanthropic one. Hayley Atwell and Jack Lowden's sterling work in the lead roles makes it clear how the power balance ultimately isn't in either one's favour, but the supporting cast do even more to support that reading: it's fascinating to see which of their reactions stay the same in the wake of the swap, and which ones are forced to change. If the lead-up to the interval doesn't leave the hairs on the back of your neck standing up in awe of the sheer possibilities opened up for the second half, then I'm not really sure what you're looking for in theatre.

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BrewDogging #24 v2: Angel

To be honest, the line 'I'm loving Dog Eat Dogs instead' would never have had quite the same takeup rate on karaoke nights.[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, Dog Eat Dog Angel, Brussels, Soho, Cardiff, Barcelona, Clerkenwell, DogHouse Glasgow, Rome, Castlegate, Leicester, Oslo, Gothenburg, Södermalm, Turku, Helsinki, Gray's Inn Road, Stirling, Norwich, Southampton, Homerton, Berlin, Warsaw, Leeds North Street, York, Hong Kong, Oxford, Seven Dials, Reading, Malmo, Tallinn, Overworks, Tower Hill, Edinburgh Lothian Road, Milton Keynes, Canary Wharf]

21-31 Essex Road, London N1 2SA. It's an address that's had so much bad luck attached to it, you'd think it was a former Indian burial ground.

Nevertheless, this oddly-numbered BrewDogging post marks a first for the series. At the top there, you'll notice that several of the bars listed have a symbol next to their name, indicating that they've shut down since they were reviewed here (or, in one memorable case, before they were reviewed). It's a simple fact of life: they couldn't pull in enough punters, and the decision was made to kill them off. You wouldn't normally expect one of them to come back to life. But this one has - twice, technically.

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