Blakeson - Writer

Cardiff-based film, theatre and gig reviews, cultural ramblings, whingeing, short films, etc.

Monday, February 21, 2011

True Grit / Mark Ryan

Like all right-thinking people, I’ve seen all of the films of Joel and Ethan Coen. Thus I was looking forward immensely to their take on True Grit, the tale of a young girl’s quest to bring her father’s killer to justice in the largely lawless Old West. And it certainly doesn’t disappoint in terms of cinematic craft – glorious vistas, beautifully ripe dialogue (cf Deadwood), and excellent performances from the miraculous Hailee Steinfeld (13 years old at the time of shooting), Jeff Bridges as the ill-tempered, drunken and largely incomprehensible Rooster Cogburn, and Matt Damon as Labouef, the amusingly vain Texas Ranger. All beautifully done, and fully deserving of all the plaudits it has received, but unlike most of the brothers’ previous work (e.g. the wonderful The Big Lebowski, Miller’s Crossing, Blood Simple, even Intolerable Cruelty) it does little – other than during a few climactic, dreamlike moments near the end – to skew, transform or transcend the genre in which it sits. A magnificent piece of work, but pretty much reverent, heritage filmmaking, with only sporadic flashes of the trademark Coen facetiousness.

Last week, I attended the funeral of Mark Ryan, noted Cardiff playwright, one-time guitarist with Adam And The Ants, and highly entertaining bloke to spend time with. On a grim day, it was good to see a healthy turn-out, and to take in the celebratory tone of the eulogies. R.I.P.

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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

NME Awards Tour 2011 - Cardiff

The last time I attended an NME Awards Tour show at Cardiff University Students’ Union a couple of years ago, bottom-of-the-bill Florence and the Machine were playing to a half-empty hall; no such audience naiveté  this time round, however. The Vaccines were first up, with their knowing, literate take on back-to-basics punk-pop – highly melodic and seductive, although only the panda-eyed lead-guitarist made the effort image-wise; “Wreckin’ Bar” was especially well-received. Next up were Everything Everything, the kind of youthful prog-rock virtuosi who, forty years ago, would have been writing songs about elves – mercifully, their subject matter is computer games and teen romance, and they’re well aware of the necessity of providing a dance beat; some of the intricacies were lost to the muddy sound, but on the whole they hit the spot. I feared the worst when, in preparation for Magnetic Man, the road crew installed a huge bank of computers onstage, but my fears were groundless – the spectacular light show provided all the visual excitement which the “three lab-technicians and a Rasta” line-up couldn’t, and just in case we were likely to forget what dubstep was all about, the bass was bone-juddering. Topping the bill were Crystal Castles, the band with which I was least familiar – highly effective electro-pop-dance, with a wall-of-sound impact which may have been ramped up for the live experience, and vocalist Alice not letting a little thing like a broken foot impede her rabble-rousing. A beautiful night, and an encouraging one for those of us who are disheartened by the vapidity of so much contemporary pop.

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