Blakeson - Writer

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

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

"Inside Out"

Having studied critical theory, I’m painfully aware that cleverness is often characterised in terms of couching relatively simple ideas in complex, obfuscatory language. The best works of art, however, take complicated notions and make them digestible for the masses. Pixar’s “Inside Out” is a supreme example of this.

In terms of external plot, not much happens: 11 year-old Riley moves from Minnesota to San Francisco with her parents and is unhappy for a couple of days. The gimmick, of course, is that her inner turmoil is enacted by brightly-hued representations of the emotions which run her mind – Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust, in the well-worn “Numbskulls”/”Herman’s Head” style.

The novelty, though, is that “Inside Out” is a work of remarkable intelligence and considerable emotional complexity. Since Riley is a child, Joy is predominant (voiced by an exuberant Amy Poehler) but Sadness, portrayed as a plaintive big-eyed teen Goth (and appealingly voiced by Phyllis Smith is always close at hand). The narrative involves the pair getting lost in long-term memory, and struggling to return to the control-room, before the other emotions cause a catastrophe.

One is used to films aimed at children throwing in jokes to placate the adult audience, but when references include not only “Chinatown” but also abstract expressionism, it becomes clear that the creative team (led by directors Pete Docter and Ronnie del Carmen) are not in the mood for talking down to anyone. We are bombarded with ideas :- the putting away of childish things; the need for the dark in order for us to appreciate the light; the fact that other people are every bit as confused as we are…

If I have one criticism, it’s that Disgust (Mindy Kaling) is often burdened with boring, non-character-specific, expository dialogue. And at the screening I attended, the wonders on screen failed to silence many of the under-eights present.

Nevertheless, “Inside Out” is visually stimulating, emotionally resonant, profoundly intelligent and very funny. If a more satisfying film comes along in 2015, I will be very surprised. And delighted. And intrigued. (etc).

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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Oscar Wilde

Not a lot happening on the "going to see things" front. I spent much of last week involved in drama workshops, via Youth Of Creative Arts, in a secondary school and at a mental health drop-in centre. Interesting stuff, which may pay dividends later.

My most recent mash-up video is my trickiest yet - around two dozen Oscar Wilde epigrams with associated illustrative film clips. A lot of work, but jolly fun.

The Wisdom of Oscar Wilde from OTHNIEL SMITH on Vimeo.

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Tuesday, July 07, 2015

"Violence and Son" / Cirque Inextremiste / Burt Bacharach

I‘ve been spreading my wings in terms of theatre reviewing.

Offered the chance of a cheap coach ticket to join Sherman Cymru’s group of relatively new theatre-goers to experience a matinee performance of Gary Owen’s “Violence and Son” at London’s Royal Court Theatre, I offered to contribute a review to the Arts Scene In Wales website. A play in which Doctor Who nerd-ism meets unreconstructed Valley’s masculinity, it is both amusing and worrisome. An excellent cast, and a full house.

Going wandering before the show, I happened upon the Saatchi Gallery; the show “Pangaea II”, featuring new art from Africa and South America – a very diverse, colourful and thought-provoking collection.

The very next night, I went to see Cirque Inextremiste’s “Extension” at the Wales Millennium Centre. This was part of Hijinx Theatre’s Unity Festival of inclusive theatre; I’d been invited to review it for Wales Arts Review. A French show in which a disabled man takes revenge on his bullying colleagues using a mini mechanical digger, it’s funny rather than dark, and subtly spectacular.
Cirque Inextremiste outside Cardiff Central Library

I caught a second dose of Cirque Inextremiste a couple of days later, when they took their previous show, “Extremities” to the streets of central Cardiff, as part of the free element of the Festival – less of the heavy machinery, but still a health and safety nightmare.

This was prior to making my way to the Wales Millennium Centre for what will turn out to have been one of the peak musical experiences of my life – a concert given by Burt Bacharach.  Following a brief set from British singer-songwriter Georgia Train (heartfelt piano ballads), the 87 year-old maestro took to the stage, along with his band and an orchestra apparently assembled only that day.

Starting with the perennially relevant statement “What The World Needs Now Is Love”, he took us though more than two hours of hits and should-have-been-hits, taking in the inevitable medleys of Dionne Warwick classics and gems from his film career – generally respectful to the spirit of the songs and lyrics rather than frustratingly brief snippets. There were beautiful solo moments from his singers John Pagano, Donna Taylor and Josie James – Pagano accompanying himself on guitar for a beautiful version of “The Windows Of The World” - as well as anecdotes (e.g. Tom Jones’ initial disdain for “What’s New Pussycat”), humour (“The Blob”), and some affecting singing from the croaky maestro himself – Hal David’s lyrics for “Alfie” have never seemed more poignant. Sadly, his brilliant Elvis Costello co-writes weren’t represented, although it’s probably just as well – I don’t think I could have handled the emotional hit of “God Give Me Strength”. The evening ended on a singalong of “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head”, sending the crowd (unusually these days, I was amongst the youngest) home full of the wonders of his timeless melodic gift. A beautiful night.

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