Some films: I'm not there, 3:10 to Yuma, Brick Lane

I've been kinda busy so here's a brief rundown on what I've seen and what I made of them. It's mostly for my benefit as my memory, long and short-term, is shot to hell. The pic is from Todd Haynes' I'm not there, his Bob Dylan bio-pic (sort of). So in what way isn't it a bio-pic? Well, the Dylan character is never named as being Dylan and is played by a bunch of different actors including Cate Blanchett, Christian Bale and Marcus Carl Franklin. The whole thing is fairly entertaining with some great high-points but does go on a bit. My favourite bit is Cate Blanchett's stoned Dylan and Allen Ginsberg heckling a life-size statue of Christ on a cross and she chucks out the fantastic Dylan-esque line: "Play one of the early ones!".

3:10 to Yuma proves that Russell Crowe is in much better films than his somewhat limited acting range deserves but in his defense it must be said that they're never less than entertaining. Christian Bale is the stand-out presence here in this hugely entertaining Western.

The Kite Runner
, based on Khaled Hosseini's novel (which I haven't read) is probably my least favourite film here. I found the film overly manipulative and nasty (which isn't something I would normally hold against a film). Great performance by Homayon Ershadi as the father of the feckless Amir which is probably worth the price of admission on its own.

There are lots of great things about Brick Lane, not least that fact that I found it way more engaging than the book and visually it does some interesting things, especially in the way the almost exclusively non-white cast are shot in a sympathetic way that emphasises their ethnicity that places them at the centre of the film. Having said that the film is almost too gentle and doesn't fire up the passions. Again I think the best piece is the portrayal of the father, Chanu, by the legendary Satish Kaushik.


Holy Fuck! Lo-fi geniuses at The Social

Went to see Holy Fuck at The Social last night which was without doubt the best gig I've been to since I can't remember when.

Flickr pics here (not mine)

Holy Fuck on MySpace

Holy Fuck on Wikipedia

Being vegan: Day 11

Not a great deal to say except I'm enjoying my newly found (and temporary) veganism, my wife is less angry and I've had some very nice meals. Friends fed me a vegetable soup thing with sweet potatoes, Yol made chick peas and macaroni, I made sour chick pea curry with ocra and tomatoes and rice and yesterday I had a Pizza Express Giardana without cheese. I've been drinking copious quantities of vegan wine, spirits and vegan society-approved beers. I think I've lost a small amount of weight but feel pretty good all round. Sunday I went for my longest swim so far.


Being Vegan: Day Five

The thing about not eating meat, fish and dairy is how expensive it all is. I had so-so vegetarian sushi and a miso soup from Pret for lunch yesterday which came to £4.25 and today I spent £17.50 in Holland and Barett on pumpkin seeds, cashew nuts and the like and I still haven't got enough to make a meal.


Being Vegan: Day Three

I've eaten a lot of hummus so far: Falafel wrap with salad and hummus for lunch yesterday from a sandwich joint round here and today a home-made roll of hummus and salad. Last night was a vegetable stir-fry with rice noodles and a salad. I've been eating lots of fruit but probably not as much as I usually do - I think this might be that the food and portions I'm eating now are much bulkier than my normal diet.

Things that annoy me: loads of products that you'd expect to be animal-fat free aren't. Here I'm thinking of margarine. Yesterday in Sainsbury's I went through all the margarine tubs and they all had whey derived from cow's milk. Dirty fuckers.

My fellow diet-alterer, Maria, who's foresaken booze for a month is, I suspect, having a much worse time. Her plan is not going out after work for a month. I think the bit she hasn't accounted for is the solo home drinking she used to enjoy.


Being Vegan: day one

"I appear to be drinking a cup of warm piss," I reflect on leaving the kitchen area at work. It's pale yellow-green in a white cup. It's green tea.

It's part of my on-going war of attrition with my friend Maria brought about through drinking a bottle of Turkish red wine each in Mangals and then initially taking a vow that for 30 days she wouldn't drink any booze while I wouldn't eat meAt or fish. My part of the bet was upgraded (such is the way of drunks) to "leading a vegan lifestyle" and then lately, after I'd done some research (and decided I wasn't going to buy a) vegan shoes and b) a wool-free suit), downgraded to "eating a vegan diet" for 30 days.

So far it's going well but then all I've done so far is eat porridge with soya milk for breakfast, a baked potato with margarine and baked beans for lunch and two apples and a sharon fruit ion-between. I went to the local health food shop and bought a box of "Fruit, Nut and Seed Bars" this afternoon ("gluten-free; wheat-free; dairy-free; vegetarian; vegan") which were a) pretty horrible and b) very expensive. Luckily they also seem to be quite filling as tonight is the-place-I-work's 25th anniversary staff party. The posh one for the high-ups and the industry bigwigs was last week, this one is (I imagine) a drunken booze-fest fuelled by Breezers, slammers, shots, vodka fountains and other assorted niceties. I won't be eating at the do as I can't guarantee the provenance of the canapes and my sketchy research reveals that spirits are safe for vegans but the use of animal-derived fining agents in much wine and beer rules them out without more detailed work on my part.


Lust, Caution

Ang Lee's new film Lust, Caution has been previewing around London having first screened at Venice. It's long, it's very beautiful to look at, it has amazing costumes and outstanding performances, not least from its two leads the masterful Tony Leung and newbie actress Tang Wei. So why wasn't I more impressed and why did the whole thing leave me feeling pretty cold?

This is from Geoffrey Macnab's piece in the Guardian:
The film tells the story of a young drama student, Wang Jiazhi (Tang Wei), drawn into a plot to assassinate the shadowy Mr Yee (Tony Leung), a collaborator with the Japanese in the Shanghai of the early 1940s. Mr Yee is a cold and brutal man. While his wife (Joan Chen) and her friends play Mah Jong and discuss their favourite restaurants, he oversees the torture and killing of resistance fighters. Wang is ordered to get close to Mr Yee in order to prise him out into the open. In the end, they begin a very violent, sado-masochistic affair. Their feelings for one another teeter between love and utter loathing. They instinctively distrust one another but can't hide their mutual fascination. At times, it is as if they hope that through their extreme and acrobatic sex together they can finally work out each others' motives and true personality. This is as much a tale of amour-fou as it is a thriller.

I suspect my problem lies here: what is described generally (not just by Macnab) as a relationship where they "can't hide their mutual fascination" where their feelings "teeter between love and utter loathing" seems to me more like an abusive relationship instigated and conducted by the stronger partner over the weaker one. While I get Mr Yee's initial lusting after her (hey, she's young and gorgeous) I really don't get what she's meant to see in him. Is it his cruelty or simply that he's Tony Leung and as an audience we're not meant to see much further than that?

While many won't see past the athleticism of the sex scenes The New York Times has an excellent review that sees past this to the flaws in the characters and the story. My view is that Lust, Caution while beautifully shot and acted is still pure hokey.