Tuesday, 29 December 2015

2015 and all that

That was the year that was, or as I call it: the 'year of living dangerously' by which I mean a year of enjoyment, travel, and a smidgen of over indulgence.

Let's see...what happened? Marriage, trips to France, Greece and  Spain and a few British jaunts in between, but this blog is supposed to be about popular culture so lets get down to that.

A fantastic Edinburgh festival. this was my second visit and now having a good knowledge of how to navigate both the streets and the venues it allowed for a jam packed visit with highlights being Stewart Lee and The Ruby Darlings. another highlight of the festival is the Mosque Kitchen, this rustic canteen style eatery is a wonderful place to refuel between shows. The food is delicious and it's as cheap as Chips.

Liverpool to see Arthur Miller's The Hook starring a hugely underrated Jamie Sives (an actor who, aside from being a mate of mine is also brimming with talent), followed by drinks in the Dockers bar a symbiotic alliance of place and theme. 

Somerset to visit a newly relocated family and relax awhile which is very easy in that company and a visit to Dismaland: which was undoubtedly a triumph. This piece of living art had to be experienced to be believed and boy am I glad I did.

Closer to home, Leftfield at the Forum Kentish Town: something of a homecoming for the act. A splendid night with what can only be described as a warm and friendly audience followed by Leftfield at The Roundhouse: a stupendous sonic experience which certainly benefited from the immaculate sound system. My old friend Neil created a concert going experience that is right up there with the very best.

Also close to home The Ham Yard Hotel: if there is a better Hotel in the heart of the West End I'll eat my hat. A marvellous wedding night and following day was spent there in April and a return visit was soon forthcoming to see a mixed showcase of Pre-Edinburgh comedy. The act that stole the show being Marcus Brigstock: funny and insightful.

Closer still, Escape From New York at the Unity Chapel with live music from John Carpenter's collaborator on soundtracks. The audience were dressed for the occasion and I have to say that this wonderful venue was a great place to see this cult masterpiece.

I think I may have been to the cinema close to 40 times this year and I have to say that it hasn't been the greatest year for cinema, Mind you I only walked out of one movie: Inherent Vice (even though I'm a fan of Mr Anderson) I also found Foxcatcher underwhelming. Amy, Whiplash and The Lobster were stand outs for me this year while Selma, Love & Mercy and Sicario where hugely enjoyable...hold on though: i walked out of two films! The Man From UNCLE being the other one. To clarify, the first walkout was due to not being n the zone the second was due to the general woodeness of acting and clunkiness of plot. Mainstream fun was had courtesy of Spectre, Avengers: Age Of Ultron and Mad Max: Fury Road.

TV was good. Orange Is The New Black, Peaky Blinders, Luther, The Fall and Veep provided some real high points and BBC's The Game was the real quality Spy drama this year not London Spy (which certainly had its moments). The Good Wife was a great 'B' drama as was River and it was farewell to Mad Men, Nurse Jackie and Peep Show.

Of course my real highlight was getting married to the long suffering Mrs Wellyousaythat and this year of living dangerously will give way to a more laid back year. a year of living sensibly; which is not to say that it won't include experiences like those of 2015, in fact January 1st sees us visiting The Ham Yard followed by a night of wonder with Derren Brown. Living sensibly? yes of course but what's life without a hint of danger?

Friday, 30 October 2015


Rene Clair's I Married A Witch is a sublime, spooky, winsome and atmospheric comedic love story, pitting Mr Hyde himself Fredric March against Veronica Lake in the game of love. A far more sophisticated take than Bewitched for example. It takes in politics both sexual and actual and does so with a deft touch.

It has plenty of spooky atmosphere to go along with the fun. It's witty, original and thoroughly entertaining. The mischievous Veronica Lake is totally enthralling as the Witch who returns as an avenger centuries after being killed by Puritans and her take on this strange new world makes her both innocent and seductive.

Saturday, 24 October 2015


New York, New York

Scorsese's under-appreciated masterpiece isn't The King Of Comedy, which has rightly received the credit that's due to it, but the musical New York New York. Shades of Douglas Sirk and George Cukor abound as Liza Minnelli gives a grandstanding performance worthy of her mother. The anthemic title song feels like an old standard and her rendition of But The World Goes 'Round is astonishing.

The story is naturally comparable to A Star Is Born as it is a tale of success, avarice, jealousy and passion and Minnelli's co-star shows a side of himself that is surprising and enthralling.

Robert DeNiro is funny, very funny, charming, dangerous and heartfelt in his performance and the chemistry between the two, initially DeNiro's huckster and Minelli's naive new comer, is there for all to see and as their character's relationship becomes darker the sadness is broadcast by both.

That it stands up against the very best Hollywood musicals is immense tribute to the director and his two leads.
New York, New York is well worth a revisit.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015


Okay, so the old Black Dog has been making himself scarce of late. Just the odd whimper from him but it’s not as if I’ve fed him. But for some reason he has been leaping the garden gate and getting under my feet. Naturally all those of you that know who/what the Black dog is, will know the inherent dangers of not dealing with him correctly. If I think about why he has returned with a renewed appetite I simply don’t know the whys and wherefores. Of course sometimes the deepest self evaluation cannot get nearer to solving the mystery, some mysteries remain unsolved: Jack the Ripper, The Marie Celeste, the popularity of The Lord Of The Rings movies etc.

Thinking too much is like an open tin of Pedigree chum to the Black Dog and over thinking the issue is a second helping of the meaty treat. So what other course of action? Remembering the tactics from the past, recalling the light that is always at he end of the tunnel and a healthy dose of perspective are all valuable strategies. When the Black Dog hasn’t been around much, days turn into weeks and weeks turn into months and you forget what the sound of his bark is like, you don’t recall the smell when he has just come in from the rain and you don’t miss his pungent breath so it’s easy to forget him. That’s the problem: never forget him, always remember that he’s out there lurking and an occasional visit does not mean he’s moving in for good and taking residence on your favourite chair. You are the master and he is the pet and pets can be trained.
By referring to depression as a Black Dog I am not trying to hide the facts under an animal alias, what I am doing is placing depression in a construct that can clarify and contextualise the terrifying condition that depression is. If depression was really an animal it would be of King Kong proportions with the shape-changing abilities of The Thing.

I’ve had nine months without him (I generally measure depression free time in calendar years) and the fact that he’s scratching at the door alarms me but, and here’s the important thing, it does not fill me with dread because I know that when he’s had enough of trying to inveigle his way in, peace and quiet will return and the back door can swing open without fear of the loitering canine barging in.

Next door’s cat likes to stroll in for a nose around and that’s fine as she means nobody any harm: she’s just a cat.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015


The Crowd
2001 : A Space Odyssey
Terminator Genysis
Singing In The Rain
Avengers Assemble
House Of Flying Daggers

Monday, 7 September 2015


Oh how we love a tragedy, the press pull cynically at our heartstrings  and the plethora of untalented celebrities wring their hands in anguish. Charity recordings, internet appeals, bracelets, Apps, cut out and keep banners and all sorts of products aimed at the mass market get trundled out. 

Opportunities to make money while showing a sharing caring sign are grasped by the agents of minor celebs. In editorial meetings the strategy of tragedy is top of the agenda, decisions are made: whether to put a dead child on the front of the newspaper? to bomb or not to bomb? open the doors or keep them closed? what will sell the most copy?

Trite displays of concern seep into early evening programming and the likes of Simon Fuller and Cowell ponder just what bland ballad to cover for the X Factory alumni to record for the Charity Record.

Pray for 'so and so' Hashtags, Text this number, buy this T-shirt, spend to show you care: that's the way to help the poor unfortunates. Place some flowers by a road side, paint a mural, hold a vigil, do whatever is currently in fashion-tragedy as trend.

The thing about tragedy is that is is now just another topic to text or tweet about, tragedy gives pause from selfie stick obsession, but not for any length of time, as today's tragedy is tomorrow's chip paper in this attention deficit world: and that's the real tragedy

Friday, 24 July 2015


Cabaret is considered a musical, but it's not: it's a great movie with musical performances in it. The cast don't burst into song and it's themes are prejudice, hate, ambition and decadence. It is a superb movie that rightly won the Oscar for best picture. Liza Minelli is sublime as Sally Bowles not only on stage but off and the whole mood of the film is spot on.

Joel Grey is unforgettable as the host and Michael York reminds us of what a fine actor he once was. 

It's stage show set pieces are memorable and such numbers as Mein Herr, Life is a Cabaret, Money and it's finale the unforgettable, Tomorrow Belongs To Me leave a lasting impression. This is a movie where all off the players are at the top of their game.

The movie is full of sparkling dialogue and contains many a dark moment to offset Sally's kookiness. Cabaret is considered a musical, and if that it the case it is surely the best movie of that category ever made.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015


The Wrong Man
Family Plot
The Lodger
Rear Window
Stage Fright
The Birds

Monday, 8 June 2015


Kaleidoscope Frenzy was the working title for an unrealised Alfred Hitchcock project to be released as Kaleidoscope. He had the screenplay, location stills and test footage but his neorealist serial killer movie never saw the light of day. We will never know if this new direction for Hitch would have taken him to new heights but the images of the project give a glimpse into what might have been

Saturday, 16 May 2015


My top ten comedy movies
Not what I consider the best-I think that comedy is possibly the most subjective of the arts-just my favourites. I've limited my selection to only one movie per Director or Star and while I love Laurel & Hardy I am a big fan of their shorts not so much their features but I had to find space for them, likewise I think the Marx Brothers are great but find their movies have stretches of dullness. So here is my selection.
1.Young Frankenstein
2.Love and Death
3.The Nutty Professor (1963)
4.Animal House
6.The Life Of Brian
7.The Man With Two Brains
8.Sons Of The Desert
10The Odd Couple