Monday, October 22, 2012

Top 5 Bruce Willis sci-fi films

With the recent release of Looper (above), Bruce Willis' numerous sci-fi roles are almost enough to qualify for a sub-genre.

1. Twelve Monkeys (1995)
2. The Fifth Element
(1997)
3. Sin City
(2005)
4. Looper
(2012)
5. Armageddon
(1998)

See also: Planet Terror (2007), Unbreakable (2000), Surrogates (2009) and The Twilight Zone TV series (1985)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Lookalikes #32: Syriana and Argo

Syriana is a 2005 political thriller set in the Middle East starring George Clooney as a CIA guy with a beard*. Clooney also produced it. Argo is a 2012 political thriller set in the Middle East starring Ben Affleck as a CIA guy with a beard*. George Clooney co-produced it.

It's taken me years not to hate Ben Affleck (and Matt Damon, his 10th-removed cousin, who had a role in Syriana). Then I had years of apathy. Now, I don't even mind either of them. Ben Affleck has proved himself more competent behind the camera than he ever was in front of it, directing Gone Baby Gone and The Town. Affleck and Matt Damon won an Oscar back in 1997 for their screenplay Good Will Hunting (though they did get help from Rob Reiner and William Goldman). They both have funny middle names: Ben's is Geza; Matt's is Paige. They both like to play poker, Ben being better; Matt never was very convincing in Rounders.

*Meaning they want to be taken seriously. And make people think of great 1970s American films directed by the kids with beards: Coppola, Scorsese, Spielberg, Altman, Malick.

Argo: Not to be confused with Argo, the ship Jason and the Argonauts sailed on; Argos, the largest general-goods retailer in the UK.
Syriana: Not to be confused with Syria, a country in western Asia.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Top ten most boring bands – EVER!

1. R.E.M.
2. Oasis
3. Manic Street Preachers
4. Primal Scream
5. Snow Patrol
6. Radiohead
7. Bruce Hornsby and the Range
8. Counting Crows
9. Stereophonics
10. Pearl Jam

Friday, October 05, 2012

Bond books

With the Bond franchise celebrating its 50th anniversary today, the imminent arrival of the new dull Bond film, Skyfall, and Adele's new Bond theme being declared a classic before anyone's heard it, 007 seems to be everywhere.

I've never been a big Bond fan but I'd obviously buy a first edition hardback Bond book with dust jacket from Oxfam for couple of quid, which I actually did do a few years ago. It was this one, above, which I sold immediately. I like the covers, but not the books or the films.

Firebox, a website which sells completely pointless tat, has released Bond Kindle Cases, reproducing a bunch of early Bond covers so you can keep "your delicate reading matter top secret". Presumably meaning 50 Shades of Grey. It's funny, I was just thinking on the tube the other day how private the Kindle is, you can't see what people are reading. I used to like seeing what book people were reading and judging them. Perhaps every book bought on a Kindle should come with a printed cover to wrap around it.

The early Bond covers were all illustrated by Richard Chopping, a writer and illustrator whose paintings were seen by chance by Ian Fleming's wife, Ann, at a London art exhibition in the 1950s also featuring Francis Bacon. Later, Ann took her husband to see Chopping's paintings, and said he should commission Chopping to do the next Bond jacket. He went on to illustrate nine Bond covers.

In 1965, Topping wrote as well as illustrated his first novel, The Fly.

A recent rewatching of Patrick Keiller's excellent (but flawed) 1994 film London reminded me of the Ernö Goldfinger-designed Alexander Fleming House (now called Metro Central Heights) at Elephant and Castle, quite near where I currently work in London Bridge. I've managed to do the four charity shops in Walworth Road in a lunch hour, so I'll check out the Goldfinger building sometime.

Ian Fleming famously named his Bond villain Goldfinger after the humourless Hungarian architect. Fleming, a near neighbour of Goldfinger's, had apparently objected to the pre-war cottages in Hampstead being knocked down to make way for Goldfinger's modernist house at 2 Willow Road.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Better read over shoulder (5, 7, 4)*

No matter if it's the Guardian, the Sun or a freebie like Metro or the Evening Standard, newspapers are always more interesting read over someone's shoulder or on someone's lap sitting next to me on public transport. Even if I have the same newspaper as the person beside me, I'll find myself glancing over at the page they're reading – and it's always more interesting than the page I'm on. But even if we're on the very same page on the same newspaper, their copy will always be more captivating than mine.

*Other people's news

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Cadbury wins ownership of Pantone 2685C purple

We're used to brands owning their logos and slogans but now Cadbury has gone a step further and patented the colour purple on their wrappers, officially known as Pantone 2685C. There's no real cause to panic, however, as the patent only applies to chocolate bars and drinks. You're still allowed to wear your purple trousers. For the time being. In 49 BC only Julius Caesar was allowed to wear a purple toga in Rome; if an ordinary citizen wore one, they'd be executed.

Purple has long had connotations with power and royalty, something Cadbury always wanted to exploit, claiming eating their chocolate was a 'rich and indulgent experience'. Though it's often scoffed at by chocolate aficionados as not being real chocolate, Cadbury has always been my choice of chocolate bar.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Fake Tintins

The morning my brother and I were leaving St. Malo to head back to England (one of the most depressing boat journeys in the world – leaving St. Malo and arriving in ugly Portsmouth), we happened across an antiques market opening up, not unlike the one featured at the start of The Secret of the Unicorn. Wandering through it, I glanced at a book stall unpacking its books. A book seemed to jump out at me: Tintin et les Blues Oranges, one of only two rare Tintin books I didn't own (the other being the book of the film Tintin and the Golden Fleece). I picked it up immediately and almost put it down again after looking at the 16€ price tag: not only was it tatty but it was in French. But before I could put it back a voice boomed out: 'dix'. Ten euros. I examined the book some more and said 'cinq'. The man gave a typically French shrug and held up eight fingers. I held up seven and he said 'okay'.

My brother mocked me afterwards, pointing out that the price went down from 16€ to 10€ in the time I'd merely picked up the book; he was obviously keen to get rid of it. I thought I'd gotten a bargain, however; it's pretty hard to find. The live action films Tintin et les Blues Oranges (1964) and Tintin and the Golden Fleece (1961) were both released on DVD by the BFI last year, but their accompanying book versions have been out of print since the 1960s.

I still reread my complete set of 24 Tintin books. But with the last one being published in 1976 and Hergé dying in 1983, there hasn't been a huge amount of new Tintin material since. There's been loads of merchandise produced by Moulinsart, but it's hardly essential, though I am guilty of owning some of it. No, the only real surprises in Tintin world since Hergé's death has been the publication of Tintin and Alph Art, the final unfinished Tintin story, consisting of sketches and notes; and the English translation published a few years ago of the controversial Tintin in the Congo (first published 1931). Also interesting was Tintin and I, the 2003 documentary about Hergé; and books about Tintin including Tintin in the New World (A Romance) by Frederic Tuten (a friend of Hergé's) in 1993, a novel with Tintin finally discovering women; and the academic, post modern Tintin and the Secret of Literature by Tom McCarthy (2007). Of course, there's also been last year's horrendous Spielberg film.

The main facet of Tintin which has been growing since Hergé's death and rise of the internet is fake Tintins. Mostly these are just fake covers; sometimes they're whole books (the most bizarre being Tintin au Congo a Poil; which is, er, Tintin in the Congo, nude). Fans are mixed about them; fakes are, strictly speaking, illegal, and a good percentage of them are sexual (Tom McCarthy identified three types of parody: the sexual, the political and the artistic), so they're not really as Hergé would have envisaged them. However, a lot are drawn by true fans who are obviously passionate about Tintin. The best ones continue the legacy of Tintin and are a tribute to Hergé, showing great imagination and technique. Canadian Yves Rodier is one such artist producing Tintin parodies; he is perhaps most famous for unofficially completing Tintin and Alph-Art.

Tintin's iconic look, his innocence and Hergé's crisp, clear lines make him ripe for parody. Fakes seem to be all the world. I remember seeing Tintin T-shirts and posters in South-East Asia: Tintin in Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia. He only had twenty-four adventures in the books; the parodies let him keep on travelling. 

Previously on Barnflakes:
Hergé's favourite Tintin panels
Lookalikes #10: Thomson and Thompson
Eponymous heroes 'largely dull'
Tintin never went to Cambodia