Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Brand new!

Announcing the new Barnflakes website, which now concentrates on my design work. I hadn't updated the old for at least five years and have been meaning to make it look vaguely professional for almost as long. Hence, you may have noticed, the non-work stuff (ALTON BLUES, T.E.A. THEORY, BARNACLES, BARGAINS and BARNFACTS) has now been transferred to pages on this blog (see just below the masthead) enabling to consist entirely of my graphic design work. It's a bit of a premature announcement as I've really only just started it but wanted to get it underway before 2016 (and get rid of the dreadful old site). Lots more to add in the next few weeks. Enjoy. But not too much.

My old portfolio site, is also now defunct. Blogger has the most old-fashioned looking blog templates on the web (and even its spell checker doesn't recognise the word 'blog'), but I'm stuck with this one: I'm not even going to attempt to move ten years (yes, next year this blog is ten years old) worth of posts (784 to be exact) to another site. I'll attempt to write more next year, too.

Happy New Year folks.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Top ten films of 2015

1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
2. Carol
3. It Follows
4. A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night
5. Hard To Be A God
6. The Falling
7. Whiplash
8. The Duke of Burgundy
9. When We're Young
10. The Tribe

Merry Christmas folks.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Top ten photographers

William Eggleston, from the book William Eggleston's Guide

1. Henri Cartier-Bresson
2. William Eggleston
3. Robert Frank
4. Walker Evans
5. Bill Brandt
6. Garry Winogrand
7. Diane Arbus
8. Martin Parr
9. Don McCullin
10. Guy Bourdin

Friday, November 20, 2015

Future tense

Disney has announced that if you were alive to watch the first Star Wars film in 1977 (like I was) – then you probably won't be around to watch all the planned future instalments. In their words, "You will probably not live to see the last one. It's the forever franchise".

The thing about death I'm most afraid of is all the things I'm going to miss out on – not especially just the big news, the toppling of governments or what my daughter's children's children will be like – but the important stuff, like the outcome of the Star Wars franchise or what Bob Dylan's Bootleg Series Volume 74 will consist of (Volume 12 has just come out) or what features the iPhone 27 will have. The world just continues on its axis despite us; stuff happens, life goes on, regardless of death. I'd like the option to pop in on life every hundred years, flick through a newspaper, watch a bit of TV. My guess is it will just get crapper and crapper, that's the way it's been going for a while (culturally, environmentally, politically). I guess when you're dead though, you probably don't care much about anything.

But the future is notoriously hard to predict: we had Back to the Future day last month: October 21, 2015 being the day Marty and 'Doc' arrived from 1985. Whilst it got some things right (flat screen TVs, tablets), it got a lot wrong – fax machines were still being used (and there was no internet), and there's still no hover boards or flying cars, though our skies will doubtless be filling up with drones in the near future. That's the thing about the future, it's always tantalisingly out of reach, until it arrives, then it's just like any other day.

The next big future to look forward to is Blade Runner, set in November 2019. It must have looked an impossible date in 1982 but now it's just round the corner (Luc Besson was wise to set The Fifth Element in the 23rd century) and there's still no sign of those 'spinners' (flying cars) or attractive yet deadly replicants. More on the mark, perhaps, was Rollerball (1975), set in an America of 2018 where global corporations perform the role of government (and libraries have no books!).

Released in 2013 and set in 2025, Spike Jones' Her is set so near in the future it's almost cheating – our ever-increasing reliance on technology is a pretty obvious outcome. Yet Joaquin Phoenix's depiction of a lonely guy falling in love with his operating system, voiced by Scarlett Johansson, is affecting and sensitive, and seems more prescient and inevitable almost every day.

Channel 4's recent Human series, their biggest drama hit in 20 years, was a mix of Her, The Stepford Wives and The Terminator. So badly acted that you weren't sure who were the robots and who were the humans, it stars Gemma Chan as 'synth' Anita employed by the Hawkins family to help around the house. With synths, submissive robots, doing the boring work humans don't want to do, the series is like an allegory for immigrants doing the boring work natives don't want to (and indeed, the synths do act like many a over-trained service industry worker) as well as the impact technology has on our personal lives.

In general, the future in films or TV is depicted as flying cars and robots or post-apolyptic dystopian gloom (Soylent Green is a personal 1970s favorite, set in a 2022 of pollution, overpopulation, dying oceans and depleted resources). Controversial French author Michel Houellebecq's latest novel Submission (the translation of the word Islam) is also set in the year 2022 and imagines a France which has elected a Muslim party government. It was released in France on 7 January this year (though not until September here), the day of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, and bookended by the recent Paris massacres to be top of many critic's best of year books. The future is always less scary when it's thousands of years away; when it's a few years ahead and on our doorsteps, it's a bit too real for comfort.

The BFI's 10 Great Films Set in the Next 25 Years

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Overheard #10

"Do all butterflies taste of pancakes?"
"I went from being off-piste to pissed off"
"You're a porn again Christian"
"Josh just bought some brioche"
"Remember there's no 'i' in busking"
"There should be a war on peanuts"
"Did Virginia Woolf drown at Virginia Water?"
"If you shut up, I'd listen to you more"
"Tim Rice and Tim Curry should do a collab
on a Rice and Curry musical" 

FYI – I was doing this way before Time Out magazine.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Top ten Marthas in music

1. 'Martha' by Tom Waits
2. 'Martha My Dear' by The Beatles
3. "Ring them bells sweet Martha", lyrics from 'Ring them Bells' by Bob Dylan
4. Martha Wainwright
5. Martha Reeves And The Vandellas
6. 'Martha's Harbour' by All About Eve
7. Martha and the Muffins
8. Martha Tilston
9. 'Martha's Song' by Deep Forest
10. 'Mostly Martha' by the Crew-Cuts

For Martha, naturally.

Monday, September 07, 2015

London through its charity shops #27: Penge, SE20

Penge sounds like the kind of place you've vaguely heard of, but don't know where it is and never want to go there anyway but off the rather ugly High Street – which is nonetheless quite well served by a combination of chain shops (a handy Homebase and a Lidl) and independents – are fine Victorian terraced houses and cute Alms cottages. Even on the High Street are the fabulous Gothic Royal Waterman's Almshouses and possibly the oldest Police station in London, a lovely Victorian building now being turned into flats.

More to the point, there are some good charity shops. Coming out of the bottom of Crystal Palace Park (a stone's throw away from the dinosaurs) and emerging onto Penge High Street, the first charity shop going down the hill is Little Ones Charity, small but full, with stuff spilling out onto the pavement. Lots of children's books and games, crockery, women's clothes, some records, CDs (including Sandy Denny and Richard Thompson) and books (I flicked through a small book of Robert Mapplethorpe's flowers).

Further down, on Maple Road off the High Street, is a Salvation Army Charity Shop and Coffee Shop. I've never seen them open, though apparently they are Monday to Friday and til midday on Saturday.

Back on the High Street and opposite Waterman's Almshouses is a Scope, spacious and selling furniture but a bit shabby. Plenty of tacky ornaments. Next door is a typical British Heart Foundation – squashed but high quality. Lots of women's shoes, decent CDs (Disclosure, Beck, Fleet Foxes) and books.

Slightly further along on the other side of the road is a well-presented British Red Cross with good CDs and DVDs. A few doors along, the St Christopher's Hospice is like a labyrinth of books, bric-a-brac, games, clothes and mixed media (haven't heard that term since 1994 have you?). Further along, just before the wilderness, is Aldlife Charity Shop, our final charity shop stop in Penge. It has loads of everything – shelves of books, piles of CDs and records, lots of kids stuff and bric-a-brac.

Penge may have an end of the world ambiance and be home to some shockingly awful looking people but it has a fairly interesting history. Nearby Beckenham-born boy Bowie included Penge in the lyrics to his 1967 song Love You Till Tuesday: 'You can walk around in New York while you sleep in Penge.' Bill Wyman was actually born there and the painter Pissarro lived there. Wikipedia says it was a fashionable district in the 19th century and had a spate of notorious murders in the 1870s.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Growing old gracefully

We worship the cult of youth and beauty at the expense of character and depth but it's interesting to notice actors (or indeed, just regular people) who have aged well (without plastic surgery) and look better now than in their youth. There are plenty (and yes, it does seem to be men more than women – I guess men acquire dignity and character which they may lack when younger). Or maybe it's just they looked bad at the time because of the awful fashions and haircuts.

I was reminded of this when watching two specific actors – Sam Neil and William Devane. I don't know, when they were young, they looked pretty terrible; Sam Neil was bland and William Devane looked cheesy and always had a shit-eating grin on his face.

Contrast Sam Neil in Possession (a bizarre cult horror film from 1981) and the Tudors (2007-2010), where he plays Cardinal Thomas Wolsey. In the 1980s, anything William Devane was in was pretty tacky but fast forward to 24 (2005-2007), where he plays President of the United States and Interstellar (2014), which he's in for about thirty seconds. Both actors acquired gravitas, partly to do with the roles – you couldn't have a 20 year old playing the President or a Cardinal, but still, it just looks like they've not only matured in age but in ability too, and seem comfortable in their bodies.

Even Paul Giamatti, not exactly leading man material in 2010's Sideways (though he does get the girl) but by San Andreas (2015), playing a seismologist, he looks quite distinguished and far more attractive. Someone like Tom Cruise, on the other hand, looks basically the same as he did twenty years ago, and still appearing in the same crappy kind of films too. He lacks character, maturity and depth – and has never been in a great film (maybe Magnolia comes close). I would probably say the same of Brad Pitt too.

Creative people, whether it be actors, artists, writers, film directors or photographers, seem to work until they die. Most of us look forward to retiring (I have been since about the age of twenty one, when I probably wasn't actually working, but just had an inkling that to fast forward forty years and get to retirement would be bliss), work is something to do 9-5 five days a week, then switch off when not doing it, and count the days to retirement. But for creatives it's a way of life, a passion that lasts throughout their lives, no matter what their age.

Previously on Barnflakes:
The seasons of life

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

City Syndromes

There aren't many cities which have a syndrome named after them – Stockholm is probably the most well-known but there are a few others, including Helsinki, Lima, Oslo, Paris, Florence and Jerusalem. Going to any one of these cities made me think I'd automatically succumb to their syndromes – but I haven't so far. Stockholm syndrome is the phenomenon where victims of a crime, such as hostages in a robbery, express positive emotions towards their captors. The term comes from a bank robbery in Stockholm in 1973.

Less well known is the Helsinki syndrome, usually referred to when mistakenly meaning Stockholm syndrome, such as in the movie Die Hard, for example, and by Richard Hammond on Top Gear, but it actually originates from the Helsinki Accord of 1975, which attempted to thaw relations between the communist bloc and the west. It was non-binding. The syndrome alludes to a psychological lack of attention, for example if you'd run over a deer in your car but blocked out all memory of it (as it was too upsetting).

Other cities with syndromes sound like they're just getting on the city syndrome bandwagon: Lima syndrome, coined in 1996, is the opposite of Stockholm, so it's where the criminals feel sympathy for their hostages. Oslo syndrome posited the theory that Stockholm syndrome can be applied to an entire people – in the case of Kenneth Levin's 2005 book, The Oslo Syndrome: Delusions of a People Under Siege, it's the Arab-Israel conflict.

By the time we get to the Paris syndrome, things are getting odd: it's a delusional state which can occur whilst visiting the city. Affecting mainly Japanese tourists, it's apparently an extreme form of culture shock and is blamed on Japanese magazines which feature idealised images of Paris. Florence syndrome, or Stendhal's syndrome, is a similar occurrence, which can produce fainting and confusion when exposed to beauty and art, such as is found in the Italian city. Jerusalem syndrome involves psychotic decompensation when visiting the city.

Paris, Florence and Jerusalem are the only three syndromes that pertain to being in the actual city (and all involve the difference between the city of the imagination, and being unable to cope with the actual reality of the place); with the others it doesn't matter. For example, you can suffer from Oslo syndrome in Jakarta and Stockholm syndrome in London, as long as you get kidnapped, of course.

In the news recently: there was a China syndrome of sorts the other day when the Chinese stock market suffered heavy losses. The term actually refers to a nuclear meltdown, from the somewhat outdated notion that the meltdown would go far down to the other side of the world (apparently, China). Also a fine 1979 thriller starring Jack Lemmon, Michael Douglas and Jane Fonda.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

A guide to photography for tourists

Stand directly in front of the building/object you are taking the photo of. Don't look at it except through the viewfinder/screen of your camera/phone. Be ruthless – obscure anyone else's view if necessary: your photos are more important than theirs. Take thirty photos of the same thing and move on. It is important not to look at what you are taking a photo of except through the screen. This was a recent experience of tourists in the Hermitage museum in St Petersburg (above, Leonardo's Madonna Litta, which may not even be painted by him). God, tourists are arrogant morons. Just buy a postcard! A photo of an object behind glass is never going to turn out well. Whilst I'm at it, tourists love using the flash, when, 1. They're not meant to (when there are No Flash! signs near a painting for example), or, 2. When it's going to ruin the photo (when it's of a reflective surface such as glass or when it's at night and they want to take photo of a cityscape, say). I often want to go over to them and tell them their photos are awful, if you're going to be compulsive about it, you may as well get to know some basics (don't zoom, flash is ugly, the golden rule of thirds etc). They're just oblivious.

Photography has pretty much always been an obsessive, cataloging thing, be it Bernd and Hilla Becher's industrial buildings and structures, Erwin Elliott's dogs, Walker Evans' shop fronts or, more recently, Stephen Zirwes' German public pools and Adrian Skenderovic's Down the river series.

But digital photography and social media have taken obsessive photography to a whole new level, where there's no need to look at anything anymore, just take a photo of it and upload it. The proof of having been there/done that is in the photo. It doesn't matter about the subject matter or the quality – the photo is the proof of existence. Where posting your breakfast on Instragram is the norm, the internet has made ordering, collating, curating and obsessing acceptable behaviour.

Previously on Barnflakes:
Lookalikes #26: Holiday adverts 
A brief history of photography

Saturday, August 15, 2015


The dumped chest of drawers covered in rubbish beside the council estate bins was worthless, until it was taken home, cleaned, and flogged for £150 at a vintage fair. The tack at the car boot sale was worth next to nothing, until identical items appear in vintage shops in Columbian road, EC1, then it becomes vintage, retro crap, I mean chic, and sells for ten times as much. What I'm getting at is that stuff is all about context. And people are all about context too.

My ex bemoans the fact that I (and my parents too actually) like seeing my daughter in context (ie where she lives, not just visiting me) but like seeing animals in a zoo as compared to seeing them in the wild, context is everything.

In a Ted Talk, educationist Ken Robinson talks about creativity in education. He argues that creativity is largely squeezed out of children at a young age in favour of maths, English and the sciences; he believes this is wrong – and cites the example of a now-famous ballet dancer who at school displayed signs of ADHD (this was before the term was invented, mind) and would have been wrongly diagnosed had it not been for an attentive teacher – who realised she just wanted to dance. She went on to start her own dance company and perform in such shows as Cats the Musical.

Many of us are stifled at school and work unable to fulfil our full potential in either. We need to be in the right environment and context to perform well at school and work – all institutions have a tendency to pigeon hole and fail - or don't give a shit – to spot our true talents.

Previously on Barnflakes:
Absolutely famous

Friday, August 14, 2015

Womb vs world

Life is full of the internal and external battle. It starts in the womb – we don't want to leave and come out screaming, against our will. The womb vs world battle is the one we probably never grow out of, so to speak, and every subsequent battle is just a replay of that first massive jolt from inner to outer. We spend nine months in the comfort of the womb, with no idea of what's ahead in the outside world.

Once into adulthood, most of our battles are firmly in place. Getting out of bed in the morning is the first of the day; the morning alarm disrupts the womb-like feel of the warm bed and we go from that dark warmth, comfort and absolute bliss into the cold, blaring light of day. Going from home to work is the next battle – the comfort and sanctity of the home is in marked contrast to the sterile, impersonal environment of the office. Even having to wear clothes is a kind of battle for me – the freedom of nudity and the cost, hassle and uncomfortable, constricting feeling of clothes.

People's move from country to city is another kind of womb vs world battle: now, for the first time in history, more people live in urban areas than rural (54%). Country is nature, spirituality and freedom; it's our natural habitat. The city is crime-ridden, over-populated, cramped and dirty – it hardly feels like a natural environment for humans. Obviously there are many reasons for the move towards urban areas – jobs being one of the main ones, but the move from country to city is such a seismic shift of the hundred years.

If given the choice, I wonder how many of us would choose to ever leave the womb. We should be given the option as we're about to exit the womb to either stay or go.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

People are stories

American historian Richard Carrier spent six years researching the idea that Jesus was never a real person. Well, okay. But does it matter? Religion in general seems to me a series of stories, myths and legends invented by humans as guides to living a good life. Jesus and God are no different to, say, Zeus, Apollo or Winnie the Pooh. Helen said to me: everyone becomes a story in the end, which made me stop and think. This is immediately apparent when someone dies; at their funeral we swap stories of the recently deceased and may even find out something about them we didn't know. Their life has become a story; it's the main way we keep them alive – by relating stories about them: 'Do you remember when so-and-so did this or that?' Living people are stories too. Unless we're actually with that person, their life to us is a series of stories, be it recitals, anecdotes or gossip.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Top ten London creatures

1. Crystal Palace Dinosaurs
Seriously, they're the main reason I moved there.

2. Elephant at Elephant and Castle

3. Albino Bat at Natural History Museum

4. Catford Cat
The best thing about Catford.

5. Camel at The Camel & Artichoke, Waterloo

6. Crystal Palace Sphinxes
Second reason I moved there.

7. Brick Lane Space Invader

8. Kentish Town Camel

9. Hampton Court Panther

10. Pacman Ghost on The Windmill Pub, Lambeth High St

Previously on Barnflakes:
Dick Whittington's Cat
Giro the Nazi Dog

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Lookalikes #37: Robert Frank and George Michael

No, not Robert Frank himself but a photo he took for his hugely influential book of photos, The Americans, published in the States in 1959; and George Michael, around the time of his album Faith (1987).

Previously on Barnflakes:
Book cover: Robert Frank's Les Americains
Robert Frank's ridiculous ratios

Monday, July 20, 2015

Photo opportunity

Unfortunately, I barely have time to think nowadays, let alone write blog posts. However, I have been putting photos up on Flickr on a fairly regular basic. So if you've missing your daily Barnflakes, head over to my Flickr account (Instagram is way too cool – and popular – for me) and enjoy photos from Russia, Bali, Egypt, Morocco and, er, Ilfracombe, amongst others.

Previously on Barnflakes:
A Brief History of Photography

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Top ten films about the theatre

1. Mephisto (István Szabó, 1981)
2. Birdman (Alejandro González Iñárritu, 2014)
3. Synecdoche, New York (Charlie Kaufman, 2008)
4. 42nd Street (Lloyd Bacon, 1933)
5. All About Eve (Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1950)
6. Les Enfants du Paradis (Marcel Carné, 1945)
7. Opening Night (John Cassavetes, 1977)
8. All that Jazz (Bob Fosse, 1979)
9. Céline et Julie Vont en Bateau (Jacques Rivette, 1974)
10. The Producers (Mel Brooks, 1968)

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Public transport courtesy cards

You know how it is – you're on any form of public transport and someone, somewhere, on your train or bus, is annoying you by – say – blocking the doors, eating smelly food, speaking or listening to music too loudly, not moving along the aisle, tapping on their phone, spreading their legs out too wide on a seat or having their bag on an unoccupied seat.

Of course, being British, we've learnt to ignore such annoyances; though we may want to scream at them, civilised society suggests otherwise. Even asking someone to turn their music down would at best disturb the otherwise silence of the carriage and result in possible embarrassment; at worst it could (it actually has!) result in a stabbing.

The solution is these passive-aggressive cards – simply print and cut them out, then surreptitiously hand one out to the offending passenger as you're leaving the carriage, then leg it down the platform.

Monday, July 13, 2015

London Libraries #5: John Harvard, Southwark

The coffee sign bigger – and more prominent – than the library sign

Because of the nice weather I hadn't been to my nearest library to work for some time. It was raining on a recent lunchtime so I nipped in. I was in a shock but in a way it sums up what I dislike most about the inevitability of modern life in general and London specifically. I never liked the library that much to start with; it feels pokey and claustrophobic. But there's now a cafe with canteen-style wooden benches which takes up about a quarter of the library. There's a rug on the wooden floorboards, retro over-hanging lamps, ambient-type music playing (in a library! And people talking! It's meant to be a place of study and silence – like a church) and a few books here and there; there's a general feel to it of being cool, vintage. Obviously, I hate it. But what really struck me was the people. In place of the old-timers, weirdos, out of work Poles and general layouts are stock image looking youth folk laughing over lattes and croissants. WTF? Where did they come from? What's happened to the old regulars? About a quarter of the library is now a lifestyle cafe, leaving less room for sitting down and actually... well, reading. I've bemoaned previously that books and reading are now low down in a library's list of priorities – internet, TV and DVDs are certainly higher up on the list, but this takes it to another level. I actually quite like the combination of coffee and books but this is money-making lifestyle nonsense. And like the nearby demolished Heygate estate where, one day, all of sudden, all the residents just vanished, to be replaced by sparkly new rich people, so the library has zapped the old regulars. Where do they go now? How do they fill their days? It's a mystery, and a sad one.

Previously there was a library around the corner at 56 Southwark Bridge Road, a beautiful tall Victorian building with lots of windows (it's now – shudder – a media training centre). The likewise lovely old Newington library on nearby Walwoth Road is now permanently closed (along with the Cuming museum), due to a fire in 2013. There's now a temporary library called, er, Newington temporary library.

The John Harvard library is named after the Southwark clergyman John Harvard (1607-1638), who went to Massachusetts and founded Harvard University. The library stands on the site of the infamous Marshalsea prison, featured in several Dickens' novels (his father was imprisoned there; and Charles was too, aged 12) and run privately for profit, as most prisons were up until the 19th century. Inmates consisted mainly of debtors, as was the case of the majority of prisons at the time, as well as a healthy dose of pirates, smugglers and those accused of sedition. Sounds great, though I wouldn't have lasted a day. The only part of the prison that remains is a wall adjacent to the library.

Surrounding the rest of the building is a new development (and opposite – new luxury apartments being built) – looks nice, spacious and comfy inside; at first I thought it was a library extension. Wishful thinking, no – it's going to be The Office Group, who 'provide design-led flexible offices in fantastic locations'. Currently cased in scaffolding with childlike illustrations of happy, simple looking-people happily going about their work – including one guy mooning on a photocopier. Do people still do that?

Previously on Barnflakes:
London Bridge Lunches
Cross Bones Graveyard, Southwark

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Doing it yourself all hours

In the old days, rich and even not so rich people used to have everything done for them by servants, butlers and cooks. Some still do today. But generally, today more than any other time, despite – or because of – technology and so-called leisure time, we have to do virtually everything ourselves. It's fair enough we have to dress ourselves and make dinners, but now just about everything else is self-service: petrol stations, supermarkets, and recently the post office. I mean, shouldn't we get a discount if we have to pack our own food or assemble our own furniture? It all feels like more hard work, especially if the bloody machine doesn't work.

It's just been announced that shops will be extending their opening hours on Sundays, and the post office has recently extended its opening times too (no idea why; no one sends letters anymore – let's blame technology again; funny how such an old-fashioned institution has been revitalised due to the internet). All this means more time to spend in queues, more time to get frustrated by self-service machines.

I vaguely remember a time when shops were open 9-5, Monday to Saturday, and closed all day Sunday. If I'd been an adult in those days I would probably have died: if one was doing a 9-5 job, when did they have time to buy food, let alone post letters?

I've always been bemused by shops closing when work finishes; surely they'd do a better trade opening when most people finish work – so, say, 5pm to midnight? The only people around during the day are, well, the retired, the young, the poor and out of work – not, presumably, the demographic of the biggest spenders.

Monday, July 06, 2015

Top ten affliction films

That is, films that feature characters with afflictions. Not films that are afflicted, nor Afflicted, a 2013 horror film, nor any film starring Ben Afflick(ted).

1. Freaks [Various]
2. Psycho [Psycho]
3. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest [Mental illness]
4. Repulsion [Psycho]
5. The Elephant Man [Deformity]
6. Taxi Driver [Post-traumatic stress disorder]
7. 12 Monkeys [Mental illness]
8. It's a Wonderful Life [Deafness]
9. Shock Corridor [Mental illness; journalism]
10. Jacob's Ladder [Post-traumatic stress disorder]

Also worth a visit: 
Donnie Darko [Hallucinations]
My Own Private Idaho [Narcolepsy]
Silver Linings Playbook [Mental illness/nymphomania]
Still Alice [Alzheimer's]
What's Eating Gilbert Grape? [Developmental disability] 
Keane [Mental illness/delusion] 
Rain Man [Autism] 
As Good As It Gets [OCD] 
An Angel At My Table [Shyness]
The Butterfly Effect [Abuse, trauma] 
Melancholia [Depression] 
Pi [Social anxiety disorder, paranoia] 
Punch-Drunk Love [Social ineptitude] 
Forrest Gump [Intellectual disability] 
Electricity [Autism] 
My Left Foot [Cerebral palsy]
A Beautiful Mind [Paranoid schizophrenia]

Previously on Barnflakes:
Notes on afflictions
Stuttering in the movies

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Lookalikes #36: Three and Cadbury's purple creature adverts

Cadbury's Discover the Joy of Puddles and Three's When Stuff Sucks

I've written before about similar films coming out at the same time, and the same can happen with adverts: I've noticed recently there are a bunch of print ads out with images of maps of the UK made out of objects – one is for Heathrow and the other for John Lewis. Anyway, today's lookalikes are two adverts I saw at the cinema, almost back to back, and assumed it was for the same product: both begin with purple soft toys, alone, dejected and rejected in the rain. After numerous setbacks, things start to look better for both purple creatures – and the sun comes out. But no, it was for two different products entirely – chocolate and phones.

All the trillions of elements and billions of years in the universe combine for these two ads to come out playing at the same time in a cinema in Peckham in The Year Of Our Lord 2015, and for people like me to mix them up. They are both also completely over the top, irrelevant to the product, annoying, pointless and rubbish.

Watch the Cadbury's Discover the Joy of Puddles and Three's When Stuff Sucks.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Everyone's a curator

Once upon a time, if you wanted to be a curator (from the Latin for 'take care'), you needed a good honours degree and a PhD in your specialism or a Masters in museum studies. You would also find skills in chemistry, physics, design, business administration, human resources and marketing useful. You would start off doing unpaid work in a museum, then become a museum assistant and eventually working your way up to become a curator (no, life never worked that way for me, either).

However, the modern, hip way to do it is much quicker. Just about everything cool is curated nowadays, be it a website, Instagram account, music festival, DJ set list or a pop up restaurant menu. Maybe even a gallery or museum exhibition. This involves absolutely no experience, skills or qualifications; mostly it's a case of just being a cool musician, photographer, critic, artist or chef and writing a list of your favourite things. Curating can even just be sharing some of your favourite things on the web.

Not surprisingly, proper curators are getting miffed at these upstarts poaching their good, and hard worked for, name. But the English language is constantly evolving (or devolving, depending on your point of view) and no doubt they will come up another term to better describe their job and expose the hipster curators for what they are. Like, er, proper traditional curator?

Sunday, May 31, 2015

London Libraries #4: Canada Water

Opened in 2011, the library at Canada Water has a similar boldness to the award-winning Peckham one. Can a library not just be a library anymore but a bold architectural statement? Anyway, the eye-catching building (though typically I walked out of the train station unable to find it until I realised it was actually directly above the station) is described by architect firm CZWG as an upside pyramid but to me seems more like the Sandcrawler from Star Wars or Noah's Ark run aground. Housed in aluminium sheets, the inside is very chilled out with a 'cultural cafe', performance area, internet points and DVDs. You may even find some books upstairs. It's part of the, ahem, regeneration of the area. The only other time I've been to Canada Water was about a decade ago to shop at the huge Decathlon store across the basin.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Tissues on the train

I don't know, she needs some money for her family; she has two children and no job. Is selling tissues on a train the answer to her prayers? Should we weep into them for sympathy? I like the idea of items to buy being placed on an empty seat next to me (though I'm always nervous to even touch them in case I get shafted with a £10 bill), but I rarely need tissues (I'm a hankerchief kind of guy). I'd like some more variety, though. Coffee, chocolate, a magazine or book, an umbrella, socks or a new jacket perhaps?

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Regeneration Game

I genuinely start to feel a little queasy when I read words like 'regeneration' and phrases like 'fresh urban thinkers' and 'cultural place-making', all of which were read in an Evening Standard article about the 'cultural quarter' planned at Nine Elms and Vauxhall. The piece was essentially an advertorial, naturally, and included phone numbers of estate agents in the body copy. I felt like weeping.

It's all part of the Bilbao effect, where a poor, industrial city was revitalised by plonking a post-modern art gallery in the middle of it; in this case it was Frank Gehry's Guggenheim, an extraordinary building which houses art unable to compete with it.

As I've mentioned previously, this model has been replicated in several dilapidated UK seaside towns including Bexhill-on-Sea, Margate and Eastbourne (with mixed results) and now parts of London too.

Traditionally, though, struggling artists would move into poor, edgy areas and rent cheap studio space. Over time, artisan bakeries and art galleries would pop up, the developers would move in, ruin any character the place had in the first place, and everyone (except the rich, who would move in) would be priced out. This has happened in the east end of London on a large scale in areas like Dalston, Shoreditch and Hoxton. What's also happening now, though, is that this formerly not-exactly-perfect-but-at-least-organic process (which might take years) is forsaken for ready-made 'artists quarters' to provide instant culture kudos and authenticity in order to make a fast buck.

Kings Cross is a recent successful regeneration story which has rebranded itself from a neglected, dodgy no-go area (though I, perversely, prefer the old days of the Scala, the drunks and the skanky prostitutes – now that was character) into an 'extraordinary neighbourhood' with bars, restaurants, apartments, offices (including the Guardian newspaper) and culture. But as a Guardian article points out (whilst failing to mention their new offices being based there), although the area is open to the public, it's all privately owned and a criticism of such projects has been that they favour business over community.

Says Naomi Colvin, Occupy activist: 'You may possibly go to some officially sanctioned kind of entertainment activity which is sponsored by X but there's no scope for people to do something of their own – to do something spontaneous.' Indeed, everything's hunky dory as long as you are working, shopping, eating, drinking or indulging in some kind of X-sponsored activity.

The so-called housing crisis (where 72,000 London homes remain empty and God knows how much empty office space there is) has meant large swathes of the capital being ruined, in particular along the Thames the so-called luxury apartments which to me look ugly as sin. These exclusive, elitist, gated communities have all the atmosphere and charm of a morgue (and indeed, largely remain empty; bought as investment). And they're all identical, with their Carluccio's, Waitrose's and water features.

A form of ethnic (or at least social) cleansing is occurring where a borough like Wandsworth admitting to displacing poor residents to Birmingham to make way for shiny new apartments for the shiny new rich. This is apparently legal. Similarly, I've watched the Heygate estate in Elephant and Castle be completely demolished to make way for new flats as part of the regeneration of the whole area with no concern for the local residents who have no way of affording the new housing.

As London becomes a rich man's circus where community is contrived and art is commerce, the character of the city is being annihilated before our eyes. Developers, big business and government expect us to be thrilled about these 'exciting new retail and office opportunities' but they're all bland and boring and don't really benefit us at all.

Previously on Barnflakes:
Diversity deficit
Modern architecture is rubbish
The Lighthouse at King's Cross

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Image of the day: dolphin love

I often feel like this blog is just a forum for me moaning. No, I mean it. It's in need of some positive energy – hence the above image. Just when I was about to lose faith in charity shops along comes this life-affirming original painting of a multi-coloured dolphin about to copulate with a multi-coloured woman. Yours for £20.

Previously on Barnflakes:
Image of the week: Octopussy

Monday, May 04, 2015

Diversity deficit

It's well known that London is rapidly becoming a millionaire's playground, with large swathes of it bought up by big business and foreign tycoons whilst the poor are priced out. This, in theory, should make it a more interesting and fun place. To be rich is to be free, independent, to do whatever you damn well like. Unfortunately, as no doubt you've noticed, the new affluent areas look identical; bland and homogeneous, devoid of character, like airports the world over.

Conversely, it follows that poor areas should be dull and depressing: after all, there's no money, no freedom, no choice. Yet poorer areas are usually far more interesting than affluent ones. This is usually to with the colourful, multi-cultural mix of people. Traditionally vibrant, poor and multi-cultural areas such as Peckham, Dalston and Brixton are all now rapidly changing but the streets still feel dynamic and full of character. The life is on the street, as it is predominately in Asia and Africa, and these parts of London buzz with the colour, sights, taste and smells of Lagos or Marrakesh (however, I'll be the first to admit that predominately white, poor areas are insufferably depressing).

But the funny thing about being rich is – it's such a leveller. It doesn't matter if they're white American, Saudi, Chinese or Russian – they're rich all the same, with the same tastes. The rich have a diversity deficit. Once you have the most expensive car, watch, house and wife, where do you go from there? Exclusivity is actually less choice by its very nature – it's the top of the pyramid. It's less choice by choice. But if you've got Poundland and Primark and a limited budget the opportunities are endless.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Death of the Polymath

Picture Leonardo da Vinci as your ultimate polymath: painter, sculptor, architect, musician, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist, and writer. It seems almost greedy of him to have so many abilities, what with the rest of the population in those days being unable to read let alone paint masterpieces and invent stuff. Even Michelangelo, though arguably not quite touched with the same brush of genius as Leonardo, did paint the Sistine Chapel (though obviously not all by himself) and carved some decent sculpture, including David, as well as being an accomplished architect, poet and engineer.

The Renaissance – which means rebirth – was a great time of learning, enlightenment and flourishing creativity in the arts and sciences. So it makes sense that the term Renaissance Man derives from this age, where men were experts in many fields of art and science (and indeed, the division between the two wasn't as marked as it is now).

Victorian times also embodied many of these Renaissance elements, with great leaps in knowledge, science, engineering and the arts. It seems polymaths flourished in these times too, and some were autodidacts (I imagine the Victorian polymath as a gentleman – always a man – of means, pottering around in his laboratory or on the Devon coast with his geology hammer and notebook).

In the sciences there was Thomas Young (1773-1829) who made important discoveries in the fields of  vision, light, solid mechanics, energy, physiology, language, musical harmony and Egyptology. Sir Francis Galton (1822-1911) was an explorer, meteorologist, statistician, biometrician and expert in personal identification. William Whewell (1794-1866) was Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, as well as being a scientist, Anglican priest, philosopher, theologian, and historian of science who also achieved distinction in both poetry and mathematics.

Sir Richard Francis Burton (1821-1890) was an explorer, geographer, translator (most famously of the Kama Sutra and A Thousand and One Nights), writer, soldier, orientalist, cartographer, ethnologist, spy, linguist (he apparently spoke 29 languages), poet, fencer, and diplomat.

Even if they weren't actually 'officially' deemed polymaths, Victorians such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle packed an awful lot into their days: he was rather dismissive of his most famous character Sherlock Holmes, and thought he would be remembered instead for the dozens of other sci-fi, fantasy, historical and romance novels he wrote, as well as plays, poetry and non-fiction works. Conan Doyle was also a physician (before he became a full-time writer) and prolific public speaker who dabbled in politics. He was a tireless campaigner for justice (see Julian Barnes' book Arthur & George) and in his later years, advocate of Spiritualism. Likewise, William Morris (1834-1896) was a textile designer, poet, novelist, translator and socialist activist.

Nowadays we don't stay at jobs as long as we used to, so we ought to all be seasoned polymaths, but going from, say, admin assistant in one company to marketing assistant in another, doesn't exactly embody the spirit of the term. The contemporary polymath is more likely to be a pop star who also acts in Eastenders.

There is so much knowledge floating around at the click of a button (or swipe of a screen) that there's really no time or reason to become a polymath: if we want to understand something, we look it up, then move onto the next thing. Instead of polymaths, we now have generalists (the opposite of specialists) who aren't as bright as polymaths, but like to know a little bit of everything.

For me, it's enough to get out of bed in the morning, commute to work, perform a soul-destroying pointless activity all day, go back home, eat, go to sleep, wake up and do it all over again. That's being a polymath in my book.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Notes on not seeing famous people

I didn't see Russell Brand yesterday. Nor did you – right? But let me explain – he walked past me as I was carrying a box in Aldwych; I didn't notice him, I've no idea if he did me. Anyway, I wasn't told about him walking past until an hour later by a colleague. But does it count as a famous person sighting? Well, the consensus seems to be "no". But like my friend who was at a party Madonna was at (but never saw her) or my friend who was at an exhibition Bryan Ferry was at (but never saw him), it must surely count for something for being at the right place at the right time but just not seeing the celebrity. In fact, it's possibly even cooler, it's like: I had better people to talk to (at the Madonna party); more interesting exhibits to look at (at the Bryan Ferry exhibition) and was too busy carrying a box (in Aldwych) to notice. Which is true.

Previously on Barnflakes:
Near coincidences

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Crisp colours

Ever since I can remember, green packets of crisps meant Cheese and Onion; blue packets was Salt and Vinegar; red was Ready Salted. Maybe it was because it was always that way that made it seem logical – I imagined the onions as green spring onions; and blue is the colour of the sea where salt comes from. Ready Salted is in the name – ready = red. Whatever the reason, the colour seemed to reflect the taste  somehow. But since the 1980s, Walker's crisps have insisted on the reverse: their Cheese and Onion crisps come in blue packs; their green packs contain Salt and Vinegar crisps. I've never got used to this and never will. It just seems perverse, akin to a council suddenly deciding to change the meaning of traffic light signals – the red light meaning go and the green light signifying stop.

Such is the influence of Walker's that other brands now emulate their backwards crisp packet colouring – I've recently discovered Sainsbury's crisps follow the same pattern. It irks me; there should be standardisation of such things. Customers in supermarkets complain that they've bought the wrong pack of crisps – yes, they could read the pack but the shelves are so full of different brands and varieties, it would be reassuring to buy according to colour and not have the complication of having to actually read the pack.

The three basic crisp types – despite the introduction of such mouth watering flavours as Sweet Chill, Paprika, Marmite, Salsa, Steak & Ale, Honey & Mustard – have stood the test of time and remain the best selling crisp varieties.

Previously on Barnflakes
The agony of choice

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

My daughter's top ten films (aged 8)

1. Harry Potter series 1-8* (Chris Columbus (1–2); Alfonso Cuarón (3); Mike Newell (4); David Yates (5–8), 2001-2011)
2. My Neighbour Totoro (Hayao Miyazaki, 1988)
3. Maleficent
(Robert Stromberg, 2014)
4. The Witches
(Nic Roeg, 1990)
5. Big Hero Six
(Don Hall & Chris Williams, 2014)
6. The Smurfs
(Raja Gosnell, 2011)
7. Annie
(Will Gluck, 2014)
8. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
(Michael Apted, 2010)
9. Oz the Great and Powerful
(Sam Raimi, 2013)
10. Kiki's Delivery Service
(Hayao Miyazaki, 1989)
*In order of preference:
#1 (Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, 2001) and #2 (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, 2002): "Exciting, getting to know characters; seeing what they're capable of"
#8 (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2, 2011): "Violent, dark, exciting"
#7 (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1, 2010): As above
#3 (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, 2004): "Adventurous"
#4 (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, 2005): "Mysterious"
#6 (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, 2009): "Romantic"
#5 (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, 2007): "Boring"

I tried, I tried, but, really, there was nothing I could do about her inevitable obsession with Harry Potter. She's even gone off Star Wars. At least she likes Studio Ghibli.

Previously on Barnflakes:
Notes on Harry Potter
My daughter's top ten films (aged 7) 
My daughter's top ten films (aged 5)
My daughter's top ten films (aged 3)
Eponymous heroes 'largely dull'

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Socks for Life

Suddenly, socks, which used to be hidden and purely functional, are now hip, ubiquitous and to be showed off. Before Christmas I noticed several adverts belittling the so-called dull tradition of giving socks as presents. Socks and underwear are like my dream presents. For me, nothing else gets more personal, practical and closer to the skin than socks and pants. So this year it's been good to see two features – in the Evening Standard and Time Out – featuring sock subscription services. Socks, ties and pants often seem like the only spheres where the average man can truly express himself sartorially. I love the idea of sock subscriptions – I am always getting holes in mine, and never have enough.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Random Film Review: Big Eyes

(Dir: Tim Burton | USA | 2014 | 106mins)

Big eyes may be Tim Burton's most conventional film yet, albeit one with the most extraordinary but true story. The film concerns Margaret and Walter Keane. In the 1950s Walter Keane became rich and famous for his 'big eye' paintings – pictures of young, waif-like girls with abnormally large eyes. Prints of the paintings were cheaply mass-produced and sold in their millions (similar to other 'kitsch' artists of the time, such as Vladimir Tretchikoff* and JR Lynch), making Walter a celebrity and household name. Only it wasn't Walter who painted the pictures – it was his oppressed wife, Margaret. She eventually left her husband and took him to court in 1970 – where the judge asked them both to paint a 'big eyes' painting in the courtroom. Walter could not – citing a shoulder injury; Margaret produced one in less than an hour.

(Obviously Walter taking credit – and money – for Margaret's work was wrong and he deserved to be punished, but there's a part of me feeling sorry for him. Up until his death – in 2000 – he insisted on his original story that he painted the big eyed pictures. As well as being a heavy drinker, he, unsurprisingly, suffered from delusional disorder. But the thing is, if it hadn't been for Walter's savvy marketing techniques, mousy Margaret would have no doubt remained languishing in obscurity.)

The story of Margaret and Walter reminded me vaguely of another film – the classic noir Scarlet Street (1945) directed by Fritz Lang, starring Edward G Robinson and Joan Bennett. Robinson plays a retired, unhappily married man and amateur painter. He falls in love with a beautiful blonde (Bennett). When Robinson's paintings start selling for large sums, Bennett's abusive boyfriend makes Bennett pose as the painter, selling them in her name. Anyway, a case of life imitating art.

* Have I mentioned my vision of a Technicolor film of Tretchikoff's life – filmed as a lush, lurid, kitsch MGM Vincente Minnelli musical-cum-thriller-cum-romance? I have? Okay.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

In terms of moving forward

"Choose a job you love and you'll never have to work a day in your life."
– Confucius

"How the hell could a man enjoy being awakened at 6.30am by an alarm clock, leap out of bed, dress... and fight traffic to get to a place where essentially you make lots of money for somebody else and were asked to be grateful for the opportunity to do so?"
– Charles Bukowski

I've mentioned the crazy, fast-moving office environment previously (I know, more than once); how office jargon changes on such a regular basis, it's hard to keep track of the hackneyed buzz phrases and clichéd idioms. Last year it was literally all about 'in terms of' and 'literally'.

But 'literally' has, literally, been tied up, shoved into a van in a grey sack weighed down with bricks and chucked into South End pier. Literally. Tellingly, the 'in terms of' sales guy has left, and the phrase died almost instantly. In its place, thanks to the new marketing girl, ground-breaking new phrases were ushered in, and took over the office like ebola within a matter of days: 'moving forwards', 'happy with that' and 'keen to catch up' (notice lack of pronoun text speak with the latter two).

Old ones were still heard from time to time: 'touching base' even made an appearance late on a Monday afternoon. 'Historically' and 'Oh right' reared their ugly heads from time to time. I can't be sure if I really did hear this smorgasbord of office speak in the same sentence: 'In terms of moving forward I'm literally happy with that', but I like to think that I did. Like Sherlock Holmes never actually uttering 'Elemenary, my dear Watson', it feels like he should have.

Previously on Barnflakes:
Wasting time
Just a quick one
Four-day working week
Introverts vs extroverts
'In terms of' overtakes 'literally'
London Bridge Lunches
The Metros
Email étiquette
I'm literally not being funny but let me ask you a question
The Offensive Office

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Asterix vs Asterisk

In the 1970s and 80s there was a war raging between Tintin and Asterix. You either liked one or the other. I was – and am still – a Tintin fan, and never liked Asterix. The impish Gaul has been having adventures since 1959 and has proved hugely popular. He's not to be confused, as some people seem to do, with the humble asterisk [as-tuh-risk], derived from the Greek for 'little star', and is used as a reference mark or footnote*.

*Like this. It can be used to indicate additional or doubtful matter. Such as, be careful also not to confuse Obelix with obelisk.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Just another brick in the wall

Proclaimed by CNN as one of the 'ten must-see exhibitions in the world' and being a keen Lego fan, I was looking forward to The Art of the Brick exhibition, cleverly located on Brick Lane, East London, and running until 12 April and way over-priced. My daughter loved it – but she's eight. I was less than impressed and thought there was something of the Emperor's New Clothes about it. I wouldn't have minded so much if it didn't pitch itself so persistently as being ART. In the press, in interviews, in the plaques next to each piece, and of course in the title itself, The Art of the Brick, the exhibition consistently informs us it's ART, made by an ARTIST, Nathan Sawaya. Indeed, on the website it goes as far as to say:

Nathan Sawaya has earned a top position in the world of contemporary art and has created a new dimension by merging Pop Art and Surrealism in awe inspiring and ground breaking ways. His art consists of playing with the material, colour, movement, light and perspective.

Really? To me, the exhibition had nothing whatsoever to do with art (it lacks feeling for a start), unless it's the Daily Mail idea of art (which Jonathan Jones in the Guardian wittily explained a while ago in an article called Why does the Daily Mail love to hate art?) – ie bridges made out of matchsticks, ie CRAFT. Anything remotely thought-provoking, challenging or disturbing is dismissed by the Daily Mail (ignored if they don't understand it; shocked and outraged if it's disturbing). The work in the Lego exhibition is undeniably, technically adept, but let's not call it ART.

It copies ART. Literally. There are Lego reproductions of paintings by Van Gogh, Klimt, Munch, Michelangelo and others. They're technically well done, mostly. But the pieces that make up the rest of the exhibition, the pieces that the artist plummeted the depths of his soul to create, the pieces that are 'awe-inspiring' and 'inspired' looked to me like nothing more than clichéd business stock image photography.

For example:
Clichéd business stock image photograph.

Clichéd business stock image Lego exhibit.
There are loads of them just like this – all clichéd conceptual crap not seen since 1990s business magazines. I appreciate the work that's gone into the exhibition (over 1m bricks!), but come on, it's time to grow up.

Previously on Barnflakes:
Legoland wildlife
Lego Architecture
Star Wars Lego

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Not So Bored Games

Over the Christmas period there were iPads and iPhones and crappy TV but we had most fun playing Scrabble and Monopoly. There has been a resurgence of interest in board games. Depending on your point of view, this is either due to a backlash against technology or simply just because they're fun, social and vaguely brain involving – the latter three I find myself not indulging in enough nowadays.

London's first board game cafe, Draughts, opened recently in Hackney, naturally (other recent themed cafes to the area include the Cereal Killer Cafe and Lady Dinah's Cat Emporium), claiming to house more than five hundred board games. Its website informs us there are board games cafes all over the world but none in London until Draughts. Even so, I've noticed a lot of pubs and cafes around the capital do have board games for punters. At a cafe in Vauxhall recently I noticed was half full of people huddled round a table playing a fantasy board game; the other half were playing draughts.

Like chocolate bars now coming in a thousand different varieties (when only one is really needed), so does the traditional board game now come in many various guises (and, of course, available on tablets and phones). Monopoly, especially, seems to have the, erm, monopoly in bizarrely themed editions. Aside from the mainstream Disney, Lord of the Rings and Batman editions, there is a Swindon Monopoly (yes, the town), a Bass Fishing Monopoly, a Sun Maid Monopoly (yes, the raisins), a Blackberry phone Monopoly, a QVC Monopoly (yes, the shopping channel) to name just a few.

Hipsters and other such folk are actually making quirky homemade board games. Indeed, two friends of mine have recently made their own: one, an Alton estate-themed Monopoly game (Altonopoly); the other, a self-proclaimed pointless and retro-feeling game called Meritocrazy (see image above, and here for more details).

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Top ten long films

What constitutes a long film? It seems that nowadays most films try to push the three hour mark (and the audience's endurance), from Boyhood (165mins) and The Dark Knight Rises (165mins) to The Hobbit (169mins) and Cloud Atlas (172mins). Long films aren't even classified as 'epic'; the three hour mark has become the norm.

(As I've written previously, in my humble opinion, a film generally shouldn't be more than 90 minutes; an album no more than 45 minutes in length and a novel no longer than 350 pages.)

Anyway, even the above films feel like mere nano seconds compared to some on this list, which all boldly pass the three hour mark (180mins). I don't mind long films at all; I have fond memories of seeing the extended version of La Belle Noiseuse (240mins) at the cinema – which included a twenty minute single take shot of a man drawing. On the other hand, I have fallen asleep during Bela Tarr films.

1. Andrei Rublev (Tarkovsky, 1966, 205mins)
2. Gone With The Wind
(Fleming, 1939, 238mins)
3. The Clock
(Marclay, 2010, 1440mins ie 24hrs)
4. Shoah
(Lanzmann, 1985, 613mins)
5. Tree with Wooden Clogs
(Olmi, 1978, 186mins)
6. Heaven's Gate
(Cimino, 1980, 219mins)
7. Napoléon
(Gance, 1927, 330mins)
8. Empire
(Warhol, 1964, 485mins)
9. Sátántangó
(Tarr, 1994, 450mins)
10. Céline et Julie en Bateau
* (Rivette, 1974, 193mins)

*I had to include a Jacques Rivette film but not his 760 minute (twelve hour), rarely shown epic Out 1 – recently released on DVD in a 5 disc edited version – only 253 minutes long.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Top ten short films

1. Un Chien Andalou (Bunuel/Dali, 1929, 21mins)
2. Meshes in the Afternoon (Deren/Hammid, 1943, 14min)
3. Scorpio Rising (Anger, 1963, 30mins)
4. La Jetée (Marker, 1963, 26mins)
5. Dimensions of Dialogue (Švankmajer, 1982, 14mins)
6. A Propos de Nice (Vigo, 1930, 25mins)
7. The Grandmother (Lynch, 1970, 33mins)
8. Girl Chewing Gum (Smith, 1976, 11mins)
9. Necrology (Roll Call of the Dead) (Lawder, 1971, 12mins)
10. Artwar (Keen, 1993, 5mins)

Monday, February 02, 2015

Homeless Movies hits 100,000 on YouTube

Homeless Movies, the moving image arm of Barnflakes on YouTube, now has over 100,000 hits. It also has 38 followers. I have no idea why. Here's the only video I've uploaded for the last couple of years, Flashing Cherubs, named after the soundtrack song by Arab Strap, a great Scottish band who never quite made it. Twelve people have watched it so far.

Previously on Barnflakes:
Homeless Movies Hits 10,000!

Elsewhere on Barnflakes:
Film and Video

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The best film ever made

Last week the best film ever made was released. Critics and audiences alike are unanimous in agreeing that its blend of suspense, action, CGI, acting, cinematography, sex, violence, misogyny and misanthropy make it the best thing ever seen. Insipid 3 has broken all box office records and gained more 5 star reviews than anything ever. Famous directors across the globe – from Spielberg and Scorsese to Anderson and erm, Anderson, have literally thrown in the towel, wondering what the point of it all is anymore. The pinnacle has been reached, why continue with this fruitless endeavour of churning out sub-Insipid 3 fodder? There was no clue whatsoever in either Insipid 1 or Insipid 2 that the third instalment would be such a defining moment of international cinema. Audiences and critics united have laughed, cried, been terrified and outraged by this cinematic tour de force that seemed to come out of nowhere yet always been here. 

• Insipid 4 will be released next year. 

Previously on Barnflakes:
Kim Vs Kim
Vertigo Knocks Kane Off Top Spot

Thursday, January 15, 2015

London Libraries #3: Upper Norwood

I really can't complain about Upper Norwood library (on Westow Hill in Crystal Palace), though obviously I will: due to cutbacks it's only open three days a week. Its DVDs cost more to rent than to buy in a charity shop. Finally, I've never actually borrowed a book from the library. But its plus points outnumber its minuses: just look at the second headline down on its website: THE PHOTOCOPIER STILL WORKS! Love it. The library has an old-fashioned, musty feel to it. It's the only independent, jointly funded library in the UK. Margaret Lockwood, who I watched only a few days ago in The Lady Vanishes (one of my favourite films), was a regular visitor: she actually borrowed The Lady Vanishes* from the library – the book, not the DVD, pay attention, this was in the 1930s. There are always lots of books, DVDs, CDs and comics on sale too.

Previously on Barnflakes:
London libraries
Crystal Palace subway
Random Film Review: The Pleasure Garden
London through its charity shops #25: Crystal Palace
The dinosaurs of Crystal Palace

*The film was actually based on The Wheel Spins (1936) by Ethel Lina White.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Down these mean streets a man must go, my dear Watson

Aside from a woman 'kicking and punching a man to death and dumping his body in a skip after he tried to chat her up' last year, nothing sinister tends to come from suburban Norwood in South East London.

So it comes as a surprise that the creators of two of the coolest detectives ever – Sherlock Holmes and Philip Marlowe – both lived within a few miles of each other in the seemingly sleepy suburb of Norwood (though not, unfortunately, at the same time). Just as his writing was taking off, and he was able to quit his not-quite-successful-career as a doctor to become a full-time author, Conan Doyle moved to Tennison Road in South Norwood, where he would live with his family from 1891-1894. He wrote a Sherlock Holmes story, The Adventure of the Norwood Builder (1903) partly set in the area and some of The Sign of Four (1890) is said to be too, though Conan Doyle hadn't moved to the area then, so it may be unlikely.

Last year the house in Auckland Road, Upper Norwood, where Raymond Chandler lived from 1900-1905, was given a blue plaque. The author of novels featuring the hard-boiled detective Philip Marlowe, including The Big Sleep and Farewell, My Lovely, Chandler studied at nearby Dulwich College where his grounding in the classics apparently made his pulp novels a cut above the rest. Philip Marlowe got his name from Marlowe House (named after the writer Christopher Marlowe), which Chandler belonged to whilst at Dulwich College. He also overlapped, though never met, fellow author PG Wodehouse.

I love the idea of writers living near other and bumping into each other. Even if they lived in different times, as Chandler and Conan Doyle did, the concept of them meeting is tantalising. I can imagine them convening  together for coffee and cake and discussing how to surreptitiously kill someone with arsenic or deadly nightshade.

Previously on Barnflakes:
Plucked from the ether
Alice and Arthur

Sunday, January 11, 2015

All Types of Ass In Stock

Inspired by Economy Custard's Missing Letter of the Week, the above has two key missing letters from the word GLASS, from an old, now closed down, glass and mirror shop opposite Brockwell Park. The missing letters just must have been done on purpose.