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ruth_cole

ruth_cole

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Reviews written

since 08/12/2001

123

Everything from 0-9 13/12/2005

I'm sure I never meant to do these again...

Everything from 0-9 ... but Paul asked so nicely. And dadmancat is on holiday and we've agreed to take turns being miserable b*stards. 5 THINGS I CAN DO > Get thoroughly f*cked off I find myself doing this with increasing regularity (and style... I'm more caustic than ever, and occasionally eloquent with it) to the point at which I feel that anger is now a ground state of being and laughter is merely at others. > Be lovely and polite on the phone It's a peculiar fact, but being a cynical caustic wench of the highest order IN NO WAY prevents me from being a charming technical support / web content manager / teacher-trainer. > Read very fast. But really, there's no challenge in reading Harry Potter and the Very Long Book in a few hours. > Get excited about men's jumpers Seriously. My other half has worries. > Turn a molehill into a mountain I'm incredibly neurotic. I make an artform out of it... one of those particularly useless ones, like bonsai. 5 THINGS I CAN'T DO > Write a novel Essay? Short story? Opinion? Eeeeeeeeeeasy. Extended period of thought and development? Naaaah. >Stop talking I'm a world class rambler, natterer, witterer and gossip. > Find the perfect word But I'm in relentless pursuit of it. > Spell "system" without trying to put an "n" on the end. > Be patient. It is not in my Mediterranean nature. 5 THINGS I SAY MOST OFTEN > "What the f...?" I have the language of a guttersnipe / soldier / sailor / maligned figure used as ...

Sweet And Lowdown (DVD) 03/12/2005

Bittersweet and Lovely

Sweet And Lowdown (DVD) It's fair to say I was born to like Woody Allen's films (the man himself I'm not so crazy about). Neurotic, sarcastic and Mediterranean (Greek families… Jewish families… if we're ladling on the stereotypes, there ain't a lot of difference). I say this because it probably affects my response to his films, making me possibly less or more critical depending on expectation fulfilment. Sweet and Lowdown didn't let me down. A charming, deft bittersweet comedy mockumentary-dramatisation, the film begins with Allen explaining the choice of Emmet Ray ("the second best jazz guitarist in the world after Django Reinhardt") as the focus of his dramatisation. A handful of jazz historians, DJs and biographers complement him in introducing and then sustaining the story of Emmet Ray, a blustering, neurotic and absurd musician whose life takes an interesting turn when he meets a mute laundry girl… Sean Penn does at least one wonderful thing in his portrayal of the fictional wannabe jazz maestro; he doesn't play Woody playing Emmet. Many a time Allen chooses, for whatever reason, to withdraw from taking on the main role but the actor who replaces him can't resist a certain amount of Allenesque twitching. Although Penn's performance results in a wonderfully bizarre man, at times a caricature of the image he's trying to project, and although this means a fair amount of twitching and wisecracking, Penn is too much his own man to be a stand-in for Allen. If anything, it's more occasional ...

A Sound Like Someone Trying Not To Make A Sound - John Irving 29/11/2005

A Book For Someone Who Likes Good Books

A Sound Like Someone Trying Not To Make A Sound - John Irving As both a die-hard John Irving fan and a lifetime worshipper of really beautiful picture books for children, the knowledge that the two would be combined in one package was hard to resist. And indeed, I'm glad I didn't resist it, as for the most part this was exactly what my expectations had demanded. A Sound Like Someone Trying Not To Make A Sound first appeared as part of Irving's novel A Widow For One Year. In the novel dry, charming ladies-man children's author Ted Cole tells tales to his daughter Ruth to help her overcome her nightmares. He then publishes them, splattered with inky illustrations. Most of these, such as The Door In The Floor are darkly nightmarish visions (probably more so to parents than children), but Irving had a special fondness for A Sound… since this was the one that most reminded him of telling stories to his own children, and he explains in the short, sweet Introduction to this book that he gives it as a gift to Ted Cole because it is "the story that, to me, made the most sense of nightmares". Irving's creation of Ted Cole, he tells us, he is taking to task authors who seek to frighten children - this story seeks to soothe. This background is, I believe, a useful pre-emptive defence to the accusations I've read on the likes of Amazon, about the darkness of the story. It is not a primary-coloured foray into magic worlds. But I strongly believe that it has this in its favour. As with most brooding and beautifully illustrated children's books, ...

Girlfriend in a Coma - Douglas Coupland 04/11/2005

It's A Wonderful Life

Girlfriend in a Coma - Douglas Coupland Girlfriend In A Coma has almost exactly the same character as its protagonists - human, blowing hot and cold, involving but somehow not that likable. That's not to say it's not a rather good book. But it's entirely possible to leave it not knowing whether to congratulate or slap the main characters. The book begins with two tragic incidents. It's 1979. Jared, a 16-year-old sex-mad footballer (in the Canadian sense), recounts dying of leukaemia. Karen loses her virginity on a snow-carpeted mountaintop, and within an hour collapses, falling into an inexplicable coma. The two events are connected only by Richard, Karen's boyfriend and Jared's oldest friend, who takes up the story and navigates the next 20 years. How the events surrounding Karen's coma (strangely predicted by the girl herself through odd visions of a vaguely apocalyptic future) and Jared's death come together again is the great question - to answer it would be a terrible review. Douglas Coupland's tripartite novel seems incredibly long for such a short book. Contradiction in terms perhaps, but each of the three sections seems to draw you to the edge of your seat, gasping for the next. Coupland heavily foreshadows the events of the next part without ever giving up the gold at the end of the rainbow. It's possibly because of this that the characters undergo such revolutions. Since Richard is the character we grow up with, from seventeen to thirty five, from an adolescence pierced almost fatally by ...

Everything that starts with C ... 23/10/2005

Ciaoity Begins At Home

Everything that starts with C ... Well. I never thought I'd be writing this review. For one, if I'm brutally honest, I've never been one for particularly worrying about the community side of Ciao. I don't read much, I comment and write less, and most of my activity on the site is down to liking the sound of my own voice and raking in a few pence. Oh, and catching up with a handful of extremely lovely people I've had the good fortune to meet on here. So, in theory, I should have little negative to say. I've met some great people. I've had the chance to voice my opinion. And 99.9% of the time, I've been blissfully uninvolved in pettiness, squabbling or related bullsh*t. The other 0.1% of the time, I've been dragged in kicking and screaming. But recently, it HAS begun to bother me. Because I've seen people I like and respect have their writing, characters and opinions dragged through the mud by people whose horses have become so high that police are wondering where their confiscated drugs haul has gone. So in spite of the fact that this is definitely taking things far more seriously than I on the whole actually take the site, in defence of them (not that they've ever asked for it), I guess I do have something to say. Part the First: Forever Friends I have friends on this site. I usually rate them very highly. This is because, on the whole, I bothered to get chatting with them in the first place because I liked their writing. So yes, the disparate likes of The Duke, dadmancat, OllyPlimsoll, ickkate ...

Until I Find You - John Irving 21/10/2005

Lost and Found

Until I Find You - John Irving As a committed John Irving fan, it's hard for me to write something that could be considered critical of the man, especially in regard to his most personal and autobiographical release to date. While it's easy to be flippant about The Fourth Hand (which reads a little too much like a draft of an interesting idea), it's harder to be truly fair to Until I Find You, especially since I think it makes an enormous difference to the reading of this book if you have read much Irving before. Until I Find You is the story of actor Jack Burns, whose unnervingly steely tattoo-artist mother Alice takes him on a northern European odyssey on the heels of his absent father, tattoo-obsessed organist William Burns. Following what appears to be a trail of his father's damaged women without ever finding his father, Jack, a beautiful and sexually precocious child, is then cloistered in the oestrogen atmosphere of a girls school and becomes an actor chiefly by playing to his internal "audience of one" - his father. Jack Burns barely navigates his life through a series of strong, very different women, finally deciding that it is one very important missing man he needs. Irving has spent years denying that his common themes of distant and disrupted families (I won't say dysfunctional, it's his characters that are dysfunctional, never mind their families) are inspired by the fact that he never knew his birth father. His adoptive father - who provided him with the surname he still bears - was an ...

Closer (DVD) 09/08/2005

Is That Love?

Closer (DVD) Intimacy. A funny little word and with so many meanings… what is intimacy in a relationship? Most people would say that sex is pretty intimate, but then they'll also look for "real" intimacy, which broadly speaking is probably taken to be a feeling of closeness in friendship, and not just in lust. A kiss, say some, is more intimate than sex. Closer is a film about intimacy, in that none of the protagonists have a clue what it is. The story isn't really as complex as people had suggested to me. Two couples wind their way through various adulterous twists and turns in an attempt to find happiness (or perhaps, as one character suggests, in an attempt to avoid it, since they don't think they deserve it). Larry (Clive Owen) is a boorish, highly sexed dermatologist with a ballistic temper, Daniel (Jude Law) a passive-aggressive failed writer; batting for the girls are Alice (Natalie Portman) a stripper-come-waitress and Anna (Julia Roberts), a glacially calm and yet fiercely troubled photographer. To give too much away about who's with who is a) to ruin the complexities the film DOES have and b) beside the point. What's more interesting is each character arc and path. Daniel is the most insidious. Apparently sweet and nerdish, he is revealed by turns to be arrogant, vicious, obsessive and the worst kind of coward: standing behind his necessity to be brutally truthful is his pride in the fact that, as insignificant as he knows himself to be, he can inflict pain this way, ...

Lost Souls - Doves 18/06/2005

Reprise

Lost Souls - Doves In a typically garbled and ridiculous attempt to make myself understood, in my last Doves review I said that The Last Broadcast was a better album than Lost Souls. It isn't, but I do think it's destined to be more popular, more mainstream and more accessible. So… I kinda retract. If you get what I mean. If you don't, well, makes no difference, you should listen to both anyway. :P Aaron, another one just for you. :P Lost Souls is, as debut albums go, a pretty classy offering. 10 full tracks and 2 instrumental mood-pauses (a regular Dovesian trick to keep the album flowing as a single musical offering rather than a collection of individual singles-fodder) join together to form a beautifully turbulent river of sound, or something equally lovely and pretentious. :) There are certain trends in Doves music that have become more pronounced through Last Broadcast and Some Cities. Roughly speaking, the title track is always a bit vague, there is at least one bass thumping indie chart-fodder track, and there is at least one piece of genuine musical genius. Probably the best way to give you a flavour of how this album works is to embark on it track by track as if it's a big, hairy, beardy Mancunian rollercoaster. Lost Souls kicks off with an atmospheric and slightly creepy instrumental intro track, and these as a rule have slight echoes of the band's Sub Sub past and their fondness for blending unusual sounds to make slightly melancholy and blurry music. All of Lost ...

Harvie Krumpet (Animated) (DVD) 10/04/2005

“Fakt: Life is like a cigarette...

Harvie Krumpet (Animated) (DVD) Smoke it to the butt.” Born in a freezing Polish winter in 1922, Harvek Milos Krumpetski is a man destined for bad luck, even after he changes his name and emigrates to Australia. Never mind the Tourette’s Syndrome, it’s the losing his family and being struck by lightning it’s going to be harder to deal with... (And yes, I DID think Hershel Krustofsky) Adam Elliot is an amazing man. Never mind my groupie-ish predilection for writers, musicians and, especially, artists, he’s just downright brilliant. For a decade he honed his vision of Harvie Krumpet, a 22-minute claymation film bearing his hallmark lumpen grey figures (somewhere between Wallace and Grampa Simpson). He made a series of short films (each one espousing themes generally not considered the domain of animation, such as disability and death) and finally worked up to his magnum opus, the result of 14 months of painstaking work. Winner of the 2003 Academy Award for Best Animated Short, Harvie Krumpet is a wonderfully funny, moving and intensely inventive animation. Using the freedom that animation allows to manipulate the audience and yet sticking to clearly realistic principles, Harvie makes the most of this simple tale of bad luck and learning to live with it. As such there’s everything from snoozing gently in an armchair at a retirement home to delusional Busby Berkeley routines featuring little old men in wheelchairs. And Harvie pulls no punches. Other than dealing sensitively with Harvie’s ...

Last Broadcast - Doves 07/04/2005

Words

Last Broadcast - Doves I dedicate this review to TheDuke because I know exactly how much he loves Doves. :P Listening to The Last Broadcast for, oh, the nth time, I never fail to notice just how damn good it is. Unusual for a second album, this 2003 follow-up to Doves’s debut, Lost Souls, is even better than its predecessor, despite their most breathtaking creation to date, The Cedar Room, nestling smugly on Lost Souls. I’ve tried to describe Doves to a cousin in New York who’d never heard a note before. What I came up with was unutterably clumsy, but, I think, accurate. Take a pinch of arrogant Mancunian indie-kid a la Oasis (a comparison aided by Doves brotherly backbone, Jez and Andy Williams), throw in a bit of shoegazing melancholia a la Thousand Yard Stare (provided by drawling frontman Jimi Goodwin, who first joined forces with the Williams twins as dance outfit Sub Sub) and add a large dose of generally successful ambition to be much more than your average indie miseries. In a nutshell, this is melodic, guitar-driven, intelligent, beautiful and surprisingly emotional stuff. “So here we are / our last broadcast” A track list, for those that like ‘em: 1. Intro 2. Words 3. There Goes The Fear 4. M62 Song 5. Where We’re Calling From 6. New York 7. Satellites 8. Friday’s Dust 9. Pounding 10. Last Broadcast 11. The Sulphur Man 12. Caught By The River I like to think of Doves songs as breaking loosely into two categories. The more mainstream, anthemic ...

You Can Count On Me (DVD) 04/04/2005

You Can Count On Me

You Can Count On Me (DVD) I first came across esteemed playwright Kenneth Lonergan when I saw the much-touted production of his This Is Our Youth the year before last. Since then I’ve kept meaning to follow up and finally got one more step down the road in watching his celluloid directorial debut, You Can Count On Me. This simple tale of fraught familial relations stars the luminous Laura Linney in an Oscar nominated turn as Sammy Prescott, who has spent her whole life in Scottsville, New York, and has settled into a routine of being Lending Officer at the local bank, raising her son Rudy (Rory Culkin) as a single parent, and filing the correspondence she receives from her wayward brother, Terry (Mark Ruffalo in a career breakthrough performance). Over the course of a few months, however, her life seems to slowly revolve on its axis, as Terry returns home for an extended visit, her new boss (Matthew Broderick) gives her no end of trouble and her commitment-phobic ex (Jon Tenney) wanders back into the picture. You Can Count On Me sounds dreadful on paper. A story about an uptight chick learning from her pot-smoking brother, right? In theory. Except that it’s much, much better than that. Sammy as Linney skilfully plays her is a fully three-dimensional character, neither saint nor sinner. She is a church-going, adulterous, kind-hearted, forthright, generous smart-ass. She tries to be a good person, and she dresses formally and takes pride in raising her son well, but she never claims to be the ...

Festen (DVD) 25/03/2005

The Celebration

Festen (DVD) In March of 1995, director Lars Von Trier took his concept of a new wave of cinema to fellow filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg. Within hours, the two had thrashed out a filmmaking Vow of Chastity, and called it Dogme95. The rules were Spartan: you had to shoot in the location in which the film took place, with no props, sets or anything else that could not be found there already. No special lighting effects were allowed, and the camera must be held by hand. The film should be entirely character-driven. The first Dogme95 film was Festen (The Celebration). Thomas Vinterberg’s Festen, for which he co-wrote the script, is a very unsettling film, not least of all because it leaves you with the feeling that certain things ought to be more disturbing, and others less so. The straightforward plot is that of a simple birthday gathering in the Danish countryside. Helge is turning 60, and he gathers around him his extended family and his wife, Elsie, and children, the flaky Helene, silent, bereaved Christian and raging youngest, Michael. The toastmaster announces the speeches, and suddenly a host of family secrets come tumbling out of the closet… It’s interesting that in a film that’s supposed to be entirely about character, the first thing that hits you is the camera-work. Of course that’s the point of Dogme filmmaking, to fight the established traditions. The shaky, claustrophobic position of the camera, buzzing, at first around Christian’s head, and then resting at strange angles ...

The Motorcycle Diaries (DVD) 24/03/2005

...I am not the me I was.

The Motorcycle Diaries (DVD) At the beginning of 1952, 29-year-old Alberto Granado and 23-year-old Ernesto Guevara “Fuser” de la Serna set out on a planned Odyssey the length and breadth of Latin America, starting in their beloved Argentina and taking in Chile, Peru and Colombia before reaching their projected destination at the northernmost point of Venezuela. On this touching and romantic (in the Dumas sense of the word) journey, the twinkling-eyed biochemist and his young almost qualified doctor friend, the man who would be “Che”, set out to learn all about the America they lived with but failed to understand… For The Motorcycle Diaries, director Walter Salles drew on two books, the journals of Granado and Guevara. Although the story is in a way the prequel to the mythology of the Cuban revolutionary and there is one main character, each man has a prominent role to play, and this is reflected in the excellent casting of Gael Garcia Bernal as Guevara and Rodrigo de la Serna as the owner of the motorcycle in question: a clapped-out 1939 Norton 500. Bernal is perfect casting for Guevara, not only because he has tremendous presence and matinee-idol good looks, but because in those molten-chocolate peepers there’s a great sense of gravitas; he seems to reflect the weight of history. Interestingly, in the interview included on the DVD, Bernal highlights Guevara’s irreverence, and yet it is the extremely reverential, if aggressively youthful, performance that he delivers that makes the film. This is ...

Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now - Andrew Collins 29/01/2005

This Charming Man

Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now - Andrew Collins I’m not sure, but I think Andrew Collins might be the perfect man. He’s funny, articulate, a music AND movie nut, sweet, a talented artist, into clothes and nice with it. If only he were 10 years younger (he’s 40 in a matter of weeks, though he doesn’t look it), taller, a little less skinny and a lot less married, I’d be stalking enthusiastically. ;) As it is, I can stalk by proxy as we chart the university days of the young Andy Collins. Following on from his tale of an idyllic 70s childhood in Northampton (I confess I haven’t read Where Did It All Go Right?), Andrew documents his 80s higher education experiences using his diaries, letters home, poetry, opera (yes, HIS opera) and his graphic design portfolio, for that is the reason he left the security of Northampton to venture forth in London and Chelsea School of Art. Documenting, analysing and recounting everything from his girlfriends to his graphics, from his hall-of-residence meals to meeting new people and from homesickness to (temporary) homelessness with frank and disarming humour, Collins has anybody with half a heart from the word go. It particularly helps if you have any musical interest or knowledge – as if the Smiths title wasn’t a give away, Andrew – or rather Andy Kollins, self-conscious art student – punctuates his recollections with tapes and tunes. It’s also a strangely unexpected outpouring, and charmingly frank. Okay, so there’s the typical student drunkenness and randomness, and a pretty ...

Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004) 05/01/2005

A Series of Underwhelming Events

Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004) Based on the series of popular kids tragedies by Lemony Snicket (aka Daniel Handler), A Series of Unfortunate Events cobbles together events from the first three in the series, The Bad Beginning, The Reptile Room and The Wide Window. The basic premise of both books and film is that if a bad thing can happen... it certainly will. Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire (is anyone else thinking Von Bulow? No? Just me, then...) are happy as three siblings who like, respectively, to invent, read and bite can be. That is until their parents are killed in a fire that destroys their mansion home, and the young children (14, 10 and infant) are left in the charge of snuffling banker Mr. Poe, who immediately escorts them to the tottering home of the wiry, wily and wicked Count Olaf, allegedly a distant relative. It soon becomes clear that Olaf is after the Baudelaire fortunes, and plans to secure his succession in the time-honoured murderous fashion. What follows is a sequence of tragedies and near misses, as the orphans are shunted from the wacky to the weird (relatively speaking) and Olaf, a self-proclaimed master of disguise, is in pursuit. The story is held together by shadowy investigator / author / narrator Lemony Snicket (whose voice sounds surprisingly like Jude Law's). Let's get the book/film bit out of the way first. Being a condensation of three books that fit into a series currently spanning to at least ten, there's the problem of how to fit in a resolution where there is ...
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