02 December 2013

The Vagina
A Literary & Cultural History

The Vagina
The Vagina: A Literary & Cultural History, by Emma LE Rees, is a study of cultural representations of the vagina in literature, the visual arts, and the media. Coincidentally, Naomi Wolf wrote a book on the same subject earlier this year (Vagina), though Rees began researching and writing The Vagina several years before Wolf.

Just as this year saw two cultural histories of the vagina, by Rees and Wolf, a decade ago there were two other vagina books published almost simultaneously: Catherine Blackledge's The Story Of V and Jelto Drenth's The Origin Of The World. Rees's book is superior to all three previous works; its scope incorporates linguistics, mythology, feminist theory, art, literature, and popular culture.

Rees observes that the vagina and the c-word exist in a paradoxical state of "covert visibility". They are familiar, yet unseen. Their cultural representations often take the form of thinly-veiled allusions, indirect references that the audience understands without making them explicitly visible. The euphemistic phrase 'the c-word' itself depends upon such collective understanding: its true meaning is hidden in plain sight. Rees calls it "the don't-see word", and argues that "if we make the c-word seen, might we fundamentally reclaim the right to talk about the significant issues it currently eclipses?"

Rees (like Marina Warner in Phantasmagoria and other books) draws on a wide range of cultural reference points, from mythology and folklore to pornography and sitcoms. Her background is in Shakespeare studies, although she makes no distinction between literature and popular culture. Consequently, her book is the first truly comprehensive cultural history of the vagina.

01 December 2013

5,000 Years Of Tiles

5,000 Years Of Tiles
5,000 Years Of Tiles, by Hans van Lemmen, is a history of decorative ceramic tiles from their origins in Ancient Greece onwards. As van Lemmen writes in his introduction, the book "traces the rich legacy of tiles from pre-history to the present day, revealing how tiles have evolved both in terms of production and as an artistic medium". It supersedes Anne Berendsen's Tiles: A General History as the most comprehensive history of tiles.

The book is part of the British Museum's series on decorative arts, including 5,000 Years Of Glass and 7,000 Years of Jewellery by Hugh Tait, 5,000 Years Of Textiles by Jennifer Harris, and 10,000 Years Of Pottery by Emmanuel Cooper. Its illustrations are largely, though not exclusively, taken from the Museum's collection.

Vagina: A New Biography

Vagina: A New Biography, by Naomi Wolf, is a history of attitudes towards the vagina in ancient and modern culture. It follows Catherine Blackledge's The Story Of V and Jelto Drenth's The Origin Of The World, and was published shortly before Emma Rees's The Vagina: A Literary & Cultural History.

While Blackledge and Drenth were more scientific in their analysis, and Rees takes a more cultural approach, Wolf's book is broadly spiritual. Of the book's four main sections, two are echoes of 1970s consciousness-raising ("Does the Vagina Have a Consciousness?" and "The Goddess Array"). These chapters are largely anecdotal and feel pseudo-scientific.

At times, Wolf sometimes seems almost self-parodic. She attends a dinner party at which the host serves vagina-shaped pasta nicknamed "cuntini", and this minor incident has dire consequences: "after the "cuntini" party, I could not type a word of the book - not even research notes - for six months, and I had never before suffered from writer's block". If Wolf was so traumatised by cunt-shaped pasta, perhaps she's not the ideal author of a book called Vagina?

23 November 2013

Dark Side Of The Rainbow

Dark Side Of The Rainbow
This Wednesday, Bangkok's Jam Cafe will host screenings of two classic films set to the music of Pink Floyd. The event, Dark Side Of The Rainbow, will begin with an extract from Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (the final 'Jupiter & Beyond The Infinite' sequence), accompanied by Pink Floyd's track Echoes. This will be followed by a screening of The Wizard Of Oz, accompanied by the Pink Floyd album The Dark Side Of The Moon.

Both films were screened recently in Thailand. 2001 was shown at the Thai Film Archive last month, and The Wizard Of Oz was shown at the Bangkok Community Theatre in September.

20 November 2013

Double Down

Double Down
Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, who covered the 2008 US presidential election in Game Change, have written a sequel, Double Down: Game Change 2012, about President Obama's re-election last year. Its UK subtitle is The Explosive Inside Account Of The 2012 Presidential Election.

2008 was an extraordinary contest, thanks to the rivalry between Obama and Hillary Clinton, the ridiculous Sarah Palin, and Obama's historic victory. 2012, when Obama defeated the bland Mitt Romney, was a more pedestrian election, though Double Down is still a fascinating account.

Halperin and Heilemann are both heavyweight political journalists, perhaps the only contemporary writers who can match Bob Woodward's level of access and influence. (Woodward's latest books are Obama's Wars and The Price Of Politics; he tends to focus on policies, whereas Halperin and Heilemann emphasise the personalities involved.)

Just as Game Change did in 2010, the revelations in Double Down have been making headlines, especially the book's claim that Obama's campaign team seriously considered replacing Joe Biden as Vice President with Hillary Clinton. The authors explain that "Biden didn't credit the speculation for a minute", though Clinton's own reaction is not included; presumably, she was one of the few key players who refused to be interviewed. Halperin and Heilemann spoke to practically everyone else, including Obama, Biden, Romney, and Bill Clinton (all on 'deep background', i.e. unattributed), though Hillary is conspicuous by her absence.

Double Down notes Obama's reaction to a previous book about his administration: he apparently complained that Ron Suskind's Confidence Men was "largely a piece of fiction". The anecdote is certainly credible, as Double Down's sources are second to none, though it also feels like schadenfreude from the authors towards one of their fellow political writers.

Halperin and Heilemann themselves became part of the narrative when Obama's election strategy was leaked to them: "two authors writing a book on the 2012 campaign knew all about the extraordinary session six weeks earlier; they had the whole roster of Obama's regrets in copious detail. "How could someone do this to me?" Obama asked". This leads to one of the book's most dramatic moments, with Obama storming out of a discussion with his most senior advisers, exasperated at the leak yet meeting another author that same afternoon: "At 2:55pm he had a meeting in the Oval Office. The meeting was with David Maraniss. For a fucking book interview". (The book was Barack Obama: The Story.)

Double Down is at its most captivating when analysing Obama's relationship with Bill Clinton, which develops from wary tolerance to mutual admiration. The book also provides a fascinating behind-the-scenes account of Obama's intense preparations for the presidential debates.

The midsection, with chapters devoted to the various Republican nominee contenders (Chris Christie, Jon Huntsman, Newt Gingrich, et al.), is less interesting, because Romney was clearly Obama's only serious rival. The other contenders were insignificant even in 2012, and should be only minor footnotes today.

15 November 2013


S. Ship Of Theseus
Ship Of Theseus
S. is the new novel from JJ Abrams (director of Super 8 and Star Trek) and Doug Dorst. According to the blurb, it was 'conceived' by Abrams and written by Dorst, which presumably means that Abrams initiated the project though Dorst actually wrote the text.

The novel's title refers to its central character, S, a stranger known only by a single letter, like 'K' in Franz Kafka's The Trial. The title, and Abrams and Dorst's names, appear only on the book's slipcase; the book itself has an alternate title, author, and publisher.

The book inside the slipcase is Ship Of Theseus, written by VM Straka and translated by FX Caldiera. Ship Of Theseus was published by Winged Shoes Press in 1949, and it looks, feels, and even smells like a sixty-year-old book. It bears a 1949 copyright notice ("Printed in the United States of America"), the pages have yellowed with age, the spine has a Dewey Decimal sticker, and there are library stamps on the endpapers.

Ship Of Theseus is, of course, entirely fictitious, as are its author and translator and even its publisher. In reality, it's a novel written by Dorst, printed in China in 2013 though designed to look like a 1949 library book. When removed from its modern slipcase, Ship Of Theseus really is an incredibly convincing simulation of a 1949 hardback.

Aside from the prose text, almost every page of Ship Of Theseus contains extensive marginalia. Two students, Eric and Jennifer, have carried out a personal correspondence in the margins of the book. They use a variety of pens, with each pair of colours representing a different dialogue between them, and their handwritten notes are rendered as convincingly as the rest of the book.

In addition, there are twenty-nine pieces of ephemera inserted between the book's pages. These include several handwritten letters, picture postcards, photographs, newspaper clippings, photocopied documents, a volvelle, and even a napkin. Each of these items is reproduced as authentically as the book itself, and the attention to detail is remarkable.

Therefore, S. presents a multitude of inter-connected narratives: the text of Ship Of Theseus by Straka, the footnotes by Caldiera, the numerous threads of Eric and Jennifer's marginalia, and the supplemental material in the ephemera. Eric and Jennifer search for clues to the identity of the mysterious Straka, speculating that Caldiera and Straka may be the same person. An elusive author, a book within a book, and the mystique of old library books were also central to Carlos Ruiz Zafon's The Shadow Of The Wind.

Book publishing is currently migrating to tablets and e-readers, so it's encouraging that S. is a defiantly physical, printed object. It fetishises old-fashioned books, and Abrams and Dorst have created a perfect simulacrum of one. Publishers like Taschen specialise in elaborate collector's editions (such as Napoleon), and Visual Editions publishes novels in increasingly experimental formats (such as a reprint of Tristram Shandy), though S. is a unique and extraordinary example of innovation in book design.

14 November 2013

After The Music Stopped

After The Music Stopped
After The Music Stopped: The Financial Crisis, The Response, & The Work Ahead, by Alan S Blinder, is the first book to fully explore the causes and consequences of the global economic meltdown that began in 2008. The collapse of America's subprime mortgage market triggered the most damaging financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s, and was followed by economic collapses across the Eurozone from which Greece and Spain are still recovering. (Interestingly, the 2008 collapse is known in Thailand as the 'hamburger crisis', just as Thailand's own 1997 economic meltdown was called the 'tom yam kung crisis'.)

After The Music Stops begins with an intimidating three-page list of financial acronyms, though Blinder's accessible writing style - frequent rhetorical questions, subheadings, and conversational asides - guides the reader through the economic complexities. For example: "Now, take a deep breath... this is where we move from issues that were moderately controversial - leaving bipartisan agreement at least conceivable, to issues that were supercontroversial". (This is in contrast to the dry prose of Gordon Brown's Beyond The Crash.)

The text may be accessible, though its analysis is far from superficial, and After The Music Stopped is probably the most authoritative account of the financial crisis to date. As Blinder writes in his preface: "a comprehensive history of this episode has yet to be written. A number of fine books, mostly by journalists, have examined pieces of the puzzle, sometimes in excruciating detail... My purpose, instead, is to give the big picture".

10 November 2013

Legendary Movies (2nd edition)

Legendary Movies
Paolo d'Agostini has written a second edition of his book Legendary Movies. The new edition, published last month, has been expanded to include a handful of films released since 2008, when the first edition was published. It also features a new, lenticular cover. 

The new films include The King's Speech, Avatar, and The Artist. Legendary Movies was translated from an original Italian text, though the extra chapters in the updated edition have been translated quite clumsily, with lines like "These simple plots, for those who desire them, do not weigh on those who settle for a romantic comedy-drama approach".

The Legendary Movies are as follows:
  • Cabiria
  • The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari
  • Nosferatu
  • Battleship Potemkin
  • Metropolis
  • The Blue Angel
  • Frankenstein
  • Grand Hotel
  • King Kong
  • It Happened One Night
  • Modern Times
  • Grand Illusion
  • The Wizard Of Oz
  • Ninotchka
  • Stagecoach
  • Gone With The Wind
  • Citizen Kane
  • Casablanca
  • Arsenic & Old Lace
  • Rome: Open City
  • Gilda
  • It's A Wonderful Life
  • Bicycle Thieves
  • The Asphalt Jungle
  • Sunset Boulevard
  • Singin' In The Rain
  • High Noon
  • Don Camillo
  • The Wild One
  • Roman Holiday
  • From Here To Eternity
  • A Star Is Born
  • On The Waterfront
  • Sabrina
  • Seven Samurai
  • Rear Window
  • Rebel Without A Cause
  • & God Created Woman
  • The Ten Commandments
  • The Seventh Seal
  • The Bridge On The River Kwai
  • The Great War
  • Ben-Hur: A Tale Of The Christ
  • Some Like It Hot
  • A Summer Place
  • La Dolce Vita
  • Breathless
  • Two Women
  • Psycho
  • The Magnificent Seven
  • Breakfast At Tiffany's
  • West Side Story
  • Lolita
  • Jules & Jim
  • Lawrence Of Arabia
  • The Pink Panther

  • The Leopard
  • A Fistful Of Dollars
  • Goldfinger
  • Mary Poppins
  • Dr Zhivago
  • A Man & A Woman
  • Guess Who's Coming To Dinner
  • The Dirty Dozen
  • Belle De Jour
  • The Graduate
  • In The Heat Of The Night
  • Romeo & Juliet
  • Planet Of The Apes
  • Bullitt
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey
  • Rosemary's Baby
  • Easy Rider
  • Midnight Cowboy
  • Love Story
  • M*A*S*H
  • Dirty Harry
  • A Clockwork Orange
  • Cabaret
  • The Godfather
  • The Sting
  • American Graffiti
  • The Exorcist
  • Jaws
  • One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest
  • Nashville
  • Taxi Driver
  • Rocky
  • In The Realm Of The Senses
  • Saturday Night Fever
  • Star Wars IV: A New Hope
  • Close Encounters Of The Third Kind
  • The Deer Hunter
  • Grease
  • Apocalypse Now
  • Manhattan
  • Alien
  • The Blues Brothers
  • The Shining
  • American Gigolo
  • The Party
  • Raiders Of The Lost Ark
  • Escape From New York
  • First Blood
  • ET: The Extra-Terrestrial
  • Blade Runner
  • Once Upon A Time In America
  • A Nightmare On Elm Street
  • Back To The Future
  • Top Gun
  • 9½ Weeks
  • Wings Of Desire
  • The Last Emperor
  • Rain Man
  • Nikita
  • Pretty Woman
  • Edward Scissorhands
  • Raise The Red Lantern
  • The Silence Of The Lambs
  • Thelma & Louise
  • Basic Instinct
  • Batman Returns
  • Schindler's List
  • Forrest Gump
  • Pulp Fiction
  • Seven
  • Mission: Impossible
  • Life Is Beautiful
  • Titanic
  • The Matrix
  • Gladiator
  • The Lord Of The Rings I-III
  • Amelie
  • Talk To Her
  • Kill Bill I-II
  • The Last Samurai
  • Million Dollar Baby
  • The Bourne Identity/Supremacy/Ultimatum
  • Pirates Of The Caribbean I-III
  • Slumdog Millionaire
  • The Twilight Saga I-V
  • Avatar
  • The King's Speech
  • The Artist
Note that Ben-Hur, Frankenstein, and The Ten Commandments are all sound films and not their earlier silent versions. Some Like It Hot is the 1959 classic, not the obscure 1939 comedy. Also, Titanic is the 1997 James Cameron version and Romeo & Juliet is the 1968 Franco Zeffirelli version.

09 November 2013

Bangkok Theatre Festival 2013

Bangkok Theatre Festival 2013
The Bangkok Theatre Festival 2013 opened on 2nd November, and will close on 17th November. The Festival includes a revival of San-Dan-Ka, at BACC on 13th and 14th November. San-Dan-Ka, a butoh dance performance inspired by the controversial paintings of Anupong Chantorn, was first performed in 2009, at the Democrazy Theatre Studio in Bangkok.

Anupong's paintings depict monks with beaks, as if they were scavenging crows. One of his works caused controversy when it was shown as part of the 53rd National Exhibition in 2007, and he exhibited a similar piece at the 2nd Bangkok Triennale in 2009. His 2010 solo exhibition Hope In The Dark was even more provocative, with portraits of nude monks painted on saffron robes.

Cinema Diverse

Cinema Diverse
Cinema Diverse
Synecdoche, New York
The Good, The Bad, & The Weird
Cinema Diverse: Director's Choice, an annual season of free film screenings introduced by acclaimed Thai directors, began at BACC today with Charlie Kaufman's Synecdoche, New York introduced by Kongdej Jaturanrasmee. Synecdoche, New York will be shown again next week as part of this year's World Film Festival of Bangkok.

Nonzee Nimibutr (director of Nang Nak) will introduce The Good, The Bad, & The Weird, along with the film's director, Kim Jee-Woon, on 17th May 2014; the festival runs until 19th July 2014. Last year's Cinema Diverse season included a screening of Tears Of The Black Tiger introduced by its director, Wisit Sasanatieng.

02 November 2013

Currency Crisis

Currency Crisis
Fighting Fish, Money
Currency Crisis, a group exhibition featuring interpretations on the theme of money, opened today at Whitespace Gallery's new venue in Bangkok. (Whitespace relocated from Siam to Silom earlier this year.) Each of the participating artists, from Thailand and elsewhere in South-East Asia, subverts money in some way, both physically and symbolically, either by drawing on banknotes, reducing them to powder, or sawing coins in half. The exhibition, a comment on the global economic crash and the commodification of contemporary art, will close on 29th December.

The show includes a new painting by Pornprasert Yamazaki, a distorted portrait of King Taksin, titled Butterfly. Beneath the picture is an installation of fighting fish in a row of fifty individual jars, separated by crisp twenty-baht banknotes. Butterfly represents the fish's eye-view of Taksin as depicted on the banknotes, refracted through the jars. Like the works from his solo exhibition Suicide Mind, Butterfly was painted using Pornprasert's own blood.

Previously, Kosit Juntaratip used blood in his performance art, and Kristian von Hornsleth collected Thai blood samples for his Deep Storage Art Project. Manit Sriwanichpoom soaked autopsy photographs in blood for his series Died On 6th October 1976. UDD protesters painted a banner in blood at Democracy Monument in 2010.

Private Eye

Private Eye
The Attourney General has announced that Private Eye will not face charges over its current issue (dated 1st November) with its cover portraying Rebekah Brooks as a witch. Brooks, a former editor of The Sun and the News Of The World, is currently on trial for phone-hacking. Metropolitan Police had asked news vendors near the Old Bailey in London to remove copies of the magazine from sale, as it was potentially in contempt of court.

23 October 2013

Gravity (4DX)

Gravity, directed by Alfonso Cuaron, stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as two astronauts who are left stranded after satellite debris destroys their space shuttle, the Explorer. To survive, they must reach nearby space stations (the International Space Station and the Chinese Tiangong station) before their oxygen supply is depleted. Cuaron previously directed Y Tu Mama Tambien, one of the key films of the Mexican Nueva Ola (New Wave) movement.

Gravity relies extensively on photo-realistic CGI, not only for the backgrounds and spacecraft, but even for the astronauts' spacesuits. In some sequences, the actors' faces are the only non-CG elements in the frame; a minor character, who appears in the first scene, is entirely CG, blurring the boundaries between live action and digital animation.

Cuaron's Children Of Men was acclaimed for its long takes, and Gravity begins with a seventeen-minute sequence without a visible edit. In both films, however, these shots consist of multiple takes connected by seamless digital transitions, creating the illusion of a single take. (Touch Of Evil famously begins with an extended single take; Timecode and Russian Ark were both filmed as a continuous, unedited digital shot.)

Gravity occasionally resembles Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, and it features some direct tributes to that film, including a floating pen suspended in zero gravity. The ending was presumably inspired by another science-fiction classic, as Sandra Bullock's character has the same determination as Ripley from Alien. There is also a reference to Wall-E, with a fire extinguisher being used as a propulsion device.

I saw Gravity in 4DX, which combines 3D projection with motion-controlled seats, wind effects, smoke, scents, and water vapour sprayed into the audience. The process was developed in South Korea, and was first used for Eric Brevig's 3D remake of Journey To The Center Of The Earth. Gravity has also been released in 3D, 2D, and IMAX DMR 3D.

4DX is a gimmick, applying 4D effects from theme-park attractions to feature-length Hollywood films. Other cinematic gimmicks include Cinerama, Sensurround, Smell-O-Vision, Aroma-Rama, Aroma-Scope, Odorama, Emergo, Percepto, and Illusion-O - the last three all developed by William Castle.

Spanish Week 2013

Spanish Week 2013
Una Pistola En Cada Mano
Spanish Week 2013 began in Bangkok on 14th October and finished on 20th October. The event included a film festival at SF World (CentralWorld), with free screenings of new Spanish films.

I saw Una Pistola En Cada Mano, directed by Cesc Gay, on 19th October. It's structured as a series of vignettes featuring a group of middle-aged (and all heterosexual) men going through various relationship problems including impotence, infidelity, and divorce. It's being marketed as a comedy, though its dysfunctional relationships are pretty depressing.

22 October 2013


2001: A Space Odyssey
This Saturday, Kubrick's masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey will be screened at the Thai Film Archive at Salaya. The screening is part of ดูหนังกับโดม, a season of films introduced by the Archive's founder, Dome Sukwong.

16 October 2013

Moments That Made The Movies

Moments That Made The Movies
In his new book Moments That Made The Movies, David Thomson analyses seventy classic film scenes. Each essay is accompanied by several gorgeous photographs (frame enlargements, rather than publicity stills). For film lovers, of course, this is a wonderfully evocative book. The obvious classics (Psycho, Casablanca, Citizen Kane, The Searchers, etc.) are all included, along with a few esoteric choices. As Thomson explains in his introduction: "There are surprises, offbeat choices, perhaps even capricious or provocative selections, as well as plenty of films that you might have guessed would be included - though not always with the moments you anticipated".

Thomson previously wrote A Biographical Dictionary Of Film, Have You Seen...?, The Moment Of Psycho, and The Big Screen. He was the screenwriter for the documentary Gone With The Wind: The Making Of A Legend, and a contributor to 39 Steps To The Genius Of Hitchcock. He wrote a short History Of The Movies In Four Parts for the Wall Street Journal last year, and he also writes regularly for GQ magazine.

15 October 2013

The Art Of Movie Storyboards

The Art Of Movie Storyboards
The Art Of Movie Storyboards: Visualising The Action Of The World's Greatest Films, by Fionnuala Halligan, is a collection of storyboard excerpts from around forty films. It was published in America as Movie Storyboards: The Art Of Visualizing Screenplays.

The book showcases the work of pre-visualisation artists in the film-production process. Some of the greatest production designers (such as Saul Bass and William Cameron Menzies) are included, and plenty of classic films (including Psycho, Gone With The Wind, The Big Sleep, Apocalypse Now, and Raging Bull) are represented.

Most of the storyboards were not produced by the directors themselves, though there are a few notable exceptions, including Martin Scorsese's drawings for Raging Bull and Akira Kurosawa's preparatory paintings for Ran. (There is some overlap with Karl French's book Art By Film Directors.) Scorsese's rough sketches and Kurosawa's exquisite artworks represent two opposite approaches to storyboarding, and Scorsese's is the more conventional method: storyboards are not generally intended as works of art, they function instead as blueprints for the director and cinematographer.

The book reproduces storyboard frames, though corresponding stills from the films themselves are not included, so there's no way of comparing them directly. Also, some of the films Halligan selects, especially those in the final chapter, are very far from classics.

International New York Times

International New York Times
Today, the International New York Times published its first issue, following the rebranding of the International Herald Tribune by its owner, The New York Times. Today's newspaper includes a letter from publisher Arthur Sulzberger who explains that "we are creating a single, unified global media brand". The International New York Times is now part of a triumvirate of international newspapers, alongside The Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times.

Blue Jasmine

Blue Jasmine
Discussion of Woody Allen's films generally boils down to two questions. Why won't he make more of his "early, funny" comedies? (An issue he dealt with in Stardust Memories.) And, after plenty of near-misses, when will he make a true return to form? His latest film, Blue Jasmine, isn't a comedy (despite co-starring comedian Louis CK), though it's the closest he's come to a return to form in almost two decades.

In the 1970s, Allen's "early, funny" films (Sleeper, Love & Death), full of one-liners and slapstick, were followed by romantic comedies with fully-developed characters (the masterpieces Annie Hall and Manhattan). In the 1980s and 1990s, he balanced comedy with observations about life and relationships (Zelig, The Purple Rose Of Cairo, Hannah & Her Sisters, Crimes & Misdemeanors, Husbands & Wives, Mighty Aphrodite), with occasional returns to broad farce (Broadway Danny Rose, Manhattan Murder Mystery).

Then, after Deconstructing Harry in 1997 (his last great work), Allen's films began a sharp decline in quality (The Curse Of The Jade Scorpion, and other flops). Unable to secure funding in America, he made a series of touristy films in Europe (Match Point, Scoop, You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Midnight In Paris, To Rome With Love), though he returned to New York for Whatever Works.

Allen had an unexpected commercial hit with Midnight In Paris, and Match Point was a critical success in America, though he hasn't made anything approaching a classic for almost twenty years. That is, until now, because Blue Jasmine is arguably his best film since Deconstructing Harry. The ensemble cast is consistently excellent (as in many of Allen's films), though Cate Blanchette gives an extraordinary, unselfconscious central performance as Jasmine, an unstable New York socialite whose rich husband was convicted of fraud. Alec Baldwin (the highlight of To Rome With Love) is perfectly cast as the charming fraudster, whose downfall is modelled on that of Bernie Madoff.

With Blue Jasmine, Allen is clearly paying homage to A Streetcar Named Desire. Like Streetcar's Blanche DuBois, Jasmine is a delusional, tragic figure forced to move in with her working-class sister. (Jasmine's sister, Ginger, lives in a supposedly run-down - though actually spacious and rather nice - apartment in San Francisco. Jasmine's fish-out-of-water experience is juxtaposed with flashbacks to her previous New York life.) She forms a new relationship, though her boyfriend eventually discovers her past, as Blanche's boyfriend Mitch does in Streetcar. Ginger's fiance and ex-husband are both echoes of Streetcar's brutish Stanley Kowalski, though they're more sympathetic characters than Stanley. (Ginger mocks her ex's "Polish jokes", just as Blanche dismissed Stanley as a "Polack".) There's no sexual tension between them and Jasmine, though the antagonism, claustrophobia, and class conflict are familiar from Streetcar.

14 October 2013

11th World Film(s) Festival of Bangkok

11th World Film Festival of Bangkok
Stranger By The Lake
Synecdoche, New York
The 11th World Film Festival of Bangkok takes place next month at the SF World cinema (CentralWorld). It will open on 15th November, and will run until 24th November. (Oddly, the Festival's poster calls it the World Films [sic] Festival.)

Nontawat Numbenchapol's controversial Thai documentary Boundary will be screened on 17th and 18th November. Charlie Kaufman's directorial debut Synecdoche, New York will be shown on 16th November. (Kaufman wrote the screenplays for Adaptation, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, and Being John Malkovich.)

Alain Guiraudie's Stranger By The Lake, one of the most explicit gay dramas ever made, has also been selected, and will be shown on 21st and 22nd November. Filmed entirely on location, it features a man who witnesses a murder yet falls in love with the killer. The central character makes increasingly reckless decisions; his friend, a lonely bi-curious older man, is the only sympathetic character. The final reel increases the suspense, and veers towards Cruising-style excess, before ending abruptly.

The Festival is organised by Kriengsak Silakong, who I interviewed last year. (The 6th, 7th, and 8th Festivals were held at Paragon Cineplex; the 5th, 9th, and 10th took place at Esplanade Cineplex.)

Unfortunately, one film has been withdrawn from the Festival. The Thai Film Board denied permission to show To Singapore, With Love, directed by Tan Pin Pin, as the director did not apply for a permit before filming the documentary in Thailand. It seems that a film is withdrawn from a Thai film festival almost every year: Persepolis was banned from the 2007 Bangkok International Film Festival, This Area Is Under Quarantine was banned from the 7th World Film Festival, and Insects In The Backyard was banned after its screening at the 8th World Film Festival.

International Herald Tribune

International Herald Tribune
Turning The Page
The International Herald Tribune published its final issue today (along with a historical supplement, Turning The Page), and from tomorrow its name will change to the International New York Times. The change comes a decade after the newspaper was purchased outright by The New York Times.

The International Herald Tribune was founded in 1887 as The New York Herald, and it became the New York Herald Tribune in 1924. Its most recent title dates from 1967. The International Herald Tribune is the world's leading international newspaper, though culturally it will also be remembered for its appearance in Jean-Luc Godard's film Breathless.

11 October 2013


The Thai political documentary Paradoxocracy is currently showing at House Rama (RCA, Bangkok). It was previously screened at the House of Commons cafe in Thonburi. It will also be shown this Sunday at the Thai Film Archive in Salaya.

06 October 2013

The 500 Greatest Movies Of All Time!

The 500 Greatest Movies Of All Time!
The current issue of the Australian edition of Empire magazine is a special 500 Greatest Movies Of All Time! edition. The list is based on The 500 Greatest Movies Of All Time (without the exclamation mark), published by Empire UK in November 2008. The UK list was compiled from votes from readers (including me) and members of the film industry.

The Australian edition is introduced by editor Daniel Murphy as "a global poll", though he doesn't mention that the poll was actually conducted five years ago. Sixty-one films from the original 500 have been replaced: recent films have been added, along with some notable Australian films. Murphy writes, for example: "The Castle claiming top gong for an Australian film at number 72? That's one to make you smile", implying that The Castle was voted for by an international readership. In fact, The Castle didn't feature in the 2008 list, and was presumably added (with the other sixty films) by the magazine's Australian editorial team.

The 500 Greatest Movies Of All Time! are as follows:

1. The Godfather
2. Raiders Of The Lost Ark
3. Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back
4. The Shawshank Redemption
5. Jaws
6. GoodFellas
7. Apocalypse Now
8. Singin' In The Rain
9. Pulp Fiction
10. Fight Club
11. Raging Bull
12. The Apartment
13. Chinatown
14. Once Upon A Time In The West
15. The Dark Knight
16. 2001: A Space Odyssey
17. Taxi Driver
18. Casablanca
19. The Godfather II
20. Blade Runner
21. The Third Man
22. Star Wars IV: A New Hope
23. Back To The Future
24. The Lord Of The Rings I: The Fellowship Of The Ring
25. Toy Story III
26. The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly
27. The Avengers
28. Dr Strangelove
29. Some Like It Hot
30. Citizen Kane
31. Skyfall
32. Die Hard
33. Aliens
34. Gone With The Wind
35. Amour
36. Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid
37. Alien
38. The Lord Of The Rings III: The Return Of The King
39. Terminator II: Judgment Day
40. Andrei Rublev
41. A Clockwork Orange
42. Heat
43. The Matrix
44. Vertigo
45. The 400 Blows
46. Kind Hearts & Coronets
47. The Big Lebowski
48. Schindler's List
49. Psycho
50. ET: The Extra-Terrestrial
51. On The Waterfront
52. This Is Spinal Tap
53. Seven Samurai
54. Evil Dead II
55. 8½
56. The Shining
57. The Lord Of The Rings II: The Two Towers
58. La Dolce Vita
59. Casino Royale
60. Lawrence Of Arabia
61. His Girl Friday
62. Close Encounters Of The Third Kind
63. Come & See
64. Inception
65. The Usual Suspects
66. The Graduate
67. Sunset Boulevard
68. Oldboy
69. Tokyo Story
70. Edward Scissorhands
71. Harold & Maude
72. The Castle
73. Annie Hall
74. Three Colours: Red
75. Stand By Me
76. The Night Of The Hunter
77. 12 Angry Men
78. The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre
79. Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind
80. A Matter Of Life & Death
81. Manhattan
82. Spartacus
83. Rosemary's Baby
84. The Thin Red Line
85. The Life & Death Of Colonel Blimp
86. Batman Begins
87. The Great Escape
88. Brazil
89. Blue Velvet
90. LA Confidential
91. Carrie
92. Iron Man III
93. The King Of Comedy
94. Ferris Bueller's Day Off
95. Magnolia
96. When Harry Met Sally
97. Star Wars VI: Return Of The Jedi
98. Yojimbo
99. Once Upon A Time In America
100. Spirit Of The Beehive
101. American Beauty
102. The Wild Bunch
103. Reservoir Dogs
104. North By Northwest
105. Toy Story
106. Network
107. Raising Arizona
108. The Hustler
109. One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest
110. Rear Window
111. The Rules Of The Game
112. A Man For All Seasons
113. An American Werewolf In London
114. The King's Speech
115. Touch Of Evil
116. Before Sunset
117. Fitzcarraldo
118. I Am Cuba
119. Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgundy
120. The Conversation
121. Blazing Saddles
122. Rio Bravo
123. Miller’s Crossing
124. Withnail & I
125. The Wages Of Fear
126. The Battle Of Algiers
127. Los Olvidados
128. The Princess Bride
129. A Woman Under The Influence
130. The Silence Of The Lambs
131. Breathless
132. Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid
133. The Sting
134. Lost In Translation
135. Harvey
136. The Man Who Would Be King
137. The Last Of The Mohicans
132. Pan's Labyrinth
138. Life Of Pi
139. Double Indemnity
140. Seven
141. Duck Soup
142. Amadeus
143. Dances With Wolves
144. Cool Hand Luke
145. Avatar
146. As Good As It Gets
147. Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs
148. The Dark Knight Rises
149. There Will Be Blood
150. Sophie's Choice
151. Shampoo
152. Cyrano de Bergerac
153. Notorious
154. Z
155. The Red Shoes
156. The French Connection
157. Boogie Nights
158. Gladiator
159. The Innocents
160. Betty Blue
161. Badlands
162. Saving Private Ryan
163. True Romance
164. Unforgiven
165. The Royal Tenenbaums
166. Being There
167. The Year Of Living Dangerously
168. A Nightmare On Elm Street
169. The Bridge On The River Kwai
170. The Searchers
171. Don’t Look Now
172. Partie De Campagne
173. Goldfinger
174. Tootsie
175. District 9
176. Viridiana
177. La Haine
178. Django Unchained
179. Brief Encounter
180. The Wizard Of Oz
181. Memento
182. Superman
183. Rushmore
184. A Canterbury Tale
185. City Of God
186. Hellzapoppin'
187. Toy Story II
188. To Kill A Mockingbird
189. Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls
190. Performance
191. Le Samourai
192. Dirty Harry
193. Paths Of Glory
194. Lincoln
195. The Big Country
196. The Wrestler
197. Brokeback Mountain
198. Ghostbusters
199. Big
200. Eraserhead
201. Ed Wood
202. Bicycle Thieves
203. It's A Wonderful Life
204. Amelie
205. Point Break
206. Fargo
207. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
208. Before Sunrise
209. JFK
210. The Killer
211. The Intouchables
212. Monty Python's Life Of Brian
213. Bride Of Frankenstein
214. The Artist
215. The Exorcist
216. The Misfits
217. The Departed
218. Local Hero
219. Platoon
220. Argo
221. Songs From The Second Floor
222. Army Of Shadows
223. Jackie Brown
224. M
225. The Magnificent Seven
226. Sunday Bloody Sunday
227. M. Hulot's Holiday
228. The Outlaw Josey Wales
229. Far From Heaven
230. McCabe & Mrs Miller
231. Star Trek
232. The Snowton Murders
233. Distant Voices, Still Lives
234. Get Carter
235. Romeo & Juliet
236. Leon
237. No Country For Old Men
238. Festen
239. Howl's Moving Castle
240. Shaun Of The Dead
241. Indiana Jones & The Temple Of Doom
242. Jurassic Park
243. The Bourne Ultimatum
244. Battle Royale
245. Black Narcissus
246. Delicatessen
247. Requiem For A Dream
248. Cinema Paradiso
249. Forrest Gump
250. Brighton Rock
251. King Kong
252. Downfall
253. Heimat
254. Dazed & Confused
255. The Philadelphia Story
256. All That Jazz
257. Pandora's Box
258. My Darling Clementine
259. Sunrise
260. Darling
261. First Blood
262. The Leopard
263. Let The Right One In
254. The Verdict
264. Ninotchka
265. Port Of Shadows
266. The Black Cat
267. Groundhog Day
268. The Blues Brothers
269. Field Of Dreams
270. Roman Holiday
271. The Hangover
272. Das Boot
273. American Graffiti
274. AI: Artificial Intelligence
275. Crimes & Misdemeanors
276. Wall-E
277. The Lady Vanishes
278. A Place In The Sun
279. Beasts Of The Southern Wild
280. The Bird With The Crystal Plumage
281. The Maltese Falcon
282. My Neighbour Totoro
283. Sin City
284. Looper
285. On The Town
286. Carlito's Way
287. National Lampoon's Animal House
288. Mad Max II
289. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
290. The Godfather III
291. Ran
292. Scarface
293. L'Avventura
294. Secrets & Lies
295. The Thing
296. Solaris
297. Rashomon
298. Rocco & His Brothers
299. Chopper
300. La Maman & La Putan
301. The Red Balloon
302. The Untouchables
303. La Belle & La Bete
304. Who Framed Roger Rabbit
305. All The President's Men
306. It Happened One Night
307. La Cercle Rouge
308. The Palm Beach Story
309. Sawdust & Tinsel
310. Love & Death
311. The Best Years Of Our Lives
312. Black Swan
313. Radio Days
314. The Prestige
315. Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade
316. Midnight Cowboy
318. Gremlins
319. The Terminator
320. American History X
321. Suspiria
322. Battleship Potemkin
323. Sweet Smell Of Success
324. Trainspotting
325. Midnight Run
326. Rebecca
327. The Lion King
328. Braveheart
329. Funny Face
330. Aladdin
331. The Last Seduction
332. Pan's Labyrinth
333. Kill Bill I
334. Out Of Sight
335. The Nightmare Before Christmas
336. The Truman Show
337. The Green Mile
338. The Sixth Sense
339. Grease
340. Drive
341. The Seventh Seal
342. 300
343. Titanic
344. Jules & Jim
345. Animal Kingdom
346. Spirited Away
347. The Passenger
348. The Gold Rush
349. Monsters Inc.
350. The Birds
351. Fatal Attraction
352. Leave Her To Heaven
353. All About Eve
354. Au Hasard Balthasar
355. Arthur
356. Planet Of The Apes
357. Zulu
358. Unfaithfully Yours
359. Bugsy Malone
360. Un Chien Andalou
361. Napoleon
362. Mad Max
363. The Long Goodbye
364. Russian Ark
365. The Lady Eve
366. Rabbit-Proof Fence
367. Blow Out
368. Bridesmaids
369. Clerks
370. The Elephant Man
371. Good Morning Vietnam
372. Natural Born Killers
373. The Bourne Identity
374. Pradator
375. Cabaret
376. Airplane!
377. The Breakfast Club
378. Rocky
379. Casino
380. Army Of Darkness
381. Inglourious Basterds
382. Shine
383. Four Weddings & A Funeral
384. The Social Network
385. Mean Streats
386. The Goonies
387. Ratatouille
388. Children Of Men
389. Monty Python & The Holy Grail
390. Cache
391. Hugo
392. Romper Stomper
393. Donnie Darko
394. The Shop Around The Corner
395. The Great Silence
396. Ace In The Hole
397. Rain Man
398. The English Patient
399. Mulholland Drive
400. Paris, Texas
401. The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford
402. Night Of The Living Dead
403. Zero Dark Thirty
404. Greed
405. The Incredibles
406. Little Miss Sunshine
407. Do The Right Thing
408. RoboCop
409. Dirty Dancing
410. The Jungle Book
411. Iron Man
412. Men In Black
413. A Hard Day's Night
414. Spider-Man II
415. Heathers
416. Finding Nemo
417 The Adventures Of Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert
418. The Double Life Of Veronique
419. Bad Taste
420. Dawn Of The Dead
421. Days Of Heaven
422. Jerry Maguirre
423. Lethal Weapon
424. A Man Escaped
425. To Have & Have Not
426. Kill Bill II
427. Spring In A Small Town
428. The Enigma Of Kaspar Hauser
429. Danger: Diabolik
430. Big Trouble In Little China
431. Electra Glida In Blue
432. X-Men II
433. Good Will Hunting
434. The Cat Concerto
435. American Psycho
436. Beauty & The Beast
437. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
437. Spider-Man
438. The Lost Boys
439. Grosse Pointe Blank
440. Akira
441. Being John Malkovich
442. Wake In Fright
443. Dog Day Afternoon
444. Hairspray
445. Dumb & Dumber
446. High Fidelity
447. The Master
448. Ponyo
449. Crocodile Dundee
450. Speed
451. Unbreakable
452. The Raid: Redemption
453. Top Gun
454. 28 Days Later
455. Full Metal Jacket
456. Lantana
457. Little Shop Of Horrors
458. Batman
459. Ikiru
460. Crash
461. Incendies
462. Halloween
463. The Hurt Locker
464. Juno
465. Seven Brides For Seven Brothers
466. 12 Monkeys
467. Snatch
468. The Deer Hunter
469. The Crow
470. Glengarry Glen Ross
471. The Hunt
472. Harry Potter & The Prisoner Of Azkaban
473. Le Doulos
474. Enter The Dragon
475. The Impossibe
476. Santa Sangre
477. Rebel Without A Cause
478. Flesh
479. Stoker
480. The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty
481. Scream
482. True Grit
483. Before Midnight
484. The Wicker Man
485. Breakfast At Tiffany's
486. Superbad
487. Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes
488. Breaker Morant
489. Another Year
490. Ben-Hur: A Tale Of The Christ
491. Amores Perros
492. End Of Watch
493. In The Company Of Men
494. Sideways
495. Jailhouse Rock
496. Kick-Ass
497. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
498. Antichrist
499. Saw
500. Ocean's 11

The following films have been cut from the 2008 list: Zelig, Princess Mononoke, The Magnificent Ambersons, The Death Of Mr Lazarescu, High & Low, The Tree Of Wooden Clogs, Almost Famous, United 93, The Addiction, Moulin Rouge!, Mother & Son, Safe, The Verdict, The Virgin Suicides, Ghost World, Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, Layer Cake, Interview With The Vampire, Together, Transformers, Sense & Sensibility, Lone Star, The Lives Of Others, Star Wars III, The Last Waltz, Sunshine, The Return, Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl, Hot Fuzz, Zodiac, Serenity, Election, Two Days In Paris, Garden State, Cloverfield, Killer Of Sheep, Batman Returns, Lords Of Dogtown, V For Vendetta, Wonder Boys, Enduring Love, Spider-Man, Atonement, Ten, A History Of Violence, Star Wars I, The Bourne Supremacy, Dead Man's Shoes, Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas, Into The Wild, Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, The Son's Room, Topsy-Turvy, The Big Red One, Brick, Superman Returns, Back To The Future II, Sweeney Todd, The Fountain, King Kong, and Indiana Jones & The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull.

The additions to the list fall into two main categories: films released after the original list was compiled (i.e. since 2008), and acclaimed Australian films (as this is Empire's Australian edition). There are also two classics - The Birds and Little Shop Of Horrors - that were excluded from the original list but have been included in the revised version.

The additional films released since the 2008 list are: Amour, Inception, Avatar, The Dark Knight Rises, Django Unchained, Lincoln, The Artist, Black Swan, Inglourious Basterds, Ponyo, The Impossible, Kick-Ass, Antichrist, True Grit, Toy Story III, District 9, The Avengers, Iron Man III, The King's Speech, Life Of Pi, Skyfall, The Incredibles, Argo, Star Trek, The Hangover, Let The Right One In, Beasts Of The Southern Wild, Looper, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Wrestler, Drive, Animal Kingdom, Bridesmaids, The Social Network, Zero Dark Thirty, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, The Master, The Raid: Redemption, Incendies, The Hurt Locker, The Hunt, Stoker, Before Midnight, Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, Another Year, and End Of Watch.

The added Australian films are: The Castle; The Snowton Murders; Chopper; Gallipoli; Mad Max; Rabbit-Proof Fence; Shine; Romper Stomper; The Adventures Of Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert; Wake In Fright; Crocodile Dundee; Lantana; and Breaker Morant.

Aside from the sixty-one substitutions, the 2013 list is otherwise very similar to the 2008 list. There are minor changes to the positions of some films, and the rankings of three titles have altered significantly: Pan's Labyrinth drops from #132 to #332, Blow Out drops from to #139 to #367, and Wall-E rises from #373 to #276.

Empire Australia also published a 100 Greatest Movies Of All Time list in 2007, and a previous one in 2002. Both polls were won by Star Wars IV, which is #22 on the 2013 list.

[Some films in the list share the same titles as other films or remakes. Note that Some Like It Hot is the Billy Wilder classic, Carrie is the Brian de Palma horror, Crash is the Paul Haggis drama, Beauty & The Beast is the Walt Disney version, The Maltese Falcon is the John Huston version, Casino Royale is the Martin Campbell version, Scarface is the Brian de Palma version, Ben-Hur is the William Wyler version, Romeo & Juliet is the Baz Luhrmann version, Titanic is the James Cameron version, The Avengers is the Joss Whedon version, and True Grit is the Joel and Ethan Coen version.]

In It Together

In It Together
In It Together: The Inside Story Of The Coalition Government is Matthew d'Ancona's account of the coalition in the UK between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. D'Ancona's book is clearly being positioned as a successor to Andrew Rawnsley's Servants Of The People: The Inside Story Of New Labour. They have similar cover designs (political cartoons) and subtitles (The Inside Story Of...), and d'Ancona's level of access is similar to Rawnsley's was during the Labour government.

In It Together covers only three years of the government's term of office: David Cameron became Prime Minister in 2010, and his 'coalition agreement' includes a pledge to serve a fixed five-year term. (Servants Of The People similarly covered only the first three years of Tony Blair's premiership; Rawnsley wrote a sequel, The End Of The Party, in 2010.) The coalition still has almost two years left to run, though the (inside) story of its formation and first few years is already substantial enough.

D'Ancona and Rawnsley are both extremely well-connected, though Rawnsley's book benefitted from the extraordinary tensions at the heart of the Labour party in the 1990s. Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, Peter Mandelson, and Alastair Campbell were the dramatis personae of a tragic drama, with Brown as Macbeth. Unfortunately for d'Ancona, the coalition apparently doesn't have the same level of bitter rivalry, thwarted ambition, and back-stabbing as the TB-GB era. George Osborne, who was presumably one of d'Ancona's major sources, is evidently no Gordon Brown. While that makes for a much more co-operative government, it's less compelling in prose.

29 September 2013


A painting by Ayanda Mabulu has been removed from this year's FNB Joburg Art Fair in Johannesburg, after the Art Fair organisers deemed it too controversial. The painting, titled Yakhal’inkomo, depicts South African President Jacob Zuma trampling on a protesting miner. The artist has previously depicted President Zuma naked, and a portrait of Zuma by Brett Murray was removed from another Johannesburg gallery last year. Zuma has also been caricatured by the cartoonist Zapiro.

Бей чертей

Языческие боги
Бей чертей, a song by the Russian band Corrosia Metalla, has been banned by the Russian Ministry of Justice. The Gagarinsky District Court in Moscow ruled on 22nd May that the song was 'extremist' and thus illegal, and the judgement was upheld by the Ministry of Justice on 27th September. Бей чертей was included on the band's album Языческие боги, released in 2002.


25 September 2013

The Wizard Of Oz

The Wizard Of Oz
The Wizard Of Oz
This Friday and Saturday, there will be a screening of The Wizard Of Oz at the Bangkok Community Theatre. During the screening of the classic musical (directed by Victor Fleming), the audience will be encouraged to participate, singing along with the film's songs and wearing Oz-themed costumes.

20 September 2013

MDNA World Tour

MDNA World Tour MDNA World Tour
Madonna's MDNA Tour has been released on video and as a double-album, both titled MDNA World Tour. DVD and blu-ray editions both feature the entire concert, filmed last year in Miami, Florida (and broadcast by Epix on 22nd June). For the first time, the live album version also includes the full concert. (Previous live CDs, Sticky & Sweet Tour, The Confessions Tour, and I'm Going To Tell You A Secret, featured only selected highlights.) The album has been released on CD in Europe and Asia - though not in America - and is also available in a dual-format edition (DVD and double CD).

The track-list is: Virgin Mary, Girl Gone Wild, Revolver, Gang Bang, Papa Don't Preach, Hung Up, I Don't Give A, Best Friend, Express Yourself, Give Me All Your Luvin', Turn Up The Radio, Open Your Heart, Masterpiece, Justify My Love, Vogue, Erotic Candy Shop, Human Nature, Like A Virgin Waltz, Love Spent, Nobody Knows Me, I'm Addicted, I'm A Sinner, Like A Prayer, and Celebration. (Erotic Candy Shop is a medley of Erotica and Candy Shop; Erotica also featured on the soundtrack of Madonna's directorial debut, Filth & Wisdom, in 2008.)

19 September 2013

The 20 Films You Should Watch

Today, as part of its Quick Guides series, The Times newspaper published The 20 Films You Should Watch, a list representing a concise history of cinema. The 20 Films You Should Watch, selected by Wendy Ide and Kevin Maher, are as follows:

1. Nosferatu
2. The General
3. King Kong
4. The Lady Eve
5. Citizen Kane
6. Double Indemnity
7. Bicycle Thieves
8. Rashomon
9. Singin' In The Rain
10. The Searchers
11. Vertigo
12. Breathless
13. 2001: A Space Odyssey
14. Annie Hall
15. Apocalypse Now
16. Raging Bull
17. Pulp Fiction
18. Secrets & Lies
19. Bowling For Columbine
20. Wall-E

The list is numbered, though the films are listed chronologically. It's a surprisingly good list: all of the films from #5 through to #17 are among my personal favourites. Previously, The Times compiled a list of The Top 100 Films Of All Time in 2008.

18 September 2013

The Simple Truth

The Simple Truth
The Simple Truth (an English translation of the Thai ความจริงไม่มีสี) is Abhisit Vejjajiva's account of the 2009 and 2010 political protests in Thailand. Abhisit was Thai Prime Minister from the end of 2008 (when the Constitutional Court dissolved the ruling People Power Party) until 2011 (when he was defeated by Yingluck Shinawatra in a general election). His term of office was dominated by a series of protests by the UDD. These culminated in the massacre of May 2010, during which Abhisit authorised the use of lethal force by the army, and more than ninety people were killed.

The book begins with a foreword by Korn Chatikavanij, justifying the use of military force against the protesters though regretting that "over 90 soldiers, civilians and protesters died". (Note that he lists soldiers before protesters, implying that the army suffered the most casualties, when in fact less than 10% of the victims were soldiers.) Korn even claims that the army's use of live bullets was part of the UDD's strategy: "The rationale used by the protest organisers was that, for the government to lose, protesters must die. For that to happen, the army must be armed with real bullets. And for that to happen, the army must first be attacked with real weapons".

Abhisit constantly links the UDD protesters with violence and weapons. For instance: "People could have been injured or died. I could have been the first Thai Prime Minister to die on the road", "I came face-to-face with hysteria and blind hatred that could kill", "The Red Shirts were mobilising across the entire country, effectively calling for bloodshed", "I shudder to think what might have happened had they opened fire on the troops", and "men were entering the temple, perhaps even with arms and other weapons" [my italics]. Notice his subtle linguistic device: each reference to violence is speculative or hypothetical, a rhetorical association of the red-shirts with violence.

Abhisit attributes some of the casualties to 'black-shirt' snipers who allegedly infiltrated the protest sites: "On the evening of 10 April 2010, a black-clad militia with military assault weapons launched a brutal attack on peacekeeping forces, leaving both soldiers and protesters injured and killed". As for Black May itself, he is adamant that there was no military massacre: "one thing is clear: there was never a mass killing of 90 people as the Red Shirts keep claiming". He offers no alternative explanation for the extensive bloodshed, except for another hypothetical: "could it be that the armed militia... were continuing with their strategy to destabilise the government?"

He insists that he worked tirelessly for a peaceful outcome: "I can assure you that all of us - the government and the security forces - tried our best to prevent casualties". This, of course, is at odds with his decision to order soldiers to open fire on citizens of their own country. (In contrast, he accuses Somchai Wongsawat of a "brutal suppression of PAD protesters on 7th October 2008.") One wonders who Abhisit is trying to convince. His core supporters (middle-class Bangkokians) supported the military's actions all along, and he has no need to justify his actions to them. On the other hand, anyone sympathetic to the protesters would be alienated by Abhisit's constant demonisation of the UDD.

There are some appendices, including a bizarre analysis by Philip J Cunningham of a 2012 Abhisit interview. Abhisit was interviewed by the BBC's Mishal Husain, who questioned him about the Black May military massacre. (Dismissively, he told her: "unfortunately, some people died".) Cunningham uses most of his article to suggest others whom the BBC should also interrogate, such as Thaksin Shinawatra, Barack Obama, Tony Blair, and even Mark Thompson. When he does finally turn to the Abhisit interview directly, he claims that "Husain went after Mr Abhisit - battering him with rote questions, shouting down his soft-spoken voice, playing up the lurid aspects of the case". He paints Abhisit as a helpless victim, though Husain was asking pertinent questions about civilian casualties.

Phaidon Design Classics

Phaidon Design Classics Phaidon Design Classics Phaidon Design Classics
Phaidon Design Classics
Phaidon Design Classics is a collection of 999 objects representing the entire history of design. It's published in three large volumes, each profiling 333 objects: Pioneers (001-333), Mass Production (334-666), and New Technologies (667-999). (The Spanish edition, 1,000 Objectos De Culto, includes an extra object, the iPhone. The Design Book, a mini version with 500 objects, is also available.)

The focus is on industrial design rather than graphic design, as each of the 999 entries is a physically manufactured object. Each product is represented by one or more large photographs, and each of the three volumes has more than 1,000 pages. Some of my favourites are #60 (Berliner gramophone), #239 (Anglepoise lamp), #261 (Western Electric 300 telephone), #311 (Herman Miller Lounge Chair Wood), #319 (Dualit Vario toaster), #480 (Austin Mini), #530 (Zenith staple-remover), #710 (Olivetti Valentine typewriter), #749 (Polaroid SX70 camera), #850 (Alessi 9093 kettle), #892 (Alessi Juicy Salif juicer), and #998 (Apple iMac).

The Design Encyclopedia by Mel Byars is more academic, and David Raizman's History Of Modern Design has more historical context, though they focus on designers and styles whereas Phaidon Design Classics celebrates the products themselves. Perhaps the objects are over-fetishised, and some of the text seems too much like advertising copy (for example, #417: "Any desk graced with a Rolodex marks the owner out as an efficient, busy, and well-connected individual"), though this is certainly the most comprehensive design collection ever published.