Thursday, May 31, 2007

Circular Chess

I really don't have a tactical brain. Therefore, no-one was more surprised than me when I won a game of "Cirondo" at RPG.soc yesterday. Cirondo is a sort of four-person circular chess with only three types of piece: pawns, bishops, and queens.

Admittedly, when two of the players had been eliminated, the third forgot one of the cardinal rules of the game: you lose when you have only one piece left. Still, a win's a win.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

The Director Did It

"This film is based on actual case files."

Most of the problems with David Fincher's Zodiac can be traced back to that sentence, which opens the film. Zodiac is the story of the investigation into the "Zodiac killer" who operated in California in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

The problem, however, is that having made the decision to be fairly factual with the case, Fincher is left with a standard police procedural story that wouldn't look too out of place on evening television. And as with real life, people fade in and out of the story. We are presented with four principle characters, two detectives and two journalists, but their narratives are insuficiently interlaced. It's almost as if two different films had been made and then cut together.

The attempt to stick to facts means that Fincher is unable to play to one of his strengths, the psychological aspects of the investigation. It's fairly obvious that Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a fairly creepy and obsessed individual, but, perhaps because the screenplay is based on Graysmith's book, this is glossed over, often being presented in comic terms.

Further problems are brought in when Fincher attempts to make the story more "Hollywood" bu introducing some standard thriller elements, which appear far-fetched and melodramatic.

The films strength is perhaps in giving a sense of time and place, with the fashions and soundtrack envoking the 1970s without descending into the over-the-top cliche version of the decade that we see all too often.

Overall, Zodiac isn't a bad film, it's just a solid, by-the-numbers film, but that's a disapointment, given the director and the subject matter.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

South Atlantic Wind Blows/Ice From A Dying Creed

People who know me well may have heard me talk about how, a few years back, I worked with a formed skinhead. He'd been the stereotype, even down to a swastika tatoo on his shoulder. He was a big fan of skinhead films (Made In Britain, Romper Stomper. Also Scum because he'd been in Borstal, but that's another story). As such, I wondered what he'd make of This Is England, which I saw at the cinema only the other day.

The film focusses on a small group of skinheads in the north of England in 1983, and attempts to show how what was originally a non-racist movement (starting with white working class kids imitating the fashions of hard Jamaican lads in the 1960s) was infilitrated and overtaken by Neo-Nazis in the 1970s and 1980s. More than that, it tries to show why membership of a group (whether of a "gang" or a Fascist party) can become so central to someone's life. This is the most successful aspect of the film, helped greatly by some excellent performances, both from the young cast, and from Stephen Graham as the sympathetic-demon "Combo".

Where the film perhaps falls down is its attempts to use the early 1980s as an analogy for the current state of the nation. Skinheads as hoodies is perhaps appropriate, but the presented ideology of the National Front seems a little too contemporary. The analogy of the Falklands War (sorry, "Conflict") with Iraq seems strange, too. There's no doubt that nearly 1000 people dying for some rocks inthe South Atlantic was a terrible waste (Borges famously described it as "Two bald men figting over a comb"), but it was also a response to an unprovoked invasion by a military dictatorship with an appalling human right record. Iraq somehow manages to make the Falklands look good.

All in all, though, it's well worth seeing given the current debate about Britishness (and, by extension, Englishness), and I certainly can't fault it for trying to talk abotut he consequences of being socially end economically isolated from the rest of society.

Friday, May 04, 2007


Because far too many people are still unaware of Arrested Development, which might just be the funniest American sitcom ever:

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

This Machine Kills Icelandic Management Lecturers

Yesterday my arsehole of a housemate (see previous posts/e-mails) left the house for the last time. The landlord finally lost patience with him a month ago and suggested that it might be better if he left.

The landlord wants to sell the house, so I shall still be moving before September. However, this is a huge victory for me and the other people in the house.

Champaigne will be drunk.