Wednesday, 31 March 2010

What have you heard/ read/ seen this month?

AGAIN, stolen shamelessly from The Word magazine's Blogger Takeover strand, I'm asking fellow gobshites to tell me what they have read/ seen/ heard this month. Here are mine for March 2010.

City of Lies by Alafair Burke – while it has a couple of nicely drawn characters, a nicely convoluted plot which makes you think almost to the end, Burke’s New York-set police whodunit doesn’t sit in the top league of modern crime thrillers. The absurdly strong and wilful detective Ellie Hatcher has the potential to be a great character and the backdrop of Manhattan and NYC is lovingly painted, but it lacks a the stylistic oomph of New York crime scribe Lawrence Block (skip annoying intro to site) and the moral overtones of either Burke’s father – the great James Lee or the holy trinity of modern East Coast American Noir: Lehane, Pelecanos and Price (see tags on the left).
It’s one for those of us who can happily fly through Jonathan Kellerman or Robert Crais.

This book is 10 years old this year and still is as relevant to the modern communications student/ researcher. Amid all the middle class fortune telling of those predicting the future with absolute confidence on the welter of blogs established by self appointed experts, this is a valuable reminder that we have as yet to do extensive research into the power of the blogosphere beyond a couple of books and peer reviewed journal articles.  

Six years old and a similar story to Entman and Bennett’s collection – a book which charts the first wave of impact on corporate or big media by the internet and blogs and which shows we have yet to write the key text on the second wave. Perhaps only Charlie Beckett’s work is leading the way, in Britain at least. 

Precious little at the cinema but a splurge on Amazon for stuff that I wanted to see again.
First up was Matteo Garrone’s wonderful Gomorrah (2008) which shows the brutal and all pervasive depths to which the mafia permeate life in Southern Italy. From nonsensical drug turf wars which needlessly cost lives, to the all too often seen ‘innocent boy to drug mule’ motif (known to lovers of The Wire) to the white collar political criminals in the pay of the mob, it is the best film on mafia ever made. Award winning writer Roberto Saviano, on whose book the film is based, is now in hiding and his exposure of the true nature of Italian society should be potentially explosive. It also has a breathtaking opening sequence which sets the scene for the rest of the movie. To call it the best film since City of God, does neither film any justice. Gomorrah is really compelling. The final lines of this Amazon review should tell you all you need to know about why this is a vital piece of film making and journalism.

Next up the two part French crime double Mesrine which I saw at FACT in Liverpool. Directed by Jean-Francois Richet and featuring (and I use this phrase with the respect it deserves) a career defining performance from Vincent Cassel, it is the real life story of 60s/70s French gangster Jacques Mesrine. It has to be said that Cassel, a man good looking enough to test my Kelner-like 36 year unblemished record of heterosexuality, gives the performance of a lifetime. Breathtaking violence, glamour, daring escapes, heists, gambling, shagging and media manipulation - it is the perfect example of an intoxicatingly true story told well by a fine director and a leading man with huge charisma.

Tomorrow night, I’m going to go with a 1974 paranoia-fest double bill with Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation and Alan J. Pakula’s The Parallax View because I think both movies say so much more today than they even did in their own times.

Man alive, I have gone mad with all manner of genres in the last few weeks of frenzied PhD  catch-up writing. Amadou and Mariam for the last couple of days – anything with such a noticeable influence of the producer Manu Chao has to be a good thing.
Reggae star George Faith, particularly his work with Lee Scratch Perry, turned up during a Word magazine instigated randomiser session as did the Nigerian-born ‘calypso’ star Ambrose Campbell whose work features on the now several years old ‘London is the Place for Me’ compilation I found thanks to Du Noyer and The Word. Campbell's very interesting obit from the Guardian is available here.
On top this, while writing I have found my inner classicist and have again been top skanking to Daniel Barenboim’s conducting the Berlin Philharmonic doing Bruckner.
At times of minor crisis, I always turn to (among others) Lightning Hopkins, Trojan Rocksteady, The Pogues and The Clash and this period has been no different. Enough hypertext already, if you need to know - google people.
Let me know what you have watched/ read/ heard this month, below the fold.

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