Marie Antoinette

Marie Antoinette - Cakes

I have no idea why I was so reluctant to check out Marie Antoinette. I guess it was something to do with Sophia Coppola’s track record. I loved Lost in Translation but hated The Virgin Suicides. Kirsten Dunst completely put me off that movie. I always thought she was really over-rated as an actress and never really saw why people thought she was attractive. I guess it was the impending release of Somewhere that made me want grab the DVD of Marie Antoinette off the shelf and finally sit down and watch it (although, I have to be honest, if Zodiac had been 40 minutes shorter, I probably would have ended up watching that instead).

I loved it.

Now, I realise that Sophia Coppola isn’t the world’s greatest writer. I can overlook this. (I mean, I said I loved Lost in Translation, right?) And I realise this film isn’t meant to be an accurate historical document, but she manages to paint Marie as a genuinely sympathetic figure. And how did she do this? Do we get two hours of philosophising masquerading as character development? Hell no. In fact, I’d be shocked if Kirsten Dunst had more than 100 lines in this movie. It takes a rare skill to do so much with so little.

And yes, I finally see what all the fuss is about Kirsten Dunst. She is terrific in this film. A perfect fit – I can’t think of another actress that could have pulled it off quite so well. Completely changed my opinion of her.

But I also think an awful lot of the success had to do with the way Coppola uses music in her films. The new-wave soundtrack cute, and a great way of hammering home the idea that these kids really were the punks of their time. But it goes beyond cute juxtaposition. Aphex Twin’s ‘Avril 14th’ is an incredibly powerful and evocative piece of music and was perfect for the tone of this film. (Only one other film I’ve seen has used this song at all, and that was Chris Morris’ equally amazing Four Lions.) That Coppola manaaged to create such amazing visuals and find the music to match the mood of the scene so perfectly speaks volumes about her success and skill as a director.

Speaking of cute juxtapositon, I loved, loved the pair of chucks in the background of the spending-spree scene. Something about this is absolutely perfect. It tells us everything we need to know about the character through one tiny, incidental anachronism.

Marie Antoinette - Chucks


Tank Park Salute

All things considered, it probably wasn’t a great idea to listen to this song right now. Billy Bragg writes some beautiful songs, but this is really something special. One of maybe 5 songs that I can’t get through without crying like a child.


Very impressive.


Star Wars + Calvin and Hobbes

What do you get when you cross Calvin and Hobbes with Star Wars?

Only the [greatest t-shirt ever](

Chewie and han


Trailer for The Black Swan

Darren Aronofsky’s new film. Think [*The Wrestler*]( meets [*Suspiria*]( meets [*The Red Shoes*]( And throw in some [*By the Sword*]( for good measure.



How to Use Textmate

[Amazingly useful list of links]( on how to use Textmate properly, courtesy of Zeldman.

For example, did you know you can write a blog post in Textmate, drag-and-drop an image into the textmate window and it will automatically upload and insert the image into your blog post? I didn’t. Mind = blown.


You Say To-May-Toe, I Say FUCK YOU

I recently listening to an old edition of the Slashfilm podcast where they interviewed Armond White. I sort of recognised that name, but couldn’t place it. No matter. Anyway, in the interview, White said a few things that I found interesting. He hasn’t got many kind words for Roger Ebert, complaining that he’s more like a professional fan than a genuine film critic and that he is single-handedly responsible for the death of film criticism.

I do think it is fair to say that Roger Ebert destroyed film criticism. Because of the wide and far reach of television, he became an example of what a film critic does for too many people. And what he did simply was not criticism. It was simply blather. And it was a kind of purposefully dishonest enthusiasm for product, not real criticism at all

White also complains that, since everyone has a blog now, they all think that makes them a legitimate criticI keep using qualifiers like ‘genuine’ and ‘legitimate’ because White is convinced that he is the only “pedigreed film critic” around, that the internet promotes “free-for-all of enthusiasm rather than criticism”. As someone with a blog who tries to write critically, I think he’s a little harsh here. Maybe feeling threatened by the democratisation of opinion?

But then you stumble across something like “Lights, Camera, Jackson”, this faux-charming little bollocks of a stage-school drop-outI’m calling it now, ‘Lights, Camera, Jackson’ is the next James Harries, complete with future gender-reassignment surgery. Mark my words. and you think – hey, maybe Armond White has a point

This got me thinking a bit more about him, trying to remember where I’d heard his name before. Armond White… Armond White… Oh shit… Armond White!. He’s the fearlessly outspoken hilariously contrarian film critic who seems to be on a one-man mission to fuck with the metrics that make sites like Rottentomatoes useful. Out of 235 reviews, his is the first of three negative reviews that prevented Toy Story 3 from getting a perfect score, complaining that it wasn’t as good as Transformers 2.

In other words, he is to film criticism what Glen Beck or Joe Duffy are to political opinion.

Other amazing quotes from Armond White:

  • Talking about There Will be Blood, he said “Plainview is the most remarkable movie performance since Eddie Murphy’s Norbit trifecta”
  • In the Loop is “for smart arses, not smart enough to appreciate the cultural satire of Hot Fuzz
  • “Forget the Oscar bait, Transporter 3 is the only movie you need to see this season”

It’s a shame. Having read a few of his reviews, he does genuinely seem to be a smart, well-educated fellow. It’s just a shame that the rise of online film criticism has led him to chase page-views through controversial statements.



Christ, Metro 2033 is annoying.

It’s annoying because it comes so close to being a genuinely good game. I mean, on paper, it’s exactly the kind of game I would love. All the things I like are there: monsters, guns, post-apocalyptic RussiaNo idea why, but a post-apocalyptic Russia always grabbed my interest more than a post-apocalyptic USA.. It’s based on an award-winning Russian science fiction story, so its story should be at least halfway decent, if previous experience with Russian science fiction stories are anything to go by. The game just lets itself down somehow. There’s something missing.

Okay, the game is missing a lot of things. Like actual, honest-to-goodness character development. And a facial modelling system that actually conveys emotion instead of looking like some first-year animation student tinkering with 3D Studio Max. Most importantly though, it’s missing a decent control mechanic. It’s no great surprise to say that games work best when there’s a 1:1 relationship between what you input on the controller and what happens in the game. In Metro 2033, there’s a noticeable lag between the two, so the whole game feels ‘off’. You get the vague sense of controlling a floaty gun wandering through a 3D space, but not much more than that.

A wonky control scheme by itself isn’t won’t kill a game. Plenty of games have managed to make their games work just fine regardless of how good their controls are. For example, Singularity – another game set in a (sorta) post-apocalyptic Russia – also has ‘floaty’ controls (another in a long list of things it copied wholesale from Bioshock). But, to its credit, it acknowledges this and works around this apparent limitation. It says “we understand our control scheme isn’t the greatest, so we won’t really ask too much of you except to shoot monsters.” It works well because of that.

The developers of Metro 2033, God bless them, tried hard to make their game more than just a straight shooter. Some levels include ‘stealth’ sections, where you have to sneak around guards/monsters and avoid traps that draw attention to your character. Except their controls don’t really allow you to accomplish this. Your character moves sluggishly, like the entire world is made of toffee. It’s hard to judge lateral distance, so you’ll inadvertently set off traps that you were trying to avoid. This is irritating at the best of times, but during the stealth sequences, it’s especially annoying. I got about halfway through the game before I hit one particular stealth sequence. I kept triggering traps despite doing everything I could to avoid them. It frustrated me so much, I turned off the game out of spite. I doubt I’ll go back to it again.

It’s a shame because, like I said, I enjoyed the idea of Metro 2033, the monsters, guns and post-apocalyptic Russia. It’s a shame when the game gets in the way of the game. It’s the superficial things that stop you from fully enjoying it. Imagine a horror writer decided his stories should be printed in a novelty ‘horror’ typeface.

Although it may be a cute novelty, it doesn’t enhance the story at all. It just frustrates the reader. It doesn’t matter how good the story is if the reader gives up halfway through because of some mechanical problem. It’s the same for games. How many games have you just given up on because you figured no story is worth battling with crappy mechanics?