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#cinefile: oscar rundown

so, friends, tonight is the night on which the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announce the winners of their annual awards for the 83rd time.

it wouldn’t be right to let the opportunity pass without joining the near-infinite throng of people who always offer their insignificant and largely uneducated opinion on which films should win, and (more importantly if real kudos is important to you) which films and people have been unbelievable overlooked by the boorish, lazy and out-of-touch Academy.

so here we go – what follows is my take on the films that 2010 built.

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Best Picture:

from the nominees, i would be fairly happy to see any of Inception, True Grit or Winter’s Bone win – with Inception being the choice that would probably leave me the most contented. of course, it will likely go to The Social Network or The King’s Speech, which i thought were both dullness warmed up. if Black Swan wins i will weep.

films that, in my opinion, were overlooked in this category include: Another Year, Made in Dagenham, Monsters, Perrier’s Bounty, Des Hommes et des Dieux and the brilliant Animal Kingdom (which qualifies by virtue of having opened in the States in August last year, even though it has already been released on DVD in Australia and has only just made it into UK cinemas this week).

Best Director:

i imagine this will have come down to a tight slug-fest between Fincherites and O. Russelaphiles on the panel, but, if you forced me, i’d have to bet on Fincher. while i wouldn’t be too displeased if the Coens won for what is a solid film (if some way off their best), i think it is little short of a scandal that Chris Nolan is absent from the list. i would give it to Nolan (for Inception), but would also have made mention of Mike Leigh (Another Year), Gareth Edwards (Monsters) and Debra Granik (Winter’s Bone).

if Darren Aronofsky wins it will be overdue reward in absolutely the wrong year.

Actor In A Leading Role:

there is really no point in even talking about this one. Colin Firth very clearly has it all wrapped up with a bow and a label saying ‘For Colin Firth’. it was, however, nice to see Javier Bardem nominated for Biutiful – which (for the Academy) should probably go down as something of a left-field move.

although, as we’ve established, it would only ever have been a token gesture, it would have been nice to have seen nods for Tahar Rahim for Un Prophète and George Clooney for The American.

Actor In A Supporting Role:

while the smart money is on Christian you’re ruining the fucking shot you prick Bale, I’d love to see John Hawkes win for Winter’s Bone.

as for those who were overlooked, recognition for Brendan Gleeson’s turn in Perrier’s Bounty and Guy Pearce’s performance in Animal Kingdom would both have pleased me.

Actress In A Leading Role:

here, again, the gamblers are seeing little-to-no value with Natalie Portman standing as odds-on to grab the gold, after early favourite Annette Bening apparently refused to follow through with her campaign (known as ‘pulling a Finney’). having not yet seen Rabbit Hole, i can’t comment on Nicole Kidman’s nomination, but i what i can say is that i will dance and sing loudly if, by the intervention of Thor, Freyja or Loci the god of mischief himself, either Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine) or Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone) were to pip her to the post.

the former is a long-standing favourite of mine and a performer that has profoundly matured in the last six or seven years and is now a character actor of real polish. Lawrence, by contrast, wasn’t really on my radar until i was really struck by what is an astonishing contribution to an excellent thriller – strangely reminiscent of a toned-down Juliette Lewis in Natural Born Killers or Dusk Till Dawn.

if there were any justice in the world, Hailee Steinfeld would be nominated in this category rather than the next, for a brilliant performance in a role that stands as a lead by any measure. however, in truth, the fact she has been bumped down is probably testimony to the quality of her performance – assuming that the decision was essentially pragmatic. if, however, she does not win for best supporting female, then she will have been robbed of the significant and justified accolade of a Best Actress nomination at such a early stage.

Actress In A Supporting Role:

given that HBC’s performance in The King’s Speech is so inert that it is out-shone by at least two other females whose characters enjoy significantly less screen time when added together – Jennifer Ehle (as Myrtle Logue) and Ramona Marquez (as Princess Margaret) – it will be a travesty if she gets swept to victory by the film’s momentum, a la BAFTAs.

Amy Adams received a fairly worthy nod, but for me it really comes down to the wunderkind (Steinfeld) versus to two cold, hard, working-class mothers – Melissa Leo for The Fighter and Jacki Weaver for Animal Kingdom. I’d love it to be Steinfeld, it would be good if it were Weaver, but it will probably be Leo.

Animated Feature:

it’s difficult to oppose Toy Story 3’s nailed on win in this category too vehemently, especially considering that many critics have advocated for it winning the biggie (which just ain’t going to happen).

given that it’s a sparsely inhabited category this time round, it’s very sad that the Academy did not have the insight to nominate Chico y Rita, which is a really joyful and joy-making film, and was by far my favourite animation of the last year.

Documentary:

i haven’t seen many documentaries in the last year, but from what i have seen, Inside Job deserves to (and i think probably will) win. i’m so glad I’m Still Here was snubbed.

Foreign Language:

in line with the ignorance that allows this category to continue to carry such a colonialist title, the cohort this year is seriously lacking. Biutiful will no-doubt win, because it is the least foreign of all of them, but the real tragedy is not the transparency of the empty gesture that this category represents, but the absence of Un Prophète, Chico y Rita and Des Hommes et des Dieux.

i’m not going to waste time commenting on categories that no-one but the massivist nerds care about, but let’s just spare two good thoughts for Roger Deakins – a Brit, a gentleman and one of, if not the, greatest cinematographers of all time. if he wins for True Grit, it will ice yet another great year and yet another great collaboration with the Coens.

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right, well, with very little time left before the show tips off, i’m off to find a duvet and a pillow and to start creating a warm, comfy nest on the sofa.

happy oscaring.

#inspiringquotations: number eleven

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“Listen, I don’t calculate the renewal cost for insurance policies personally – I just own the company.”

> Tilda Swinton

#telosvision: friday night dinner

Friday Night Dinner has put the proverbial cat among the pigeons of my knowing what to think about things.

as the experts – Bill Oddie, Chwis Packham, Leona Lewis, Jonathan Dimbledor etc. – will tell you, unlike their real counterparts, proverbial cats are no match for pigeons, and, soon after being put among them, die from an excess of peck wounds.

the problem is that it is a new Channel 4th sitcom (or ‘sit-down comedy’, for long) written by Robert Popper and starring, among others, Mark Heap and Simon Bird. now, while that might not sound like a problem, but merely a description, it is a problem for reasons that are as follows:

Robert Popper and Mark Heap are in my eyes like some kinds of geniuses.

Popper ran Channel 4’s Comedy Lab, was, along with Peter Serafinowicz, responsible for Look Around You – one of my favourite ever comedy series – and has also produced, edited and written for hilarious things like Peep Show, South Park, The IT Crowd, Spaced and Black Books.

Mark Heap is one of my favourite comedy actors, who brought life to brilliant characters in Spaced, Green Wing, Skins and The Great Outdoors, as well as doing top-notch sketch and bit-part work in (the amazing) Big Train, Look Around You, Brass Eye, Jam and Miranda. weirdly, he was also in Lark Rise To Candleford.

still, though, you might be thinking, there doesn’t yet seem to be any sign of that problem that you clearly mentioned earlier. well, the problem is Simon Bird.

i can’t nobbing stand Simon Bird. i think it’s mainly his stupid, grinning face. but it’s also his ridiculous affected posh-nerd voice and his utterly annoying wanna-be clichéd-geek shtick. he’s really annoyed me in every role i’ve seen him in and also in the several interviews/appearances as himself that i’ve caught. in particular (as i’ve mentioned here before), and (disappointingly) to many people’s apparent surprise/disgust, i HATE The Inbetweeners. i hate it, i hate it. i know most of you disagree, but i think that (despite having some top people involved) it’s really poor.

the uncomplicated conceit of FND involves two twenty-something Jewish sons (straight away it’s a step in the right direction to see Bird’s playing someone who isn’t supposed to be 16) who go back to their parents’ house each Friday for tea. presumably to comic effect. like a Jewish cross between Butterflies and Open All Hours, without the shop or butterflies, and more Friday based.

so, there we go – Friday Night Dinner: will it be brilliant, or will it be too Birdish to bear? well, i’ll be watching with badger-bated breath, expectant, but also plagued by the knowledge that, at any minute, he might make me have a stroke out of annoyance.

> Friday Night Dinner starts Friday 25th Feb at 10pm on Channel 4

#showertune: ‘i’m on the move’ by bobby byrd

well, well, wellingtons …

look what the cat dragged in. what time do you call this then? stray dog eat your watch? i was beginning to think you’d joined the foreign legion. i’m sorry, i rented your room to a lodger (and all the other things my mum used to say if i got home late).

yes, i know, i haven’t blogged anything for a while – twenty two days to be precise – and i can only say i’m truly sorry and offer you this #showertune in the hope of your forgiveness and continued patronage.

i did make sure to make sure it was a hyper-funky, dap-dipping, bumping boogaloo on a super positive tip just for y’all.

go on, treat yourself – after all, it’s I’m On The Move by Bobby Byrd

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#RIP: John Barry

John Barry Prendergast:
3rd November 1933 – 30th January 2011

with sadness we note the death of one of the twentieth century’s greatest composers, arrangers and orchestra leaders.

anima eius et animae omnium
fidelium defunctorum per dei
misericordiam requiescant in pace

born in York in 1933, Barry is, of course, best known for the unforgettable scores he composed for the James Bond film series, but these were but a few of his brilliant contributions to film and TV soundtrack history.

he scored Zulu, The Ipcress File, Beat Girl, The Quiller Memorandum, Game of Death, Midnight Cowboy, The Persuaders, and many, many more great films and TV programmes.

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Beat for Beatniks by The John Barry Orchestra

#telosvision: 2011 in telly

right >

it’s more than high time we all had a little look together at what kind of telly-based treats will be coming our way this year.

remember, sensible TV fiends always live by the motto of both the scouting movement and, somewhat less congruously, Aston Villa FC – Be Prepared.

as such, here is a little run-down of some things that are already on our screens/internet catchup facilities, and some others than are worth planning ahead to catch later on:

☆ now and next

>Penn & Teller: Fool Us [ITV Player (first broadcast 07/01/11)]
we start with the ghost of Christmas past as celebrity atheists Penn & Teller – the fat one and the silent one from gruesome magicland – held a competition which they kept saying wasn’t a competition to see if anyone could fool them with a magic trick. whoever could fool them, would get to go to Vegas and open P&T’s show at the Rio – but that wasn’t a prize, ‘cos it’s wasn’t a competition. anyway, when i watched it, i assumed it was a new series, but in fact it was a one-off, which, actually, on reflection, makes it quite a lot worse. however, it’s worth a look on ITV Player, even if it’s just to see how well a man with a wandering (neigh, intrepidly exploring) eye can shuffle-about some cards.

>10 O’Clock Live [Thursdays, Channel 4, 10pm]
this has been getting me excited for quite a while now, so much so that i erroneously announced to my tweeps that it started last Thursday. in fact, it starts tonight. incase you’ve not read about it or seen the adverts, it’s got Charlie Brooker, David Mitchell, Lauren Laverne and Jimmy Carr and is going to consist of live satirical reflection on the news.

it’s an interesting proposition in many respects. usually satire enjoys the liberty of prerecorded polish and deliberately shies away from confrontation with its targets, preferring to sling funny mud from a distance. herein, however, the 10 O’Clock team are not only going for a live performance, but are also planning interviews with politicians and the like. it sort of sounds like a comic relief night version of The Day Today. if it works, it could be brilliant. if it doesn’t, well, it’ll still have the lovely Lauren Laverne on it, so i’ll keep watching.

>The Brain: A Secret History [Thursdays, BBC4, 9pm]
staying with tonight, i’ve been rather enjoying Michael Moseley mumbling his way through the history of experimental psychology, the third part of which goes out at 9. while he’s been knocking about for a while, all of a sudden Moseley seems to have become the BBC’s top go-to-guy for biological science, which makes sense given that he’s a doctor turned presenter. this series, however, has been a significant cut above other stuff i’ve seen him do, perhaps because it touches on some really meaningful issues for him – apparently it was the nature of psychiatric practice that made him turn his back on medicine.

>The Killing [Saturdays, BBC4, 9pm]
no, not Kubrick’s classic film, but a police drama that’s taken a few years to work its way from Denmark around to the rest of the world and has been garnering all sorts of compliments on the way, even comparisons to The Wire. the Americans have remade it (of course) so that their people won’t have to sit through images of places outside of America, or get to grips with reading, but for those of us on this side of the pond, this is our chance to see the proper thing. it’s twenty episodes (two ten episode seasons) and they’re showing them on Saturday nights in double bills – no doubt with several repeats in between. i’ve been told by friends in the know to get very excited and not to dare miss it.

>The Justice Season [starts Sunday, 9pm, BBC4]
BBC4 has a season of programmes examining notions of justice in the modern world which seem as though they might be quite interesting. the season begins with a debate about the role and nature of fairness, liberty and rights.

>How TV Ruined Your Life [Tuesdays, BBC2, 10pm]
as of this coming Tuesday, the above mentioned moan-faced whingebag, Brooker returns to BBC2 following his Channel 4 exile with a 6 part series about how the conceptions of the world we find in film and TV are so wildly different to the drab reality of actual existence. given that it’s Brooker, it’ll probably be worth watching, but i can’t help feel that, conceptually, it seems like the weakest of all his vehicles so far.

the segment ‘If Pens Got Hot’ from the first episode – focussing on fear – bodes fairly well, with a nice line or two from the actor Kevin Eldon, but it does seem high-maintenance. also, if, in the in-between bits, he’s persisted with the same ‘my fake shitty flat’ set and has regular annoying contributions from Barry Shitpeas, i might not be able to stand it. if we must have talking heads – then more Stanhope, less Dent and no Shitpeas, please.

☆ for your diary

>Twenty Twelve [TBA, BBC4]
we were promised this six-part mockumentary about the London Olympics as part of BBC4’s autumn/winter schedule, but as far as i can see, no start date has yet emerged. given that it’s from John Morton, the writer and director of People Like Us and stars, among others, Jessica Hynes, Olivia Colman and Hugh Bonneville, i’m very keen to check it out. whatever happens, it certainly can’t be worse than BBC2’s witless Episodes with the off-form Stephen Mangan, Tamsin Grieg and Matt ‘I’m Not Actually A-List So It Doesn’t Make Sense’ LeBlanc.

>Archer (Season 2) [starts 27th Jan, FX]
dry your eyes fans of funny, all is not lost, laughs are on their way. as long-standing readers will know, here at RQT we loved Adam Reed’s ironic, post-feminist spy cartoon from the first time we clamped eyes on it. while it airs on FX in the U.S., last year’s first season was quite quickly picked up over here by Five. whether or not they plan to show season 2, i do not know, but if not, then those of you who are sensible enough to have a U.S. based VPN will be able to watch it on Hulu like me. in order to whet your appetites, i created a little video made up of all the short promo clips they’ve released – enjoy.

 

>The Bible’s Buried Secrets [TBA, BBC2]
another series that is definitely due late winter/early spring (March?) sees real-life’s answer to Lara Croft, and my former PhD supervisor, Dr Francesca Stavrakopoulou drawing on her textual and archeological expertise to unveil some controversial truths about the Bible. undeterred by having been slagged-off by Ann Widdecombe for pointing out the rather trivial fact that it’s unlikely that Moses ever existed, on last year’s The Bible: A History, this year Dr Stavrakopoulou is back to reveal that King David is probably a fictive character too, that the God of Israel once had a wife, and several other juicy tidbits of biblical scholarship. incidentally, you might also want to watch out for her near-accidentally making one of the most important ancient near eastern archeological discoveries of modern times.

>Mildred Pierce
[starts 27th March, HBO]
Kate Winslet heads up a quality cast for what looks set to be one of the best mini-series of the last few years. this adaptation of Cain’s classic novel, set as it is during the Great Depression, seems a timely, if somewhat clichéd choice. however, given how much raving and praise has followed the series about since it was commissioned, i for one am not only expecting the political overtones to be sensitively handled, but also the performances to be something rather special. Mildred could well end up being this year’s Boardwalk Empire.

>Game of Thrones [starts 17th April, HBO]
another heavily anticipated series from the-almost-always-makes-brilliant-shows network HBO, GoT is based on some books i’ve not read by fantasy George R. R. Martin, who i’ve not heard of. apparently, however, it’s a dark, medieval-esque fantasy saga starring a majority British cast including Sean Bean, Mark Addy and Michelle Fairley. i’m not sure what to expect, but i’m hoping for something perhaps a bit like the brilliant BBC Gormenghast adaptation from yesteryear which starred Jonathan Rhys Meyes and Christopher Lee. we’ll see.

☆ a word about Sky Atlantic

for those of you who never put any hard yards searching for ways to watch all the great U.S. TV that doesn’t get shown over here, and who already have a Sky subscription, then Sky Atlantic is good news. it’s a new channel which launches on the 1st February and promises to bring you the best of American TV (so basically HBO plus a few extras).

soon enough, without doing anything, you’ll be getting treats like Boardwalk Empire (Martin Scorsese’s slow-burning, twenties gangster series, which was one of my favourites from last year), Treme (the utterly brilliant show from the makers of The Wire, all about post-Katrina New Orleans and how through all its loss, it kept its soul, just) and (at some point) season 5 of Mad Men (which y’all know all about – or should).

for those of us who don’t like to give Mr Murdoch any money, i imagine it will still turn out well, as i imagine webstreams on Veetle, Justin TV or via sopcast will be easy to find.

and finally …
☆ three things to remember to look out for in the summer

>How To Make It In America (Season 2)
>Entourage (Season 8)
>Louis (Season 2)

#wildstyle: slacks for LBJ

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August 14th, 1964

My dearest Selma

Please accept my sincerest apologies that I have not been in touch for some time now. I have been intending to write, but have been dog unwell with the flu for several of the last few days and am only now regaining my stance.

I do hope you received the accompanying parcel. It is a audio recording of a telephone conversation I had recently with someone special that I thought you might care to hear. My friends over at the excellent men’s style guide Put This On created a little movie to accompany the sound, and I just think the whole thing is excellent all together.

Please send my regards to little Ted and Alice and pet Grover for me. I do sore miss you all. I hope to visit in the spring, if father grants me the leave. As for now, I’ll continue to write and send what I can when I’m able.

Ever your devoted husband,

Bill

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#tiredgamer: introducing …

some of you

will already know about the weekly review column that i now write for up-and-coming UK gaming website Game People, but for those of you who do not, you might like to know that i now write a weekly review column for up-and-coming UK gaming website Game People.

given that you usually don’t properly launch something of this nature before there’s a decent amount of content available, we’re currently in the process of putting together a competition to act as an official launch. however, you guys, as always, deserve a sneaky peek of how things are shaping up.

so far i’ve cast my tired eyes over:

>Enslaved for Xbox 360 [strange]
>Goldeneye 007 for Wii [patronising]
>Limbo for Xbox 360 [superb]
>John Daly’s Prostroke Golf for PS3 [hilarious]
>DJ Hero 2 for Xbox 360 [‘fresh’]
>Sid Meier’s Pirates for Wii [pointless]
>Divinity II: The Dragon Knight Saga for Xbox 360 [trenchcoatish]
>Shaun White’s Skateboarding for Xbox 360 [super-lame]

so, if games are you bag then you can visit
www.gamepeople.co.uk/reallyquitetired.htm
to read my reviews and generally see what’s popping.

coming soon …

>Red Dead Redemption Undead Nightmare
>Megamind: Ultimate Showdown
>The Sims 3

#inspiringquotations: number ten

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“The cliché is absolutely true, people do make love just like how they dance.”

> Ann Widdecombe

#twit-twoo: ton up

given that here

at RQT we always try to credit where credit be due, a small mention is rightly made of Carolyn Cross who recently became our 100th follower on the pointless waste of time that is twitter.com

she tweets under the logical moniker CarolynCross and has a website which, keeping to a theme, she’s called www.carolyncross.co.uk and, i tell you what friends, if you need an environmental consultant specialising in communication, media and public relations, well we reckon that you could do a whole lot worse (Mick Jagger, Andy Crane, Florence Nightingale are some (but by no means all of the possible) examples)

follow her on twitter, hire her for work and, damn it, if you meet her in the street, embrace her like you’re estranged siblings just then reunited by Cilla.

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if you want to be a bit like Carolyn Cross (and who doesn’t?) you too can follow us on Twitter – we’re known there as:
rllyquitetired
*stupid character limit
ps. you really should do that because, without being immodest, we’re the best thing on there (us and @carolyncross)

#showertune: ‘sixteen’ by the heavy

happy newy ear

we’re back after a nice little blog holiday (bloliday) and it’s now twenty hundred and tenty one – and what a time to be alive.

also, what a time to be an RQT reader given that the newyear newyou fever has given rise to all kinds of new treats that are currently being wedged into the pipeline all ready to come flooding out of this here tap sometime soon.

#showertune will be taking more of a backseat driving role this year, so while i’ll continue to wash to cheerful choons each day, i’ll be sharing them with you more selectively. instead i hope to provide you, dear reader, with a more variegated gamut of treats.

as for today, we at RQT had a lovely Christmas and NY period spent with friends of the most excellent vintages, and therefore would like to once again commend to you the following people (in alphabetical orderings)

Cazzle-razzle & Jimbeats
Dombey & San Francesco
Krusty the jazz singer
Lassie the ninja big-wig
Lissa Lovely Legs (aka Triple L)
Quiznightqueen Jen (a shy but loyal reader)
SíanŭsMârié
will he is & Anya aching

it wouldn’t be right, however, not to single out Lassie for special thanks given the invitation he extended to us to spend Christmas with him and his peeps in the Burrs Wood. he and they-all alike are wonderful examples of human folks with big hearts (and in some cases heads – objection your honour, insulting counsel).

we love you all this<—–(huge distance)—–>much

as such here, in all your Worthless honours is:

Sixteen by The Heavy

#xmasongs: day ten

well well well

it only went and came upon a midnight clear.

as i’m sure you’re all more than aware, as well as presents, turkey, baby Jesus and so on, this day also brings with it the conclusion of our ten strong round up of the world’s best festive music that we like to call #xmasongs

without further ado about nothing, it only remains for me to say a big happy birthday Jesus and glad tidings to all from and on behalf of all of us here at RQT, and to inform you of the winner.

those that did not make the cut include:

any actual carols
Frosty The Snowman
Winter Wonderland
the cheerful prelude to a Christmas rape It’s Cold Outside (sorry Roaring)

however, the winner is …
Merry Christmas Maggie Thatcher by
Elton John

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#xmasongs: day nine

it’s Christmas Eve

in the drunk tank. i hope you are all well and ready. Santa Klaus is making a list and checking it twice (probably three or four times nowadays – he’s not getting any younger).

i, myself, will not be getting any presents on account of having been naughty all year. luckily, i’ve been and bought my own stuff and wrapped it up for myself. i’ll be getting what i wanted, will you?

and now it’s time for what you’ve all been waiting for. we’re nine tenths of the way through a list of the very best Christmas songs. but what, you mildly wonder, is today’s #xmasong?

well, put it this way, if you like slurry, incoherent lyrics and inappropriate sexual insults, get ready to be happy for today it’s Fairytale of New York by The Pogues

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#xmasongs: day eight

Shhh ….

time for some quiet sitting down, arms folded time.

I hope we all have a merry Christmas and it is right and meet for us so to do. nonetheless,  we should not forget that for many ordinary people – especially in Christmassy places like Bethlehem, as well as other ancient Christian holy places, like Baghdad – Christmas will be disturbed by the exercise of military power, power that many of us paid for and keep in force by our political decisions.

once in “royal david’s” city, something about peace happened. let’s hope it wasn’t a one off.

here’s the 7 O’Clock News by Simon & Garfunkel

 

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#xmasongs: day seven

OK, now i’m

getting really excited. with fewer than four sleeps till santa comes, expectation is reaching super-charged levels in the penthouse – already it’s all daytime films, daytime port, (mulled) cider, nuts and so on, and can only get worse from here on out.

the last time we mentioned the tune i have selected today, it was (in response) described by our friend, fellow blogger, outrageous bounder and pink gin guzzler Ramping
as “gut-wrenching“.

well, what more of a reason do we need to feature it in our countdown?

exactly. none.

our seventh #xmasong is Happy Christmas (War Is Over) by The Polyphonic Spree

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#xmasongs: day six

hallo dear friends

today is the winter solstice and, coincidentally, also saw a total lunar eclipse.

did you see the blood red moon just before 8:00? it was too cloudy here to see much more than a pinky patch in the southwest sky. apparently if you live in or north of Newcastle you could see it really well. probably didn’t take much of an edge off the bitter cold, lack of jobs and frequently semi-naked fat men, though.

the ancients associated this occurrence with menstruation, and thus fertility, so let’s hope it bodes well for next year’s harvest.

in the meantime, we’ve got the small matter of our #xmasongs countdown to get the hell on with. to that end, today’s sixth noel goes out with lots of love to you all, but especially nominator, talented singing RQT friend and Hawkins hair-a-like Kirsty Merryn

(check out her excellent chops here)

correct – at number six, it’s Christmas Time (Don’t Let The Bells End) by The Darkness

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#xmasongs: day five

friends, and by now

regular #showertuners, will probably be aware of my (at times perverse) proclivities with regard to key changes (I Wanna Be The Only One by Eternal anyone?)

given such, it simply couldn’t be that this list could get very far without featuring this beautifully festive example of my favourite musical flourish.

sweetly sung by two sisters and their cousin, from Washington Heights, Manhattan, this tune was sort of nominated by our good friend JohnDray3000 (soon to be Dr Dray) – who, in a fleeting reference to ‘the obvious’, invoked Phil Spector’s classic Christmas album a.k.a.
A Christmas Gift For You From Philles Records
(before going on to actually nominate some stuff that is probably too edgy and cool for us here)

despite, i must admit, a partiality for KT Tunstall’s recent cover, here is a swinging number taken from that very album and offered to him and you all with the very best of Christmas wishes.

here’s Sleigh Ride by The Ronettes

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#xmasongs: day four

wow

i don’t know about yule, but i’m starting to get pretty excited about just exactly where our #xmasongs countdown is headed. it’s like desert island discs, but without the island, The Bible, The Complete Works of Shakespeare, Kirsty Young or, today, Nick Park.

we’ve had three crackerjacks so far, but what to join them with?

well, throwing the recent emergence of his dubious political leanings to one side, we’ve decided that today we’ll go with a glittery classic from Nelson Muntz’s favourite crooner that makes you just want to throw on a disgusting Christmas sweater, slick and side-part your hair with a narrow comb, grab a large microphone and head on out into the street, singing and dancing like post-ghosts Scrooge himself.

nominated by JamieR, what else could i possibly mean except It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year by Andy Williams? that’s right, nothing.

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#xmasongs: day three

it’s the third day

of our christmas musical journey calendar, and it’s more than high time to see what lies behind metaphorical door 3.

today it’s all about a tune nominated by the wonderful KTownLass. regardless of how much we’d like to be responsible for giving her goosebumps, in the end we decided to go with her second choice, which she recommends for ‘festive fun’. quite

so, here’s wishing you all a generous slice of exactly that this yuletide.

today’s #xmasong (or should that be #xmasnog?) is Santa Baby by Eartha Kitt

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#xmasongs: day two

glad tidings

christmas card scenes all over the outside of the penthouse window today, even the prison looks quite cute when it’s got a little white hat on.

we’re still cheerily collating the onehundreds of suggestions we’ve received, and please, whatever you do, don’t stop letting us know about your most beloved seasonal ditties.

however, given the weather, we thought that today could really only belong to our favourite version of one of Irving Berlin’s most classic classics,

yup, today’s #xmasong is
White Christmas
by The Drifters

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#xmasongs: day one

so, here we are

day one of RQTs definitive run down of the ten best #xmasongs

please keep your nominations coming in (leave them in the form of comments on this post or yesterday’s launch post) – if you pick good tunes, they will be featured over the next ten days.

as for today, i’m going to kick things off with one of my favs. of all the hundreds of thousands of christmas albums produced in the US in the 50s and 60s, one voice has remained a truly lasting standard:

(old) Nat King Cole?
(p) Andy Williams?
Perry Como (ver)?
Johnny Mathis (the american for maths)?
well, (microsoft/chandler) Bing Crosby then?

no, no, no. all of these cats did good work and may well feature further along our christmassy road, but for me the person who stands head and shoulders shampoo above all the christmas crooners was actually only 4′ 9″ tall (shorter even than John Cage at 4′ 33″).

so, tell us a bit about this person:

well, they called her Little Miss Dynamite (before she got taller, turned british, turned black, got married, then divorced and became Ms Dynamite-hee)

she had 37 US chart hits in the 60s (which puts her at number 5 on the list for that decade – after Elvis, The Beatles, Ray Charles and Connie Francis)

this song features in one of my favourite Christmas movies ever (the utterly peerless Home Alone)

that’s right, tonight Matthew *drum roll* our #xmasong is …

Rocking Around The Christmas Tree by Brenda Lee (cue christmas smoke)

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#showertune: xmas songs

gleatings earthrings

as some of you will know, the next ten or fifteen days or so will herald the start of the celebration of the British winter festival known as Christmas.

something of which you might not be so aware, however, is that there exists a whole canon of Christmas songs, written, performed and recorded so that British shops have something to play while people buy things.

here at #showertune HQ we’re giving you the chance to select which of such xmas songs or #xmasongs if you will* that you would like us to feature over the festive period.

(*please note: this is the name we have decided on, so in reality your will is irrelevant)

if you’re uncertain about what Christmas songs are, the best place to find out is in a record shop – just ask the person at the counter about which songs they know that are Christmas songs, then write down what they say. also, the internet and the back cover of The Best Christmas Album In The World Ever! are useful.

please send in your votes as comments to this post, and we will try to feature as many as we can over the coming days.

#showertune: ‘all my days’ by alexi murdoch

last night

i rewatched Sam Mendes’ under-appreciated romantic comedy Away We Go.

it had exactly the same effects on me as it had the first time (at the cinema) – smiling, laughing, wistful remembering, hopeful reflection, tears.

i call it a romantic comedy because it’s genuinely romantic and very funny (two characteristics which are curiously under-represented in what usually passes for the contents of the genre).

i throughly recommend that you buy the dvd for a friend for xmas, or, better still, ask them to buy it for you.

today’s #showertune comes from the opening/closing sequences of the film and is the beautiful Nick Drake tribute All My Days by Alexi Murdoch

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#tirednewsflash: headliners

good even-ing

and time for a wintery of the main news in urea:

– world “gone all to bollocks” admits Tutu

– Cowell counters Cage with 4’33” cover

– many students ferrel, claims Oxford MP

– climate change knocked out of top ten worries by impending gravy shortage

– bible “original wikileaks” preach desperate vicars

– It’s A Wonderful Life “too optimistic” for xmas schedule

– royal Charles caught in car with Widdecombe — why?

and finally

#ranthill: our duty and our joy

today, Jeremy Cunt the Hulture Secretary will reveal the latest scheme designed to ‘establish’ a hulture of philanthropy (and justify tax breaks for the rich).

amongst all the rhetoric of introducing an ‘American style’ system of ‘conspicuous giving’ that is floating around, it seems to have escaped many people’s attention that, like almost every aspect of American hulture, their system is an instantiation of a British notion from a bygone era.

“let money fructify in the pockets of the people” is one of the most famous catchphrases (say what you see) of one of Britain’s most famous politicians, and is indicative of the economics of laissez faire that dominated the Victorian period.

this is almost exactly the rhetoric that lies behind today’s initiative. however, you probably won’t hear Gladstone quoted (after all, this is the announcement of a new, dynamic policy) – but you probably will hear commentators invoking ‘trickle-down’ imagery, which is equally old.

the image conjured is something like a pyramid of champagne glasses at an expensive wedding. the wine is poured in at the top (the rich) and once (and only once) it has filled the glasses there, it ‘trickles down’ and fills the glasses on the next level. and so on.

of course, one aspect of reality not encompassed by this cheerful imagery is the fact that the rich have very large champagne glasses which take a long time to fill. imagine a pyramid in which the more elevated the glass within the structure, the larger it is in comparison to those beneath it – of course it’s a difficult thing to picture, given that, in reality, such a structure would be woefully unstable and likely to collapse at any minute (hmmmmmmm …)

this, therefore, was the big issue (pun intended) with Gladstone’s idea – deep pockets take a long time to fill and come into ‘fruit’, and in the meantime the people at the bottom starve.

it was in response to the economic failures of nineteenth century toryism and the shocking evils of early twentieth century warfare, that the British welfare system and the NHS were established. the logic of these institutions was totally different. government was elected to serve the interests of the people, as defined through engagement with the political process. government was entrusted, through taxation, with the money to invest in welfare and the provision of that which benefitted the common good.

taxation expresses a duty on behalf of all to each. it also binds each working person into the political system – each having a palpable interest in how and where their tax is spent. as our American friends know best, there is rightly a working relationship between taxation and representation.

what is more, tax is taken ‘off the top’ at the source. it does not ‘fructify’ (i.e. sit in off-shore accounts earning interest) in anyone’s pockets before it enters the mechanisms of redistribution. those in need do not have to wait for the rich to get as rich as they feel they need to be before they can get some help to pay their rent. the dignity of those at the bottom is not dependant on the charitable whims of those at the top.

this is precisely why people saw ‘tax and spend’ welfarism as the only appropriate response to both the legacies of Victorian poverty and the horrors of the two world wars. furthermore, during the latter, british people had discovered that working together – rationing goods, helping neighbours, each ‘doing their duty’ – actually made for a better quality of life, even in extreme conditions.

the world wars constituted a profound challenge to the idea that human beings are innately good. and thus the Victorian idea that, having been given the chance to make as much money as possible, wealthy people would naturally want to give some away to those in need, lost much of its purchase. people vividly perceived that humans can be good if determined and directed, but in the same way they can also be terrible.

don’t get me wrong, the British culture of philanthropism did many great things. many public libraries, schools, hospitals, parks and so forth were built by successful entrepreneurs for the benefit of their localities (although it was never quite as it is in America today, where every bench and tree bears a benefactor’s plaque). the problem was, that few people wanted to do the less glamourous work of helping the poorest survive day-to-day.

it was not the grand largesse of Victorian philanthropy, but largely the dutiful and sacrificial service of Victorian Christians that propped up the system where it was weakest – movements like The Salvation Army and the YMCA mopped up the rotten ‘fruits’ of Gladstone’s labour. and, while it is true to say that such movements were to some extent the product of charity, the fact is that the kind of charity they exercised was not primarily the trickle-down kind of the rattling coin jar, but rather the self-sacrifical ideology of Christian love.

taxation is not a perfect system of wealth redistribution, and it is certainly at the mercy of political corruption, but, personally, i’d rather live with a common purse hostage to the potential for democratically elected and accountable corruption, than allow the richest corporations even larger tax breaks and place that money in the hands of those who, by will and law, must serve only the financial interests of themselves and their investors.

no-one particularly enjoys looking at their already meagre pay-slip and seeing how much money they have ‘lost’ to tax, but in reality we should celebrate the system and see it as ‘our duty and our joy’ to contribute to the common good. we all want good public transport, quality public health care, good schools, competent public emergency services, decent levels of public sanitation and so on (all the things the Victorians mostly lacked), so we should be happy to pay for them, together.

what we should also want, however, having done our duty and made our contributions, is to passionately ensure that government is held accountable for the proper use of our money. that means voting, yes, but also writing to your MP to express your wishes, joining unions and pressure groups which lobby government, and, where necessary, taking to the streets to express dissatisfaction. each of these avenues for influencing political process to some extent or another relies on the economic mandate that comes from taxation.

if you hate paying tax, and are persuaded by the rhetoric being spouted by Cunt and others, then I would ask you to do this: take a detailed look at American society and politics. America has more billionaires then any other country on the planet, one of the largest accountancy sectors (frantically working to help people avoid tax) and some of the hugest tax breaks for the rich and powerful:

Do they experience less political corruption? Does the average American have more political influence, more say in what goes on on Capital Hill? Do they have better public transport? A better school system? A better justice system? Do they have less unemployment? Is their’s a more stable economy? Do they have less poverty?
and frankly, if you think they do, then why not move there? and please take the current government with you. as for me, i believe in taxes – yeah, now who’s with me?

… hhello?