Goodfellas #atozchallenge

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Over the course of these 26 posts, I plan to tell you about my three favourite movies. In no particular order (and as today is the day of G), we begin with Goodfellas – Martin Scorcese’s epic trawl through the life and times of gangster Henry Hill played impeccably by Ray Liotta.

This is a mind-blowing monster of a movie from “As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster!” to “I’m an average nobody – get to live the rest of my life as a schnook!” and then Joe Pesci’s terrifying Tommy DeVito blowing us away into the end credits.

It was 1990, and we went to see Goodfellas the night before my driving test (which I passed – third time!). I’d never seen anything like it: visceral story-telling that won’t let up for a second and that pumping soundtrack pulsating through every scene. The movie is by turns hilariously funny and then deeply dramatic; explosive and uncompromising in its violence, portraying a life that is eye popping in its nouveaux lavishness as it is uncomfortable in its cheap sleaziness. But it doesn’t judge. Just like Wolf Of Wall Street (which could have been Scorcese’s masterpiece if it was half an hour shorter), it lets you make up your own mind about these lovable amoral characters.

I could go on about Scorcese’s ground-breaking direction, his pitch-perfect screenplay written with Nicholas Pileggi, the production design and costumes that take you right back in time, and those amazing performances: Liotta and Oscar-winning Pesci of course but Robert De Niro sparkles, Lorraine Bracco is a scene-stealer and Paul Sorvino is the best boss since Brando. Very few movies send me out buzzing but this one had me walking on air.

I won’t give you the obvious “how am I funny” clip. Here are two great moments. And if you haven’t seen this picture, drop everything. Watch it now! Your life is missing something.

Kraitt out!

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Folds (Ben) #atozchallenge

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FNo words needed today as I hand over to one of my favourite dudes, Mister Ben…

Everybody knows
It sucks to grow up
And everybody does
It’s so weird to be back here.
Let me tell you what
The years go on and
We’re still fighting it, we’re still fighting it
And you’re so much like me
I’m sorry                                  

Still Fighting It by Ben Folds from Rockin’ The Suburbs (2001)

Here’s the magnificent Ben Folds Five…

And here’s Ben at the piano…

 

Kraitt out.

My Favourite Erics #atozchallenge

ENot only is it tough to blog every single day (with Sundays off) but it’s also tricky coming up with a new theme for each post to correspond with the letters of the alphabet. So, in honour of the letter E, here is a selection of my very favourite celebrities and historical figures named Eric.

The true meaning of the name Eric is:
Derived from the Old Norse Eirìkr, a compounding of the elements ei (ever, always) and ríkr (ruler): hence, “eternal ruler.” Var: Aric, Erick, Erik, Irricc.

According to one of the definitions in the Urban Dictionary:
The most amazing person in the entire universe. Everything about him is perfect! He’s charming, handsome, intelligent, strong, romantic, funny…everything you want in a guy. It’s impossible not to fall in love with him! Once you lay eyes on him, you will know from that very moment that you will never stop loving him.
“…did you see eric…damn that bitch is fine!”

So here are my favourite Erics, in no particular order (roll over or click the pic for a caption)…

This is, of course, a list of my favourites. You may have your own. Is it Estrada? Or B? Or even Ba(nan)a? Feel free to let me know in the comments section.

Tomorrow, some music.

Kraitt out!

David #atozchallenge

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DI guess most of us know where we were when we heard David Bowie had died. Like most in this time zone, I was in bed, staring bleary-eyed at the radio alarm clock as it broadcast the news; wondering if I was in the midst of a bizarre dream. This one touched everyone and I didn’t have a conversation over the next few days without mentioning the Duke.

I’m not normally one to broadcast my feelings on social media. I find the obligatory grief-bombing that takes place after a celebrity death to be a little self indulgent – and there’s been a hell of a lot of it so far this year. So I left the tweeting and FB posting to others but there were some wonderful stories shared that day, along with video clips and audio snips that celebrated the man better than 140 measly characters. Adam Buxton captures the mood perfectly on his Bowie Wallow Podcast (Parts 1 & 2) , which is well worth a listen.

On this day of D for the A to Z Challenge, I give you an entirely prosaic and largely forgettable David anecdote. My big admission here today is that, until my early twenties, I had never heard the second verse of Changes. Audible gasps!? Read on…

Apart from Let’s Dance in my Dad’s car and a brilliant performance of Space Oddity on the Kenny Everett show, my introduction to Bowie proper came via my good friends Ed Fowkes and David Drew in late summer 1987. I’m not sure why I hadn’t caught the space bug, as I was well aware of his music from my older brothers and thought he smashed it at Live Aid. But my mind was truly blown forever when Mr. Drew, the first of us to learn to drive and therefore our transport to school for the rest of the year, popped Hunky Dory into the tape deck one morning. I was sold.

His cassette recording of that album, sitting snugly on one side of a C90 (couldn’t say what was on the other side, possibly Ziggy Stardust – what a tape!) from which I ripped it myself, had one idiosyncrasy. There was a scratch on the original vinyl LP at the start of the second verse of Changes…

“I watch the ripples change their size-change their size-change their size-ch-
SCRRRRRRCH
-quite aware what they’re going through…CH-CH-CH-CH-CHAAANGES!” Etc.

Yes young readers, in the olden days, physical media for the playing of music was easily damaged and that damage was then recorded when copying that music! As this was the version of the song that I owned and played for years to come until the tape wore out, I can never again hear Ch-Ch-Changes without expecting the scratch-and-jump. That stunning lyric about the stream of warm impermanence (and spitting on children) is lost to me.

Here’s a picture of David ironing Brian Eno’s arm.

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See you tomorrow.

Kraitt out.

Just Connery #atozchallenge

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CThose who know me well are aware that I very occasionally slip into a patchy impersonation of Sean Connery. Usually, it’s an attempt to take advantage of a sentence containing a lot of S sounds, but it’s also a tactic to fill an awkward (or otherwise) silence. For those that aren’t used to this, it can come across a little strange. And it is an odd habit; you could say an alarming psychological condition, a form of tourettes – or even tourettsh!

The fact is, you see, I LOVE talking like Sean Connery!

There’s something so expressive about it, as though you’re stretching your pallet – exercising every aspect of your speaking instrument. It’s not just the S sound becoming SH – which is of course perfect for cheap gags like…
“What time does Sean Connery go to Wimbledon?”
“Tennish!”
…it’s also the languid drawl of the cultured Scotsman (and he is always Scottish, no matter what accent he’s attempting; even winning an Oscar as an Irish beat cop). It just feels so good.

Here are some examples to try at home:

Classic Sean:

Irish Sean:

Spanish Sean:

Singing Sean:

You can also just slip Sean into a conversation, if you don’t mind the odd questioning look. The easiest one is a Connery Affirmative when you are completely in agreement: instead of YES try YEEEEAARSH. Another one for the Connery Beginner, which can be added to the Connery Affirmative, is the Connery Qualifier: OF COORSH. It’s so easy and the whole family can join in.

From there, it can get more advanced. Perhaps I should offer evening classes, or start a school; a Con-dergarten! Or more appropriately, a Shunday Shchool.

Tune in tomorrow. D is for David.

Kraitt out.

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Batman meet Superman. Superman meet Batman. #atozchallenge

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Yes, just like the rest of the pop culture geek sheep, James and I turned up on Bopening night for Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of the Return of the Revenge of the Son of the Bride of Justice (that’s James’s joke). My daughter Molly is sixteen and has far more important things to do with her time!

Now, this blockbusting beast of a movie has suffered some cataclysmically disastrous reviews and many fans feel let-down, wounded, betrayed…

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A very clever film critic prepares to pass judgement on BVS:DOJ [acronym ahoy!]

WELL, I LOVED IT!

We both did.

Yes, it’s a godawful mess. Of course, the plot actually makes no sense if you think about it for more than five seconds. Zack Snyder has no idea what to do with Superman so Henry Cavill looks faintly perplexed throughout. Sure, Lois Lane is desperately underwritten. Obviously, the blatant mini-trailers for future DC movies that have been shoehorned into the plot seem utterly contrived and nastily cynical (Marvel never does that – they save it for the end credits!). And I understand from true geeks that the film makers haven’t just ignored comic book lore, they’ve torn out all the pages of the rule book and set fire to them on a Viking longboat and sent them floating off on the River Styx to Movie Hades.

BUT

You cannot deny it is a hell of a lot of fun.

Ben Affleck is the most bad-ass Batman we’ve seen this side of the Arkham video games. Jeremy Irons is a perfectly crotchety Alfred. Gal Gadot takes on Wonder Woman with a vengeance and Jessie Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor is a fittingly contemporary, sincerely bonkers techno-zillionaire. The action sequences are sweet, the mood is darker than the Marvel model, and it even attempts some serious themes amongst all the nonsense. Much of this good will may be down to my astonishingly low expectations: Man of Steel was half an okay picture but the other half really was a crime against movie-going humanity; but that doesn’t alter the fact that this reviewer’s thumb is up! I actually want to see it again and what’s not to like about that?!

Next time, we’ll turn our attention to a real movie legend who would kick these guys’ butts from Metropolis to Gotham and back again. Until Monday.

Kraitt out.

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Bruce Wayne and his chums in happier times

 

Anaerobic Digester #atozchallenge

ADriving to a rugby tournament in Basingstoke with my son James last month, we passed a road sign that read simply ANAEROBIC DIGESTER. This is no doubt one of the most mysterious and enigmatic road signs I’d ever seen. I was tempted to follow but we were late (as usual) so had to continue on our way.

We carried on discussing this bizarre piece of road architecture. What the devil is an anaerobic digester anyway? Could we have taken that path and come across something like this…?

Cute-Monster

Then it struck me that Anaerobic Digester is the perfect name for a band (possibly thrash metal). We could imagine their theme tune; a grinding mix of electro beats and rock guitar a la Rammstein, with a distorted vocal shouting the two words ANAEROBIC DIGESTER over and over again. It’s a hit!

I’ve spent the last few weeks trying to persuade James (who is twelve) to change his school band’s name to Anaerobic Digester. His lead guitarist Sigmund (yes indeed – Siggy plays guitar!) said they’d think about it.

Until tomorrow.

Kraitt out!

P.S. “Anaerobic digestion is the natural breakdown of organic materials into methane and carbon dioxide gas and fertiliser. This takes place naturally, or in an anaerobic digester. A typical anaerobic digester is a sealed vessel, or series of vessels, in which bacteria act without oxygen.”

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A genuine Anaerobic Digester