Mon 20th – Sun 26th March 2017
Last week was pretty much all about culture. Apart from my usual intense reading and listening to audio books, I also saw several films at BFI Flare and Marc Almond in concert. Yep there was the usual tech for good / digital work stuff. But I took leave from work to attend Flare and so was only in the office on two mornings. Also a great catch-up with my old mate Dom on Thurs. But this blog focuses on the films I saw, the Marc Almond concert, my fitness regime, plus books and reading.
Films at Flare
BFI Flare was the centre of last week, the London LGBT Film Festival. I love this annual event though the quality of the programme can vary. Plus you have to put up with the slightly chaotic organisation and the attitude that floats around from cinema goers and BFI staff. But it’s good fun so long as you don’t take it seriously. The films are always like a pick n mix with a variety of clever and original through to being up their own arse and crap. With time off work I managed to book to see ten films this year and made nine of them. One was detailed in my last blog as it happened the previous weekend (as did the one I missed as well). Below are the details of the films I saw last week.
Mon afternoon and an Argentinian movie about a group of good-looking straight men who hang out at one of their number’s holiday home. There’s lots of semi-nudity and nudity as they just lounge about doing nothing and the sort of things straight men stereotypically do such as get stoned, fart, and drink. Into their number comes a secret gay guy with a crush on the man who brings him (they met at the local Taekwondo class – get it?). However there may be more than one amongst the group but nobody comes out. The whole film is based on staring at men’s bodies and wondering if two of them are going to ever get off together. My tweet sums it all up:
Just been to see Taekwondo at #BFIFlare – a (too?) long soft-porn prick tease
— Billy Dann (@BillyDann1) March 20, 2017
Centre of my World
A nice German film seen on Tues afternoon. It suffers the very common problem of modern films in that it is too long. It lasts for over two hours. A gay coming of age film where a young man very relaxed about his sexuality falls in love with a classmate and it’s all reciprocated. He’s part of a hippy-dippy family and there are problems with his sister and his mother that are revealed as the movie progresses. His first love also falls apart and he is betrayed by someone close as many of us experience in life. Perfectly decent and worth seeing. It is a bit like a modern fairy story and that ain’t a criticism.
From one extreme to another on the same day. From Centre of My World’s light, colour and softness we come to Jesus’ darkness. Jesus himself is a young Chilean man doing nothing with his life. Drunken stupidity leads to a life-changing event. There’s also the story of his struggle to connect with his lone-parent father. The film is constantly dark in terms of story and lack of light. There’s a gay sex scene but are they just driven by lust, drink and drugs rather than passion? A good film but one that gives lots of questions and no answers. Though pleasing that it is a bearable hour and a half only.
Another long film, well over two hours. An Icelandic coming of age movie. It is about a group of teenagers both male and female. And it is set in a small town in the desolate Icelandic countryside. Indeed, the film says everything I hate about the countryside. The stunning scenery hiding boredom, viciousness, and a longing to get away to the city. The main characters are two boys who might be gay but might also just be friends. If anything, the film says to me the problems that comes when society tries to force people to identify themselves sexually.
More teenage angst, amazing how much of the gay movie scene focuses on this. As though life for gay people after thirty is just too boring to make a film about. A young gay man in rural Illinois deals with his father dying having blown all the money on his teenage floozy. The dream of film school in Chicago is shot unless lead character Miles can get a scholarship. There is a volleyball one but that means joining the school’s girls’ team. There then follows the whole thing about whether boys should be allowed on girls’ teams. It’s a cutesey film though the laughable pettiness of small town rural America has now been shown to be much nastier as they are the people who put Trump and his neo-fascists in power.
At last a French film on Fri afternoon; I do like a bit of French. Another long one going on for over two hours. And it’s set in snow-covered mountains for a large part. Like Heartstone, it reminds me why I would hate to live in the countryside. More teenage angst as two boys move from hating and fighting each other into being lovers (sort of). It is all quite melodramatic with other plot lines going on like a woman who has lost previous pregnancies becoming pregnant again and an army father being killed in action. Perfectly decent but perhaps just too much in the mix?
Something to Remember
A packed Sat morning cinema selection of short films with none being more than 20 mins in length. There is a real art to making such a short film that also has impact and meaning. This was a good bunch though very much set around that age old theme of young man discovering he is gay, etc. Quite international with films from Argentina, Denmark and Portugal as well as one from Indonesia. Jeez it must be difficult realising you are gay there and this film shows that. The rest were UK about a young man meeting someone via an internet hook-up (very sad and sensitive), two boxers, and two brothers.
Back to the BFI on Sat night – Dave was back visiting his mother for Mother’s Day (I did my tour of duty the following day for lunch). This film is a comedy about an HIV+ man in his forties primarily dealing with trying to afford his meds. It made me feel lucky that I don’t have to worry about that. A nice independent film with some story lines that make you laugh and smile. But not a piss-yourself laughing film and trying very hard to be quirky. But it was good to see a gay film about middle-age people and about the issues of around being long-term HIV. For too many gay film-makers it’s all about young good-looking men who take their clothes off a lot whilst they search for their Prince Charming and HIV is just a boring life-long condition that is better left not discussed.
Marc is one of the key influences of my teenage years as Soft Cell were one of the great bands of the eighties. He was as shocking and stereotype-challenging as Boy George. Indeed, the homophobia Marc dealt with was astounding. And I’ve always had a crush on his co-star Dave Ball. Their music was a breath of fresh, sleazy air. I challenge anyone not to listen to ‘Non-stop erotic cabaret’ and fall in love with that album. Marc’s career has twisted and turned but he still stands as a music legend.
The current tour is mainly a medley of greatest hits – it’s called ‘Hits and Pieces’. It is also marking the fact that he is 60 and still alive. There was a terrible motorbike accident a few years ago which Marc managed to survive, thank God. So many greats have already gone including David Bowie, Steve Strange, and George Michael. It feels important to see the surviving great musicians and appreciate them whilst we still can.
The concert took place at the Roundhouse, a great venue. Support came from The Flicks who I have never heard of but are a good girl band in the spirit of the Bangles. Marc’s voice was great though the audience sung most of the songs. The visuals on the screen behind were beautiful and captivating. There were some torch songs I didn’t know but we also got loads of the Soft Cell back-catalogue including from LPs after Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret. All the favourites were there apart from Sex Dwarf. The audience were fascinating, generally a mass of ageing punks and new wavers like me, my partner and his friend who attended. Overall a great night. Thanks Marc for just being you.
Health and efficiency
Gym four times on the mornings of Mon, Thurs, Wed and Sun. For the first three days I did weights and some time on the treadmill. Rested my legs on Sun as I had a jog-run the day before. That went well in that I got back to doing 10K but not a super fast time. Good to report that my joints weren’t too bad on the run or afterwards. Weight at 13-10.
Today’s Jog-run was a return to 10k tho time ok rather than brilliant pic.twitter.com/oCICPmi111
— Billy Dann (@BillyDann1) March 25, 2017
Books and reading
‘Golden Hill’ by Francis Spufford
This is a much plaudited recent novel by a writer who usually only covers non-fiction. It appeals to me as it is about colonial America, a period and place dear to my heart from my university studies. It is the intriguing story of a mystery man who arrives in small-town colonial New York. What is his reason for being there with a huge bill of payment to be honoured to him drawn on one of the cities main financier merchants? This mystery is veined through the book and makes for an intriguing ending that makes you go ‘aghh’ in a knowing way with its sagacity. Other stories woven in as well include the mistaken death of a friend and the courting of a difficult woman. Highly recommended.
Dr Who audio adventures
The Doomsday Quatrain (seventh Doctor Sylvester McCoy)
Another adventure (and ‘Blue Fire’ as well) where the Doctor travels alone. And this works quite well with him being an almost tragic lone figure. This adventure is actually quite confusing as many of them are, trying to be clever. The Doctor meets Nostradamus who isn’t actually real. The story also involves a species who create other species for profit and a race of vicious crocodile aliens. In the thoughts at the end, the author says it really is three stories in one and that is a good summary though not necessarily an endorsement.
House of Blue Fire (seventh Doctor)
The first episode is great as we try to find out what is going on with no Doctor around. It sort of winds down after that especially in the second half where all is revealed and it is a pretty formulaic story-line. Humans experiment and bring forth long forgotten aliens with power, tum-te-tum-te-tum. The Doctor has to step in to sort things and a few people die on the way. Perhaps I am being too dismissive. It is actually a perfectly decent adventure though ultimately a bit of a let down.
Good stuff for next week when things are a bit more back to normal:
- More lighter and warmer days with blue skies (hopefully)
- Appointing someone to be Nissa’s replacement when she goes on maternity leave
- Going to the theatre with Dave on Mon to see a jazz musical, not normally our thing
- Perhaps finally catching La-La Land to see what it is all about
- Two evening meetings. One around ICT4D (tech for good in an international development context), and the other being the WordPress London meet-up. Will I have the stamina to do both?
- Four gym sessions or three (and a swim?). Possibly no jog-run at the weekend as the roads where I run are closed for some reason.
- DuoLingo daily and some coding practice -failed to do DL on one day last week and no coding practice
- Finishing reading at least two books and listening to at least a couple of Dr Who audio adventures
- Off to Manchester next Sun for the boot camp for our new UK Tech for Good projects on Mon + Tues