Friday, 9 November 2018

All the cats join in - swing classics from the likes of Cab Calloway, Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman and Lionel Hampton

That video of Cab Calloway and his Orchestra performing "Jumpin' Jive" (the dancers trying to destroy their own bodies were the incomparably wonderful Nicholas Brothers) comes from...

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

The Rise of the Theremin: 1949 and 1951 ensured a decade of creepy movie soundtracks

I've always responded like a Pavlov dog to the sound of a theremin on a movie soundtrack.There's something about the instrument's quivering, imprecise, other-worldy tone which causes instant cognitive dissonance. We know that something abnormal and possibly dangerous is happening, either inside the head of the character we're watching, or, in the case of science fiction films, to our planet. The Soviet inventor Léon Theremin patented his creation in 1928, and it was first used in a film score by Shostakovich for 1931's Odna. But it was eighteen years before it graced a Hollywood movie: Miklós Rózsa used it for Hitchcock's Spellbound (1949) to convey Gregory Peck's psychosis:

Saturday, 3 November 2018

Farewell, Tony Joe White - here are 12 slices of your very own brand of swamp magic

(Worth listening to just for the way he manages to make "voluptuous" sound so, well, voluptuous.) "High Sheriff of Calhoun Parish" (or, if you prefer, "Hah Chef of Calhoun Paish") was the stand-out track on...

Friday, 2 November 2018

I always knew our son should be doing art history documentaries for BBC4!

Until this morning, when my son emailed me the link, I didn't know the 2012 YouTube video, A Brief Guide to Futurist Art and Futurism - which he made and posted under a pseudonym after finishing his A-levels and before heading for university - existed. And I'd probably still be unaware of it had my son not recently discovered, to his utter astonishment , that it has been watched over 66,000 times!
Look, I know I'm his dad and everything...

Four excellent psychopath movies: They Made Me a Fugitive, He Walked by Night, Experiment in Terror and The Sniper

They Made a Fugitive (1947) is one of the most effective British noir thrillers I've ever seen...

Friday, 26 October 2018

Four film noir masterpieces I've just watched for the first time: Odds Against Tomorrow, Crossfire, The Killers and Sudden Fear!

Odds Against Tomorrow is very late noir - 1959 - but, while it doesn't really cover any new territory (apart from visually) it's one of the best examples of the genre...

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Foreign movie-fest: The Golden Coach, Rome - Open City, Rocco and His Brothers, Faust, and Cairo Station

Roberto Rosselini's Rome, Open City (1945) was made in impossible circumstances: work began on the script just two months after the Germans had been forced from the city, the modest funds ran out almost at once, as did film stock, and the production soon ground to a halt. Then an obliging American soldier provided Rossellini with various odds and ends of US Signal Corps film stock, which had been discarded because it might be damaged, and thereby got the whole thing rolling again. Which is fortunate, because it's a truly compelling movie - in large measure due to its necessarily low production values. The vast majority of the actors were amateurs, the production was extremely rough, and it had to be shot on location because Cinecittà Studios weren't functioning. Like Rossellini's Germany Year Zero (1948), shot in the heap of rubble that Berlin had been reduced to, Rome, Open City feels extraordinarily real:

Saturday, 20 October 2018

Another health bulletin: the good news is that I won't be losing my hair! (And who is/was Garry Weston?)

Three weeks' ago, I had my first appointment with the oncologists at Hammersmith Hospital, where my wife and I learned that my inoperable pancreatic cancer meant that, without any form of intervention, I wouldn't be around to celebrate Christmas next year. A number of options were mentioned - one clinical trial involving chemotherapy and a series of endoscopic procedures during which the tumour would be "burned", another trial involving heavy duty chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and a standard course of weekly chemotherapy over several months. Last week, I returned to the hospital for a scan and a blood test, and this Thursday - having finally steeled myself to read all the literature they'd handed me on my first visit - I had separate chats with a surgeon involved in the trials, my oncology nurse, and my oncologist...