The cultured teenager

the best of literature, film and music, shown through my rather short-sighted eyes

Monthly Archives: May 2012

Must-see film #6: The Ladykillers (1955)

This is a film that should never get remade. It is British and iconic of subdued 50’s films, incredibly witty but poignantly subtle; for this reason Hollywood should see this as a forbidden zone. Unfortunately my warning comes far too late. Not that I have seen it, but the 2004 remake of The Ladykillers is not what a movie like that should become; people wanted to remake because it was so good, but often, films are good because they are of their right time. The Coen Brothers are undoubtedly good directors and if anyone were to make a decent effort at a remake they’d be pretty good hopes, however their brilliance often comes from their originality and zaniness, but that cannot be achieved from a remake like this. All in all, their remake was deemed a failure.

Hollywood have found impossible what the British film industry has found so easy for generations; simple, honest comedies. Ealing studies produced another gem in this warm-hearted black comedy, about how a gang of five criminals attempted to steal some loot by duping an old grandmother into nonchalantly taking it on their behalf. This mismatched gang of criminals consists of the wise ex-serviceman (Parker), hardened tough guy (Green), cockney rebel (Sellers), mysterious assassin (Lom) and a criminal mastermind who is long past his expiry date, Professor Marcus. Marcus is created brilliantly and effortlessly by Alec Guinness’ superb characterization and dry wit, edging it far past anything Hollywood would be able to produce. The failed attempts to steal the bounty, through pretending to be a string quintet in order to trick the perfectly cast, elderly woman (Katie Johnson), eventually end in the fatal yet hilarious ending, which although being a black comedy isn’t dark but as naff as you’d expect from a British comedy in the mid-50’s. This also deliciously brings back the gloomy, hazy images of an industrial post-war London and the true spirit behind post-war England, showing that gloom doesn’t last forever, and we can still have a good laugh.

It isn’t incredibly clever and as it progresses becomes rather predictable but this isn’t the sort of film to criticise the slight errors in editing, but it is a witty black comedy that has aged well, reflecting a simpler time. Regards 🙂

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April’s music reviewed

These are the artists and albums that I have given a listen to in the last month, bands I know and love, bands I’d never heard of before and stuff, because i just always feel like listening to something; Please enjoy,

Jack White: Blunderbuss Probably the album I have been most anticipating of any of this years releases, partly because I love everything jack White seems to produce, but also because of the knowledge that this was going to be different. And Jack White has done me proud. The tone is set by the woozy yet simplistic ‘Missing Pieces’, showing straight from the offing the emotive integrity of the album, allowing obvious references to Jack White III’s relationships, and divorce prior to the albums release. It is therefore clear why, although the album sounds like that of a band, it is a solo piece, laying himself bare, being personal and more candid than anything by his three previous bands. Where other artists pick a style and stick to it, this possibly explains the vast variety of ‘projects’ he undertakes, due to his undeniable talent for making genre crossing music which is fascinating and charming; this is prevalent in Blunderbuss, moving from woozy and soothing to abrasive and raw in a number of chords. Contrasting to a lot of the album, my personal favourite track is Sixteen Saltines, with a riff reminiscent of Blue Orchid or Dead Leaves On The Dirty Ground, from the squeal at the beginning I can’t help but be consumed by the harsh bluesy hues. I think this is an album however which I need to listen to a lot more, as upon first hearing it was sometimes almost trying hard to be different to his other stuff but nonetheless is a brilliant album. 9/10

Brendan Benson: What Kind Of World An artist who I will always closely link to the man whose album I have reviewed above, but is now starting to come out of his shell. Not that he hasn’t already produced solo material, and bloody good independent work at that, but just as his classic album Lapalco worked perfect stylistically, What Kind Of World has done the same. Maybe, it is somewhat less accessible in some manners, being slightly more hazed and brooding, but nevertheless stays true to Benson’s formula, without trying too hard, making music that sounds simple and good simultaneously. It is gloomy without beingsombre and could easily be thrown into the ‘background music’ catalogue, but in no way deserves this; the piano-backed radio rock track ‘Bad for me’ is the perfect example of this and can only really be understood through a quick listen. Definitely worth a listen, whatever sort of music you usually listen to. 8/10

Pond: Beard Wives Denim My first introduction to this band was via their brother band, the much hyped (suitably so) Tame Impala, whose last two albums have both been brilliant to listen to. Containing some members of Tame Impala I was hoping that this musically gifted gene pool would spout some more glorious, guitar induced enjoyment. Boy heck was I proven correct. Merely watching the video for ‘Fantastic Explosion Of time’ is enough to leave me aghast at the creativity which would obviously feel more at home in 1968, taking psychedelia to a new level, making me presume that the band were taking some really interesting substances in the albums production. This isn’t just, however, lots of spinning colours and lyrics about sunshine, birds and free love, but hardened and edgy; it is the sort of music I want to think I would make in order to be adored. And this is the thing, a band playing this sort of music, unsurprisingly has an obsessive collective of fans. The album progresses onwards with gems such as ‘Eye Pattern Baldness’ which I originally thought could have come off an average Lou Reed album, suddenly turns into soothing lyricism and then plunges into a pool of darkness and twisting riffs. Just bliss to the ears 9/10

Please at least contemplate listening to anything here that sounds decent because I seriously doubt you’ll regret it considering how brilliant some of April’s music has been. Regards 🙂