Category Archives: My Favourite Things

Karaoke

All the musicians I know despise karaoke. I love it.

Don’t get me wrong, I find drunk people in wigs annoying and a bit intimidating, and I wince then they scream down a mic. But that’s not the part of karaoke that attracts me.

The best days to go to a karaoke bar are weeknights. That’s when people tend to go on their own, or with a friend. You often get to hear people who have talent, and skill, and just pop by because they love to perform every now and again.

My favourite part of a karaoke bar are the people who come on their own as a personal challenge, cripplingly shy, who get up and sing so completely out of tune, so utterly atrociously, that it would actually be quite hard for someone to learn how to sing that badly on purpose. They sing in a serious “trying” kind of way, as if their therapist has suggested they come and do this to help them with their confidence. These individuals give me hope, as they are allowed their own 4 minutes on the stage, and no one boos them, or even cracks a smirk. They have the courage to go on a stage without talent, without skill, and they are brave enough to leave themselves incredibly vulnerable and exposed.

On my 30th birthday, I organised a picnic and a trip to the local karaoke bar. I had been stressed for weeks about the event, deciding not to rent a place out in the end as, although I could invite 100 people, I actually only actually like a much smaller number. Mixing groups of friends in the Basque Country can also be tough. There’s a lot of factions, people prefer to stay in their cuadrillas, and explosive arguments can happen over politics; as always, the trauma of the armed conflict bubbles beneath the surface here.

Only a few people came to the karaoke bar. Several people came waaaaay late, clearly out of a feeling of obligation. The bar was subterranean, with perilous stairs, ridiculously expensive drinks, and the darkest wood panelling known to man. At around 930pm, a group of down syndrome young people had come in, presumably on some sort of organised trip, and were dancing around to the pop tunes. I loved watching the beautiful human theatre; the awkward atmosphere created by people trying to hide their reaction to the down syndrome group. It was as prickly as it was exhilarating.

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Helen Mirren: Top 10 on my to watch list

Original article here.

10. Herostratus (1967)

This experimental feature by artist and film-maker Don Levy showcases Mirren in her first cinema role – an outrageous cameo of cartoon sexiness and sexism, which startled everyone who saw it. Her sketch is of a scantily clad woman advertising washing up gloves. The pure fun she gets from this performance is palpable.

9. The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover (1989)

Mirren often plays the errant or subversive “wife”, but her role in this Peter Greenaway film – as the spouse of Michael Gambon’s boorish and aggressive criminal, her face a mask of detestation and ennui – is arguably its most stylised, operatically abstracted form.

8. Gosford Park (2001)

This country-house period mystery-drama, directed by Robert Altman and scripted by Julian Fellowes, spawned TV’s Downton Abbey. Mirren has a below-stairs role as head housekeeper Mrs Wilson, a woman with an awful secret and a proud sense of her own place in this stratified world. Mirren’s accent, so often unlocatable in terms of class, is not roughened up.

Mirren in O lucky Man!
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Mirren in O lucky Man! Photograph: Allstar/Warner Bros

7. O Lucky Man! (1973)

In Lindsay Anderson’s film, Mirren plays the sexually voracious Patricia, who seduces Malcolm McDowell in the back of a van, then dumps him for a duke. There is such exuberant joy in Mirren’s early, predatory-sexy roles.

6. Last Orders (2010)

This is a very male film – ageing, maudlin blokes in pubs exuding melancholy with the fug of cigarette smoke – but Mirren almost pinches the entire thing. David Hemmings, Bob Hoskins and Tom Courtenay play old mates on a journey with the ashes of their departed friend (Michael Caine). Mirren plays Caine’s widow beautifully, caring for their disabled daughter while the menfolk are down the pub.

Mirren (left) and Julie Walters in Calendar Girls.
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Mirren (left) and Julie Walters in Calendar Girls. Photograph: Allstar/Buena Vista

5. Calendar Girls (2003)

“We’re going to need considerably bigger buns!” This remark, now hardly less legendary than the line from Jaws that it is spoofing, comes from Mirren’s character, Chris, the glamorous friend of Julie Walters’s Annie, whose husband has just died of cancer. Annie, Chris and their WI mates do a naughty-but-nice nude calendar to raise money. Mirren’s deadpan drollery is very enjoyable.

Mirren as Colonel Katherine Powell in Eye in the Sky.
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Mirren as Colonel Katherine Powell in Eye in the Sky. Photograph: Allstar/Entertainment One

4. Eye in the Sky (2015)

Mirren is a professional soldier in this excellent thriller. A careworn, khaki-clad colonel, she must make tough decisions about the deployment of a drone to kill terrorists. It is close, perhaps, to her classic TV character, police detective Jane Tennison as a procedural figure dealing with office politics and actual politics. A muscular, bold performance.

Mirren with Bob Hoskins in The Long Good Friday.
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Mirren with Bob Hoskins in The Long Good Friday. Photograph: Allstar/Handmade Films

3. The Long Good Friday (1980)

Mirren is Victoria, girlfriend of Bob Hoskins’s insecure cockney mobster, who is trying to underpin his new property empire in Thatcher’s Britain. She is smoothly knowing where he is nervy, terrified where he is macho and protective – as intimate as any married couple. Classic early Mirren.

Mirren as Queen Elizabeth in The Queen.
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Mirren as Queen Elizabeth in The Queen. Photograph: Allstar/Granada Film Productions

2. The Queen (2006)

One of Mirren’s most loved performances, an Oscar-winning turn that was her own coronation as a blue-chip national treasure. It is a creatively modified impersonation of the Queen at the time of Princess Diana’s death in 1997: taller, less posh, more rhetorically demonstrative and simply more actorly than the real thing – but inspired casting nonetheless.

With John Lynch in Cal.
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With John Lynch in Cal. Photograph: Moviestore/Rex/Shutterstock

1. Cal (1984)

This tragedy of star-crossed and not-so-innocent lovers in Troubles-era Northern Ireland brings out Mirren’s acting identity – her sexuality, her nonconformism, her tendency to imperiousness – in the most effective balance. She plays Marcella, a Catholic married to a Protestant police officer murdered by the IRA; John Lynch plays Cal, a younger Catholic man employed as a driver by the Republicans and implicated in the killing. The two begin a claustrophobic and doomy affair. Mirren’s worldly sensuality and her ability to suggest a fully, painfully earned emotional seniority make this her No 1 performance.

This list does not include Mirren’s animation voiceovers, documentaries and TV movies. The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is released in the UK on Friday 2 November.

Julia Davis interview

 

Original article to be found here.

While Joan and Jericha’s temperaments are in essence more unpleasant versions of those appearing in the Daily Mail’s Femail section, Davis’s other leads often have deeper psychological problems. Whether it’s Jill in Nighty Night, Dorothy from Hunderby or Camping’s Fay, these are lonely, sad characters who are abusive to those who love them in suffocating and sometimes sociopathic ways. Does she ever worry that, given the current sensitivity around portrayals of mental illness, she’ll get criticised for weaponising instability?

“Yeah, maybe,” she says. But she also points out that her characters are so exaggerated there’s a sense of detachment when it comes to serious themes. If anything, her podcast is a relief, especially in the #MeToo era, when women are reliving the patriarchal shaming that was inflicted on them growing up. “I think that’s why, for people who like the Joan and Jericha thing, it feels cathartic,” says Davis. “Because it’s so ridiculous and rude and terrible, it’s like a release for some people.”

Hannah Gadsby

Original article here.

 

We only have an existing narrative framework for a stranger doing violence to you.”

 

The idea of “stranger danger” persists in the collective psyche, but we now know that sexual offences against children are the crimes least likely to involve strangers. Most children will be abused by opportunists in adult relationships: the married relatives, the family friends, the pillars of the community, the good blokes. “A lot of people who have experienced trauma at the hands of people they’ve trusted take responsibility, and that is what’s toxic,” Gadsby says.

“Shame has its place,” she says. “Shame is what you do to a kid to stop them running on the road. And then you take the shame away and immediately they’re back in the fold. You should never soak anybody in shame. It’s the prolonged existence of shame that then flips out into destructive rage. We can’t exist in that. It’s like treacle.”

The burden of talking about complex issues usually comes down to the most marginalised people. On the rare occasions that a white, heterosexual man steps up – Louis CK pointing out, for example, that “there is no greater threat to women than men” – they are hailed as heroes.

“A joke is a wank, but a story is intimacy,” she says.

It wasn’t until she was in her late 20s, around 2006, that she tried her hand at comedy, and she credits the newfound creativity with saving her life. “Comedy is great in that it’s accessible to someone like me, from a low socioeconomic background, struggling in life. The gatekeepers are a lot stronger in other art forms.”

“He’s obviously an unwell kid and there’s a lot of that in comedy,” says Gadsby. “It’s often young men trialling their philosophies on life, and we’ve got a generation of young men who believe that they are victimised, because they’ve been promised the world. That’s a poisoned chalice, because now there’s a gap between what the cultural narrative is and what their experience is. Looking back, I think it’s done me more good than harm to be promised absolutely nothing. I was always told I didn’t matter to the world, but the world still matters to me. That’s why I haven’t responded to the more brutal aspects of my life with violence or bitterness.”

 

Tune: Papaya ‘Cosas fascinantes y sencillas’

Papaya ‘Cosas fascinantes y sencillas’

Invítame a cenar a un sitio nuevo,

donde podamos enlazar palabras sin freno.

 

Que cosas fascinantes y tan sencillas como la vida misma,

no me quiero enamorar.

No es que el amor me parezca ridículo, no,

es que ya no lo quiero ahora.

Ya me cansé de todas esas locuras,

si lo hacemos que sea a oscuras,

no me quiero enamorar.

 

Y te es mas fácil volverte solo a casa

y aunque no esté hecha la cama

y sin nadie a quien despertar.

Y te es mas fácil volverte solo a casa

y aunque no esté hecha la cama

y sin nadie a quien despertar

ya me cansé

de todas esas locuras,

si lo hacemos que sea a oscuras,

no me quiero enamorar

 

y hay misterios que nunca entiende nadie

y la tristeza se hace grande hasta poderte pisar.