Archive | May, 2012

Why ‘A Single Man’ is not a ‘gay film’.

31 May

A lot of people, especially in various reviews I’ve seen on the internet, draw attention to the fact that A Single Man features a prominent homosexual theme. Since the film documents a love affair between two men, many seem to lump it in with Brokeback Mountain and Shelter. Now of course, the fact that A Single Man is set during the Cold War, in a time when homosexuality was still very much stigmatised by the general public and before the Stonewall riots, means that Colin Firth’s character, George, must remain silent. His invisibility is a main theme of the film, and is the focal point of his famous speech given near the beginning.

I feel that the main theme of A Single Man is that of a relationship tragically cut short, and the fallout which results. The film chronicles George’s unrelenting distress following his partner Jim’s death. He seems unable to move on, as he daydreams continuously about the good times they shared. He gets to such a state that he seriously considers suicide, and indeed almost commits the act. He is saved by his friend Charley, who calls him at just the right time. However, replace Jim with Jenny or Josephine and the raw emotion expressed by this film would not be any different. Yes, George is gay. but this is beside the point and ultimately inconsequential to the message this film is trying to send.

A Single Man is not a ‘gay film’. It’s a film about the profound heartache felt upon losing the person you love. The gender of those in the relationship is irrelevant in this context. I just wanted to put this out there because I feel the film is above being a mere ‘gay film’. It should be regarded as a brilliant, sentimental drama which just so happens to feature a gay couple. Homosexuality is not the crux of this film.



‘The Raid: Redemption’ – Movie Review.

27 May

So yesterday to kill time before a gig I went to see The Raid: Redemption in Cineworld. I didn’t know anything about it, and frankly I wasn’t expecting much going in. That said, rather than seeming particularly good from the poster, it just seemed less terrible-looking than the other movies on offer. So I sat down in a half-full screen 11 and it wasn’t long before my mind was blown.

The Raid is the best action film I’ve seen in a long time, and a contender for the best one I’ve ever had the pleasure to watch. The story goes that an Indonesian equivalent of a SWAT team is going into an infamous apartment block run by a nefarious criminal mastermind, who lets out rooms to thugs needing a place to lay low. The ‘main’ character is a young member of the team who we see at the beginning has a pregnant wife.

This poster does not exemplify the awesomeness contained in the film it advertises.

It has it all: awesome fight scenes, fast-paced running around and spectacular shoot-outs. The Indonesian film is of course not in English but has English subtitles. That said, the dialogue is actually really good. While the characters aren’t developed much past the main guy, and exactly who  the various villains are is pretty much left to the imagination, The Raid manages to have a very involving story which sucks you in and makes you empathise with the good guys. Frankly, their personalities and backstories, while kind of present, are irrelevant; this film is all about the action, which it delivers in spades.

What impressed me most about the film is the fact that over the course of its 101-minute duration, it does not let up for a single second. You are literally kept at the edge of your seat the entire time, and are left almost tired by the end of it. Now, this is probably stereotyping, but going into an Asian action film I expected lots of kung-fu scenes, and I was not disappointed. The hand-to-hand combat is amazingly choreographed and superb to watch. Never mind the rather vast array of arsenal on display here –

This leads on nicely to the issue of the violence. The Raid is a very appropriate 18s-rated film. The intensity of the fighting is not so over the top as to render it silly; however it is all realistic enough to make it very believable, and quite brutal. People are impaled on things, thrown out windows and literally no region of the body is left un-stabbed in this film. The one absurd moment of action is actually quite brilliant: it involves a fridge, a methane tank and a grenade. Oh man that bit is awesome.

The film is really well lit. The action scenes are caked in darkness while the more serene moments of solace, such as quiet snippets of dialogue, are bathed in artificial light, contrasting the violence with peace.This gloom combined with the paranoia that the film exudes due to the entirety of the movie being filmed indoors makes The Raid: Redemption a distinctly pessimistic film. It’s dark, it’s violent as all hell and overall it’s an incredibly well-made film that I’d urge all non-squeamish people to check out!

Simon says: grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let go. Wonderful!

Summer is here!

24 May

It’s 21 degrees Celsius here. Well, it’s not now because it’s night time but earlier on it was. I swear, in that exam hall I thought I was going to pass out from the heat!

Well, summer is finally here and now I’m free! Free to do all the things being preoccupied with college was preventing me from. So for my first post-exam blog post I thought I’d lay down my plans for summer. Perhaps if it’s all written down I’ll get more of it done? I’ll cross them out as I go.

My to-do list:

  • HOLIDAY IN GALWAY! For 6 days myself and some cohorts shall invade the previously-peaceful village of Carna.
  • Trip to my insane veggie friend’s house in Roscommon for a few days with some more amigos from college.
  • WACKEN! Another year, another amazing German metal festival. Cannot wait.
  • Camping! I have two groups of campers to stay up all night with this year, one in Ravensdale Forest and another elsewhere. I’m expecting much drink, bacon and camp-fire stories.
  • I have stacks of books to get through. These range from Orwell and Huxley to Nietzsche and Voltaire. Hopefully my English professor will email me the book list for next year so I can get a head start too!
  • Much of this summer shall be spent squinting at video games. I have a Silent Hill: Homecoming ‘let’s play’ to help make with a buddy, and some god-awful Megadrive (Genesis for American readers) games to complete, laugh at and possibly film with a different friend. I myself have a few games that remain to be finished too.
  • TV: I need to finish watching 30 Rock. Though I’m going to be sad when that day comes! Aside from that I promised friends I’d watch A Game of Thrones, Shameless USA and Stargate. That has comedy, drama, sci-fi and fantasy covered!
  • I plan to watch more Kubrick and Lynch films, as well as other various classics and more obscure titles recommended to me. I’m dying to go to The Lighthouse cinema in the city too, watch some indie films!
  • Friends shall accompany me to a screening of The Room, I don’t care what they say.
  • I want to see more plays. I shall hopefully frequent the Gaiety, the Abbey, the Smock Alley and Gate theatres this summer.
  • Gigs! Iced Earth, Sodom, Norah Jones and W.A.S.P. shall all be playing before I return to college, and Lady Gaga shall be playing when I go back. The ‘Milk and Cookies’ festival in Kildare shall also be a highlight.
  • I want to spend a lot of time outdoors, specifically bike rides and walks around forests.
  • My bass shall be dusted and plucked like a motherfucker.
  • This blog shall be updated more frequently god-damn it!
  • Finally, I need to get fitter. Hopefully the above bike rides will help but I may resort to hitting the gym. Oh I love swimming!

What a list! If I get most of this done I’ll be happy. My first summer-related event shall happen tomorrow: hopefully a barbecue at a friend’s house. And then the Ozrics to look forward to Saturday night!

Summer, it’s been too long. Wanna hang out?


Ico – a work of art?

19 May

I’m a strong supporter of the growing movement that looks upon games as works of art rather than mere entertainment. I believe that video games should be treated with the same regard, and given the same level of critical scrutiny, as any novel, film or album. This is due to the fact that video games are an art form like no other, in that while you may get engrossed in the story or lost in the beautiful images on screen, what separates games from the other mediums is that they are interactive. I’ll write another post some day exploring this in more detail, but for now I’m just going to examine a game which cannot be described as anything but art: Ico.

Ico was released on the PlayStation 2 in 2001 and 2002, across various regions. It sold 700,000 thousand copies worldwide, though

Ico’s European and Japanese box art. It looks like Giorgio de Chirico’s ‘The Nostalgia of the Infinite’.

had there been any justice in the world it would have sold multiples of that. This is because Ico took a big risk: it greatly emphasised atmosphere, story and setting over both gameplay and even character development to the point where it became debatable whether we were playing a ‘game’ at all. The developers, the aptly-named Team Ico, deployed what they refer to as a “subtracting design”, where the interactive aspects were peeled back to make way for narrative and a high level of immersion.

The story goes that a young boy, Ico, is born to a rural Asian village (feudal Japan, I presume) but is cast away to a deserted, isolated fortress due to the fact he has horns, which the villagers interpret as a ‘bad omen’. At the seemingly-abandoned castle he meets Yorda, the daughter of the palace’s Queen, who is trying to run away from her mother for reasons that shall not be spoiled in this blog. To escape, Ico must navigate through the complex mazes and puzzles of the citadel, while at the same time battling shadow demons the Queen has sent to capture Yorda. The girl remains defenceless throughout, and Ico must often take her by the hand when travelling.

Ico makes use of the PlayStayion 2’s Emotion Engine, which was also used in the development of early PS3 games, to take advantage of the improved capabilities of the platform. Character animation was achieved through key frame animation rather than the more common motion capture technique, and Ico was an early game to incorporate bloom lighting into video games. The cinematic cutscenes are also beautifully animated. All of these visual factors combine to make Ico an absolutely stunning game to look at. I would cite it as the best-looking PS2 game, that I’ve seen anyway, and many other critics seem to agree.

An image of the castle from which you must escape.

The game also succeeds in the audio department. Dialogue is kept minimal in the truest sense of the world; characters rarely speak save in cutscenes, which are few and far between. Ico can call Yorda to his position, and he cries once struck by enemies, but these are indecipherable shrieks and yells, not dialogue per se. Ico also features a limited amount of music and sound effects, though little music is there is as pleasing on the ears as the graphics are on the eyes. I am listening to the soundtrack, titled Ico: Melodies in the Mist, as I write this, and I would recommend fans of atmospheric, minimalist music to check it out!

Both the visuals and the sound tie together to create a game which is absolutely drenched in atmosphere. Ico almost feels like a dream: the story is surreal, and visuals are dream-like and dreams rarely have music, do they? It reminds me of the Silent Hill franchise in that while the game can hardly be deemed ‘frightening’, the sense of isolation, loneliness and the unbalanced scale – you feel like an ant in a city – all mesh to create a sense of palpable atmosphere, in which the player is submerged. The lack of interface elements and the low number of foes make the game seem overtly real, and the objective of escaping the castle a matter of urgency.

Ico and Yorda, the protagonists.

Ico was the first game I played in a long time where I actually had a sense of empathy of the characters. I cared about what happened to them; I really, really wanted to do my best in helping them escape. The heightened sense of surrealist realism mentioned above involved me like a game has rarely done. I think that I empathised the characters’ plight because it felt like I was right there with them. The game is not perfect: the platforming elements can be irritating, the camera has this tendency to both meander aimlessly and abruptly zoom in and out with no warning, and the game is very short. I finished it on my first go in about six hours. However, none of these flaws interfere with that fact that Ico is frankly an amazing game that everybody should play at least once.



15 May

Comrades, I have not forgotten this blog, nor shall I let it run fallow for much longer. Those pesky university examinations have kept me preoccupied with their alleged ‘necessity’, which I am beginning to doubt. I shall return to dazzle you all tomorrow or the next day.


Ultimate Zeppelin Setlist

13 May

If Led Zeppelin were ever to regroup and play gigs, and Dublin was on their list of venues, I’d literally camp out in the rain, at night, in the freezing cold to get tickets. There are very few bands I’d do that for. Presuming it was a two-hour gig, this would be my ideal setlist:

 Part One

  1. Intro/Achilles Last Stand (Presence)
  2. Rock And Roll (Led Zeppelin)
  3. Trampled Under Foot (Physical Graffiti)
  4. The Song Remains The Same (Houses Of The Holy)
  5. Four Sticks (Led Zeppelin)
  6. Carouselambra (In Through The Out Door)
  7. Houses Of The Holy (Physical Graffiti)

Folky/Acoustic Section

  1. The Battle of Evermore (Led Zeppelin)
  2. Bron-Y-Aur Stomp (Led Zeppelin III)
  3. Boogie With Stu (Physical Graffiti)
  4. Going To California (Led Zeppelin)
  5. Over The Hills And Far Away (Houses Of The Holy)
Part Two
  1. Ramble On (Led Zeppelin II)
  2. Misty Mountain Hop (Led Zeppelin)
  3. The Wanton Song (Physical Graffiti)
  4. Whole Lotta Love (Led Zeppelin II)
  5. Moby Dick (Led Zeppelin II) -Drum Solo-
  6. Kashmir (Physical Graffiti)
  7. The Ocean (Houses Of The Holy)
  8. Heartbreaker (Led Zeppelin II)
  1. Black Dog (Led Zeppelin)
  2. Stairway To Heaven (Led Zeppelin)
If I am still alive by the end, I would officially be the happiest guy ever. EVER.

Oh, and this would have to be the t-shirt design. Favourite Led Zep-related image.

Crazy fanboy out!


Yesterday was a dark, dark day.

13 May

… Yet I’m only starting to realise it now.

“But Simon!”, I hear you yell. “Yesterday was a gloriously sunny and really fucking hot day!”. You’re right about that one, but I’m not talking about the weather, buddy.

I got my first article of clothing size S. It’s a really nice brown check shirt, with white, black and yellow bits. I found it on sale in the Eager Beaver, in Temple Bar (across from Freebird Records). I tried on the medium size, but it was too big.

I researched the brand to see if it’s made in the USA. You know, cos American sizes are far baggier than ours. But no, it was made in the UK. I feel so small, literally. I don’t know exactly why, but I’m not feeling good about this. I didn’t think I was that… Petit.

It is not much more than a year ago that size L shirts were a bit tight on me. I’ve come so far since. People who haven’t seen me in a year probably wouldn’t recognise me.


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