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David Bowie

David Bowie passed away last night, after an eighteen month battle with cancer.

bowie-heroes

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My 12 for ’13: Rush & Picking Sides

This is my annual countdown of the 12 movies that really stuck with me this year. It only counts the movies released in Ireland in 2013, so quite a few of this year’s Oscar contenders aren’t eligible, though some of last year’s are.

This is number 3…

Rush is something of a companion piece to Frost/Nixon. Writer Peter Morgan re-teamed with director Ron Howard to offer a definitive take on another contest of wills, documenting the rivalry between James Hunt and Niki Lauda across the 1976 Formula One season. An account of a rather famous piece of sporting history, you could accuse Rush of being a bit formulaic, but the key is the skill with which Morgan and Lauda manage to execute that formula.

rush2

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Watch! Commander Chris Hadfield Sings Space Oddity…

There are no words.

Recorded after Hadfield handed over command of the International Space Station, this video demonstrates that NASA should probably make him their official spokesperson. It’s just brilliant. If government officials are going to make science-fiction pop culture references, they could do a lot worse.

Yes, that was a cheap shot at the IRS.

Non-Review Review: Hunky Dory

This film was seen as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival 2012.

There’s very little in Hunky Dory that we haven’t seen before. It’s a story set in the past about a young and idealistic teacher attempting to give her students a more rounded and useful education before they enter the big bad world. It’s set in Wales in 1976, giving the movie a bit of character and contextualising this period as the calm before the storm. Margaret Thatcher, that most divisive and controversial of British Prime Ministers, can be heard faintly on the television in the background; tough economic times lie ahead; skinheads roam the streets; and the Falklands War is just around the corner. As Vivienne, our young drama teacher, attempts to offer some guidance to students who might otherwise slip through the cracks, the sinister forces of the establishment seem to conspire against her.

Joyeux de Viv!

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Lyrical Dissonance: Musical Musings…

I don’t normally write about music here… probably because I know next-to-nothing of music. I couldn’t pick most modern musicians out of a line-up. Not in a “modern musicians suck” sort of way, but in a “I don’t really listen to the radio, and therefore pop music” sort of way. So I’m actually even less qualified than a layman to talk of music and such. Still, I have to admit that I am fascinated at how so few people who rate so many classic songs so highly seem to be aware of what the song they’re listening to (or singing along to) is even about. While it isn’t anything that “grinds my gears”, I am still a little amused every time I hear Every Breath You Take played at a wedding, or Good Riddance (Time of Your Life) played at graduation.

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Non-Review Review: Bronson

Nicolas Refn’s Bronson is a rough film, quite like its central character. It’s tough and it’s challenging, and it doesn’t pretend to have all the answers, very much like “Britain’s most violent prisoner.” While it’s probably quite frustrating for most viewers, I actually quite admired the fact that Refn doesn’t try to explain or rationalise the conduct of his central character, instead daring to examine a man who is so institutionalised that he thinks of prison as a “hotel”, a hotel he’s been staying in for well over thirty-five years.

Like a caged animal...

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Jack L at the National Concert Hall

If ever there was a natural-born showman, Jack Lukeman (aka Jack L) is he. Taking to the stage in the National Concert Hall to perform any number of classics, forgotten album tracks and even some new material, the performer managed a two-and-a-half hour set list which even included an impromptu version of The Stranglers’ Golden Brown performed during the intermission. Yes, that’s right, Jack L sang his way through his own intermission.

For those foreign visitors who might not be familiar with the artist, I’ve embedded a version of Georgie Boy below, the crowd-pleaser that he used as the final song in his encore last night. It’s powerful stuff, even when not backed by an orchestra.

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Life on Mars USA

Well, that was… weird. I seem to be the only person on the planet with love for the American iteration of Life On Mars. It got a lot of hate for being too conventional, for not being as ‘out there’ as its British predecessor and basically being unoriginal. And I can appreciate those critiques having watching the first season – they are all relatively fair. On the other hand, isn’t it a little unfair to measure it directly to the original series, like comparing apples and oranges? New York of the 1970s was a very different place from Manchester of the 1970s and the new series had its own aesthetic. I won’t pretend that the show was a masterpiece of television history, but I do think that Life on Mars certainly deserved a second season.

Is there life AFTER Mars?

Note: It seems impossible to discuss a show like this without discussing the (incredibly divisive) ending. I will be doing that, in gory detail, below. However, as per usual, I will flag it a paragraph or two beforehand, so you can avert your eyes or navigate away or do whatever you need to do. Consider yourself forewarned.

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Ashes to Ashes, Funky to Funky…

Caught the finale of Ashes to Ashes on the Beeb last night. It was actually quite good, all told – though it did end on the twist that I had predicted erroneously that Life on Mars would end on. Still, though the second series was a vast improvement over the first, I couldn’t help but think that Ashes to Ashes remained in the shadow of Life on Mars throughout its run. It was solidly entertaining television and one of a handful of shows I’d watch week-in and week-out, but it wasn’t really spectacular. And it had so much potential…

Here come the fashion police...

Here come the fashion police...

Update: Apparently Ashes to Ashes is to have a three-season run, confirmed by Philip Glenister on BBC Breakfast yesterday, so this article is rather premature. I’m not sure if this changes how I feel about that  brilliant  final scene, but I’ll be tuning in…

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