Dana Bubulj: Sculpture, Film, Shadows, Art

Their work, words and wonder

Category: Inspiration

Game Mini Review Roundup

Hi All, Taking a break from the #sheltercenturion before Webster and I revisit them properly. But thank you all so much for donating – as of this post, we have raised over £500. I’ll do a proper write up of that shortly, until then you get a random roundup of various games I’ve been messing with recently, from Humble Bundles and elsewhere, on Phones and PC.
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Poetry-Art Charity Centurion

In lieu of dusting this blog off, I’ve instead got some news to paraphrase from the lovely James Webster:-

With Britain in the grips of a housing crisis (not enough homes being built, ever-increasing numbers of homeless households, both house and rent prices spiralling up out of reach) and with a government promising further cuts to vital services, we wanted to do something to help.

As an artist and writer who’ve collaborated before on projects (including a work published in Issue 1 of Verse Kraken), we knew we wanted that help to involve putting our creative output to some concrete use.

So, inspired by the efforts of previous poets who’ve completed the ‘100 poems in a day challenge’, we are setting ourselves the task of creating 100 pieces of poetry/prose infused art in the space of a single day: Saturday 16 May.

If you’re able to spare anything at all to sponsor our efforts, we would be incredibly grateful. If not, then tweeting us some support during what promises to be a very long day would also be fantastic.

1. Sponsor us! The Justgiving page is here. All support would go to Shelter.

2. Share us! The more people you tell, the more support we get and the more people will see the creations on the day.

3. Inspire us! That is a lot to create, so we need prompts and things to base the pieces off! We can be contacted both on our blogs and elsewhere on the wires (@websterpoet and@pinstripeowl).

We’ll most likely be blogging about the work as well, so do keep an eye out for developments.

Impressions of ‘Public Enemies’ (2009)

This was on the telebox the other night and I wanted to write something brief about its camera&etc work that struck me. Both as a note to myself as I found it interesting and to wake up this languishing blog. When I initially saw the posters for Public Enemies, I was quite excited. Depp & Bale in 30s get-up, with gangsters and tommy guns – that sounded quite the draw. I didn’t get around to it and it fell off the peripheries of the map, as is so often the case.

Theatrical poster

I hadn’t noticed the director at the start of the film, Michael Mann, but despite that was throughout the film regularly thinking about his 1995 film Heat, which was a much more compelling viewing, perhaps because the characters were given far more emotion with which to work. Working from non-fiction does not preclude characterisation. In fact, I’d argue that given these people are apparently such big things in the American consciousness of history, they should be human. Obviously they’re not played for larger than life, instead a more real, world-weary greyness, but there shouldn’t really be more emotion in Bale in Equilibrium. The silent looks of welling tears can only be used *so* much before they look a bit bizarre. 

Also oh god the camerawork, it was so distracting. Digital hand-held cameras with little to no soundtrack except diegetic snippets of music from the era, particularly with a sparse script, left me cold. Rather like a Van Sant film than what you might imagine from the premise. Actually, that comparison seems more apt now I come to edit this post. From my paper-scrap scrawls mid film to the draft of this, I looked at one or two easy-to-find reviews online and was struck by Douglas Messerli referring to Depp’s turn as “balletic”. As a film of set pieces, it might have been more effective using entirely diegetic sounds/recordings over their live action. Or even using the news reports of the time – like a montage effect but with less cheesy-80s connotations.

Did I want a blockbuster, action-packed and adrenaline-pumped? Not particularly, but some life would have done – even if the protagonists were intended to seem so tired. It all seemed a bit flat. Contrast with a quiet character like George Smiley from Tinker Tailor Soldier SpyHe says little and yet remains quietly compelling. Am I just naturally more drawn to Gary Oldman? Hm. He works in contrast to the more emotional characters, particularly near the climax of the film. At the climax of Public Enemies, or rather, the multiple catch-release shoot outs, I was periodically looking at the clock going “well, there’s an hour of the film left, so clearly there’s no danger here”. The deaths of the surrounding characters were meaningless to me because they were not given a chance to exist for us as an audience.

You know what I think the most effective scene of that film was, tellingly? It was at the theatre, with Dillinger watching Manhattan Madness, and truly feeling, I think, a connection to the idea of a character that no longer existed in the world. Both him and Purvis, the script is at pains to point out repeatedly, are perhaps more comfortable in the older days of chasing criminals through orchards, without the science and the morally conflicted methods of the new Bureau. Had the film wanted to go down this route more and make a point about the shifting paradigm, then yeah, it’d be more focussed. As it was, it was too emotionally detached. The love between Dillinger and Frechette (Cotillard), didn’t bring any dynamic either: there were early warnings to avoid the women because blah blah old trope of attachments are dangerous, but it isn’t delivered. There’s no real arc to speak of, and it watched like a historical document rather than bringing that history to life, which with some more innovative use of archival sound, it could have, compellingly.

Trains in the Night

There are lots of posts in the planning stages on my desktop. I’ll put them up once they’re written to a degree I would let them out. But a friend reminded me of how lax I had been with this site.

I saw this last night in the park near my house. It runs next to several large train lines. The light is rather beautiful, particularly in the Winter evenings. The clip is 24 seconds long, and I’ve removed the sound. Reminds me tangentially of Viking Eggeling’s Symphonie Diagonale (1924), which is a lovely thing.

Train (After Eggeling) from Pinstripeowl on Vimeo.

Moonrise Kingdom and Voyeurism (some thoughts)

When last up in the ford of Oxen, I finally got to see a film at the Ultimate Picture Palace, a lovely small cinema that I’ve got to explore more, as it is warm, friendly and seems to key into a more antiquated film experience, which in some ways was appropriate given that the film, Wes Anderson‘s Moonrise Kingdomwas set in 1965 in a remote New England island.

 

The colours were beautiful: vivid and pure saturation, and of course it was shot excellently. I had initially been wary of seeing it, mainly due to being bored during The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, also my enduring feelings about hipsters (which are to hit them with sticks). But this aside, it was good to see at not-exorbitant prices, *though* some of the interactions between the central child actors made me want to die while watching them.

I understand Anderson’s attraction to making adults act like children and children grown up and serious, and the inherent whimsy and true-to-life-ness that this often has, but I don’t feel the need to watch two twelve year olds undress and awkwardly snog. I kept seeing them (perhaps unfairly) as Sally and Glen from Mad Men in my head was another jarring aside, but this seems to be a personal association. But yeah, their love story: of initial attraction of two children who don’t seem to fit in with their peers/siblings and decide to run away together is something the audience watching can key into as nostalgic escapism. But, as is so often, it is the gaze in which lies the problem. Can a film do justice to early sexuality? Is the medium so inherently based on voyeurism that it is impossible to explore without being so bodily removed from the play of the characters?

“Leave it to Wes Anderson to turn… half-naked children groping at each other, bleeding, talking about hard-ons—into something that feels at once playful, tasteful, and bracingly real.” – Asawin Suebsaeng @ Mother Jones.

No one is doubting the truth of the scene. Truly, the interest in one another’s bodies and the awkward exploration is ‘honest’, and true to their respective ages.

When reading around for this post, I came across a comment on a review that also keyed into some of my thoughts on the film:

“I totally agree that it was a relatively “honest” depiction of that kind of thing, but the question becomes whether or not we need a visual depiction of it… if it’s a movie for adults, then it is (actual…) children pushing boners into each other for adult eyes… This isn’t a particularly subversive paragraph in Bridge to Tarabithia or whatever. This is fetishized childhood for people who haven’t been children in decades.”

The first part, I’m not going to address. If things were only made due to need, then where would we be? Well, function and form would become more intrinsically linked which may please the more Marxist of artist craftspeople and that could be interesting, but beside the point! The audience of a Wes Anderson film is never going to be a young audience seeing their own lives: it is an audience of escapists, of those after the Peanuts-esque childhood with adults that have their foibles exaggerated like a caricatured chin.

“Didn’t you ever snog a boy or girl at that age?” a friend asked, after the film. Beside the point.

The film is made to key into our, the viewers’, childhoods, using characters as avatars. However, unlike book characters, where relating to character experiences can be easier due to not being so bodily excluded from the scene, Moonrise Kingdom just felt voyeuristic. The awkwardness of the character interactions, much like in Life Aquatic, is made more so because of the inherent voyeurism of the camera, which is unrepentant and cold in its pans. Perhaps I would have felt less like an intruder in their world if the camera had been more sentient. Perhaps that’s the point. I certainly am not arguing for cinema not to make you uncomfortable, but there are things perhaps to be unpacked further.

I said earlier that perhaps film was a bad medium to access such things. Maybe given the business surrounding it, it’s harder. Television is a better way to talk to younger audiences, and I think Skins is probably a good example. It caused such havoc when it started, as a brash, youthful take on sex, drugs and youth. But it spoke to the teens that age, so much so that I’d argue that with each iteration and new cast, it loses its older audience to gain a new one, reaching that point and having its own, current issues.

Final thought, which is in no way a conclusion, but a petering out of time before the wrong side of dawn

“The film… has a rapt quality, as if we are viewing the events through Suzy’s binoculars or reading the story under the covers by a flashlight.” –  Kristin M Jones @ Film Comment

I quote this because I like the idea of the ubiquitous binoculars serving as a focus. It could have been more awkward, if the adults searching for the runaways had character internal character development, or at least, a less shallow one: some of the adults do identify with the children – notably the policeman, played well by Bruce Willis, who is having a messy affair with Suzy’s mother. The un-comfort of the adults finding the children in flagrante (ish) could have worked to counterpoint the natural desires of the children. But the audience, I feel, is meant to relate to the mature (and yet inexperienced) children, laughing at the folly of adults. Which I can get behind, but still, thoughts. Hm.

I’d definitely be happy to discuss it more and this post is mainly a way for me to gather thoughts together. If you’ve opinions, feel free to share in the comments below.

Suzy Bishop & her binoculars.

Edinburgh Fringe / Sabotage

I’ve been up in Edinburgh and St Andrews this week, reviewing the Fringe with James Webster for Sabotage Reviews. In an exciting twist, we noticed that three of our reviews had been printed and put on the wall of the Underbelly. Probably only right and proper, as it seems we saw a disproportionate amount of shows there. I’m not going to reproduce the reviews here, but I’ll link to them, may note things in more detail later:

Day One: Dirty Great Love Story and Helen Keen: The Robot Woman of Tomorrow
Day Two: Life or Something Like It, The Static, Dating George Orwell, Mark Grist: Rogue Teacher, A Real Man’s Guide to Sainthood and Superbard Starts to Save the World
Day Three: Dream/Life, One Hour Only and The Last Fairytale
Day Four Part 1: Phill Jupitus: Porky the Poet in 27 Years On, Anthropoetry and Lucy Ayrton: Lullabies to Make Your Children Cry
Day Four Part 2: They Came With Outer Script, Other Voices: Alternative Spoken Word and Flea Circus Open Slam
Day Five: Jack and Nikki: Killing Machines, Love in the Key of Britpop, Once Upon a Time in Space, Alternative Sex Education and Jack Heal: Murderthon
Day Six Part 1: Harry Baker: Proper Pop-up Purple Paper People, Letter to the Man (from the Boy), The Man Who
Day Six Part 2: Midsummer Night’s Dream, Richard Tyrone Jones Has a Big Heart, Flea Circus Open Slam
Day Seven Part 1: Oddlie, Charlie Dupré Presents the Tales of Shakey P, Perle, Other Voices: Alternative Spoken Word
Day Seven Part 2: The Girl with No Heart, Evie and the Perfect Cupcake, Ash Dickinson @ the Inky Fingers Minifest

Tea Fuelled Edinburgh Previews – which we then saw and re-reviewed in Edinburgh. Much had changed, with things smoother.
Lullabies to Make Your Children Cry / Evie and the Perfect Cupcake*
Guardian Reader, Jack and Nikki: Killing Machines, Murderthon, Superbard Starts to Save the World, Rogue Teacher

More later, but a bit review-frazzled. Here’s Justice the Dinosaur, who joined us on our travels:

Justice the Dinosaur enjoying the view

“Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner…”

“That’s an interesting accent, where’re you from?” – every stranger who talks to me on the train, ever.

I’ve always found the question far too complicated, in that I don’t feel great ties to either the land of my passport or my surname. The closest thing to nationality that I have ever felt is a fealty to London. It is the city in which I was born, where I grew up in an interstitial suburb of nowhere in particular and taught to commute at an early age in search of interesting things.

What I like about the city comes out whenever I’m talking with people from other parts of the UK: London’s a patchwork marvel where should its inhabitants want something new or different, they could go to the other end of town. Or even the next borough over, if that. Hell, there’s that road off Liverpool street where the sheer glass literally gives way to smoggy bricks. So much variation in its pockets of people and buildings. Cultures meshing together and going about their day to day, or not, as the case may be.

A while back I read Kate Griffin‘s Matthew Swift books. They’re one of the best pieces of ‘urban fantasy’ that I’ve read for many reasons, most mainly because it engages its setting. It’s been a while that I’ve read a book that truly, deeply, cared about London. Yes, books are set here, but they don’t breathe its geography. There are many books more developed at its denizens and communities, but for sheer personality of the city’s nooks and crannies itself, Griffin is unparalleled. It’s funny, actually, because I read them after Ben Aaronovich‘s recent detective series, which amused me mainly because it was specific in its name-checking of streets that I knew (down to a chase down Richmond’s George Street). But it doesn’t necessarily engage to the extent of the Swift books, which understand the city better (as they should, given the central character derives their power from it).

But the city is troubling too. The spectre of upcoming events that seem to have trademarked every possible word from their SEO (which will be horrific to enforce and quite frankly seems idiotic), its stranglehold on transport and business and oh, I don’t think I can deal with Johnson’s voice on the Tube. It does make me despair a little.

Map of the London postal district in 1857,
from Illustrated London News, 17 January 1857 p.46
(nicked off Wikipedia, for my shame.)

Sunrise from the other side

There’s a certain something to watching the world wake up: the slow creep of sun through the blinds making the lamplight look strangely hollow; outside waking and making the alarms seem so much harsher without the dampeners of sleep.

I often wonder where time went, when it got so late as to be early, whether I’d been busying myself with anything useful. I also notice, at times like these, if a date has snuck up on me, stealth mostly through my inattention.

Time to put the kettle on.

The Lightbulbs were hatching, light spilling from their centres like poached eggs.

Upcoming: Kingston Fine Art Degree Show

Private View: Saturday 16th June, 1pm-7pm
Public View: Sunday 17th June – Fri 22nd June 1pm-7pm (Closes at 5pm on Sun & Fri)

Fine Art at Kingston University Poster for Degree Show

Private & Public View in a Fortnight

We’ve had a really strong year full of varied, independent artists. I’m looking forward to seeing this all come together, and so should you. 

Location:

Knight’s Park
Grange Road
Kingston upon Thames
Surrey KT1 2QJ

Closest Trains: Kingston or Surbiton Station
Check TFL for Bus/specific links.

Free Comic Book Day rambles

I was up in Harrow today, when a group of Storm Troopers and Jedi handed me a flyer for Calamity Comics down the road, reminding me that it was Free Comic Book Day. As I was already heading to the shop, I skipped over and picked up a volume of Fables (Bill Willingham) to go with a random selection of a few free issues. It was gloriously busy, full of a nice mix of demographics and the staff were as friendly as usual. I must make it up there more often.

Before going, I’d been to Waterstones to see what they had, and saw a few titles I might look up later (particularly Ramayana: Divine Loophole, by Sanjay Patel). It was by those shelves that I met a small child pestering their dad for an Avengers comic. Any Avengers comic. “Are there any with them all together?” his dad asked me. I answered to the best of my meagre knowledge, pointed out where they were on the shelves and suggested that they ask the people over at Calamity Comics for two very good reasons: they’d be able to recommend the best book to go to after the film, and also be able to suggest what book would be best for a child who looked about 5.

But I digress. Given the occasion, it would be appropriate to talk about comics.

The other day, someone was telling me how sad they were that Milligan’s run of Hellblazer, who is the current writer, had become rather dodgy in its treatment of its female characters. I’d stopped reading earlier in his run, having got up to the issues in the Scab trade paperback and not been impressed. It had a few things against it, but as a final blow: had it continued Leonardo Manco’s art run, I’d possibly have put up with the less good/interesting writing.

Mike Carey, Denise Mina and Andy Diggle all got Leonardo Manco line art. While I believe that the stories were well written and characterised, the art definitely, definitely helped me warm to them where I had been put off by other good writing but less aesthetically pleasing art. With full lips and expressive eyes, Manco’s faces are a thing of beauty.

Image from Mike Carey's run of Hellblazer, illustrated by Leonardo Manco

John Constantine, Hellblazer (Mike Carey run), ill. Leonardo Manco