Glastonbury 2017 Day Two – Prince Achmed, Quiz, Napalm Death, Everything

My second day at Glastonbury this year found me out for the lightweight I really am. I’m sat in my tent at 23:20 now, having given up for the night. There are probably four hours of quality entertainment ahead of me but I simply can’t hack it.

My day started swimmingly with a trip to the Pilton Palais for a screening of The Adventures of Prince Achmed. The performance was accompanied by the Guildhall Electronic Music Studio. The film and accompaniment were top quality and it was a well-chosen start to the day.

After wandering with some friends for a while, I stumbled across a man playing a great selection of covers songs at the Open Arms Bar. We watched a handful of songs, sand heartily (if ironically) to “Take Me Home Country Road” and then set off towards the West Holts Bar. This is where I was “that guy” – the one that randomly helps out with a pub quiz without anyone asking him to. Everyone loves that guy. Right?

Our next step, bizarrely, was to visit Shangri-La and watch Napalm Death. I’m going to be honest – the songs merged into one another and I was hardly impressed by any of their music. Perhaps I was too far back but it didn’t feel like any of their songs were distinct enough or had enough dynamics to encapsulate a crowd who started the set with interest if not enthusiasm.

We tried then to see Everything Everything at the Williams Green stage. The crowds were busy for this set, which was possibly the worst-kept secret of the weekend. Alas, we gave up by the second song and moved on.

And that brings me to here. I was too tired to carry on and made my way back to my tent, even though I desperately wanted to see a friend performing with The Trojans. Exhausted and in need of some rest, I’m hoping I last longer tomorrow night for the huge headline set from Radiohead. I’m sure they’ll have an uplifting song or two to get me through the tiredness barrier.

Film review – Die Abenteuer des Prinzen Achmed / The Adventures of Prince Achmed (Lotte Reiniger, 1926)

The uniquely-animated ‘Die Abenteuer des Prinzen Achmed’, Lotte Reiniger’s 1926 film, is a hugely important film. Work started on it in 1923, and it is the earliest-surviving animated feature film – it clocks in at 65 minutes.

The animation technique used involved cutting out cardboard silhouettes of the characters and manipulating them frame by frame. Some 93,000 frames were created for the film.

Reiniger’s attention to detail was matched by that of the restoration team at the Deutsches Filmmuseum, who in 1999 returned it to its former glory and allowed new generations to enjoy it.

Today’s screening, which was at the Tilda Swindon-curated Pilton Palais at Glastonbury Festival, was accompanied by a unique re-score by the Guildhall Electronic Music Studio.

It’s easy to create a modern score for a classic piece that simply doesn’t fit – Air’s ‘The Journey to the Moon’ is certainly guilty of that – but the mix of classical piano and basic sound effects works perfectly. Mike Oliver oversaw the project and acted as a mentor to those involved. The piano accompaniment from Barbara De Biasi is reminiscent of the Joe Hisaishi scores for Ghibli Studio. As a fan of Hisaishi’s work this was very much welcome. This was augmented by Eric Fabrizi with paper-based sound effects and live narration from Mike Oliver and his daughter Molly.

It all came together wonderfully and felt respectful of the original work whilst breathing a new life into it for a new, younger audience.

It was well attended by an early-afternoon festival crowd. Anyone appearing early for the Frozen sing-a-long would have been entirely confused. For everyone else, the film was a triumph. Congratulations to all involved.

Glastonbury 2017 Day One: Arrival, Pitching, Fireworks, Sleeping

I’ve arrived at Glastonbury for another year of fun in the sun. The weather is absolutely scorching and the beers I’ve brought with me are still, just about, cold.

Much of my anticipation of the festival has been around two of the headliners: The Foo Fighters and Radiohead. I’m a huge fan of both, with the two of them being in heavy rotation when I was doing my GCSEs and A Levels. It sounds corny to reply with two of the headliners when asked about who I’m most excited about, but it’s an honest answer. They’ve simply been there for me for two decades.

Wednesday is usually about exploring and getting used to the site. A few things feel like they’ve moved around but to be honest I’m not 100% confident on what is where anymore.

The highlight for me was catching a gigantic fireworks display up in the Stone Circle near The Park. It was extensive and the crowd appreciated it. My only draw back was observing that one of the displays was exceptionally close to my camp site and seemed to be the most unwieldy. Fortunately my tent was still there when I got back!

For many, watching the summer soltace sunset at Glastonbury is a rite of passage. For me, I remember people cheering. Unfortunately, I was asleep at the time. Evidently the three-mile walk from car to campsite had taken it out of me.

A perfect start to the festival, though hopefully I’ll last longer tomorrow!

Top ten Radiohead music videos of all time

Radiohead are set to take Glastonbury’s Pyramid Stage by storm this weekend, so I thought it would be a great time to give a chronological run through of their greatest music videos. I was able to choose my very personally-opinionated list from an eclectic output, which has never felt like it was conforming to anything like the norm.

Take a look and feel free to challenge me if you think I’ve missed anything.

1. Just (Jamie Thraves, 1995)

Jamie Thraves’s breakthrough announced his work to the world and made him one of the most sought-after music video directors on the planet. He has since contributed some brilliant short films to bands (Coldplay’s ‘The Scientist’ and Sam Smith’s ‘Stay With Me’ are amongst his more popular work), though his feature film career remains highly underrated.

It’s worth watching before anyone tells you anything about it. Then you can Google “What does the guy say at the end of Just by Radiohead?”. Then in 22 years’ time you’ll be where I am now.

Utter genius.

2. Street Spirit (Jonathan Glazer, 1996)

Jonathan Glazer’s visually-stunning black and white video for ‘Street Spirit (Fade Out)’ was a masterpiece at the time and it has certainly stood the test of time. The slow frame rate mixed with regular or fast-forward shots creates a really effective result, and if the overall impression doesn’t do it for you then you can at least wonder how it was achieved technically without the use of computer imagery.

3. Paranoid Android (Magnus Carlsson, 1997)

Paranoid Android is an epic saga of a tune that fused three separate crunching progressive rock song and juxtaposed them with some darkly humorous lyrics. It’s essentially Radiohead doing a song like Bohemian Rhapsody but doing everything they can to not do a song like Bohemian Rhapsody.

The video that accompanies it, created by Swedish animator Magnus Carlsson, is just as bizarre. The band were fans of his animated series Robin, and asked him to create a video featuring the character. The dark playfulness of the songs lyrics and composition marries perfectly with the visuals, which could easily trick a young person into thinking it was a regular cartoon. They’d soon see a man with a head foetus poking out of his belly, or a bare-breasted mermaid swimming around.

4. No Surprises (Grant Gee, 1998)

No discussion of Radiohead videos would be complete without mention of the visually iconic ‘No Surprises’ music video. Thom Yorke’s head is slowly submerged in a tank that fills from the bottom, with some subtle slow-motion work causing it to feel even longer to increase the feeling of tension and suffocation. I guarantee the first time everyone saw it they all took a breath as the water was eventually released. Simple but very effective.

Gee was also involved with Radiohead during the infamous OK Computer tour, which almost led to the band breaking up. It was covered in the engrossing feature-length documentary ‘Meeting People is Easy’, released on VHS in 1998.

5. Knives Out (Michel Gondry, 2002)

Michel Gondry’s one-shot video for ‘Knives Out’ feels like a thematic predecessor to ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’, Gondry’s 2004 masterpiece that must surely be one of the best films of the decade. Thom Yorke is in a hospital bed next to his partner, played by Emma de Caunes (who later appeared in Gondry’s The Science of Sleep). She’s undergoing some operations but her body is represented by an oversized version of the Operation board game. Thom looks on in a nightmarish panic, underpinned by a feeling of repetition and inability to escape.

The marrying of two of the most creative artists in their respective mediums was inevitably going to lead to greatness and ‘Knives Out’ doesn’t disappoint.

6. There There (Chris Hopewell, 2003)

The first of two Chris Hopewell videos on this list. There There is a stop-motion animated video that features Thom Yorke venturing into a dark forest and encountering some small mice having a dinner party. He steals some magical shoes, gets attacked by some crowd and turns into a tree.

Brilliant.

7. Nude (Adam Buxton and Garth Jennings, 2008)

British comedian/podcaster/beardy cyclist Adam Buxton joined forces with music video and film director Garth Jennings to produce a beautiful and simplistic music video for Radiohead’s ‘Nude’ single.

Each member of the band performs against a black background, filmed in slow motion as the space they inhabit fills up with white feathers.

If it sounds simple, it’s because it is. And it’s wonderful.

8. House of Cards (James Frost, 2008)

No cameras were used in the making of James Frost’s mesmerising video for ‘House of Cards‘. Instead, 3D plotting devices were used to collect, collate and interpret data on the positional relationship between objects.

It’s hard to visualise and harder to forget once you’ve seen it.

9. Lotus Flower (Garth Jennings, 2010)

Because who doesnt want to see a black and white Thom Yorke dancing around like a maniac for five minutes and eight seconds?

10. Burn the Witch (Chris Hopewell, 2016)

One of the best music videos I’ve seen recently was for ‘A Moon Shaped Pool‘ lead single ‘Burn the Witch’. It is, specifically, Trumpton does The Wicker Man. It was created by Chris Hopewell of ‘There There’ fame. Another dark video that belies the cutesy animated façade.

Film review – レッドタートル ある島の物語 / The Red Turtle (Michael Dudok de Wit, 2017)

The Red Turtle may find it hard to be discovered by a dedicated mainstream market. This is almost inevitable for a feature-length traditionally-animated film that involves no spoken words at all, with a simple but thought-provoking story line. Its limited release reflects a genuine assessment of the expected appeal to the wider market. 

This is a shame because the film is a genuine triumph.

The film opens with a man being thrown around helplessly in an unnamed ocean. Struggling to fight the waves, he falls unconscious, later waking up on an uninhabited island. 

The nameless man never speaks, aside from the occasional “Hey!”, whilst his heritage is also somewhat ambiguous. Shipwrecked on an island and left to fend for himself, he busies himself with building a raft to escape and reunite himself with the outside world. However, a large red turtle prevents him from escaping, attacking the raft every time he attempts to leave. When it unexpectedly washes up on shore, he faces a conundrum – free it or exact revenge. 

If you have any fears about The Red Turtle maintaining your attention, you needn’t. It’s one of the most engrossing films I’ve seen this year.

The beauty of the film comes in its simplicity. With no character back stories, no names, no requirement to set the scene beyond the initial opening gambit, we’re left to ponder its surprisingly inspirational content.

Around halfway through the film, the man’s decision to flip the turtle on its back is doubtlessly divisive. Left without much else to focus on, my mind inevitably ended up wondering what I would do in the same situation. The turtle dies, which the man immediately regrets and feels great sorrow for. I felt equally guilty for feeling like he wasn’t completely in the wrong. A senseless murder of an innocent animal, but one that felt partly justified as revenge.

It’s a simple act that drives the more fantastical second half of the film. The lifeless body of the turtle disappears and is replaced with a young, beautiful woman, whom the man subsequently falls in love with.

Clearly, this is a film that is steeped in the metaphorical, encouraging the viewer to think about the deeper meaning of what they are seeing – and giving them the space to do so.
The turtle is a visual representation of man’s relationship to nature. Even as the stranded man fights against the tides and tries to leave the island, the turtle forces him back onto the island, on which he has everything he could possibly need to simply continue to survive. The turtle evenrtually provides him with companionship and, later, a child, this providing him with a fulfilling life too. 

It is a tale in part about man’s short-sightedness towards a nature that gives him everything, highlighting the knee jerk reaction to things he doesn’t understand. It is about the cycle of human life, about the destructive nature of humanity and about the forgiving nature of the surrounding environment – a nature that is forced to adapt to humanity’s shortcomings and still provide a platform for all life – human or otherwise – to continue.

For anyone with a passing interest in the future of the planet, beautiful animation or engrossing stories, this is a must-see.

Duke Weaselton’s Officially Licensed Movies

Around eighty minutes into the magnificent Zootropolis, there’s a great moment where Lt. Judie Hops (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman) follow a lead to solve their case. They wind up at a dodgy DVD stand manned by Duke Weaselton, voiced by the ever-entertaining Alan Tudyk.

That character is in itself a riff on his character in Frozen, the Duke of Weselton, but the jokes don’t stop there. His dodgy DVDs are all parodies on recent Disney movies, clearly having a pop at the endless rip-offs that flood the market every time a new Disney film is released.

The films include Pig Hero 6 (in place of Big Hero 6), Wrangled (a take on Tangled) and Wreck-It Rhino (Wreck-It Ralph).

They even then pan onto a second pile of DVDs and Weaselton brags that he has films that haven’t even been released yet. Those include Meowana, which is a take on the then-yet-to-be-released Moana that replaces the lead character with a cat. Giraffic, the second in the pile, is a Giraffe-themed parody of the upcoming Gigantic, which is a Jack and the Beanstalk tale due for release in 2020. Finally, Floatzen 2 is Frozen but with a moose and two otters in the lead roles, with a review attached underneath that reads “The best film of the year starring a moose and two otters.”

Digging even further, there are more hidden in the row above those in the centre of the screen. Most notable is what appears to be a sequel to Giraffic – a similar cover to the first film but with the tagline “AN INSTANT SEQUEL”. There are also alternative covers for Meowana, Wreck-It Rhino and a mystery film in the top left corner of the first screen (as above), which doesn’t match up with any of the other films but could be a draft poster for something like Ralph Breaks The Internet or one of the other upcoming projects.

Zootropolis is full of weird Easter Eggs and it’s certainly worth checking out again to try to pick them all up.