Current Enthusiasms

This is a shameless rip-off of something that Brett Anderson occasionally deigns to do on his website, but here is a short list of things I’ve recently seen and done, with (hopefully) short and illuminating commentary on each one.

Muse at Wembley Stadium

Well by now you know where you stand on the Muse phenomenon – you either reject them as a group of flatulent jumped-up Queen copycats or embrace them as the most exciting and innovative live act of their generation. I’m in the latter camp, and have been for some time now. Although I am concerned that their albums are beginning to verge on self-parody, their live shows just get better and better. This, their latest stadium mega-production, offered acrobats suspended from UFOs, a stage set that looked like a crashed spacecraft, extras swarming the stage waving flags draped with slogans, and of course two hours’ worth of shamelessly anthemic songs that had a capacity audience alternately jumping up and down and bawling choruses that, if analysed in the cold clear light of day, are utterly ridiculous but work beautifully in context.

Buried

It’s Ryan Reynolds! In a box! For 90 minutes! And that really is it. This fiendishly horrid film is the claustrophobic experience that lesser films (coughPhoneBoothcough) never quite had the guts to be, as Reynolds’ hapless contractor finds himself kidnapped in Iraq and placed in a coffin, armed only with a mobile phone rapidly running out of battery. Little-known director Rodrigo Cortes does a fine job of building the tension and excitement, as well as building an increasingly political subtext into the mix. Shame that it won’t really stand up to repeated viewings, but it’s a memorably intense experience first time round at the cinema.

I’m Still Here

Now explicitly revealed as a spoof concocted by Joaquin Phoenix and Casey Affleck, this mockumentary following ‘Joaquin Phoenix’ and his descent into insanity occasioned by his disillusionment with his acting career is consequently a lot easier to enjoy. When I was watching it and it was still up in the air as to whether it was real or not, I felt that there were giveaway moments (anything involving P Diddy; an appearance halfway through from veteran actor Edward James Olmos when he delivers a monologue that feels scripted; the ending) but it’s still a memorably black-hearted satire on the culture of celebrity which, almost in passing, shows Phoenix to be one of the most fearless actors working today. His return to mainstream cinema is eagerly anticipated.

Grinderman – ‘Palaces of Montezuma’ and Brandon Flowers – ‘On The Floor’

Both Brandon Flowers’ solo album and the second Grinderman LP were highly anticipated due to the feverish support that both Flowers and Nick Cave have from (you rather imagine) diverse audiences. Unfortunately both are somewhat of a let down, Flowers’ Flamingo and the imaginatively named Grinderman 2 representing retreats into their respective comfort zones rather than a true progression. However each features one magnificent stand-out track. On Flowers’ album it’s ‘On The Floor’, a slowly building epic of religious doubt and society meltdown that’s easily the equal of anything that The Killers have done. And on the Grinderman LP, ‘Palaces Of Montezuma’ is a refreshingly big pop tune reminiscent of the Bad Seeds’ Nature Boy, albeit with typically brilliantly offbeat Cave lyrics, as he hymns ‘a custard coloured superdream of Ali McGraw and Steve McQueen’ and ‘the spinal cord of JFK wrapped in Marilyn Monroe’s negligee’. The overall effect is funny, disturbing and stirring all at the same time.

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