Michael Bonner

Sydney Pollack, 1934 – 2008



It’s not immediately clear quite where Sydney Pollack fits into the scheme of things. As one of the generation of film-makers who flourished in the Sixties and Seventies, there’s nothing on his CV as canonical as, say, Taxi Driver or The Godfather, no real sense of him breaking the same kind of ground as his peers. Even the Evening Standard’s film critic Derek Malcolm, interviewed this morning on Radio 4’s Today programme, admitted the movies which most people would associate with Pollack – Out Of Africa and Tootsie – were ultimately rather “bland”.


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John Mulvey

James Blackshaw: "Litany Of Echoes"



I was writing, not for the first time, about Howlin Rain the other week, and admitted that my preoccupation with the band had a certain stalkerish intensity. As I begin yet another blog about James Blackshaw, a London-based guitarist and so on, it strikes me that my prosletyzing on his behalf might be somehow detrimental to his career: a random google of his name would probably bring up this great weight of waffle from me, so hyperbolic that some might suspect we must be related.


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Latitude Festival: Yet More Additions!



The cultural extravaganza that is Latitude revealed another barrowload of new additions today. The excellent comedian Mark Steel will be delivering a "lecture" in the Literary Arena, while over in the Comedy Arena, the festival will be illuminated by performances from The Fast Show's Simon Day, Scott Capurro, Hans Teeuwen and Milton Jones.


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Michael Bonner

Cannes Film Festival -- final report



Though it lacked a clear favourite in the official competition selection, and offered some weaker entries in the rival Critics Week and Directors Fortnight sections, this year's Cannes Film Festival still delivered some interesting movies.

Nothing blew anyone away, mind -- which would have been tricky after last year's amazing 60th anniversary celebrations. But there was confirmation that the newer wave of Cannes discoveries were following up on early promise (Belgium's Dardenne brothers and Turkey's Nuri Bilge Ceylan both scored on awards night, with script and directing gongs respectively). Indeed, the field was so wide open that even the favourite to win, the Israeli animated doc Waltz With Bashir, didn't drop too many jaws when it not only failed to win the Palme D'Or but anything at all. Instead, top-dog honours went to The Class by Laurence Cantet, a superb fly-on-the-wall drama about a teacher coming to terms with his downtrodden students.


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Allan Jones

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss in London



Robert Plant and Alison Krauss
London Wembley Arena
Thursday, May 22 2008

“Good evening” says Robert Plant, flinging back a mane of tangled hair from his face, early on in tonight’s extraordinary show. “And welcome to. . .” he goes on, and pauses. “Well, I don’t know what it is,” he says then with a smile that before it’s finished turns into a grin, and a big one at that, visible evidence of a man clearly enjoying what he’s doing, even if he can’t put a name to it. “But you’re welcome to it,” he adds, “whatever it is.”


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John Mulvey

Endless Boogie: "Focus Level"



I’ve been blown away this week by the first album from a New York band called Endless Boogie. The name was vaguely familiar, and reading through the press release it transpires that the band played Slint’s All Tomorrow’s Parties a few years back. There are some earlier singles, I think, which Bubba helpfully linked to here.


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John Mulvey

The 21st Uncut Playlist Of 2008



I wandered into the office this morning to hear the new album from Stereolab playing – or at least weirdly and abruptly truncated edits of the songs on the new Stereolab album, which weren’t exactly the best way of getting the measure of “Chemical Chords”. The big discovery this week, though, has been the debut album from the pretty self-explanatory Endless Boogie, which I’ll write about properly in the next few days. There’s also, and I apologise, for this, a “Secret” record in the playlist this week, whose title I’m not allowed to reveal since, “All info on this is being kept under wraps until next week so please don't breathe a word to anyone that you even know a XXXXXX album is coming, let alone have heard it.”


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Michael Bonner

The Apprentice



There is, of course, plenty that's wonderful about The Apprentice. Let's start with how a bunch of jumped-up estate agents, regional sales reps and “risk managers” stab each other in the back and bicker while displaying the level of intelligence usually associated with lesser Crustaceans. It’s the same reason you might watch Big Brother, so you can hoot cynically as the worst specimens that a few million years of evolution has to offer parade their tawdry, desperate dreams across the screen.


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Allan Jones

Club UNCUT: Okkervil River and AA Bondy



“This is an old song,” says AA Bondy, introducing the next number in his opening set at the third Club UNCUT night at the Borderline. He’s not kidding, either. What I had presumed would be some lost early gem from his back catalogue turns out to be a dark and powerfully brooding version of Blind Willie Johnson’s apocalyptic “John The Revelator”, originally recorded in 1930, which is going back some.


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Michael Bonner

Clint Eastwood's Changeling -- Cannes Film Festival 2008



Welcome to our first report from this year's Cannes Film Festival, featuring Clint Eastwood, Woody Allen and Roman Polanski...

Cannes, this year as ever, is about reputations. Some live up, others don't, but in 2008 the big directors are hanging onto their mantle while the arthouse darlings are slipping. Towering over the festival this year, Clint Eastwood is easily in the former camp, bringing a fantastic new film, Changeling (or is it The Exchange? The title keeps, ahem, changing), that proves that, at 78, Eastwood is effortlessly maintaining the rich twilight of an already magnificent career.


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Editor's Letter

The 43rd Uncut Playlist Of 2014


Very taken with Africa Express' version of "In C", by Terry Riley, this week. I have a few takes on the piece (50 years old this month, incidentally), the latest being one by Portishead's Adrian Utley from a couple of years back, though I still probably default to what I think is the original...