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Archive for the 'catch-ups' Category

Temporary Resurrection

Posted: December 13th, 2011, by Simon Proffitt

Hi! Just thought I’d check in to see what was going on over in diskantland, and since it’s mid-December, and since no-one’s written much for a while, I thought I’d add a quick year-end thingmie in case anyone’s still reading.

2011 was the year in which I finally alienated myself from all my friends (by being unable – for reasons that are still unclear to me – to keep in touch with anyone), in which I took up recreational trespassing, and in which I realised that I’m getting old. One of the musical avenues that I’ve always tried to travel down has been the one marked ‘extreme’. I’ve always seemed to be searching for harder, louder, more visceral, or conversely more minimal, quieter, slower – regardless of genre, I’ve wanted to hear the things that are testing the limits. Finding out what these things are and how to get them hasn’t always been straightforward, especially in the days before the internet (as information resource and as lending library), and along the way there have been miss-steps and disappointments, especially in hindsight: reading all about Cabaret Voltaire and the surrounding hype as a wide-eyed teen and then my first purchase of theirs being their pretty embarrassingly lame house LP Groovy, Laidback and Nasty being a notable example. But then this year I’ve realised that a surprising amount of so-called extreme music is actually total crap, and some of it that isn’t crap, that is actually still very good, I just don’t have the patience for any more. I think I think this because I’m getting old and my melody gland is starting to swell up. So this year I’ve found myself rejecting the kind of discordant, confrontational, improvised music that I’ve previously championed, and instead enjoying a lot of music of the kind that might get played on Radio 2. Stuff with nice harmonies, proper tunes you can whistle. Pop music. Good old fashion rock. One of the best tracks I heard all year, for instance (even though it’s from 2007) was Feist’s The Water. It’s devastating! I even bought the last Smoke Fairies album. On vinyl! With real money. This is not something that’s been easy to admit to myself or to the general public, but then I’m not really interested in impressing people with how cool I am, so I’ll just state it as fact.

So whereas my favourite albums of 2011 might once have looked like this:

1. .#: oooooooooooooooooooooooooO
2. Jean-Pierre Cockbingo & Mbandu Mbandu Mbandu: Those Barren Assemblies Vol.3
3. -|-\/\//\-t-: _/////wITTcH___////////___
4. Some 12 year old Hoxton tit improvising on an electro-acoustic beetroot: Live in Williamsburg

Here are my actual favourite albums of the year:

1. The Psychic Paramount: II

2. Snowman: Absence
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HDmvNruK_0A

3. Still Corners: Creatures of an Hour

4. Thee Oh Sees: Carrion Crawler/The Dream

5. Surgeon: Breaking the Frame
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sdB6EcmNy7s

6. The Twilight Sad: Acoustic EP
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TrQRG9fKGUk

7. Wild Beasts: Smother

8. The Advisory Circle: As The Crow Flies
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TuckyVN5dsQ

9. Radiohead: The King of Limbs

10. Mogwai: Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will

11. Oneohtrix Point Never: Replica

12: The Beach Boys: Smile

Merry Christmas!

2010 catch-up: Personal Highlights

Posted: January 7th, 2011, by Marceline Smith

Two of my bands did their final ever shows. Sunnyvale, with diskant’s Mr Simon Minter, reformed for the tenth anniversary of our festival Audioscope, which was a total ball and a delight to play the songs again. And From Light To Sound collapsed after the entire rhythm section left, which felt a bit premature. Have a listen over here if you like, you can download all our stuff for free. Still, got a new band now called Listing Ships, which is kicking off with recording and gigs in January. So hopefully that’ll be my event of 2011… (Stu Fowkes)

Moving to Berlin and making a racket singing Brahms’ Requiem and joining a klezmer band. (Pascal Ansell)

2010 was a big year for me – my third year of self-employment and filled with great things. A few standouts were the release of my own signature line of welly boots courtesy of Plueys (for reals, people are walking around with my name on their footwear!), the Zine Workshop I organised in Glasgow and getting a fold-up bike just in time for Summer! But best of all was returning to Japan for an all too short 10 day trip. We spent some time getting to know Osaka, visited the inspiring Design Festa in Tokyo and I even got my photo taken with a giant pink dancing bunny. Doesn’t get any better than that. (Marceline Smith)

Because we hate sleep, personal freedom and not being covered in someone else’s urine, vomit and faeces, my wife and I had another child.  He’s awesome though, so it’s ok. (Alex McChesney)

There have been too many great things going on this year. My advice: try to do at least one interesting, chat-worthy thing each day. (Simon Minter)

2010 catch-up: Bands

Posted: January 6th, 2011, by Marceline Smith

STEAM POWERED GIRAFFE
One of the unexpected pleasures of San Diego, California — as well as one of the most eclectic and creative musical acts I’ve ever seen — is the “old-time robots meet the harmonies of Freddie Mercury” pantomime performance group, “Steam Powered Giraffe.” Now I know what you might be saying.  “Wil, I’ve seen a lot of ‘old-time robots meet the harmonies of Freddie Mercury’ pantomime groups… are you sure this is one of the best?”  Indeed I am.  First off, their pantomime is flawless — their herky-jerky motions truly mimic the actions of an animatronic theme park doll.  On top of that, their music is both fabulously rendered (and quite catchy) and hilarious! I’ve caught them live several times and they never fail to impress. For readers who may live some distance away from San Diego, and have trouble catching the Giraffe live (I presume this to be about 98% of Diskant’s audience), you can get a gist at http://www.steampoweredgiraffe.com. (Wil Forbis)

Merzbow
Oh deary me… After having given my internet music purchasing ethics a good check, I’ve spent a lot of money on Mr Merzbow this year. Thus far he is is most stunning in the long motif-spotted jams like 1930 or Turban Shell Blues, but I’ve been taken to similarly ecstatic places with albums like the pulsing Tauromachine and swirling rain-drenched Merzdub. He never really stops. To me, his colossal discography is encouraging in that I know he’s uncollectable; to some extent I have to make my own Merzbow. Paul Hegarty’s book Noise/Music: A History has a fantastic chapter devoted entirely to Merzbow which I keep coming back to as I scrape a little more into his copious back catalogue. (Pascal Ansell)

The Besnard Lakes were my late discovery of the year – totally fantastic band. Like the Arcade Fire I can actually connect properly with. Loads of lush detail and warmth in the arrangements, and their last two records are like a fantastic art-rock Beach Boys or something. (Stu Fowkes)

BILLY CHILDISH
Within the first few months of the year I had already seen Billy Childish four times in various capacities as the ICA put on an exhibition by him. The first event I attended was a book burning at his L-13 Aquarium gallery after Penguin had issued a cease and desist order against a publishing of a book of his poems. Later I attended an evening of his Chatham Super-8 movie club before the season ended with a gig with his Vermin Poets band followed by a set by his Musicians Of The British Empire outfit (basically him, his wife on bass and Wolf from the Buff Medways on drums) as they tore through much of his back catalogue all culminating with his cover of “Fire” by Hendrix. This gig was the just perfect evening as such a stripped down sound offered so much in return revealing him to be a much underrated musician as the whole ICA event in general helped solidify what an original treasure the man is. (JGRAM)

Flying Lotus
Awesomeness x 2 this year: Cosmogramma triumphs in a hyper-genre mush, and the following ultra synthy EP Pattern + Grid World doesn’t do too badly either. Have a listen to Camera Day off the latter EP. (Pascal Ansell)

2010 catch-up: Live Music

Posted: January 6th, 2011, by Marceline Smith

Audioscope
This year was the tenth year it’s been running. A frightening yet pleasing milestone. Highlights this year included Wire being very nice chaps, Felix and Rome Pays Off being welcome breaks of blissful quiet in amongst the noise, and Sunnyvale Noise Sub-element (featuring me) playing our great one-off comeback show to a rapt audience of, oooh, twenty people. (Simon Minter)

Lightning Bolt
Thrilled to interview Brian Chippendale when LB played at the Brudenell in Leeds after desperately borrowing an mp3 recorder from the uni Language Centre to help “with my German degree”… Also really enjoyed this year’s Earthly Delights LP: the usual frantic cartoony cacophony. (Pascal Ansell)

LED BIB/GET THE BLESSING
The event that gave me the real Goosebumps and hairs standing up moment was called Avant! Noir which was part of the London Word Festival and featured four modern noir writers (Toby Litt, Courttia Newland, Ray Banks and Cathi Unsworth) doing readings while accompanied by Led Bib then Get The Blessing in addition to a comic strip being shown on screen at various points. It all made for a smoky night of perfection which culminated in both bands onstage facing off against each other attempting to blow the other offstage with their playing. It was the most powerful musical performance I saw all year. If only all music was like that. From a more straight ahead rock perspective the Mission Of Burma set at Dingwalls was easily the best set I witnessed this year which even saw me drunkenly air guitar. (JGRAM)

The Yummy Fur, Stereo, Glasgow
This was easy since I went to just one gig in 2010, and in the middle of December too! I mentioned my plans to see The Yummy Fur reunion show in last year’s catch-up, but I managed to catch an awful cold from a snow-filled train journey, adding to my lengthy list of Yummy Fur near-misses by ridiculous circumstance. Thankfully, they gave me one last chance and despite all efforts by fate to nobble me by cutting off my entire water supply for a week (seriously, we now have some of those disaster zone bottles of emergency drinking water courtesy of Scottish Water), I finally made it to a proper Yummy Fur gig. Of course it was amazing in every way. The audience was full of old-skool Glasgow lo-fi fans, the band members were on good joke form, and the tunes! I think they played everything I could possibly have wanted, though I would have happily stood there while they played their entire back catalogue from beginning to end. I’m generally against nostalgia-driven reunions but this was more like righting a 15 year wrong. Seems I can die happy now. (Marceline Smith)

Ausland in Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin
I generally don’t bother to even look up who’s playing – it’ll always be some incredibly weird but very fun stuff. If you’re “in the near”, turn up and you’ll have a good night of avant-garde brilliance in one form or other. Link (Pascal Ansell)

Ahem. I went to six festivals this year, and I have to say the one I enjoyed the most by far was Download. Not least because AC/DC live was one of the best things IN HISTORY, but also nice to see RATM, Dillinger Escape Plan, Cancer Bats, and relive my teenage years with Deftones. Ace crowd as well, loads of fun. Sadly, next year’s headliners are Linkin Park and System of a Down, so unlikely to go back in 2011. (Stu Fowkes)

Jonatan Nästesjö
Beautiful ambience in a freezing cold church in Leeds. (Pascal Ansell)

2010 catch-up: Websites

Posted: January 5th, 2011, by Marceline Smith

Some stuff we enjoyed on the internets in 2010.

One of my favourite blog discoveries this year was magculture, which covers both mainstream and independent magazines. If you think print is dead, a read of this will have you coveting all kinds of weird and wonderful publications.  I also loved Vending Spree, the new blog by TMN writer Matthew Baldwin, who is eating everything in his work’s vending machine and writing about it in a way that has made me “actual LOL” many times. I also joined infamous teen-bullying site Formspring, which can be used for good in the hands of adults – it’s been lots of fun answering questions (please do ask me one!). And finally, I am slightly obsessed by Everyday Cute, an insanely fun and adorable website by one of my favourite illustrators. Oh go on, you know you want to dress up a cat. (Marceline Smith)

I recently became the proud owner of an iPad, and as such read Podgamer religiously for scathingly honest game reviews and freebie notifications for all flavours of iThing. (Alex McChesney)

Facebook. My year began with my Facebook Cull which saw them threatening me in June with legal action before experiencing my worst cinema experience of the year in October watching The Social Network (decent film but awful audience) which has all in all resulted in one of my 2011 resolutions being to zap my profile. Of course the door remains open so it is going to be a real cold turkey battle of wills to see how long I can stick to it. I managed to catch Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network scriptwriter) in interview who explained how Zuckerberg has created a whole new method of human interaction over the year I have slowly/gradually found the website depressing me as it consistently rubbed reinvented versions of my friends in my face via the newsfeed. By the end of the year I had hidden the majority of people from the feed anyway. It just all makes my head pound and I couldn’t get enough! I’ll stick with Twitter though as I love the ego trip that is the followers concept. (JGRAM)

Byte.fm – quality alternative radio from Hamburg – huge whopping recommendation for the afrobeat hour, Tropeninstitut, (Saturday, 18hr).  theneedledrop.com– I like this dude’s video reviews – passionate about music and he knows his stuff. (Pascal Ansell)

The websites that have given me the most joy ths year:  www.thingsmagazine.comwww.flickr.comwww.litmanlive.mewww.enemiesofreason.co.uk,  plus my dangerous addiction to buying guitar effects pedals on eBay. (Stu Fowkes)

2010 catch-up: Gaming

Posted: January 5th, 2011, by Marceline Smith

The most fun games we played in 2010.

Picross 3D
I love the original Picross in a rather pathetic manner, replaying it at least 3 times now. It’s basically a puzzle game, a bit like a cross between Sudoku and Minesweeper. Anyway, I bought the new game for the plane trip to Japan and it’s very addictive. Instead of working on a flat grid, you now knock away cubes to reveal an object. I say ‘object’ as if these are in any way recognisable – even once they colour it in and go ta-da! I’m usually going oh, yes, it’s um… OH ‘man looking through window’, of course. Still fun though. Even better, each completed ‘object’ is added to one of many themed landscapes, and again, I say ‘themed’ like they’re not totally hilarious stuff like ‘things with sharp edges’, ‘things that come out when it rains’ and my favourite ‘things required for relaxing by a fire’. The in-game music is also so incredibly brainwormy, I can quite literally whistle the songs from memory. I do however, have one very big problem with this game, which is that they’ve tried to fun it up by having a…a…one-eyed cubeduckchickalien (srsly, WHAT IS THIS?!) around at all times being weird and wrong. The sarcastic way it double-takes when I complete a level makes me want to punch the screen. Also, I bet they’re really regretting the 3D title now actual 3D gaming is all but upon us.

Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood
I got a bit hooked on running round Venice sticking knives into people in AC2, and this one is based across the whole of room so it’s TOTALLY MASSIVE and great fun. (Stu Fowkes)

Minecraft
It’s the middle of the night and I’m sheltering in a tiny log cabin that I hastily built myself.  Inside, the only light comes from the furnace in which a few logs are smoldering.  Through the sole window there’s just enough of a moon to see the falling snow, the outline of the hills in the distance, and something that’s moving around out there.  I’m cold and hungry, I daren’t leave until the sun comes up, and I’ve just experienced the strongest sense of place that I’ve ever received from any videogame, never mind one written by a single developer, which is not even finished, and has graphics that, from some angles, can look like products of the 16-bit era.  If I ever get my finger out and start writing properly again I might do a full-length piece singing the praises of Minecraft but for now you’ll just have to trust that it makes all other videogames seem silly and pointless. (Alex McChesney)

Angry Birds
Always Angry Birds. Although Cut The Rope, for a while, was a close second. (Simon Minter)

FIFA 2010
In January I bought my friend’s Nintendo DS from him and proceeded to buy a number of games for it off the internet but in the end I only really got around to playing FIFA 2010 with any regularity (I never even took WWE out of the box). For what is a handheld console the information held in the programme is astounding and the game play impressive and fluid as it proves for me the best revision tool towards football while allowing me to conjure up crazy results in peak performances for my beloved Millwall. (JGRAM)

Sushi Cat
Basically a bit like pinball, but with a fat cat and lots of sushi. The cut scenes are hilarious and provide both backstory and important situations that require becoming very fat through the eating of sushi. The gameplay itself is really fun but not too difficult, great for short breaks. Plus they released a sequel recently, and it’s still all free. Get it for the iPhone or play it online. (Marceline Smith)

2010 catch-up: Fanzines & Magazines

Posted: January 4th, 2011, by Marceline Smith

Fire & Knives
I have been eyeing up this independent literary food magazine for a while, but at £9.50 an issue it’s not exactly an impulse buy. I finally picked up a copy of #4 at the ace Analogue Books in Edinburgh and realised it’s well worth the money. Proper interesting articles plus nice illustration and photography in a handy sized package. What more do you really want? Subscription now ordered. (Marceline Smith)

I’ve been reading Newsweek quite a bit this year – it’s better than Time. Also The New Yorker is bloody brilliant. (Stu Fowkes)

Does anyone read paper magazines any more?  Here in the US they’re not much more than expensive advertisement-delivery tools anyway.  I did buy a copy of The Wire a few weeks ago, though.  Wanky as ever, I still kinda love it. (Alex McChesney)

Treasures of Sky Mall by Gemma Correll
I bought a lot of zines in 2010 (check out Etsy’s Zine section) but this was possibly my favourite. Anyone who’s ever spent time happily ridiculing catalogues like Sky Mall and Innovations will love this – some of the funniest/stupidest products as drawn in Gemma’s own style. Of course she goes mostly for the pet related items which makes things even funnier with her trademark cats and dogs looking slightly bemused by the madness. Seems to be sold out but check her shop for new zines. (Marceline Smith)

2010 catch-up: Books

Posted: January 4th, 2011, by Marceline Smith

Our favourite books of the year.

Tara Rodgers’ Pink Noises
A collection of interviews with women working in experimental / electronic music (I think based off of a website of the same name). It’s become an important correction to a problem I hadn’t thought existed – not just the under-representation of women artists (I expect that, without accepting it), but the way that the whole way of talking about electronic music has erased them. I’ve learned a lot even from the names on the Contents page. The interviews can be approachable, technical, gossipy and always interesting. The book shouldn’t have to exist, but I’m glad it does. (Stan Tontas)

Music, Society, Education – Christopher Small
Very dull title for a very interesting book. Singing in choirs makes me realise how ridiculously elevated you’re positioned in concerts, how incredibly formal the end-product of friendly weekly rehearsals aspires to be, and the depressingly frequent conversations with people who think they “could never sing”. An encouraging book for anyone interested in music’s role in education and the average person’s capabilities. (Pascal Ansell)

JONATHAN AMES – THE ALCOHOLIC
At one stage around October it felt like Jonathan Ames was everywhere I looked. It was listening to an interview with him on the highly recommended WTF podcast that really exposed me to what the man is about which appears to be David Sedaris crossed with Charles Bukowski via Woody Allen. Obviously being a writer he has been an alcoholic and after skimming through a couple of his short stories books this graphic novel of his boozy experiences really proved an incredible piece of work that left me in mixed minds but wholly in love with the guy. Of course Ames is currently best known for being behind HBO series Bored To Death which brings a life affirming fantasy life to being a writer. (JGRAM)

Stephen Batchelor – Confession of a Buddhist Atheist
A buddhist monk for many years, Batchelor became gradually disillusioned with the mystical aspects of the religion, and set out to strip the teachings on which it was based from the dogma they had accumulated over the centuries.  Equal parts memoir, travelogue and philosophical archaeology. (Alex McChesney)

A Man on the Moon by Andrew Chaikin
I got this for Christmas and it was all I could do not to sit sit down and read the whole thing from cover to cover, enormous though it is. As previously established, I’ve been a space nut since I was very small (wait, I am still very small) and this book is just a joy. It describes NASA’s Apollo program in great detail, going through each mission from the disastrous beginnings through to the six Moon landings. While sometimes bogged down by technical language and military customs, it does a great job of explaining how it all succeeded and introducing all the people who made it happen. The actual moon landings are exhilarating to read about and each mission comes with so many problems overcome that you can understand why we’ve never been back, though reading about NASA’s plans at the time for moon bases and manned missions to Mars makes me so sad. The book is also the source material for HBO’s rather great TV series From the Earth to the Moon, which is well worth checking out. My only disappointment is that Chaikin hasn’t yet done a book about the Shuttle missions – come on man, get to it! (Marceline Smith)

Sex at Dawn by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha
The field of evolutionary psychology has taken a largely dark look at the biological roots of modern man’s behavior.  Why do men sleep around?  Because sleeping with 250 floozies does more to ensure the propagation of their genes than having a nurturing wholesome relationship with one woman.  Why are humans violent?  Because we’ve been programmed towards aggression by a millennia of survival of the fittest evolution. “Sex at Dawn,” by authors Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha, takes an alternate look at the school of evolutionary psychology.  They argue that for much of man’s history, hunter/gatherers lived relatively pleasant lives of limited threats, plentiful food and lots of lots of sex! It was the advent of agriculture, 10,000 years ago, that bloodied man’s behavior. And their arguments — based on historical studies, analysis of other primate cultures and the fact that there are observable hunter/gatherers still around — make a lot of sense! It should be said that “Sex at Dawn” is not simply a starry eyed laudation of the noble savage at the expense of modern man.  Hunter/gatherers had plenty of flaws, and their egalitarianism was more the result of environment than inner virtue.  But the book — easily approachable by nonscientific types — provides plenty to think about. I interviewed one of the authors for Acid Logic (Wil Forbis)

Been re-reading older stuff this year, so things like Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury and The Outsider by Albert Camus have been lighting my fire, as it were. (Stuart Fowkes)

The third edition of Jeffery Zeldman’s ‘Designing With Web Standards’. It totally nails the point of creating websites in the correct way. It also explains things in a way that will convince people whodon’t see the point. (Exciting stuff, no?) (Simon Minter)

Karen Armstrong – A History of God
Interested in Sky Fairies? Ya psycho! Perhaps best read in long stretches – incredible introduction to one of the most problematic words I can imagine, and how culture has made God their own. (Pascal Ansell)

Mountaineering Holiday by JS Smythe
This year I have mostly been reading expedition and travel books, preferably rambling monologues by over-privileged English Gentlemen. This one is from 1939, just days before WW2 broke out and describes a, well, mountaineering holiday in the French/Italian Alps where Mr Smythe climbs various mountains and describes them pleasantly with breaks to pontificate on the horrors of motor cars, war, tourists, foreigners, people who climb too slowly, people who walk too fast and women in breeches. I especially enjoyed the parts where he describes other less experienced climbers they encounter and basically says, well, they’re going to die if the weather changes. Nice. Might look him up and see if someone eventually pushed him into a crevasse. It also contains an anecdote about a man caught smuggling drugs through customs under his top hat. You don’t get that kind of thing these days. (Marceline Smith)

2010 catch-up: Television

Posted: January 3rd, 2011, by Marceline Smith

Doctor Who has been great ever since new showrunner Steven Moffat brought on a younger, more eccentric Doctor.  And the idea of stranding him on Earth, a-la the Jon Pertwee years, and requiring him to save the day using only his wits and the help of his new companion (Martin Freeman) has genuinely invigorated the show.  (Did you see what I did there?  Did you?) (Alex McChesney)

Wonders of the Solar System
My Twitter friends spent a good deal of time this year debating the general hotness of Prof. Brian Cox without bothering to mention that he was presenting a TV show about the Solar System! Priorities, people! I love the Solar System, having been one of those kids who wants to be an astronaut. I have a telescope and everything. Anyway, having immediately caught up on iPlayer, this was awesome, and definitely my favourite find of the year. He gets to travel all over the world to weird and wonderful places that help explain some of the amazing details of our solar system, from Saturn’s rings of ice to Titan’s liquid methane seas. He even gets to fly up to the very edge of the atmosphere. And Saturn is still my favourite planet if you’re interested – it’s totally got the best moons. (Marceline Smith)

An emotional attachment to Coronation Street has snuck up on me this year. I realised this when they brought back Vera for Jack’s death scene. Trailed in advance, crudely shot and crassly sentimental but the force of 25 years’ casual exposure to these 2 characters won me over. Was I weeping because for them, or for the lost years of my childhood they represent? (Stan Tontas)

Northern Exposure
I’ve been watching all of the DVD box sets. Love it. Heart-warming! (Simon Minter)

Futurama
If you weren’t aware, and if you live outside the US you probably aren’t, there was a whole new series of Futurama in 2010. Bringing back a canceled show is a bit risky but this is pretty much brilliant – a few clunker episodes at the beginning but also some of the best Futurama episodes ever. Go find! (Marceline Smith)

I haven’t really watched any TV programmes this year, so my default vote goes to Columbo, which is the best thing ever to have been on telly. (Stu Fowkes)

2010 catch-up: Films

Posted: January 3rd, 2011, by Marceline Smith

The best films we watched in 2010.

Scott Pilgrim Vs The World
Hate me now, if you must.  In a universe almost but not exactly identical to ours, I’m disgusted at someone else for liking this film.  Well, I call it a film, but it’s not much more than two hours of rapidly-edited geek wish-fulfillment fantasy.  It cynically manipulated me, and I fucking loved it. (Alex McChesney)

ENTER THE VOID
My jaw literally hit the floor several times over one Friday night when I found myself subjected to Enter The Void. I went in expecting to see something that might blow my socks off but I was expecting to have a headache within a minute after experiencing the most intense opening credits of any movie ever. From here the visuals of the piece stunned me as the main character drifts above the streets of Tokyo for two and a half hours revisiting his life and of those around him and seeing where life is taking everyone. This was transgression to the max via lots of neon lights, bad taste and negative suggestion in a combination of the David Lynch sensibilities of Inland Empire crossed with Peep Show set in Tokyo with plenty of sexy time, an Eraserhead element ultimately looking towards a 2001: A Space Odyssey pay off and finale via copious amounts of hallucinogenic drugs. A film that recurringly smacks the viewer over the head there genuinely were moments in this movie that I never expected to see on screen including a “no he just didn’t” ultimate temptation. The film certainly put me off ever visiting Tokyo. After the viewing I attended director Gaspar Noe did a Q&A where he appeared wholly amused by our shell-shocked expressions. My other favourite movie moment was seeing a double bill of The Warriors and Repo Man at the Prince Charles cinema. (JGRAM)

Another Year by Mike Leigh is a beautiful film. It’s classic Leigh in that it’s slow-moving, nothing happens, it’s full of shots of grim bits of Britain, but it’s got great characters that have time to breathe and develop, and the most amazing undercurrent of sadness running through the whole thing. (Stu Fowkes)

Rinco’s Restaurant
I went back to Japan this year and amongst all the usual kind of blockbuster movies on the flight, I discovered this gem. It’s a Japanese film about a girl called Rinco who loses her voice and starts a restaurant in her mum’s shed, and all the meals she makes change peoples’ lives for the better. That could of course be terrible (the trailer is not entirely awesome) but it’s all very Japanese and charming and very twee. It also has some great stop-motion animation and songs and a flying pig. Do see it if you get the chance! (Marceline Smith)

Land of the Lost
I’ve long been rather frustrated with what I’ve termed the curse of Saturday Night Live: comedians are hilarious on the long-running comedy show and then go on to star in feature films that are complete and utter drivel.  Adam Sandler, for example, was featured in a number of terrific, almost Dada-esque sketches on SNL, then went on to find success with drek like “The Waterboy.” I’ve largely avoided the films of Will Ferrell for this very reason.  And the previews for most of his recent films haven’t really enticed me.  But I did come across the campy remake of classic kids television series “Land of the Lost” recently and you know what?  It wasn’t bad.  Ferrell’s playing his standard character — an overconfident idiot — but he can still mine the archetype for plenty of laughs.  Danny McBride, one of the best things to happen Hollywood comedies, is also along for the ride.  And the movie’s sarcastic sendup of science fiction clichés is solid entertainment.  Plus, “Land of the Lost” has one of the best uses of banjo in a movie theme song ever, surpassing even “Deliverance.” (Wil Forbis)

American Splendor
Cleveland’s Harvey Pekar, writer of bittersweet-mundane comics, died earlier this year. This film about his existentially-challenged 70 years could easily get carried away trying to stuff in persistent meta- perspectives (like the guilty Synecdoche New York) as it involves everyone significant in Harvey’s life as well as actors playing them. Luckily things don’t get too clever for their own good. A moving account of cancer, banality and dissing David Letterman on air. (Pascal Ansell)

Ponyo
I hate you Disney. While Ghibli’s latest animated film came out in the summer of 2008 in Japan, and a year later in the USA, we had to wait until February 2010 for a cinema release. And they wonder why piracy is such a big issue these days! There was also no option to see the original subtitled version but the dubbing was mostly fine (certainly nowhere in the league of Valley Girl Princess Mononoke). As with all the Ghibli movies, I was pretty much sucked in from the start – there’s not a huge amount of plot but it’s all so fun with some glorious scenes like Ponyo running over the waves made by giant fish, and a great mix of the everyday and the unexpected. I suppose it’s a cross between Totoro and Howl’s Moving Castle which is alright by me. (Marceline Smith)