Monday, 30 January 2012

I'd Like You To Meet... Mike Von Woodfine

Photo by Lewis Shaw

It is gone midnight, and I am walking around the streets of suburban Fleet with a couple of drinks in me, and a man dressed as a 1920’s bombardier pilot. If this small fact doesn’t seem strange enough, then you ought to know that this isn’t the first time that this has happened. The man dressed as a bombardier is Mike Woodfine - musician, writer, and accidental fame magnet. He also happens to be a good friend, and the first victim of my venture into interviews.

So Mike. How did you and I manage to cross paths?
Our stars were in the right place at the right time – Venus was orbiting Neptune and we just seemed to collide. You commented on a status about pot plants on Facebook, got into a conversation with [cough] Tegan On Toast, [cough] my girlfriend, and we met up, at which point I stole you a glass plaque that read Very Sexy.

It actually just said Sexy. I’ve still got it.
Just Sexy? That’s simply not good enough…

I know right. So how did we get to the point of walking around at four in the morning, drunk off our faces talking about Franz Kafka?
I think it had something to do with us both being semi-insomniacs at the time – we’d find ourselves on Facebook at four in the morning and think ‘Well, I’m awake… you’re awake… why don’t we do something?’ It wasn’t just walking around – if I delve deep into my pockets I can find two bullets, which I recall finding on one of our strangest adventures – we walked about two hours into a forest, came across an army base, where we slept in a shipping container for the night with Tegan, Erin, Ed and Brownbear.

And what provisions did we take with us on this fateful journey?
I don’t think I took anything, we just did it on a whim really… I slept on a roll matt. What did you take?

This is gonna sound bad… just a four pack of Strongbow… and Brownbear took a four pack of Carlsberg…
I might of taken some drinks yeah… we’re such good campers. Going out for a night in the wilderness with no provisions, just alcoholic beverages for bedding and food…

How the f*ck are we still alive?
I really don’t know!

You are also in a band – a band called The Strange Rains – it’s very strange. How would you describe The Strange Rains?
This is very difficult. We’re sort of an infusion of 1960’s pop, The Beatles, July, those sorts of bands – with a mixture of blues as well, anything by BB King-

Pretty much everything a Beatnik might listen to…
Pretty much… There’s also a lot of contemporary influence as well, The Arctic Monkeys are a huge influence on the way we do our lyrics, things like that.

You have, as we so subtly mentioned, been going out with Tegan Marlow, infamous fashion blogger for – how long?
Well a year and a half now – it seems longer, everyone seems to think that we’ve had this eternal relationship, the people we meet now seem to think that it has just transcended years…

It seems like a strange sort of deceivably short marriage, filled with toast and vintage clothing – but how do you think that your relationship has changed you from a year 8 who wore Quicksilver hoodies and hung around in skate parks to looking like a confused Jarvis Cocker?
Haha… I think it’s been partly Tegan but to do with myself growing up – everybody goes through that typical year 8 stage of thinking that you’re a lot harder than you actually are, but she’s influenced me in so many different ways and we’ve experienced so many different things together – and I think musical influences have a lot to do with the way I dress –

Do you actually know where this goes?
I don’t know… there’s an awful lot of barbed wire… and a sign that says… ‘Do not pick up suspicious… mines’. I have a feeling we shouldn’t really go in there…

Yeah let’s turn around… So where did you get the first influences of your distinctively vintage dress sense?
I know it sounds really clich├ęd and obvious but I’ve got to say The Beatles and the whole swinging 60’s ideal. They’re the first band that I really got into, and it influenced me a lot. I’ve got a lot of sixties shirts, the kinds of things that were worn in a more colourful time. I don’t really know how I found all these things, it was just sort of chance and random shops.
So as well as your quirky dress sense, you’ve also acquired a bit of a literary and artistic collection as it were. How would you describe your bookshelf – and I’m talking about the magical one here.
It’s a mixture of all the great works, Kafka’s The Castle, things like that, all the way up to David Shrigley’s What the hell are you doing? – which is a brilliant book. A mix of everything that is a classic and the things that you think are going to be classics.

I’d also throw in the word deceiving, because when you pull the first book away…
There’s about forty behind that, and another fifty behind those… I just found them lying in a shop somewhere… Unattended so to speak… But I won’t go into that…

What do you think are the borderlines of finding books unattended with nobody stood there to take your money, what’s acceptable and what’s wrong?
Well a lot of the books that I’ve found were written by authors who are now deceased, so the money wouldn’t be going to them at all, just one of their ancestors or a publisher. There are several books that I found that I’ve bought another copy of because the work is of such a high standard…

When we talk to people, I think the most interesting thing for others is our backstories and the origins of who we are – you’ve got quite a colourful family – how many countries can you list straight off that immediate relatives have either been born in or lived in?
Immediate relatives – there’s about three different countries, but as soon as you step out of that there’s five or six more. My family’s been forever moving, and it’s kind of affected us financially – we never sold our last house in South Africa due to it being constantly burgled and vandalised, but I think we’ve settled down in Fleet.

Unwittingly over time – wait are there people down there?
Looks like a crowd… an angry mob… with torches and pitchfo- oh, no it’s just lampposts. What were you saying?

Over time we have unwittingly surrounded ourselves with people who have quite a large internet presence…
Yeah, there’s Tegan, Panda, our friend Louis, several others…

You don’t really put yourself out there that much – so how does it feel to be on the first page of Google Images for ‘Tegan Marlow’?
I don’t really mind it, I just feel like it’s going to grow over time, without any effort whatsoever. I’m really all for it.

Fred Durst dropped his digestive in a cup of tea, and he got a Limp Bizkit. Just to finish off, tell me a joke!
Why did the French man only use one egg? Because one egg is an oeuf!


Sunday, 22 January 2012

Cigarette Burns: War Horse

Disclaimer: Before you think 'Oh god, it's another blog succumbing to film reviews as content' - it's okay. I'm a film student. And so are the two people I went with. They were girls. Hot girls. That's right. Read on.

So - War Horse; a heart-wrenching tale of boy meets horse meets hardship, has over 30 decades taken the less than usual transformation from novel (Michael Morpurgo), to award winning play (Which admittedly I haven't seen but have been backstage at) and then to the greatest pleasure a story can find - being the subject of a film directed by none other than Stephen Spielberg.

So when I heard the unabatedly phenomenal reviews that the film was released to, announcing that crowds stood cheering in the theatres and left screenings to buy towels for their tears, I wanted to see if this was really 'Spielberg at his best'. So, I watched some trailers, and after three minutes of orchestra-laden, uncomfortably emotional clips of horses, crying people and facial hair close-ups, I decided that I was going to need some sort of preparation for this film.

So today, I found myself talking about ex-boyfriends, clothes shopping, and singing along to Taylor Swift - all this in homo-best-friend-o preparation for two hours of sobbing, holding hands and cheering on a horse. You think I'm joking? No. I have dedication to the film industry.

So you can't imagine my shock when I found out that the film wasn't actually 2 hours of what was in the trailer. Yeah, that old trick. Although the film was rather up on the sob factor, Spielberg did a good job of padding it out with emotionally bearable content - albeit with only 2/3 scenes not having orchestral backing. Does John Williams do anything but compose? I mean, seriously, the amount of music in this film, you'd think he had to be fed through a tube as to keep up his working pace.

So despite being not as emotional as the trailer portrayed, and despite me starting every paragraph so far with the word 'So', there were a number of things that the film was filled with. They were:
1) Orchestral Pieces
2) Ridiculous and/or Stereotyped Facial Hair
3) Anthropomorphism. (Look it up)

"Is it just me or do these horses keep making kissy-face?"

I mean, seriously, I know I'm a teenage boy, and facial hair is something I am obsessed with - but this film was full of it. Whether it was the hope-encompassing close ups of Ted Narracott's mutton chops, or the 'I'm such an honorable gent' close ups of Captain Nichols' Kitchener mustache, or the 'Mwahaha I'm such an evil bad person' close ups of Generic German Soldier #1's Kaiser mustache - there just seemed to be an awful lot of it.

Another bone that I had to pick with this film, albeit a minor one, is the level of realism. This is aimed at a younger audience as well as older, and Spielberg has acknowledged this with a drop on the real-factor. Unrealistic horse births, Military continuity errors, and 'I've been to Devon, and that isn't it' backdrops, had me writhing in my seat whilst actors who thought that a German accent consists of speaking English and changing all your w's and f's into v's talked about friendship and ponies and shooting each other. This isn't a genuine critique of the film - but if you're one of those people who will overlook the entire plot-line just because you saw a sticker on the apple that Aragorn throws Pippin in Lord of the Rings, this isn't going to be your cup of tea.

But there's something that, as I was wondering before I went to see it, and no doubt you are as well. Is War Horse Spielberg at his best? The answer, is simple. No. They said this for Schindler's List, and they said this for Jaws, and they said this for E.T, and for pretty much every other Spielberg film that you could name.

Although he has stepped back from World War II into the slightly muddier World War I, and mixed the beautiful natural imagery of horses against the harsh, mechanical background of the Genesis of modern warfare (A change to the Saving Private Ryan-esque 'bang bang explosion I love you man' technique), and realised the success-potential of facial hair and orchestral backing, this is not Spielberg at his best.

This is however, a crowd-pleasing mix of emotion, action, spectacle and continuity errors that will have you saying 'Sh*t yeah, explosions', your girlfriend crying, your little brother gape in awe and your Dad noisily point out every incorrect uniform to everybody sat near you.

Lewis: 7/10
Abi: 8/10
Kirstie: 6/10

Quote of the Film:
"For a German, you speak good English."
"No, I speak English well."
(I know it's World War I but this just made me think - Grammar Nazis, gotta love them)


Tuesday, 3 January 2012

I Went To a Dictatorship, And Got a Sun Tan

When you spend as much time thinking about glamorous careers in journalism as I do, you start to see countries that are ruled by dictatorships or in times of war or seeing revolutions, and think - man, I could be there before long, writing a column on how bloody miserable everyone is getting and maybe even poking a dictaphone in the faces of armed men and asking them how they feel about 'all this then'.

Then I remembered two things - firstly, that no news service in their right minds (Apart from Vice maybe, but that's a given) would send me out into a warzone in the fear that my daring witticisms might spark a new and even more violent conflict - and secondly, that I've actually already been to one of these ravaged dictatorships. Two, in fact.

When you think of dictators - and I'm going to totally read your mind here - you tend to think of beatings, unhappiness, guns, and men who give otherwise epic moustaches bad names. But the thing about dictatorships is that, along with rules of the Geneva convention, they tend to break expectations.

When I was five (Admittedly bright eyed and searching for danger) I went on a package holiday to a little African country known as Tunisia. I swam in a big swimming pool, got a decent amount of sunburn, and have fading memories of stealing the hat of a confused concierge who was delivering a carpet. But never, did I a) Know that it was a dictatorship b) Expect a violent revolution a few years later (Then again, when I was five I was probably too busy plotting world destruction and abusing concierges to worry about current affairs).

But the more poignant of my dictatorship visits was the second one, when (If you recall) I visited the AIDS ravaged Kingdom of Swaziland to 'build schools n sh*t'.

Yeah. That place.

I wasn't actually aware of it at the time, but it turns out that Swaziland is in fact a dictatorship. This comes with news that activists are boycotting the presence of a Coca-Cola factory in Swaziland, due to the fact that through tax the sugary brown water company are in fact contributing 40% of King Mswati III's £64 million treasury.

£64 million treasury. This is in the only country in the world in which more people are dying than being born.

But despite the huge injustice, I can't help but think that maybe the activists have got it wrong somewhere along the line - indeed Mswati is a bit of a greedy bugger in the worst of circumstances, but is getting rid of the basis of a failing countries economy really going to help much? Indeed it's a good way of inciting a revolution, but you're forgetting that a hell of a lot of people probably have (Admittedly low paid) jobs in that factory.

But in a startling return to point, whilst I was in Swaziland I didn't see much of the corruption and violence that dictatorships are ever so stigmatised with. Instead I met amazing people, in an amazing town - which I think is a lot better way of helping Swaziland than destroying jobs and deposing rich dictators.

That place was called Bulembu, and with a devilishly cunning wink I can yet again inform you that my new project The Thought Report Project is selling a book, written by amazing bloggers from around the world, to raise money for the Bulembu foundation. Buy a copy, it's only a fiver!

Yeah, that was the end. But I got twitter now, so I can afford to have blunt endings. @Luciano_Shaw