Archive for April, 2009

High Contrast’s remix of Kanye West’s ‘Flashing Lights’

Posted in Music on April 28, 2009 by thebigsmoke

You may have already heard High Contrast’s drum ‘n’ bass remix of ‘Gold Digger’, but you probably haven’t heard High Contrast’s impossible-to-get dubplate remix of ‘Flashing Lights’.

I thought the ‘Gold Digger’ remix was great, although it’s unlikely I’ll be putting it on my turntables as much as some other high profile drum ‘n’ bass remixes. That’s mostly down to the fact ‘Gold Digger’ never quite did it for me. I preferred ‘Flashing Lights’ because it was a bit more soulful, and I’m really impressed with the way High Contrast has handled its musical complexity in his remix.

I’ve decided to post the original first, then the drum ‘n’ bass remix right underneath (recorded from Fabio’s Radio One show). That way you can compare the two and I have a good excuse for watching the hot music video a couple more times.


I want to see DJ Z-Trip live, I really do

Posted in Music on April 27, 2009 by thebigsmoke

He’s in Louisville, KY on June 25th. Hmmm.

‘Warrior’s Dance’ is Prodigy’s next single

Posted in Music on April 27, 2009 by thebigsmoke

So, this is the brand new video to the Prodigy’s fantastic track ‘Warrior’s Dance’ due to be released as a single on May 11th. A little while back, I posted my thoughts on the latest Prodigy album and said I’d probably buy ‘Warrior’s Dance’ on vinyl if it were ever released as a single. Naturally then, I was eager for May 11th to roll around, until I discovered the album edit isn’t going to be on vinyl. They’ve chosen to put out some less impressive remixes (including a dreadful mix by Benga on one side).

‘Warrior’s Dance’ is such a simple kind of dance track and it doesn’t even use particularly original samples (the Pin-Up Girls vocal has been used in a lot of rave music). However, the combination of samples is so inspired and atmospheric that the end result is surprisingly refreshing. It hasn’t been disappointing when I’ve heard it on bigger sound systems, either; the break hits you like a sledgehammer when it finally drops.

I listen to lots of energetic, breakbeat-dominated rave music, so it’s maybe unsurprising this is easily my favourite track on the new album. I’m aware this kind of thing is not to everybody’s taste, but surely it has to be more enjoyable than the awkward techno punk nonsense of tracks like ‘Omen’.

Disney laziness

Posted in Film, Stuff on April 22, 2009 by thebigsmoke

Stephen Spielberg’s A.I. and whether or not it’s shit

Posted in Film on April 21, 2009 by thebigsmoke

I have recently found myself involved in some heated discussions about the merits of A.I., which has prompted me to collect my thoughts in this post. It is unusual to find a movie which doesn’t preach a particular political or religious message but inspires such wildly differing opinions, so let’s take some time out to consider Stephen Spielberg’s confused sci-fi epic.

In case you don’t already know the history behind the film, Stanley Kubrick actually bought the rights to the Brian Aldiss short story “Supertoys Last All Summer Long” (often referred to simply as “Supertoys”) in 1982. Over the next 17 years, he adapted the story as A.I..

Kubrick and Stephen Spielberg were already friends and they collaborated on the development of the film. In 1994, when the development was at an advanced stage, Kubrick suggested to Spielberg that he should be the one to direct A.I. while Kubrick himself would produce. Spielberg agreed to the proposal at first, but later changed his mind. It wasn’t until Kubrick’s death in 1999 that he reconsidered and began filming.

The story goes Kubrick felt Spielberg’s directorial style might be better suited to the heavy use of special effects and the fairytale elements of the story. There can be little doubt A.I. would have been a different film entirely with Kubrick directing or producing.

Many people say A.I. goes on beyond its “natural ending” or it feels like two disperate movies cut together. I would argue it actually has three acts, each with distinct moods and messages.

In the first act, the mecha David struggles to assimilate with his new “parents”, the Swintons. When his programming puts their biological son Martin in danger, David is deserted in the woods.

The second act is an odyssey, during which David teams up with a Gigolo Joe on his quest to find the Blue Fairy, whom he remembers from the story The Adventures of Pinocchio. His search leads him to a flooded Manhattan, where David locates the Blue Fairy, a statue from Coney Island. Trapped on the ocean floor, David repeats his wish to be a real boy until he eventually loses power and becomes encased in ice.

Some 2,000 years later, David is awakened by an alien intelligence. It transpires the intelligence is descended from the machines of man, although this science is pretty hazy. David discovers the Blue Fairy was not real, and the mecha intelligence is unable to grant his wish. However, using a lock of hair, the intelligence brings David’s “mother” back to life for one day only. David experiences the “everlasting moment” he has been looking for, and closes his eyes and falls asleep for the last time.

Much of the earlier portions of the film had already been scripted by Kubrick, so Spielberg was directing by numbers. The pace of the film begins slow and the thrills are mostly psychological. David, the artificial boy, is what Freud calls unhiemlich (“the uncanny”): he is disturbing because although he resembles something familiar (a human child) he is in fact something completely alien (mecha). At this point Kubrick’s involvement is especially tangible and it is quite easy to draw parallels with The Shining, which has similar Freudian preoccupations.

Once David is left to fend for himself, Spielberg’s influence quickly begins to be felt. He removed Gigolo Joe’s proposed sex scenes and made him a more likeable character than Kubrick had envisaged. Gigolo Joe’s all-singing, all-dancing antics are just one element which seems peculiarly out of place given some of the events in this section of the film. David’s interaction with the zany Dr. Know (voiced by Robin Williams) is another.

The film becomes even more problematic after David is entombed in the ice at the submerged Coney Island. The “second ending” is reminiscent of the ending to Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, but it is drastically different in execution. Shot through Spielberg’s rosy lense, the mecha intelligence looks similar to the aliens at the end of Close Encounters of the Third Kind and has the same non-threatening qualities. By this point the film’s serious exploration of artificial intelligence has become the equivalent of Johnny 5 shouting “No disassemble!” in Short Circuit. No attempt is being made to keep the science believable when David is told his mother can be brought back for a single day.

A.I. is definitely not family orientated like Close Encounters or E.T., which makes its saccharine ending particularly frustrating. The earlier, more challenging parts of the film demand something more rewarding. In this respect, the ending feels disconnected; both in terms of the plot and the change in mood.

Ben Kingsley sounds as though he’s in possession of an unending supply of Werther’s Originals as he narrates David’s last waking moments. The film literally ends with a cuddle and it’s this trademark warm fuzziness of Spielberg which jars the most, because there’s no escaping the illusory nature of the seemingly happy ending. Approached from a slightly different angle, aspects of this ending are deeply tragic. David doesn’t get what he wanted any more than the Swintons got what they wanted at the start of the film.

I have heard several friends write A.I. off as shit, but in my view adopting such an oversimplified attitude means missing out on some of the rewards the film has to offer. Sure, the film is fatally flawed, it fails to live up to its potential; but it’s an interesting, hybrid piece of film-making with good points as well as bad.

At its core is a Stanley Kubrick adaptation which is as intelligent and thought-provoking as you could hope for. Sections of the film are true to the spirit of Kubrick’s adaptation, even if the film as a whole veers away from that vision. To genuinely appreciate A.I. you just need to possess enough imagination to watch and see what might have been.

“What was the last sci-fi book you read?”

Posted in Comics, Stuff on April 2, 2009 by thebigsmoke

I sometimes read other blogs vastly superior to mine, just to keep my massive ego in check. In doing so, I found this awesome post on The Absorbascon. Some of the comments are fantastic.

I am sure you could make similar points about a number of other possible interests (books, films, music etc.), but it’s fair to say comics fans are particularly picky. I can hardly even begin to count off the number of times I’ve met someone who has been into comics only to have my enthusiasm disintegrate within minutes when told which titles they read or the characters they like. It’s funny, because most of us assume a shared interest in something like comics would bring people together; sometimes it definitely does not play out like that.

And too often have I held back when talking to girls, agreeing that, yes, we have something in common, because I read comics while she really liked the X-Men movies and thinks Hugh Jackman was perfect as Wolverine. Arrgh!

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