What I thought of Lost in Vagueness

There’s an increasingly rich stream of crowdfunded documentaries about often incredibly niche subjects, but with stories that need to be told. Lost in Vagueness is on the whole, one of those films though it isn’t without flaws which often come from such crowdfunded projects but Sophia Ollins creates a film worthy to be added to the small genre of films about Glastonbury Festival.

The film tells the story of Roy Gurvitz who arguably saved Glastonbury in the early 2000’s as the festival was crossing over from the anarachic free for all of the previous years, to the more organised 21st Century juggernaut we know of today. To understand what Gurvitz did it’s best ot understand what Glastonbury was at the end of the century.It was breaking into the mainstream thanks mainly to the BBC and Guardian hitching themselves to the festival as festivals became not just a thing for young folk, but of alll ages which to be fair had been something Glastonbury had done.

In 2000, the first year Gurvitz ran his section fo the festival called Lost Vagueness, the festival nearly fell apart. Tens of thousands of people got over the fence, crime was rife and infrastructure in parts of the site collapsed. The festival took a year off in 2001 to work out what the hell to do as they’d never get a licence if something wasn’t done, so the Superfence came in which kept out people so well that in 2002 and 2003 the site felt, well, empty compared to the past. There came a problem that tickets were not selling out which seems insane in a time when it’s a fight to get even in a queue online for a ticket.

So Gurvitz was given free rule to do what he liked and he did. A big chunk of festival goers clicked onto what he was doing which mixed burlesque, performance art, dance, live music and general insanity. I first went into Lost Vagueness in 2002 spending a night of debauchery which led to a very fragile Sunday, but what he’d done is capture all the lunacy you’d get across the site into one area and let some brilliantly creative people run riot. And so the area grew in reputation outwith the festival itself as Lost Vagueness started organising their own events, as well as working for large companies and organisations. Effectively in a few years it became a large company worth millions.

Gurvitz himself came out of the Traveller scene of the 80’s after leaving home at a young age like so many Travellers did. To have him where he was seemed unnatural, and indeed looking at the film seeing Gurvitz turn into an abusive boss demanding jobs be done just loooks painful. Perhaps if Gurvitz had delegated more and become a person who inspired then perhaps things wouldn’t have ended so badly as they did in 2007. That year’s festival was a wet and windy one which is hardly unusual but word from Lost Vagueness wasn’t great. Normally you could get in on the Thursday and walk around but we tried and couldn’t get in. The reason being Gurvitz was threatening to pull out of the entire festival and although this didn’t happen, and in fact I ended up having another great time there, the end of Lost Vagueness was happening all around us.

Ollins tells us the story of Lost Vagueness, and of Gurvitz’s family life which was less than happy which lead to him not seeing his family for 20 years when they tracked him down via an internet search. Where the film works is this history of Gurvitz and how he changed not just Glastonbury but a large part of British culture, but where it fails is it meanders at times, for example what exactly is Gurvitz doing now which is only skimmed over here. A bit more about hos family would have a bit more of an arc, but these are minor issues of what is a fine addition to the small numbers of Glastonbury films.

Do I risk death for Christopher Nolan?

Christopher Nolan is one of our most unique filmmakers. Barring his Batman trilogy he makes original films from original scripts for a mass audience and is given lots of money to do so as he makes lots of money. At the start of the year, Tenet, his latest film, looked the film of the year potentially.

Since then we’ve had a global disaster hit in the shape of the Covid-19 pandemic, so the idea of going to a cinema to watch a film is something I thought I’d only do again once, if, we get a vaccine. I’ve shielded most of the last six months and the idea of sitting in a Glasgow cinema with people does not fill me with joy.

However I’ve always loved cinema, and so clearly does Nolan plus the fact is if we don’t support cinema now then all that’ll happen is screens will be purely full of Disney product in the years to come so we need to support the likes of Nolan so we get these types of original blockbusters, and if Tom Cruise can get up off his arse then by Xenu so can I.

DC Comics and their dismal, dark film universe

The trailer for the new Batman film starring Robert Pattinson was released. It is dark, grim and violent.

The trailer for the new Suicide Squad game was also released. It is grim, dark and violent.

Then there’s Zack Snyder’s cut of the Justice League which is grim, dark and violent.

Now there were a few shafts of light but overall the picture DC are sending out that they’re all about the grim and the dark and the violent because that’s ‘edgy’, and yes, they might be good but making superheroes relentlessly grim and overly violent power fantasies is just depressing.

Yes, the Wonder Woman film looks fun but it stands as an aberration but surely there isn’t this hunger for relentless misery? Wouldn’t it be nice to see a Batman film where he does a cheery dance instead of punching someone’s jaw out the back of their head?

RIP Ennio Morricone

This one hurts because for all my life Ennio Morricone has soundtracked some of my favourite films. When I was young, I was allowed up late to watch A Fistful of Dollars and saw what is still once of the finest titles for a movie ever.

That music though was like nothing I’d heard before and I wanted more. When my parents said this was the first of three films I ensured I was allowed to stay up the next week for A Few Dollars More, however it was that third week with The Good, the Bad and the Ugly which blew my tiny little mind.

You knew from this opening credits score that you were in for something epic, something spectacular and you got something transcendent at the end of the film. I mean just look at what’s going on and story being told here, all made to work thanks to direction, editing and of course music.

Then I caught Once Upon a TIme in the West some months later. The end blew me away.

But Morricone could do whatever he wanted in terms to variety. Here’s the opening credits to Danger: Diabolik with him in full 60’s mode.

Over the years it quickly became clear Morricone was scoring some of my favourite films, and sure, he could raise rubbish up from the depths, but he could add quality to quality, or take an average film and raise it to something else.

By the time he starts scoring Hollywood films, he’s already scored dozens of films. IN fact by the mid-70s his C.V. is enormous, but the hits still keep coming. Take a low budget Italian Z-Grade Star Wars rip off called The Humanoid. It’s a terrible film, but the soundtrack is Morricone experimenting with things like synths in a way he might not have with something a bit more expensive, and better.

My favourite of this time is for John Carpenter’s The Thing, which starts to ramp up the tension right from the start.

After that there were classics for films like Once Upon a Time in America, The Untouchables and Bugsy. All classic scores which pull these films into being something else, but in recent years he’s been scaling back the amount of work he’s doing with The Hateful Eight being the last big score most people will remember him by.

He’ll be missed because he was so varied, so good and just a bloody genius. I mean, just listen to his theme for Space:1999 when they released some edited together episodes to make a film.

Alan Moore and Adam Curtis in conversation…

Alan Moore is a writer who helped change comics back in the 1980’s, and Adam Curtis is the UK’s finest documentarians while both skirt around the edge of mainstream culture to say the least. Below is a conversation between the pair from May 2018 which is a pretty absorbing listen, especially in light of the post Covid world where things are changing all over the place creating an even more uncertain world.

Spend an hour listening to this. It’ll be worth it.

UK ad for Evil Dead 2 from 1987

Evil Dead 2 is one of my favourite films. It is an almost perfect sequel but when it came out in cinemas here in the UK it wasn’t anything like the success the first one was which was a shame. The first Evil Dead ran in parts of the UK for years, with it running in Glasgow in various cinemas for five years.

The second one suffered from the wave of censorship still washing over the UK and also I don’t think people outwith of the fans got it, but time has shown it to be a classic. It did however have a great marketing campaign here in the UK with Raimi working his arse off in terms of publicity, and this advert with Jonathan Ross just sums up the campaign well, and sets expectations for what you’re going to see.

Sam Raimi versus UK censors on live TV

Back in the 80’s and 90’s there used to be a late-night talk show called Central Weekend, shown on the ITV network but based in the Midlands. It was an odd magazine format that would switch from deeply serious to flippant on the turn of a heel. Back in 1987 they had Sam Raimi on to defend not just his two Evil Dead films released at the time, as well as being the mouthpiece of anti-censorship.

The argument is bizarre. At one point Howarth is arguing for parental control while saying that parents are so weak they can’t exercise control over their children and it’s the fault of folk like Sam Raimi but being a Nazi, which is one of the arguments used.  Of course the likes of Howarth have never seen all the film, and also people argue that people see films just for kicks which is basically the entire fucking point of any entertainment.

Raimi spent most of the early part of his career in the UK arguing for his films and in this, he looks weary as he realises that he’s being set up as the fall guy. The amount of venom thrown at him by the like of Howarth over the years would wear anyone out but the fact is Raimi is now one of Hollywood’s most respected directors and the Evil Dead films are regarded as classics, with the first being respected across critical boundaries while Howarth is best remembered for being a homophobe who was roundly skewered by Chris Morris on Brass Eye.

 

What if there’d been a toy line for the 1979 Caligula film?

One of my guity pleasures in the very porny, very gory, very bizarre 1979 film, Caligula.

This was my introduction into the world of Tinto Brass, not to mention seeing actors like John Guilgud who in this film seems to be walking around in a haze counting how large his bank account is going to be once he gets through everything. It is also a mess as producer Bob Guccione rewrote scenes, not to mention inserted hardcore sex scenes filmed on set at night when the actors were away, as he felt it needed more sex to perhaps offset the violence.

Anyhow, the film is a mess but like one of the setpieces, it’s a mess one can’t help but be intrigued by, depending on what version of the film you see as there’s multiple versions depending how how much porn and gore you want. However imagine a line of toys to go along with the film that was made in 1979? Didn’t happen of course but what if it did?

Here you go…

The Poughkeepsie Tapes is the found-footage film that disturbed me

 

Back in the 2000’s things were all over the place for horror films. There weren’t that many great ones (the footprint of 911 cast itself over the first part of the decade) but as the decade progressed things improved especially on the independent film front. I’m a horror fan since a wee boy, so the odd gem that’d come up I’d swallow up like a hungry prisoner, and by the end of the 00’s most of the once-banned video nasties were coming out on disc either uncut, or close to uncut.

Tracking down video nasties used to be fun, but now everything was easy to buy from your local HMV or through Amazon. Then in 2007 a rumour flew around the internet about a film which was deeply disturbing even if it was a found footage film which even by 2007 was wildly overused and full of awful, awful films. The Poughkeepsie Tapes was a low budget film in the found footage/mockumentary style which was familiar by now but what made it attractive was it was bloody hard to get in those pre broadband days. Sure you could find it on P2P sites but it took ages to download, and when it did there was less than an hour of the film. It wasn’t until checking online that you had to use VLC Player to watch it. In short, it was a bit of a hunt to watch the bloody thing in an age when media was readily available at the click of a mouse.

Once I did see the film it was clear this was, well, fucked up. From the off the entire film felt wrong, in a deeply disturbing WTF type of way. Yes there were easy shocks but the entire thing uneased me and even the sometimes awful acting in these films washed me by as another disturbing set-piece came up. I can’t say I enjoyed the film, but I certainly remembered it afterward.

And so it passed into memory only to pop up in conversation during those drunken ‘what films freaked you out’ conversation you’d have. Then the other day this video popped up in my recommendations.

Apart from being a pretty good review of the film, it brought back that slightly disturbed feeling so I found my copy of the film and watched it again. Yes, it still disturbed. The crap bits are still crap. However, there’s that tone and feel that this is right, in that, the film is designed to make you walk away from it feeling like you need a shower which is the sign of a good horror film, but maybe not one you’ll watch over and over again.

So give it a go, but do it in the dark.

 

 

 

RIP Max Von Sydow

As a child, my image of Max Von Sydow was from staring at pictures from The Exorcist, as at that point I was too young to watch it and it’d be at least 15 years before I did see it. I saw him as an old, frailish man.

the-exorcist-1-600x321

Yet when I saw him in Flash Gordon he was a relatively young man in all that film’s hot campy glory.

NINTCHDBPICT000569560824

Of course, it was a mix of Von Sydow’s wonderful acting and Dick Smith’s still astonishing makeup, and so for a while Max Von Sydow was my favourite actor. I’d eat up all his films when they landed on TV in those pre-digital, even pre VHS days so everything from The Seventh Seal to his still remarkable Jesus Christ (there’s something alien about his version of Christ I’ve never seen since) in The Greatest Story Ever Told, my favourite of the biblical epics with Ben Hur.

6bfccf199f11e5efed4a5af7bb8fb059

There’s a ton of lost gems in Von Sydow’s C.V including the gloriously bizarre adaptation of Herman Hesse’s Steppenwolf which simply has to be seen, preferably while off your face on MDMA.

1980 and 1981 saw him in some of my favourite films, including the mental Escape to Victory and Death Watch, a great SF film filmed here in a post-industrial, but pre recovery Glasgow. It’s a film I’m always recommending because it simply is a lost gem.

If I sat down and wrote a list of my favourite films, Max Von Sydow’s name would pop up over and over and over again in the credits, from Dune, to Dreamscape, to Hannah and Her Sisters, to Until the End of the World, to What Dreams Will Come, and fuck, even Judge Dredd has some moments.

BmaNCCsCAAA_ySv

A great actor not afraid to play in genre film as well as mainstream film, and one who was such a talent he made it look effortless, but it really wasn’t. Another one who’ll be missed.