Wed. May 22nd, 2024
Cameo Cinema, Belgrave

I was working in a sleepy little town near a nice old-school cinema today, and so I went there after work and saw a film. It was Alex Garland’s Civil War. The basic idea is it’s some time in the future and some of the US States, especially California and Texas, have broken away from the rest of the country resulting in a Civil War. It stars Kirsten Dunst as a photojournalist on a quest to travel from New York to Washington DC to witness and hopefully interview the President before he is deposed or assassinated. That’s the basic McGuffin of the story, but it’s really there to give us a glimpse of an America under the heal of civil war. And boy do we see it!

An interesting aspect of the story is that a lot of what Dunst and her journalist pals see is straight out of the Middle East conflict playbook, just transplanted to the US. Cities reduced to rubble, refugees moving along roads, gunmen on roofs, suicide bombers rushing in with American flags to blow up ‘the enemy’. All the gun maniacs come out of the woodwork, and the White House is stormed by troopers and our journos in a deliriously crazy as batshit finale, which I loved. It certainly gives one pause for thought.

I’m not sure how much sense we’re supposed to make of all this though. I think one of Garland’s ideas is that wars don’t make sense. We don’t even know why the war started, and we certainly don’t know whose side to be on. Even the fact that Dunst’s photojournalist uses a digital camera to record what she experiences, while a younger protege, played by Cailee Spaeny, uses a film camera, complete with developing tank (hey, I used to have one of those!) lacks sense. Is the Cailee character expecting things to get so bad there’ll be no electricity at some point? Looking for practicalities in this film is pointless. Personally, I doubt very much whether journalists will keep doing their job when the shit hits the fan. They’ll have no one to present their reportage to, for starters. I suspect gung ho journos like we see in this film almost only ever exist in Hollywood. And doesn’t the White House have bunkers and escape tunnels out of there and shit? Isn’t there a helipad on the roof?

No, I think this film is a warning, or a presentiment, of things to come if the American people and the American system don’t get their act together. Garland seems to be pointing to the possible re-election of a certain crazy as batshit ex-President. Which, when you think about it, is a pretty interesting reason for a film to exist.

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Before the film, I went to the bookstore next door and bought a How To Learn Harmonica kit. It was just this nice old-timey looking box that included a ‘blues harmonica’ and a booklet detailing how to play. I’m a sucker for that kind of thing. My harmonica abilities are quite rudimentary – I can play Swanee River, and that’s about it. I can definitely do with a refresher course. Hopefully, it won’t just sit with my Idiot’s Guide To Ukelele unused (I don’t even own a ukelele, but yeah, it’s another future project). From blues to soul, I may as well include here the fact I borrowed an album whilst working at my library today. It was a compilation of Dusty Sings Soul, by the fabulous Dusty Springfield. This is something else I am a sucker for. It’s just another compilation of Dusty songs with a slightly novel edge, bringing with it the hope, the promise that I won’t actually have some of these songs. Her discography is so haphazard, with obscure singles and albums not released, then finally released, etc, I can’t always keep up with what I have. Guess I’ll find out soon if this comp was worth borrowing…

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Now onto another musician I admire greatly. I just found out Michael Pinder, of the Moody Blues, died on Wednesday, the 24th. He was their keyboard/piano/mellotron player from their inception (the last of the original members) to 1978. Next to Justin Hayward, he was my second favourite songwriter in the band. His songs were so soulful, so spiritual, so Cosmic. He was Mr Cosmic in the band. The song titles say it all: The Best Way To Travel (ie, is thinking), Om, The Voyage, Out and In, When You’re a Free Man (about Timothy Leary in exile in Canada), One Step Into the Light. He was also the voice used to recite drummer Graeme Edge‘s lyrics for his poem pieces featured throughout the ‘Core 7’ era of albums. He continued using his mellifluous voice in later solo albums, like his award-contending album A Planet With One Mind of 1995, a record of spiritual and cosmic children’s stories featuring Mike’s voice and instrumental backing. I have a signed copy! A year before that he released his last solo album of songs, Among the Stars. When he left the group in 1978, much of the soul went from their music. His replacement, Patrick Moraz, an amazing technical player, helped take them to further success in the 80s, but it lacked Mike’s soul. So, here’s to you, Melancholy Man, Mellotron Man, Mr Cosmic. Mike Pinder, finally out among the stars.

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One final relatively unsung musician I’d like to highlight here is Maurice Gibb, of the Bee Gees. I watched a Youtube video about him tonight that clued me into an aspect of the band I wasn’t previously aware of. The video was titled The Uncelebrated Bass Legend Who Ignited the Disco Inferno, by Youtuber Andrew Freed. You can guess from the title and my comments who the ‘legend’ was. I simply didn’t know he came up with those bass lines, like You Should Be Dancing, Jive Talking, Stayin’ Alive and Night Fever. Impressive. Not just the third singer in the Bee Gees, then.

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