Grimes finds a whole new way to make climate change fun

No one want to feel guilty looking at polar bears. The future is obviously safe in the hands of the artist who now calls herself c It is written into celebrity lore that the reason the boyband Blue never made it in the US isn’t because it looked as if the smouldering line-up of Lee Ryan, Duncan James and Simon Webbe were being forced to hang out with Antony Costa because their mums were all friends with his mum. The real reason is quite different: in the wake of the 9/11 attacks – in a let’s-break-America-with-our-wholesome-brand-of-banter interview – Ryan went off-piste and said: “This New York thing is being blown out of proportion. What about whales? They are ignoring animals that are more important. Animals need saving and that’s more important.” And lo: record contract revoked, tail-between-their-legs flight back to Britain, now the fragmented shards of Blue are the face of the home improvement company Ideal Boilers. Before we analyse whether Ryan was right all along and might be an underappreciated intellect-cum-soothsayer (whales are important! He’s right!) (But! With! Caveats!), I want to visit this quote from Grimes, the poptronica, Pitchfork-approved musician who granted a rare interview to the Wall Street Journal this week. “I want to make climate change fun,” she said, describing the theme of her upcoming concept album, Miss Anthropocene. “People don’t care about it, because we’re being guilted. I see the polar bear and want to kill myself. No one wants to look at it, you know? I want to make a reason to look at it. I want to make it beautiful.” Now read Ryan’s one about whales, then Grimes’s bit about the polar bears again. Oscillate between them. Here is my theory: this is the same quote, tumbled out of different mouths. Continue reading… [hmp_player]

‘We are modern slaves’: Mdou Moctar, the Hendrix of the Sahara

His first guitar was made from wood and bicycle parts and his first songs were shared via Bluetooth in the desert. But the Niger musician has become international – and is taking aim at France How do you even dream of making music when your family and religious leaders disapprove, when you live at the edge of the Sahara desert, and you cannot afford an instrument? It helps that the Tuareg musician Mdou Moctar, from Niger, is not easily discouraged. Unable to acquire a guitar, he made one out of a piece of wood with brake wires from an old bicycle for strings, and taught himself to play in secret. “I was from a religious family and music was not welcome, but I would go and listen to local musicians and dream of being like them,” the 32-year-old singer-songwriter says over the phone while on tour in the US. Continue reading… [hmp_player]

Purr evil: cats with hidden agendas – ranked!

As Goose the Cat has stolen the show in Captain Marvel, we pick 10 fiendish felines from past films Orion is a ginger-and-white puss who sees his beloved can-opener, an elderly Manhattan jeweller called Rosenburg, being murdered by a giant cockroach-like alien called Edgar, and refuses to leave the old man’s corpse. The cat’s loyalty to the dead man is genuinely moving in a sci-fi comedy that otherwise opts for flippancy. But Rosenburg had a secret and so does his cat. SPOILER! Hanging from the collar around Orion’s neck is a bauble that turns out to contain the missing galaxy for which everyone in the film has been searching. Continue reading… [hmp_player]

The Crossing review – Bai Xue’s slowburn gem delivers the goods

This feature debut about a schoolgirl coerced into small-time smuggling is all the more powerful for shunning high drama With this elegantly elliptical arthouse movie, Bai Xue announces herself as a cool, confident observer of a new generation of Chinese youth. There are echoes of Sofia Coppola in Bai’s directing debut, a coming-of-age story inspired by real-life criminal gangs in Hong Kong who recruit schoolkids to smuggle mobile phones into mainland China. It’s a wisp of film that never quite gathers speed or force but it gets under your skin, capturing the impulsiveness and impatience of teenagers. Others may find it a little flat or frustrating. Huang Yao is shy 16-year-old Peipei, who’s frantically saving up for a holiday in Japan with her rich best friend Jo (Carmen Soup). Peipei commutes daily between her home in the Chinese city Shenzhen and school in Hong Kong. To make a little extra money she smuggles for a gang. It begins harmlessly enough, slipping a couple of iPhones wrapped in cling film into her school bag. If stopped by officials at the airport-style security on the metro, she can reasonably claim the phones are for personal use. As Peipei slips between worlds, Bai changes up the camera style, from handheld in busy Hong Kong to still compositions in Shenzhen. Continue reading… [hmp_player]

Piazzolla: María de Buenos Aires review – the story of tango itself | Andrew Clements’s classical CD of the week

Bonilla-Torres / Mancini / Mertes / Beethoven Orchestra Bonn / Sprenger (Capriccio, two CDs)Piazzolla’s 1968 work is supposed to be the story of tango itself, but this concert performance isn’t quite edgy enough Astor Piazzolla’s “tango operita” ought to be a regular part of the music-theatre repertory by now. It has all the ingredients of a popular stage show, and CD recordings of it run into double figures, but in Britain at least, María de Buenos Aires has yet to be presented convincingly on stage. This recording, from the Bonn Opera, appears to have been taken from a concert performance, too. If the work really is dramatically intractable, then the problem is partly the work itself. Horacio Ferrer’s libretto has holes, and it’s written in lunfardo, a working-class dialect developed in the River Plate area of Argentina and Uruguay in the 19th century. Attempts to turn it into “proper” Spanish, or English, sanitise the text and rid it of the earthiness that’s an essential part of its world. Continue reading… [hmp_player]

The Journey review – supreme acting elevates a humane hostage drama

Zahraa Ghandour is mesmerising as a would-be suicide bomber in Mohamed Al-Daradji’s smart, sympathetic ensemble piece It’s the first night of Eid, in 2006, and a young woman named Sara (Zahraa Ghandour) steps into the newly reopened Baghdad Central Station, with explosives strapped to her body and an detonator switch in her shaking hand. Time seems to stand still, fade to white, loop backwards and start over. Sara enters the station again, and perhaps what we’re seeing now is her in a part of the multiverse where a moment’s hesitation affords her a chance to understand exactly who would be hurt if she pressed the button, what’s at stake and what her own motives are. A chance encounter with low-level grifter Salam (Ameer Ali Jabarah) forces Sara to take him hostage. Salam tries to persuade Sara not to trigger the bomb, appealing to a deadened sense of humanity that is slowly reawakened as she gets to know the other characters teeming around the station forecourt. These include a homeless brother and sister selling flowers and trying to stay clear of the tougher, meaner street kids; a desperate woman with a baby; a musician and his estranged wife; and a grieving father. Related: Son of Babylon: ‘I made it for my family, for Iraq’ Continue reading… [hmp_player]

On the set of Dumbo with Tim Burton: ‘Like meeting up with your teenage boyfriend’

As an adolescent misfit, Hadley Freeman fell in love with the warped movie worlds of Tim Burton. What happened when she met Danny DeVito, Colin Farrell and her idol himself? When I was an oversensitive, confusedly furious and faintly morbid teenager in the 90s, there was one film director who seemed to know my soul better than anyone. And that director was, of course, Tim Burton. Pee-wee’s Big Adventure was the first of his films I saw, after being taken by a friend’s mother, who mistakenly thought it would be a typical kids’ movie as opposed to one of the more slyly subversive takes on modern US life. I was far too young to appreciate all the jokes, but there was something about the colours, the hyperrealism and the Danny Elfman music that intrigued me. It was like being kissed for the first time: you don’t really get what’s happening, but you’d definitely like to investigate further. By the time Burton’s great late-80s and 90s films came along – Beetlejuice, Batman, Edward Scissorhands, Batman Returns and Ed Wood (surely one of the greatest movie runs of any modern director), I was primed to fall headlong in love. It is hard to think of another clutch of films that capture in a more heartfelt way what it feels like to see yourself as a freakish outsider. As I entered a rocky puberty, followed by disastrous teenage years, these movies were like my internal soundtrack, each one investigating the subject more deeply as my own hormonal misery deepened. I just feel like I’m part of the palette – Tim is an artist Continue reading… [hmp_player]

Downstate review – big-question drama on how we live with child abusers

Dorfman, LondonFour sex offenders are confronted by one of their victims in Bruce Norris’s viscerally acted drama about punishment Bruce Norris likes to live dangerously. In Clybourne Park, he tackled racial antagonism in America. He goes much further in this latest play, which arrives at the National in a co-production with Chicago’s Steppenwolf, by presenting us with people guilty of sex crimes against minors. The play is not without flaws but it poses, even if it doesn’t answer, a difficult question: how should society treat such offenders? The setting is a group home in downstate Illinois, where four men with previous convictions live in uneasy confinement. To his credit, Norris shows that sex criminals are individuals rather than a uniform class. The main action stems from the confrontation of Fred, a gentle figure in a motorised wheelchair, with one of his victims, the tormented Andy. But, while Fred is seemingly penitent, his fellow inmate, Dee, shows little remorse for a long-term relationship he had with one of the Lost Boys in a touring production of Peter Pan. Dee is also vehemently at odds with the mouthy Gio, guilty of an offence with a teenage girl. Completing this unhappy quartet is Felix, whose crimes involved his own daughter. At the Dorfman, National theatre, London, until 27 April Continue reading… [hmp_player]