James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Albums That He Liked To Listen To When He Was Young – Part 3: Coming Up

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Day 3 of the A-Z challenge and who would have imagined we’d be dealing the letter ‘C’?

So we’d better head off to 1996 and ‘C’ what we can find…

C2020

C is for Coming Up

suede b

Given that some people credit Suede for paving the way for many of the bands that were part of the ‘Britpop’ phenomenon of the nineties, it’s perhaps strange that I wasn’t really that into them initially.

Because I liked a lot of those other bands.

But somehow Suede’s first two albums completely passed me by, and I really only began to take heed of them when they released this, their third album.

Although, in fairness, it’s not a bad place to start if you’re discovering the band for the first time.

Coming off the back of the departure of Bernard Butler (arguably one of the greatest guitarists of his generation, and a man who had already achieved his own success a year earlier with McAlmont and Butler and one of the tracks of the nineties in ‘Yes’) Suede’s third album needed to be pretty good to settle the nerves of the fans who thought his exit was terminal for the band.

‘Coming Up’ delivered everything it needed to. Easily representing their biggest commercial success, some of Suede’s biggest hits come from this album, including ‘Beautiful Ones’ and ‘Saturday Night’.

But I’ll leave you today with ‘Trash’. A song that is not at all rubbish…

James’ Shamelessly Nostalgic A-Z Of Albums That He Liked To Listen To When He Was Young – Part 2: The ‘Blue’ Album

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Day 2 of the A-Z Blogging Challenge and thus today’s album of the nineties must begin with the letter ‘B’

And I may have taken a bit of liberty with today’s choice.

Because it doesn’t really begin with ‘B’ at all.

Because today’s album is:

B2020

B is for The ‘Blue’ Album

Weezer_-_Blue_Album

Weezer’s 1994 debut was actually just called Weezer. So it should really be filed under ‘W’. But Weezer have subsequently released no less than five other ‘eponymous’ albums, and consequently they tend to be known by the colour of the ‘sleeve’. So it is not uncommon to refer to this effort as The ‘Blue’ Album and, as I already has something lined up for ‘W’ it was becoming quite a difficult choice.

I did have a few options for ‘B’ too, and it was a bit of wrench to not include any of them, in favour of this impostor, but The ‘Blue’ Album was, without question, one of my favourite albums of the nineties and I would have selected it happily for ‘B’ or ‘W’. In the end, the other album I had selected for ‘W’ outranked the other album I had lined up for ‘B’ and so Weezer find themselves here.

In the end, none of this matters, so we can all relax about a ‘W’ album being filed under ‘B’.

And this is really a great collection of songs. There is some debate about whether this, or their follow-up album, Pinkerton, is better. ‘Blue’ enjoyed far more commercial success, but Pinkerton has gained a cult following over the years. What is without doubt is that both are better than any of the eleven ensuing  records put out by Weezer, and no doubt will be better than their upcoming 14th studio album too.

That said, I do quite like most of Weezer’s output, and there are plenty of ear-worms amongst their later efforts.

But in terms of complete albums, ‘Blue’ and Pinkerton stand head and shoulders above the rest.

Ultimately ‘Blue’ is my favourite of the two, probably for reasons of nostalgia if nothing else. I was fifteen when it came out. And it didn’t leave my CD player for weeks after I purchased it.

I saw Weezer tour this album in the nineties, and, though I went to a lot of gigs back then, theirs was one of the stand-out shows from that era. I then forgot about Weezer for quite a long time but saw them again at Wembley Arena in 2017. I bought tickets to that show on the basis of this album and this album alone. I then panicked and spent the weeks leading up to the concert ‘revising’ the rest of their back catalogue.

On the day though, they mostly just played this.

Which was fine with me.

It is hard to pick a favourite track off this album, because there really are no fillers, but the only song I can possibly leave you with is the single that made me buy the CD in the first place.

Which is ‘Buddy Holly’.

The video is pretty awesome too.

The (Fairly Predictable) James Proclaims New Year’s Eve Review Of The Year That Was And Indeed The Decade That Was

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As this is very much the last day of 2019 it behoves me to write about the year that has just happened. But because 2019 ends in a ‘9’ it behoves me to write about the last decade too. There is always some debate that the new decade doesn’t start until the beginning of a year that ends in a ‘1’, but, even though the argument for that is underpinned by sound logic and fact, the reality is that we all consider the year ending in ‘0’ as the start of the new decade (or century or indeed millenium as appropriate). So to all intents and purposes, today is the end of the decade that may or may not have been known at the teens.

But since becoming a dad approximately 17 months ago, I can’t even remember what happened yesterday let alone recall anything of significance that happened in the last ten years.

It is, of course, customary for such a ‘review’ to focus on the wider world, but I’m not going to do that for two reasons:

  1. Other people will do a much better job of that than I could ever possibly hope to achieve.
  2.  It all seems to have gone downhill since 2010 and that decline seems to have accelerated since 2016.

So for those reasons, and also because I’m a bit narcissistic, this post will be all about me.

This is definitely the first decade in which I’ve been a proper ‘grown-up’ for its entirety . I was technically an adult for all of the noughties but, whereas I haven’t really been drunk on any New Years Eve throughout this decade, I saw in the year 2000 absolutely hammered and wandering the streets of Cardiff with nowhere to sleep until the first trains started running the following morning. And that was not unusual behaviour for the ensuing decade.

So I have made some personal progress.

Beyond no longer drinking irresponsibly (or at least not as often) there have been some other developments for me in the last ten years.

I started 2010 as an unmarried childless man. I was engaged to be married to the woman I am now married to, and we were living together, but we didn’t get married until August of 2010.

My daughter didn’t arrive for another eight years, but as eight years is less than a decade it is entirely accurate to say that the ‘teens’ (which I’m definitely calling them even if no-one else does) is when I became both a husband and father.

It’s also, just about, the decade that I went from being a directionless waste of space, career-wise, to having a definite career and indeed career-path. Admittedly it’s a career-path I don’t especially want to be on, but, having experienced the ‘wilderness years’ which largely describes the preceding decade, the wrong career-path is possibly better than no career-path at all.

It has allowed me to get a mortgage if nothing else. For indeed the decade to which we’re about to bid adieu is the decade in which I became a homeowner for the first time. Again, it’s not necessarily a home worth owning, but having been mistreated more than once by the rental market, I’m happier owning my ramshackle terraced house with all it’s dysfunctional plumbing than paying double my mortgage in rent for a tiny flat owned by a shady landlord.

As for 2019, it’s not been a vintage year really. I spent most of the first four months trying to complete my MA at the expense of pretty much everything else. Except my daughter who will not be ignored even for academic deadlines.

I succeeded in my academic endeavours, but have spent the remaining eight months trying to get back into shape after making some questionable decisions regarding diet and exercise during that feverish period of study. Since April I have been largely exercising at pretty much the expense of everything else. Except my daughter who will not be ignored even for a brutal and unforgiving fitness regime.

Nothing much else of a personal nature happened in 2019, beyond my daughter’s continued development which I notionally contribute to but to a much lesser extent than Mrs Proclaims and indeed the child herself whose desire to conquer each developmental milestone appears to be voracious. She had pretty much nailed walking by eleven months old and then subsequently attempted to destroy every possession of ours that wasn’t nailed down.

Talking seems to be her project du jour and she’s making excellent progress. She’s always been a chatterbox, but these days some of what she says actually makes sense. I expect she’ll have her own blog soon. And it’ll be much better than this one.

Speaking of this blog, it was halfway through the last decade that ‘James Proclaims’ became a thing. May 10th, 2015 to be precise. And 2019 appears to be the year I almost killed it off by barely posting anything.

But I appear to have rallied at the end of 2019 and December has actually been quite a productive month blog-wise.

It’s not all been good, but it has been something.

Which is often better than nothing.

And in 2020 I expect I’ll write more posts that are of questionable quality and worth.

But I can’t commit to that today.

Because that would be a resolution.

And we all know that resolutions come on the 1st of January.

So tune in tomorrow to see if ‘blogging more often in 2020’ makes the cut for my 2020 resolutions.

 

 

 

 

 

The Third Annual James Proclaims Advent Calendar of Christmas(ish) Films – Door 24

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Shazam-Xmas-1-min-1024x576

And so The Third Annual James Proclaims Advent Calendar of Christmas(ish) Films comes to an end.

But what film could be lurking behind door 24?

Why it’s only the utterly brilliant 2019 superhero movie Shazam!.

When it comes to superheroes on the silver screen, there’s no denying that Marvel/Disney have had considerably more success in recent years than DC/Warner Bros and certainly the Marvel Cinematic Universe is far more coherent than the DC Extended Universe. That said, inconsistent though DC./ Warner Bros have been, on the few occasions that they get it right, they really get it right.

And with  Shazam! they got it spectacularly right.

Lighter in tone and eminently more fun than most superhero offerings these days, it still packs enough of a punch to keep action fans interested.

Given that the eponymous hero is a teenage boy who transforms into a an adult (Asher Angel and Zachary Levi do a remarkable job of convincing us that they are the same person) comparisons with 1988’s Big are inevitable, and it’s nice to see a little homage to one of the more memorable scenes from that film in this one.

Shazam! is immensely entertaining from start to finish and easily one of the best offerings within the DC Extended Universe alongside 2017’s Wonder Woman.

Score for Christmasishness

stocking 5

In spite of its release in April of this year, Shazam! is about as Christmas(ish) as they come. Tinsel and baubles abound and there are multiple scenes with a cowardly (and foulmouthed) Santa. The final showdown between good and evil takes place in a Christmas fair and there is snow aplenty throughout the movie. Even the prologue at the beginning is set during Christmas 1974.  This is a movie that is virtually guaranteed repeat viewings every December.

The Third Annual James Proclaims Advent Calendar of Christmas(ish) Films – Door 23

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crash

Time for door 23 of The Third Annual James Proclaims Advent Calendar of Christmas(ish) Films, which, thankfully means we’re almost done with my delusions of film connoisseurship for another year.

Probably.

I have been known to throw in the odd film review that has nothing to do with Christmas in the past.

But it’s hardly a regular occurrence so once tomorrow’s entry is done and dusted I’ll be back to writing about …erm… whatever it is I normally write about.

Which is mostly nothing.

Or, as has been the case of much of 2019, I might not write anything at all. Which is the same as writing about nothing but with less words.

Back to today though and the penultimate entry in this years pointless cinematic Christmas countdown is 2005’s Crash.

Which is undisputedly a good film.

It won an Oscar for Best Picture for goodness sake.

And it has a fantastic ensemble cast.

Although, and maybe it’s just me, but it does seem a little bit trite at times. And heavy-handed with it’s core message.

Maybe it was more ground-breaking in 2005 than it seems to be in 2019.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely worth a watch. There are some genuinely great performances and some truly affecting moments.

I just don’t think it’s as good as it thinks it is.

 

Score for Christmasishness

stocking 3

Crash definitely appears to be set around Christmas. But I’m not at all sure why. It doesn’t need to be. It seemingly adds nothing at all to the movie and aside from when there are obvious decorations in the background, you could easily forget the time of year. But there are enough trees, lights and baubles to make it undeniably a bit Christmas(ish).

 

The Third Annual James Proclaims Advent Calendar of Christmas(ish) Films – Door 22

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run

2015’s Run All Night is the third (of four to date) collaborations between director Jaume Collet-Serra and senescent superman Liam Neeson.

Like all their other collaborations (Unknown, Non-Stop and The Commuter)  it’s a pretty ‘by the numbers’ action flic.

This is fine if you like that kind of thing.

Which I do.

Unfortunately, at times, Run All Night seems to think it’s a better film than it is and  it probably takes itself a bit too seriously at times. It could definitely do with an injection of humour.

But it’s a perfectly serviceable if somewhat derivative thriller.

 

Score for Christmasishness

stocking 4

Despite the absence of anything remotely resembling joy, there’s no denying that this film is quite Christmas(ish). There are Christmas lights and trees aplenty in the background. Also Neeson dresses up a Santa at one point. Admittedly a creepy and intoxicated Santa, but Santa nonetheless.

The Third Annual James Proclaims Advent Calendar of Christmas(ish) Films – Door 21

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diner

Barry Levinson’s 1982 directorial debut, Diner  is an eminently watchable film.

Although nothing much really happens.

Set in 1959, it’s a sort-of coming-of-age story about a group of twenty-something guys who spend quite a lot of their time in a diner.

Notionally focussing on the build-up to the imminent wedding of one of their number, it touches on themes such as gambling, alcoholism, infidelity and unrequited love. But it doesn’t really focus on any of them for very long and there isn’t really a great deal of jeopardy for the characters.

It’s enjoyable enough though and boasts a pretty decent cast, including Kevin Bacon, Steve Guttenberg and a show-stealing performance from Mickey Rourke.

Score for Christmasishness

stocking 4

It’s overtly, explicitly and visibly set over the Christmas period, opening on Christmas night and concluding on New Year’s Eve. The festive setting adds very little to the narrative, but it’s so obvious in most of the scenes that it would be churlish to describe this movie as anything other than Christmas(ish)

The Third Annual James Proclaims Advent Calendar of Christmas(ish) Films – Door 20

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Better Off Dead 2

Door 20 of The Third Annual James Proclaims Advent Calendar of Christmas(ish) Films brings us 1985’s Better Off Dead.

Which is quite a strange film.

At first I thought it was an 80s teen comedy in the mould of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

Which would be no bad thing because that is a great movie.

But, although there are many elements of that genre present and correct, Better Off Dead is quite different.

Which, as it turns out, is no bad thing either.

A movie in which the lead character periodically tries to commit suicide possibly doesn’t sound like much fun, but it is a pretty funny film albeit the humour is on the dark side. It’s also surprisingly surreal and often subversive.

I’m not sure it’s fully stood the test of time, and at times it is a little too weird for its own good, but there is plenty to enjoy in the 97 minutes running time.

Score for Christmasishness

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Quite a lot of the movie is set around the festive period and visibly so. It does feature one of the strangest on-screen Christmases of possibly all time, but there’s no denying that for much of the running time ’tis very much the season.

 

The Third Annual James Proclaims Advent Calendar of Christmas(ish) Films – Door 19

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soldier3

1998’s Soldier seems like exactly the kind of film I would have been watching in the late 90’s. It’s as generic a sci-fi action flic as you could hope to find and it was made at a time when I was watching little else.

Somehow, however, it passed me by.

Which was no great loss really.

Because it’s quite bad in most respects.

But I’ll always find it hard to hate a late 90s action movie and I did quite enjoy this.

And it does have a surprisingly good cast, including a pumped up Kurt Russell as the eponymous hero, and Jason Isaacs as the main bad guy.

It was written by the same screenwriter who wrote  Blade Runner and is notionally set in the same ‘universe’.

Although to compare  Soldier to  Blade Runner is a bit embarrassing really.

Score for Christmasishness

stocking 3

For a mindless action movie set in space, with pretty much non-stop violence throughout, this is surprisingly Christmas(ish). There is a lively Christmas party about 40 minutes in, complete with a guy dressed as Santa, and then when the bloodshed really kicks in, there are visible Christmas decorations in most of the scenes. But a lot of people still die in a variety of gratuitously violent ways…

The Third Annual James Proclaims Advent Calendar of Christmas(ish) Films – Door 18

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edward

It’s December 18th, which means we’re now only a week from the big day. Probably time to start wrapping the presents. Be careful with those scissors though.

Particularly if your name’s Edward

And the scissors are your hands.

Yes, behind door 18 of The Third Annual James Proclaims Advent Calendar of Christmas(ish) Films is none other than Edward Scissorhands.

Tim Burton’s 1990 gothic fairy-tale is as mad as it is brilliant. It manages to be poignant, tragic and funny, often simultaneously. Johnny Depp delivers an astonishing performance as the eponymous hero, all while seemingly saying and doing very little.

I liked this movie when I was a kid but I like it even more now. Indeed, it seems to get better with every viewing.

Admittedly if you’re of a cynical disposition you could argue that a number of plot points don’t stand up to scrutiny, but this is one movie where it’s better to suspend your disbelief and enjoy the weird and wonderful world that Burton creates.

Score for Christmasishness

stocking 4

Although only the last twenty minutes are specifically set at Christmas, the fairy-tale aspect of the film does augment the overall Christmasishness of the movie. Plus Edward is directly responsible for there being snow in the town. And snow always helps. So all in all it is pretty Christmas(ish) but it’s a very ‘Tim Burton’ sort of Christmas. Which isn’t necessarily the happiest of Christmases.