Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Merry Christmas & a happy New Year

Christmas is here and 2011 is approaching so I guess it’s the time of year when you take a look at what has happened within the last 12 months. Well, when you are going through bad times, people tend to say, ”Count your blessings,” and believe me, I’m counting! I think I’ve never done so much counting before, because let’s face it: 2010 has been one of the worst years in my life.

Not only was I attacked by a mugger with injuries to my back, teeth and mental health as a result, my boyfriend through 2½ years and I broke up as well and I lost two friends to cancer. Two others are diagnosed with it as well. So it has truly been a year from Hell, but I’m counting.

For instance, I’ve read a lot of good books this year, the highlight being Floortje Zwigtman’s Adrian Mayfield series. Why these books haven’t been translated into English is beyond me. They are wonderful, wonderful books and Floortje Zwigtman is deservedly compared to Charles Dickens, but a female, modern one. The story of Adrian Mayfield’s life in late 19th /early 20th century London is captivating to anyone who loves good literature and I refuse to believe that the lack of interest from British publishers has anything to do with the fact that the main protagonist, Adrian, is gay. If so, it is about time that they realised we no longer live in a time where being gay is a crime. Anyone, gay or straight, male or female, young or old, will be able to find something wonderful in these books, but of course only if they are able to read Dutch or German!

For some odd reason I haven’t read much yaoi this year, but instead I’ve seen a lot of good films, among them “Alice In Wonderland”, “I Love You Phillip Morris” and “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus”. The best one was without doubt “A Single Man”, though. Gay themed again, yes, I know, but it was a great film: elegant, impressive, hypnotic, moving, delicate, ironic and outright excellent. I loved it.

On the other hand I haven’t had the time to go to the theatre this year and hardly any art exhibitions either, but I went to a lot of concerts. Most were with Danish bands, but I happened to see Rage Against the Machine in June, Muse in July and Alter Bridge in October as well. I’m not really sure what I think of Alter Bridge live, but Muse are always good and the Rage Against the Machine concert at Download Festival in Derby, England was perfect. Even though there was a bit of turmoil amongst the audience.

I’ve travelled a bit in 2011. I’ve been to England five times and to Belgium once, each time to be with my (then) boyfriend, so it's a little painful to think about now. The summer holidays were spent in the Danish towns of Aarhus and Silkeborg, though, with my daughter Tea. We stayed in Aarhus mainly to visit their museums and amusement park and then we popped by Silkeborg to see Don Powell and his family. And yes, I’ve finished Don Powell’s biography, or so I thought. Last month Don found some diaries that he thought he had lost, so I have to rewrite the last three chapters. It’s a never ending story. Apart from that I haven’t done much, except write the script to a Danish radio show about The Monkees and interview a few celebs now and then at different events.

Oh, yes. Events. I’ve been to a few this year. Towel Day in June, OFF 10 (Odense International Film Festival) in August and the local Harry Potter Festival in October among others. In connection with the HP festival I even got to meet J. K. Rowling at the press conference during her stay here in Odense, where she received the Hans Christian Andersen Literature Award. Oh, and in November I got kissed by Oliver Phelps (George Weasley in the Harry Potter films) at the Danish premiere of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1” in Copenhagen. That has to count for something as well, I guess, especially when you have lost your boyfriend.

So yes, I’m counting my blessings, however small they are, hoping against hope that 2011 will be better. Wishing you a merry Christmas and a happy New Year. See you in 2011. xx

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, part 1.

I saw the film on November 18th, 2010 at the first screening on the first day of its release here in Denmark. Although the cinema seated 900, only about 100 showed up, mostly people in their late teens or early twenties. They were not impressed and neither was I.

In “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” part 1, the evil lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) has taken control of the Ministry of Magic and Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and he has outlawed Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe). In order to kill Voldemort, Harry and his friends Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) set out to find and destroy horcruxes, the objects in which Voldemort has hidden parts of his black soul.
    The plot is as simple as that, but if you don’t know the book, it is very, very hard to understand what is going on on the big screen. The story is just too hectic and badly explained and as such the film comes across superficial and unsatisfying. All scenes are boiled down to the essentials and that is both too little and too much. We get all the highlights, but in a very comprised way, leaving the audience no time to dwell on the characters and their situation and at the same time the trio’s travels between events seem unnecessarily long-winded.

On the positive side “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” part 1 is true to J. K. Rowling’s book which is nice as its predecessor, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince”, had very little to do with the written saga of Harry Potter. The few changes that are made in HP7 part 1 are very becoming, like Hedwig’s death or Harry and Hermione entering Godric’s Hollow.
    The film also skips all the tedious parts of the book and reduces its likeness to The Lord of the Rings. Where the book is almost identical to The Lord of the Rings with Harry as Frodo, Hermione as Sam, Ron as a twisted Gollum and the Slytherin Locket as the Ruling Ring, it isn’t in the film and that’s a good thing. On the other hand, without the likeness it is difficult to understand why Ron gets so mad that he leaves the quest.
    In general the film could do with some explanations. For instance it was surprising to see that the Weasley home – The Burrow – was still standing. It burned down in HP6, but apparently the scriptwriters forgot as in HP7 part 1 it is still there. No explanation at all. I find that very unsatisfying.

To me the Harry Potter films have lost the magic that was so clearly there in the beginning and I guess things started to go wrong when David Yates took over as director in HP5. Up until then the Harry Potter films kept getting better and better, but the three latest ones that Yates has directed are average at best.
    With HP7 part 1 Yates has tried to make a dark, gloomy coming of age/road movie, but it doesn’t work. There are no depths to the characters or the plot and you feel that you’re just being transported from one scene to another without time for reflections or feelings.
    I know the actors say, that with Yates they were allowed to explore their characters more than with other directors, but unfortunately it doesn’t show. The characters come across one-dimensional or even worse: as actors delivering lines. We all know how brilliant the Harry Potter cast is, but in HP7 part 1 they never get to show it. It is rather disappointing, especially with Rupert Grint who doesn’t get to unfold his gifted talent as Ron Weasley at all.

To me there are only three reasons to watch HP7 part 1:
1: Daniel Radcliffe as the seven Potters. He is wonderful slipping into the characters of the other actors.
2: Oliver Phelps as George Weasley. He is hilarious, especially in the kitchen scene.
3: David O’Hara as Runcorn. He is brilliant in the Ministry.
    As for the scenes, there’s a tender scene between the Weasley twins and one between Harry and Hermione that work quite well. And I liked the scene with Ron and Harry in the tent with Hermione’s fire. That’s all and far too little for a film that runs 146 minutes.

When “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” part 1 was over, the guy sitting next to me said, “What that it?” and it was. “I hope part two is better,” he said and so do I. Three out of five stars: ***

P. S. I haven’t mentioned the animation of the tale of the three brothers, because although I get the idea and appreciate how it is done, I found it distracting and not very Harry Potter-like.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Danish Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, part 1 premiere

Friday the 12th of November 2010 the Danish gala premiere of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 1 took place at the Imperial cinema in Copenhagen and in that connection the Phelps twins (Weasley twins) came to town. Not that anyone knew, because for some odd reason the Danish press had decided not to write about it in advance! Only a few film clubs and fan clubs had mentioned the visit in connections with competitions about winning premiere tickets.

Anyway, I was the only one there to cover the twins’ visit for foreign press (America/UK). Although I’m Danish I was quite pleased with not working for a Danish magazine because…well, I don’t know why, but Danish press is not that interested in foreign visits in connection with premieres. What interest them are the Danish VIPs (mostly actors, strippers and reality TV-stars) who turn up for the prem. It was no wonder, then, that when the twins arrived in Denmark, neither press nor fans were in the airport to great them. The twins spent less than a minute in arrivals, which was probably just as well. Their flight was an hour late, so when they left the airport it was 4.30 p.m. and the red carpet event in connection with the premiere was to start at 6!
When I arrived at the cinema in order to cover the red carpet, only about thirty fans had gathered outside to see the twins. Inside a handful of journalists and press photographers were lined up and as the Danish VIPs started to arrive, a true battle broke out. I’ve worked all over the world, but I’ve never experienced anything as brutal as the Copenhagen press! They were almost fighting for the best spots, and I still have bruises all over from being pushed around!

It was close to six thirty, before we heard the loud cheers and screams from outside, indicating that the twins had arrived. It took another ten or fifteen minutes before they had worked their way through the fans, signing autographs and having their pics taken, and reached the spot where I was standing with the rest of the Danish press. Again fights broke out, but not as bad as when the Danish VIPs had walked the red carpet and I did manage to take some pics, although I bruised my wrist when the photographer standing next to me shoved me into a table.

When the pics were done, I gave Oliver Phelps a wave like I’d promised him on Twitter and his face lit up. “It’s you!” he said and came over to say hi and give me a hug and a kiss. We had a short chat, then Oliver Phelps gave the press co-ordinator his mobile phone and asked him to take a pic of us. Need I say that after that the other photographers stopped bullying me?

Because the twins had been so delayed, the planned interviews had been cancelled. Instead the Danish press agency Ritzau was to do a short interview before the twins went on stage to introduce the film. I was allowed to listen in on the interview and here I learned that the only ones to surpass the Copenhagen press in brutality are the Copenhagen security guards. I was brutally pushed away by one and the press co-ordinator had to tell him to back off and let me do my thing, but I missed the first part of the interview because of that.
Anyway, according to my notes, Oliver Phelps said that this was their first time in Denmark, but they had heard about Copenhagen from friends who were here last year. James Phelps added that they’d had a fantastic and very loud welcome and said, “I can’t thank you enough.”
The twins said that it was a bit sad that the Harry Potter saga is coming to an end.
“It’s difficult to say how things will be now that we don’t have to do Harry Potter anymore,” Oliver Phelps said. “It’s been wicked being in the movies.”
“When we agreed to do the movies we had no idea that it would be that big.” James Phelps said. “If you’d told me ten years ago that I’d be here in Copenhagen today I wouldn’t have believed you. It has changed our lives, but we love it. It’s fantastic.”
”Growing up on a film set is very different to what other people experience, I think,” James Phelps continued, “but all of us who are in Harry Potter grew up together so we’ve been friends since childhood and we’re still friends today.”

The twins agreed that they would never tire of playing Fred and George.
“It’s fun being Fred and George and if we’re a bit naughty we can always say that we are in character,” James Phelps laughed and continued, “but I won’t miss having my dyed ginger every second week!”
Oliver Phelps told the press, that next year he starts filming without his brother.
”It’ll be different not being together,” he said and James Phelps agreed. Asked if they were going to see some of Copenhagen after the premier, Oliver Phelps said that they hoped for a good night out in town, but when asked if the twins were single or had girlfriends, they both just smiled and refused to answer.

After the short interview, the press co-ordinator took another pic of Oliver Phelps and me with my camera (a very crappy pic, ha-ha!) and then the audience was over.
According to Twitter, the twins did indeed have a good night out in Copenhagen (at the Hilfiger Denim LOUD event in Vega, actually) as well as a visit to Tivoli, the world’s oldest theme park, so a great time was had by all, I suppose. I hope to see the twins in Denmark again some day, but without the press and security brutality and I do wish that by then the Danish press has stopped calling Oliver James and James Oliver, ha-ha!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Harry Potter Festival 2010

Here in the city of Odense, Denmark, we have an annual Harry Potter Festival. Usually it takes place one week during September, but this year it only lasted 3 days in October. Furthermore Hogwarts was closed. Usually kids are able to attend Hogwarts, taking classes in Transfiguration, Defence Against the Dark Arts, Charms, Potions, History of Magic, Herbology and Care of Magical Creatures, the subjects being taught by McGonagall, Snape, Hagrid and the rest of the staff. But not this year. Why, you ask? Well, because J. K. Rowling was coming to town.

Odense is the hometown of the fairy tale writer Hans Christian Andersen and Rowling came to receive the “H. C. Andersen Literature Award”. The award is founded by a private literature committee and its purpose is to pay tribute to Hans Christian Andersen’s influence on writers from all over the world by selecting award winners whose works can be tied to Hans Christian Andersen’s through similarities in genre or narrative qualities.

J. K. Rowling received the award on October 19 and because of that the Harry Potter Festival had been moved from September to October and Hogwarts had been closed, as Rowling was to use it building. Normally Hogwarts in situated in our old town hall, but this year Rowling needed it in order to read to children and have lunch with the notabilities of Odense. Needless to say that the kids were devastated, as attending Hogwarts is one of the highlights of the year. But of course, Rowling is more important than the kids she writes for.

Hogwarts is the core of the festival, so with that gone, not much was left. Instead of attending the school, kids could take a trip on the Hogwarts Express, but not many did as they were too upset about not going to Hogwarts. As adults were not allowed, I don’t know much about the train ride, except that the children had something to eat and drink and were allowed to roam the compartments with the lights off. I think they were attacked by Dementors as well

Tuesday was the big day of the ceremony award. You could buy tickets to the award show and it was actually very good although short. Odense Symphony Orchestra did a wonderful version of “Hedwig’s Theme” and Rowling made a very funny and also moving acceptance speech. After the show, she walked to the Hans Christian Andersen museum, but the streets were closed off, as people weren’t allowed to get near her. Then she drove to the town square where she signed autographs to children – but only to the ones who were dressed like characters from the Harry Potter books.

In the town hall Rowling did a 5 minutes reading from her HP books to children aged 8-14 who had paid quite handsomely to see her. After the reading they were allowed to ask her 9 prefabricated questions, then they all got a signed copy of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.” And that concluded Rowling’s official programme in Odense.

As most Danish kids aged 8-14 don’t understand English well enough to get anything out of Rowling’s reading, a lot of them had opted out of paying to attend it. What they were left with was the Harry Potter marked. Usually during the festival, the city centre turns into Diagon Alley with all its shops and buildings and you can meet all the characters from the books there. This year only a handful of shops were left, as the town square had to make room for Rowling walking from the limousine to the town hall, so again the kids were disappointed. Gringotts was there, manned by real goblins (or rather dwarfs) and then Ollivander’s, The Daily Prophet, Eeylops Owl Emporium, The Leaky Cauldron and Quality Quidditch Supplies. Not much compared to what we are used to. Even Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes was gone, although George Weasley still did his tricks in the alley. He always does that on his own, as we’ve never had a Fred.

Snape was in place in his dungeons in the old town monastery and I was glad that he was, because we always have a little chat while my daughter mixes potions. He wore a silly wig this year, though, but his presence made our day. Hagrid’s hut in the old ruin behind the town hall wasn’t there, though, so Hagrid no longer had a place to live. Instead the ruin was occupied by a fortune teller. I don’t know what she had to do with Harry Potter, but there she was.

Apart from George and Snape, you could find Dumbledore and Hagrid at the marked, but not many of the other characters. Instead the place was swamped with Dementors and Death Eaters and even Lord Voldemort was there. It is safe to say, that the marked this year had turned a lot more gloomy and commercial and less magic. Even at Gringotts you only got 500 galleons for £2 whereas last year it was 1,000 galleons for £1. Inflation, I suppose.

In past years the Harry Potter Festival has been all about giving kids a magical experience, but this year it seemed to be all about buying stuff, as there wasn’t much else to do. The only new welcome addition to the marked was The Weird Sisters performing standard rock at The Leaky Cauldron from time to time, but all in all the festival was a huge disappointment.

I know that it is a feather in the cap of Odense City that Rowling came by, but it was such a let-down to the kids. I sure hope that next year we go back to the usual festival with Hogwarts and tons of shops and buildings in Diagon Alley for the kids to enjoy.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Odense Symphony Orchestra

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Princess Marie and J. K. Rowling trying to lift the award sculpture

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The Princess and The Writer with the sculpture

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J. K. Rowling with her award

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J. K. Rowling

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J. K. Rowling too

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Press conference

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J. K. Rowling receives the “H. C. Andersen Literature Award”

In connection with the annual Harry Potter Festival in Odense, Denmark, J. K. Rowling received the first “H.C. Andersen Literature Award” in Odense Concert Hall, Tuesday, October 19, 2010.
The purpose of the award is to pay tribute to Hans Christian Andersen’s influence on writers from all over the world by selecting award winners whose works can be tied to Hans Christian Andersen’s through similarities in genre or narrative qualities.

When Rowling arrived at Odense Concert Hall, she was greeted with standing ovations, screaming fangirls and press photographers going crazy. Later, at the press conference, Rowling admitted that she had only experienced a greeting that massive once before, and that was in Carnegie Hall. She said that it made her feel like one of the Beatles.

The award ceremony in Odense Concert Hall was very moving with Odense Symphony Orchestra performing John Williams’ “Hedwig’s Theme” and Countess Caroline Ahlefeldt-Laurvig-Bille making the nomination speech. The Countess said that what makes Rowling a genuinely extraordinary writer is that she doesn’t pretend that the world we live in is plain sailing. Even wizards experience times of crisis and injustice and that helps the reader identify with Harry Potter.
“Who has not mourned Dubledore’s death,” the Countess said, “or marvelled at The Mirror of Erised or laughed at the pranks of the Weasley twins?”
But – as the Countess pointed out – Rowling’s greatest achievement is that her life has broken all imaginable boundaries and in that way inspired millions of children and adults.

Her Royal Highness Princess Marie presented the award to J. K. Rowling, an award consisting of £50,000 and a very heavy bronze sculpture of Hans Christian Andersen’s ”The Ugly Duckling” which the Princess and the Writer tried to lift up in vain. The merriment that this caused was prolonged when Rowling nodded at a ginger female violinist in the Odense Symphony Orchestra and said, “You really know how to make me feel welcome. I see that one of the Weasley cousins is in the orchestra.”

Rowling now thanked for the award, saying that she was humbled and deeply honoured to receive it. She didn’t presume to compare her Harry Potter books with Hans Christian Andersen’s stories that have lasted two centuries, but she admired that Hans Christian Andersen was not afraid to depict cruelty and pain. She said that the true dilemmas of childhood are the dilemmas of the whole of life: those of belonging and betrayal, of the power of the group and the courage it takes to be an individual. That is why writing that succeeds with children often succeeds just as well with adults.

After the ceremony, Rowling did a 15 minutes press conference in which she told the press that at the moment she is writing all the things that she didn’t have the time to write while she was working on the Harry Potter series, but she wouldn’t rule out that she would write a HP8 in ten years time. She said that ever since she was a child, she had had a need to write and that she was happy that her wealth had made it possible for her give money to charities, especially to research in multiple sclerosis, the disease from which her mother died. She told the press that she has a good relationship to the cast of Harry Potter and that she had never met people nicer, more intelligent and well-adjusted than the young actors. Finally she admitted, that she had never read Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” series and that her favourite Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale is “The Brave Tin Soldier”.

Upon leaving the Concert Hall, Rowling walked to the Hans Christian Andersen Museum. On her route, young actors from the Hans Christian Andersen Parade acted out scenes from Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales. After visiting the museum so went to Odense Town Square where the annual Harry Potter Festival took place. The square had turned into Diagon Alley complete with Ollivander’s, The Daily Prophet, Eeylops Owl Emporium, The Leaky Cauldron and Quality Quidditch Supplies. J. K. Rowling signed autographs while the chimes of Odense Cathedral played “Hedwig’s Theme”.

Rowling then went inside the Town Hall to read from her Harry Potter books to children aged 8-14. She answered a few questions as well, telling the kids that the person she identifies with in Harry Potter is Hermione. She finished her visit to Odense with lunch with the notabilities of the city.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Toy Story 3

In Toy Story 3 Woody, Buzz and the rest of Andy’s toys are mistakenly delivered to Sunnyside Daycare center instead of the attic right before Andy leaves for college. Andy’s toys are welcomed in the Butterfly Room of the center by the strawberry scented bear Lotso and his companions Big Baby and Ken, but although Barbie finds a home (and love) with Ken, the rest of Andy’s toys soon find out that the daycare is run like a prison by Lotso and his companions. Buzz and the rest of Andy’s toys are ”deported” to the Carterpillar Room, occupied by toddlers who plays rather roughly with the toys, and Buzz & Co. realise that they are not going to survive long there. The toys now plan their great escape which is to be the nervewrecking highlight of the movie.

Toy Story 3 is directed by Lee Unkrick and written by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich (screenplay by Michael Arndt). I’ve never been a huge fan of the Toy Story movies, well, I liked the first one and disliked the second, but this third one is just brilliant. It is funny, scary and emotional (people actually cried in the cinema) and you get to know the characters a lot better than in previous Toy Story movies.

Toy Story 3 appeals to kids and adults alike, although if you’re an adult, you’ll probably enjoy it even more because you’ll catch all the references. There are load and loads of references to other movies and TV-serie; The Bridge on the River Kwai, Happy Days, Return of the Jedi, Jurrasic Park, Cool Hand Luke and Monsters Inc. just to mention a few. It really is hilarious, although most kids won’t get these references and in fact the movie is a little too scary at times. I brough my 11 year old to see it and she found several scenes quite upsetting, not to mention Big Baby who really scared her, but in the end she too was bowled over by the story and the characters, wanting to see it again.

As usual Tom Hanks stars as the voice of Woody and Tim Allen as the voice of Buzz, the latter being hysterically funny when Buzz is set to speak and act in Spanish. Michael Keaton, too, is hilarious as Ken, and the rest of the cast is wonderful as well.

So far Toy Story 3 is the best animated movie I have seen this year - even the 3D works well - so I’ll give it four out of five stars: ****

Monday, October 04, 2010

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Joe Matera: Travellin’ West

Travellin’ West is a new instrumental solo release written and performed by the Australian guitarist Joe Matera.

Most people know Joe Matera’s electric six string guitar sound from Australian rock outfit Geisha, but this new acoustic release shows new sides to the guitarist without leaving out any of his signature trademarks; melody, taste and style.

Matera plays all the guitars on this beautifully played and produced release. The interplay of acoustic and classical guitars is both powerful and very melodic and the harmonies are beautiful and spot on with a melancholy, subdued quality that seems almost hypnotic.

Travellin’ West is Recorded at Dragon's Lair Studios, Melbourne, Australia with Chris Doheny handling production duties. It is released through Mercury Fire Music and available as a digital single download through iTunes. Visit www.joematera.com for further information.

Monday, September 13, 2010

OFF 10

The annual OFF (Odense International Film Festival) took place in August 23-28. This year the festival celebrated its 25 anniversary, as although it was founded in 1975, it was a bi-annual event during its first years, making 2010 the year in which the 25 festival took place here in Odense, Denmark

OFF is a festival concentrating on short films, animations and documentaries with contributions from Iceland in the North to Australia in the South and from South Korea in the East to the USA in the West. The festival is free and apart from the film award competition it also includes a lot of other stuff such as free concerts, open air screenings, seminars, talent camp etc. etc., but like other years I concentrated on the films.

With so many great films to chose from, it was hard to pick a favourite and I must admit that I had quite a few. One was the Australian ”Franswa Sharl” by Hannah Hilliard about twelve year old Greg who enters a beauty contest for girls in order to win his father’s respect! Another was the French ”Logorama” by Francois Alaux, Hervé de Crécy and Ludovic Houplain which – through its use of logos - told a spectacular tale of Ronald McDonald’s dark side. A third one was the French ”The Little Dragon” by Bruno Collet about a Bruce Lee action figure coming to life. The Norwegian ”The Fight” by Keio and Dag Aastein deserves a mention, too. Very Norwegian and very, very funny!

This year’s winners of the festival were not among my favourites, though. The winner of the international competition was the German ”A Lost And Found Box Of Human Sensation” by Martin Wallner and Stefan Leuchtenberg - a rather muddled animation about how to cope with death. I guess it won because Ian McKellen and Joseph Fiennes had lent their voices to the animation!
The winner of the animation competition was the Norwegian ”Angry Man” by Anita Killi, a pretty pathetic film about a violent father. The audience award went to the Danish ”Out Of Love” by Birgitte Staermose, a film about children in Kosovo.
In my opinion all three films won because they were ”political correct” and that bothers me a bit. All the crazy, funny, strange and innovative stuff didn’t have a chance this year. Too bad, but at least the majority of the films were of a more interesting substance than the winners.

When that is said, it wasn’t the biggest problems with the festival this year. The biggest problems were the same as last year: too little room and too lousy technical skills.
Like last year, the festival suffered from lack of room. The screenings take place in three small cinemas - one has only room for 50 people – and when thousands of people from all over the world come to watch the screenings, more often than not they can’t find room, especially as many screenings are pre-booked by schools! Then, if you finally find a seat, the cinema equipment is outdated, and many screenings were cancelled as the cinemas weren’t able to show the films in the proper formats.
Of course you can see all of the films at the festival video bar, but again, here you have to pre-book and often there are no slots available. I guess it’s about time that OFF realises that it has grown too big for the three little cinemas and that it is time to move on to bigger venues.

One last thing: each year OFF has a special event called “The Old Theatre”. This is a must! The cinema theatre screens old silent movies to the divine piano accompaniment by composer Lars Fjeldmose and the funny insights by the ever so witty and knowledgeable film historian Ulrich Breuning. This year “The Old Theatre” screened “La Première Séance” (France, 1895), “The Lion Hunt (Denmark, 1907), “The Woman Always Pays” (Denmark, 1910) and “Battleship Potemkin” (USSR 1925), but like last year something went wrong and we had to leave the theatre without seeing the ending (and Asta Nielsen’s very sensual dance!) in “The Woman Always Pays”. That’s not good enough, OFF!!

I will of course be back at the OFF festival next year, but I do hope that they’ll have done something to get rid of their problems and not just ignore them like they have done the previous 2 years. On that (happy? no!) note, I congratulate OFF to its 25 anniversary. See you next year.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

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Floortje Zwigtman’s novel ”Tegenspel” (”Defence”) from 2007 is the second of three in her series about Adrian Mayfield, a young gay man living in Victorian London. When I read the first of the novels - ”Schijnbewegingen” (”Tricks of the Trade”) - I was sure that I had never read anything quite as good and I was curious if Zwigtman could keep up the pace in volume two. Now I know, that she can. This Dutch author is a bit of a wonder and I’m quite surprised that she hasn’t been translated into English, yet.

I read volume two of her Adrian Mayfield books in German. Here the title of the book is ”Versuch einer Liebe” (“Attempts of Love”), a title that is just as fitting as the original one. The year is 1894, the place London and Adrian Mayfield is now 17 years old. He has found what he believes is true love with the moral and high-principled artist Vincent Farley, but the problem is that the past is catching up with Adrian. He knows that if Vincent ever finds out that Adrian has once worked in a male brothel, their relationship will be over.
To avoid his former colleagues and blackmailers Adrian moves back to The King’s Arms, the pub that used to be his dad’s, but is now run by Adrian’s first love Peter. Again Adrian’s past catches up with him as Peter is now married and Peter hates gays. At the same time it is clear to Adrian, that his lover Vincent sees homosexuality as a shameful disease from which you have to try to get cured.
Adrian gets work as a journalist, but when he has to cover the trial against Oscar Wilde regarding his love affair with the young Lord Bosie, all hell breaks loose. Adrian has nowhere to run and he is about to lose everything he has ever loved.

Floortje Zwigtman’s second Adrian Mayfield-novel is as good as the first one, but darker and a lot more disturbing. Although the books are regarded a youth books in Holland, I don’t think they are particularly aimed at young people as the subject and the darkness are very mature. In this volume two you get a deeper insight into the characters and their pasts, especially Adrian’s and Vincent’s, and what you get to see is not always pleasant.
The novel takes many unexpected twists and turns and Zwigtman isn’t afraid of taking the story places where other authors wouldn’t dare to tread. At the same time the novel is very well researched and the trial of Oscar Wilde is a great document of Victorian (double-)standard. Personally I can’t wait to read the third and final volume of the Adrian Mayfield-series. Again I have to reward the book six out of five stars: ******

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Ultimate Favourites Survey 150 Questions

For months I’ve tried to come up with answers to the craze called “25 Things You Don’t Know About Me” that is sweeping the internet. So far I haven’t been able to come up with 25 things, though, that you don't know about me AND that I would like to share! Instead I found this on the net; a questionnaire named The Ultimate Favourites Survey 150 Questions. Now THAT I can answer, and here you’ll see what I’ve come up with:

Colour: Yellow/green
Food: Swiss potato cake
Animal: Pig
Restaurant: Mauritz Café, Odense, Denmark
(Best) friend: Soren and Mette
Type of shoe: Sandals
Style of clothing: Casual
Type of jewellery: Necklaces/rings
Scent: Apple/white musk
Taste: Salty
Memory: Going to an amusement park with my Nan when I was 8.
Class (at school): Music and German
Day of the week: Thursday
Time of day: After 10 p.m.
Month: May
Holiday: City breaks
Season: Spring
Thing to do when happy: Writing
Thing to do when sad: Listening to music
Thing to do when angry: I’m hardly ever angry, but yell maybe??
Thing to do with friends: Hang out, talk, go to the pub
Bible verse or quote: I’d rather quote Shakespeare, ha-ha!
CD: Brian Eno’s Here Come The Warm Jets
Song: Currently Rage Against the Machine’s Sleep Now In The Fire
Male singer: Donovan/Eminem
Female singer: Janis Joplin/Amy Winehouse
Actor: Donald Sutherland/Johnny Depp
Actress: Jodie Foster/Marianne Sägebrecht
TV channel: Danish DR2 and Charlie
TV show: Monty Python/The Simpsons/The Young Ones/Northern Exposure etc.
Movie: Currently the brilliant movie Twin Town
Type of weather: Sunny and mild
Website: Google Earth
Book: Currently Floortje Zwigtman's Adrian Mayfield series
Manga/anime: Junjo Romantica
Drink: Water/tea/white wine
Hairstyle: Long (both guys and girls)
Teacher: Mr. Clausen (music, drama etc.)
Church activity: I don't go to church. I’m not Christian
School activity: Everything. I loved school.
Type of chores: Cooking/baking
Gift: Surprises
Compliment: About my writings
Insect: Ladybird/grasshopper
Flower: Freesia
Letter: B or X, I guess
Number: 13, 6 and 5
Shape: Circle or triangle
Writing topic: Relationships/magic realism
Type of music: Rock/metal/jazz/classical
Type of books: Fantasy/magic realism/history
Type of movies: Horror/fantasy/British movies
Breed of cat: I’m allergic to cats
Breed of dog: Any dog that doesn’t scare me!
Night time activity (before going to sleep): Writing or watching telly
Morning activity (to wake you up): Taking a shower/drinking orange juice
Design (striped, plaid...): Dunno
TV character: Ed Chigliak (from Northern Exposure)
Piece of technology: My computer
Eye colour (normal): Green or brown
Hair colour (normal): Ginger, dark brown or blond
Gemstone: Tourmaline/emerald
Cookie: Chocolate chip
Candy: Dark chocolate
Dessert: Chocolate mousse
Meat: I don’t eat meat
Fruit: Strawberries/apples
Veggie: Broccoli
Dairy product: Cheese
Bread product: Rye bread
Car: Dunno. I don’t have a driver’s license
Outfit: Dunno
Store: Forbidden Platen in W’ton and Nostalgia Books & Comics in Brum
Water animal: Sea horse
Inside joke: Pinky and the Brain (don’t ask)
Guy friend (closest): Soren, Chris and Oliver
Body type: Lean (guys)/curvy (girls)
Type of phone: iPhone
Type of camera: Nikon
Type of music listening device: iPhone, iPod, Denver surround sound system
Wish: To move to England soon
Childhood toy: Toy dog named Lasse
Video game: HP5
Sport: Football/golf
Shoe brand: Not that interested in shoes
Clothing brand: Fransa/Ze-Ze
Eye colour (unnatural): Husky blue
Hair colour (unnatural): White
Pillow shape: Square
Type of pj's (night gown, etc.): short, silk night gown
Ice cream: Chocolate/strawberry
Country (can't be your own country though): England
Cake: Brownies
Pie: Vegetable pie
Thing to do alone: Read/write
Thought: Thinking about my next book
Person to be with: Friends
Way of receiving mail (email, text, etc.): Email and snail mail
Type of chocolate: Dark/orange/white
Number over 100: 142 maybe
Form of entertainment (TV, internet, musical...): TV/internet/concerts
Artist/band/group: Beatles/Velvet Underground/Mothers/Queen/Slade/RATM/Muse
Beanie baby: Dunno
Body part (on yourself): Lips/legs/bosom
Body part (in general): Eyes/fingers
Body part (on guys): Eyes/fingers/chest/privates
Emotion: Calmness
Planet: Venus
Pet: Budgie
Parent (closest): Both dead, but I was closest to my mum
Sibling (closest): I have one older sister, Ilse
Vacation spot: West Midlands, UK
Cave: Tingbaek lime cave, Denmark
Coffee-like drink: Black coffee, but I prefer tea
Gum: Strong mint
Mint: Not sure
Magazine: The Danish magazine “Hjemmet”
Pokemon game: I don’t play Pokemon games
Kingdom hearts game: Actually I don’t play that, either
Email website: gmail
Blog website: Blogger
Sad song: Sad Song by Velvet Underground
Christmas/holiday song: Merry Xmas Everybody by Slade
Person to shop with: I always shop alone
Type of money (dollar, check, change...): Cash!
Lava lamp colour: Blue
Lotion scent: Scentless
Future vacation spot: Brum
Thing in your room: Paintings/photos
Lesson learned: Miracles happen to those who believe in them
Soda: Coke
Cafeteria food: Fish & chips
Picture on computer: Signed Phelps-twins pic w. personal comments from Oliver Phelps
Diary entry: I don’t keep a diary
Word: Wicked
Social network account: Twitter
Handwriting (of a friend): All my British mates. They are taught lovely handwriting in school.
Type of school project: School plays/school concerts
Writing utensil (pen, pencil): Blue pilot pens
Colouring utensil (crayon, etc.): Coloured pencils
Makeup product: Mascara
Hair product: Nothings special
Time to think: Nighttime
Daring thing to do: Moving to another country for good
Type of light (sunlight, light bulbs...): Sunlight
Beach activity: Swimming
Mountain activity: Not going to the mountains, as I’m scared of heights
Snow activity: Making snow men and snow angels, ha-ha!
Job: Writer (or working at an amusement park!)
Pastime: Questionnaires!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

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Tricks of the Trade

I’ve just finished reading the most wonderful book and it is of course Floortje Zwigtman’s ”Schijnbewegingen” (Tricks of the Trade). To my big surprise this Dutch masterpiece from 2005 hasn’t been translated into English, and really I don’t understand why. This book should be filmed, it should be made into theatre, it should be on everybody’s lips as it is plain and simple brilliant.
Luckily I read a little Dutch and I read both German and Danish fluently, so I’ve read the book in all three languages (in German and Danish the book has been renamed ”I, Adrian Mayfield”) and I was amazed. I just couldn’t get enough. I have already ordered volume two of the series in German (as the Danes are not going to publish the rest of the series) and volume three in Dutch (as it’ll take a little time before the German translation surfaces).
Few books have made as huge an impression on me as this masterpiece by Floortje Zwigtman. William Faulkner’s “The Sound and The Fury” was one, Elias Canetti’s “Die Blendung” another, not to mention Douglas Adams’ “A Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy”, but with this book I’ve got a new favourite. I just couldn’t put it down and read the entire 500+ pages in one go!

The year is 1894, the place is London and here 16 year old Adrian Mayfield works for a men’s tailor. After a bar brawl he quits his job and tries to figure out what to do next. His father is an alcoholic actor and former pub landlord and his mother - who has left her husband because of his drinking - is a poor seamstress. His older sister Mary Ann works in a music hall and all in all none of them are able to help the street-hardened Adrian. Instead he hooks up with the middle aged second-rate artist August Trops, who introduces him to Oscar Wilde, Aubrey Beardsley and other flamboyant and powerful personalities of the time. Adrian finds work as an artist’s model and slowly comes to term with the fact that he is gay.
Adrian’s life seems to be on track, he even falls in love with a young lord, but then his new friends relocate to Europe for the summer and Adrian is again out of a job. He finds work in a male brothel and learns how dangerous it is to be gay at a time when this was regarded a crime; blackmailers and the police being your worst enemies.
In the end Adrian has to choose between his integrity and his fears, his flamboyant friends and the outraged bourgeoisie and last but not least true and false love.

Floortje Zwigtman has won several prizes in the Netherlands, and the book “Schijnbewegingen” has seen her compared to Charles Dickens. Although they both are brilliant writers describing Victorian England, the comparison doesn’t do Zwigtman justice. Where Dickens tended to be both bleak and sentimental, Zwigtman doesn’t overdo thing, neither in the positive nor negative direction. There’s no sensationalism there, she just tells things as they are; raw, sharp and to the point. And yes, that includes describing gay bashing, male prostitution and explicit gay sex. Could that be the reason why the book has never been translated into English? I sure hope not, but I suspect it to be the case. Shame on you, British publishers! We’re in the twenty-first century now and you have to realise that straight people like me are fully capable of enjoying works about gay people like Adrian Mayfield! The film and television industries seem to have got the message, isn’t it about time, that you get it, too?
In 2005 “Schijnbewegingen” was named youth book of the year by the Dutch booksellers and that is probably part of the problem. The book fully deserved the title as book of the year, but really, the book isn’t just a youth book, if it is a book for young people at all. This isn’t an ordinary coming of age book, it isn’t even a book about coming to terms with your own sexuality, it is first and foremost a masterly journey into late ninety century London, its artists, its atmosphere and its dark sides. It is a realistic novel based on thorough research, but it is also an entertaining novel, a compassionate novel and one that’ll give you food for thought. I can’t wait to read the next volume!

Six out of five stars, ha-ha! ******

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Muse at Roskilde Festival, 2010

When Muse hit the Orange stage at Roskilde Festival in Denmark Saturday July 3rd, the 40,000 people strong audience was in for a treat. The band was on fire and proved once more, why they are regarded one of the best live bands around these days.

Composer, vocalist and very talented lead guitarist Matt Bellamy led the audience on a breathtaking, ninety minutes journey into Muse territory aided by his fellow band members: bassist Chris Wolstenholme and (left-handed) drummer Dom Howard. The concert was dynamic and tight, Bellamy’s vocal and guitar riffs brilliant against the sweaty drum and bass sound.

Muse played all the songs that people were there to hear: Uprising, Super Massive Black Hole, Undisclosed Desire, Resistance etc. etc., actually it felt like listening to one long chart show! An obvious proof of Bellamy’s brilliant song writing talent. Between songs the band played snatches of The Animals’ House Of The Rising Sun, Led Zeppelin’s Who Knows Who, Nirvana’s School and Rage Against The Machine’s Maggie’s Farm and that just spiced up the concert even further. The highlight came when Bellamy decided to play his guitar behind his head, Jimi Hendrix style, during Plug In Baby.

Hit upon hit of symphonic rock were thrust upon the enthusiastic audience, who showed their appreciation by singing along, jumping, clapping, waving flags and all in all enjoying this unique experience on a perfect summer night. When Muse went off stage around midnight, no one was in doubt that the British band is the top of today’s progrock. What a blast of a concert!

1. Uprising
2. Supermassive Black Hole
3. Map of the Problematique
4. Hysteria
5. Stockholm Syndrome
6. United States of Eurasia
7. Feeling Good (Leslie Bricusse & Anthony Newley cover)
8. Undisclosed Desires
9. Resistance
10. Time Is Running Out
11. Starlight
12. Unnatural Selection
13. Plug in Baby
14. Knights of Cydonia

Saturday, July 03, 2010

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I'm a bad blogger

I'm a bad blogger, a very bad blogger! I haven't been on for 6 months! Today it is exactly 6 months since I wrote here last and I feel very much ashamed! The thing is that I've been blogging in other places. My Space is one, my homepage another. It's no excuse, I know, so from now on I promise (fingers crossed, haha!) that whenever I blog in other places, I blog here as well. So...from now on this place is no longer the kind of diary-thingy that it used to be, but a genuine blog, because let's face it: there is no need for diaries, since twitter came into our lives!

When that is said, I want to close the whole "Oliver Phelps used my pic as his twitter profile pic"-thing I had going. He used it for exactly 6 months (thank you SO much xx) and today, well, today I received a signed copy of the entire pic (which was of his brother James as well). Aww....they really are lovely blokes, aren't they? James signed it although he isn't an Aston Villa fan like Oliver and me and Oliver liked the cook book I had given him. Awww.....

Oh well, look out for blogs here on music, art, books, events and just odd happenings in my life. Hope to see you around and feel free to leave a comment!

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Surprising twitter conversation

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The pic that Oliver Phelps ended up using

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Surprise, surprise!

I had a bit of a surprise the other day when Oliver Phelps aka George Weasley in the Harry Potter movies asked me on twitter if he could use one of my pics as his official twitter profile pic.

I’ve been on twitter since April 2009 and you get to talk to a lot of people there, including some of the cast of Harry Potter. Some of those who are currently on twitter are Warwick Davis (Professor Flitwick), Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy), Matthew Lewis (Neville Longbottom), Chris Rankin (Percy Weasley), James Phelps (Fred Weasley) and Oliver Phelps (George Weasley). They have between 10,000 and 100,000 followers and get several hundred tweets from fans a day, but they do their best to answer as many tweets as possible.

I must admit that I only follow the three “Weasley-brothers” and the past months I’ve had the good fortune to talk to all three of them: Oliver Phelps 3 or 4 times a month, Chris Rankin usually once a month and James Phelps every third month or so. I’ve talked to James Phelps about his followers, about female skeletons, Lost, Ned from South Park and Christmas. I’ve talked to Chris Rankin about his band, his role as Percy and about snow (!) and I’ve talked to Oliver Phelps about football, boxing, his car (an MX5 Roadster named Sidney), Weezer albums, the flu and now profile pics.

Anyway, I’m rather proud that I’m now able to call myself the official photographer of Oliver Phelps’ current twitter profile pic. Thank you, Oliver, and you are welcome as well. ;-)

Birmingham by night

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Slade on stage in Bilston, December 10

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Don backstage in Bilston

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