Archive for February, 2011

2011 Oscar Winners & Nominees

Posted in Culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 28, 2011 by Robin Gosnall

Best motion picture of the year
WINNER: The King’s Speech
Black Swan
The Fighter
Inception
The Kids Are All Right
127 Hours
The Social Network
Toy Story 3
True Grit
Winter’s Bone

Performance by an actor in a leading role
WINNER: Colin Firth (The King’s Speech)
Javier Bardem (Biutiful)
Jeff Bridges (True Grit)
Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network)
James Franco (127 Hours)

Performance by an actress in a leading role
WINNER: Natalie Portman (Black Swan)
Annette Bening (The Kids Are All Right)
Nicole Kidman (Rabbit Hole)
Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone)
Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine)

Achievement in directing
WINNER: Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech)
Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan)
David O Russell (The Fighter)
David Fincher (The Social Network)
Joel Coen and Ethan Coen (True Grit)

Art direction
WINNER: Alice in Wonderland – Robert Stromberg (production design), Karen O’Hara (set decoration)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 – Stuart Craig (production design), Stephenie McMillan (set decoration)
Inception – Guy Hendrix Dyas (production design), Larry Dias and Doug Mowat (set decoration)
The King’s Speech – Eve Stewart (production design), Judy Farr (set decoration)
True Grit – Jess Gonchor (production design), Nancy Haigh (set decoration)

Achievement in cinematography
WINNER: Wally Pfister (Inception)
Matthew Libatique (Black Swan)
Danny Cohen (The King’s Speech)
Jeff Cronenweth (The Social Network)
Roger Deakins (True Grit)

Performance by an actress in a supporting role
WINNER: Melissa Leo (The Fighter)
Amy Adams (The Fighter)
Helena Bonham Carter (The King’s Speech)
Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit)
Jacki Weaver (Animal Kingdom)

Best animated short film
WINNER: The Lost Thing (Nick Batzias, Shaun Tan and Andrew Ruhemann)
Day & Night (Teddy Newton)
The Gruffalo (Jakob Schuh and Max Lang)
Let’s Pollute (Geefwee Boedoe)
Madagascar, carnet de voyage (Madagascar, a Journey Diary) (Bastien Dubois)

Best animated feature film of the year
WINNER: Toy Story 3
How to Train Your Dragon
The Illusionist

Adapted screenplay
WINNER: The Social Network – Aaron Sorkin
127 Hours – Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy
Toy Story 3 – Michael Arndt (screenplay); John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich (story)
True Grit – Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
Winter’s Bone – Debra Granik & Anne Rosellini

Original screenplay
WINNER: The King’s Speech – David Seidler
Another Year – Mike Leigh
The Fighter – Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson (screenplay); Keith Dorrington, Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson (story)
Inception – Christopher Nolan
The Kids Are All Right – Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg

Best foreign language film of the year
WINNER: In a Better World (Denmark)
Biutiful (Mexico)
Dogtooth (Greece)
Incendies (Canada)
Outside the Law (Hors-la-loi) (Algeria)

Performance by an actor in a supporting role
WINNER: Christian Bale (The Fighter)
John Hawkes (Winter’s Bone)
Jeremy Renner (The Town)
Mark Ruffalo (The Kids Are All Right)
Geoffrey Rush (The King’s Speech)

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (original score)
WINNER: Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (The Social Network)
John Powell (How to Train Your Dragon)
Hans Zimmer (Inception)
Alexandre Desplat (The King’s Speech)
AR Rahman (127 Hours)

Achievement in sound mixing
WINNER: Inception (Lora Hirschberg, Gary A Rizzo and Ed Novick)
The King’s Speech (Paul Hamblin, Martin Jensen and John Midgley)
Salt (Jeffrey J Haboush, Greg P Russell, Scott Millan and William Sarokin)
The Social Network (Ren Klyce, David Parker, Michael Semanick and Mark Weingarten)
True Grit (Skip Lievsay, Craig Berkey, Greg Orloff and Peter F Kurland)

Achievement in sound editing
WINNER: Inception (Richard King)
Toy Story 3 (Tom Myers and Michael Silvers)
Tron: Legacy (Gwendolyn Yates Whittle and Addison Teague)
True Grit (Skip Lievsay and Craig Berkey)
Unstoppable (Mark P Stoeckinger)

Achievement in makeup
WINNER: Rick Baker and Dave Elsey (The Wolfman)
Adrien Morot (Barney’s Version)
Edouard F Henriques, Gregory Funk and Yolanda Toussieng (The Way Back)

Achievement in costume design
WINNER: Colleen Atwood (Alice in Wonderland)
Antonella Cannarozzi (I Am Love)
Jenny Beavan (The King’s Speech)
Sandy Powell (The Tempest)
Mary Zophres (True Grit)

Best documentary short subject
WINNER: Strangers No More (Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon)
Killing in the Name (Nominees to be determined)
Poster Girl (Nominees to be determined)
Sun Come Up (Jennifer Redfearn and Tim Metzger)
The Warriors of Qiugang (Ruby Yang and Thomas Lennon)

Best live action short film
WINNER: God of Love (Luke Matheny)
The Confession (Tanel Toom)
The Crush (Michael Creagh)
Na Wewe (Ivan Goldschmidt)
Wish 143 (Ian Barnes and Samantha Waite)

Best documentary feature
WINNER: Inside Job (Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs)
Exit Through the Gift Shop (Banksy and Jaimie D’Cruz)
Gasland (Josh Fox and Trish Adlesic)
Restrepo (Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger)
Waste Land (Lucy Walker and Angus Aynsley)

Achievement in visual effects
WINNER: Inception (Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley and Peter Bebb)
Alice in Wonderland (Ken Ralston, David Schaub, Carey Villegas and Sean Phillips)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (Tim Burke, John Richardson, Christian Manz and Nicolas Aithadi)
Hereafter (Michael Owens, Bryan Grill, Stephan Trojanski and Joe Farrell)
Iron Man 2 (Janek Sirrs, Ben Snow, Ged Wright and Daniel Sudick)

Achievement in film editing
WINNER: Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter (The Social Network)
Andrew Weisblum (Black Swan)
Pamela Martin (The Fighter)
Tariq Anwar (The King’s Speech)
Jon Harris (127 Hours)

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (original song)
WINNER:
We Belong Together (from Toy Story 3, music and lyrics by Randy Newman)
Coming Home (from Country Strong, music and lyrics by Tom Douglas, Troy Verges and Hillary Lindsey)
I See the Light (from Tangled, music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Glenn Slater)
If I Rise (from 127 Hours, music by AR Rahman, lyrics by Dido and Rollo Armstrong)

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John Cage’s 4’33”

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 28, 2011 by Robin Gosnall

I don’t think there are many who don’t understand the point of Cage’s 4’33”. Having read a lot about it, I think I do.

In my opinion it was an interesting idea, a novel way of thinking and a useful piece of thought-provoking philosophy for which Cage deserves full credit.

What I object to is the pretence that it is a piece of great music – or even that it is music at all. It isn’t: it’s an experiment concerning silence and sound. It’s also a great piece of showmanship and marketing and a good little earner.

I’d say it’s an invitation to listen to the sounds that are going on anyway even when the instrumentalist on stage is not playing. As such, saying it’s not music is not so much a description of the piece as a way of declining the invitation. The invitation is precisely this: an invitation to see what happens if for a moment we don’t divide sounds into “music” and “extraneous noise”, an invitation to appreciate the sounds around us which we so often ignore.

Silence as such has little to do with it – the piece consists of the sounds which can be heard in the concert hall even though the pianist (or other performer) is not playing.

It’s also a neatly explicit manifestation of Cage’s ideas about the audience being as responsible as the composer or the performer for the musical experience. (The composer abdicates responsibility for providing coded sound, the performer is instructed to remain silent, the audience provides the “art” by interpreting whatever it is they do hear for a specified length of time. It’s the exactness of the time-frame, 4’33”, that’s the clever bit.)

There is a score, in fact – and the piece is in three movements!

There’s another aspect to 4’33” as well … that question of “the anticipation of the start of a piece of music”. In the world of conductorless chamber music, quite a few players – especially those who work frequently together – will vouch that there is a “feeling” when it’s the right moment to start.

It is performance art, or conceptual art, and a gimmick, but I suppose it is to make people question the difference between music and a “performance” among other things. Is noise when structured, highlighted or directed by a human, a piece of music, or is it still noise but art?

Cage is more famous (or infamous) than other avant-garde composers because of it but his other works and philosophy would guarantee some interest in him without 4’33” I would have thought … and there was only one “composition”, it wasn’t the start of a genre of silence or non-music.

As regards Cage’s status, he’d already written more than enough to be highly regarded by the time of 4’33”, and continued to write prolifically after it. So his status had he not written the piece would probably not be too different amongst fans of modernism. The chances that the general public would have heard of him are slim, but then we all know that matters not a jot really.

I find it hardly credible that a work by Cage from over 50 years ago, still creates controversy.

This is all water under the bridge by now and music has moved on.

That is not to understate the importance of 4’33” as an artefact that has changed the way so many musicians have conceived their work subsequently.

By its title Cage is reminding us that in essence all music is about time. Strip away everything that we normally associate with music – melody, harmony, rhythm, instrumental colour, narrative and, yes, even proscribed sound, and all you are left with is the articulation of time.

Stravinsky said that music’s sole purpose was to articulate time and St Augustine spent many years wrestling with the fact that God could not hear the prayers and hymns directed to him since they could only take place in time and he lived in eternity, where there isn’t any!

So to me Cage’s absolute zero work is as elemental to contemporary thinking about music as Einstein’s theories are to physics.

Here’s what Hans Keller said about Cage in 1970:

John Cage, on the other hand, gets as near to communication-less stimulation as the unmusical mind can: I am not offending him with this remark, for he does not, in fact, regard himself as a musician. When he “writes” a piece for several loudspeakers, each tuned to a different wavelength, he makes absolutely sure that he communicates nothing, and that any meaning which arises is the work of the listener who, with the help of Cage’s stimulation, thus turns into a do-it-yourself composer. But Cage’s influence on highly musical composers is vast: in what we have behind us in the second half of the twentieth century the stress has lain heavily on stimulation at the expense of communication.

I don’t know how valid his views are today, or even how valid they were in 1970, but perhaps he had a point.

Cage didn’t believe silence was possible. He tells the story of being in some sort of super sound proof room at Harvard and still hearing his heart beat and pulse.

Cage was obviously on to something, otherwise people wouldn’t still be arguing about whether 4’33” is or isn’t music more than fifty years after it was conceived.

Surely part of the point of it was to say that the boundary between what is and isn’t music is more a line in the sand than a strict division. If the question “where is the boundary between music and non-music” were to be treated as a “koan” as in Zen Buddhism, 4’33” could be imagined to be the response, not an “answer” which can be reproduced, but a response which needs to be experienced.

Apart from which, there’s enough categorisation in the world.

Leonard Bernstein smokes a cigarette and talks about Das Lied von der Erde

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , on February 28, 2011 by Robin Gosnall

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s roasted parsnip and apple salad

Posted in Food with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 27, 2011 by Robin Gosnall

Half Hour Meals

(Source: Grauniad)

This substantial salad features a lovely combination of sweet and earthy flavours – apples and parsnips are such good partners. The garlicky dressing adds a little piquant edge and the nuts finish the whole thing off with a welcome crunch.

4 medium parsnips
2 tbsp rapeseed oil
4 dessert apples, cut into eighths, cores removed
4 good handfuls of salad leaves
50g lightly toasted hazelnuts, walnuts or pecans
salt and black pepper

For the dressing:

1 garlic clove, crushed to a paste with a little salt
1 tsp English mustard
2 tsp clear honey
1 tbsp lemon juice
4 tbsp rapeseed oil

Preheat the oven to 190°C. Peel the parsnips, quarter them and remove the woody cores, then chop them into roughly 2cm pieces.

Put the parsnips on a large roasting tray (they should not be crowded), scatter with some seasoning and toss with the oil. Roast for 10 minutes, then take them out of the oven, give them a stir, add the apple pieces and return to the oven for about 15 minutes or until everything is tender and golden brown.

Meanwhile, make the dressing by whisking all the ingredients together. Check the seasoning.

When the parsnip and apple pieces are cooked, transfer them to a bowl and toss them in the dressing.

Arrange the salad leaves on four plates, top with the warm, dressed parsnip and apple, then finish off with the toasted nuts. Serve straight away.

This Modern Music

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 27, 2011 by Robin Gosnall

One of the key issues facing new music seems to be whether the use of orchestral sonorities or other manifestations of timbre provide the same expressive, structural or other possibilities as melody, harmony, counterpoint, rhythm, etc.

When all is said and done, I’m not entirely convinced that, on their own, they do.

Debussy could make startling use of timbre as a structural device, but this was allied to many other melodic, harmonic and other processes. Whilst having a good deal of time for various musique concrète and other works in which timbre is central (though it’s worth pointing out how important rhythm often is to this type of music as well), I’ve not heard much music essentially based almost exclusively upon timbre and texture that has the potential to go beyond certain types of rather “archetypal” experience – powerful in their own way, but which don’t suggest much potential for further development unless other techniques are also incorporated.

Nettle and snail soup

Posted in Food with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 25, 2011 by Robin Gosnall

Half Hour Meals

Americans and similar small-minded people may be surprised to learn that snails are edible. In fact, if you have ever had a McFlurry from McDonald’s, then you have consumed snail, or at least the part of a snail that … perhaps I’ve said enough.

We tend to associate snails with France, but there is a historic snail-eating culture in Britain dating back at least 2,000 years. And in Somerset in the Sixties, the chef Paul Leyton popularised snails further when he invented Mendip Wallfish, a dish in which they are cooked with butter and herbs. But you can use snails in many other ways – with, say, wild rabbit cooked in cider, or like this, as a soup garnish.

You can buy cooked snails or use garden snails, but you must purify them by leaving them in a container with a mix of flour and water or lettuce leaves for a week before cooking. To cook them, bring some cider to the boil with a tablespoon of salt, some fennel seeds, a bayleaf and black peppercorns and simmer for about 40 minutes or until tender; leave to cool in the cooking liquid. Once cool, remove from the shells and remove the black sack, rinse them – and they’re ready to go.

16-20 snails
2 leeks, trimmed, cut into rough 1cm rounds and washed
a couple of good knobs of butter
1 tbsp flour
1.5l vegetable stock
salt and freshly ground black pepper
a handful of young nettle tops, washed

Melt the butter in a thick-bottomed pan and gently cook the leeks for 3 minutes to soften, stirring every so often. Stir in the flour, then gradually stir in the stock. Bring to the boil and simmer on a medium heat for about 20 minutes.

Add about two-thirds of the nettles and simmer for another few minutes. Blend in a liquidiser until smooth, then return to the pan. Add the rest of the nettles and simmer for a few more minutes, seasoning again if necessary. Add the snails to the soup and serve.

Altenberg Lieder by Alban Berg

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 24, 2011 by Robin Gosnall

Alban Berg’s first composition for orchestra, properly titled Fünf Orchesterlieder nach Ansichtskartentexten von Peter Altenberg, Op. 4.

Without a doubt, my favourite composer.

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