Hil List 2016: Film pt2

After yesterday’s overall Top 10, here’s the rest of the accolades and honourable mentions

Best Director

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1. Alejandro González Iñárritu (The Revenant) / 2. Lenny Abrahamson (Room) / 3. Brady Corbet (The Childhood of a Leader)

Best Irish Film

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1. Sing Street / 2. Room / 3. Atlantic

Best Comedy

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1. Hunt for the Wilderpeople / 2. Sing Street / 3. The Young offenders

Best Horror

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1. The Witch / 2. Bone Tomahawk / 3. 10 Cloverfield Lane

Best animation/childrens

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1. When Marnie Was There / 2. Pete’s Dragon / 3. Zootropolis

Best Documentary

Anthony Weiner and Huma Abedin at the press conference announcing his intention to stay in New York’s mayoral race despite new revelations about his explicit text messages to women sent after a similar scandal in 2011 that had forced him to resign from Congress, New York City, July 23, 2013

1. Weiner / 2. Atlantic / 3. Bobby Sands: 66 days

Best Actor

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1. Adam Driver (Paterson) / 2. Tom Hanks (Sully) / Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water)

Best Actress

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1. Amy Adams (Arrival) / 2. Adriana Ugarte (Julieta) / 3. Brie Larson (Room)

Best Screenplay

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1. Eric Heisserer (Arrival) / 2. Emma Donoghue (Room) / 3. Taylor Sheridan (Hell or High water)

Best Cinematography

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1. Jarin Blaschke (The Witch) / 2. Bradford Young (Arrival) / 3. Mátyás Erdély (Son of Saul)

Best Breakthrough

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1. Brady Corbett (Childhood of a Leader) / 2. Robert Eggers (The Witch) / 3. Grímur Hákonarson (Rams)

Hil List 2016: Film

The top 10 films of the calendar year (according to yours truly), with blurbs from my Sunday Independent reviews.

  1. Spotlight66914


    “An irrefutable argument for longform journalism is made. Process, procedure and exposition define the narrative, but this Oscar hopeful is full of the quiet detail and thematic nuance that grant it “classic” status. There is no arch villain cackling in the shadows. No gory flashbacks and no all-American grandstanding. The cast is an impressive ensemble but
    Spotlight’s genius is in its calmly urgent take on historical events. In doing so, it makes them all the more sobering and gravid. Compulsory viewing.”

  2. Hell or High Water

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    “Always an actor of huge vitality, Ben Foster gives a career best while Chris Pine shows he’s far more than just a pretty face. The landscape belongs to Jeff Bridges, however. The veteran brings much sensitivity and nuance to such a trope character, and is mesmeric when quietly observed by David Mackenzie’s masterful lens.”

  3. Arrival

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    “Stealthy signals, unforgettable moments and Jóhann Jóhannsson’s score coalesce magnificently as an iconic classic of sci-fi cinema, something to cherish for life, is created before your eyes.”

  4. Sing Street

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    “A glorious and irresistible teenage dreamscape opens up before our eyes. It’d be nothing if John Carney didn’t slow the rhythm and let the pulse of young love, and indeed brotherly love, shine through. Between this and the soundtrack – penned by Carney and Gary Clark – expect to be charmed to tears between the bellylaughs. A classic, and yet another durable blossom in Irish cinema’s current purple patch.”

  5. The Childhood of a Leader

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    “US actor Brady Corbet’s first outing behind the lens is an oddly chilling study of the conditions that can create a fascistic ego. Beneath peering camera direction, chiaroscuro cinematography and Scott Walker’s seismic score are ominous discussions on control and rebellion that are handled with a Haneke-like poise belying the 27-year-old’s lack of film-making experience. He secures superb performances from his cast (including Robert Pattinson), most impressively that of his smouldering young lead.”

  6. Paterson

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    “Lean back and let this graceful protracted tremor of a film slow you down to its speed. Paterson will be looked back on as something of a career high for Jim Jarmusch, and also as a signpost that in 2016 screen acting had uncovered something unique and supremely adaptable in Adam Driver.”

  7. Anomalisa

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    “There’s much to take from Anomalisa that belies its soft-eyed dolls and dry wit, not least its meticulous mix of the whacky with hard, uncompromising realism. Even David Thewlis’s bleating feels like “textbook Kaufman”, which is saying something. It’s great to have him back.”

  8. Room

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    Room feels like the culmination of Irish cinema, a sublime interplay of story, talent, vision, sound and feeling that pushes rare buttons. As for Lenny Abrahamson? Well, for many years I swore he was among Europe’s finest film makers. Make that the world’s.”

  9. El Club

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    “Pablo Larrain’s roving direction and cool framing, Carlos Cabezas’s strings and a roundly excellent cast combine to stunning effect in this magnetic and highly original critique of the Church. Rarely does a drama balance a range of colours – intrigue, repulsion, beauty, dread, humour – with such brazen confidence.”

  10. The Revenant

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    “Some men have all the luck. Others, like Leonardo DiCaprio, are preyed upon by man, beast, element and Alejandro González Iñárritu. In The Revenant, the Birdman director put DiCaprio, his co-stars and the crew through such endurance feats that there was talk of breakdowns and walk-outs on set. Iñárritu’s steel has paid off, however, because this mud ‘n’ blood survival-revenge epic is a genuine masterpiece of 2016 and deserves any further awards coming its way after its Golden Globes rout.”

All Tvvins

The debut album’s out today. They play Tower Records at lunchhour. Here’s my State.ie interview-profile with All Tvvins.

***

In Two Minds: The Duality of All Tvvins

IF KUBRICK had choreographed it, it wouldn’t surprise you. A top-floor studio with windows at opposite ends. Perched on each sill and enjoying the Luas dings, gull croaks and exhaust fumes of Dublin city centre are Conor Adams and Lar Kaye. They turn and greet me with uncanny symmetry.

All Tvvins haven’t done an excessive amount to make their creative lair particularly homely. Two desks sit against adjacent walls, each arranged with computer hardware and other modern tools of the tunesmith’s trade. All around them is a carpet of keyboards, flight cases and percussion items. The only sign that 2016’s most discussed Irish musical export have decorated the workspace are framed vinyl copies of The Suburbs and In Rainbows huddled close together on a wall.

It’s easy to imagine Kaye and Adams leaning back during an intensive song-writing session and sighing up at these masterworks, both released years into each band’s careers and both the best thing either has done to date. Although I already know the answer, I ask All Tvvins about their ambitions.

“World domination,” breezes Kaye, swivelling playfully in an office chair and cradling a coffee cup in his palm like the world’s worst Bond villain. Once the half man/half fretboard sledgehammer of Adebisi Shank, Kaye appears in the flesh to be a man unfazed by the everyday stresses prone to the rest of us fools.

Adams, of course, was the Sam Malone of The Cast of Cheers, the frontman with the Reznor-ish snarl that has now softened to a thing of soulful determination that only years can provide. He protests happily. “…But without being funny, we aim high because we believe in our music. And I love it. It’s the music I want to be making. It’s the music I would like to listen to. We’re definitely in it for the long haul. And, yeah… fuckin’ world domination.” (Tellingly, he’ll later cite how heroes The Police began a three-month US tour in New York and how the buzz and audiences grew the further west they got, and call the idea “romantic”).

The width of their horizon doesn’t seem unreasonable, you must admit. As 2013 gave way to 2014, two songs appeared online under the name “Tvvins”, ‘Two Worlds’ and ‘You Better’. These were early fruits of this collaboration between the two old friends who ran into each other one night and decided not to simply liquidise the scattergun shreddings of Adebisi Shank and The Cast of Cheers’ poppy post-hardcore. This had to be more than just another side-project, and very soon was.

And then, in mid-2014, a black-and-white video clip from Asylum Studios of ‘Thank You’ stuck its head above the YouTube parapet and the bullshit was over. Hits clocked up. Interviewers demanded an album release date. High profile support slots with visiting titans (Win Butler and Co, The Pixies, Foals) seemed like the most natural idea in the world. Beards were stroked down to the follicle worrying would the duo outsoar the sum of their parts.

More singles also followed, sizzling confections of hard grooves (‘Too Young To Live’) and precision-cut, Fifa-courting hooks (‘The Darkest Ocean’), each primary coloured and sumptuously produced but with a slight razor-edged bullishness that betrayed each man’s Richter Collective past.

“I guess this band’s done more than our previous bands, and a lot quicker,” shrugs Kaye. “And we take that as good thing. It’s felt pretty gradual up ‘til now, putting our music out and doing small shows. It feels like a natural build to me, not this overnight thing. That’s way better than waking up one day and finding you’re massive – that’s probably going to go away.”

Adams picks up: “We have a huge body of work – songs that aren’t on the album. We always had some things but we were just waiting to get the right recordings and the right songs. There were songs that just didn’t fit, and even now there’s ones that were nearly on the album that we look at and go [rolls eyes], you know that kind of way?”

I don’t but I can imagine. Being signed to Warners has given the duo the luxury of allowing these things to be the biggest concerns of their day but they also see that with the big label and the big budgets comes big expectations, a complaint many bands would love to have even if it mightn’t be “cool” to admit it.

“I think people have chilled out about the whole ‘major label’ thing,” says Lar. “You don’t hear people in bars so much anymore saying ‘so and so got dropped’. It’s like, who gives a fuck?”

“Even with smaller labels,” Adams reasons, “you’re signing a contact to go, ‘right, they’re going to give us some money to record what we’re doing and they’re going to try and make that money back. It’s not like, ‘here’s free money’. We got to work with some really cool people [producers such as Jim Abbiss, Mark Rankin and Matt Schwartz] who we probably wouldn’t have had we not been on a major.”

And here we are, a few short weeks away from the unveiling of that long-mooted long player, IIVV. I’m told I’m the first person to pick up on the Talking Heads influence (“10 out of 10,” Lar applauds) but tracks like ‘End Of The Day’ and ‘These 4 Words’ have inherited the oblique, jilted funk of David Byrne’s troop. Elsewhere, numbers like ‘Too Much Silence’ revive the more muscular, cocksure spirits from the 80s heyday of The Police and XTC.

Kaye may smirk about there being loads of “cheap shitty keyboards” on their debut, but this desire to follow the path of “weird bands” who understood pop structure is further proof of All Tvvins’ refusal to go without leaving their joint mark on the world. They turn to each other often and will step in to finish a sentence by the other. (Kaye: “I was so used to insanely fast tempos with old bands, for me personally it took a long time to just…” Adams: “…Just slow down”). A language emerges, a shared shoptalk that involves “de-gridding” and “swing”.

The pair have known each other since they were teenagers. They both played in critically lauded acts that released cult classics. None of this matters a damn, though. For every Marr and Morrissey, Omar and Cedric, or Fela and Tony, there are countless other musical partnerships that look great on paper but don’t work when the gear is plugged in. Why is this one producing the goods?

Looking at his foil, Adams acknowledges their luck. “They trust each other, you can see that. It is the same with us…”

“We said to each other when we first got together, whatever about whether we can write songs together, we’re willing to live in a van and piss each other off and do what it actually takes to be in a band,” Kaye smiles. “That was one of the first things we talked about,” continues Adams, “being a touring band. Are we up for that?”

Yes, there’s not many people in this world that you can spend an Autumn touring Europe with (as they’re about to), performing by night and slurping service-station pot noodles by day. And with all respect to dazzling touring drummer Lewis Hedigan, it is the duality of All Tvvins that appears to be making this machine tick and indeed tock so beautifully.

From those very first couple of jams in Kaye’s bedroom, they looked at each other and realised this was “going to be a thing”. That said, they both chuckle about it being “a little bit awkward” when you start writing with someone, a phenomenon the pair liken to a kind of “First Dates for bands”.

But two shortens the road, as the old Gaelic saying goes – decision making is quicker and easier. The democratic process of keeping or binning riffs is largely a clean and gentle two-way street inside the Adams & Kaye storefront. This is a bubble, Adams agrees, a place where objective ears are hard to locate and it’s perfectly human, as Kaye puts it, to want to be in a different band some days. That trust holds a great deal of currency when it’s just the pair of you on board.

 To my sadness, my theory that Adams’ lyric in ‘The End of The Day’ (“I will be your shield/you will be my sword/I will need no other … you always make me better”) being about Kaye is “categorically” denied by the singer (much to Kaye’s relief) but he does concede that “it could be”.

Whatever you’d call this – bromance, musical soulmates, yin and yang – it’s working. “I’ll be very honest about this,” Kaye says to the two of us. “I can’t write songs. I’m pretty good with sounds and stuff but Conor is the Songwriter…” He’s cut off by the Songwriter. “Well this is the thing – I can write songs but they usually sound like a bag of crap until he puts his stamp on them. There couldn’t be an All Tvvins song with only one of us.”

By way of explanation, Adams gestures to his desk in the corner of the studio, this room where two men tinker at greatness while two lofty records eavesdrop.

“I have this computer. And he has that one [points]. He’s got crazy noodly stuff that aren’t songs, while I’ve got loads of songs that don’t sound very good at all. So it’s when we swap USBs and it’s when we plug in and jam that we get the best stuff. We need each other for this.”

@HAWhiteK

‘IIVV’ is out today on digital, CD and limited edition vinyl formats. www.alltvvins.com

Die, Alvin, die!

Nothing beats a surreptitious rant dressed up like a film review. This time around, I decided to use reviews of Oddball And The Penguins and Alvin And The Poxing Chipmunks: The Road Chip to highlight my profound views on children’s entertainment. See if you can spot the subtle commentary in the following two Sunday Independent reviews. Sigh…

***

Alvin and The Chipmunks: The Road Chip / Cert: G

THERE are certain inevitabilities in life: Taxes will rise; age will impose itself; and animated creatures in big-budget CGI kids’ films will sooner or later start rapping and gyrating along to Sir Mix-A-Lot’s I Like Big Butts.

The fourth instalment in the bafflingly successful Alvin and the Chipmunks franchise – hilariously entitled The Road Chip – dares not toy with the natural order of things and serves up exactly what you’d expect from a film designed to prey on the wallets of addled parents. Consistency is a virtue, some say. Though perhaps not when something is consistently awful.

Jason Lee looks as tired as the brand itself as he returns for a fourth slog as Dave, the human guardian/big brother/father figure to the three squeaky voiced rodents.

Despite spending most of his days addressing empty spaces where blobs of colour will soon be edited into existence, he has managed to find love in the form of the lovely Samantha (Kimberly Williams-Paisley) and marriage could be on the cards. While fine with Samantha herself, Alvin, Simon and Theodore are loathe to admit her bully son Miles (Josh Green) into their lives. The feeling is mutual, so the four set out on a roadtrip to Miami to intercept Dave and Samantha and stop the proposal going ahead.

Director Walt Becker (who gave us 2011’s universally panned Zookeeper) believes kids’ entertainment needs are best catered for by primary coloured squibs bouncing inanely to trite pop songs for 90 minutes. Frankly, your children deserve better.

1/5

Oddball And The Penguins
Cert: G

SWAMPY (Shane Jacobson) is a chicken farmer in Warrnambool, Victoria who is as Australian as a schooner of VB. His daughter Emily (Sarah Snook) is a wildlife ranger on nearby Middle Island, a sanctuary for endangered Little Penguins. The species has been hammered by local foxes and if the endemic population slips below 10, funding will be cut and the reserve – once under the care of Swampy’s late wife – will be given up for development. That in turn could lead to Swampy losing both Emily and beloved his granddaughter to a move overseas.

Salvation arrives in the form of Swampy’s beautiful but naughty sheepdog, Oddball. While showing little talent for protecting the farm, he does emerge as an excellent island guardian for the penguin population. Foxes, however, are not the only threat to the prime real estate.

Ask yourself this: Would you prefer your little ones watch an adventure with a strong environmental message, or just noisy, pacifying bubblegum? If the former, then Oddball and the Penguins is just the ticket.

High on charm, spirit, excitement and live-animal magic, Stuart McDonald’s real-life tale is a breath of fresh air in a world of gloopy, sterile CGI mulch animated by people who’ve never set foot outdoors. Sure, its rhythm is slipshod and the performances patchy, but this is hale and hearty fare that your kids may one day thank you for.

4/5

First published in the Sunday Independent

So much sheer spirit

The Sunday Indo asked me to reflect on my meeting with late, great Irish broadcasting Goliath Terry Wogan back in 2011. This is what they published.

***

Mourning the genial broadcasting legend who seemed indomitable

Underneath the effortless charm lurked an intellectual, well versed and supremely generous of spirit, writes Hilary A White

THERE are pillars in all our rear-view mirrors. Things that make up the vista of our lives and provide cultural cornerstones when adult life shifts underfoot. When they’re suddenly not there, it’s felt, sometimes deeply. Look at David Bowie and how his death caused middle-aged men to weep for teenage years of escapism and the unpleasant idea that a formative totem was now gone from the existential diorama.

The nostalgic reeling returned last week with the loss of Terry Wogan, the Limerick-born broadcasting aristocrat who’d always seemed indelible and death-proof. It’d be disingenuous to say I was principally mourning the loss of a very nice man I’d once met, but that was part of it. It was more that a presence over my 35 years, ubiquitous if not always apparent, had extinguished. A minor fracture in the grand scheme of things, perhaps, but a fracture none the less.

Growing up in the 80s meant two things in our house – Star Wars and Wogan. I arrived into the world and they were just there. Neither needed to be introduced, understood or contemplated. They were family, furniture and soundtrack, rolled into one. They just were. In hindsight, so much of that decade now seems disposable. Not, however, the recently revived space opera. And not the unforced, suave, irreverent Irishy-Englishy host with the toothy grin on TV every Saturday night.

When I got to interview him at his home on a cloudless July day in 2011, the then-73-year-old was exactly as I’d always imagined, if slightly less robust. He welcomed me into the Maidenhead pile he shared with wife Helen like an old friend. It was surprising, yet not. As we settled into chairs out in his sweeping back garden, I checked if he’d mind a photo when we were done. “Not at all,” he gasped before that trademark silken comic beat. “Mind you, there’s no such thing as a nice shot of me but there you are.”

Within five minutes, it had already become exactly the kind of experience that made me become a journalist in the first place. He was interesting and interested, candid, widely versed and supremely generous of spirit. There was no stopwatch, no “off-limits” preciousness and no PR person hovering in the background. The chat – and that was very much the cadence he sought – was that of a friendly, reflective man in the winter of his years who was grateful for a good chinwag.

“Hilarious” is the first word I find myself using when people ask what he was like. Wogan had a buoyant, breezy humour that was effortless but made me double over with laughter and lose my line of questioning a few times over those couple of hours. It was a twinkle in the eye, a flamboyant turn of language or some delightfully spry confection on one of his favourite sources of amusement – himself.

“God help us,” he quipped when I told him I’d read Mustn’t Grumble (his laugh-out-loud 2006 biography and one of many published books to his name). “I’m a tremendously lazy person,” he cheerily sighed. “I’ve never knocked on anybody’s door looking for a job. Anything that’s difficult for me, I just don’t do. It just shows you how deeply trivial a person I am that I only do stuff that comes easily to me! Except golf. I think I’m temperamentally wrong for golf.”

He didn’t want anybody, he chuckled, to call him “Sir Terry” but liked the idea of throwing any letters addressed to “Mr Terry Wogan” straight into the wastepaper basket. During a brief aside about his former BBC radio colleagues, he explained that he mostly only saw the back of Ken Bruce’s head in the adjacent studio. “The back of Ken Bruce’s head is much like the front of his head,” he then slipped in, parenthetically. I nearly spat coffee over my notebook.

What I quickly learned was Wogan only poked fun at people who he liked a lot, and this tonality was what ultimately saw him gain such vast purchase on UK public consciousness.

“I came over here [to England] and found there was far too much sycophancy going on,” he mock scowled. “People on the radio saying things like ‘we love your show’ etc. And I thought: ‘I can’t handle that because that’s not the way friends behave.’ Friends are more likely to tell you you’ve got a spot on your nose or you dress like the Pope’s mother or something like that. So that’s what I tried to generate, a kind of mutual badinage between us that was good natured.”

When he referred to Gay Byrne, his RTE mucker of yore, as a “poor old soul”, the mischief was edged with affection.

And yet Wogan would have been useless if were just some wisecracking loafer who was a conduit for kid-acting on the airwaves. Beneath the lightening wit, the massaging sing-song purr and the unreconstructed geniality lurked an intellectual. It fell all about him that afternoon in the recesses between punchlines, trinkets of wisdom and invention, literacy and an acute recall that are unquestionably part of the package. I still dwell on things he said.

Living overseas but in sight of his homeland, Wogan had a clarity of perspective on Ireland that I’m not sure I’ve heard since. The discussion turned to the landmark state visit of Queen Elizabeth just weeks previously. As a small insecure island nation, we patted ourselves on the back after the final exhale that came with her departure. Hadn’t we done well, we told ourselves. Wogan had a different take on it.

“Was I proud of Ireland?” he wondered. “Well I expected Ireland to rise to the occasion. I felt more proud of the Queen, really. She is a very nice woman. She’s a remarkable woman… And why wouldn’t the Irish behave well? Why don’t we expect ourselves to behave well? Why do we think we’re the only ones that history ever happened to? How would we feel if we were Poles or Jews? I mean, come on! Everybody has had a hard time from time to time.”

He was proud, though. You could see it still. He delighted in telling me he was “as Irish as the next man” and therefore got emotional “about all sorts of things”. It was clear he’d spent a lot of time considering the boom and bust, and had actively jumped in to defend his native land when onlookers in the UK asked “why didn’t the Irish realise this or that”. He called his fellow countrymen “resilient”, “intelligent”, “noble” and “probably a much better educated population than Britain”. “Corinthian” was how he described the respectful silences placekickers get from Irish rugby fans. “The principal of sportsmanship is stronger in Ireland than in England, in my opinion. Getting up and shaking hands with your opponent after a hard game – it’s true of nearly everything the Irish do.”

Sadly, it didn’t mean Ireland always afforded him quite the same regard. Before arriving back to Dublin in 2005 to receive a People of The Year Award, voices of idiocy questioned his Irishness on Liveline. “It’s nice to know the Irish haven’t forgotten me,” Wogan said during his acceptance speech. Did he really fear he’d been discarded in Ireland, I asked him.

“I thought about that because it was nice and an enormous surprise. I have the award on me mantelpiece. But why wouldn’t they have forgotten about me? I’m not there – forgotten but not gone!” he chortled, slightly evasively.

Looking back now, there is a sense that the accolades, lifetime honours and knighthoods sat uneasily with Terry Wogan. He laughed that day about how everyone reaches a certain point where people “confuse longevity with merit”. “If you cling to the refuge long enough, people will begin to think you must have some quality… No, it’s just that he’s not dead yet! It’s after you pass on that people tend to over-praise. Morecambe and Wise? They were great but really they weren’t always great.”

He had no real answer to the question of how he’d like to be remembered. All he could say was he hadn’t thought about it because he still hadn’t any “intimations of mortality”. He trotted out light-hearted analogies about speaking at so many friends’ funerals that he is now “Terry No-mates”, a joke he recycled in an interview last September with Ryan Tubridy. He’d probably roll his eyes at the countless tributes and hagiographies this week.

He’d been godless ever since losing first daughter Vanessa in 1966 weeks after her birth. This wasn’t public knowledge when we met but listening back to the interview, it explains why he found it “doubly worrying” when his grandchildren were ill. The atheism and the playfulness remained to the end, according to close friend Fr Brian D’Arcy. “You’d better say a few prayers if you have any influence up there, if there’s anyone up there,” he reportedly said to D’Arcy on their final meeting.

So much sheer spirit. It’s probably why we’ll continue to talk about him. That innate “sunny” disposition people have spoken of that granted him a passport to affections. That refusal to take himself too seriously when he easily could have. He was an optimist, he told me, but cautioned that an optimist was just someone who didn’t understand the seriousness of the situation. “Nobody’s going to top that act,” Ruby Wax said during the week. She’s so right because it wasn’t an act.

“I mean I’ve just had the most extraordinary, pleasant life,” he gently laughed that day, almost in disbelief. “And now I’m, as it were, staggering towards the end of it but there you are. Make the most of it while I can.”

First published in the Sunday Independent

Bowie and I

THE funny thing is I have no claim to David Bowie. I wasn’t there. Not when he killed Ziggy Stardust in ‘73. Not to wonder at what his convalescing in Berlin would yield. I was too young or too apathetic to attend his much-mythologised Dublin shows in the Baggot Inn, Olympia or Point. I don’t have platform shoes, and not just because they’re hard to come by in size 16, nor are my vinyl copies of Low or Hunky Dory scuffed from 40 years of nightly rotation.

No, discovering Bowie 20 years ago through bands like Mansun and Suede makes me a relative newcomer in the grand scheme of things. I’d always known what he was and accepted him as part of the general pop backdrop. I once met a man who had a woolly Aladdin Sane tattoo on his bicep and shrugged in disbelief at my cheek after I asked him why. I saw a 50-year-old woman erupt to life like a teenager to ‘Young Americans’ at a funeral wake. Years on, the 15-year-old me tried and failed to perfect the bass-slaps of ‘Ashes To Ashes’ in my bedroom but I can’t pretend that the song was a staple of that Doors-mad period.

How then do I end up years later flying to London to see the David Bowie is exhibition in London’s V&A and queuing for hours to get in? Why do I start reading books and buying magazine specials on this musician? Why did I spend one of my eight precious days in New York sitting in the window of a SoHo bar in the hope I might catch a glimpse of him leaving his apartment across the road? Why did my girlfriend make me sit down before she delivered news of his death at 7.30am on Monday morning? And why did I cry into her shoulder moments afterwards and remain fragile for while later?

Bowie came to signify so much to me as my life palette broadened. The filter narrowed and this gangly, chain-smoking creature from London emerged as something crystal-cut, something that was a singularity of soul, daring and art who I gradually pushed out to a very select archipelago of awe. I couldn’t get enough. It felt like the world had had a head start and I tripped over myself to catch up. The mysteries consumed me. The effortless cool was a cryptic crossword and the energy of his reinventions and left-hand turns, from soul to glam right up to drum and bass, were the stuff of theoretical physics. It wasn’t so much “who is Bowie?” as “how is Bowie?”

The sensation remained on loop. There’s he is suddenly collaborating with Trent Reznor. A few years later, it’s Arcade Fire. Then he’s there, casually bringing the planet to standstill with an abrupt “comeback” single called ‘Where Are We Now’, less a question than a taunt. And yet it wasn’t a “comeback” as he was never gone, really. The regular parachute drops were to remind us that he would always come and go as he pleased, looking and sounding stunning in the winter of his years and making a mockery of the “Greatest Hits Tour” lot.

So, no, I’m not one of those people contacting radio shows with anecdotes about meeting him on the Quays or sharing a fag down Baggot Close. My silver isn’t tarnished by Tin Machine or that reportedly iffy 1987 Slane headliner. I never interviewed him so I can’t say what a really nice, down-to-earth, regular bloke he was (even though I’m sure he was). And I’m OK with all that. More than OK, in fact. The idea that he was genetically different to me and composed of atoms that I cannot comprehend works better for me. It makes him every bit more precious. And eternal.

What? Another year?

Hilary Adam White

AS THE embers of this topsy-turvy 12 months fade, my enduring moan has to be, well, moaning. We have now entered a point of no comeback in the Age of Preciousness. It is now the inalienable right of everyone with a touch screen and a twitter account to be “offended”. To thumb shrill denunciations when their own personal (keyword) viewpoints are challenged or someone else out in the digital abyss is merely blocking their view. To only have two responses lined up when a new story, quote, opinion is reported on; righteous indignation or silence. We, as a species, now seriously need to get a life.

Helping with this, however, are the arts, music, books and cinema specifically.

From a phoenix-like Death From Above 1979 through to The Gloaming’s spectoral cartwheels, right up to Gaz Coombes and even the stupidly fun Prison Love (and their barbershop quartet alterego The…

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