Robert Smith: Culture Vulture

ROB SMITH gives us his usual cultural highlights with an added angry rant thrown in.

Art Bubble Culture2 Look Now Music Ponyo Smith Spellbound Vulture

Before we get on with the usual Culture Vulture proceedings there’s something I feel I need to address. I’ve had a good week all told but there was one low point. You see on Friday I had the misfortune of reading the most vapid piece of television criticism I’ve ever read in posh-prick-paper Varsity. As they don’t have a comment section, and scrawling ‘This is shit’ at the bottom of the page didn’t satisfy me, I’m going to use my column to address this shoddy piece of cultural criticism.

I’m not in the business of getting personal so let’s just say that a certain writer (let’s call her Connie Scozzaro) wrote an assessment of Charlie Brooker’s Newswipe in Varsity’s Boxed In section. Although I do enjoy Brooker’s work myself, I know a lot of very sensible people with impeccable taste who don’t and I fully appreciate their criticisms. Everyone has their opinion on something and I would have gladly read an amusing attack on Brooker if the criticisms hadn’t been so bizarrely inaccurate.

Connie perceptively commented that ‘It was quickly clear to me why Newswipe is on midweek at 1am’. This would have fulfilled the basic requirements of being an observation if it wasn’t for the fact that Newswipe is actually first broadcast at half ten every week. Everyone makes mistakes, but if you’re going to make one don’t make it the crux of your argument. You see, Connie then went on to say how Newswipe was typical of 1am trash television, comparing the show to a late night Big Mac. I don’t know about you, but when I think of BBC Four I don’t think of trashy Kyle-esque shows, especially as last week’s episode featured a guest section from globally acclaimed documentary maker Adam Curtis. Maybe Jeremy Kyle has a section where Gore Vidal chooses his favourite wine these days though, I don’t know.

I don’t think our amateur critic really understands what BBC Four is to be honest, as she said that Brooker’s show was part of ‘the characteristic BBC4 revolt against the pleasant RP [Received Pronunciation] of BBC1’. Ninety percent of the BBC Four (not BBC4 note) schedule is taken up by very well spoken and earnest documentaries on obscure subjects, not brash yoof programming as Connie made out. It was at this point that I realised that Connie had confused BBC Four with BBC Three. I’d make an acerbic comment on this last point but it would be like kicking a child. Her credibility already shot to pieces, our intrepid young critic then decided to face fuck it to death with one single comment. This comment was: ‘it’s way surpassed by other topical shows like 8 out of 10 Cats’. 8 out of 10 Cats, the knock-off version of Mock the Week, is now the pinnacle of topical programming? Jimmy Carr insulting desperate Z-list accumulations of flesh with other people’s jokes while a group of morons clap along is considered good? Really? In light of all this I can only paraphrase Connie herself: Connie Scorazzo’s writing is the journalistic equivalent of a late night Big Mac. Fills a gap but a bit shit.

Before I carry on, if I were to defend Brooker’s programme I would use just two clips: here and here. I think they speak for themselves. Anyway enough of that, as this whole debacle has shown me that people must be in need of some cultural guidance more than ever. Without further delay, here are my highlights of next week.

Art: The celebration of Modernism at Kettles Yard is rumbling on and Jasia Reichardt’s talk on the Machine and Art on Wednesday looks like a good bet if you’re into that thing.

Music: Seb Rochford’s Polar Bear are hitting the Junction on Wednesday. They hold a special place in my heart, as last time I saw them I nearly got into an altercation with someone; an impressive achievement at a civilised Jazz gig.

Food and Drink: Pancake Day has been and gone, but I have a treat for those who want every day to be Pancake Day. This delightful guide shows you how to make adorable mini pancakes using drug paraphernalia. The results are as if Renton from Trainspotting did May Ball canapés.

Film:  Studio Ghibli’s latest effort Ponyo is at the Arts Picturehouse next week and it’s bound to look amazing if nothing else. For lovers of vintage British directors, however, Hitchcock’s fine Freudian head-fuck Spellbound is being shown there on Monday as well as Roeg’s terrifying Don’t Look Now on Thursday.

Television: After my petulant outburst at the beginning of this column, I feel a bit sheepish making a television recommendation. David Mitchell’s new high concept show The Bubble is a good bet, if only because it’s the craziest premise for a light entertainment show in living memory.

Union: General Sir Mike Jackson is there on Tuesday if you like War and shit. Iain Duncan Smith is there on Thursday if you just like shit.