I love living in the cityDan Slevin
I’ve never been a fan of Shihad’s music. Their brand of anthemic shredding power rock and my taste have never coincided, but what I can say is that I am big fan of the fact of them.
I love living in the city that produced them and am genuinely impressed by their longevity and professional success. It’s great and Sam Peacocke’s new band-approved documentary about them, Shihad: Beautiful Machine, provides plenty of evidence to justify that respect.
As someone who was on the periphery of a lot of the events described - I drank at the Clarendon when they played their first gigs as spotty school kids in 1988, I knew their manager Gerald Dwyer from Radio Active and was at that first Big Day Out in 1995 when tragedy struck - I can tell when the film cheats a little with the archive footage but Peacocke gets the sweep of the story right: the hallowed rock trajectory of a long road to overnight success followed by substance abuse and relationship traumas.
Oddly for a music documentary, Beautiful Machine doesn’t dwell on the art itself - perhaps there will be more in the inevitable DVD extras - but focuses on band dynamics and their struggles in a local music industry ill-equipped for massive international success. This is a film full of characters. All the parents, roadies, management and partners who appear are vivid personalities in their own right and help add flavour and perspective, even though the now-mature band members provide plenty of insight of their own.
I’ll treasure Beautiful Machine for my own nostalgic reasons - as a rare document of the Wellington music scene of the late 80s and early 90s - but there might not be enough actual music in there for the band’s loyal fans.
Talking of loyal fans, those of you who peed your pants laughing at Borat and Brüno will probably be a bit disappointed by Sacha Baron Cohen’s latest venture into the unmentionables. This reviewer, however, was relieved to discover that he was watching an actual narrative film with actors rather than Baron Cohen’s usual fake documentary method of humiliating unsuspecting ordinary citizens for his own amusement.
In The Dictator, Baron Cohen tries on a new ethnicity as a middle-eastern despot loosely modelled on Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi. Replaced by his body double in a secret coup, dimwitted and egotistical Admiral General Aladeen of Waadeya is forced to interact with ordinary New York citizens while finding a way back to his rightful place as the leader of his oppressed people. The gag-per-minute rate is fairly high but only about 50 percent actually hit and a few even manage to prompt some out-loud laughs.
With The Dictator, Baron Cohen seems to be losing his edge in favour of sentiment - and I’m OK with that.