At the moment I've got more time than money so I get the night-train to Edinburgh.
Finish work at 5 on Friday, run around like a headless chicken, trying to pack a laptop and a week's worth of clothes into too small a bag. Get the train from London Euston. Stuck next to the weirdest couple on the train. A Pinball Wizard in his 30s and his mother, heading home after some kind of pinball tournament. Unfortunately, unlike the song, he ain't deaf, dumb and blind. In fact he never shuts up.
And there's something weird about his relationship with his mother.
They seem a little too familiar.
They're not snogging or anything but...you get the feeling they have in the past.
At one point, reading aloud the onboard menu, she says "Blueberry muffin...What's a muffin?" I don't wait for his reply, I head for the bar, buy a couple of brandys, take a sleeping tablet and wake up 7 hours later in Edinburgh.
I love Edinburgh. It's one of the few cities I've ever been to that actually has an identity of its own. It's full of nooks and crannies, hidden places. For centuries its streets have been walked by rogues and vagabonds, scientists and thinkers, royalty and capitalists, body-snatchers and witches. Bodybuilding milkmen. And above the streets broods the Castle, glowering down on Princes Street, on the tramworks that have brought the city to a standstill, the middle-class hausfraus ducking from Jenner's to Marks & Spencers, the Big Issue sellers and the pipers, here a piper, there a piper, everywhere a piper. It's no wonder that JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter here. The place just has magic.
It's a shame this year's Edinburgh Film Festival programme isn't quite as magical.
10 films in and the first film I saw, The Last Rites Of Ransom Pride, is, so far, the best. A grimy, doom-laden Western, The Last Rites Of Ransom Pride is almost a feminist revision of Sam Peckinpah with True Blood's Lizzy Caplan heading down Mexico way to claim the body of her dead lover, outlaw Ransom Pride (Scott Speedman) from voodoo priestess Bruja (Cote de Pablo). Along the way she's aided by Ransoms's callow brother, aging buffalo soldier Sergeant (Blu Mankuma), a pair of Siamese twins and a shotgun-toting dwarf (the ever brilliant Peter Dinklage) while trying to stay one step ahead of Ransom's vengeful father, the Reverend (Dwight Yoakum), hired gun Shepherd (Kris Kristofferson) and a pair of murderous bounty hunters (Deadwood's W Earl Brown and an unrecognisable Jason Priestley). Dark and violent, The Last Rites Of Ransom Pride is a brooding meditation on the passing of the Old West. And in case you haven't been paying attention, it has a shotgun-toting dwarf. What more does a film need?
How about former child stars getting sapphic in their undies? The Runaways, Floria Sigismondi's breathless bio-pic of the all-girl rock band, is a guilty pleasure, charting the band's meteoric rise and just as speedy disintegration. Professional sulky face Kristen Stewart plays creative driving force Joan Jett as the sulky teenager she no doubt was in the 70s while Dakota Fanning fills the fishnets of singer Cherie Currie. I defy you not to feel like a dirty old man.
Danish prison drama R is a nasty short, sharp, shock to the system which revisits all the usual cliches of prison movies, painting a very different picture of incarceration to that of Porridge. If Ronnie Barker's Fletcher did his time in Denmark he'd probably have been raped, beaten and had boiling oil thrown in his face in the 1st week.
While its frank, explicit sex scenes will ensure that Ashley Horner's brilliantlove will probably be the most controversial film of the Festival, brilliantlove just wasn't that brilliant. But I suppose mediocreshitewithpointlessnudity would've been too literal a title. It's the steamy tale of two idiots who live in a garage and shag a lot. She's a taxidermist who stuffs the birds a local cat leaves for them. He's a photographer who gets discovered when he gets drunk and leaves snaps of her vagina in the pub. He's seduced by the Art Establishment, she gets mildly miffed that now everybody has seen her fanny. There. I've just saved you 97 minutes of your life. No need to thank me, just use them wisely.