Talking Movies

December 22, 2020

O Holy Night

Filed under: Uncategorized — Fergal Casey @ 7:38 pm

This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper.

Good riddance to 2020.

I said good riddance, sir!

Talking Movies will return in 2021.

You Have Been Listening To: Part V – An A to Z of Great Moments in Film

As we throw our hands up in despair and wait for the Grinch-timed return of lockdown it seems a good point to look back at a 2020 project that is nearing completion. There has been a lack of reviews by me of new releases on 103.2 Dublin City FM this year, and what was personally an injury-enforced sabbatical from studio and cinema was made a general cinema sabbatical for all for most of the year. But if you’re eager to explore the back catalogue here’s a list of the films we discussed as the film links morphed into an A to Z of Great Moments in Film that attempted to tip the hat as often as possible to films that had an anniversary of some kind in 2020.

All About Eve

Back to the Future

Cast Away

Les Diaboliques

The Empire Strikes Back

The Falcon Takes Over

Goodfellas

Top Hat

The Ipcress File

Jane Eyre

Kelly’s Heroes

The Lavender Hill Mob

Memento

Nosferatu

Othello

Psycho

The Quiller Memorandum

Rififi

The 39 Steps

Tremors

The Usual Suspects

Vertigo

Westworld

X-Men

Yojimbo

Dr Zhivago

December 21, 2020

Any Other Business: Part LXV

As the title suggests, so forth.

The Death of Patterson

What an emotional few days it was last week catching up with network television shows bowing out… Martin Gero has been on a veritable rampage killing established characters in the final (half a) season of Blindspot: Reade, Brianna, Keaton. But to then take out Patterson in a hail of thermite. Hoist on the petard of her own MacGyver’d cleverness, trapped in Rich’s own mini-Pompeii of a self-destructing server silo, incinerated in falling flames while Rich looked on at her slow motion death helplessly. I had to rewind this a few times to actually believe that they had really killed Patterson, the heart of the show, much as Joss Whedon had enraged fans when he killed the heart of his show Firefly in the resolving movie. I understand that Gero is building the stakes ever higher as Madeline Burke becomes ever more monstrous, but there is a point at which you simply tip into excess, and arguably Blindspot has long passed it with her unpunished supervillainy: did we really need this gut-punch?

The Death of Dean Winchester

And then just two days after Sky Witness had inflicted that trauma on us 4Music aired as a triple bill the final ever episodes of Supernatural. And Dean Winchester; lover of bacon, killer of Hitler, eater of pie, vessel of Apocalypse World Michael to kill Lucifer hopped up on Nephilim grace, Scooby-Doo aficionado, and occasional Batman; died on a sharp piece of rebar sticking out of a barn post… Who knows why exactly showrunner Andrew Dabb chose Medium as his model on how to end a series, but the influence was obvious.

December 20, 2020

Miscellaneous Movie Musings: Part XXXVIII

As the title suggests, so forth.

Stripey Heartbreak

Well, well, well… this was unusual. Watching two 1980s US army movies back to back it suddenly became clear there was a bit too much crossover for a fully sane mind to handle. A hard-bitten old sergeant has to whip some layabouts led by disruptive jokers into proper soldiering shape before an absurdist war in the final reel because you can’t have a movie about the army without there being a war goddamnit. And the one that didn’t get official approval from the military in the end was the Clint Eastwood action flick not the rambling Bill Murray comedy. Clint swore too much for the Marine Corps endorsement. Even though it’s based on real life, even though people die on both sides, the culminating action of Heartbreak Ridge in Grenada somehow feels no more real than the bloodless baloney in Czechoslovakia that ends Stripes, before both sets of characters return home to a heroes’ welcome as they tumble off the plane onto the tarmac. Thinking about this paradox suddenly made me recall the complaint of an officer to George Orwell in Homage to Catalonia: he griped that their Spanish Civil War experience was not truly one of war – this was merely a comic opera, with the occasional death.

Whither Nolan, whither the WB?

Another WB stalwart has been in the wars with his superior officers… Christopher Nolan has been actively biting the hand that feeds him over Warner Bros’ shock announcement that their 2021 slate of films (many of which were their 2020 slate of films) would now be released to stream on HBO Max to get around the collapse of cinemas in America because of the catastrophic response to the coronavirus. Nolan loudly decried this use of the work of the brightest and the best as a mere loss-leader, as people who thought they were working for the best studio ended up working for the worst streaming service. A trenchant statement, that will not have been appreciated by the beancounters, marketers, and management gurus all playing catch-up with Disney’s monopoly status. Where exactly this leave Nolan’s previously untouchable standing with the top brass at the WB is unclear. Tenet failed to entice Americans back to cinemagoing during a pandemic that ‘incompetence exacerbated by malevolence’ perpetuated, but that was hardly a surprise. But Tenet despite being the third biggest film of the year worldwide at $361 million did not make enough money overseas to compensate for only making $57 million of that figure in America. Doing it Nolan’s way has left the studio out of pocket for roughly half its expected takings. If they try it the other way and that doesn’t work either maybe he’ll be forgiven. If not… is it the end for Nolan after two decades working for the WB?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Fergal Casey @ 3:47 pm

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December 3, 2020

The WB to release Wonder Woman in Irish cinemas

In a bold move Warner Brothers is taking advantage of the relaxing of restrictions over the Christmas period to release one of 2020’s most anticipated blockbusters – Wonder Woman 1984.

December 16th will see the release of Patty Jenkins’ sequel which fast-forwards 70 years in the immortal life of Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) to a clash with two new foes; Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) and the Cheetah (Kristen Wiig); and the mysterious reappearance of her dead (for generations) lover Steve Trevor (Chris Pine). Patty Jenkins directs again from a screenplay she wrote with Geoff Johns & David Callaham, from her story with DC comics legend Johns. A world removed from the desaturated colour palette of the WWI-set original, this seems to be surfing the same cultural wave as Stranger Things and AHS: 1984. And who knows but this may be just the day-glo blast of unabashed fun and pop nostalgia that everybody needs at this particular moment in time after a relentlessly grim plague year.

December 1, 2020

Any Other Business: Part LXIV

As the title suggests, so forth.

As You Were!

And so back to level 3 (plus) lockdown, but the schools stay open. You see the fact that the very noticeable spike in numbers during the level 5 lockdown just happened to coincide with the return of the schools after the mid-term break is just noise not the signal. The signal is that wet pubs are to blame for everything. That’s what compelling evidence, which hasn’t been independently parsed, tells the neo-prohibitionists in the government. And furthermore you, yes you, are to blame: once again you, yes you, got complacent. Indeed this time around the complacency, and the letting down of the guard, and all the other irritating chiding clichés, took on even more magical properties; because, when this line of attack from NPHET voices started, it had not actually been 2 weeks since the announcement of the vaccine, which would mean that people had …  relaxed in anticipation of the announcement? Yes, clearly that makes more sense than not: Bad people!

Here’s my playlist… Give it a listen when you’re ready to take things a bit more seriously…

Spotify these 60 songs for a 00s mood

Metric – Help I’m Alive // Snow Patrol – Spitting Games // Gwen Stefani – What You Waiting For? // Red Hot Chili Peppers – By the Way // Morrissey – Last of the Gang to Die // The Postal Service –The District Sleeps Tonight // Moby – Porcelain // Clint Mansell – Lux Aeterna // Metric – Stadium Love // Interpol – Mammoth // Auf Der Maur – Followed the Waves // Arcade Fire – Neighbourhood 3 (Power Out) // Modest Mouse – Float On // Madison Avenue – Don’t Call Me Baby // Gwen Stefani – If I Was a Rich Girl // Gnarls Barkley – Crazy // Regina Spektor – Fidelity // Coldplay – Trouble // Metric – Poster of a Girl // The Postal Service – Such Great Heights // Auf Der Maur – Skin Receiver // Muse – Supermassive Black Hole // Gwen Stefani – Hollaback Girl // Lady Gaga – Bad Romance // Muse – Time is Running Out // Modest Mouse – Ocean Breathes Salty // Temper Trap –Sweet Disposition // Muse – Starlight // The Killers – Mr Brightside // The Killers – Smile Like You Mean It // Arcade Fire – Rebellion (Lies) // Coldplay – In My Place // Muse – Stockholm Syndrome // Broken Social Scene – Lover’s Spit // Garbage – Bleed Like Me // Morrissey – Life is a Pigsty // Coldplay – The Scientist // The Killers – All These Things That I’ve Done // Vanessa Carlton – A Thousand Miles // REM –Imitation of Life // Wheatus – Teenage Dirtbag // Modest Mouse – Fire It Up // Johnny Cash – The Man Comes Around // Arcade Fire – Black Mirror // Hans Zimmer/James Newton Howard – Why So Serious? // Auf Der Maur – Real A Lie // Moby – Natural Blues // The White Stripes – Seven Nation Army // Tomoyasu Hotei – Battle without Honour or Humanity // Morrissey – Irish Blood, English Heart // Interpol – Evil // Linkin Park – In the End // Moby – Extreme Ways // Red Hot Chili Peppers – Venice Queen // The Postal Service – Nothing Better // David Holmes – Gritty Shaker // Interpol – Obstacle 1 // Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Zero // Red Hot Chili Peppers – Zephyr Song //Howard Shore – The Fellowship of the Ring theme

November 28, 2020

Irish Film HENRY GLASSIE: FIELD WORK by director Pat Collins wins InScience Audience Award

Pat Collin’s new feature film, HENRY GLASSIE: FIELD WORK has won the NTR De Kennis van Nu Audience Award at InScience Film Festival.

InScience is a unique festival in the Netherlands, an international platform for scientific documentaries.  The themes in the InScience program are endless. About the possibility of tinkering with the basis of life, about the symbiosis of art and science, about the minuscule hope of an eternal life, about researchers being daredevils, and about revising our past and building our future.

Pat Collins in his acceptance speech thanked the film programmer Rob Van Der Berg and said it was “an honour to win the InScience Audience Award and to bring Henry Glassie’s work to a wider audience. The film is a true collaboration and couldn’t have been made without Henry’s creative input and generosity.  Henry has always acknowledged the debt he owes to the people who taught him – his teachers within the universities and the artists he has spent his life with, out in the field.  It’s very satisfying to see Henry’s long life of learning getting this acknowledgement, from a festival so dedicated to building bridges between the worlds of science and arts. Producer Tina O’Reilly of South Wind Blows said “It is such a pleasure to work with a director of the calibre of Pat Collins.  I’m delighted that the audience at InScience also felt the beauty and inspiration that we experienced collaborating with the truly remarkable Henry Glassie. I would like to extend my personal thanks to Fís Éireann / Screen Ireland and the Arts Council of Ireland for their significant support of our film, from concept to closing titles.”

Following on the success of ‘Song of Granite’, Henry Glassie: Field Work from Director Pat Collins also won Best Irish Documentary at the 2020 Galway Film Fleadh. It is a magisterial portrait of the most renowned American folklorist and ethnologist Henry Glassie now in his seventies. This film is a beautifully intricate exposition of Glassie’s life’s work which displays this director’s trademark deft touch and remarkable eye for details of the deepest significance. Glassie’s subject is folklore but his deep abiding love for the people who create it resonates throughout the film. “I don’t study people . I stand with people and I study the things they create.” Field work is at the heart of Glassie’s lifelong engagement with folklore. In the words of poet Seamus Heaney “where the perfect eye of the blackbird watched, where one fern was always green I was standing watching you”  ‘Fieldwork’ – 1979.

This film celebrates Glassie’s work, the people with whom he stands and their artwork.  Glassie’s long professional life encompasses the people and folklore of his native southern states; from the sublime vocal purity of Ola Belle Reed whom he befriended and recorded in the sixties, to the potters, sculptors, metal workers, gilders and painters of sacred art in Brazil, the ceramic masters and the women rug makers and weavers of Turkey, the story tellers and singers of Ballymenone on the Northern Irish border to mention just a few. Pat Collins’ sensitive positioning of Glassie’s own archive photographs, film and exquisite hand drawn maps deepen our understanding both of Glassie and the folklore he has so tenderly honoured in his work over decades of study scholarship love and friendship.

Filmed in Brazil, Ireland and the US in Glassie’s benevolent presence, artists like the sculptor Edival Rosas from Salvador city describe their practice as one where body and spirit are integrated, where in Glassie’s words the creative act brings “a momentary fullfilment of what it is to be human”. Under Pat Collins’ ever mindful direction the process of making something out of raw materials is luminously manifested in sequences which reflect in their measured and attentive approach the actual real time process of making, of the work of hands, of the physicality of that work , and of the close attention the artist is bringing to the work. Pat Collins’ achievement with Henry Glassie: Field Work is to bring these makers of art, in wood, fabric, yarn, paint, clay, metal, in song and story to our attention through their work, through the raw materials they shape into art objects and the through the undeniable passion they carry to their work. In this way the work is accorded profound meaning for the societies out of which it is generated an aesthetic value which is transcendent.

“What matters is passion and the devotion” and also “sincerity and fullness of being”. Without this, for Glassie, no art work can claim authenticity. The film itself stands as a realisation of this sincerity and fullness of being. Over the last 50 years the celebrated American Folklorist Henry Glassie has been writing in-depth studies of communities and their art.  Inspired by the writings and ideas of Glassie – ‘Field Work’ is an immersive and meditative documentary set among the rituals and rhythms of working artists across Brazil, Turkey, North Carolina and Ireland.  The process of making something out of raw materials is luminously manifested in sequences which reflect in their measured and attentive approach the actual real time process of making, of the work of hands and of the close attention the artist is bringing to the work.

HENRY GLASSIE: FIELD WORK will open at Irish cinemas in early 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — Fergal Casey @ 7:07 pm

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November 22, 2020

Miscellaneous Movie Musings: Part XXXVII

As the title suggests, so forth.

The late Spielberg and the late Hitchcock

Having recently, finally, watched The Post, just because it was on prime-time Film4 twice inside a week, I regard my scepticism towards it as having been fully justified. A movie about the wrong newspaper and the wrong heroic actors who were all not breaking a huge story, and featuring an intolerably annoying lead performance even for Meryl Streep, it’s only value was it that it set me to thinking about the late Hitchcock and the late Spielberg. It is no secret that Spielberg found it so hard to get financing for his ponderous Lincoln that it looked like it might end up like Steven Soderbergh’s Behind the Candelabra – a cable TV movie in America, given a small art-house release in Europe. Such an outcome would have been a shocking fall from grace from a man who made his name being a crowd-pleaser par excellence.  But the truth is that Spielberg has entered a phase of decline in that regard. Since nuking the fridge in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull Spielberg has struggled to find an audience. His 2010s output (The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, War Horse, LincolnBridge of Spies, The BFG, The Post, Ready Player One) has been prolific, but desperately uneven when it comes to connecting with an intended blockbuster audience, and the more niche trilogy of Constitutional Amendment films plagued by dull writing. The technical mastery is still there, but, like the late Hitchcock (Marnie, Torn Curtain, Topaz, Frenzy, Family Plot), it is in service of poor to middling scripts – so that outre camera moves stand out more and more than they would have in previous decades where the entire films were good, not just certain sequences or conceits standing out like oases in a desert. The fact that Spielberg’s next film is an unnecessary remake of West Side Story worked over by his Munich and Lincoln writer Tony Kusher does not inspire confidence that Spielberg can pull out of this slump, and that’s before you realise the star is … Ansel Elgort.

Yippee Ki Yay Memoriser!

A Die Hard Christmas jumper having just arrived in the mail I found myself wondering the other day whatever happened to its director John McTiernan. Lawsuits. Indictments. Jail. His Wyoming ranch being liquidated. And not a film made since 2003’s Basic. In fact, it’s kind of remarkable that McTiernan only made 11 films in his 18 active years, (allegedly he is making sci-fi blockbuster Tau Ceti Four with Uma Thurman, but I will believe that when I see it), but those films include both impeccable classics and unwatchable disasters. How can someone capable of Predator, Die Hard, The Hunt for Red October and Die Hard with a Vengeance have ended up battling studio incompetence and his own poor choices to have come away carrying the bag for Last Action Hero, The 13th Warrior, Rollerball and Basic? McTiernan has given some extensive and revealing interviews explaining how things went sideways so often, and he seems to have had a lot of bad luck. But one thing he said leapt out: while studying at the AFI a crazed teacher insisted on him memorising movies – shot for shot. On the grounds that a concert pianist would commit piano concertos to memory, and when asked to improvise a cadenza would have those to draw on, so a film director should have a set of classics in his cerebellum to creatively rework when needed. And so McTiernan said he had memorised every shot in A Clockwork Orange, among others. Which leads to one to think about his films in terms of such classicism. I can easily believe that it is possible to memorise every shot in Die Hard, with especial relish for the many delightful focus-pulls, but Rollerball?… Can the decline of McTiernan’s artistic clout in the editing room be directly seen in the betrayal of the principle of memorable shots rather than hyper-cut gibberish?

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