Talking Movies

September 15, 2021

Any Other Business: Part LXX

As the title suggests, so forth.

The Dolt Who Shouts Bravo

Before the pandemic ruined everything I taped a performance of Debussy’s La Mer from the Proms at the Royal Albert Hall. And at the end, before the orchestra had had a chance to relax, before the music had had a chance to die away, and before the audience had had a chance to register its deep appreciation, some idiot bellowed BRA-VO! This really got my goat at the time. And it got Petroc Trelawny’s goat a few weeks ago when the dolt who shouts bravo appeared again at the Proms. I could have done without that BRA-VO!, muttered the good Trelawny, as, once again, the last notes of music were not given a chance to settle and fade away before this jack in a box was out of his seat shouting BRA-VO! I’ve been trying to parse what it is that so irks me about this fool, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it is because his shout has nothing to do with the orchestra and everything to do with him. Sitting in a mass of people he cannot bear the thought of being lost in the thunder of group applause, he must assert his individuality by gazumping the audience, the music, and common decency by shouting before the time is right. He would no doubt dispute this, saying that he is so moved by the music that he simply must jump up and register his individual approval before everybody else in a packed Royal Albert Hall. I would dispute this disputation as bosh.

To be a party man is to be morally compromised

Fine Gael are currently spitting blood at why the Zappone saga just will not end. The answer is simple, but eludes them because it is so very simple. The saga will not end until someone has been punished for wrongdoing. But that would be to admit that there was wrongdoing, and that would be to admit that someone in Fine Gael has done wrong, which is not possible because then they would not be a member of Fine Gael but of another political party. And so on runs the logic of each party’s think-in at this time of year. To be a party man is to be morally compromised. I never engaged with being a football fan because I found exactly this kind of blind loyalty disgusting. A player from a rival team barely brushes one of your players, and there are cries of REF SEND HIM OFF! A player from your team breaks the leg of a rival player, and there are mutters of No, that was a fair tackle, shouldn’t be a red card, nothing deliberate in it, I didn’t see any foul. If you are not affiliated with either side you look at this carry-on and see utter brazen mind-blowing hypocrisy. And that is what drives ordinary people mad about politics: the endless defence of the indefensible. The unquestioning acceptance of orders from the party that black is white on Monday and black is black on Friday if that’s what the party thinks is now needed to gain or retain power. In its own way it’s not just a question of being morally compromised, it’s a return to a pre-Socratic way of thinking. I owe generosity and decency to my clique, to everyone else the devil take the hindmost. It is somewhat depressing to have arrived at this present moment in history and find the party political system has reversed the axial moment in history. Coveney is bleating about the perception of lobbying and the perception he lied, because she lobbied and he lied. Simon Harris is leaking like a sieve, as is Catherine Martin, but they are in the ha’penny place to Leo the Leak, who has now been caught out three times during the pandemic doing things that he or his flunkies have told everyone else not to do. One feels Harold Macmillan would have fired Coveney, Varadkar, Harris and C Martin by now, but Michael Martin apparently feels unable to do so because it would spark an election. Well, given that Varadkar scraped in on the 5th count in the last election that’s something of a suicide pact, so have at it. If someone isn’t fired for this,  this scandal won’t leave the newscycle.

August 31, 2021

Goodbye to all that

Filed under: Uncategorized — Fergal Casey @ 10:50 pm
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It has been five months since the Sunday Breakfast Show with Patrick Doyle bowed out after a three year run on Dublin City FM.

I was involved for most of the run as on-air film critic and behind the scenes as contributing writer, cameraman for promo shoots, and on delirious occasion producer.

As with so much else the show changed irrevocably with the coming of the coronavirus, but I think it rose to the technical challenge with some elan.

I shall miss it

August 21, 2021

Miscellaneous Movie Musings: Part XLI

Filed under: Talking Movies — Fergal Casey @ 2:14 pm
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See Tom Run

I recently finally read Werner Herzog: A Guide for the Perplexed, and have thought of a short film I would love to see the great man make – ‘See Tom Run’. In which Herr Herzog assembles a super-cut from the last four decades of cinematic footage of his former co-star Tom Cruise, running. And running. And running. And running. At times Werner would let the footage play out in silence. And at other times he would let it run, pun intended, with whatever music Werner might feel appropriate to the rapid movement of the Cruise. (It is impossible to guess what music he would guess: Mongolian throat warbling? Russian Orthodox bells? Peruvian folk accappella? Messiaen’s Turangalila Symphony?) And holding together all this running and jumping he would tell us in his Bavarian-inflected narration what he thinks the meaning of all this running is. Why does Tom run? Does who Tom is meant to be change how he runs? Why does he run more as an old man than as a young man? What is he running from? What is he running towards? As runs Cruise so runs American history? These are questions that need to be asked. Maybe.

Knowing what you need, knowing what you can do without

The Italian Job was on ITV 4 last weekend, so of course I watched it. Yet again. This time round I was struck by how Quincy Jones emulates Bernard Herrmann in his scoring, not musically, but by his supreme confidence in stepping aside. Just as Herrmann was content to remain silent for minutes of North by Northwest at a time, Jones opts not to score great chunks of The Italian Job. Safe in the knowledge that not only does he have his Matt Monro-warbled ‘Days Like These’ to play with orchestrally for much of the film, but, biding his time bar a brief preview in the installation of the doctored computer tape, he is audiciously keeping in reserve one of the great film themes for the last minutes – ‘The Self-preservation Society’.

*On a sidenote does Matt Monro singing theme song after theme song for films in the 1960s in a way prefigure the synergy of the music video of a film song acting as a quasi-commercial in the 1980s and 1990s?

(more…)

July 11, 2021

Any Other Business: Part LXIX

Filed under: Talking Politics — Fergal Casey @ 4:37 pm

As the title suggests, so forth.

The Purity of the Turf Revisited

There was an unfortunate coincidence the other week of happenings in the Tour de France and the European Championships. Kylian Mbappe was running at speed towards defenders and the commentator bellowed about how they were backing off because they were so afraid of him. Well, yeah, because he was near the edge of the penalty box and if they touched him he would fall down. Indeed if they didn’t touch him but merely invaded his personal space he would probably also fall down. Because, despite his great speed and skill, Mbappe would always rather fall down theatrically and seek a penalty or a free kick than ride a bad tackle for the sake of glory as Maradona did in the 1986 World Cup for his spectacular goal against England. But this is somehow now normal in soccer. When Jurgen Klinsmann joined Spurs in the mid-90s the parodic diving goal celebration was appreciated because it was understood that diving was wrong and he was repentant. Now diving is par for the course. Gamesmanship. Clever play. There are any number of euphemisms to cover such disgusting cowardly craven cheating. But on the same day Mbappe was being praised there had been a number of crashes in Le Tour. Geraint Thomas, after one, with an audible pop, had his dislocated shoulder put back in place, and then got back on his bike to continue the race. He is still continuing in the race. I’ve complained before about the decline of soccer as both spectator sport and character building exercise due to the incessant cheating and the tactical negativity (raised to an art form by the Italians). It is not hard to imagine a time-travelling Spartan on his way to compete at Olympia passing Geraint Thomas: “What was that pop?” “Dislocated my shoulder. Put it back in.” “Respect”. Can you imagine that same Spartan having anything other than utter contempt for the parade of dissemblers at the Euros? Bafflingly two Atlantic writers have been praising the England team. Because they make all the right gestures for all the right political causes. And this apparently makes it okay to completely overlook these footballers’ actual conduct as footballers. England might well win tonight, but it will have an asterisk after it, just like France’s disgraceful triumph in 2018. The conduct of their fans, booing the Danish national anthem, defended by Gary Neville, and shining laser pointers at the Danish goalkeeper before a penalty kick, was equalled only by the conduct of their players, diving to get an unwarranted penalty, and thereafter retreating into corners with the ball like they were small children going nah-nah-nah-nah-nah. I don’t know how such behaviour is a spectator sport. I don’t know how such behaviour is morally improving. And I certainly won’t be tuning in tonight to see a thrilling clash between such a cheating team and a team renowned for not playing, in an attitude of pure defensiveness that, if replicated, would see all matches everywhere end 0-0. The only way to win this curious game of petulant millionaires is not to play…

Intemperate language betrays inane logic

So, an incident at the RDS on Friday made me think about an unhinged conspiracy theory that rattled around Facebook back in 2013. Apparently the real reason that Pope Benedict XVI was resigning the Papacy was nothing to do with the rigours of the job and his advanced age. Oh no, it was to avoid being extradited *somewhere* to stand trial for covering up child abuse. Now, this didn’t seem all that logical. He would after all have to never leave the Vatican ever again by the logic of the argument. But he went to Castel Gandolfo a few months later. And no SWAT teams abseiled down from helicopters to crash thru the windows and arrest him for extradition. And they never have in all the years since. Because the argument was bollocks. And it was very obviously bollocks if you took the time to read the ‘article’ that was being breathlessly shared. The only problem was nobody did, because, in the manner of the scam outlined hilariously in the standout essay in Jessica Mitford’s Poison Penmanship, it played in to all their prejudices and fears about the world. I watched semi-aghast as numerous acquaintances after years of university education, who would regard themselves as educated and sophisticated, fell for gibberish, because they would also regard themselves as progressive, and this gave them a heaven-sent opportunity to vent Anti-Catholic bile in the name of justice. None of them ever posted anything retracting their venom when Benedict moseyed out of the Vatican, none of them ever gave any indication of feeling even a little bit sheepish about having fallen hook, line and sinker for total nonsense. Because none of them had stopped to wonder why the tone of the ‘article’ felt so wrong – breathless, abusive, poorly structured, poorly phrased, full of pseudo-legal claptrap. I couldn’t help but feel the same tonal incongruity the other day pouring forth endlessly, repetitively, and then see on Twitter and Facebook the faithful for whom it was meant lapping it up; all oblivious to the total insanity clear to anyone who would actually listen to it, think about it, and call it what it was – nonsense.

*As with a previous post on Legion I feel I ought clarify a drift from decorum; hopefully more people than not got the Blackadder Goes Forth reference and appreciated the tongue-in-cheek nature of using it amid a complaint about use of language.

June 30, 2021

Miscellaneous Movie Musings: Part XL

As the title suggests, so forth.

Tom Cruise is America, or something

I’d been thinking about this for a while, but was finally spurred into action by Megan Garber’s recent Atlantic piece on Top Gun as infomercial for nothing less than the US of A itself. She’s absolutely right. Top Gun exudes Reagan’s America even more purely than Stallone asking in Rambo: First Blood – Part II whether America gets to win Vietnam this time. (Yes, Rambo, of course.) But whither Reagan’s America now? And so to the once boyish now aged Cruiser… It occurred to me when recently watching it on TV that Cruise in Mission: Impossible – Fallout is almost a stand-in for America, maybe even Joe Biden, now. He knows that he is not physically on top of this, but his instincts remain true, and his resolve undimmed though tinged with desperation. The repeated insistence by Cruise that he will find a way, make it work, figure it out – I won’t let you down! almost seems to reflect the figure America currently cuts on the world stage. Hapless, diminished, but bloody determined to live up to its own heroic self-image.

Movie musicals are too long

I was thinking about why I haven’t loved so many of the great filmed Broadway musicals as much as I ‘should’, given that I love musicals onscreen and onstage, and then it hit me. They are too long. It could really be that simple. En masse. And they are too long because… they are too long. To be less simple. Finally watching South Pacific last year I got more out of it than most filmed Broadway musicals hitherto because I gave myself an interval. I paused the movie, made some tea, mooched about the place, reflected on what had happened so far and wondered where things might go next. As one does at an interval in a Broadway musical. I haven’t really tried this out to the extent that I can pronounce a definitive verdict on this theory, but I do think it explains why the likes of West Side Story and My Fair Lady never really seemed to connect with me the way shorter musicals like Kiss Me Kate and The Rocky Horror Picture Show did.

May 30, 2021

Any Other Business: Part LXVIII

Filed under: Talking Television — Fergal Casey @ 9:51 pm
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That was then, this is dumb

Watching Daria on a loop as it cycles from season 1 to 5 and back again at 6am on MTV weekday mornings over the past few months I’ve been struck by the inane ads for inane shows that air before, during, and after Daria. And come to the only conclusion possible. Daria was commissioned to give 90s MTV a smart female audience. And yet now the dumb jock and bimbo characters mocked in it, Kevin and Brittany, are not just the MTV target audience but the stock personalities of the ‘reality’ shows that MTV substituted for music a long time ago. Doesn’t it just suck when you become that which you once sought to satirise?

The decline of chance

We have all lost a year of chance occurrences. Perhaps a better way of thinking about it is that we have lived thru a year almost entirely devoid of serendipity. I have been preoccupied with the role of chance in our lives for quite some time. Think of how it works – that moment when, for no rational reason, you take the long way round instead of the shortcut, just to enjoy the scenery, and then you unexpectedly run into someone you had no earthly reason to expect would also be in the environs, let alone taking the long way too. Once you start thinking about the double coincidences you really start to bake your noodle like Neo wondering if the Oracle hadn’t said anything would he still have broken the vase. There are unseen lines of chance that take place in everyday life: a number of tiny decisions lead you to a certain place at a certain time, where you might run into someone who is also there because of a number of tiny decisions they made without even really thinking about them. Or you might not, because they did not. This is not fate, this is a roll of the dice; you need two sixes.

April 25, 2021

Miscellaneous Movie Musings: Part XXXIX

What a difference a director makes

So after many years of humming and hawing I finally got round to watching The American Friend, which was a revelation. Being bored senseless by Wings of Desire had put me off going near it, given that I had found the 2003 movie Ripley’s Game a trite bore and it was based on the same novel. Well, everything Bret Easton Ellis says about mood and atmosphere being everything in cinema is proved right with a vengeance in this instance of compare and contrast. John Malkovich may be more in line with Ripley the would be sophisticate, but Dennis Hopper is a better performance focusing on the sheer instability of Ripley’s own sense of self. And Wenders goes to town with Hitchcockian flourishes, the suspense of the train murder, the exaggerated camera movements as Bruno Ganz escapes his first crime in the Metro, the overpowering sinister score. And that’s before the amped up ambient sound design accompanying the extremely unflattering industrial landscapes of Hamburg; a stark contrast to the novel and the later film’s lush Southern European settings.

Spike Lee approves this Oscars

Steven Soderbergh may be in charge of the ceremony but the acting nominations (and arguably the directing nods as a ripple effect) are all the product of Spike Lee’s freakout five years ago. Except for the third godfather at the table: Harvey Weinstein. As has become customary under his baneful influence the Oscars are ostentatiously preoccupied with unpopular films this year. I’ve written about this before, but this year is an intriguing proposition. If the likes of the Guardian have been right in their pronouncements over the last five years then the fact that white actors have been shunted to the side so extravagantly this year should result in a ratings bonanza. Because the problem was ‘a lack of diversity’ making the Oscars ‘increasingly irrelevant’. If you think that the problem was that nobody in America had seen, or in all too many cases would ever want to see, the films nominated then the ratings tonight should be as low as last year or even lower owing to the fact that this year’s nominated movies are even more niche than usual. Intriguingly the Guardian seems to be hedging its bets by running a piece a few weeks ago about producers fretting that Americans would not watch the ceremony…

Filed under: Uncategorized — Fergal Casey @ 8:50 pm

Any Other Business: Part LXVII

A Rock and a Starless Place

It struck me early on that Castle Rock season 2 was considerably less star-powered than Castle Rock season 1. I was never sure why season 1 had been so garlanded with praise when, like so much prestige TV, it promised oodles more than it had any capability to deliver. Season 2 showcased some astonishing drone camerawork, but missed a priceless early opportunity for one of the funniest twists ever, and was more of a slog than its predecessor simply because it was so unlikely from previous experience to actually reach any payoff. Lizzy Caplan was damn good as the young Kathy Bates in season 2, but she was surrounded by a lackof famous faces compared to the cult heroes everywhere in season 1. Which poses the question, allied with the cancellation of the show for poor ratings, have both actors and audiences grown wary and weary of the Bad Robot approach to storytelling? Viz. there is no story but you must wait to the end to discover it was all incident without purpose.

The Greatest Theme Tune You’ve Never Heard

As Hans Zimmer unveiled his mobile phone ringtone for your consideration just as I came to the end of Sky Arts’ re-run of CNN’s documentary series The Eighties it occurred to me that Blake Neely’s rousing theme tune for that series (and indeed its predecessors and successors) would be a great ringtone. Nobody else would recognise it, but it would be a great ringtone. It might not be that effective though because in my conception, the whole theme would play the longer you let the phone ring, rather than simply an excerpt repeating itself. And so frustrated friends would yell at me as I rang them back, “Did you just let it ring out to hear that damn theme tune in full – again?!”

March 13, 2021

A Journal of the Plague Year

It’s hard to believe it’s been a full year since things got serious and a Friday the 13th appropriately marked the beginning of paranoia, restrictions, and hygiene theatre.

The End now appears to be in sight. Perhaps. I’m in no mood to get Churchillian playing about with this rhetorically. But even if we vaccinate everyone and stamp out all variants and finally declare the virus dead, will things ever go back to the way they were? Will certain habits persist? And will certain activities just never return? After all if one gives credence to the 21/90 rule then we have all very much habituated ourselves to the new behaviours foisted upon us by the coronavirus. Which means it will take quite a conscious effort to break those habits and return to the way we were. And an all new consideration of risk and reward will impinge on our consciousness during those moments of decision.

  • Will we really want to go back to the cinema? Yes, there is the big screen. But sitting with a crowd of strangers in a dark confined space will unnerve us now, rather than simply annoy us as in the past when people talked obnoxiously and lit up the place with their phones, because no film is worth getting the coronavirus for just to have seen it on a big screen. And even if that risk is miniscule it will be still play a subconscious role in our decision-making, along with the obvious comforts a year of Netflix has hammered home – you can riff on the film with your friends and family in the comfort of your own home, you can rewind it when you miss something, you can pause it, and you can eat inexpensive snacks and not overpriced popcorn. You can even stop watching The Devil All the Time and watch an episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine to restore your flagging energy.
  • Will we really want to go back to the theatre? I have a certain nostalgia for the buzz of the interval, drinking tea hastily with a club milk biscuit and speculating where the action is going to go in the next act, and from watching several filmed theatre shows I know that being in the presence of live performance adds a je ne sais quoi of ephemeral magic that cannot be captured on film. And yet I can’t say I have been desperately missing theatre during this year. My theatre-going had already been in steep decline as I had found less and less shows of interest. The high price was already complicating the risk/reward ratio, as spending the guts of 40e on something like the Gate’s Look Back in Anger travesty leaves far more of a bitter taste than wasting 10e on a bad movie.  If the risk/reward calculation involves a crowd of strangers and coronavirus, well, I can continue to not theatre-go.
  • Will we really want to go back to the concert hall? Now, this does not concern rock concerts. Something which I gave up on for good after suffering thru the distracted audience at St Vincent’s Iveagh Gardens gig in 2015. I have previously fretted hereabouts regarding the future of the National Concert Hall and the potential nature of its altered programming in trying to operate under various levels of lockdown restrictions. But after a year of listening to classical music on BBC Radio 3, YouTube, Spotify, and CD, I now think that an equal problem might be my own 21/90 inertia. I have in the past fallen completely out of the habit of going to concerts because of life crises. And it took years to return to the habit. Will that prove to be the case for many other people who have simply found a different way to listen to the music they love?
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