Talking Movies

May 30, 2021

Any Other Business: Part LXVIII

Filed under: Talking Television — Fergal Casey @ 9:51 pm

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 Britney, 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

Filed under: Talking Movies — Fergal Casey @ 9:16 pm

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

Filed under: Talking Television — Fergal Casey @ 2:31 pm

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.

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?

February 28, 2021

Any Other Business: Part LXVI

As the title suggests, so forth.

The Sound of 2001…

I recently rediscovered a cassette tape from the 2004/5 academic year, and what a nostalgic blast it was listening to it. But along with the expected Morrissey, Killers, Franz Ferdinand, U2, Auf Der Maur, and Gwen Stefani tracks there was also a clutch of Smiths songs and Simon & Garfunkel. Because discovering those albums were equally a part of my experience musically speaking of that year. Which led me to thinking about 2001, and how my musical memories of that year are largely the latter kind of listening: the Pixies B-Sides being released was really the only ‘new’ music that connected. The rest was finally listening to Bowie’s Scary Monsters and U2’s Rattle and Hum, rediscovering Talking Heads’ Stop Making Sense, David Byrne’s Uh-Oh and the Doors’ first album. Because… in a world of Limp Bizkit were rollin’ rollin’ rollin’, where the White Stripes and the Strokes were being feted for doing not very much at all, it has to be said that 2001 was a pretty bad year for music. As it was, as has been noted previously hereabouts, also a pretty bad year for film. 2001 – what the hell was that all about? Some sort of psychic collapse or exhaustion from the anticipation of the new millennium?

St Vincent: Fear the Producer

Only three months to go until St Vincent releases a new album! And yet I am not doing the dance of joy, because I fear that bad production may have mangled outstanding songs. Listening to Masseduction and MassEducation in the last few days, along with a YouTube performance of ‘Savior’ and my DVR recordings of her appearances on Later…with Jools Holland with piano and band for ‘Los Ageless’ ‘New York’, ‘Masseduction’, and ‘Slow Fast Disco’, it has become apparent to me that the finest version of all of these twice-recorded tracks are actually the live ones. Annie Clark had produced Masseduction alongside Jack Antonoff, and MassEducation alongside pianist Thomas Bartlett, so I am at a loss to what exactly went on that allowed drama and emotion to be swamped. But I still remember the dismay and shock I had when, after her appearance on Later… in late 2017 I heard ‘Los Ageless’ on the car radio, and didn’t recognise it till I made out familiar words in the chorus.

January 31, 2021

Hopes: 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — Fergal Casey @ 5:44 pm

The French Dispatch

Wes A writes solo

50s expats en Francais

Whimsical New Wave?

Bergman Island

Mia Hansen-Love

mixes art and Scandi-life

Her English debut

Fast & Furious 9

Hmmm, no Rock, no State

Theron is back, Cena new

Can this hit the mark?

Top Gun: Maverick

Tom Cruise feels the need

The need for speed, and danger

Who needs damn stuntmen?

Last Night in Soho

Edgar Wright does horror

But it’s also time travel

Which means Mrs Peel!!

Free Guy

Ryan Reynolds is…

An NPC in a game?!

Pikachu 2 much?

A Quiet Place 2

Clap your hands, say yeah!

Wait, don’t do that – certain death

Silent excitement

The King’s Man

Where it all began

Ralph Fiennes is M, his own alpha

World War Silliness

Death on the Nile

H. Poirot returns

But will the plot stay bloody?

Watch this moustache

Ghostbusters: Afterlife

Save us, Reitman’s son

You’re our only hope. Well, plus

Egon’s grandchildren.

Purge 5: Final Night

We saw things kick off

Now we’ll see how it melts down

Go Cady Longmire!

C’mon C’mon

Mike Mills rides again!

(Not the muso) We know nawt,

Save Joaquin P stars

Loveland

Ivan Sen sci-fi

Hugo Weaving back in fold

MegaCity, not Outback

Fears: 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — Fergal Casey @ 5:39 pm

Godzilla v Kong

Wingard blockbuster!

But will he get lost in fog?

Does shroud Godzilla…

Black Widow

She’s already dead!

Talk about your bad timing

A badly missed chance

The One and Only Ivan

Mike White writes for kids?!

Sam Rockwell: gorilla voice

This could be damned odd

No Time to Die

“Bond’s too old” – AGAIN??!!!

Rami Malek has a mask

Does script have a clue?

Chaos Walking

Doug Liman’s folly

Is it unreleasable?

Daisy Ridley ‘stars’

The Many Saints of Newark

Sopranos Begins

But so long since that hard black

Does anyone care?

Morbius

Jared Leto’s back

As comics supervillain

They can’t cut the lead!

Coming 2 America

Now a twice told tale?

After 32 long years

Who wanted sequel?

West Side Story

Spielberg musical!

Of Bay’s fave, but why did Steve

cast Ansel Elgort?

In the Heights

It’s Hamilton man!

But not doing Hamilton

Odd, eye on China?

Dune

Its Achilles Heel?

Lead Timothee Chalamet…

Not a patch on Kyle!

January 22, 2021

Top 10 Films of 2020

10) Vampires vs the Bronx

The Lost Boys meets Attack the Block? Sorta… This was a deliriously entertaining and knowing slice of genre nonsense as teenage heroes realise the gentrifying property company forcing them out is actually run by vampires.

9) Yes, God, Yes

Karen Maine’s directorial debut was uncomfortable but rewarding as Natalia Dyer’s innocent teenager gets victimised by scandalous gossip, and is sent to a religious retreat as punishment, but learns more there than was planned

8) Possessor

Brandon Cronenberg’s second film, after an eight year wait, proved he is quite good at the family business of body horror as an assassin hijacking a mark’s mind finds herself in a fight for survival as the mark and her meld eerily

7) The Boys in the Band

Matt Crowley’s 1968 play gets a second big screen adaptation, with Jim Parsons and Zachary Quinto heading the cast that gathers for a dinner party exposing the complications sinister and farcical of pre-Stonewall gay life.

6) Une Fille Facile

Rebecca Zlotowski makes the best Eric Rohmer film since he died in 2010. Mina Farid is the Cannes teenager at a crossroads who follows her glamorous cousin into high society, but like Pauline a la Plage learns too much.

5) An American Pickle

The dream team of writer Simon Rich and Seth Rogen (flexing his acting muscles) combined for a surprisingly more serious take on the absurdist comic novella Sell Out. Yes, Rogen was hysterically funny as Herschel the pickled immigrant, but he also conveyed the quiet desperation of Ben, leading to an unexpected affirmation of faith and family.

4) Wasp Network

Director Olivier Assayas made a sharp turn from last year’s French romantic comedy Non-Fiction with this multilingual sun-kissed thriller set in 1990s Havana and Miami following the exiles, spies, defectors, and double-agents playing merry hell with Castro’s regime, the CIA, and all points in between. Audaciously structured, this was always absorbing and frequently tense.

3) Spenser Confidential

Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg combined again for a thriller loosely based on the classic Robert B Parker PI creation. ‘Loosely’: because this took place in the sort of chaotic Boston milieu familiar from The Fighter, and seemed every bit as interested in setting up absurdist comedy riffs as it was in actually solving the mystery.

2) Tenet

In a normal year this film would’ve charted lower… The Protagonist’s quest to find pieces of an infernal machine dismantled in the future had a very enjoyable puzzle piece intricacy which will repay multiple viewings, but the Debicki/Branagh emotional motor did not hum, making me question whether this should’ve been a Memento noir rather than a plane-crashing blockbuster.

Cr. NIKO TAVERNISE/NETFLIX

1) The Trial of the Chicago 7

I had the odd complaint about Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut Molly’s Game that it wasn’t Sorkin enough. No such concerns with this courtroom drama, this is a tour-de-force of Sorkin dialogue, once intended for Spielberg to direct. Every speaking part seems to have a zinger at some point, and the political import of 1968 to 2020 leaps off the screen without any need for the occasional anachronism. I watched this twice within a week with no loss of relish for the flashback structure, the fantastic ensemble, and the trademark Sorkin sincerity.

Top Performances of 2020

Filed under: Talking Movies — Fergal Casey @ 4:02 pm

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