1970s legend William Friedkin teams up with controversial Tony-winning playwright Tracey Letts for a disturbing slice of what might be usefully dubbed Kentucky Fried Noir.
Small-time drug dealer Chris (Emile Hirsch) is in debt after his estranged mother plunders his cocaine stash. He suggests to his father Anselm (Thomas Haden Church) that they murder her for the insurance money which will be paid to Chris’ sister Dottie (Juno Temple), a plan supported by his father’s new wife Sharla (Gina Gershon). Bent Dallas cop Killer Joe (Matthew McConaughey) doubles as a hit-man, but with no money for a deposit he agrees to an unusual retainer – Dottie. But as Joe and Dottie grow close the murderous insurance scam unravels nastily and unpredictably…
It’s no exaggeration to dub this McConaughey’s Drive. From the exaggerated sound of his clicking lighter (not unlike Ryan Goslin’s creaking driving gloves), to his toothpick, to his insistence on rules and calm demeanour while making and executing threats of extreme violence, to his growing attachment to a girl softening his cold exterior, to the superhero outfit (here a fetishised hat, gun and badge), Joe has eerie similarities to Driver and McConaughey gives a revelatory performance. Friedkin may borrow from Refn’s bag of tricks but this is not equally virtuoso film-making. If you’ve read Easy Riders, Raging Bulls you won’t lament Friedkin’s precipitous decline after The French Connection and The Exorcist. His episodes of CSI: LV have probably been viewed by more people than most of his movies since 1973, with the possible exception of the tedious Rules of Engagement.
Killer Joe is all over the shop tonally. There is a piece of visual comedy involving a suit which is hilarious, which, like Joe replying “I like Digger” to the question why he doesn’t arrest the gangster Digger, and Chris being beaten up by Digger’s goons who then inform him “He really likes you”, belongs in another film. You don’t care for a second what happens to Hirsch which makes you realise how Joe’s query of Anselm; “Were you aware of this?” “I’m never aware”; exemplifies the unnerving stupidity of the characters. Friedkin also does for unnecessary female nudity here what he did for unnecessary male nudity in To Live and Die in LA. Temple bares all several times for no very clear reason, and Gershon flashes repeatedly, but the fact that Dottie is clearly not the full shilling makes a scene where Joe makes her strip naked incredibly disturbing. And that’s before we get to the unbelievable use of a “K fry C” chicken wing as part of the intensely theatrical climax in which persistent interrogation cuts thru lies – a bravura sequence that almost redeems previous queasy scenes.
This is a tough watch, and it’s debatable whether it’s really worth the struggle, but McConaughey’s performance erases all his disastrous rom-coms. He’s that good.
June 27, 2012
1970s legend William Friedkin teams up with controversial Tony-winning playwright Tracey Letts for a disturbing slice of what might be usefully dubbed Kentucky Fried Noir.
The animated misfits Manny the mammoth (Ray Romano), Diego the sabre-toothed tiger (Denis Leary), and Sid the sloth (John Leguizamo) find themselves cast adrift on the open seas battling pirates.
Scrat the sabre-toothed squirrel, still engaged in a monomaniacal hunt for acorns, provides the plot of the film by accidentally causing continental drift by mucking about with earth’s core. He falls into the earth’s core by way of elevator muzak playing over a geological chart, a sublimely stupid sight gag. Scrat is a character as deliriously wonderful in his eternal recurrence as Roadrunner and Wily Coyote, but sadly he can’t carry a whole film. And so we have the main plot wherein Manny’s protective parenting leads to a falling out with his daughter Peaches, who says horrible things to him just before the continents breaking apart separates Manny from his family. Manny swears to return but he, Diego and Sid float out to sea on a sort of iceberg where they fall foul of the vicious monkey pirate Captain Gut.
Peter Dinklage voices Gut with some panache, and leads a musical number explaining his pirate life which is quite fun, but overall the laughs don’t come as frequently in this movie as you’d like. All the scenes involving Peaches, Lewis, and the too cool for school mammoths she desperately wants to befriend are quite irritating to watch as the by the numbers script is every bit as computer generated as the animation bringing it to life. It’s hard to know which is more excruciating, the dialogue or the vocal stylings of the cast playing these teen characters. The message it hammers home is incredibly unsubtle even by CGI animation standards and might as well have ‘character arc’ and ‘life lesson’ flashing up on screen. Against this is surprisingly effective voice casting like Jennifer Lopez as Gut’s loyal sabre-toothed tiger Sheera.
Ice Age 4 is a curious beast. Sid summarises Ice Age 3 for his long-lost grandmother with the words, “We fought dinosaurs in the Ice Age. It didn’t make any sense but it was sure exciting,” and Nick Frost has a lot of fun as Flint the idiotic pirate seal, playing a major part in delivering some fantastic wordplays which are the smartest jokes in the movie. Against this sophistication there’s the quite tasteless depiction of Sid’s grandmother who is effectively suffering from Alzheimer’s but is considered therefore to be a goldmine for comedy. If you think Diego’s retort to her search for Precious, “No I have not seen your imaginary or deceased pet,” is funny then you won’t have a problem with this characterisation by Wanda Sykes. The emphasis on teenage problems is also baffling for a kid’s film.
Ice Age 4 has odd touches but it’s far more likeable than its accompanying Maggie Simpson short, written by a farcically large writing team.
June 20, 2012
Wanted director Timur Bekmambetov returns to the fray with Tim Burton producing an adaptation of his Dark Shadows cohort Seth Grahame-Smith’s best-selling novel.
In 1818 the 9 year old Abraham Lincoln tries to stop the whipping of his friend Will Johnson as Will’s family is sundered by slavers led by the evil Jack Barts (LOTR actor Marton Csokas), incurring the wrath of Barts who kills Abe’s mother Nancy. The adult Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) attacks Barts only to discover, in a neat long-take, that shooting him in the head isn’t enough… Lincoln is instructed in the art of slaying by Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper), and in 1837 is dispatched to Springfield, Illinois, to rid the city of vampires. He is distracted from his vengeance by meeting Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), and, when Will (Anthony Mackie) returns, Lincoln and his employer Joshua Speed (Jimmi Simpson) enter politics to defeat slavery and the Southern vampires, led by Rufus Sewell’s Adam, who depend upon its continuation.
Far from the gleeful nonsense you’d expect, this film takes itself very, very seriously. The vampires are CGI enhanced ‘fangs like sharks’ monsters (think Supernatural) and played for horror as they walk in sunlight and can become invisible. Lincoln narrates that Henry has a few weeks to teach him a lifetime of skills. The same could be said of the jump-cutting script: Sturgess trains Lincoln in a Batman Begins vein before either character has been properly established. This film amazingly is both dragged out (its 105 minutes feel like 135) and rushed – at the same time. It lashes thru training, slaying, politics, and civil war, with infuriating gaps in detail, empathy and logic. Speed seems to know Abe’s secret before he’s told, Sturgess’ secret is obvious from the opening scene, Barts is seemingly killed, and Harriet Tubman appears but nobody mentions it…
There are precious few gags, and only the broadest one works: “We’ll be late for the theatre.” Alan Tudyk is tragically underused as Senator Stephen Douglas, Lincoln’s bête noire, here a romantic rival who becomes a political opponent, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead has her customary ‘MEW kicks ass’ moment, but the set-piece finale on a train exemplifies the film; just a bit stupid rather than OTT fun. Sewell enjoys himself and model Erin Wasson is a striking presence as his sister Vadoma but, like Walker (and indeed everyone bar Cooper who has the most interesting role), they have acres of screen-time and nothing interesting to do. Having read Adam Gopnik’s book which highlights the comic absurdity of Lincoln condemning the Southern code of vengeance and then duelling for Mary’s honour I have to say the real Lincoln is infinitely more complex, compelling, and yes, entertaining a character.
This film takes the most enjoyably absurd high concept imaginable, but instead of being delirious mayhem somehow ends up being just dull.
Rough Magic bring Tom Stoppard’s 1975 play Travesties to the Pavilion Theatre to mark Bloomsday but Joyce is a minor character in a play too clever for its own good…
1975 finds aged British civil servant Henry Carr (Will Irvine) unreliably reminiscing about his time in the British consulate in Zurich in WWI. Carr really did act in a production of The Importance of Being Earnest staged by James Joyce (Ronan Leahy), and they really did get into an absurd lawsuit over a pair of trousers used in the show, but everything else Carr remembers … unreliably. Yes, Lenin (Peter Daly) and Tristan Tzara (Ciaran O’Brien) were in Zurich at the same time promoting Communism and Dadaism respectively. No, they weren’t intimate acquaintances of Carr, and they certainly weren’t all playing parts in a real life Earnest type romantic comedy of mistaken and assumed identities as everyone attempted to woo Joyce’s helper Gwendolyn (Camille Ross) and Lenin’s acolyte Cecily (Jody O’Neill). Carr remembers all this in a series of deliriously repeated scenes as his shellshock and a cuckoo clock restart the action to be ‘accurate’. It’s unnerving to sit thru a comedy where people aren’t laughing, but a delightful wordplay on Bosh and Bosch was just one of many of Stoppard’s hyper-literate gags, most involving Ulysses and Earnest, which proved too smart for the room.
The over-emphasis on Joyce in this show’s promotion probably accounts for the air of bemusement that greeted Carr’s dominating presence throughout as Joyce made only comedic cameos. Leahy milked comedy from his role but his accent roved mightily, and unsatisfactorily when it rendered the Clongowes and UCD old boy as a Roddy Doyle character. Irvine was on fine dramatic as well as comedic form, making Carr’s sudden surges of panic about being back on the Western front as important as his foppish obsession with his many stylish trousers that were ruined in the trenches. Jody O’Neill was equally impressive with magnificently clipped delivery as Cecily and superb timing in a scene where Bennett the butler (Philip Judge) beats time in the act of serving tea to Cecily and Gwendolyn as they fight in song lyrics. That scene occurs in the second act which houses all the play’s funniest scenes including Joyce quizzing Tzara over Dadaism in the style of the ‘Ithaca’ chapter of Ulysses and giving an impassioned speech on creating Ulysses.
Poor old Tzara also gets it in the neck from Carr with a devastating speech that makes a hilarious analogy with redefining the meaning of ‘flying’ to condemn modern art as shifting the goalposts of art to allow talentless people pass themselves off as artists. Art’s purpose is the main theme of a play constructed from other works and daffy showboating like dialogue in limericks. Tzara wants to make art random and democratic, Joyce regards the artist as having a sacred duty to speak truth, and Lenin the revolutionary privately likes his art conservative in form but publicly insists it be engaged in social critique. The momentum killing excessive quotation from Lenin in order to skewer his intellectual dishonesty by his own words seems a very 1970s brush-off to Soviet fellow travellers who attacked Stoppard for lack of political commitment, but Daly generates enormous melancholy from Lenin discovering that his beloved Pushkin, as a ‘bourgeois individualist’, has been supplanted by a futurist poet in curricula. Director Lynne Parker designed the set’s pitched platform which in representing Carr’s home and the Zurich library creates an appropriately surreal atmosphere in which she draws the best from her actors.
Stoppard’s plays always dazzle with their bravura mix of wit and learning but this is a solid production of a script that, unlike Arcadia, engages only the head, not the heart.
Travesties continues its run in the Pavilion Theatre until June 23rd.
June 14, 2012
Buried director Rodrigo Cortes is in more expansive form with this supernatural thriller in which a quest to debunk a fake psychic leads to unnerving discoveries.
Cillian Murphy stars as Tom Buckley, a physicist working as an assistant to Sigourney Weaver’s medium-busting professor Margaret Matheson in Columbus, Ohio. Armed with an array of scientific measuring equipment and a healthy scepticism about the supernatural they expose fake haunting and teach a college course on parapsychology. The loving bond between Buckley and Matheson, which sees him almost standing in for her comatose son, is the best thing about this film and once the film focuses on Buckley ignoring her advice and going out on his own it loses a good deal of its humanity. The object of Buckley’s solo run is the world’s most famous psychic Simon Silver (Robert De Niro), returning to the fray after 30 years in retirement following the death of his greatest doubter at a performance. Buckley becomes consumed with refuting Silver’s apparently real powers.
Red Lights regrettably takes its place alongside Prometheus in what appears to be a regular parade of films all taking a bite at the poisoned apple of the relationship between faith and science. A poisoned apple because these films bring clichés and handwringing to the party and dump them there undeveloped and then expect a round of applause for tackling the topic. Buckley and Matheson represent empirical logic and cold disbelief, Silver and Matheson’s department rival Dr. Shackleton (Toby Jones) represent the uncanny and the will to believe, while Sally Owen (Elizabeth Olsen) is the student who, like Fox Mulder, wants to believe but falls in love with Buckley and so becomes his apprentice in the dark arts of detecting the hocus pocus of charlatan psychics. Olsen, so magnificent in Martha Marcy May Marlene, is tragically underused in this cipher role.
Cortes, shooting in Barcelona and Toronto, creates an impressively subdued winter atmosphere. The first confrontation between Buckley and Silver in which Buckley is scared out of his mind by Silver’s apparent telekinesis is very impressively staged, as are a number of very tense sequences of apparent menacing by Silver, while Murphy delivers the line “Ignore that, it’s just a dead bird” with wonderful aplomb as his character acclimatises to the uncanny hindering his debunking of Silver’s acing of Shackleton’s scientific tests of ESP abilities. Red Lights is a film with two intercut endings, one of which is delightful and clever, and one of which is truly terrible and inane. Cortes is a consummate actor’s director, and, unlike the immensely frustrating Buried, he also wrote this script but it fails when it prioritises paranormal pyrotechnics over compelling character development.
Red Lights is engaging for most of its running time, but it disintegrates utterly when it starts teeing up a revelatory conclusion even M Night Shyamalan would disavow.
The lyrics of a Metric song set me considering exactly what a movie needs to do so that you can’t leave early because you need to know how it ends.
I’ve only walked out of two films in the cinema, and both of those were because I had to be somewhere else urgently. Oddly enough, both of them were also films that were so out of whack with the three act structure that I didn’t feel I was going to miss a revelation by leaving early. Perhaps the devotion to the three act structure which I’ve rampaged against previously on this blog is down to that notion – that if you start with a beginning, move on to a middle, and finish with an ending, most of the audience will feel unable to leave before the end because they’ll have been sufficiently hooked by the narrative structure to need to follow it to its logical conclusion, even if they don’t like the film, indeed, especially if they don’t like the film.
I have given up on two acclaimed films after 100 or so minutes because of a complete lack of interest, despite their three act structure. The meme-monster Downfall I found to be tedious beyond repair because every 10 minutes seemed, like a variation on a musical theme, to bring a scene in which the paranoid Hitler ranted about whoever had ‘betrayed’ him this time “Of all the people who could have betrayed me at this moment in time, INSERT NAME would have been the last I would have expected.” The English Patient saw me switch off during the scene where Willem Dafoe had his thumbs cut off, as I realised that not only did I not care what happened to any of the characters, but that nothing that happened next could recompense me for the boredom of getting that far.
I’m not sure why I didn’t respond to these films, which some good friends adore, but the simple fact is that they failed to hook me. So, what is the hook? I think the hook of a movie might be usefully compared to the cold open of a TV show. An episode of CSI or Criminal Minds can often force me to watch it, almost against my will, by hooking my interest with a bizarre cold open – my mind shouts not to change channels because it wants to know how such an odd crime could have been committed and by whom. The great opening of a TV show is not that dissimilar to the first 10 pages of a movie script which is tasked with introducing a world, some likeable characters, and how that world is now going to change.
Of course the simplest way in a movie to hook the viewer is a trick still used quite often on TV shows of starting with an outrageously high-stakes or simply baffling scene, and then flashing ‘2 days previously’ as the episode builds to that conclusion. A trick inherited from the noir movies of the 1940s. Think 1948’s classic suspense The Big Clock which begins with Ray Milland on a window-ledge of his own building trying to evade capture and narrating the question the audience is asking, ‘How did I get here?’ Safe’s previously discussed opening flashbacks are a good deal more complicated than the usual noirish hook but it was still devoted to presenting an overly dramatic high-stakes scenario so that after some mucking about in time we mutter like a 1940s cinemagoer ‘Ah, this is where we came in’.
But if presenting a snippet of the ending at the beginning (almost an ironic anticipation of Godard’s dictum about a movie needing a beginning, a middle and an end, but not necessarily in that order) is the surest way to hook the audience to want to know the ending it must be admitted that some films are so disastrous that they can be enjoyed anyway you care to. I for instance have never seen the first or last hour of Pearl Harbour, but I have repeatedly laughed myself sick at the absurdist hour of CGI bombast in the middle where Tom Sizemore fires at attacking Japanese planes with a shotgun and someone sincerely yells “I think WWII just started”. Likewise I’ve long since reduced The Matrix Reloaded to a number of de-contextualised action sequences with no Frenchmen or Architects anywhere.
As the Prophet Chuck on Supernatural said “Endings are hard”, but hooking the audience so they care enough to want to know the awesome/atrocious ending is an equally dark art.
I’ll be writing more in the near future about director Francis Lawrence in his own right, but for now let me emit a whoop of delight and a howl of despair regarding the Hunger Games sequel Catching Fire.
I have a very high regard for Lawrence and am delighted that he’s been given the chance to direct the sequel as I think his flair for suspenseful action directing and deliberately measured pacing, and his aversion to pointless shaky-cam, are precisely what Gary Ross failed to bring to the table. Regrettably along with the announcement that Lawrence was taking the directing helm came the unwelcome rider that two of my least favourite screenwriters are charged with crash-writing an adaptation of the novel for him to start shooting in August. Ross’ screenplay with novelist Suzanne Collins and (the enigma that is) Billy Ray mirrored his shooting style of showily out of focus backgrounds and close-in focus on the faces of his actors. His film was infuriatingly lacking in scope. Some of this was inexperience in action directing, leading to an inability to locate action within a coherent geography, but some was due to frankly bizarre decisions to leave things unsaid which should have been bellowed. When rebellion was whispered about we had almost no knowledge of the history of the rebellion or the current state of Panem and the districts it domineers. And these aren’t additions that necessitated reshoots, they could have been added in ADR; just take Katniss’ send-off of Rue which incites a riot in District 11. If you haven’t read the book you can only guess at what actual meaning this obviously meaningful symbol has (ditto Katniss’ wearing of a Mockingjay); would it have killed Ross to have Wes Bentley ADR over a shot of his back in the control room a horrified “My God! She’s making the salute of the Rebellion!”?
All these problems could be fixed quickly in the opening of the second film, but that Simon Beaufoy and Michael Arndt are entrusted with the job. I’ve previously berated Beaufoy over his adaptation of Salmon Fishing in the Yemen which sent me scurrying to read the book, which he infuriatingly reversed in multiple respects. Novelist Paul Torday’s dry comedy and political satire was sacrificed at the altar of Beaufoy’s insistence on characters not getting what they want, but instead getting what (they didn’t know) they need; which delivered only clichéd rom-com relationship drama. Fred’s wife was hilariously self-involved in the novel, but largely absent in the film; a synecdoche of how the realism of the novel and its blackly comic conclusion were all completely reversed. Beaufoy’s reversals culminated in the introduction of a romantic obstacle in the third act which made me groan, and later enraged me when I realised that everything I hated most in the film as cliché was delightfully subverted in the novel. Beaufoy also ‘adapted’ Vikas Swarup’s brutal novel Q & A into the disingenuously feel-good Slumdog Millionaire so I despair at what he’ll do to Catching Fire to make it a ‘well-made-screenplay’. And then Michael Arndt will polish the adaptation… Little Miss Sunshine may have won a screenplay for Best Oscar but I passionately hate it as perhaps the supreme example of the maddeningly cutesy indie clichés that win Oscar nominations needed for marketing purposes; from the quirk by numbers characters, to the complete lack of anything approaching emotionally authentic personal relationships, and the ending that solves absolutely none of the characters’ problems but provides a three-card-trick ‘subversive’ feel-good ending.
Jennifer Lawrence will be fantastic again as Katniss Everdeen, but Francis Lawrence can’t fix a screenplay and direct at the same time.
June 6, 2012
George Lucas produces and semi-directs a pet project about the heroism of the black fighter pilots of the Tuskagee Squadron in WWII’s segregated US Airforce.
Nate Parker’s earnest Marty ‘Easy’ Julian leads a rag-tag band of fighter pilots on low-rent missions over Italy attacking German transport trains. His best friend and most insubordinate officer is Joe ‘Lightning’ Little (Rise of the POTA’s David Oyelowo), the best pilot in the squadron but given to glory-hunting manoeuvres. Samuel ‘Joker’ George (Elijah Kelley) is, surprisingly given his moniker, the sensible one, while Ray ‘Junior’ Gannon (90210’s Tristan Wilds) is the youngster aching to be renamed ‘Gamma Ray’. Their commander Colonel Bullard (Terrence Howard) faces down official racism at the Pentagon from Colonel William Mortamus (a cameoing Bryan Cranston) in his battle to secure better planes and more prestigious missions for his segregated Tuskagee Squadron. But can his men, wrestling with their own personal demons, live up to the strain of acting as paragons for their race?
Lucas started developing this movie in the late 1980s. Anthony Hemingway finally filmed John Ridley’s script only for Lucas to direct reshoots of new material written by Aaron MacGruder (creator of The Boondocks). Sadly MacGruder’s acerbity is hard to spot whereas Lucas’ trademark saturation CGI is everywhere. There are numerous set-pieces in this film that would be very exciting if not for their complete air of unreality. If you’re watching a patently fake plane dive-bomb a patently fake train traversing a patently fake landscape your mind has already checked out, and that’s the opening sequence… Easy’s occasional struggle with alcoholism and Lightning’s implausible engagement to an Italian woman (NCIS: LA’s Daniela Ruah) despite their inability to communicate across their linguistic divide exemplify the script’s weakness. The much debated historical inaccuracies then undermine the worthy rationale of this venture.
There are some nice touches, like Jaime King’s voice floating over the camp as Axis Mary, and the much feared new Messchersmit jet-planes roaring into the fray like sci-fi creations, but the actors are better than the material. Ne-Yo as the guitar-picking ‘Smoky’ and Wire star Andre Royo as the long-suffering mechanic ‘Coffee’ offer fine comic relief, Howard and Cuba Gooding Jr as his right-hand man are nicely authoritative, and Lee Tergesen and Gerald McRaney offer nicely counterpointed turns as the Colonel pushing racial equality and the purely pragmatic Lt Gen who offers a prestigious mission guarding bombers on the strict condition that, unlike the white pilots they’re replacing, they forego all chance of dogfight glory and protect the bombers. The film loses all momentum in its third act, before Lars Van Riesen’s absurdly comic-book Nazi villain ‘Pretty Boy’ attacks to provide a rousing finale that’s sadly familiar.
Red Tails is not worth a trip to the cinema, but it’s a very watchable film that will fit comfortably into Sunday afternoon TV schedules.
1980 movie Heaven’s Gate is synonymous with bloated film-making and the excesses of auteurism, indeed it almost single-handedly killed the New Hollywood so beloved of critics like Biskind and Kael. Now Michael Cimino’s ill-fated epic inspires an exhibition by Brian Duggan – ‘Everything can be done, in principle’ – opening this Saturday.
This dramatic artwork by Duggan, curated by Helen Carey and presented by Eigse Carlow Arts Festival, Carlow Local Authorities Arts Office, and VISUAL Cente for Contemporary Art, will be on display in the Ground Floor Galleries of the VISUAL Centre for Contemporary Art in Carlow from Saturday the 9th of June until Saturday the 26th of August. Artist Brian Duggan invites you to inhabit a story from 122 years ago of the Cattlemen’s invasion of Wyoming. Evoking Michael Cimino’s film Heaven’s Gate (1980) among other things, through place, costume and the activity of skating, the visitor to VISUAL Carlow will be transported into a timber and canvas barn at America’s 19th century mid-Western frontier. Heaven’s Gate was a film which broke all the rules and supported true art through the ruthless pursuit of authenticity, even to the point of challenging the studio system of the time. It remains a polarising piece of work. From one point of view the film’s colossal budget over-run and equally colossal box-office failure was the source of many of the rules and regulations that surround the film industry today, from the binding of the maverick auteur directors, to cinematic visionaries being replaced by money men. From another point of view the film was a grandiose folly by writer/director Cimino at his most self-indulgent after being showered with accolades for The Deer Hunter. One of its stars Jeff Bridges has consistently attributed the negative reaction to Heaven’s Gate on Cimino’s innovative attempt to introduce a new style of editing, which people refused to accept, but it is also the film that began the obligatory monitoring of the use of animals in film and television production by the American Humane Association (which recently led to the cancellation of HBO’s Luck for fatally injuring horses) because of Cimino’s still controversial decision to explode a live horse with dynamite.
Duggan leans towards the more romantic interpretation in which the fate of the film itself is a deeply ironic echo of its own subject matter. As in Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate, his immersive world is a haven – however temporary – where hopes and aspirations can be happily and safely expressed. But, as in Heaven’s Gate, no haven is outside the threats of a world in the turmoil of change. The resilience of the human spirit, the fighting mettle of a poor community against the state apparatus of power and the need to treasure fleeting happiness when you feel it are underlying themes of this work. Duggan’s artistic practice looks at times when things go wrong and sites of stress and breakage, from well known historical events to the overlooked small dramas of the everyday. He brings new challenges into the gallery as a way of asking questions. Abandoned and active sites of human activity, fairground archives, cinema, slapstick scenarios, original arcade games, and similar starting points are utilised as a strategy for finding and asking key questions. Brian Duggan (born 1971) lives and works in Dublin where from 1996 to 2009 he was co-founder/director of Pallas Studios, Heights and Projects. He has received several awards from the Arts Council of Ireland, Culture Ireland, and South Dublin County Council, and his work is included in the permanent collection of the Dublin City Gallery, the Hugh Lane Gallery, and the National Collection of the Irish Museum of Modern Art. Last year he was selected for IMMA’s Artist Residency Program and was commissioned to make new work for the inaugural Dublin Contemporary 2011. In 2012, his work can be seen in another solo exhibition in RuaRed as well as in group exhibitions in National Sculpture Factory Cork, Limerick City Gallery of Art, and overseas in Braziers Supernormal Oxford, CCA Glasgow, and Lyndecker Gallery Spain.
“Everything can be done, in principle” will be on display in VISUAL Centre for Contemporary Art & The George Bernard Shaw Theatre, Old Dublin Road, Carlow, Ireland, from 11am to 530pm, Tuesday to Saturday, and from 2pm to 5pm on Sundays. Further information is available at both www.everythingcanbedone.com and www.visualcarlow.ie/visitor-info.html
Few things are more amusing than the vicious kick in the ego routinely delivered to big-shot directors by their lowly marketing underlings in poster campaigns.
Prometheus’ poster heralds it as a new movie from the director of Alien and Gladiator. Usually this is the funniest thing about posters, when marketers have to scramble into decades past to find a hit (from back when the director actually had hits) to shove on the poster. Alien is legitimately mentioned to clue people in to the fact that this is an Alien movie, and semi-prequel status be damned. The mention of Gladiator though is properly amusing because it demonstrates the second funniest thing about posters. Gladiator is apparently regarded by the marketers as the last movie Scott made that people actually have any affection for. Scott has made 8 movies since Gladiator. Ouch… Scott may have sweated blood over Hannibal, Black Hawk Down, Matchstick Men, Kingdom of Heaven, A Good Year, American Gangster, Body of Lies and Robin Hood, but they are unceremoniously swept into the dustbin by the marketers’ realism that those movies might as well have never happened… The Great Scott isn’t the only heavyweight director to suffer this sort of indignity. One can imagine Fincher wailing sequentially “That was 7/12/14/15 years ago! I’ve made other films since then!” as Seven continued to pop up on his posters like a bad penny. “Yeah, you’ve made other films, but no one liked them….” the marketers would reply as they gleefully jettisoned The Game, Panic Room, Zodiac and Benjamin Button from his resume as not being worth a damn. How Fincher must thank Sorkin that he can now plaster The Social Network on his posters instead of Seven.
This albatross of a mid 1990s landmark movie hanging around his posters also afflicts Roland Emmerich. No matter what he does, he seems destined to be forever trumpeted as the director of Independence Day; and latterly The Day After Tomorrow. If he makes another movie with Day in the title that’ll probably get on to his posters too. The marketers aren’t screwing with these directors for the sheer joy of it; they’re trying to entice cinemagoers. Critical acclaim counts for naught when it comes to posters, all that matters is your back catalogue’s box office receipts. That’s why Peter Berg’s Battleship is from the director of Hancock, not from the director of Friday Night Lights or The Kingdom. It doesn’t matter that Friday Night Lights and The Kingdom are far better films than Hancock. Hancock did the biggest box office of the three. Battleship is a big summer blockbuster, and the posters need to emphasise that the man behind the lens has delivered that before with Hancock, rather than emphasising the critical acclaim he won with Friday Night Lights, which is defiantly not a big summer blockbuster. But there’s a further complication in the box office stakes which is what makes many posters an incidental satirical commentary: box office success without residual affection. This is where things just get hilarious; when a director makes a lot of money with a film that everyone hates, and mysteriously its name gets dropped from his subsequent posters in favour of films that people universally adore rather than bear grudges against. 2012 made a lot of money, not least because Emmerich always keeps his budget down, but its apocalypse extravaganza was just too much for most people compared to the measured apocalypses of his Day hits, and so it gets chucked from Anonymous posters.
Poster watchers observe these shifting sands of popular taste; probably determined by a combination of careful casting of the runes from focus groups and perusal of final box office takings that never lies. Sorry, Ridley…