Talking Movies

September 9, 2018

The Rockford Gambit

Filed under: Uncategorized — Fergal Casey @ 12:49 pm
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There may be a curious region where satirical ideas are actually more practical than the supposedly practical ideas on offer.

The Rockford Gambit ™ is a short term fix for the housing crisis which Leo Varadkar seems thoroughly uninterested in solving in either the short or long term. We buy everyone a trailer, modelled on the one that Jim Rockford lived in in The Rockford Files; each trailer will come with a cookie jar containing a pop gun. Now everybody that needs one has a roof over their heads, and in minimal time. 20 million Americans live in trailers, so there’s no reason we can’t adopt that lifestyle as a short term solution to an intractable problem. At a cost, converted into Euros, of between 25,925 to 60,500 for the basic model trailer, it is clearly much cheaper than the affordable housing we hear so much about and see so little of.

But that’s only a short term solution. In the long term we need to grasp the nettle, something which no politician has wanted to for these fifty years…

Clearly we need higher density housing. But that nobody really wants to live in that kind of housing. But… what if we take our inspiration from The Donald? Sutherland, not Trump. Who wouldn’t want to live in an apartment like the Tripps in Dirty Sexy Money? But those are not the kind of apartments that get built for regular folk. Well, why not? Conceive of a development of blocks of six storeys, which are effectively three houses stacked on top of each other; as it were. A two storey apartment, another two storey apartment, and a final two storey apartment. Each with their own separate entrance, and a shared green space rounding one side and to the back, to deal with the shadows cast by these six storey blocks. Absolutely imperative is soundproofing so perfect that you could rehearse Beethoven’s 9th in your apartment and your neighbours would have no idea save for the toing and froing of so many people with curious shaped cases to your door. A place of one’s own, a door of one’s own, a patch of green of one’s own, and bob’s your uncle; the resistance to high density housing is killed with creature comforts.

Any Other Business: Part XVIII

Filed under: Uncategorized — Fergal Casey @ 12:19 pm
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What is one to do with thoughts that are far too long for Twitter but not nearly long enough for a proper blog post? Why round them up and turn them into a eighteenth portmanteau post on media of course!

Catch more flies with honey…

I am not a fan of the hyper-hostile campaign recently run by Dublin councils to encourage people to stop using disposable coffee cups. On the rare occasions I get coffee on the go it’s an impulsive decision, quite often it’s an impulsive decision during the summer to get an iced coffee on the go as I walk a long distance. So here am I, dressed in summer clothes, especially in the summer we just had, walking instead of driving, and being called a dick for impulsively getting an iced coffee to cool down as I complete my odyssey. The solution apparently is to always encumber myself with a man-bag to carry a reusable mug I will rarely ever use. Then I won’t be a dick. I rather think anything that involves using public money to call some people names and encourage other people to turn on them is a bad use of public money. And I am getting rather annoyed at how often I seem to write about such follies. Perhaps the real solution would be to stop being so damn American as we have apparently become in the last twenty years and stop drinking coffee and on the go.

Do you ever open a book at all?

As a devotee of public libraries from my youngest days I should be the first to cheerlead scheming by government to get more people interested in public libraries. Yet I am dubious when not absolutely opposed to Michael Ring’s scheming. The later opening hours just seem a bit odd. I can’t say I’ve ever felt a desperate need at 9:55pm to get my hands on a book, outside of college; where university libraries cater to just such deadline-induced madness. Borrowing a book in Cork and then returning it in Dublin, as the Cork Irish Examiner glossed the proposals, may sound great to some, but it seems sheer folly when you have a quick search of the respective catalogues and then realise it will entail all-new journeys all over the country by library vans returning migrant stock to its home; at a time when the government is already whistling Dixie and hurrying past the graveyard of our preposterous carbon emissions – soon to be punished by a massive fine from Brussels.  But the big idea, abolishing fines for late items, is just criminally insane. It may sound like a wonderful wheeze to up the number of people who use libraries from c.16% to c.33%. Except… What if the 16% was the 16% that was always going to use the library? They are the 16% who are reading the book of the moment, who do regularly read books, fiction and non-fiction, who talk about books, who get all the literary references in Gilmore Girls, and who also use the library to explore foreign films thru the DVD collection, and print off the occasional thing they need on the library computers. They are the people who libraries are meant for.  Changing the nature of public libraries for the sake of people who would never use them anyway is ridiculous. Ring’s assertion that people would return books because “mumble mumble community spirit” is idiotic: it takes no account of human nature. If the only reason you didn’t use the library was because you were afraid of the whopping 5c a day fine for late items then we were, are, and will all probably be better off with you not using the library, because clearly you will never return anything, and the people who actually, happily used the library for years will abandon it in frustration at reserved items never coming in for them, because nothing is ever returned, because the hanging onto of books forever shall no longer be discouraged by the sharp edge of pecuniary damages.

Miscellaneous Movie Musings: Part IX

As the title suggests here are some short thoughts about the movies which aren’t quite substantial enough for each to merit an individual blog posting.

“No, that doesn’t track”

We now know Wes Anderson’s next film will be live-action and set in post-WWII France, immediately post-war apparently. So perhaps taking cues from Les Enfants de Paradis, Jean Cocteau and Jour de Fete rather than the 50s of Clouzot, Bresson and early New Wave. Insofar as Wes Anderson takes cues from anyone… Any excitement I might have that he’s tackling a specific culture and time is tempered by the knowledge that it will be put thru the wringer until it comes out a Wes Anderson movie. A topic of conversation arises with Paul Fennessy every time there’s a new Wes Anderson – just how much of a straitjacket his trademarks have become. One of our favourite flights of fancy finds Wes and Jason Schwartzman or Roman Coppola or Owen Wilson seated at a diner in Austin; furiously scribbling dialogue and scene ideas in yellow legal pads, and beaming at each other happily, until a shadow crosses Wes’ face, and he asks in horror and disappointment, “But wait, can we do that as a tracking shot or a series of whip-pans?” Because if not, well, there’s no place for it in the cathedral of conventions that Wes Anderson has imprisoned himself within.

Photo: Matt Kennedy

“I can’t help if it I’m popular”

Well now, that didn’t take long. Less than a month after I derided it here, the Oscars abruptly threw engines into full reverse on their wonderfully patronising idea of giving out a new token Oscar for Best ‘Popular’ Movie. It was a bold move to keep the plebeians happy and watching the bloated ceremony honouring films nobody saw. I would wager cold hard cash the decision to ‘suspend’ the new award followed almost instantly on Chadwick Boseman scotching the notion he would be happy to see Black Panther dismissed with a token gong so transparently created merely to commend his all-conquering movie without commending it. He wanted, quite rightly, to be nominated, and seriously, for the Best Picture Oscar; like previous Oscar-winning crowd pleasers The Sting, Forrest Gump, and Rocky. Right now Black Panther has made 700,059,566 dollars at the North American Box Office.  Let us be cruel and note that the combined totals of every Best Picture Oscar winner this decade; The King’s Speech (135,453,143), The Artist (44,671,682), Argo (136,025,503), 12 Years a Slave (56,671,993), Birdman (42,340,598), Spotlight (45,055,776), Moonlight (27,854,932), The Shape of Water (63,859,435); come to just 551,933,062 dollars. That is why fewer and fewer people watch the obscurantist Oscars.

The means defeat the ends

Watching Ken Burns’ incredible documentary The Vietnam War last year it was hard not to think that when someone proclaims ‘the ends justify the means’ any means thus justified actually work against the proclaimed ends.  The brutal means employed in Vietnam actually strengthened the Vietcong and thus worked against the ends of keeping South Vietnam out of their hands.  And, in a disconcerting swoop to utter banality, the shamelessness of the cash-grab of The Hobbit trilogy meant grabbing shamefully little cash. Despite featuring the same writing/producing staff as the Lord of the Rings , (with the regrettable addition of Guillermo Del Toro), Peter Jackson as director, and Andrew Lesnie as cinematographer, the first two Hobbit films (I’ve avoided the last) were nothing like it. They were shot like Janusz Kaminski had left the supernova on in the soundstage, and the greenscreen room, and the digital FX studio, bedevilled by awful acting, unintentionally funny make-up and CGI make-up work, and muddled in nearly every imaginable respect of scripting and directing, with even promising sequences descending into over the top gibberish repeatedly, and this is before we even gripe that the slim volume of Tolkien being made into three films was, as Bilbo once said, like butter spread over too much bread. They were entirely lacking the magic of the Lord of the Rings mostly because of a bewildering lack of reality. Well, not that bewildering after all. The reason that unwelcome CGI was so omnipresent was because the forced perspective practical trickery of set design used to such great effect in the Lord of the Rings would not work for 3-D. So Ian McKellen got to interact with, essentially, named coconuts on sticks, until he started crying; and wailing ‘This is not why I became an actor’. Why abandon forced perspective for 3-D? Because they had to be in 3-D to make as much money as possible! But, because this made them look so awful, on top of the sheer greed of making a trilogy from a small book, people like me, who saw every Lord of the Rings film in the cinema at least twice, and then bought them on home release, in both versions, didn’t go to the cinema to suffer this misbegotten trilogy. Indeed after slogging to the end of the DVD of the second Hobbit film, with its inane love triangle and CGI Smaug whose scale was never clear during his scenes with Bilbo, and which ended with a slap in the face to the audience by leaving his attack till the next movie, I vowed never to watch the third.  And it seems many people felt as I did. The Hobbit’s takings were 1,000m, 958m, and 956m. As opposed to the Lord of the Rings’s takings of 871.5m, 926m, and 1,100m. Note how more people flocked to the Lord of the Rings film by film, while people backed away from The Hobbit. Note also that The Hobbit’s numbers are swelled by inflated 3-D ticket prices, and a decade of inflation. Well, that backfired spectacularly. The ends (making mucho money) justified the means (making awful-looking films, and too many of them, badly). And, the ends, of making mucho money, were defeated by the means employed, an unexpected trilogy of CGI in 3-D.

September 7, 2018

From the Archives: The Wackness

Rooting around deep in the dustbin of the pre-Talking Movies archives uncovers the last (neglected) feel-good hit of summer 2008.

I mock Ben Kingsley with the best of them but damn it if he hasn’t succeeded in having the last laugh, again, as following his superb turn as an alcoholic hit-man in last year’s You Kill Me he’s once again godlike in a comedy-drama.

The Wackness deals with one summer in the life of Luke Shapiro, a friendless teenager whose parents are embroiled in money worries, as he frets about going to college. Luke is a small time drug dealer at his school and unrequitedly in love with the impossibly hip Stephanie. He’s also in therapy with her stepfather Dr Squires, who trades psychoanalysis for marijuana from Luke, part of his rebellion against the whole world for making him feel old.

Josh Peck as Luke holds his own against Kingsley. Who’s Josh Peck? He’s the Josh of Josh and Drake, on which he displayed an aptitude for physical comedy that rivals anyone else in the last 25 years – check out the scene where Josh and Drake attempt to get a job at a sushi restaurant and fail to keep up with the food on the conveyor belt despite their most frantic efforts… He’s almost unrecognisable here after a substantial weight loss and will surprise many by displaying considerable dramatic acting chops. It may also surprise that he’s playing a drug dealer, indeed during certain scenes this film feels like ‘Nickelodeon Gone Wild’ as Mary-Kate Olsen is frankly terrifying in a cameo role as a drugged out hippy chick.

Method Man is nicely understated in a small supporting role as Luke’s supplier Percy but you suspect his most important input was into the choice of soundtrack which is very mellow 1994 hip-hop and a joy to listen to even if you think you hate rap. Quintessentially 1994 is the hatred of the new NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani and his nigh on fascist crusade to clean up Times Square, which is the subject of a magnificent rant by a very stoned Dr Squires that ends in a hilarious Forrest Gump moment. Juno star Olivia Thirlby uses the part of Stephanie to get out from under the considerable shadow of Ellen Page and reveal she also can act. Stephanie is endlessly optimistic, “I see the dopeness of things and you only see the wackness” she tells Luke, but phobic of commitment despite her growing attraction to Luke.

This is a slight tale but it’s not possible to over-praise The Wackness’s gorgeous cinematography. You will not see a prettier film this year, under-lit in warm browns and oranges which create an entirely appropriate woozy feel to the action. Jonathan Levine previously directed cult favourite All the Boys Love Mandy Lane but this film deserves to be more than just a niche success, The Wackness really is the last feel-good hit of the summer.

4/5

September 2, 2018

Notes on Searching

Filed under: Talking Movies,Talking Radio — Fergal Casey @ 8:58 pm
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Searching boots up in cinemas this week. Here are some notes on’t, prepared for Dublin City FM’s Sunday Breakfast with Patrick Doyle early this morning.

Harold internet stalks missing daughter, that’s this week’s 5 word summary. The conceit of this movie is that everything you are seeing on the cinema screen is on the screen of John Cho’s laptop. Now, does one need such a conceit when there is a decent thriller script underneath the flash gimmick? Probably not, but at least some jibes are made at internet narcissism and the terrifying digital footprint left carelessly behind online by social media users. There is also a cold open that takes its cues from Up but with a digital makeover.

The Second Spring

Filed under: Uncategorized — Fergal Casey @ 10:29 am
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