Talking Movies

August 31, 2020

Tenet

Christopher Nolan’s much anticipated new film is an intricate and satisfying puzzle piece housed in a less satisfying blockbuster frame.

John David Washington is the protagonist who has a mysterious close shave with a bullet that seems to whip out of woodwork and away from him during a terrorist siege of the Kiev Opera House. Shortly thereafter Martin Donovan informs him that he has been recruited for an international mission involving Robert Pattinson’s British agent that will take them from Mumbai to London, Oslo to Tallin, and deep into the cold heart of Siberia trying to unravel the secrets of Kenneth Branagh’s vicious Russian oligarch arms dealer. An uneasy alliance forms with Branagh’s estranged wife Elizabeth Debicki, as Washington and Pattinson try to understand why an arms dealer is able to anticipate all their moves as if he already knew them, and why ‘inverted’ bullets may be the least of their worries as a wider more sinister conspiracy unfurls itself.

And so to ‘inversion’… Time travel, but not really time travel. If you liked cult Ethan Hawke flick Predestination then you will like this. If talk of closed loops, grandfather paradoxes, and the like makes your nose bleed then you will not like this. Nolan’s script features the same deeply satisfying feeling as Interstellar and Dunkirk when a piece of the puzzle slots into place and you understand that there was more going on than you apprehended first time around. But this satisfying feeling is surrounded by the scaffolding of a blockbuster that doesn’t truly stand tall when the scaffolding is kicked away. Crashing a large airplane into a building for real is great fun to watch, and the chase with cars driving inversely on a freeway is also entertaining, but there is no true knockout punch of a sequence.

Some of this is because this is less fun than Inception, almost as if Tom Hardy and JGL’s roles had been collapsed into one and Robert Pattinson (rediscovering his inner Cedric Diggory) couldn’t possibly deliver both those notes at once. Some of it is because this has less heart than Interstellar, with the Debicki/Branagh dynamic not humming as it ideally should as the emotional motor of the movie. Nolan regulars Hoyte van Hoytema and Nathan Crowley are present and correct but the largely Northern European settings are neither as crisply shot as one might expect nor as intriguingly designed; indeed the finale recalls the crumbling Russian industrial hellscape from Hobbs & Shaw. Jeffrey Kurland provides some notably sharp suits and elegant dresses for the ensemble, but Hans Zimmer’s replacement Ludwig Goransson struggles to impose himself with any truly memorable motifs.

Tenet does not reach the hoped for heights, but it is devilishly clever and always absorbing; one wonders if perhaps making it on a smaller scale, more noirish, less blockbusting, might have been wiser.

3.5/5

August 26, 2020

Miscellaneous Movie Musings: Part XXXV

As the title suggests, so forth.

I tell you R-Patz, I just can’t stop washing my hands lately. You’d think I’d been reading Heidegger or something.

The End of Cinema, or at least American-led cinema

And so Tenet is here. Eventually. The most anticipated summer blockbuster of 2020 might also be the only summer (or autumn or winter) blockbuster of 2020 that actually gets released in cinemas. But not in America. I am still tentative about venturing to a cinema for the first time since the coronavirus arrived, but it’s a dilemma. There is no such dilemma Stateside, because Tenet is not being released in America. In some senses this merely makes painfully obvious what was already to be gleaned from statistical analysis of say Transformers or Fast and Furious: major American movies make more money overseas than in America. But the risk, to simply cut off the American market and throw it away as unnecessary, is still breathtaking on the part of Christopher Nolan and Warner Bros. And it seems, in this week of make-believe by Donald Trump that everything is rosy in the Rose Garden, that the pandemic has been defeated by his amazing leadership, that the roaring economy is now roaring again in a V shaped recovery, to take on an almost mythic cultural and political heft. The free world has given up on America providing any sort of leadership, and now even America’s own dream factory has given up on America. Americana still sells overseas, but the country itself is no longer a viable market.

There is an idea of a United States of America, some kind of abstraction, but there is no real country, only an entity, something illusory, and though it can hide its cold heart and you can see its flag-waving and hear its anthem deafening your ears and maybe you can even sense its values are probably comparable: it simply is not there.

Tarantino misreads 1960s television

When I returned home last August from watching Quentin Tarantino make shameful pigswill of reality with his nonsense version of the Manson Family Murders I watched the end of Kill Bill: Volume 2 randomly playing on TV and then turned on True Movies for their late night re-runs of The Man from UNCLE, and this only increased my annoyance with QT for also shamefully calumning late 1960s TV. Cinematographer Robert Richardson has noted that Tarantino deliberately included camera moves in the Western pilot that our hero Rick Dalton appears in that would have been utterly impractical for the era. Taken beside how he presents Rick’s appearance in the real show The FBI as a bad joke, you’d be hard put not to think that Tarantino is implying 1960s television was a waste of time. Which is odd given how he’s been perpetually circling a movie based on a 1960s TV show – Star Trek. The truth is that 1960s television was actually pretty good: The Prisoner, The Avengers, The Fugitive, The Man from UNCLE, Star Trek, The Twilight Zone, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Thunderbirds, Mission: Impossible, Hawaii Five-O, The Monkees, Batman, The Invaders, Lost in Space, The Time Tunnel, Doctor Who, I Dream of Jeannie, Bewitched, Hogan’s Heroes, Rawhide, The Champions,  Land of the GiantsGilligan’s Island, Get SmartThe Munsters, My Favourite Martian, The Addams FamilyFlipper, The Flinstones, Joe 90, Stingray, Captain Scarlet and the MysteronsDad’s ArmySteptoe and Son. Ask yourself why pop culture would still be in thrall to so many of these shows if they were all a bad joke…

August 20, 2020

Creedence Clearwater Revival: 10 Songs

Proud Mary

Bad Moon Rising

Down on the Corner

Fortunate Son

Who’ll Stop the Rain

Up Around the Bend

Run Through the Jungle

Lookin’ Out My Back Door

Long As I Can See The Light

Have You Ever Seen the Rain

Filed under: Uncategorized — Fergal Casey @ 12:19 pm

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August 19, 2020

Status Captain Scarlet

Well, throw all the ship’s engines into hard reverse; we are now launched into an emergency lockdown again – let us call it Status Captain Scarlet.

Once again we are thrown back to the limits of where we can get to by shank’s mare. Buses and Luas are not to be used by the plebs. Confusingly cinemas and restaurants can still stay open despite a limit on 6 people rather than 50 gathering indoors. Does each cinema screen count as a separate indoor space in a multiplex? If gastropubs have been such a problem in spreading the virus why do they get an exemption from this new restriction? Having agreed to go see Tenet on August 31st, with some trepidation, I am now genuinely confused as to how that can go ahead even though it is seemingly permitted. I and many others are even more confused about why sports attendance is off. The virus is airborne and spreads best indoors; if you are outdoors the risk is less. 50 people chanting responses indoors at Mass cannot be safer than 200 people chanting outdoors at a GAA match. And how on earth schools are still scheduled to reopen in two weeks when 50 people can’t be allowed indoors together boggles the mind. Hovering over all of this bungled ‘it’s an emergency but not quite an emergency’ communique from the Government is the spectre of the Twitter mob. Are these restrictions actually necessary? Or are they a knee-jerk response from a cobbled together coalition that wants to be seen to be doing something after the Twitter mob went wild at the weekend? How many times does it need to be said that public health is rarely well served by public shaming…

August 10, 2020

Any Other Business: Part LVIII

As the title suggests, so forth.

First nursing homes, now meat-packing plants, what unexpected place will this confounded coronavirus strike next?

The Crimson Tide lifts all masks (over noses)

So from today we must perforce be masked everywhere we go:  shopping centres, buses, cinemas, etc, etc, etc. Well, better late than never. Of course it took the force of law to make people adopt the behaviour after people rightly stopped listening to the government after the premeditated picnic. And of course it comes many months after it was obvious that wearing masks universally would impede the virus substantially. And of course we should probably be plotting the war on ventilation for the interior life starting in mid-October that will make for a hellish winter. But we can probably deal with that sometime around New Year’s.

Oz: Introvert Hero

E4’s unfortunate decision to begin double-bills of their late night re-runs of Buffy the Vampire Slayer has fast-forwarded thru the glories of Seth Green’s supporting role as Oz – musician, werewolf, introvert. Green wisely and abruptly bailed when Buffy hit the rocks in spectacular fashion with the shockingly bad writing of season 4. In his final proper regular episode Buffy made reference to his ‘trademark stoicism’ and wondered if he was more monosyllabic than usual, if that was even possible. But the best commentary on Oz’s introversion comes from Jane Espenson’s delirious season 3 episode ‘Earshot’, wherein Buffy temporarily gains the power to listen to others’ thoughts. Willow worries that Buffy now knows what Oz is thinking, whereas she never knows what Oz is thinking, therefore soon Buffy will know Oz better than Willow does. Meanwhile Buffy hears more of this syllogistic logic as Oz muses that all he is is contained in his thoughts, if Buffy can hear those thoughts she contains him as well as herself, therefore he ceases to exist. And as Buffy looks surprised at this deep philosophical moment, Oz’s exterior reaction is a hilariously decontextualised ‘Huh!…’

August 7, 2020

Any Other Business: Part LVII

As the title suggests, so forth.

Ventilation is the new Masks

The Atlantic was months ahead of the government here, and in many other countries listening to the WHO’s idiocy, in recognising the importance of everyone wearing masks in preventing the spread of coronavirus. So I have a sinking feeling when they publish two articles one after the other on the importance of ventilation, which nobody wants to address. The coronavirus is an airborne disease and yet it took forever to wear masks here as a step against it, instead there was an obsessive focus on hand-washing and surface-cleansing, despite the fact that fomite transmission of the coroanvirus is negligible; the super-spreading events globally all involve people unmasked indoors spraying each other with their vocal stylings – singing, speaking, coughing, or just breathing.

Venue, ventilation, vocalisation: These are the three Vs to look out for, and all of them spell doom for the winter.

Pubs cannot open here because it’s too dangerous to have a lot of people indoors for a short space of time, but it’s a priority for the government to open schools here because it’s not too dangerous to have a lot of people indoors for a long space of time. So tell me, how exactly will schools operate in the winter months here without any consideration for ventilation? How can a serious plan not flag providing HEPA filters for crowded confined spaces?

Well, Mrs Peel, I think we deserve to listen to some good music after all that running around, don’t you?

Spotify these 60 songs for a 60s mood

John Barry – The Ipcress File // The Lovin’ Spoonful – Summer in the City // The Beatles – Drive My Car // Bob Dylan – Most Likely You Go Way And I’ll Go Mine // Led Zeppelin – Ramble On // Maurice Jarre – Lara’s Theme // Quincy Jones – Killer Joe // Donovan – Mellow Yellow // The Kingsmen – Louie Louie // The Turtles – Happy Together // The Kinks – Waterloo Sunset // The Beach Boys – God Only Knows // The Rolling Stones – Under My Thumb // The Doors – Moonlight Drive // Elmer Bernstein – The Magnificent Seven // Jimi Hendrix – Purple Haze // The Kinks – Sunny Afternoon // The Chordettes – Mr Sandman // Donovan – Sunshine Superman // The Who – I Can See For Miles // Jimi Hendrix – Are You Experienced? // Led Zeppelin – What Is and What Should Never Be // Creedence Clearwater Revival – Run Through the Jungle // Jefferson Airplane – White Rabbit // John Barry – Capsule in Space // The Rolling Stones – Gimmer Shelter // Cream – White Room // Donovan – Hurdy Gurdy Man // Led Zeppelin – Bron-y-aur Stomp // Dave Brubeck – Unsquare Dance // The Kinks – Dedicated Follower of Fashion // The Byrds – Turn Turn Turn // The Rolling Stones – Ruby Tuesday // Petula Clark – Downtown // Quincy Jones – Soul Bossa Nova // Betty Everett – The Shoop Shoop Song // The Beach Boys – Good Vibrations // Ennio Morricone – The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly // The Who – Pinball Wizard // Bob Dylan – I Want You // Simon and Garfunkel – Mrs Robinson // The Beatles – Help // Creedence Clearwater Revival – Fortunate Son // Bob Dylan – Highway 61 Revisited // The Beatles – Paperback Writer // The Beach Boys – Wouldn’t It Be Nice // The Mamas and the Papas – California Dreamin’ // The Beatles – Here Comes the Sun // Miles Davis – It Never Entered My Mind // Jimi Hendrix – Voodoo Chile // The Who – Baba O’Riley // Simon and Garfunkel – America // Creedence Clearwater Revival – Proud Mary // The Doors – Light My Fire // Herbie Hancock – Cantaloupe Island // Tom Jones – Delilah // Quincy Jones – The Self-Preservation Society // John Barry – Goldfinger March // The Doors – When the Music’s Over // Simon and Garfunkel – The Sound of Silence

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