Talking Movies

February 25, 2022

Top Performances of 2021

Filed under: Talking Movies — Fergal Casey @ 2:43 pm

Best Actor

Dan Stevens (I’m Your Man & Blithe Spirit)

Michael Keaton (Worth)

Jude Law (The Nest)

Best Actress

Melanie Laurent (Oxygen)

Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Kate)

Carrie Coon (The Nest)

Emily Blunt (A Quiet Place: Part II)

Best Supporting Actor

Christopher Lloyd (Nobody)

Cillian Murphy (A Quiet Place: Part II)

Stanley Tucci (Worth)

Mathieu Amalric (Oxygen)

Best Supporting Actress

Garance Marillier (Madame Claude)

Amy Ryan (Worth)

Cate Blanchett (Don’t Look Up)

December 24, 2021

Miscellaneous Movie Musings: Part XLIII

Filed under: Talking Movies — Fergal Casey @ 10:46 pm
Tags: , , , ,

As the title suggests, so forth.

Lynch After Lynch

A strange thought came to mind the other week as I was listening to the sound of the wind whistling thru tall trees, a favourite sound of David Lynch. Is Lynch, like 1990s Tarantino, a dead-end, or, more accurately, such a singular creative explosion that while he at first might appear liberating and invite people to join him in his explorations he actually leaves a Tunguska-like blast radius around him which nobody else can ever enter. Can you make a film that has surreal elements and escape being called Lynchian? Can you use dream logic or corny dialogue mixed with extreme violence and weird sexuality and not have everyone start writing up their Lynchian comparisons? Can David Lynch even escape his own shadow at this point? I’m not comparing The Nice Guys to the work of David Lynch, but Lynch’s description of how to write a screenplay; hoard ideas like a squirrel collecting acorns, and when you have forty conceits that’s the guts of an eighty minut movie; seems to be oddly applicable to Shane Black’s screenplay.

November 30, 2021

Miscellaneous Movie Musings: Part XLII

As the title suggests, so forth.

Why must Eon always burn the other cheek?

I was initially hostile to complaints about the new Bond film featuring ‘yet another’ scarred villain, until I realised the defence was complete nonsense. Facially scarred villains have not been nearly such a Bond staple as Eon would make out. Dr No has no hands certainly, but it is not until we meet Largo in the fourth film that we meet a character with a maimed visage. Blofeld is scarred in You Only Live Twice, but then he is not scarred in the next two movies. Hook hands, third nipples, megalomania, all these are present and correct, but scarred villains really cease to be a thing with Bond … until Goldeneye. And thereafter the quotient of scarred villains gets completely out of control: Sean Bean, Robert Carlyle, Rick Yune, Mads Mikkelsen, Javier Bardem, Christoph Waltz, Rami Malek. It seems almost as if the new generation at Eon was so worried about living up to the legacy that they became fixated on one element of the past and magnified it out of all proportion as some way of proving their rights to the property.

Wes Anderson, you are locked in a prison of your own devise

It was dispiriting but unsurprising to read an interview with Robert Yeoman in which he talked about how a warehouse had to be used to shoot both The Grand Budapest Hotel and The French Dispatch because Wes Anderson’s camera movements had become so outre that real locations could no longer accommodate them. For years Paul Fennessy and I have had a flight of fancy which 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. Now it seems the reality of physical space itself has to be shot down in order to shoot the Wes Anderson way. I think this may be why since The Darjeeling Limited I have responded more positively to his animations (Fantastic Mr Fox, Isle of Dogs) than to his live-action efforts (Moonrise Kingdom, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The French Dispatch). The necessity for artificiality to achieve the necessary artificial camera moves grates less when all concerned are made of felt. In his own demented way you could say the presence of live human beings not to mention the built human environment is now getting in the way of the Wes Anderson aesthetic.

October 31, 2021

Kingpin and the Comedy of Amputation

It took 25 years for me to finally watch Kingpin, and I nearly stopped at the point which had been the reason I had been avoiding it for quarter of a century.

I had always been wary of a dumb comedy that treated losing a hand as a comic plot point. But the actual sequence was beyond anything I could have imagined. It put me in mind of another film I only recently caught, 1981’s slasher The Burning. The prank that leaves Cropsey hideously scarred and bent on revenge is not a million miles away from the punishment meted out to Woody Harrelson’s bowler in Kingpin, with two differences – in one this maiming is obviously a motive for obsessive revenge, and in the other it is a deliberate act of staggering sadistic malice. Paul Newman gets his fingers broken in The Hustler, not chopped off. That Woody’s bowler has his bowling hand fed into the machine and the directors cut to a woodchipper …

I paused the movie, for about two hours. And then we returned to Woody smashing an alarm clock with his hook hand. His hook hand is played for laughs over and over again. And then lo and behold it turns out that Woody can bowl just fine with his rubber hand, which has also been played for laughs. I could only think of Angel, where Wolfram & Hart lawyer Lindsay is written out with an episode devoted to his new evil hand, a mystical transplant for the one Angel cut off in the gruesome season 1 finale. And so we see Lindsay, with his stump where his hand used to be. Looking at the guitar, which he can no longer play because Angel cut his hand off. And pulling one of a number of pre-knotted ties off his rack, because he can no longer knot a tie because Angel cut his hand off. Not quite the approach of the Brothers Farrelly to a bowler having his bowling hand ripped to ribbons.

September 30, 2021

Top 5 Bond Girls

The pandemic is seemingly going to be book-ended by No Time to Die‘s attempted release and its actual release. Astonishing then that in 18 months Cary Fukunaga never thought to edit down his bloated 163 minute movie, which is nearly a full hour longer than Quantum of Solace. Let us take a more abbreviated run thru the Bond greatest hits.

5) Wei Lin

Michelle Yeoh’s turn as a Chinese super-spy in Tomorrow Never Dies feels underwritten, a complaint you could throw at almost anything during the Brosnan years. And yet, Yeoh’s combat skills and delightful insouciance, alongside her character’s almost incidental contacts with Bond as she pursues her own parallel adventure, elevate her to a more convincing version of Anya Amasova aka xXx in The Spy Who Loved Me as truly being Bond’s opposite number.

4) Mayday

Roald Dahl said he’d been briefed for screenwriting You Only Live Twice on having a good girl that died, a bad girl that died, and a good girl that lived. Grace Jones got to play a twist on that as physically imposing Mayday in A View to a Kill. Betrayed by Zorin, for whom she has caused much mayhem with glee, she sacrifices herself for the greater good, with a wordless exit glare.

3) Domino Derval

Claudine Auger’s Domino is very stylish in her bespoke black and white outfits, but is more than just a very pretty face. She mordantly undercuts Bond’s first attempts at seductive patter, and has her own personal reasons for falling in with his plans against her lover Largo, a character arc climaxing in some truly monumental brass from John Barry’s score when she saves Bond with the lethal use of a harpoon gun.

2) Pussy Galore

Three knockout English blondes play the Dahlian triptych of Bond girls in Goldfinger, and Honor Blackman is the one with the most substantial role, and the most absurd name. Blackman’s considerable swagger and judo skills would have been no surprise to anyone who’d seen her as Cathy Gale in The Avengers. In a film that drips great lines, she has an almost Bogart/Bacall spikiness with Connery, trading barbs while dressed elegantly.

1) Vesper Lynd

Eva Green’s woman from the Treasury set a high watermark for Bond girls that the Craig era has never managed to reach again despite its sincerest efforts. Their first meeting on the train to Montenegro is delicious. Over dinner the pair verbally dissect each other’s characters based on their first impressions of each other. Bond is cruel but Vesper hurts him back with interest, and it is this which makes Bond interested.

* It may seem odd for a fan of The Avengers not to have included Diana Rigg’s turn as Bond’s wife in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, but her wit and athleticism as Emma Peel were so clinically stripped from Tracy Draco that I can only watch it with deep disappointment.

August 21, 2021

Miscellaneous Movie Musings: Part XLI

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…)

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.

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…

The Power Law of American cinemagoing

I was knocked over recently by the concept of the Power Law. This was old hat to the Engineer who immediately muttered that in retail 80% of the complaints come from 20% of the customers. And so on thru the various fields of human behaviour. But it really seems to strike with a vengeance at the North American Box Office. According to a recent survey just 11% of American cinemagoers make up 47% of all the tickets sold. Which is staggering. But then I saw The Dark Knight five times in the cinema. I am one of those ideal marks for repeat viewing. So if I go from buying 7 tickets for the LOTR trilogy to 0 tickets for the Hobbit trilogy, it’s bad business. And if a studio alienates this fraction of the audience, it’s goodnight Vienna. It blows my mind to think that a studio could aim at 90% of the population, and lose basically 50% of the box office by doing so.

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?

January 31, 2021

Fears: 2021

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!

Next Page »

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.