Talking Movies

March 28, 2020

Any Other Business: Part XLVIII

As the title suggests, so forth.

Status … Burgundy

Drip, drip, drip… It seems best to describe where we are now as Status Burgundy. We can still leave our homes without a printed and signed permission slip so it’s not quite Status Red. Yet. But as with the drip, drip, drip feed of restrictions tightening like a vise there’s a lot of ‘yet’ in the air too. Why did we not move to this crisis status immediately on March 13th? Why the sustained refusal to admit that schools would not re-open on the 30th? Fears of ‘behavioural fatigue’? It’s not like we don’t know from the experience of countries preceding us in these dominoes how this works; if you are responding to the numbers as they spike you are already too late. Uncertainty is not something stock markets or citizens appreciate. Varadkar unbelievably decided to paraphrase Terminator 2 last night following his Churchill plagiarism last week, refused to call this a lockdown when being told to ‘stay at home’ (even emblazoned under the RTE logo today onscreen) is patently a lockdown, and unwittingly combined the worst elements of Trump and Modi’s addresses. We were given three hours notice not to stray more than 2km from the house or else. But Leo, outside of Dublin it might be more than 2km to the nearest food store. And so today, presumably after howls from outside the Pale, we have a ‘clarification’ that 2km is the straying radius for exercise, you can stray 5km to get yourself a burger.

SEAL Team: Havoc has Fallen

Jessica Pare’s burnt CIA analyst Mandy has been notably underused in season 3 so it was nice to see her unexpectedly get tactical alongside Blackburn and Davis as Havoc fell the other night on Sky One and impose herself on the action in her guilt-ridden determination to rescue her kidnapped asset. Her work the problem drive and firefight skills also gave new hope to shippers that Mandy and Jason should get together, despite the awesome kismet that exists in Emily Swallow as Jason’s partner Natalie; uniting as it does Supernatural‘s Amara with Buffy’s Angel. The use of drone photography on SEAL Team has been outstanding but season 3, especially the opening episodes in Serbia, has taken it to new heights. The fact that this story of Bravo getting roughed up in Venezuela has now revealed itself as a three-parter makes one compare this trio of episodes very favourably to most action films out there. I for one would take the thrilling and legible choreography of the action in these three episodes against the choppy nonsense of Mile 22 any day.

March 23, 2020

Any Other Business: Part XLVII

As the title suggests, so forth.

What You Waiting For?

Why aren’t we already on lockdown? What are we waiting for? Surely it is time to stop pretending social distancing is going to get the job done. A lockdown is inevitable, just tell us when it’s going to be! Did we need permission from the example of the British doing it, because they allegedly have top experts working on the notion of behavioural fatigue? Today we had the nonsense that Government policy is not responsive to what’s Trending on Twitter, after Ministers have spent a fortnight calling out people based on videos that have been posted on Twitter. The Government will make a decision tomorrow, probably, based on the advice of the medical experts. As with so much else in the last 9 years Fine Gael hides behind someone else when they want to do something they want to do but want to pretend it’s being foisted on them. It is beyond time for Status Red. This is as ludicrous as the airlines having to decide in the absence of the State making any judgement call that it was probably a bad idea to be flying in and out to Italy 4 times a day. For once stop hiding behind other people, make the call yourself Varadkar, and do it already.

March 20, 2020

Any Other Business: Part XLVI

As the title suggests, so forth.

Just in the nick of time!

I almost didn’t notice it but the Horror Channel are re-running The Time Tunnel from the very beginning in their Sci-Fi Zone. I for one shall be tuning in at 12pm tomorrow for a triple bill. Irwin Allen’s 1960s shows were re-run in the late 1980s and early 1990s on Channel 4 and Sky One and I have very fond memories of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Land of the Giants, and The Time Tunnel. Having been highly impressed in the last few years by re-runs of The AvengersThe Man From UNCLE, and The Invaders I’ll be interested to see how this stands up. In particular when I was originally watching the show I was totally unaware that Lee Meriwether, who played scientist Dr Ann MacGregor, was Catwoman in the 1966 Batman movie. And if you think a triple-bill on a Saturday afternoon is overdoing it then I merely say you can’t excuse yourself on the basis that you possibly have anything else to do at this particular moment in time.

Who fears to take The Strokes Test?

Back in January Stephen Errity sent me on Evan Rytlewski’s provocative tweet about what he called The Strokes Test: Would people still care about this band if their best album did not exist?  It is meant to knock out The Strokes but it also gravely endangers Nirvana, because of their tragically truncated discography. Pixies survive the test because if you get into an argument over whether Surfer Rosa or Doolittle should go then you are still left with either Surfer Rosa or Dootlittle to place beside Bossa Nova and Trompe le Monde. Talking Heads survive the test in style because if you get into a spat over Fear of Music, Remain in Light, Speaking in Tongues, or Little Creatures as their best album you are still left with three great albums and several more to boot. A similar embarrassment of riches occurs for The Beatles. But, and here’s a nagging thought, what about The Beach Boys? Absent Good Vibrations from their discography and what remains?

And normal service has been resumed…

We are a week into the social distancing shuttering of the country and yet the government won’t admit what we all know – a more perfect lockdown is coming. The universities have abandoned the 2019/20 academic year; it’s over, classes, exams, something something online, don’t bother coming back to campus, have a good summer, see you in the autumn, maybe. The schools patently will be told to stay out until the Easter holidays begin, and then, sure why not take off all of April, and well, you know, May is kind of freewheeling into the end of the year anyway so who really needs it. Yet officially everything is still just on the mother of all pauses until March 29th. Are we supposed to take that seriously? Are we meant to believe all pubs and cinemas, cafes and theatres will re-open on that day and we all breathe a sigh of relief that we shut down that pesky coronavirus good? How does it help to keep the citizens of the country engaged in an idiotic guessing game? When will the actual status red lockdown begin? March 30th? April 1st? What is the point of Leo Varadkar embarrassing himself and us by going on national television on St Patrick’s Day to plagiarise Winston Churchill? You do not become a statesman for our time by appropriating a resonant phrase from a statesman from another state at another time anymore than I would become Dan Rather by ending all these posts with the single word – Courage. Yet Varadkar decided to tell us what we already knew about the coronavirus, fail to elaborate on economic aids for people thrown out of work, and did not announce a lockdown – which one would have thought the only reason for such a state of the nation address. Instead he told us the Emergency was ‘likely’ to continue past March 29th. Good to know.

March 13, 2020

Any Other Business: Part XLV

As the title suggests, so forth.

If we just hold our position here, fellas, a plot might stumble across us

The Winds of the Pacific

Having staggered to the end of HBO’s incredibly underwhelming miniseries The Pacific I found myself growing irate at the closing credits which revealed the fates of a number of the characters who were real. The sense of camaraderie and regret among these men over the decades following the war only highlighted the failures of the series to depict this camaraderie. Characters who the show lost interest in, and I had given up for dead, turned out to have survived and the band of brothers united Stateside after VJ Day. What a colossal waste of resources it was to take these ten scripts and give them the big bow wow HBO treatment. I can’t help but feel that in the golden age of miniseries in the late 1970s and early 1980s if someone had brought these ten scripts to a network executive two things would have happened. He would have beaten senseless the person who had confused the mores of New Hollywood with network television. He would then have patiently explained that the ten episodes proposed lacked any sense of focus or direction, and that it would be far better to drop John Basilone entirely and to just focus on Eugene Sledge and Robert Leckie, and to flesh out their friendships with their comrades, give some overview of the war and the geography of the battles, and make the miniseries feel less disjointed by wandering off on aimless tangents.

I know, Holden. Charles Manson… Even thinking about the guy makes me start to yawn.

Where is my Mind(hunter)?

I admit defeat. My temporary Netflix subscription has expired and I still had the final 4 episodes left to watch of Mindhunter. I just couldn’t motivate myself to do it. I stuck in there for as a long as I could. I managed to hold on for longer than my sometime co-writer the Engineer did, making it to the appearance of Justified star Damon Herriman’s fantastic turn as Charles Manson. And yet for all that Herriman gave the sequence all he could it was let down by, of all things, a lack of confidence by the writers of Mindhunter that the audience would be interested in Holden and Tench interviewing Charles Freaking Manson … without that Tench was given some thoroughly bogus and painfully manufactured ‘personal’ stake in the case via his son being involved in a macabre crime by youths.

One Nation, Indivisible?

There is a keen if not sickening irony in Leo Varadkar calling for national unity at this time of global coronavirus crisis. As a minister and as Taoiseach he has presided directly and indirectly for nearly a decade over a number of campaigns designed specifically to set citizen against citizen. Public money was spent on cinema advertisements to propagandise to students that their teachers were wrong to resist Ruari Quinn’s debasement of the Junior Cert. Varadkar himself beamed broadly shortly before he became Taoiseach as he held a placard to launch his ‘Welfare cheats cheat us all’ campaign – his sole achievement as Minister for Social Protection. He was deeply involved in gay marriage and abortion referendum campaigns that were deliberately run in as bitter a fashion as possible. And his government continues advertisements lecturing us about sexual harassment on television, teaching us to always assume the worst of each other. And now, after Fine Gael losing a second election in a row, but showing even less inclination than last time to leave government, he has the audacity to turn around and lecture us all on the need for national unity – having just rejected the national unity of a national government to deal with this coronavirus crisis; because it seems fully 1/4 of the voters he wants to unify behind his continued unelected (and indeed actually rejected) leadership would fit neatly into his own personal basket of deplorables. To mash together the 1940 sentiments of David Lloyd George and Leo Amery – There is nothing which can contribute more to unity in this time than that he should sacrifice the seals of office. In the name of God, GO!

February 28, 2020

Miscellaneous Movie Musings: Part XXVII

As the title suggests, so forth.

Reloaded Revisited

I recently watched The Matrix Reloaded all the way thru for the first time in many years when Sky One idly decided to screen it. Oh, the wasted intellectual time and energy that went into trying to make this movie more than it was when it came out in 2003. It is awful. It is memorable in places. But that is not enough to make it not awful. The film is almost an object lesson that merely subverting expectations doesn’t achieve anything. Cutting your action sequences to pieces at the start and end of a film, ending a film with the climactic action beat being impenetrable polysyllabic gobbledeegook in a room, having your plot be a ‘get that thing, to do this thing’ which starts only 40 minutes into the movie, all of these choices subvert expectations. And are awful. The Architect is memorable, but that scene is awful. Lines from it, engraved on my soul from going over and over the VHS, and from the memorable MTV take-down of it, float across my consciousness from time to time. As Michael Gove lays the foundations for flouncing out of trade talks that haven’t even f***ing begun yet by announcing an impossible arbitrary timetable  one line seems … apropos. At some point it might even be uttered by M. Barnier. On being flatly told, you’ll cave, Germany needs British car sales to survive, he might riposte – “There are levels of survival we are prepared to accept”…

February 21, 2020

Any Other Business: Part XLIV

As the title suggests, so forth.

“What a shocking cheap hat!”

Deja vu, all over again. Two years on from ‘Beast from the East’, as we suffer thru a month of storms every weekend, once again if you walk into Dundrum Town Centre and mooch through Penneys or M&S you will find woolly hats and rugged scarves and thermal gloves being shovelled out at the door at knockdown prices. You will find shorts, bikinis, polo shirts, and sun-hats as the new in thing to wear. The clothes on sale in our shops have, somehow, as always, changed seasons well in advance of the actual weather. We have just had the coldest days of the winter and are expecting more of the foulest and yet the clothes offered as just in at this moment will be unwearable until June. I need an economist to explain to me how this makes sense – do people really buy their wardrobes that far in advance? – doesn’t anybody suddenly need a new scarf or a heavier hat in February or March when it snows after the shops have shifted seasons? – do the shops not take a commercial beating selling clothes that won’t be needed for another five months? What’s going on, in short, and why does this happen season after season? In the meantime I shall be pulling on a trapper hat much like the one pictured above, bought at an outrageous discount last week at H&M.

The Gibraltar Gambit

Previously I’ve suspected there was a recurring Google Calendar alert somewhere in the Spanish civil service. This reminded them to enrage Michael Howard into threatening to cable out the entire Mediterranean fleet by periodically asking for Gibraltar back. Now it seems the Greeks are getting in on the act, if the return of the Elgin marbles really has been tacked onto proposals for trade talk tactics between Britain and the rest of Europe. Where might this all end? There are so many gripes that so many countries have with the lonely island that the list could get truly absurd. Mind you would it really be any more absurd than the American list topped by – and agree to have all your chickens dumped in chlorine like they’ve been to a low-rent swimming pool.

A bold artistic decision to ensure the future of the show … that cancels the future of the show

I feel like this is a corollary to the previous series of entries on attempts to make mucho money by terrible artistic decisions that ended up making predictably terrible art and then hysterically nada money. It appears Hulu have absolutely no plans whatsoever to continue their revival of Veronica Mars. Critics lauded the bold artistic decision creator Rob Thomas considered necessary to ensure the future of the show, but die-hard fans excoriated that bold artistic decision, which they saw as simply dynamiting Veronica Mars. And as the die-hard fans were the only reason a cancelled Zeros network show had such a curious afterlife in the first place this was a move that backfired spectacularly; quelle surprise but the brickbats of the fans matters more to Hulu than the garlands of the critics. I will probably never bother with the Hulu season because I don’t want to see the final five minutes. (And I had been intrigued to see JK Simmons, who was so good in Thomas’ unseen show Party Down, enter the world of Neptune.) I don’t check out of this universe lightly; I have both of the Veronica Mars novels and all three seasons on DVD. When I had to introduce Elliot Harris to Veronica Mars from scratch, before catching the Veronica Mars movie in the one cinema in Dublin showing it, I sent him six clips I thought would give him a flavour of the show and act as a ‘Previously on Veronica Mars…’  I told him if he only watched one that Logan’s ‘Epic Love’ speech to Veronica was by far the most important one. Rob Thomas’ justification for throwing that speech, that dynamic in the morgue bin was that for the show to continue as a noir mystery Veronica had to be a lone wolf. Well… offhand the existence of The Thin Man and Moonlighting suggests otherwise. Maybe simply have Logan appear from time to time, as the service permits, as in the novels. Anything but blow him to blazes so that the show can continue in limited runs whenever Thomas and Kristen Bell can fit it in their schedules. If nobody is left who wants to see the show then your damn schedules could be free enough to accommodate a network season but it doesn’t matter.

February 7, 2020

Any Other Business: Part XLIII

As the title suggests, so forth.

I don’t know, Holden, sometimes I feel I’m just playing John the Baptist to the Jesus Christ that is Criminal Minds’ Hotch.

The virtues of network television

David Fincher has walked away from Mindhunter after two seasons, and who could blame him? Joe Penhall, its creator, had walked away after the first season. Catching up with the Netflix show and HBO’s The Pacific simultaneously in the last few weeks has been a dispiriting experience. And I can’t help but feel that both cable shows could really have done with some network aesthetics being beaten into them. To wit:

  • making a character unlikeable does not magically also make them compelling, as my sometime co-writer the Engineer put it, Livia and Gregory House are horrible people but very entertaining to watch
  • all your episodes should be the same length, randomly having a 34 minute episode when your show is meant to be an hour long is not okay, it’s like a Modern Family episode ending unresolved at the ad break
  • gather an ensemble that you use every episode because they are each individually actually there for a purpose, it would for example be absurd for Josh to miss three episodes in The West Wing
  • course correct in real time by airing as you shoot rather than dumping all your episodes out as is…
  • Sans feedback you end up with (a) preposterous ciphers like Holden’s walking sociology textbook girlfriend who would have been tagged for writing out on network after negative reaction to her first few episodes (b) Wendy’s absurdly yellow makeup which made her look like she just fell out of a Van Gogh painting at best and like a cut-rate Oompa Loompa at worst (c) supporting characters disappearing with no mention of their fates, ever

  • being able to answer the question ‘what is your show about?’ with an answer that isn’t entirely abstracted, iZombie has complicated season arcs but each episode has its own internal motor
  • having episodes exist as episodes because they are actually about something, like early House‘s medical mysteries and later House‘s illuminations of character, rather than just being a spoon sized slop of gruel
  • it may seem trivial to ask for a name for each episode, but it gives the impression that you know what the point of an episode is if you can name it, rather than simply say it’s ‘Reasonably Sized Slab of Content #11’

Flights of fancy

Well, that didn’t take long. Ryanair has been told to stop using their ridiculous climate change ad because it features a lie. It features more than one, in point of fact. They do not fly direct to destinations, they are rather famous for doing the complete opposite. Beauvais is quite far from Paris, I’ve been on that bus. They do not try to fill every plane for the sake of the environment, if that was their noble aim they wouldn’t price gouge the poor saps booking the last seats just before takeoff. And if their customers really wanted to save the environment they would not fly anywhere. Until we get the early 19th Century international network of sailing clippers up and running again grounding yourself is really the only honest move.

January 31, 2020

The Hateful Eight

So today’s the day. Margaret Thatcher campaigned for Britain to stay in Europe in their first referendum, and was instrumental in creating the Single Market, and then balked at the idea of a single currency, and started muttering that the whole thing had been a huge mistake. And after being drip-fed poison for thirty years surprise surprise but enough people agreed with her to leave.

Margaret Thatcher

Rupert Murdoch

Paul Dacre

Nigel Farage

David Cameron

Dominic Cummings

Jacob Rees-Mogg

Boris Johnson

 

*Michael Gove gets a highly commended for his still astonishing assertion, “I think the British people have had enough of experts”

December 4, 2019

Any Other Business: Part XLI

As the title suggests, so forth.

TV seasons of the Decade

I may seem slightly obsessed with it but the fact that American film critics are intent on passing off Twin Peaks season 3 as a film of 2017 and a film of the decade continues to blow my mind. I mean, if Twin Peaks season 3 is a film, then what isn’t a film? True Detective season 1 is clearly a film, and a damn good one at that. Maybe my favourite episodes of the first three seasons of The Flash are in fact superb short films. The Newsroom season 2 is clearly in contention for being a film of the decade, because it is so clearly structured as an intricate flashback puzzle, but then couldn’t you stitch together the 3XK episodes of Castle to present a compelling story? But leaving aside such categorical confusion how do you construct a list of the best television of a decade? Do you just mention shows? Elementary or FlashForward for instance. Or, taking a leaf from this book of nonsense, go by seasons of shows? In that case you must grapple with the odd effect of shows starting in Autumn and ending in Summer. Which means technically both Supernatural seasons 5 and 11 are eligible for the 2010s. So how about listing out some potentials:

Legends of Tomorrow season 1
Blindspot season 2
Person of Interest season 2
Nikita season 1
Modern Family season 1
Bored to Death season 2
The Blacklist season 2
Heroes season 4
LOST season 6
24 revival
The Orville season 1
The X-Files season 11

Longmire season 3

The Newsroom season 2

The Following season 1
Bones season 5
Hawaii Five-O season 2
Sherlock season 1
CSI: Miami season 8
Criminal Minds season 4
SEAL Team season 1

House season 6
Medium season 7
Sleepy Hollow season 3
Justified season 2 & 4
The Gifted season 1
iZombie season 2

And that’s before considering Rick Stein’s Long Weekends, Rick Stein’s From Venice to Istanbul and any of the equally rewarding travelogues of Simon Reeve, Michael Portillo, Bear Grylls, and TG4’s Hector.

 

A cowardly uncouth narcissistic troublemaker and a bull

So Boris Johnson stopped hiding from the media for long enough to address a terrorist attack.

And blamed it on the ‘leftie’ government of the previous decade.

‘Leftie’. Would even Eton schoolboys be encouraged to express themselves thus?

Boris Johnson’s ‘rightie’ government has been in power for 9 1/2 years.

More than enough time to change any laws they found objectionable one would have thought.

But never mind, Boris made political hay, and surely we can all agree that’s all that really matters in this world.

And only two people had to die for him to come up smelling of roses.

October 1, 2019

The one thing we can learn from history is that nobody ever learns anything from history

Filed under: Talking Books,Talking Politics — Fergal Casey @ 8:10 pm
Tags: , , ,

Reading today about the decision to somewhat save history in Irish secondary schools was profoundly dispiriting. The arguments for history, and against history, and the underpinnings of both seemed to indicate a general idiocy.

As far as I can see from the op-ed in the Irish Independent by the Minister we ought to study history in schools to remind ourselves of how awful Ireland was in the 1950s and praise ourselves constantly for being such fine fellows in contrast. The Magdalene Laundries, the poor treatment of tinkers, gays and atheists. These all prove that people in the past were awful, and we are great. Five stars all around for being such great guys now. One might suggest that perhaps one of the most important benefits of studying history is the attempt to escape from the greatest of all mental traps – present bias.

As far as I can see from the marketing speak originating from the masters of curricula we ought not study history in schools because there are more exciting things we can surf in and out of and the purpose of education is to only do fun things. One could substitute maths or English for their dismissal of history and it would make little difference to the argument. After all, can one argue that students really enjoy maths? And with calculators and the internet who needs to learn these skills which are not transferable and of no real use in the real world outside the ivory towers of academia.

Meanwhile the Irish Times featured students decrying exams for the Leaving Certificate as being injurious to mental health and well-being. Well, yes, that’s sort of the point. Life is in general not just a succession of fun things with no crunch moments. One of the benefits of actually studying history is grappling with other civilisations and understanding that not everybody is always on the same page. If we throw out the traditional methods of education that does not mean China will follow suit, and the Confucian model of scholarship will take no prisoners of a generation educated to express themselves in bite-size opinions, scattershot samplings and stress-free study.

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