Talking Movies

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?

December 22, 2020

You Have Been Listening To: Part V – An A to Z of Great Moments in Film

As we throw our hands up in despair and wait for the Grinch-timed return of lockdown it seems a good point to look back at a 2020 project that is nearing completion. There has been a lack of reviews by me of new releases on 103.2 Dublin City FM this year, and what was personally an injury-enforced sabbatical from studio and cinema was made a general cinema sabbatical for all for most of the year. But if you’re eager to explore the back catalogue here’s a list of the films we discussed as the film links morphed into an A to Z of Great Moments in Film that attempted to tip the hat as often as possible to films that had an anniversary of some kind in 2020.

All About Eve

Back to the Future

Cast Away

Les Diaboliques

The Empire Strikes Back

The Falcon Takes Over

Goodfellas

Top Hat

The Ipcress File

Jane Eyre

Kelly’s Heroes

The Lavender Hill Mob

Memento

Nosferatu

Othello

Psycho

The Quiller Memorandum

Rififi

The 39 Steps

Tremors

The Usual Suspects

Vertigo

Westworld

X-Men

Yojimbo

Dr Zhivago

December 1, 2020

Any Other Business: Part LXIV

As the title suggests, so forth.

As You Were!

And so back to level 3 (plus) lockdown, but the schools stay open. You see the fact that the very noticeable spike in numbers during the level 5 lockdown just happened to coincide with the return of the schools after the mid-term break is just noise not the signal. The signal is that wet pubs are to blame for everything. That’s what compelling evidence, which hasn’t been independently parsed, tells the neo-prohibitionists in the government. And furthermore you, yes you, are to blame: once again you, yes you, got complacent. Indeed this time around the complacency, and the letting down of the guard, and all the other irritating chiding clichés, took on even more magical properties; because, when this line of attack from NPHET voices started, it had not actually been 2 weeks since the announcement of the vaccine, which would mean that people had …  relaxed in anticipation of the announcement? Yes, clearly that makes more sense than not: Bad people!

Here’s my playlist… Give it a listen when you’re ready to take things a bit more seriously…

Spotify these 60 songs for a 00s mood

Metric – Help I’m Alive // Snow Patrol – Spitting Games // Gwen Stefani – What You Waiting For? // Red Hot Chili Peppers – By the Way // Morrissey – Last of the Gang to Die // The Postal Service –The District Sleeps Tonight // Moby – Porcelain // Clint Mansell – Lux Aeterna // Metric – Stadium Love // Interpol – Mammoth // Auf Der Maur – Followed the Waves // Arcade Fire – Neighbourhood 3 (Power Out) // Modest Mouse – Float On // Madison Avenue – Don’t Call Me Baby // Gwen Stefani – If I Was a Rich Girl // Gnarls Barkley – Crazy // Regina Spektor – Fidelity // Coldplay – Trouble // Metric – Poster of a Girl // The Postal Service – Such Great Heights // Auf Der Maur – Skin Receiver // Muse – Supermassive Black Hole // Gwen Stefani – Hollaback Girl // Lady Gaga – Bad Romance // Muse – Time is Running Out // Modest Mouse – Ocean Breathes Salty // Temper Trap –Sweet Disposition // Muse – Starlight // The Killers – Mr Brightside // The Killers – Smile Like You Mean It // Arcade Fire – Rebellion (Lies) // Coldplay – In My Place // Muse – Stockholm Syndrome // Broken Social Scene – Lover’s Spit // Garbage – Bleed Like Me // Morrissey – Life is a Pigsty // Coldplay – The Scientist // The Killers – All These Things That I’ve Done // Vanessa Carlton – A Thousand Miles // REM –Imitation of Life // Wheatus – Teenage Dirtbag // Modest Mouse – Fire It Up // Johnny Cash – The Man Comes Around // Arcade Fire – Black Mirror // Hans Zimmer/James Newton Howard – Why So Serious? // Auf Der Maur – Real A Lie // Moby – Natural Blues // The White Stripes – Seven Nation Army // Tomoyasu Hotei – Battle without Honour or Humanity // Morrissey – Irish Blood, English Heart // Interpol – Evil // Linkin Park – In the End // Moby – Extreme Ways // Red Hot Chili Peppers – Venice Queen // The Postal Service – Nothing Better // David Holmes – Gritty Shaker // Interpol – Obstacle 1 // Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Zero // Red Hot Chili Peppers – Zephyr Song //Howard Shore – The Fellowship of the Ring theme

November 11, 2020

Any Other Business: Part LXIII

As the title suggests, so forth.

The Manchurian Candidate and the GOP

I was reading Richard Condon’s 1959 novel The Manchurian Candidate in the last few days and was extremely disconcerted to find what seemed to be the language of the present moment.

I will be representing the Senate, you might say – and I will be there to remind the forgetful rulers of Europe and England that the United States was established not as a democracy but as a Federal Union and Republic that is controlled by the United States Senate, at this moment in our history, through a state-equality composition designed to maintain this establishment and that it exists, in the present moment of our history, to protect minorities from the precipitate and emotional tyranny of majorities.

There is no list…

Spotify these 60 songs for a 90s mood

John Williams – JFK theme // Smashing Pumpkins – Tonight Tonight // Garbage – I’m Only Happy When it Rains // Natalie Imbruglia – Torn // Sixpence None the Richer – Kiss Me // Nirvana – Heart-Shaped Box // Blur – To the End // Thomas Newman – Dead Already // Red Hot Chili Peppers – I Could Have Lied // Garbage – Stupid Girl // REM – Radio Song // U2 – Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me // John Williams – Jurassic Park theme // Smashing Pumpkins – Porcelina of the Vast Oceans // Massive Attack – Angel // Madonna – Bedtime Story // U2 – Numb // Radiohead – Let Down // Portishead – All Mine // Smashing Pumpkins – Today // Guns’n’Roses – You Could Be Mine // Madonna – Ray of Light // Garbage – I Think I’m Paranoid // U2 – The Fly // Massive Attack – Risingson // Red Hot Chili Peppers –Under the Bridge // Angelo Badalamenti – Twin Peaks theme // Pixies – Motorway to Roswell // Bjork – Isobel // Madonna – Vogue // Beastie Boys – Sure Shot // Metallica – Enter Sandman // White Town – Your Woman // Gala – Freed from Desire // Underworld – Born Slippy // Republica – Ready to Go // Pixies – Alec Eiffel // Alan Silvestri – Point of No Return // The Chemical Brothers – Hey Boy, Hey Girl // Massive Attack –Safe from Harm // Blur – Trimm Trab // Nirvana – Lithium // REM – Losing My Religion // Blur – The Universal // Green Day – Time of Your Life (Good Riddance) // Blur – Parklife // Portishead – Glory Box // Radiohead – Just // Pixies – Velouria // Beastie Boys – Intergalactic // Kula Shaker – Tattva // Portishead – Strangers // Happy Mondays – Step On // Red Hot Chili Peppers – Give it Away // REM – Man on the Moon // Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit // John Williams – Duel of the Fates // Beastie Boys – Sabotage // Radiohead – Creep // Pulp – Common People

November 8, 2020

20:20 on 2000

Donald Trump is a loser. A two-time loser in fact, depending on your point of view.

It’s strange to think that in 2000 a split between the electoral college and the popular vote had recently been depicted in The West Wing, and yet fiction seemed to be its proper place, whereas now it is a huge relief when the electoral college manages to actually coincide with the popular vote. What in 1992, when my class was following the fascinating three-horse election, seemed to be an endearing eccentricity of the Americans now stands revealed as a deep structural flaw. George Bush Jr was, initially, rightly sheepish about governing without the popular mandate. Donald Trump had no such qualms. Hell, even now he is trying to maintain that despite losing the popular vote again he is not a loser. He is a loser. On both counts. But the real loser is America. There is no chance that the electoral college will be consigned to the dustbin of history where it so richly belongs. Not when Republicans are bleating about America being a republic, not a democracy. It is a good thing none of these useful idiots were around in the 1950s to stymie Eisenhower’s farewell address – “We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow”.

October 22, 2020

Any Other Business: Part LXIII

As the title suggests, so forth.

It’s March, Bones, but not as we knew it, not as we knew it, not as we knew it then

Something approaching a red alert

Now is the winter of our discontent… Etc. Hours before the clock struck midnight and we entered Level 5, a return to a modified form of the panicked lockdown of March and April, news leaked that the number of coronavirus cases in schools were actually surging. But no matter, the important thing is that most people stay under house arrest for six weeks, while the schools stay open. If the numbers don’t improve, we will be chided for our complacency, rather than the schools being shuttered just to see if that might make a difference. The 5 Level plan fell apart from the moment it was announced Dublin was between two of the stages. The Engineer held forth last week to me that all we needed was a simple 3 Level plan — 1) basic precautions 2) things are hotting up 3) lock it down — and simple empirical thresholds to trigger those transitions, like 14-day new cases/per 100,000 population figures applied by county. Instead we have had our own ‘chaotic disaster’ of illogic, inconsistency, endless leaking by Leo Varadkar and Simon Harris, and pointless back and forth. And what frustrates more than all is the insistence that the schools stay open, even though this logically consistently offends against reason when all gatherings are bad, all indoor gatherings are very bad, but schools are somehow magically grand.

I for one have this vision of —-Level 6: Apocalypse—

BUT THE SCHOOLS STAY OPEN

Trop de Grand Tours

Yesterday while watching Eurosport manfully attempt to cover the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta Espana at the same time my mind rebelled. I had slowly realised that the Giro seemed light on big names this year after Geraint Thomas was invalided out, and then when watching highlights showing Roglic pipping Alaphillipe for Liege-Bastogne-Liege I figured out that if they were there then many big names had skipped the Giro because it overlapped with the Vuelta. The Vuelta was therefore the bigger race. But watching them both in these past few days has been an unnerving experience. I have literally started to feel cold just from watching the unusual vistas: there is something karmically wrong about Grand Tour cycling in the late autumn, indeed the Vuelta is going to hurtle into November. And even when temperatures were still high in Sicily the landscapes looked autumnal, and increasingly desolate. Not exactly the mood you usually get from the sun-kissed tours. And not exactly the mood you want to imprint on yourself for six weeks of strictest lockdown either…

September 30, 2020

Any Other Business: Part LXI

As the title suggests, so forth.

Donald the Impecunious aka Penniless Don Trumpf

“a formal discussion on a particular matter in a public meeting or legislative assembly, in which opposing arguments are put forward and which usually ends with a vote”

Having been in two minds about staying up to watch the first Trump-Biden debate I ended up turning off after an hour, having tuned out around the half-hour mark, and watching the recording of the remaining drivel many hours later. Trump is, to take seriously the delirious title of George Sanders’ authorised biography, A Dreadful Man. By his own admission his achievements in four years are creating an economic boom (a lie), fixing the military (a lie), fixing the VA (a lie), and nominating lots and lots of midnight judges because Mitch McConnell can enable him. This he believes is better than the achievements of any other President in their first term. Lincoln freed the slaves. Jefferson purchased the Louisiana territory. Bested. But Trump is far too stupid to realise just how stupid he sounds when he boasts, which is all he ever does except whine about his endless and largely imaginary grievances. His behaviour last night was, incredibly, even worse than against Hillary Clinton in 2016. At times he resembled the voice of the teacher in Charlie Brown animations: blaw blaw blaw blaw blaw blaw blaw blaw. Constantly. Incessantly. Making remarks. Taunting. The kind of nonsense that one would expect of a profoundly dim school bully. Which of course is all this 74 year old man is. Sure, Biden could have done better. But, short of cutting off Trump’s microphone, how could anyone overcome his intentional disruptiveness? His white noise attack on Biden was his ‘Presidential’ modus operandi – make it impossible for anyone to think straight about anything with an endless stream of inane invective. Vote. Him. Out.

A cultural plan for the coming lockdown

Having digested the warnings that we will be subject to rolling lockdowns for six to nine months I am determined this time around to psychologically and emotionally master any new severe lockdown. I personally expect a mysteriously timed Level 1 at the end of December, that totally coincidentally allows for a Merry Christmas, followed by an immediate jump to Level 5 in January to try and undo the entirely predictable damage wreaked by *our complacency*. But this time around I feel I am prepared. I will not be psychically buffeted by the on/off stop/go/stop mixed signals. Each month starting tomorrow I will attempt to use YouTube to deepen my knowledge of a particular composer. October will be the King of Minimalism Steve Reich. November will be that English titan Benjamin Britten. December will see 2020 disappear in the romantic thunder of Sergei Rachmaninov.

September 19, 2020

Any Other Business: Part LX

As the title suggests, so forth.

But if it’s a five stage plan, how can we have started at level 2.5 and gone on to level 3, with elements of level 4? That just doesn’t track.

“I have a new plan, it involves beards and Morocco”

–So we beat on, boats all moored on the quay, hopelessly tied up for the present.

The media has curiously decided to remember the unelected and indeed rejected regime of Leo & Simon as the golden age of communications; despite the fiasco of the picnic in the park, coming after the statesman speech that said nothing, and the literal game of name that quote played for a celebrity Twitter audience.

But Dublin finds itself in an intolerable situation. The simplest task seems to stump this new cobbled together coalition of the unwanted. Why announce a plan with five levels, and simultaneously announce that Dublin is betwixt and between levels two and three? Why announce that Dublin is moving to level three, but then crucify pubs and restaurants with level four restrictions without calling those restrictions by name? Why pretend that any of this is based on science when there is no actual evidence that pubs and restaurants have been spreading disease while we all look pointedly at schools, that opened suspiciously at the right time to be responsible for the recent spike, and which will remain open – even during level five – because … science said that’s that okay?

The sinister nature of classical music

Hannibal is leaving Netflix at the end of September. Good riddance, one should say. But a completist Mads Mikkelsen impulse drove me to try and crash thru the final two seasons. To no avail. 6 episodes into season 2 and its increasingly disgusting visuals I began to lose the will to live and had to abandon the drive to the Reichenbach fall. There is much to dislike about the clear enjoyment the makers take in showing human organs being turned into haute cuisine, even when it’s a major character; suggesting they were talking about themselves when having Will say Hannibal eats not to honour, but because he regards humans as no different to pigs. So to Bryan Fuller et al these are not real living breathing characters, just empty sharply dressed ciphers to be pushed (agonisingly slowly) around the chessboard; in a world conveniently entirely devoid of CCTV outside the lunatic asylum. But I also began to be disheartened by the relentless yoking of classical music to Hannibal’s ghoulish evil. It reminded me of a piece around 2015 that praised Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation for giving Simon Pegg’s comic relief Benjy a love of classical music, when the standard operating procedure would have been to give such a detail to Sean Harris’ supervillain Solomon Lane as a marker of his supervillainy, a la Stromberg in The Spy Who Loved Me; watching sharks eat people to the strains of Mozart. Cruise and McQuarrie went further in fact, basing an astonishing set-piece around Puccini’s Turandot, and making ‘Nessun Dorma’ the leitmotif for Rebecca Ferguson’s mysterious assassin. But why is this so damn unusual? Why is classical music so often relegated to nonsense touches like Kevin Bacon’s Beethoven-loving Nazi in the cold open of X-Men: First Class? Football fans lap up ‘Nessun Dorma’ and ‘Zadok the Priest’, everybody who whistles the ‘Imperial March’ from Star Wars is unconsciously a fan of ‘Mars, the Bringer of War’ from Gustav Holst’s The Planets. Why do film-makers who will often edit to a temp-track of classical music so despise that very same classical music when it comes to depicting it as a part of their characters’ lives?

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!…’

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