Talking Movies

December 21, 2020

Any Other Business: Part LXV

As the title suggests, so forth.

The Death of Patterson

What an emotional few days it was last week catching up with network television shows bowing out… Martin Gero has been on a veritable rampage killing established characters in the final (half a) season of Blindspot: Reade, Brianna, Keaton. But to then take out Patterson in a hail of thermite. Hoist on the petard of her own MacGyver’d cleverness, trapped in Rich’s own mini-Pompeii of a self-destructing server silo, incinerated in falling flames while Rich looked on at her slow motion death helplessly. I had to rewind this a few times to actually believe that they had really killed Patterson, the heart of the show, much as Joss Whedon had enraged fans when he killed the heart of his show Firefly in the resolving movie. I understand that Gero is building the stakes ever higher as Madeline Burke becomes ever more monstrous, but there is a point at which you simply tip into excess, and arguably Blindspot has long passed it with her unpunished supervillainy: did we really need this gut-punch?

The Death of Dean Winchester

And then just two days after Sky Witness had inflicted that trauma on us 4Music aired as a triple bill the final ever episodes of Supernatural. And Dean Winchester; lover of bacon, killer of Hitler, eater of pie, vessel of Apocalypse World Michael to kill Lucifer hopped up on Nephilim grace, Scooby-Doo aficionado, and occasional Batman; died on a sharp piece of rebar sticking out of a barn post… Who knows why exactly showrunner Andrew Dabb chose Medium as his model on how to end a series, but the influence was obvious.

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…

October 13, 2020

Any Other Business: Part LXII

As the title suggests, so forth.

I’m walking out of here with this Spotify list, kid, and getting fortune and glory in return

Spotify these 60 songs for an 80s mood

The Stone Roses – I Wanna Be Adored // Eurhythmics – Thorn in my Side // The Police – Every Breath You Take // Michael Jackson – Smooth Criminal // The Clash – Rock the Casbah // Prince – Kiss // Pet Shop Boys – It’s a Sin // Talking Heads – Road to Nowhere // John Adams – The Chairman Dances // REM – Orange Crush // Tears for Fears – Everybody Wants to Rule the World // David Bowie – China Girl // Madonna – Get into the Groove // Violent Femmes – Blister in the Sun // Simple Minds – Don’t You Forget About Me // Eurhythmics – Love is a Stranger // Berlin – Take My Breath Away // Vangelis – Chariots of Fire theme // The Stone Roses – Elephant Stone // The Bangles – Eternal Flame // Tears for Fears – Head Over Heels // Huey Lewis – The Power of Love // Prince – Sign o’ the Times // U2 – With or Without You // Crowded House – Don’t Dream It’s Over // The Smiths – There is a light that never goes out // REM – Fall On Me // The Police – Invisible Sun // Talking Heads – Once in a Lifetime // Alan Silvestri – Back to the Future theme // The Police – Every Little Thing She Does is Magic // Queen – A Kind of Magic // John Williams – ET flying theme // The Smiths – How Soon is Now? // Tears for Fears – Sowing the Seeds of Love // Prince – Raspberry Beret // Madonna – Express Yourself // The Bangles – Manic Monday // Eurhythmics – Sweet Dreams // Talking Heads – Television Man // ABBA – Super Trouper // Duran Duran – A View to a Kill // Motorhead – The Ace of Spades // REM – It’s the End of the World as We Know It // Pixies – Wave of Mutilation // David Bowie – Scary Monsters and Super Creeps // The Smiths – Bigmouth Strikes Again // David Bowie – Absolute Beginners // The Bangles – Walk Like an Egyptian // Talking Heads – Naive Melody (This Must be the Place) // John Williams – Raiders march // Queen – Radio Ga Ga // The Stone Roses – I Am the Resurrection // Pixies – Monkey Gone to Heaven // The Firm – Star Trekkin’ // Madonna – Like a Prayer // Queen – Under Pressure // John Williams – Imperial march // Pixies – Where is My Mind? //Ennio Morricone – Gabriel’s Oboe

E4: undisputed winners of the stupidity in scheduling award 2020

Well then, after the insanity of doubling up on Buffy the Vampire Slayer so as to dash thru the best seasons and then inflict brain damage by dashing thru two of the very worst seasons of network television, and then coming out of hyperspace for season 7 by running Angel, having thus missed out on the continuity of all those irritating crossover episodes that bedevilled two seasons of both shows, now we find E4 propose running thru Buffy from the start again right after reaching the end, from episode 7.22 to episode 1.1 the next night, while Angel continues on its stolid midnight path so that all the crossover episodes will once again miss the Buffy train doing its best impression of the Circle Tube line. Can anyone work out mathematically if this nonsense goes on eternally whether the Buffy/Angel crossover episodes might ever actually just line up by accident?

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?

September 4, 2020

Any Other Business: Part LIX

As the title suggests, so forth.

A Blacklist Darkly

Well, that was … unexpected. The unintentional season 7 finale of The Black List aired on Sky One last week. And it was half-live action, half-animated. Not at all the expensive rotoscoping over live action of A Scanner Darkly, but clearly that was at the back of someone’s mind as they tried to figure out how to finish the story with the remaining dialogue being phoned in by the actors, and a limited budget to render them and their environments accurately. Leading to such wonderful innovations as little title cards telling us the narrative and emotional import of the facial expressions of the animated characters when there was no time or money to actually make the avatars tell the story that way. One hopes that this approach is not going to catch on…

Golfgate, moral hysteria, and No Deal Brexit

Imagine a world where nobody in the media was allowed to use Twitter or report on Twitter. Imagine a world where government did not respond clumsily and frantically to frenzies whipped up by the tiny fraction of very loud people who use Twitter. In this world the Cork Examiner might still have taken out Dara Calleary, a target that remains highly suspicious, but not Phil Hogan. Instead the Twitter-led moral hysteria brigade have excelled themselves, and Phil Hogan is gone. Now nobody should cry over the end of Phil Hogan’s political career. The man was a boor of long standing and his disastrous quango Irish Water will outlive him. But to go now. For attending a dinner that was perfectly legal. As the Atlantic reported yesterday the rich in America are saving oodles of money because they have nowhere to go right now. If functions which separate people into groups of less than 50 and give them different exits, entrances, and toilets, are to be verboten because somebody might go mental on Twitter – who benefits? The hotels that cease to host such functions and shut down? The staff who cease to work such functions and go home? This is the self-defeating performance of austerity in another guise: where a billionaire decides not to buy a new yacht for fear of it being seen in a poor light, and a number of yacht-builders go on the dole because of the optics. So… less than 6 weeks to go until a deal needs to be ready to present to a top level EU gathering to approve Brexit with an actual trade deal. And the EU has no Trade Commissioner. And whoever comes in, with less than 6 weeks to appoint someone, will be totally clueless as to their brief as opposed to being on top of it from being there all thru the Brexit farrago. Good Job Everyone!!! A satisfying bout of righteous crucifixion during the silly season, and, well, come January, when we will be battling the flu season, the seasonal spike in patients on trolleys in hospitals, a surge in coronavirus as we all stay indoors without any preparation for proper ventilation, and probably another total lockdown we look forward to the final kibosh: 3 weeks of empty shelves, and an eternity of higher prices thereafter, as No Deal Brexit arrives like a tonne of bricks and all our imports from England become hugely expensive, and all our supplies perforce must come thru France at greater uncertainty and therefore a new model of supply chain management involving the resurrection of warehouses which don’t come for free, we can all content ourselves with the knowledge that the Bad Man Was Made Quit and that makes it all okay.

You really mean that this Spotify list is so highly classified you damn people would kill to keep it a government secret?!

Spotify these 60 songs for a 70s mood

Edwin Starr – War // Talking Heads – Life During Wartime // Blue Oyster Cult – Don’t Fear the Reaper // David Bowie – Station to Station // David Shire – The Taking of Pelham 123 theme // Led Zeppelin – Kashmir // Lou Reed – Sweet Jane live // Boston – More Than a Feeling // Iggy Pop – The Passenger // Bob Dylan – One More Cup of Coffee Before I Go // Creedence Clearwater Revival – Who’ll Stop the Rain // The Beatles – Across the Universe // Simon & Garfunkel – Bridge Over Troubled Water // Arvo Part – Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten // The Doors – Hyacinth House // Bob Dylan – Tangled Up in Blue // Blondie – One Way or Another // Roxy Music – Love is the Drug // Talking Heads – Psycho Killer // Creedence Clearwater Revival – Up Around the Bend // The Doors – LA Woman // Lynyrd Skynyrd – Freebird // ABBA – Voulez-Vous // David Bowie – Starman // T-Rex – Children of the Revolution // Kansas – Carry On My Wayward Son // Alice Cooper – School’s Out // Blondie – Heart of Glass // Stevie Wonder – Superstition // The Rolling Stones –Brown Sugar // The Clash – London Calling // Pink Floyd – Us and Them // Led Zeppelin – The Rain Song // Creedence Clearwater Revival – Have You Ever Seen the Rain // Bob Dylan – Shelter from the Storm // John Lennon – Imagine // Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody // The Doors – Love Her Madly // ABBA – S.O.S. // Blondie – Call Me // The Kinks – Lola // The Buzzcocks – Ever Fallen in Love // The Who – Won’t Get Fooled Again // John Williams – Jaws theme // David Bowie – Life on Mars // Van Morrison – Moondance // The Band – The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down // Lou Reed – Satellite of Love // John Williams – Superman march // David Bowie – D.J. // Gil Scott-Heron – The Revolution Will Not Be Televised // Lou Reed – Walk on the Wild Side // Talking Heads – Memories Can’t Wait // David Shire – All the President’s Men finale // Glen Campbell – Rhinestone Cowboy // ELO – Mr Blue Sky // John Williams – Star Wars march // Led Zeppelin – Stairway to Heaven // The Knack – My Sharona // The Sex Pistols – Pretty Vacant // ABBA – Waterloo

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 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!…’

June 29, 2020

Any Other Business: Part LVI

As the title suggests, so forth.

“The new orders say we’re all to wear masks now. My world is collapsing…”

Status Crimson Tide

Well, today is the first day of Status Crimson Tide. And basically everything is good to go: pubs are open with provisos, churches are open with crowd control, cinemas are open with clearances, barbers are open with bookings, galleries are open with guidance, and countrywide drives can be conducted with caution. There was meant to be Status Captain Scarlet on July 20th, and then the all clear on August 10th, but things got …accelerated. It was obvious that public compliance with social distance, especially among young people, wasn’t just fraying but had completely broken down, so the government was just making official what had become obvious. I’m inclined to think that the blame can be laid largely on the government itself. Leo’s little picnic was the kibosh on people inconveniencing themselves for the sake of others when the unelected and in fact rejected Taoiseach would have no such sacrifices for himself. The complete failure of voluntary mask-wearing is a corollary of this decline of moral authority. Leo and Simon Harris did photo-ops of themselves wearing masks and nobody cared. After all they had been disparaging masks for nearly four months. Were they lying then or lying now? So now we have a new law to force mask-wearing on buses, and HSE ads have begun to run on TV extolling the joys of mask-wearing: it’s to protect others from you spreading the disease. NO DUH! That was obvious in March. But from March onwards all the government wanted to talk about was how masks would encourage bad behaviour and the science was uncertain. The science wasn’t uncertain, the bad behaviour argument was idiotic, and the upshot is that masks are unlikely to take off here which will hurt us all in the long run in trying to get back to a functioning society.

Christophe Beck and the Buffy sound

Crashing thru Buffy on E4’s late-night re-runs, almost from the first few minutes of episode of season 2 it was obvious that something had changed, and that change was confirmed when the credits rolled: Christophe Beck had entered the recording studio.  If season 1 was scored in a surprisingly straightforward spooky music for horror set-ups way then season 2 was when Beck, and almost by implication the other composers working around him, realised that this series was not an out and out horror show and should be scored as such. Instead it should be set with an emphasis on melancholy and romance as well as stirring action and jump scares.

Jools and the Jazz Trance

Well, now. So Jools Holland was allowed to present Later…with Jools Holland solo again as I had wished for before Christmas, and it only took a global pandemic to stop the middle-management meddling… It was nice, if curious, to have a featured guest interviewed and curate archive performances interspersed with the odd musical guest in the curious Zoom fashion of the times. And damn if Jools didn’t regale Gregory Porter, to Porter’s obvious delight, with the tale of the jazz trance mentioned hereabouts last year. It was a 2010 live episode of Later…with Jools Holland and Jools was trying in his inimitably (and endearing) ramshackle way to keep the show on track for time given that Newsnight was prepping to air live too once his show stopped. And standing waiting in the shadows was a large choir ready to join Elbow, but unfortunately he’d put on the McCoy Tyner Trio just before, and all four of them had gone into a proper eyes closed working out their harmonies by feel jazz trance. The camera captured a nervous looking Jools, baffled at how to get them to stop as he couldn’t make eye contact with any of the players: a moment of panic that reduced Dad and I to helpless laughter. At last one musician opened his eyes and Jools was able to flag him down. He stopped, and Jools initiated a round of applause. Only for McCoy Tyner to misinterpret this, in his jazz trance, as a groovy audience’s enthusiasm, and so into another chorus, only for Jools to foil him by asserting his authority as MC to insist that this had now gone on long enough and it was time for Elbow to get a look in.

St Vincent: one more tune

I didn’t want to put a cover version into the selection of 10 of her best songs the other day, but you should check out St Vincent’s performance of ‘Lithium’ with the surviving members of Nirvana, Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic, at their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014 because what a cover version it is.

June 8, 2020

Any Other Business: Part LV

As the title suggests, so forth.

Status Maroon 5

Well, today is the first day of Status Maroon 5. Libraries are to re-open, public transport is to become more frequent (for all the use you can make of it), county wide car wanders can be undertaken, and the cocooned can be visited briefly (with exceptionally discomfiting provisos). And what next? Status Crimson Tide on June 29th with the hastened re-opening of churches, museums and galleries, pubs that serve food, alongside the planned socially distanced cafes and restaurants. But when do we return to life as it was in the first week of March? It seems that public patience with lockdown is fraying, and perhaps with good reason. The global population is reckoned at 7.8 billion and COVID-19 has killed 397,000, whereas the endlessly invoked exemplar of the last global pandemic the Spanish Influenza killed between 17,000,000 and 50,000,000 of a global population of 1.8 billion. And that global population had just suffered thru the privations and depredations of a world war. If we had just all started wearing masks in February, modelling ourselves on Hong Kong and Taiwan, could we have avoided such a crippling lockdown?

Hannibal, he’s here to tease

Around this time in 2013 I previewed, and then later weighed in on, Hannibal; the blood-spattered procedural in which Laurence Fishburne’s FBI supremo Jack Crawford teams unstable but gifted profiler Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) with brilliant psychiatrist Dr Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) to fight crime. I thought a tale of friendship between future deadly nemeses before they come into celebrated and chronicled conflict sounded suspiciously Smallville. And it wasn’t, Lecter in the pilot was very much already a supervillain; eating people for fun. Not that the fun was obvious. Hannibal was incredibly gory for a network show. At the time I thought that had it been on HBO or Showtime it would be unbearable, but Hard Candy director David Slade made it bearable by distancing the viewer with a cold colour palette and a chilly emotionless feel. At its most plot-driven it could feel like a very precisely directed Criminal Minds, with exceptionally gory crime scenes and dream sequences interspersed with exceedingly crisp dialogue between two of the BAU team. And yet, as I try manfully to finally finish the last 8 episodes of that first season 7 years later, it occurs to me that I was right to ditch the show after 5 episodes back then. Why? Well, because now it reminds me not of Criminal Minds but of Mindhunter. Far too much of Hannibal’s runtime is taken up with psychobabble sessions and lame dream sequences. There is a chilly emptiness around gory schlock to portend a great depth, which simply is not there. God forbid that plots should drive, that character should be revealed in action, that dialogue scenes should arise spontaneously and, like House’s trademark, feature two topics simultaneously – procedural and personal. The Engineer put it nicely, saying he had abandoned both shows because he was sick of being drip-fed plot like sugar water to a diabetic.

…or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances

It is wrong to continually think about a fictional character in relation to a real person, but The West Wing re-runs on TG4, focusing as they currently do on the electoral battle between empathetic intellectual Jed Bartlett and know-nothing jackass Rob Ritchie, make it hard not to think about Trump and the sheer vacancy he represents. Stomping all over the First Amendment he swore an oath to protect, he had protestors tear-gassed and baton-charged so he could do a strange stroll to sullenly stand in front of a Church and hold up a copy of the Bible. Holding it in such an awkward way that its proper use seemed as alien to him as if he had been clutching a Torah scroll. Did he read a passage of scripture from the holy writ? No. Did he attempt some Nixonian gesture of empathy towards the protestors? No. Did he attempt to defuse the tense situation as Bobby Kennedy had when he spoke to a crowd the night MLK was shot dead? No.  And then think of Bartlett extemporising a speech from the Biblical quote ‘Joy cometh in the morning’, of Bartlett’s desk only being seen empty in The West Wing two days after his inauguration when he thought Leo’s office was the door to a closet. And think of how Trump’s desk is empty, all the time. Trump would never read from that bible lest it show him up, because you cannot paraphrase and riff the Word of God. And that’s a problem if you cannot actually read. The empty desk betokens an empty man. Inside the bible Trump held, James said:

Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten. Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days. Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabboth. Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter. Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you. Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.

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