Talking Movies

August 29, 2022

Any Other Business: Part LXXIII

As the title suggests, so forth.

What a difference a theme tune makes

In a mind-bending piece of coincidence I now have to remind myself that I cannot change reality merely by complaining about it. Obviously. But after ITV 4 started showing Magnum PI from the beginning, only to ditch the theme tune after the two-part pilot, I got annoyed. It was replaced by some smooth jazz muzak that might have served, had I not known what should have been there. Indeed as the action set pieces sometimes included that rousing theme that we were apparently not allowed for legal reasons to hear over the opening credits it was a strange case of the theme tune comes and goes at random. And then suddenly it was back, and has been ever since, as ITV 4 chugged on into season 2. And it really sets the show up as the fun blast that it is in a way that the smooth jazz muzak surely did not. Watching Magnum PI for the first time, after it somehow didn’t seem to get aired here first time round despite everything from Jake and the Fatman to Riptide making it across the Atlantic, has certainly changed my perspective on a couple of 1980s comedies. The moment when Eddie Murphy breaks the fourth wall in Trading Places on having the meaning of a BLT explained to him suddenly seems to come less out of the blue when Magnum has been breaking the fourth wall for three seasons to shoot a glance at the audience. And the magnum opus of fourth wall breaches, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, seems like an inevitable combination of Magnum’s sardonic PI narration mixed with fourth wall glances. Did American audiences of the time understand these movies in the light of Magnum PI? Who knows. Nice to think so.

A curious choice for a concert

It’s nice to see the return of Culture Night now that COVID-19 has been put behind us (cough) (touch wood) (it hasn’t gone away, you know). I was, however, quite surprised to see the programme put together by the National Concert Hall for its free concert on September 23rd. Earlier this year the London Times reported that the NCH would not be boycotting Russian composers after TCD and UCD announced that their orchestras would be. I am queasy about the idea of boycotting long-dead composers to protest a very live tyrant, and to simply lose the Russians blows quite the hole in the classical canon, so I was happy with the NCH’s decision. There is a difference though between not jettisoning the Russians and not playing anyone else. Shostakovich’s Festive Overture, Prokofiev’s 2nd Violin Concerto, and Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, arranged for orchestra by Ravel. When I first saw that programme I did a double-take, and thought Oh, it’s … All-Russian. I mean, it’s not that hard to not have an All-Russian programme, you could simply switch out Shostakovich’s Festive Overture for Brahms’ Academic Festival Overture. The fact therefore that it is All-Russian seems like it is meant to say something – music is above politics, or, these men born before 1917 have nothing to do with Putin. It’s just odd for that wider politico-cultural meaning to be left unspoken, and simply rhapsodise about Russian folk rhythms and Russian drama and romance. As someone suggested to me perhaps when I attend I should also say something politico-cultural but unspoken, and wear blue and yellow.

May 31, 2022

“Who are you really and what were you before? What did you do and what did you think?”

I fell over a quote in the Atlantic the other week to the effect that nobody is the same person now that they were before the pandemic. Is it true?

Well, maybe… Certainly as things have opened up I have found myself… unwilling to return to 2019. Not unable, though also that to a degree, but more unwilling. I cannot rouse myself to excitement at scanning cinema listings for the new Mia Hansen-Love, try I ever so hard. I find to my surprise that the Gate theatre has a new artistic director, but scarcely shrug. Barry Douglas performs the Beethoven Triple Concerto at the NCH, and I am not there. It may not even be a question of will, so much as a fundamental disconnect – I know I should be excited by these things, I have the memory of being enthused by their predecessors in the past, and yet it seems like everything in that sphere happened to someone else, not to me. One sympathises, but it has nothing to do with me. Maybe this is only a temporary aberration. Maybe it is a permanent seachange. But, having initially scoffed at the idea that everybody is no longer themselves, I now think- yes, that’s true.

In some senses I find myself doing a somewhat baffled personal inventory akin to Kate McKinnon’s post-6/1/21 ‘What Still Works?’ SNL sketch. It’s rather like standing dazed in a room full of disassembled building blocks, and seeing which ones I can still get to glom to form a Lego statue recognisable as me. I still like listening to Lykke Li, the bard of heartbreak and unrequited love. I still like watching The Avengers, and savouring John Steed and Emma Peel being debonair and romantic. I still like walking in Marlay Park, and hearing the strange sound made by the wind whistling thru tall trees. I still like ruining both coffee and ice cream in restaurants, by pouring one over the other. I still like the inimitable sound of Sorkin speeches and Gershwin glissandos, the thrill of Mondrian lines and Van Gogh swirls. But on many fronts I feel psychically unsteady when my hollowed out sense of self clashes with the 2019 self remembered by others; who are disconcerted to find my ‘passions’ extinguished.

And so I ask myself Bogart’s Casablanca question to Bergman in the mirror, and unnervingly I don’t know the answer.

April 30, 2022

Any Other Business: Part LXXII

As the title suggests, so forth.

Photo: Eric Ray Davidson

David Boreanaz Said What?!

You could have knocked me down with a feather the other month when watching SEAL Team on the channel formerly known as Sky One, David Boreanaz’s Bravo One Jason Hayes on being informed the HVT was leaving the train with the triggermen still on it, shouted “F*CK!”. What?! WHAT?! On Network TELEVISION?! I thought I must have misheard it. Did he perhaps say cluck, duck, luck? None of which would make much sense… Then he said it again. What was going on? Then a quick google later I saw that SEAL Team had moved from CBS to its streaming service. Ah… And, based on what had been happening in that rip-roaring train episode, it must have done this between commercial breaks. I’m not sure that SEAL Team actually gains that much from the profanity that has been added to the show. But my word it remains weird as hell to see Boreanaz after a network television career of eight years as Angel, twelve as Seeley Booth, and four and a bit as Jason Hayes, suddenly start effing and blinding like a sailor.

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.

May 30, 2021

Any Other Business: Part LXVIII

Filed under: Talking Television — Fergal Casey @ 9:51 pm
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That was then, this is dumb

Watching Daria on a loop as it cycles from season 1 to 5 and back again at 6am on MTV weekday mornings over the past few months I’ve been struck by the inane ads for inane shows that air before, during, and after Daria. And come to the only conclusion possible. Daria was commissioned to give 90s MTV a smart female audience. And yet now the dumb jock and bimbo characters mocked in it, Kevin and Brittany, are not just the MTV target audience but the stock personalities of the ‘reality’ shows that MTV substituted for music a long time ago. Doesn’t it just suck when you become that which you once sought to satirise?

The decline of chance

We have all lost a year of chance occurrences. Perhaps a better way of thinking about it is that we have lived thru a year almost entirely devoid of serendipity. I have been preoccupied with the role of chance in our lives for quite some time. Think of how it works – that moment when, for no rational reason, you take the long way round instead of the shortcut, just to enjoy the scenery, and then you unexpectedly run into someone you had no earthly reason to expect would also be in the environs, let alone taking the long way too. Once you start thinking about the double coincidences you really start to bake your noodle like Neo wondering if the Oracle hadn’t said anything would he still have broken the vase. There are unseen lines of chance that take place in everyday life: a number of tiny decisions lead you to a certain place at a certain time, where you might run into someone who is also there because of a number of tiny decisions they made without even really thinking about them. Or you might not, because they did not. This is not fate, this is a roll of the dice; you need two sixes.

April 25, 2021

Any Other Business: Part LXVII

A Rock and a Starless Place

It struck me early on that Castle Rock season 2 was considerably less star-powered than Castle Rock season 1. I was never sure why season 1 had been so garlanded with praise when, like so much prestige TV, it promised oodles more than it had any capability to deliver. Season 2 showcased some astonishing drone camerawork, but missed a priceless early opportunity for one of the funniest twists ever, and was more of a slog than its predecessor simply because it was so unlikely from previous experience to actually reach any payoff. Lizzy Caplan was damn good as the young Kathy Bates in season 2, but she was surrounded by a lackof famous faces compared to the cult heroes everywhere in season 1. Which poses the question, allied with the cancellation of the show for poor ratings, have both actors and audiences grown wary and weary of the Bad Robot approach to storytelling? Viz. there is no story but you must wait to the end to discover it was all incident without purpose.

The Greatest Theme Tune You’ve Never Heard

As Hans Zimmer unveiled his mobile phone ringtone for your consideration just as I came to the end of Sky Arts’ re-run of CNN’s documentary series The Eighties it occurred to me that Blake Neely’s rousing theme tune for that series (and indeed its predecessors and successors) would be a great ringtone. Nobody else would recognise it, but it would be a great ringtone. It might not be that effective though because in my conception, the whole theme would play the longer you let the phone ring, rather than simply an excerpt repeating itself. And so frustrated friends would yell at me as I rang them back, “Did you just let it ring out to hear that damn theme tune in full – again?!”

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?

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