Talking Movies

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

April 1, 2015

While We’re Young

Frances Ha director Noah Baumbach returns to the NYC art scene, but loses Greta Gerwig as co-writer and reinstates Greenberg cohort Ben Stiller as protagonist.

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Josh (Ben Stiller) is a documentarian. He’s married to Cornelia (Naomi Watts), a film producer, whose father is the legendary documentarian Leslie Breitbart (Charles Grodin).  Josh and Cornelia’s best friends Fletcher (Beastie Boy’s Adam Horovitz!!) and Marina (Maria Dizzia) have just had a kid. Indeed the misleading opening finds Josh and Cornelia gazing at the baby while a mobile playing a cutesy version of Bowie’s ‘Golden Years’ hangs over the cot. Having lost Fletcher to the children cult Josh is receptive to a hipster couple he meets after one of his New School extension lectures. Jamie (Adam Driver) is a would-be documentarian, his wife Darby (Amanda Seyfried) makes home-made ice cream, and they live in a Brooklyn flat with friend and occasional band-mate Tipper (Dree Hemingway). Josh is enchanted, and soon so is Cornelia, but can this rejuvenation end well?

While We’re Young is less sunny than Frances Ha, but thankfully not as bitter as Greenberg, and, from the opening hilarious quotes from Ibsen’s The Master Builder, is always engaging. Some montages of Josh and Cornelia’s rediscovery of their youth thru hip-hop and hats equal Frances Ha’s use of pop, and Baumbach also mocks ‘Eye of the Tiger’ motivational status (“I remember when this song was just bad”). But Frances Ha was about being lost and aimless. This is about a couple who have everything, and are jaded, meeting a couple who have little, but are liberated. Josh has spent 8 years not finishing a documentary, and laments “I only have two moods: wistful and disdainful.” For Jamie making a documentary is a free and easy process, as whimsy-driven as choosing to not know a factoid rather than google it.

But when Jamie uses a remote control to zoom-in for a close-up on his face during a ‘spontaneous’ tearful scene when interviewing old school-friend Kent (Brady Corbet), Josh realises Jamie’s directing is as affected as the love of vinyl and VHS… Then things get All About Eve as Jamie supplants Josh in the affections of Leslie (veteran Grodin on fine comedic form). It’s a bit silly, not least as it draws attention to Baumbach’s own idol-supplanting. Josh is Woody Allen in Crimes & Misdemeanours: a film-maker unable to finish a documentary showcasing an aged academic proffering arcane wisdom. It’s as odd as James Murphy’s music and Baumbach’s staging creating an oddly sinister intercutting of a valedictory speech and an ethical confrontation, almost as if Baumbach is parodying his own concerns: Woody’s stakes were life and death, his, just passé ethics.

While We’re Young has moments of genuine sadness, like Cornelia (who’s miscarried repeatedly) freaking out a baby music class, but Baumbach opts for an all too pat comedy ending.

3.5/5

March 6, 2015

Top 5 Cinematic Spock Moments

To mark the passing of Leonard Nimoy here’s five of his best moments in the eight Star Trek movies he appeared in over 34 years.

 

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(5) Casuistry

“You lied!” “I exaggerated” “Hours instead of days! Now we have minutes instead of hours!” (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan)

Saavik is horrified that her fellow Vulcan would have lied, but (too much hanging around with humans) Spock is adamant that his obfuscation was ethically just about acceptable, and justified tactically (therefore ethically too?) as it gave Kirk the element of surprise he needed against Khan.

 

(4) Etiquette

“Your knees’ll start shaking and your fingers pop/Like a pinch on the neck of Mr Spock” (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home)

Fine, that’s not dialogue from the movie, and that’s not what happens when you get the Vulcan nerve pinch. But it’s highly likely that the Beastie Boys had this scene in mind when writing those lyrics, as Spock’s wordless instruction in manners is a comedic delight.

 

(3) Destiny

“I have been, and always shall be, your friend” (Star Trek XI)

JJ Abrams’ reboot was a mixture of fantastic in-jokes and infuriating ret-conning. But the moment when Phantom Menace-level CGI business led young Kirk to a cave and a mysterious figure sent mythic shivers down my spine. Yes, there’s a certain introduction of Obi-Wan about things, but the passing of the franchise flame has a huge resonance.

 

(2) Memory

“Jim. Your name … is Jim?” (Star Trek III: The Search for Spock)

Star Trek III gets far too much abuse for a film featuring Christopher Lloyd chewing scenery as a Klingon, and the heartbreaking destruction of the Enterprise (“My God, Bones. What have I done?”) The moment when Kirk realises that their sacrifice has not been in vain, that Spock’s mind has survived, is a fitting finale.

 

(1) Logic

“Don’t grieve Admiral. It is logical. The needs of the many outweigh…” (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan)

The logical choice for best Spock moment is the scarred and dying Spock collecting himself to say goodbye to Kirk, and explain, with his best Benthamite utilitarianism, how his self-sacrifice for the sake of the ship and crew was the only possible choice he as a Vulcan could make. Like Michael Palin choosing Monty Python’s ‘Fish Dance’, you feel Leonard Nimoy would be happy to have this be the only piece of his work that remained: it says everything.

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