Talking Movies

June 11, 2019

Any Other Business: Part XXXII

What is one to do with thoughts that are far too long for Twitter but not nearly long enough for a proper blog post? Why round them up and turn them into a thirty-second portmanteau post on matters of course!

It’s a Mads Mads Mads Mads World: Part II

The ‘not that firm, never floppy’ quip of Mads Mikkelsen in the ‘Greetings’ ad for Carlsberg had become an in-joke between me and my Dad on the subject of handshakes, so I was delighted to see the ‘Unfiltered’ ad; in which the Great Dane seemed to have been retrieved after a two-week bender in the woods; so quickly followed up by a new ad in which he cycles around improbably balancing a huge amount of beer on his bike, even when he’s got off it, because Carlsberg is so perfectly balanced. But then I saw the other new ad he’s made for Carlsberg, ‘The Lake’. For most of the ad it seems quite humdrum compared to previous outings, until you get to the last seconds and the bubbles in the water – at which point if I had been drinking tea I would have spit it straight across the room so explosive and uncontrollable was my snort of laughter for Mads’ ‘Probably…’

Is this about Brexit?: Part II

At the end of February I wrote about two commercials that kept catching my eye on television, both of which seemed to be about Brexit without saying they were about Brexit. HSBC’s seemed to be an implicit rebuke to Farage’s Little Englanders by playing Elgar’s Nimrod Enigma Variation over Richard Ayoade comically reminding everyone how hopelessly connected with and dependent on the rest of the world their small island really is, and apparently offence was taken for just that implicit reason. Now Ayoade is back with another pointed ad for HSBC that is curiously impossible to find on YouTube. Amidst talk of barriers going up and shutters coming down on the high street it seems obvious that the bank is taking aim at Boris Johnson & Co’s desire for the economic calamity of a No-Deal Brexit to prove some Old Etonian point about Little England not needing any help from anyone. Except America. And Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the Commonwealth. Chlorinated chicken, anyone?

February 28, 2019

Any Other Business: Part XXVI

What is one to do with thoughts that are far too long for Twitter but not nearly long enough for a blog post proper? Why round them up and turn them into a twenty-sixth pormanteau post on matters of course!

Is this about Brexit?

Two commercials keep catching my eye on television at the moment, and both seem to be about Brexit without saying they’re about Brexit. One seems to be an implicit rebuke to the Little Englanders by playing Elgar’s Nimrod Enigma Variation over Richard Ayoade reminding everyone how hopelessly connected with and dependent on the rest of the world the small island is, while the other appropriately enough features recent Churchill impersonator Gary Oldman in a spirit of ‘keep buggering on’ as it attempts to cheer up the British that they have done good things in the past and so might survive this folly.

October 20, 2018

Politik: Part VIII

Hopefully this eight regrettable portmanteau of politics will be the last descent into such commentary for a good long while.

I serve at the displeasure of the Queen

I conceived of a wonderful wheeze last week. Theresa May should spring on Queen Elizabeth II at one of their legally obligatory weekly waste of time chats that she needs help dealing with Brexit. Specifically she needs three great minds (sic) to do the job, without the worry of party political or electoral considerations. So would Her Majesty mind awfully making Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg, and Nigel Farage Ministers life Peers and also Extraordinary and Plenopentiary Ministers, acting above the Cabinet and answering directly to the Queen herself. Their task? To negotiate the Brexit they seem to have such strong opinions yet scant details on. The Queen, slightly taken aback, will agree, forgetting to ask whether the trio have assented to such an unusual move. They will not. The first they will hear of it is when Theresa May bounds out of the car as soon as it gets outside the grounds of Buckingham Palace and announces to one man and his camera that she is delighted that the three men have accepted to personally serve Queen and Country in this way, but mostly the Queen. Now. The ball is in their court. Will these men have the utter gall to refuse to serve the Queen when it has been announced that she has graciously made them Lords and given them a rank and function exceeding the Prime Minister? And when they make an absolute balls of Brexit who can they blame? The Queen? Perish the thought!

July 20, 2018

Any Other Business: Part XVII

What is one to do with thoughts that are far too long for Twitter but not nearly long enough for a proper blog post? Why round them up and turn them into a seventeenth portmanteau post on television of course!

 

Sorry seems to be the hardest word for Facebook

I had been thinking about commenting on Facebook’s current TV spots on British television, and then Channel 4’s Dispatches came along and disquietingly lifted the lid on the people who work for Facebook but don’t work for Facebook in Dublin. Ah, the joy of outsourcing. It’s always someone else’s fault that the high standards Facebook expects are not being upheld. Not that we’re ever told what those high standards are precisely. And nothing bad that happens is ever wrong, certainly never criminal, it’s always, well, let’s listen to the TV spot Facebook is using in Britain to try and reassure people that Brexit may have been the result of Facebook but not to worry, soon your newsfeed will be full of only cute kittens again – take it away maestro, “We didn’t come here for click-bait, spam, fake news, and data misuse. That’s not okay.” Well, that is profound. I guess if Mark Zuckerberg, whose non-apology apology to Congress came in for some stick hereabouts previously, can go so far as to admit that enabling Brexit and Trump was ‘not okay’ then we can all meet him half-way and forgive him for letting it happen, and evading responsibility. The best way to protect your privacy is not to change settings on Facebook it’s to not use social media at all. And if Facebook is really intended just to ‘connect people’ rather than say data-mine the f*** out of the world’s population for psychometrics in the service of personalised advertising then there’s one really simple way to prove it. Change it to Facebook.org

xkcd by Randall Munroe, where would our collective sanity be without it?

 

I can’t believe it’s not The Unit

I can’t remember the last time I had such a double-take reaction to a TV show as watching SEAL Team. The adventures of a band of brothers in the American military who fly about the world causing mayhem, when not dealing with domestic dramas at home. This simply was a remake of David Mamet’s The Unit, they even hired Mr Grey (Michael Irby) from The Unit to play their ‘been there done that’ character putting the hopefuls thru their paces before they can ascend to the godlike status of a Tier 1 Operator. There were touches that distinguished it from Mamet’s creation to be sure, but mostly that was a layer of SJW-babble; centred around the character of Alona Tal’s English PhD student and would-be girlfriend of would-be Tier 1 Operator Max Thieriot; and it was never entirely clear whether this was being satirical of SJW-babble or just thinking it needed to be there to represent America as it is right now. But mostly this was The Unit, with different actors, led by David Boreanaz taking over the Dennis Haysbert role. And then creator Benjamin Cavell, late of Justified, threw the mother of all structural spit-balls at the viewer. The characters just upped and left to Afghanistan for deployment, a regular occurrence, but one brought forward on this occasion because of the complete destruction of their predecessors Seal Team Echo. All the domestic dramas at home gone, apart from two Skype scenes in six episodes so far of this investigative arc into who ordered the hit on Echo which has replaced the mission by mission of the earlier standalone American episodes whose only arc was Thieriot’s training to join the team. I’m not sure I was prepared for such formalist experimentation on CBS.

“That’s some editing”

Editing the punch-lines out of jokes first annoyed me a few years ago when Willem Dafoe was voicing the Birdseye Bear. A peerless advert saw him set the scene for a romantic dinner for his hapless owner, only to be told to hop it as the no longer frozen food arrived at the impeccably mood-music’d and mood-light’d table. The bear turned straight to camera to register his astonishment, and was then found sitting outside the house muttering “There’s gratitude for ya!” But then the advert started to get edited more and more severely, and the punch-line was thrown out. Who does that? What buffoon makes these decisions? Let’s edit for time, and throw away the jokes that are the point of the seconds we’ve kept that are now pointless. James Corden’s current advert has been cut to the point of sheer gibberish. The three encounters with three fly-by-night mechanic brothers, who bore a passing resemblance to Donald Trump, and left Corden sad and depressed entering Vegas with bugger all money after their antics and then elated when he left with loadsamoney have been reduced to a decontextualised idiotic mishmash. What exactly was the purpose of this editing?

February 15, 2018

Look Back in Anger

The Gate advertise the hell out of their doing John Osborne’s seminal 1956 play, and then refuse on point of principle to actually do it.

Jimmy Porter (Ian Toner) is an angry young man, indeed he is the angry young man. He watched his father die from wounds sustained in the Spanish Civil War, and now despite his college education he finds himself manning a sweet stall down the market, unable to escape his working class roots in this post-war Midlands city despite his formidable, vituperative mental and linguistic agility. His rage against the establishment lashes against his upper-middle-class wife Alison (Clare Dunne), and to a lesser degree their Welsh Irish lodger Cliff (Lloyd Cooney). But when Jimmy eventually pushes Alison too far, a visit from her snobbish friend Helena (Vanessa Emme) sees Alison finally desert her stormy marriage. Only for the damndest thing to happen in the continuing war of contempt, class consciousness, and the desire for a worthy opponent between Jimmy and Helena…

While the audience is coming in the actors amble onto Paul O’Mahony’s curious canted stage of a realistic attic apartment, as a box within the exposed walls of the Gate’s backstage area. Emme reads the stage directions while the others take their places, and Dunne is reluctant to don the particular shirt specified. So far so Brecht, kind of. But then it continues, on and on and on, adding God knows how long to the endless 2 hour 45 minute running time, and for one purpose, so that Alison and Helena can eschew the stated directions, even when they’re emphatically repeated. The female characters, like Taylor Swift, would like to be excluded from this narrative. Which doesn’t do much for the narrative. Jimmy ends on his knees cooing a redemptive moment to nobody, as Alison refuses to follow Osborne’s directions.

I saw Kenneth Branagh star in Osborne’s 1957 play The Entertainer on the West End in 2016. Some sequences were melodramatic, but mostly it was very effective; startlingly so indeed because, despite being about the post-imperial crisis of confidence the Suez crisis amplified, one line drew gasps from the crowd because it seemed about Brexit. I expected director Annabelle Comyn would do something of the same here; pare down Osborne’s text like her lean 2015 Hedda Gabler, and bring out the impotent rage against an aloof establishment that would seem apposite to the Brexit moment. Instead I got leaden pacing, and a bad academic workshop exercise gone rogue. Give me a few days and I can furnish you with a version of Hamlet focused on his abusiveness towards Gertrude and Ophelia. But then we wouldn’t have Hamlet anymore would we?

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and The Homecoming would not exist without this play. When Toner leans into Michael Caine in his characterisation of Porter he unconsciously directs attention to how this play aided the explosion of the working class into British culture in the 1950s and 1960s. In short Osborne’s work deserves a modicum of respect. Instead gags and clues to Porter’s left-wing politics are clipped, so Toner is left in the bizarre, thankless and pointless position of playing a charismatic character who is purposefully being denied laughs or attraction by the disapproving staging, while Tom Lane’s sound design and Chahine Yavroyan’s harsh lighting is used to accentuate the most malicious of his rants, and Alison’s father is no-platformed (with his part being read from a script) because he sympathises with Jimmy’s frustration. Dunne kisses Cooney on the lips far too passionately to deny Osborne’s script its intent, while you suspect Cooney and Emme are being deliberately theatrical in their delivery as a further distancing measure. But why bother?

If you are so contemptuous of this play, and contempt comes washing off the stage in great waves, then for heaven’s sake why are you doing it? Who exactly is forcing Selina Cartmell and Annabelle Comyn to do this (sigh) problematic play? Why not do The Children’s Hour or A Taste of Honey or Oh! What a Lovely War or Our Country’s Good or Blasted or Enron or Posh or The Flick instead? It is odd to prioritise doing a ‘bad’ play by a male playwright over doing a good play by a female playwright. It is odder to ask people to pay 35e to see a play deliberately done poorly because the company wishes to complain about its place in the canon. The Gate is not doing itself any favours with this tedious approach to its commercial stock-in-trade, revivals.

This is easily the worst production I have ever seen at the Gate, and sadly it is also the worst show I have ever seen directed by Comyn.

1/5

Look Back in Anger continues its run at the Gate until the 24th of March.

January 18, 2017

ADIFF 2017

The programme for ADIFF’s 15th celebration of cinema is now available to browse and download at www.diff.ie and tickets go on sale tomorrow Thursday January 19th at 10:00am; available by phone on +353 1 687 7974 or in person at DIFF, 13 Ormond Quay.

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World cinema is coming to the Audi Dublin International Film Festival from 16th-26th February 2017 with Vanessa Redgrave, Nathalie Baye, Kerry Fox, Ross Noble, Ben Wheatley, and Anna Friel joining Irish stars Jack Reynor, Moe Dunford, Cillian Murphy, John Butler, and Aiden Gillen on the red carpet.

Grainne Humphreys, Festival Director, said ‘I’m thrilled with the selection of films that not only showcases some of the biggest names in world cinema but features a selection of first time directors from across the globe who will make a serious impression with our audience in this and in coming years. To be able to include new Irish films from Aisling Walsh, Jim Sheridan, Emer Reynolds, Aiden Gillen, John Butler, Neasa Ní Chianán, Juanita Wilson, and Ken Wardrop is an extraordinary testament to the current strength and depth of the Irish film industry. I hope that as many Dubliners as possible take this chance to explore and celebrate the art of film.’

Richard Molloy, Head of Marketing and Product at Audi Ireland, said, “Following a hugely successful partnership between Audi and the Dublin International Film Festival in 2016 we are proud to continue this into 2017.  Audi’s brand philosophy, ‘Vorsprung durch Technik’, really connects with the festival’s ethos of inspiring progressiveness and creativity. Furthermore, our partnership with the festival allows us to celebrate the art of film-making while recognising new and emerging film talent. This year we are delighted to introduce an Audi Gala screening to the festival programme providing festival fans with the ultimate red carpet film experience.”

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Galas and World Premieres

The Gala Opening Night of ADIFF 2017 will be the Irish Premiere of Maudie, the internationally acclaimed biopic of folk artist Maud Lewis by award-winning Irish director Aisling Walsh (Song for a Raggy Boy) which stars Sally Hawkins and Ethan Hawke. Jim Sheridan’s The Secret Scripture, adapted from the award-winning novel by Sebastian Barry, will receive a Gala Irish Premiere and see ADIFF present a Volta Award to British theatrical royalty Vanessa Redgrave. The Volta Award is the Festival’s most prestigious honour, reserved for those who have made an outstanding contribution to the world of film. Jack Reynor, Cillian Murphy, and Ben Wheatley will attend the Audi Gala screening of Wheatley’s new film Free Fire. ADIFF’s new Centrepiece Gala will be Neasa Ní Chianán and David Rane’s In Loco Parentis documentary study of the Headfort School. World Premieres at ADIFF 17 include Juanita Wilson’s Tomato Red with star Anna Friel in attendance, Dennis Bartok’s terrifying hospital horror Nails, and Aiden Gillen and Jamie Thraves’ Pickups (features Gillen playing a semi-fictionalised version of himself). Ken Wardrop (His & Hers) brings his characteristic warmth and humanity to piano grade exams in The Piano Lesson, while John Murray and Traolach Ó Murchú’s Photo City delves into the celluloid history of Rochester, NY. ADIFF’s prestigious Closing Night Gala is the Irish premiere of Handsome Devil, the new comedy-drama set in an Irish boarding school from John Butler, who directed The Stag.

International Programme

Nathalie Baye, Kerry Fox, and François Cluzet will attend the festival. Baye becomes the target of a dangerous obsession in Moka, Fox is the uncompromising acting teacher in The Rehearsal, and Cluzet stars in stylish paranoia thriller Scribe. ADIFF’s world cinema programme feature films from over 35 countries, from Bhutan to New Zealand, Seoul to Senegal, and Nova Scotia to Manila. There are new films from Festival favourites including Olivier Assayas, Pablo Larraín, Michael Winterbottom, Aki Kaurismäki, Ben Wheatley, Asghar Farhadi, Cristian Mungiu, Lone Scherfig, and Terence Davies. In 2011, Iko Uwais’ flying fists and lightning-fast feet in The Raid brought the house down in the Savoy. Now Uwais returns as the hero of IFI Horrorthon sell-out Headshot, bringing his astounding fighting skills to this tale of amnesia and revenge.

First-time Directors

This year’s programme features a number of new international voices making feature debuts: Juho Kuosmanen’s uplifting Oscar-tipped boxing biopic The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki, Ben Young’s Australian kidnap nightmare Hounds of Love, British director William Oldroyd’s Lady Macbeth, and Daouda Coulibaly’s thrilling West African crime thriller Wùlu. Irish director Lorcan Finnegan’s deeply creepy walk in the woods eco-horror Without Name marks him out as a talent to watch closely in years to comeThe frustration and unease those in the arts have felt at people uninterested in the arts voting for Brexit and Trump is expressed through acerbic and bitter humour – Dash Shaw’s My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea!, Sean Foley’s Mindhorn (with Ross Noble in attendance), Anna Biller’s Love Witch, and Kris Avedisian’s comedy of discomfort Donald Cried.

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Special Events and the Surprise Film

Masterclasses include leading British director Ben Wheatley (High Rise, Free Fire, A Field in England, Kill List), and Oscar-winning costume designer Alexandra Byrne (Doctor Strange). Terence Davies, a singular master of film adaptations, will take part in a public interview with Roddy Doyle. Celebrating the current high point in Irish film, an exhibition by Hugh O’Conor features intimate portraits of his colleagues. An annual treat for the brave, the Surprise Film is a tightly guarded secret known only to the Festival Director, and this year the screening is supported by Just Eat, the official food ordering app, who will be offering special discounts and vouchers to the audience.

Fantastic Flix

The Festival’s expanding Fantastic Flix programme brings the world of cinema to the next generation in its packed festival of children’s films from around the globe, workshops, short film selections, the Fantastic Flix Children’s Jury and special events. Highlights include a special selection of films from visiting children’s author Dame Jacqueline Wilson, along with the Golden Globe-nominated animated film My Life as a Courgette, and Michaël Dudok de Wit’s The Red Turtle.

Awards
Alongside the Volta Awards that recognise outstanding achievement, the ADIFF Discovery Award sees the festival reward emerging Irish talent; the Dublin Film Critics Circle Jury selects the best of the festival for their awards ceremony; and film-goers themselves select their favourite with the AUDI-ence award. The AUDI-ence award-winning film-makers
 will be flown to the Berlin International Film Festival in 2018, where they will enjoy a true VIP Audi experience.

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