Talking Movies

February 28, 2021

Any Other Business: Part LXVI

As the title suggests, so forth.

The Sound of 2001…

I recently rediscovered a cassette tape from the 2004/5 academic year, and what a nostalgic blast it was listening to it. But along with the expected Morrissey, Killers, Franz Ferdinand, U2, Auf Der Maur, and Gwen Stefani tracks there was also a clutch of Smiths songs and Simon & Garfunkel. Because discovering those albums were equally a part of my experience musically speaking of that year. Which led me to thinking about 2001, and how my musical memories of that year are largely the latter kind of listening: the Pixies B-Sides being released was really the only ‘new’ music that connected. The rest was finally listening to Bowie’s Scary Monsters and U2’s Rattle and Hum, rediscovering Talking Heads’ Stop Making Sense, David Byrne’s Uh-Oh and the Doors’ first album. Because… in a world of Limp Bizkit were rollin’ rollin’ rollin’, where the White Stripes and the Strokes were being feted for doing not very much at all, it has to be said that 2001 was a pretty bad year for music. As it was, as has been noted previously hereabouts, also a pretty bad year for film. 2001 – what the hell was that all about? Some sort of psychic collapse or exhaustion from the anticipation of the new millennium?

St Vincent: Fear the Producer

Only three months to go until St Vincent releases a new album! And yet I am not doing the dance of joy, because I fear that bad production may have mangled outstanding songs. Listening to Masseduction and MassEducation in the last few days, along with a YouTube performance of ‘Savior’ and my DVR recordings of her appearances on Later…with Jools Holland with piano and band for ‘Los Ageless’ ‘New York’, ‘Masseduction’, and ‘Slow Fast Disco’, it has become apparent to me that the finest version of all of these twice-recorded tracks are actually the live ones. Annie Clark had produced Masseduction alongside Jack Antonoff, and MassEducation alongside pianist Thomas Bartlett, so I am at a loss to what exactly went on that allowed drama and emotion to be swamped. But I still remember the dismay and shock I had when, after her appearance on Later… in late 2017 I heard ‘Los Ageless’ on the car radio, and didn’t recognise it till I made out familiar words in the chorus.

June 26, 2020

St Vincent: 10 Songs

Paris is Burning

Cruel

Cheerleader

Year of the Tiger

I Should Watch TV

Prince Johnny

Digital Witness

Huey Newton

New York

Los Ageless

February 9, 2019

Talking Heads: 10 Songs

Psycho Killer

I Zimbra

Life During Wartime

Air

Once in a Lifetime

Naive Melody

Slippery People

Road to Nowhere

Television Man

Nothing But Flowers

October 6, 2010

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

‘Is Greed Good?’ is the new more reflective mantra of Michael Douglas’ corporate monster Gordon Gekko who returns after 23 years for a sequel dissecting the Great Recession.

I’ve previously dubbed Wall Street the film that summed up the 1980s. Its sequel aspires to sum up what the hell just happened to the global economy and largely achieves it. The film opens with an amusing prologue in which Gekko is released from prison in 2001 before fast-forwarding to Wall Street during the early summer of 2008. A flashy dizzying climb up the skyscrapers of NYC after young trader Jacob (Shia LaBeouf) parks his motorbike is reminiscent of David Fincher at his most expansive and signals that Oliver Stone has got his directorial mojo working again. The early scenes of this film, especially a Federal Reserve emergency meeting, are wonderfully crisp and while it doesn’t fulfil that early promise this is undoubtedly Stone’s best film since Nixon. The sense that he’s rejuvenated by revisiting one of his greatest achievements is heightened by his use of David Byrne & Brian Eno, down to reprising at the end Wall Street‘s closing credits song ‘This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)’ by Byrne’s band Talking Heads. Nostalgia also delivers an unexpected and great cameo, although on reflection it seems to reverse the message of Wall Street.

Jacob is our new Bud Fox. He receives an unexpected bonus-cheque from his mentor, Frank Langella in a wonderfully desperate performance, but fails to see the writing on the wall – Langella knows that his venerable investment bank is about to go under as a result of exposure to risky financial instruments that he didn’t really understand. This Lehman Brothers style collapse is connived at by his banking nemesis Bretton James, a wonderfully callous Josh Brolin, and leaves Jacob out for revenge. He is aided in his quest to hold Bretton accountable for the damage caused by his financial manoeuvrings by his prospective father-in-law Gekko. Gekko has returned to the limelight with his book ‘Is Greed Good?’ and has a history with Bretton. He would only have got a year for the insider trading Bud Fox implicated him in but Bretton sold him out on securities fraud and so he got sent down for eight years. This strand of the story is the film’s strong point with Gekko as prophet of doom, delivering a barnstorming lecture dissecting the credit crunch before it happens that is a devastating critique of modern high finance.

The emotional arc of Jacob becoming corrupted as he starts to work for Bretton even as he tries to get his fiancé Winnie Gekko (Carey Mulligan) to reconcile with her father, who she maintains cannot be trusted, is weaker. This is not the fault of Mulligan, who has one crackling scene of recriminations with Douglas over the death of her brother, but the over-extended screenplay. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is far too long and too cluttered compared to the straightforward morality play of the original. Stone maintains the importance of working at a real job producing tangible results, espoused by Martin Sheen in the original and here applied to Susan Sarandon as Jacob’s deluded mother – stung by the implosion of a real-estate bubble in Florida. Things all work out a bit too neatly here, but if a real job is defined by producing tangible results then Stone has produced an interesting companion piece that is well worth seeing.

3/5

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