Talking Movies

September 8, 2019

From the Archives: Year of the Dog

Digging in the pre-Talking Movies archives throws up this forgotten tale of lonely office worker Peggy (Shannon); devastated when her dog dies, but her life changes when a vet (Sarsgaard) offers her a dog to adopt.

Mike White is a gifted comedy writer. He has penned School of Rock, Orange County and Nacho Libre as well as the more serious dramedies The Good Girl and Chuck & Buck. So when you hear that he’s assembled an interesting cast for his directorial debut your expectations get raised ever so slightly. Which is what makes Year of the Dog such a terrible let down. Things start off promisingly enough as we’re shown the empty life of office worker Peggy (Molly Shannon) whose best friend is really her dog Pencil, who promptly dies of toxic poisoning leaving Peggy distraught. But that unexpected emotional punch makes it obvious that we have been sold a pup by the misleading trailer. Peter Sarsgaard arrives as the big romantic lead…and announces he’s celibate owing to the trauma of childhood abuse. That’s a good summary for how far this film is from the advertised sweet romantic triangle between Peggy (Shannon), Al (John C Reilly) and Newt (Sarsgaard); dog lovers all.

White’s script infuriatingly introduces a host of horrible people who could be the stuff of comedy and then refuses to do anything funny with any of them. John C Reilly dunders around as the loutish next door neighbour but then disappears. Laura Dern makes your skin crawl as Peggy’s sister-in-law who treats her children as if she’d read Howard Hughes’ guide to parenting but is given little screen-time. Regina King (Layla) is given the joyfully offensive line; “I believe there is someone in this world for everyone, even retarded cripple people get married”; but precious little else to flesh out Peggy’s best friend. All of these characters are thrown away in favour of focusing on Peggy’s journey towards becoming a vegan, or a nutjob which is how she turns out, which is ironic given that writer/director White is a vegan.

It’s hard to watch someone betray their family and friends, commit cheque fraud, lose their job as a result and adopt 15 dogs from the city pound and accept it as a spiritual epiphany. White lamentably falls into the Hollywood cliché where the mechanics of what happens next is conveniently never explained. If she’s unemployed, and for a reason that makes her unemployable, where does Peggy get the money to pay her rent let alone her dog food bills? It’s hard not to think these are really the first steps to homelessness, which is a disquieting thought when you’re meant to be cheering along Peggy the newly minted animal rights activist. Year of the Dog ends up in the nightmare pitfall of dramedy where there’s enough sweetness to keep you watching in the hope of a joke popping up again fairly soon (which it probably won’t) but not enough dramatic meat to make you believe in these characters as real people. A dog of a debut…

1/5

September 18, 2012

Any Other Business: Part V

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 fifth  portmanteau post on television of course!

RTE  Heart Hans  Zimmer

Have you noticed a  tendency for everything to be drowned in Hans Zimmer music lately? I think it was when I  was watching a serious and rather good RTE documentary on the bank guarantee in  2008 that I  first got annoyed at the tendency to plaster Hans Zimmer scores over everything.  I don’t need the Joker’s musical theme shimmering over tales  of dodgy American sub-prime mortgages and CFD problems in Anglo-Irish Bank to know  that someone is engaged in villainous double-dealing. I don’t need to have the  pulsasting  Batman goes to war music playing over accounts of frantic meetings late at night  to know that action was being taken to avert a crisis. There has to come a point  where talking heads in a documentary are allowed to speak and the audience is  treated as intelligent enough to grasp the implications of what they’re saying without needing a musical cue  of the most bombastic sort. And that’s the other problem. Does everything need to  have The  Dark Knight  or Inception backing  it? These are  very recognisable and quite well-known soundtracks whose constant intrusion into  a serious documentary can pull you right out, as you think about the  Nolan movie instead of what you’re watching. The one free pass I’ll  give anyone regarding use of Hans Zimmer is TG4 booming Inception music for their rugby  coverage  because at least it’s a change from Kasabian (see below…). It’s time to stop  spoon-feeding the audience, and subsidising Mr  Zimmer.

Kasabian:  Born to Rock/Soundtrack Sport

Kasabian are one of  those bands who appear to have the stars aligned in their favour. I went to see  their show in Marlay Park a few weeks ago, only knowing the The West Rider Pauper Lunatic Asylum, and was taken aback at  just how many of their songs I actually knew. There is a story told that Richard  Linklater wanted to use ‘Immigrant Song’ for a scene in his 2004 film School  of Rock and  was taken aback to be asked for 10 times as much money as he’d had to fork over  to use Led Zeppelin for his 1993 film Dazed  and Confused; indeed the amount  asked for ‘Immigrant Song’ equalled the budget for his entire 1993 movie, and  only after much begging was he able to get the price down to a reasonable  level.  Kasabian emerged at a moment when industrial illegal downloading had so  decimated traditional revenue streams that licensing music for TV and cinema was  becoming not just a clever way of getting exposure (a la Moby with Play) but damn near the only  way you could be guaranteed getting paid when people listened  to your  music. Enter Kasabian, whose breakthrough single ‘Clubfoot’ was used on TV spots  for Smallville and 24 and damn  near every action film for a year. Since then they’ve carved out an incredible  niche. I  don’t know how they do it but damn near every song Kasabian release as a single  seems to have the potential to become the  soundtrack to TV sports. ‘Underdog’, ‘Vlad the Impaler’, ‘Fire’, ‘Days Are  Forgotten’, ‘Velociraptor’, and others have all popped up. They provide the  title music for rugby on RTE, the theme tune of football on Sky, and the  background music for fixture lists and league tables while pundits converse at  half-time on several channels. Kasabian have established their music as the  default setting for TV editors. This is both remarkable and financially  lucrative – how do they do it?

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