Talking Movies

November 30, 2021

Miscellaneous Movie Musings: Part XLII

As the title suggests, so forth.

Why must Eon always burn the other cheek?

I was initially hostile to complaints about the new Bond film featuring ‘yet another’ scarred villain, until I realised the defence was complete nonsense. Facially scarred villains have not been nearly such a Bond staple as Eon would make out. Dr No has no hands certainly, but it is not until we meet Largo in the fourth film that we meet a character with a maimed visage. Blofeld is scarred in You Only Live Twice, but then he is not scarred in the next two movies. Hook hands, third nipples, megalomania, all these are present and correct, but scarred villains really cease to be a thing with Bond … until Goldeneye. And thereafter the quotient of scarred villains gets completely out of control: Sean Bean, Robert Carlyle, Rick Yune, Mads Mikkelsen, Javier Bardem, Christoph Waltz, Rami Malek. It seems almost as if the new generation at Eon was so worried about living up to the legacy that they became fixated on one element of the past and magnified it out of all proportion as some way of proving their rights to the property.

Wes Anderson, you are locked in a prison of your own devise

It was dispiriting but unsurprising to read an interview with Robert Yeoman in which he talked about how a warehouse had to be used to shoot both The Grand Budapest Hotel and The French Dispatch because Wes Anderson’s camera movements had become so outre that real locations could no longer accommodate them. For years Paul Fennessy and I have had a flight of fancy which finds Wes and Jason Schwartzman or Roman Coppola or Owen Wilson seated at a diner in Austin; furiously scribbling dialogue and scene ideas in yellow legal pads, and beaming at each other happily, until a shadow crosses Wes’ face, and he asks in horror and disappointment, “But wait, can we do that as a tracking shot or a series of whip-pans?” Because if not, well, there’s no place for it in the cathedral of conventions that Wes Anderson has imprisoned himself within. Now it seems the reality of physical space itself has to be shot down in order to shoot the Wes Anderson way. I think this may be why since The Darjeeling Limited I have responded more positively to his animations (Fantastic Mr Fox, Isle of Dogs) than to his live-action efforts (Moonrise Kingdom, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The French Dispatch). The necessity for artificiality to achieve the necessary artificial camera moves grates less when all concerned are made of felt. In his own demented way you could say the presence of live human beings not to mention the built human environment is now getting in the way of the Wes Anderson aesthetic.

March 22, 2020

You Have Been Listening To… : Part IV

As we hunker down and wait for the inevitable lockdown to finally be announced the radio show is on a slight hiatus. There has been a lack of reviews by me of new releases on 103.2 Dublin City FM this year, and what was personally an injury-enforced sabbatical from studio and cinema has now been made a general cinema sabbatical for all. But if you’re eager to explore the back catalogue here’s a round-up of links to editions of Sunday Breakfast with Patrick Doyle and a list of the films we discussed since our Christmas countdown, as the segments morphed into an A-Z of Great Moments in Film that attempts to tip the hat to films that have an anniversary of some kind in 2020.

 

December

Review of 2019 (Free Solo, Non-Fiction)

Review of 2019 (The Mule, Apollo 11)

 

January

Review of 2019 (Balloon) + That Was The 2010s

Preview of 2020 (Tenet, Fast & Furious 9, The French Dispatch, Bergman Island)

TV Choice Terminator 2 + Classic Thunderball

TV Choice American Made + Classic Rebecca

 

February

Great Moments in Film – Groundhog Day

Great Moments in Film – Spartacus

Great Moments in Film – All About Eve

 

March

Great Moments in Film – Back to the Future

Great Moments in Film – Cast Away

Great Moments in Film – Les Diaboliques

Great Moments in Film – The Empire Strikes Back

March 13, 2020

Miscellaneous Movie Musings: Part XXVIII

As the title suggests, so forth.

Alas, Max Von Sydow

Another great has left the stage. 13 years younger than Kirk Douglas, Von Sydow was still working in high-profile productions. Indeed he worked for so many decades that one could say there are multiple Von Sydow personae. There is the Bergman art-house God that my mother remembered from The Virgin Spring, beating himself with sticks to build himself up for his vengeful rampage. There is the priest from The Exorcist and assassin from Three Days of the Condor which properly established him with American audiences after his underwhelming Hollywood debut The Greatest Story Ever Told. Then there was the first von Sydow I encountered, unrecognisable as Ming the Merciless in the gloriously silly Flash Gordon. He was already very old when I came across him as another villain, this time in Minority Report. And then I started coming across him in the art house as a tremendous supporting player in Intacto and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. It is astonishing to think that while Kirk Douglas thru ill health and bad luck had his last important roles in the early 1980s Von Sydow was still working in his 90s and goes out with cameos in The Force Awakens and his role as the Three-Eyed Raven in Game of Thrones as recent reminders of his potency.

The Desplat Factor

I have, of late, been trying to distil down the elements needed to reproduce the essential Wes-ness of a Wes Anderson film. Some are practical for guerrilla film-makers, others less so. Colour coded costumes, hand-crafted sets of increasingly outrageous artificiality, whip-pans, tracking shots, overhead shots, especially of handwritten notes, and the laying out inventories, droll narration … Bill Murray. And, one might add, a score by Alexandre Desplat. Which itself may or may not be connected to the increasingly outrageous artificiality of Wes Anderson’s cinemascapes. Certainly I still regard The Darjeeling Limited as the highpoint of his work, and it was after that film, which used pre-existing music, that he replaced Mark Mothersbaugh, the composer for his first four films, with Desplat for his next four films. I rather liked Desplat’s largely percussive score for Isle of Dogs, but was not particularly taken at the time by either his Moonrise Kingdom or The Grand Budapest Hotel work. Although the latter is growing on me as I soak it in. I think my objections circle a certain childishness at the core of the Desplat/Anderson enterprise. The score for Fantastic Mr Fox had a childlike quality, which was entirely appropriate to the material. But The Grand Budapest Hotel, a film I thought soured in dialogue and action by an unexpectedly mean spirit, seemed to be given the same treatment. And in both cases they shared their approach with Moonrise Kingdom where, in thrall to the featured music of Benjamin Britten (especially his Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra) Mr Desplat’s orchestration was explained in ‘The Heroic Weather-Conditions of the Universe Part 7’. Ralph Vaughan Williams held that a composer lacking confidence in their themes could be depended upon to orchestrate all hell out of them. Desplat’s work for Anderson though is a horse of a different colour. The orchestration is sparse but determinedly eccentric, with featured unusual instrument after featured unusual instrument [“Not to speak of the glockenspiel” “The glockenspiel?” “I asked you not to speak of it”]. And this complicated curating of harps, flutes, piccolos, pizzicato strings, electric guitars, ukuleles, classical guitars, dangling blocks, sixteen bass baritone singers, balalaikas, celestes, banjos, tubular bells, cymbals, timpani, vibraphones, xylophones, triangles, clarinets, French horns, tenor saxophones, trombones, tubas, trumpets, organs, snare drums, bassoons, pianos, and, yes, glockenspiels, is far more important than his simple melodies: timbres are more important than themes. In a sense that’s a musical reflection by Desplat of style being more important to Anderson than substance. Has Anderson fallen into the same trap of Tarantino, of losing touch with basic reality and human emotions in favour of constructing his own Neverland ranch? We shall see later this year…

No Time to Die Edit

Now that the release of No Time to Die has been pushed to November it might be an idea for Cary Fukunaga to go back into the editing suite and make some cuts. The already ramping up publicity push had unwisely seen Lashana Lynch brag about how 007 got put in his place for sexual harassment in this movie. Coming just weeks after Birds of Prey bombed after a publicity campaign that couldn’t stop talking about everyday sexism, male gaze, and misogyny, you have to ask the question staff most feared hearing from President Obama – ‘Who thought this was a good idea?’ The trailer had already seen my tepid interest evaporate. Craig looks as past it physically as Roger Moore in A View to a Kill, but without even the lingering interest in the role. The moment where the security guard has no idea who Bond is clearly is meant to be hilarious and subversive, and yet it makes no sense; MI6 would remember. Think of the scene at the start of Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation where a similar character realises who Ethan Hunt is, “I’ve heard the stories. They can’t all be true…” Lashana Lynch’s dialogue and smirks in the trailer quickly pegged her character as insufferable and, once again, made you yearn for any Craig-era Bond girl to measure up to Eva Green’s Vesper Lynd. But the idea that No Time to Die will see Bond, and by implication the audience, receiving an endless series of lectures makes one think again on the reasons for delaying it. Quite simply, this film cannot fail or it sinks MGM. But… even if everyone is primed to go back into packed cinemas in November, will anybody bother if the cast and crew of the film keep telling them it’s not a rollicking adventure but a vitally necessary lecture on their implicit biases? The evidence of Birds of Prey, Charlie’s AngelsTerminator: Dark Fate, and Ghostbusters (2016) suggests not. Films that wish to lecture a pre-existing audience must reckon with that audience not showing up, and the supposedly untapped new audience of people on Twitter that like and retweet that pre-existing audience getting owned will also not show up, they never do. Which means of course that no one shows up. And then goodbye MGM. Time to edit?

January 20, 2020

Hopes: 2020

The French Dispatch

Wes A writes solo

50s expats en Francais

Whimsical New Wave?

 

Bergman Island

Mia Hansen-Love

mixes art and Scandi-life

Her English debut

 

Tenet

C Nolan bends time

Even more than usual

This could get trippy

Fast & Furious 9

Hmmm, no Rock, no State

Theron is back, Cena new

Can this hit the mark?

 

Bill & Ted Face the Music

Dude, at last it’s here

Wyld Stallyns write cosmic hits

Rufus promised us

 

Top Gun: Maverick

Tom Cruise feels the need

The need for speed, and danger

Who needs damn stuntmen?

Last Night in Soho

Edgar Wright does horror

But it’s also time travel

Which means Mrs Peel!!

 

The Trial of the Chicago 7

Trials are short, talk fast

Sorkin tackles ’68

Mayor Daley rolls

 

Wonder Woman: 1984

Gal Gadot returns!

Chris Pine returns! Wait, what?! But…

Day-glo fun nonsense?

Free Guy

Ryan Reynolds is…

An NPC in a game?!

Pikachu 2 much?

 

A Quiet Place 2

Clap your hands, say yeah!

Wait, don’t do that – certain death

Silent excitement

 

The King’s Man

Where it all began

Ralph Fiennes is M, his own alpha

World War Silliness

Death on the Nile

H. Poirot returns

But will the plot stay bloody?

Watch this moustache

 

The Call of the Wild

Jack London’s classic

Harrison Ford with a beard

What’s not to like here?

 

Ghostbusters: Afterlife

Save us, Reitman’s son

You’re our only hope. Well, plus

Egon’s grandchildren.

Purge 5: Final Night

We saw things kick off

Now we’ll see how it melts down

Go Cady Longmire!

 

C’mon C’mon

Mike Mills rides again!

(Not the muso) We know nawt,

Save Joaquin P stars

 

Mank

Fincher’s not done yet

Netflix bankroll Welles epic

Gary Oldman the star

The Nest

Jude Law, Carrie Coon

Get some bad cabin fever

Sean Durkin returns!

 

Loveland

Ivan Sen sci-fi

Hugo Weaving back in fold

MegaCity, not Outback

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