Talking Movies

June 8, 2020

Any Other Business: Part LV

As the title suggests, so forth.

Status Maroon 5

Well, today is the first day of Status Maroon 5. Libraries are to re-open, public transport is to become more frequent (for all the use you can make of it), county wide car wanders can be undertaken, and the cocooned can be visited briefly (with exceptionally discomfiting provisos). And what next? Status Crimson Tide on June 29th with the hastened re-opening of churches, museums and galleries, pubs that serve food, alongside the planned socially distanced cafes and restaurants. But when do we return to life as it was in the first week of March? It seems that public patience with lockdown is fraying, and perhaps with good reason. The global population is reckoned at 7.8 billion and COVID-19 has killed 397,000, whereas the endlessly invoked exemplar of the last global pandemic the Spanish Influenza killed between 17,000,000 and 50,000,000 of a global population of 1.8 billion. And that global population had just suffered thru the privations and depredations of a world war. If we had just all started wearing masks in February, modelling ourselves on Hong Kong and Taiwan, could we have avoided such a crippling lockdown?

Hannibal, he’s here to tease

Around this time in 2013 I previewed, and then later weighed in on, Hannibal; the blood-spattered procedural in which Laurence Fishburne’s FBI supremo Jack Crawford teams unstable but gifted profiler Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) with brilliant psychiatrist Dr Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) to fight crime. I thought a tale of friendship between future deadly nemeses before they come into celebrated and chronicled conflict sounded suspiciously Smallville. And it wasn’t, Lecter in the pilot was very much already a supervillain; eating people for fun. Not that the fun was obvious. Hannibal was incredibly gory for a network show. At the time I thought that had it been on HBO or Showtime it would be unbearable, but Hard Candy director David Slade made it bearable by distancing the viewer with a cold colour palette and a chilly emotionless feel. At its most plot-driven it could feel like a very precisely directed Criminal Minds, with exceptionally gory crime scenes and dream sequences interspersed with exceedingly crisp dialogue between two of the BAU team. And yet, as I try manfully to finally finish the last 8 episodes of that first season 7 years later, it occurs to me that I was right to ditch the show after 5 episodes back then. Why? Well, because now it reminds me not of Criminal Minds but of Mindhunter. Far too much of Hannibal’s runtime is taken up with psychobabble sessions and lame dream sequences. There is a chilly emptiness around gory schlock to portend a great depth, which simply is not there. God forbid that plots should drive, that character should be revealed in action, that dialogue scenes should arise spontaneously and, like House’s trademark, feature two topics simultaneously – procedural and personal. The Engineer put it nicely, saying he had abandoned both shows because he was sick of being drip-fed plot like sugar water to a diabetic.

…or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances

It is wrong to continually think about a fictional character in relation to a real person, but The West Wing re-runs on TG4, focusing as they currently do on the electoral battle between empathetic intellectual Jed Bartlett and know-nothing jackass Rob Ritchie, make it hard not to think about Trump and the sheer vacancy he represents. Stomping all over the First Amendment he swore an oath to protect, he had protestors tear-gassed and baton-charged so he could do a strange stroll to sullenly stand in front of a Church and hold up a copy of the Bible. Holding it in such an awkward way that its proper use seemed as alien to him as if he had been clutching a Torah scroll. Did he read a passage of scripture from the holy writ? No. Did he attempt some Nixonian gesture of empathy towards the protestors? No. Did he attempt to defuse the tense situation as Bobby Kennedy had when he spoke to a crowd the night MLK was shot dead? No.  And then think of Bartlett extemporising a speech from the Biblical quote ‘Joy cometh in the morning’, of Bartlett’s desk only being seen empty in The West Wing two days after his inauguration when he thought Leo’s office was the door to a closet. And think of how Trump’s desk is empty, all the time. Trump would never read from that bible lest it show him up, because you cannot paraphrase and riff the Word of God. And that’s a problem if you cannot actually read. The empty desk betokens an empty man. Inside the bible Trump held, James said:

Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten. Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days. Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabboth. Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter. Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you. Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.

November 29, 2010

The Ashen Road

A whistle blew, and the train trembled into movement….

What’s a train?

Oh silly me, I forgot you were born after the hauntingly vague apocalypse.

So I wouldn’t know what a train was.

No, you wouldn’t.

Okay.

Okay.

The man smiled sadly. The man and the boy trudged onwards along the ashen road. The road was covered in ash, the ground on either side was covered in ash, and the trees set back from the road were ashy, probably because they were ash-trees. Ash was everywhere, even in his memories, as his wife had been called Ash, even though she had had a willowy figure. His wife. He remembered her desertion of them without emotion. It had been too long ago for the concept of emotion to remain after the language had died that could express it.

The man woke from a dream. Even his dreams were pallid and ashen. He tried to get back to sleep, hoping that maybe this dream would have some flash of vivid colour. He returned to his dream, he was following a pig in the dark but without being able to reach it. The pig had something on its back – it was carrying fire in a container with glazed sides that allowed the light to escape. The man realised he would never catch the pig. Then he woke and wept.

What’ll we do for food now?

We’ll get by. We always do. Do you remember the time we came across a bunker full of food, and before that the time we stumbled onto a truck full of food, or the time we were hunting for mushrooms in a field, down on our hands and knees rooting like pigs, and then we found a dead pig.

You think that will happen again?

Well, maybe not it exactly, but… Something will turn up, it always does, it’s like some secular intervention keeps putting food just a bit further down the road despite the fact that all life was wiped out some years ago by that oddly unspecified event.

Is that how other people survive?

Yes, that and eating each other.

But we’d never do that.

No.

Never?

Not unless it was someone truly evil. Like Lady GaGa.

Okay.

Okay.

The boy was excited when the man returned from the woods beside the road.

Who’s that?

Who?

That old man in the distance, further along the ashen road.

He looks like a Jungian Archetype.

What?

Damn! I forgot.

You wouldn’t know because the apocalypse happened, somehow, before you were born but a Jungian Archetype is a reference to Star Wars.

Star Wars?

A Film.

Film?

Never mind, the point is that if the man has a beard, he’ll be wise.

You have a beard.

Ah, but my beard’s not white. If his is white he’s wise, if he’s also British then we’re really in luck. He’ll know what’s going on for sure.

The old man stopped walking when he heard the sound of their footsteps. The man approached slowly, and tried to convey by holding his hands out that he meant no harm to the old man.

I’m not going to hurt you. I just want to talk to you, about the apocalypse.

Go ahead.

What reason?

That question makes no sense.

I was being cryptic for the sake of the boy. Can you save us?

Yes. I have a book that can rebuild technology.

REALLY?

Yes, boy of indeterminate age, I have in my mind….The old man tapped his forehead….

The complete King James Bible.

The what?

The boy stood with a confused expression on his face while the old man smiled and the man looked like he was recovering from a nasty shock.

The King James Bible, said the man, disappointed. A book that can’t even get Pi right and you expect it to rebuild civilisation?

Oh, I’m sorry, I must be mistaken, I thought you were characters from the Book of Eli. My Bad.

The old man shuffled off down along the ashen road.

I always thought Jung was full of crap said the man, before coughing so violently that blood dripped ominously from his mouth.

Later. The man was huddled in his blanket. A grizzled man stood looking at him with compassion. Life ebbing, the boy crying.

But I don’t want to leave you.

Don’t be afraid. Remember what I taught you about Hollywood clichés.

To carry the flame, and always just be myself.

Yes. And even the last man on earth can have a happy ending. You just have to believe…

The boy cried for a time. Then he followed his new father figure. If civilisation ever returned, he was sure his dead father’s story would win many awards. For bravery, and other things.

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