Category Archives: Cinema

Blade Runner 2049.

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Seeing this Blade Runner (1982) sequel was like rendezvousing with old friends after a long hiatus and then finding your erstwhile chums to be far more successful than yourself – it’s quite possibly a better movie than the early eighties game-changer.

Throughout this extraordinary movie I was reminded of Inception (2010) in how this picture treats the concept of creating your own world within a matchbox apartment, which isn’t a risible view of the future but a contemporary reality. We create our own worlds within our private spaces, and with your rudimentary Wi-Fi and laptop any engagement with the outside circus is taken care of. In the Los Angeles of 2049 you have an absolute toilet (the go-around adjective appears to be ‘dystopian’) of a city yet within one’s four walls anything is possible.

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There are scenes of such beauty in this movie that I’ve seldom seen in recent cinema – aesthetics married to a purpose. So often these days I sit gobsmacked at the constant artillery barrage of nonsensical flicks consisting of nincompoops in capes saving the world. Ridiculous gibberish.

Anyway, you must see this film. Harrison Ford and Ryan Gosling in the same movie. What a time to be alive.

Further reading/viewing:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/films/0/blade-runner-2049-review-spectacular-profound-blockbuster-time/

http://www.wired.co.uk/article/blade-runner-2049-denis-villeneuve

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Boozing in Ljubljana.

I was watching The Beach (2000) again the other day and this quote by Leonardo DiCaprio’s character struck a note: ”I just feel like everyone tries to do something different, but you always wind up doing the same damn thing.’

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It’s true. Everywhere I go I gravitate towards the usual treats I enjoy back home – it’s like rote learning. Why explore the nooks and crannies of the local community when you can do the same thing you do in Edinburgh? Guinness galore. I couldn’t even be arsed inspecting that castle thing because I was too busy drinking and reading the internet.

Good times.

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I was on a plane with Don Logan.

Ever seen Sexy Beast (2000)?

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I thought he was going to ground the flight for smoking.

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Blade Runner (1982) is back.

Just think, Blade Runner (1982) predicted that by 2019 we’d have flying cars, replicants, and offshore colonies. We’ve got just over a year to go and your average human, i.e. me, still thinks doodling a cock on a steamed-up bus window is an act of comedic genius.

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What did that seminal movie get right about the world we live in today? Rick Deckard’s hover car – No; Synthetic humans – No; Private-sector space exploration – No.

The movie does anticipate Skype, if only with the added surrealism of an interaction occurring in a bar. Skype in public? I’m too scared to answer my phone on the bus. There are exceptions in my neck of the woods. Only last week, for example, I listened with great curiousity to a bloke who appeared to be on methadone scream down the proverbial dog & bone at his girlfriend for a good five minutes, instructing her in meticulous detail to purchase chicken (“Any fuckin’ kind”) for din-dins.

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The movie nails a few things, though. The late 20th century question and present-day conundrum that’s still a wee bit off being ‘hot topic’ – the moral and ethical consequences of creating intelligent life forms and how we can treat ‘them’ considering the consciousness on display. We’ve had Dolly the sheep, and that appears to be the apotheosis as of writing.

From a purely cinematic standpoint, the movie still holds up. It’s more dense and packed with breathtaking imagery than a thousand motion pictures since. I find parallels with Taxi Driver (1976). Someone (I don’t know who) once said that big cities breed loneliness, and I agree with such a sentiment. Deckard is one sad individual with not an ounce of self-awareness who ends up falling in love with a robot. There’s a lot to be said about that – the modern male’s fear of isolation and introspection. It’s easier to put your energies into someone else than figure out what you are or wish to be.

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Blade Runner 2049 (2017) is released next month. It’s been 35 years since Rutger Hauer chased Harrison Ford around those teary rooftops. I fully expect the real-life denizens of Earth circa 2049 to be driving cars using their eyelids and I also predict a gram of cocaine being a compulsory 50p breakfast choice (no more Weetabix). That’s my vision of the future.

Further reading:

http://www.denofgeek.com/us/movies/blade-runner/253027/blade-runner-how-its-problems-made-it-a-better-movie

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-18026277

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/films/2017/08/12/sci-fi-got-right-15-films-correctly-predicted-future/2-blade-runner-skype/

https://www.spectator.co.uk/2015/03/how-ridley-scotts-sci-fi-classic-blade-runner-foresaw-the-way-we-live-today/

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2016/02/27/blade-runner-future-predictions_n_9302946.html

https://www.wired.com/2017/09/behind-the-scenes-blade-runner-2049-sequel/

 

 

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Frank Vincent – an appreciation.

From as far back as I can remember … I always thought highly of Frank Vincent.

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He just dominated scenes, even if his appearances in films were fleeting. He was the archetypal ‘heavy’ because he looked the part so well, but he had a gravelly charisma that was so natural it elevated him above his character actor peers. His violent interactions with Joe Pesci are his legacy:

In Raging Bull (1980) Joe Pesci repeatedly slams a car window into his noggin.

In Goodfellas (1990) Joe Pesci doesn’t take kindly to being asked to go home for his shine box.

In Casino (1995) Frank Vincent belatedly enacts revenge by burying Joe Pesci alive in a cornfield.

Such were the charming cinematic highlights of my youth.

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It was in the final two seasons of The Sopranos, though, that Frank Vincent’s acting chops were finally rewarded with a meatier role. His antagonist Phil Leotardo was the most complex in the show, a tragic combination of envy, hubris, and self-loathing. He should have got an Emmy for his performance.

Salud, Frank.

Further reading:

https://www.theguardian.com/film/2017/sep/14/frank-vincent-obituary

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Bantz on the Orient Express.

As long as Europe has a pulse there will be the Orient Express. It’s the essential connect to the not entirely apocryphal ‘glory days’ of continental travel. My bucket list includes doing the Orient in a Farage pinstripe, though this travelogue without a ghastly murder on the train. There’s something about the combination of stunning landscapes and sordid intrigue that ensures Agatha Christie’s classic is still being revisited some 80 years after the book’s first edition (1934).

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Anyway, an excellent piece of writing here in The Telegraph ahead of Sir Kenneth Branagh’s November release:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/rail-journeys/orient-express-mystery-and-history/

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Budapest Metro is an underground sketch comedy from hell.

In late January and early February 2011 I spent eight days in Budapest. I hated the city and almost everything about it – it was just replete with scum who would literally do anything for a dollar. On every other street corner you had a hustler or a beggar or an alleged drug dealer peddling Daz washing powder as if it were cocaine fit for Hunter S. Thompson in his prime. The highlight was a Tesco and a ‘cinema hostel’ I stuck around at for the banter, i.e., alcohol and movies. I still meet up with (now) close pals I made on that trip, and we are all in agreement that the metro was, as Alex DeLarge would put it, a real horror show.

306453_10150797955890691_1579151984_nI’d never until that trip seen such shamelessly corrupt ‘authority figures’ as I did their ticket inspectors. They’d swagger around in packs – they reminded me of the Toon Patrol weasels from Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) – the ugliest, shortest, most unshaven specimens you’ll ever witness wearing a uniform. If it were the early 1940s they’d be volunteering for a stint in a death camp. Weirdly, so many of them were the spitting image of Georgy Zhukov. I took about 25 metro journeys during my time on the Danube, and on each occasion was privy to these mutants harassing half the train. I had the impression most of them were mentally compromised individuals on work experience. If you’re expecting commuters to be deferential, though, at least try and look like you’ve not just crawled out of bed.

 

Anyway, there is a film about them called Kontroll (2003), and it essentially sums up these plonkers, with a bit of magical realism thrown in. I saw it the other day and it impresses. Budapest Metro is apparently the oldest electrified subway network on the continent … which is just great. I’d have the staff replaced by robots.

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The movie is good, though, and better than the real thing (a common occurrence).

Further reading/viewing:

https://welovebudapest.com/en/2015/11/10/kontroll-issues-budapests-public-transport-ticket-inspectors/

http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/kontroll-2005

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Gordon Gekko had the best phone ever.

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When someone says the 1980s to me this is the visual I conjure: corporate raider Gordon Gekko just chilling on his wee private beach, making plans at dawn to change the world with Bud Fox. Those were the days when the mobile phone could be utilised as a weapon. I need this in my life.

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Patrick Batemans are among us.

I was on an Edinburgh bus the other day (it’s a twice-daily slice of masochistic trauma) and overheard two geeky types talking about their mobile phones for 30 fucking minutes in the most detailed and scripted way imaginable, emphasising every nook and cranny of their devices. Two thoughts popped into my noggin: 1. These semi-hipsters really adore their smartphones. 2. This sounds like something Straight Outta American Psycho (book and film).

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Bateman talks with such gusto about his suits, haircuts, business cards, and other trivialities of the material world in a way which seems completely manufactured, as if he’s reading verbatim from a magazine spread. And it really is how many people converse these days. It’s a mass regurgitation of accepted gospel strewn over the pages of lifestyle mags or celebrity endorsements through visual media. In recent conversation I’ve seen a person’s eyes flicker to their top-left to recall key lines of a Guardian newspaper review of a hit movie. They essentially parroted the critique word for word.

It’s why Bret Easton Ellis’s magnum opus satire continues to be relevent. It’s not the murders that captivate decades on, but the novel’s spot-on depiction of how much of our everyday language is fed to us on a consumer basis. And how we use it without even realising.

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Here’s a Pat Bateman belter:

‘“Well, we have to end apartheid for one. And slow down the nuclear arms race, stop terrorism and world hunger. Ensure a strong national defense, prevent the spread of communism in Central America, work for a Middle East peace settlement, prevent U.S. military involvement overseas. We have to ensure that America is a respected world power. Now that’s not to belittle our domestic problems, which are equally important, if not more. Better and more affordable long-term care for the elderly, control and find a cure for the AIDS epidemic, clean up environmental damage from toxic waste and pollution, improve the quality of primary and secondary education, strengthen laws to crack down on crime and illegal drugs. We also have to ensure that college education is affordable for the middle class and protect Social Security for senior citizens plus conserve natural resources and wilderness areas and reduce the influence of political action committees.” The table stares at me uncomfortably, even Stash, but I’m on a roll.’
― Bret Easton Ellis, American Psycho.

There’s a lot of poetry in that.

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Dunkirk (2017) – a brief appraisal.

Dunkirk (2017) is a new kind of war movie.

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There are no gratuitous blood-and-guts sequences, nor are there any overtly saccharine attempts to sentimentalise the drama (think Spielberg). It was wound like a spring, and shot with such precision and clarity of vision. The film is a non-linear impressionist snapshot of the evacuation, and it was so refreshing to see a picture made of that great escape bereft of nonsensical German accents or extended scenes of generals and statesmen at conference tables. It’s the anti-genre constraints war movie, more akin to a peak Michael Mann picture – Heat (1995), The Insider (1999) – than your generic battle flick.

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Fear predominates – fear of being smothered by a relentless enemy, this claustrophobia reflected in sometimes mere facial expression and the economy with which Nolan employs the classic close up. And in small acts of heroism characters occasionally perform, the film explodes with such unexpected emotion that it occasionally reaches the cinematic heights of the transcendental. The last twenty minutes of Dunkirk (2017) are among some of the most prolongedly intense in modern cinema, hope (and home) the against-all-odds outcome. Masterpiece.

Further reading/viewing:

http://www.historytoday.com/patrick-wilson/dunkirk-victory-or-defeat

https://www.theguardian.com/film/2017/jul/23/dunkirk-review-terrifyingly-immersive-christopher-nolan

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