The hotel is a cave – Join the Club (The Sopranos).

The most famous ‘hotel movie’ The Shining (1980) is your archetypal man-goes-nuts-in-a-secluded-dwelling picture, but it’s more of a supernaturally themed flick than one in which the collective predilection for accommodation alienation is expressed.

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The Overlook Hotel.

The trailblazing TV series The Sopranos (1999-2007) may be famed for its stark violence and deadly black humour, but it had in some of its more audacious episodes an outlandish preoccupation with the metaphysical. Issues of mental health and modern existential malaise permeate its edges, these usually expressed through dream sequences, and Tony’s bouts of extreme depression and anxiety often the MacGuffin for major mid-season game-changers.

When Uncle Junior shoots Tony, the latter (on a hospital bed lingering between life and death) takes us through the most ridiculous, and eventually moving episode of the entire show. As shamelessly evil as this glib character is, one can’t help but feel empathy for what might have been. Moreover, ‘Join the Club’ is one of the few uses of location in any TV series (or film) to manifest a psychological feeling, the flashing lights in the distance a beacon of a world he can’t reach but just sorely wishes to. This is the hotel as total isolation, as if Tony were Robinson Crusoe in a sleek 21st century inn.

The episode reminded me of one night at a Stansted Airport hotel en route to Ljubljana, Slovenia. The check-in process consisted of typing a code into a Skynet vending machine. The only person I saw was a 6:00 a.m. cleaner doing her thing. Perhaps it was because I was on a twilight motorway, the highlights passing cars and a 24/7 Shell garage, that the situation had a Michael Mann feel to it. As I hit the hay in this cold, faux high-tech room, I wondered the drama were it my destiny to depart in a midnight layover servicing a budget airlines hub.

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A stone’s throw from Stansted Airport.

Ah, the deserted hostel bar in Riga, Latvia. I sat on my hoop here guzzling a bottle of amaretto. I believe I spent the best part of the day defragging the laptop. Not a sentient being in sight, but I wasn’t bothered.

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Gathering my thoughts about Black Balsam in Riga.

When you travel solo feelings are amplified – joy, elation, depression, loneliness. It’s whether one can handle the solitude or not, the autonomy of it all. The no-man’s-land moments have always retained more relevance to me than a riotous party or a bonkers pub crawl. I find the memories more lasting, as if a deep meditation had occurred.

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Lord Baltimore Hotel, Baltimore.

N.B. Michelangelo Antonioni should have shot a trilogy of films entirely within a hotel (The Ritz Trilogy).

Further reading:

http://viralscape.com/abandoned-hotels/

http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/articles/pleasures-sadness

 

 

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Avicii: True Stories.

Tim Berg, a.k.a. Avicii, especially after his ‘sudden’ death, always reminded me of Roy Batty in Blade Runner (1982) by the sheer *supercalifragilisticexpialidociousNESS* of his output coupled with his ridiculous youth, and the fact that he simply … looked like him.

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‘The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long – and you have burned so very, very brightly, Roy.’

The documentary Avicii: True Stories (2017) is a captivating watch, but mostly for all the wrong reasons. A shy lad reaching optimum capacity, he frequently appears on the verge of complete physical and psychological collapse.

A true artist – not one of these self-aggrandising nincompoops who chucks the moniker around with casual abandon – is more than capable of pushing the envelope to such extremes that the dangers become one of mortality. Avicii, whether one is into so-called ‘EDM’ or not, can be ascribed the term ‘artist’. The tunes are simply awesome, an autodidact’s fantasy.

Now, take me back to the Eurotrip summer of 2011, with Levels the daily opera to all activities.

‘Oh, sometimes. I get a good feeling, yeah ….’

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The Ultra Long Range A350 XWB.

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The cutting-edge Beast is here, and will soon smash records and traverse the 9,521 miles between Singapore and New York with Singapore Airlines. To think that commercial air travel isn’t even one hundred years old yet; this is only the beginning.

Further reading:

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/news/airbus-a350-ulr-xwb-first-flight/

http://www.traveller.com.au/worlds-longest-flight-airbus-ultra-long-range-a350-xwb-takes-to-the-sky-for-the-first-time-h0z5ls

 

 

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Biblical Gorgie – Edinburgh’s lofty testimonial.

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Moses would have creamed his toga (is that what they wore or was it a Roman invention?) at such scenes. When the Red Sea was split into a peak John Woo movie did the bloke (Mr. Moses) ever witness a sky like this? Gorgie is an Old Testament in the present. I believe this scenic occasion was a riotous football game. History repeats itself and all that.

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Where Eagles Dare (1968) – Wehrmacht Stormtroopers.

Where Eagles Dare (1968) surely must have been watched on a loop by George Lucas as he was penning A New Hope (1977) and the expanded Star Wars universe.

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Fan art poster.

 

Hohenwerfen Castle is this movie’s Death Star, the German troops the most incompetent ever assembled in what is the peak Hollywood WWII turkey shoot; Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood mow the fuckers down like Stormtroopers. Reducing a complex military operation to the wits and whims of two ‘superhero’ protagonists, it’s this blasé depiction of war that has young lads all giddy (“chomping at the bit”) en route to army recruitment offices.

The Wehrmacht grunt here is a Stormtrooper sans the Arctic clobber, and by the end one could be forgiven for thinking that Messrs Burton and Eastwood casually take out an entire division.

It’s quite the escapist experience, and its influence is rampant – the Medal of Honor video game series, for example, is an unabridged adaptation of the movie’s aesthetic. In an ideal Pentagon monopoly on propaganda, the enemy is devoid of dimensions and the battle a cakewalk.

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War is no messy struggle when you’ve got personality pulling the trigger.

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Gorgie, Edinburgh – the Dickensian aspect.

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Gorgie Road in April – spring doesn’t exist here (and never will). Gorgie is the dark side of Dickens, but with an inordinate volume of shitty cars, manky kebabs, and unwashed tracksuits. The pubs are usually okay if you leave before sundown. Nothing else to see here.

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Boris is not impressed.

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Ridley Scott’s All the Money in the World (2018) is quite possibly the most boring film I’ve ever seen. I’d like to apologise to the cat for putting the traumatised creature through it.

Absolute shite. No characters, no drama, nothing to say, nothing to be seen. A film about nothing.

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Blockbuster Video was the highlight of the ’90s.

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The death of Blockbuster was the home video version of Francis Fukuyama’s End of History. Your standard Friday routine in the Glory Years consisted of rocking up to Blockbuster with a tenner of shrapnel cobbled together by pocket money and paper round wages, emerging from the Pearly Gates with Irn-Bru, Maltesers, and a VHS copy of Goldeneye (1995). The anticipation before the visit was usually better than the evening that followed – a bit like holidays. The YouTube/Netflix/Amazon era has nothing on the joyous grind that was hunting for ex-rentals in the bargain basket. Fuck the Spice Girls (not literally), Blockbuster was the Atlantis of the ’90s.

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Vertigo (1958) – a whirlpool of obsession.

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I first saw the unfathomable sensations of Vertigo (1958) on Boxing Day in 2001. I figured Hitchcock this go-to guy for cheap thrills, banal comedic interludes, nonsensical MacGuffins, crop dusters galore, and … trains. Vertigo spoke artistry, something deep and profound (so I heard) from the psyche. Looking at the physiognomy of the great master, one couldn’t help but think he’d spent a career pulling his plonker to his leading ladies; sources inform us, however, that he was no Mr. Miramax.

It’s a deeply unsettling picture, a compendium, in that Mad Men era, of the ‘Male Gaze‘. Novak’s ice-cold beauty is a kaleidoscope onto which John “Scottie” Ferguson projects his hysteria. She’s barely a character, and that’s the point.

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A mastery of pacing, understatement, camera placement, and the semiotics of colour, the movie is your psychoanalyst’s wet dream. A narrative so stilted and sedate just builds and builds, unearthing an unblinkered aggression in every facet of the frame. It helps that the most serenely pacific of cities, San Francisco, acts as the melting pot for James Stewart’s warped solipsistic frenzy.

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You watch Vertigo and witness every cinematic trope of the 50 years that followed. No Vertigo, no Brian De Palma. In 2012, Sight and Sound magazine voted Vertigo the greatest film ever made. It’s certainly more engaging than Grown Ups 2 (2013).

Further reading/viewing:

http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/movies/la-et-mn-hitchcock-truffaut-interviews-20151204-story.html

http://www.openculture.com/2016/09/what-makes-vertigo-the-best-film-of-all-time.html

https://www.theguardian.com/film/1999/mar/05/martinscorsese

http://theconversation.com/explainer-what-does-the-male-gaze-mean-and-what-about-a-female-gaze-52486

Scorsese on Vertigo:

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Flight from East Berlin.

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Berlin went apostate after the Wall’s crumble – it is now a free-for-all, one of those clichéd multicultural hubs, the EU’s sociological vanguard. Not so back in the Honecker days, a Stasi-sprinkled 1984.

The audacity of this escape is bonkers, so too the entirely legit video recording of the getaway. Old Skool VHS-C home video footage isn’t half gnarly when the camera roams free in the exterior à la Paul Greengrass. No one wants to see a wee sprog from the States wail like Chewbacca on an ecstacy overdose upon opening a Nintendo 64; mind-blowing vistas is what it’s all about.

Escape artists:

Ingo Bethke, a border guard, fled East Berlin on an air mattress in 1975, crossing the River Elbe into West Germany. In 1983, his brother Holger did one better, using a zip line from an attic to Ingo’s car on the other side of the wall. It was six years later that the two brothers, having learned to fly, dressed in military garb, painted Soviet red stars on two planes, flew over the wall, landed in a park (with one place circling overhead), picked up the third brother, Egbert, and then flew back into West Berlin, arriving at the steps of the Reichstag. They then went off and got pished on a smorgasbord of alcoholic delicacies. Incredible.

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Icarus (x3) they were not. Totalitarianism breeds creativity, just ask Jean-Paul Sartre. And nothing spotlights the stupidity of that lunatic Soviet ideology than getting a free pass to fly around with abandon merely because there are red stars on your plane.

Good Bye, Lenin! (2003) so comically captured those last dying days of the GDR. Imagine that mixed with The Great Escape of the Bethke brothers. Why isn’t this a movie yet?

Further reading:

http://articles.latimes.com/1989-05-29/news/mn-692_1_berlin-wall-west-berlin-allied-sources

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/11/07/berlin-wall-escape-stories_n_6090602.html

https://www.aljazeera.com/focus/2009/10/200910793416112389.html

 

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