Tag Archives: Film

The Truman Show – 20 years on.

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The Truman Show (1998) didn’t capture the zeitgeist; it largely predicted it. Much like how Scarface (1983) birthed glorified Gangsta rap – present hip hop artists unaware that Montana was a satire laughing at the emergence of the culture – it was the Jim Carrey ‘serious role’ vehicle which presaged the Big-Brother-by-choice bantz we now have. The eponymous ‘reality’ TV show, a zillion other ‘hidden camera’ programmes populated by tarted-up bimbos (yes, including The Apprentice), the omniscience of social media, the shameless supervision from the NSA and GCHQ. It’s as if Truman is a summation of 20 years of snooping, willfully and not, but before it happened.

I can’t even count the number of times someone has said to me they feel like they’re living a real-life Truman Show, such has been the ridiculousness of their day. Well, if directed actors and MacGuffins aren’t out there to construct the drama, you can bet you’re being watched, often by choice – think of all the selfies at crime scenes, the Snapchatting of break-ins, check-ins at weddings/funerals.

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The Truman Show nailed the lot – the shallowness, the vanity, the essential neediness of modern society to not only feign happiness in its absence but inject meaning everywhere, to create a drama when none is needed.

And that Philip Glass score lifted from Powaqqatsi (1998) is quite the cracker:

Further reading/viewing:

http://www.vulture.com/2018/06/how-the-truman-show-predicted-the-future.html

http://www.thrillmesoftly.com/2017/07/truman-show-big-brother/

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Forrest Gump wasn’t complete shite.

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Forrest Gump (1994) is without qualification the cheesiest, corniest, most simplistic depiction of the American Experience and the ‘everyman’ possibilities within the shebang, the movie a ’90s version of Being There (1979) without the wit and pathos. Gump has been labelled a conservative’s wet dream – live like Forrest, i.e., be respectful of authority, drug-free, don’t question your surroundings, and you’ll succeed despite your worryingly low IQ. Wander Uncle Sam’s peninsulas in the manner of his perpetual unrequited love Jenny, by all accounts a free-spirited hippie/druggie sex bomb, and you’ll kick the bucket. There’s something of the ’94 Republican Revolution going on here.

It does, however, work as an elementary and indeed extraordinary introduction to the second half of the 20th century. I knew literally nothing of even the existence of the following until I saw Forrest Gump in 1996 two years after its release: Presidents JFK, Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon, the Vietnam War, Watergate, the song San Francisco performed by Scott McKenzie, The Doors, Elvis, John Lennon, the Black Panthers, and the virus popularly known as Aids. True story. Primary School taught me none of these things, but I did memorise a lot about Henry VIII ….

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The movie has little commentary on any of its historical snippets, such is the processional structure and concentration on scope over depth. It does abridge, though, forty-odd years of American history in a running time of 2:22:09 minutes in a Zelig-like visual glossary. Without Forrest Gump, I would have had to watch five more ridiculous films. Thankfully, I didn’t.

It’s not that shite.

Cheers, Forrest.

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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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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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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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Downsizing (2017) and utopia.

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In this decidedly odd (by common reckoning) picture, the disenfranchised, the dissatisfied, and the financially … fucked get themselves miniaturised – or ‘downsized’ – in order that they’ll be free to discover the sweet life they were previously denied by their limitations. It’s presented as a sine qua non; the only way for them to discover all the worldly pleasures (the American Dream?) is in an artificial community for modern-day Lilliputians.

There’s a lot to be said for a movie with both the materialist and the ecological at its forefront. We surely can’t expand forever, and with overpopulation and the ‘drain on resources’ we just might have to regress, the irony here being that the characters shrink yet conversely (in an almost alternate world) discover more than they would have before.

The utopia here is one inhabited by mostly entirely self-aware characters, but as this is a familiar tale, every new world becomes a microcosm of the former; people will be people. As the thug-philosopher Tony Soprano would maintain, there’s no geographical solution to an emotional problem.

The movie loses its way towards the end, with such a promising premise wasted on narrative detours and too many subplots. It is, however, quite the change from explosions and talking robots who morph into cars.

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Nil By Mouth (1997)

 

51RCE5V6KFLWith Gary Oldman tipped for his first Oscar after rave reviews for his impenetrable Churchill craic in Darkest Hour (2017), I watched a few of his most lauded performances, coming away from The Firm (1989) and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) especially impressed. It was Nil By Mouth (1997), however, this his directorial debut in which he doesn’t star, which most remained.

I first saw it in 2002 at the recommendation of a classmate who broke 9/11 to me. It was because of such profound importance I attached to his statements that I rented (R.I.P. Blockbuster) this grim, thoroughly … grim movie. I’d seen Scum (1979), another Alan Clarke bit of Ray Winstone savagery, and Mike Leigh’s Naked (1993), but this was something else.

Despairing portraits of working-class life back in their Saturday Night and Sunday Morning heydey were always suggestive rather than explicit. Stuck-in-a-rut characters had their transient pleasures and, dare I say it, trivial pursuits. The Nil By Mouth (1997) equivalent to Albert Finney’s beer binges appears to be calamitous drug use, domestic terror, and injecting heroin in the back of a dirty van. This is a movie with no regard for aesthetic polish or even entertainment – it reminded me of one of those socially conscious photographs (Dorothea Lange) of the Great Depression or the slum tenements of New York in the 1890s.

I would skip the popcorn when watching Nil By Mouth (1997).

Further reading:

https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/nil-by-mouth-1998

Full movie:

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Happy Birthday, Martin Scorsese.

martin_scorsese_by_toast77775 years old today. Pioneer, maestro, legend. Keep the masterpieces coming, bro. X.

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Fountainbridge Marina.

Edinburgh does have its wee accidental allusions.

Gioachino Rossini’s The Thieving Magpie enters my noggin every time I slo-mo stride along ‘Fountainbridge Marina’, a singular image of Alex DeLarge and his droogs syncing to another Kubrickian vignette. Kubrick infects everything, cinema’s supreme stylist.

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‘As we walked along the flatblock marina, I was calm on the outside, but thinking all the time. So now it was to be Georgie the general, saying what we should do and what not to do, and Dim as his mindless greeding bulldog. But suddenly I viddied that thinking was for the gloopy ones and that the oomny ones use, like, inspiration and what Bog sends. For now it was lovely music that came to my aid. There was a window open with the stereo on and I viddied right at once what to do.’

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Your fugitive’s name is Dr. Richard Kimble.

“I didn’t kill my wife.”

“I don’t care.”

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The Fugitive (1993) still holds up today, a thousand action-thrillers on. It’s now widely considered the benchmark for the ‘smart’ popcorn movie (big name star, TV source material, Oscar pretensions). There are spectacular set pieces here but it’s the intelligence of the script and the care in which the characters are sculpted which first captivated audiences. The battle of wits between the two leads and the obsession with which they pursue their agendas is like Maverick vs. Iceman but without the fighter jets and a volleyball scene. Well, perhaps a more mature version.

I saw it the other day for the first time in a decade and I was struck by how mature the film is, how it doesn’t pay lip service to target audiences/demographics. It’s simply a wrongly accused bloke on the run, but these are humans and not cardboard stock characters.

Stylistically, there is one sequence which dominates. A film lecturer I had at university showed us it in class as a textbook/expert use of montage, how a sequence so brief can cover so much crucial plot information. It takes your average modern-day movie an hour to cover what’s done here in under five minutes:

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