Tuesday, 24 April 2012
What can one say? Sometimes the choices we make we have to pay for somewhere down the road. So, I'm fully expecting a bolt of lightning to strike me down for having to make Astrid sit through Ghost. It's deserved. What did anyone see in Patrik Swayze? I dont mean to talk ill of the dead, but shit, what a poor film repertoire this guy has. He was the hunk with not much going on upstairs. We need a piece of American Pie – let's cast Patrik! There were moments of course. He was in The Outsiders and the ludicrously enjoyable Point Break. The sleaze merchant in Donnie Darko shows a talent wasted. But then, his big ones, Ghost and Dirty Dancing. Lowest common denominator stuff, although people have loved these films.
1990 could be a watershed year for when American mainstream cinema really lost it. Only Home Alone was bigger than Ghost. The roll call of top grossing pictures that year is incredible (for all the wrong reasons): Pretty Woman, Kindergarten Cop, Days Of Thunder, 3 Men & A Little Lady, Look Who's Talking Too, Problem Child and so on. You could also have caught the OK Dances With Wolves and the brilliant Goodfellas and Edward Scissorhands, but these were exceptions. I had successfully erased Ghost from my memory, now I have to start again – it may take years...
Lets suspend our imaginations for a moment (it's obvious the film makers did!). The main premise of Ghost that Swayze's murdered executive banker Sam, has to stay on earth as a ghost and not follow the light so he can show his undying love for his partner (Demi Moore's arty type Molly) does not bear scrutiny. There is no chemistry between these supposed love birds.Throw in the most predictable plot, cliched script, some made for TV direction and acting, some quasi-Christian moralizing, casual racist/sexist sentiment, the worst special effects ever...and what are we left with? Some would say all round family entertainment. Ghost in 2012 veers towards the offensive in how it patronizes the audience. Even the one genuine interesting moment of this feeble film (it could have been a queer-core classic scene) when medium Whoopi Goldberg's body is being used as a conduit by Sam to make love to his lover one last time, is denied us. Once the moment arrives we only see Sam's ghost body canoodling with Molly. This is all round pathetic cinema.
Ghost is right up there with the worst movies I've ever seen. It's a film that insults and undermines its audience on many levels. It's homophobic, racist, boring, has bad CGI (if it even is that), bad writing, it shoves in your face Christian views on afterlife (heaven/hell split) and also represents the end of the 1980s at its worst. I thought I had never seen the film at all, but upon watching remembered that I once stayed in a dubious and weed smelling hotel in Minneapolis where one morning I caught ten minutes of this classic.
Yes, apparently Ghost was a smash hit romantic and exciting film when it came out in 1990! But then, so was The Bodyguard (which was a favorite of mine when I was less than 10). I used to win dance competitions while Whitney Houston played in the background as a second grader, so I would have probably loved Ghost had I seen it at the time. Now was definitely too late. I almost never get to watch anything, so when I finally get around to a movie, it is disappointing to waste my time on something so pathetic.
Whoopi Goldberg is funny and beautiful. She definitely represents something important to me as she was always in the films I saw in the 1990s (hah!) At some point of my not-so-well-informed-youth I also learned that Whoopi was lesbian (and that Tracy Chapman was not a man). Therefore I really thought Demi and Whoopi should have ended up together in this boring story. What's more, they kind of had something going because the ghost guy borrowed Whoopi's body and caressed Demi with her (Whoopi's) hands (while they waited for the murderer to arrive). This was going to be the most explosive insight in this film, but then it turned out to be the biggest insult: Whoopi was replaced by the ghost-actor guy for us hetero normative audiences. So wrong. I'm not going to bother to find out who played the ghost, because he was so lame and so average. I'm sure everyone else knows who I'm talking about.
One last complaint: why would a sculptor hipster fall in love with a boring banker, who says 'ditto' instead of 'I love you'?
Sunday, 22 April 2012
I have a new MacBook Pro. I'm in love. Yet I have no time to actually do anything on the comp (except to write this quickly). But at least I know if I had more time, I'd have the stuff to be fast and furious online and elsewhere. Time is the real luxury item, as everyone keeps saying these days. Oliver Twist was poor in the classic old way of what the word used to mean. He had the luxury of time maybe, but no parents, no food and no one to look out for him, not even as a child. And then on top of this, there was no good will around, just evil sadistic adults.
Oliver Twist is of that great story telling, where no character is simply bad or good. Stupidity has its context as has evil. There are degrees of desperation which we have to consider when we judge characters like Fagin. He is a loner thief who houses a gang of orphans in his attic and teaches them to steal for their living. While he is the only adult they have for any kind of care, he also is a violent and controlling figure clearly injured by his own early losses. Nothing is black and white or disney-sweet.
Oliver is a great character for a children's story (and stories for kids are the best for adults): he goes through incredible neglect, violence and wrong-doing in general, but in the end his straight-upness and his trusting manner carry him back to his long lost family. This film adaptation from 1948 is both beautiful and cruel. London and its poor people in the streets look amazingly real in a touching fairytale way. It's good to reflect on what it means to have NOTHING, when in our state of poverty, we still buy the latest gadgets every now and again.
We dont watch much of anything nowadays. We have a child (two at weekends), we have work, we have no time. So the blog is struggling a bit. Regular posting a thing of the past. If we get to stick a movie on, it's normally centered around the family. Hence Lean's Oliver Twist. But this isn't really family viewing - don't be fooled by the cute kids.
Lean's reputation was built on pictures like Oliver Twist. It's understandable as this still looks like nothing out there. It's a dark, grim picture, which finally gives way to sentimentality. It works because we need that sentimentality, we can't take anything more happening to sweet Oliver. It's amazing to think that Oliver Twist was made a good 7 years before The Night Of the Hunter, as both films share the theme of children in peril and the sinister, evil adult villains that threaten their lives. You could argue that Lean's picture looks equally great. Lean regular Alec Guinness plays an iconic Fagin, whilst Robert Newton plays the deranged Bill Sykes. It's Lean's own adaptation of Charles Dickens, and he's faithful to the original.
"Can I have some more ?" It's my enduring memory of Oliver Twist when I saw this as a child. These last couple of weeks I've been reading and totally absorbed by David Peace's Red Riding Quartet of books. These books go to the heart of darkness, an alternative history of terror from my youth. Lean would go onto the epic not so long after Oliver Twist. At times with Oliver Twist he touches that heart of darkness and the things we dont want to think about.
Tuesday, 10 April 2012
It's always rather strange to me how I get these pangs every couple of years to watch Titanic. Despite being massively disappointed on every viewing (this time must have been my 6th). I suddenly expect Titanic to mature with age, as if any future viewing of this film will perform a miraculous task and become, you know – even slightly relevant. I actually like a lot of Cameron movies, the first two Terminator films. Aliens is masterful, The Abyss – long version – is cool geek sci-fi and I enjoyed Avatar's coy green message. But Titanic seems an anomaly in Cameron's pictures, until you start to look rather more closely at the small similarities with his other films (especially The Abyss). As the film is being finally launched in the inevitable 3D version (and it's also the 100 year anniversary of the real Titanic's ill fated maiden voyage), now seems a potent time to revisit this 3-hour movie. I'm still affronted that this most successful film of all time (until Avatar at least), still works for audiences despite everyone knowing the ending.
What did I learn this time? The first half an hour of Titanic with the old Rose telling the modern day diamond scavengers her tale is efficient and interesting. Then we go back in time, with the first shots of the Titanic and it becomes obvious that CGI has not been kind to Cameron's original version (the 1997 version is what we're reviewing). The ship now seems super-imposed onto the screen causing the authenticity often aimed for in Titanic to seem cheap. This lapse in special effect occurs throughout the picture and in 2012 almost feels embarrassing. Then we have the main focus of this tale of the Titanic: the fictional Jack and Rose. Rose, the rich girl forced into an arranged marriage to save the family name. Jack the budding artist from the street who saves Rose from a marriage of convenience and the inevitable sinking. Yes, Cameron delves into class culture on the deck of the doomed Titanic and in doing so, almost wrecks his own film. Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet play the class breaking lovers Jack and Rose, with both having since forged careers of substance from this wreckage.
The often infantile plot line that Cameron affords Jack and Rose's improbable romance still can't derail the spectacle of the Titanic's actual sinking. Here is where Titanic finally lives up to something. Cameron manages to capture some of the anarchy that dwarfed the Titanic as passengers finally realized they were doomed. It's not nonsense to suggest that the scenes of the ship splitting in two and rising out of the sea before its final plunge to the abyss have become somewhat iconic. This part of the film grips and stays with you. Death is dealt with in casual abandon, hope gone and desperation revealed. It takes over two hours for Titanic to deliver, phew...yet it's not enough to save the picture. I can't forgive Cameron for wasting Bernard Hill (as the ship's virtually waxwork Captain) or David Warner as a mere typical baddie. Frances Fisher as Rose's mum takes acting honors with very little to work with. So Titanic didn't feel any better and the rated Leo and Kate still feel like the picture's achilles heel. In 2012, with Titanic interest at an all time high, Cameron's film may just quench your thirst for the things you already know. Those events that feed our imagination and fascination with the ship, Cameron gets right. As romance Titanic is a weak indulgence, sentimental nonsense parading as cinema.
This takes me back to when I was a teenager and seriously in love – for the first time. I think I saw Titanic on TV and never went to see it in cinema. I remember school friends telling me they saw the film and that I should see it too, but I refused. It annoyed me that Titanic was such an Event. It highlighted the fact that I wasn't following my time, so I decided to define myself by refusing to see the film...very smart. I also, remember that everyone discussed Kate Winslet's weight and her looks. Apparently she wasn't thin or pretty enough in the way that the 1990s heroin chic defined acceptable appearances. I felt uncomfortable in these discussions, not having seen the film and sporting bright orange very long hair. So, eventually I did see the film and it moved me more than I ever cared to admit. I was a girl who never cries in movies.
Time went by and I returned to Titanic with Nick. We saw it again and again at different stages of love over the last ten years. The film got gradually worse and worse for me. Nick had to persuade and beg for me to watch it. For some reason this is one of his favorite films to watch when he can't make me sit through Independence Day. I can only see the film's faults by now: it's way too long, the romance is too unreal and juvenile, the portrayal of classes could not be more shallow and stereotyping, the soundtrack is the worst ever and the scenes taking place in 1997 seem to be there only for the director's pleasure and challenge (Cameron loves to dive).
On this viewing, amongst all my complaints I did find my new favorite character: Rose as a granny. I hope to be such an experienced old person one day with a young woman's heart. Throwing the ugly blue diamond in the ocean was really the best thing to do, although I wonder why she held on to it all those years until then, when she despised the giver of the diamond so much...
Today it is 100 years from the day that Titanic, the real ship, took off on its first and only voyage. There were 63 Finnish passengers on the ship. I wonder if any of them made it to New York. I doubt it, as they were mostly 3rd class passengers locked in downstairs when the ship started to sink. How awful. I may not want to travel by boat for a while. And I certainly don't need to see this film for at least 10 years.
Friday, 6 April 2012
Being a parent to a very small baby means that all sense of being cool (if I ever did feel it) has evaporated and been replaced with a clumsiness comparable with my early teen years. Everything's new and uncertainty is the new state of being. No, I never did feel cool in the way that Scott Walker defines the word. He visits our home often through his music and now, for the second time, through this documentary. Scott is not beautiful – he just knows how to carry his clothes and what to leave out in his sentences.
And he leaves almost everything out. There's the mystery and the allure. He walks away from himself and away and away someplace else...that's a great feature in an artist – fearlessness of the mind, the love of change. But watching the documentary I cannot help but be amazed at his slightness. Scott just doesn't care. He hates hearing his past compositions. He doesn't appreciate any of the great work he did early in his career. He doesn't rate Scott 3 or Scott 4. He is much more content slapping pig carcasses in the studio recording greatly disturbing Avant-garde music in the 2000s. He takes his time and leaves his gaps.
This all seems amazing and strangely appealing to me right now. Now that I have a child of my own, now that I've made the classic feminine choice to combine art and life (as Sylvia Plath would have described it), I can look at the choices of Scott and admire him for them. Loneliness and isolation, devotion to a cruel muse, drink and drum...and always the cap (he hides his eyes from view most of the time), as if he is entirely uncomfortable still.
I'm glad he did it all and made the music most of all. Oh, did I mention his voice? I'm in love with it.
I was one of those people. The ones described briefly in this documentary. I was a serious follower of anything Zoo related in the early 1980's. The Teardrop Explodes, Wah Heat!, Echo & The Bunnymen, The Wild Swans....Martin Atkins record sleeves, Bill Drummond. In some ways the Zoo label imprint was Liverpool's answer to the Manchester based Factory Records, and a for a few years was as genuinely groundbreaking. So, at the height of Teardrop Explodes fame and listening to moments of their second album Wilder (which contained Walker like moments), Teardrop's leader Julian H Cope announces that Zoo will release a Scott Walker compilation compiled by Cope himself. I ran to the shop! Fire Escape In The Sky: The Godlike Genius of Scott Walker came in a grey card sleeve with green Typeface by Atkins. It was sumptuous and mysterious. I was 15 years old. This record was a life changer for me. It still is as vital to my existence some 30 odd years later.
So, let's set the record straight: Scott Walker is my favorite ARTIST ever, period, done and dusted. No messing.
Kijak's documentary was on Finnish TV the other night and it was interesting to see people excited to watch it judging by the reaction to its screening on Facebook. So, we decided to delve back into Scott Walker: 30 Century Man; this was my fourth viewing. The main thing going for Kijak's film is Scott Walker himself, the access to his working methods and Scott opening up about his life. So what we get is a frank Scott talking about his early 1960's pop stardom as one of The Walker Brothers. A reluctant Scott offering precious little insight about his solo albums Scott 1 through to 4 (the reputation building records). Walker dispelling myths of the later years in a sober serious way. And we get a lot about his recent albums (especially with a focus on the 2006 masterwork The Drift). What works in this documentary is the sense of continuation between his 1960's albums and the recent, more challenging records such as Tilt and The Drift. It's obvious to me that Walker is just continuing his own unique vision, something this film portrays well. I could've done with more Scott talking about his life.
What we do get is the usual litany of talking heads reciting their own Scott experiences. David Bowie, Brian Eno, a worthwhile Jarvis Cocker and a crazy Alison Goldfrap. Lets not even mention the super nerdy Radiohead or the offensive STING (for fuck's sake!!!) Embarrassment overload comes with said musos listening to Walker's music and trying to convey some personal connection with it. This was pointless, we don't need these people's views to justify Walker's excellence. Still, due notice was given to The Electrician, a key Walker track. I'd have liked some acknowledgment of the underrated and ignored 'Til The Band Comes In album (the great follow up to Scott 4). Also some insight from Eno to the album he apparently made with Walker in the 1980's that was never released. Eno has gone on record saying it was some of the greatest music he'd ever heard, only for Walker to then refuse to finish the record. Is this true? Does it exist anywhere? Still, Scott Walker: 30 Century Man is essential viewing for fans like me. For the neutral it's an above average portrait of someone who in my world is God-like. Search out the records. NOW!