Posts from 22nd March 2004

Mar 04

Best TV acting ever

Do You SeePost a comment • 478 views

Best TV acting ever

I’ve been saying for years that my favourite ever performance in a continuing series on TV is Andre Braugher as Frank Pembleton in Homicide: Life On The Streets. I hadn’t seen it in ages, then I recently learnt that the Hallmark channel is showing reruns.

In the episode I just saw, Frank is convinced a cop has killed a young black guy. His colleagues bring in the dead man’s best friend. While the guy is being questioned, Frank tells Lieutenant Giardello (his much admired boss, played by Yaphet Kotto, another powerhouse actor) that this man didn’t do it. G tells Frank that he had better decide whose side he is on. Frank loses his temper and announces that he’ll give him this guy if they want him.

He walks into the interrogation room and takes over. We get to watch Frank playing a role and convincing this kid who has watched his best friend get shot by a cop to sign a confession stating that he killed him. We can see that Frank is acting throughout, but we can also see it convincing his quarry. It’s an astounding, bravura performance, and as good a five minutes of television drama as I can remember seeing in my entire life.

Torque is The Fast and The Furious but with motorbikes

Do You SeePost a comment • 901 views

Torque is The Fast and The Furious but with motorbikes. That is the kind of in depth criticism you come to Do You See? for. It is all you need to know if you are considering seeing it. It is not as good as The Fast And The Furious, but it is better than Too Fast Too Furious (and considerably less gay). Martin Henderson in the lead is about as pretty as Paul Walker, but comes across as having a bit of a brain. Not in his handling of the fiendishly complex double crossing plot, no in his handling of that he comes across as thoroughly stupid. But you get the feeling that this might be acting. In the respectable bad guy role Ice Cube purses his lips far too much, but then he has just realised that this is the start of a run of playing Vin Diesel’s sloppy seconds. He will be taking over xXx2, xXxxXx or whatever that will be called.

Enough of the acting, though for a dumb movie it has an awful lot of actors. And a lot of awful actors. No, all you should be interested in are the bikes and the stunts. For which the film is adequate. One decent girl on girl bike fight and some nonsense with a train are the fun bits. The biggest let down is the finale with ‘the fastest motorbike in the world’, which looks a bit like a shiny breeze-block on wheels. It turns out it is so fast that it was not worth expending any decent special effects money on its chase. Instead it appears they have just sped up five minutes of Grand Theft Auto, and topped it with an explosion. The super-bike is a let down, looking worse than and being considerably slower than its mid-eighties equivalent, Street Hawk. Put it like this, in a flat out race between the two wheeled equivalent of Knight Rider, or this Y2K monstrosity, the eighties would win hands down. These recent bikes, they’re all Torque*.

*The film loses a bit of its street cred for not doing this joke itself.

Sean Penn is an awful lot better in 21 Grams than he was in Mystic River

Do You SeePost a comment • 228 views

Sean Penn is an awful lot better in 21 Grams than he was in Mystic River. 21 Grams is a much better film than Clint’s too, with a theme which is not a million miles away from it. It is however less hamstrung with TRYING TO MAKE A POINT. Actually with the seemingly random editing it is as if the one thing the film is eventually trying not to do is make a point. Shit happens. Lots of it. Isn’t life terrible; that is the general message.

The 21 Grams conceit is appalling however. Sean Penn’s voice-over, trying to explain it, is needless. Not only that but it shows a complete lack of knowledge of the weight of chocolate bars. The standard Mars Bar for instance is 52 grams. 21 grams is the weight of a fun sized chocolate bar. But then I guess if in the portentous voice-over about the weight of a human soul, the words ‘fun sized’ were added, it might remove a touch of the gravitas.


TMFDPost a comment • 379 views

Until this season I’ve always thought of him as an underachiever, silky skills wrapped in a sulky attitude. But he’s playing the football of his life. Loads of goals, and not simple tap-ins either. Barcelona need Ronaldinho just as much as he needs them. Last night (against Real Sociedad) his confidence bounced around the Nou Camp. Lightning feet, tricks and feints and even one of those look one way and kick the other passes that are doing the showboating rounds.

It doesn’t always come off and like all gifted players, he overlooks the simple pass. In a Barcelona team that is full of pace in Overmars and Saviola, he has reclaimed the El Pivote role, the fulcrum of the team, feeding the runs and exploiting space.

Barcelona are resurgent and trail a knackered looking Real Madrid by six points with El Derbi set for April. They were mid-table at Christmas and Ronaldinho was just finding his feet. He’s found them now and they could yet win it.

Literary Gems

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 320 views

Literary Gems

Journey to the Alcarria ‘ Camilo Jose Cela

In an age before travel writing imposed self-made obstacles and it was possible to explore the world without strapping a fridge to your leg or unicycling blindfolded across the Andes, there lived little classics like this one.

Cela (real name an incredible Don Camilo Jose Manuel Juan Ramon Francisco de Jeronimo Cela-Trulock) was a native of Galicia and won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1989. He fought for the Nationalists in the Civil War and, in old age, seemed intent on offending every liberal mind in Spain. He died in 2002, an unlikeable man with likeable stories.

Journey to the Alcarria is a book that is always described with the word picaresque. The book and phrase were made for each other. Cela preferred writing novels and rarely dipped his toe into non-fiction. When he did, the results were striking. It’s a slim read, almost novella length, but there isn’t a loose word. Set in 1946, the author walks his way through the Alcarria, a rural district, northeast of Madrid. Spain was limping from the civil war, the tourist explosion was years away and the country was swimming in poverty.

Cela visits villages unchanged in centuries and meets a people stunned by the war and frightened of the dictatorship. This is the Spain of long ago, of isolated communities, of sowing and tilling in the baking sun.

Nothing of note happens, set pieces are rare and the tone is detached and even, written in the third person. Yet after the last page is turned, the impression of the Alcarria smoulders away. The appeal is partly because the descriptions of life do not tally anymore. This region has been encroached by the expanding urbanisation of the capital, its rusticity swallowed up and paved over.

It’s a story without a storyline and it shouldn’t work. I read it about once a year and it dazzles every time.