Posts from 24th August 2004

Aug 04

Why the weird dry gulch years of movie trailers?

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Why the weird dry gulch years of movie trailers? — a general observation here. Trailers in the 1930s through 1950s/60s seem to be a classic mishmash of screen projections (“A CAST OF THOUSANDS! LIONS EATING EXTRAS!”), random collages and sudden tremulous closeups where Rip Clint could tell Lana Lake something soppy. The ones these days are hyperedited music videos in all but name on the one hand and loadsa quirk on the other (“Chris Cooper and Mark Ruffalo in The Wandering Wondermint“). But somewhere around the seventies and eighties it was all…sorta dull, based on the evidence of the trailers now regularly included with Very Special MaxiEditions of DVDs covering the time. Not always — Alien, notably, had the advantage of both a striking chief image with the cracked egg as well as an honestly hackles-raising main trailer. But usually either the deep voiced narrators of the time weren’t up to the task or the graphic designs usually just plain *sucked* in comparison to the main ones being dreamed up. Maybe they figured that people were still getting used to the idea of commercial art.

London Bridge thankfully not fallen down, news at eleven

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London Bridge thankfully not fallen down, news at eleven — I have always loved bridges, partially due to an upbringing near one of the most elegantly lovely examples of same yet created, the gorgeous and skyline defining San Diego-Coronado Bay Bridge. And of course I knew about the song, who doesn’t? That darn bridge must have been falling down to hundreds of fair ladies in the course of my youth (or something like that).

It’s a common enough trivia observation that London Bridge itself is now no longer in London but over at Lake Havasu, Arizona — through chance I happened to have seen it myself many years back, when a trip down the Colorado River with my Boy Scout troop ended up at the lake and near the bridge itself. My memory of it is somewhat sketchy in that I had burned my hand the night before and I was more concerned with the swelling blisters I was miserably suffering.

I have not been to the Tower Bridge itself yet, I know it’s there and all but so far I’ve no reason to cross there. I have crossed that one bridge near the Eye a slew of times due to the train and tube connections at Waterloo, and there are a couple of other bridges which I’ve walked across further east down the river, though annoyingly the names escape me — instead I just remember the joy of idly walking across and spending time doing nothing but looking at the river.

I do however remember the Millennium Bridge — I was looking forward to crossing that when I was visiting the Tate Modern, only to find out about the slight problem at the time in 2000 which prevented it from being used lest it collapse and cause worry. Between that and that Dome thing I had to wonder.

FT Top 100 Films 41: BLACK NARCISSUS

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FT Top 100 Films

Antony Easton says:
It’s a back lot dream of religious exoticism, its about the nature of desire, its about power and control in relation to sex, its about viewing the divine temporally instead of celestially. But none of that matters, what matters is Kathleen Bryon’s performance as Sister Ruth: the lipstick scene is one of the most sexual ever filmed, the crimson slash against her face, the phallic aggression of presentation, how quiet and serene it is, and how solitary. She has no one in the middle of the Himalayas who will ever appreciate the colour, it is done for those in the audience.

Pete Baran says:
Its a primal film for me, one of those I remember seeing at a very young age, looking like a film – it is oddly linked with The Wizard Of Oz in the ultra technicolour part of my brain). Its link with the Wizard is possibly due to how frightening I found it. There is a brooding air which I remember, a tension which I had encountered with the flying monkeys, was here again in the equally Oz like Himalaya’s. It also gave me a tiny taste of vertigo, the final sequences gave me a taste of what it was like to plummet from high points, and I did not much like it.

Because of all of this, it is a film I have avoided since. Why re-edit your childhood memories, especially if they are memories which may only really apply to you. My Black Narcissus is a frighteningly tense, colourful nightmare which seems to stumble out at 1pm on a Saturday afternoon, in the matinee slot. I would like to think thatthis is disturbing programming to other people too.

BOOKS I COULDN’T FINISH: 1: The Fortress OF Solitude – Jonathon Lethem

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1: The Fortress OF Solitude – Jonathon Lethem

Sometimes life is too short to read a book you have lost interest in. Sometimes you complete it anyway because you have already invested too much time into it. I’ll do both, and feel a lot worse about the former. What is annoying though is when you get a book you think you’ll enjoy, and even do for a bot, which then drifts away from you.

The Fortress Of Solitude was one such book. I had heard good things about it, and I have generally liked Jonathon Lethem. Even the JL titles I have not really liked (Gun, WitH Occasional Music say) I have finished. His failings as a writer have usually hit me as a lack of respect for genre (or more properly genre audiences) and being willfully oblique. The Fortress Of Solitude promised none of that: it was a coming of age tale of a couple of Bronx kids obsessed with comics. And the first hundred pages were readable in an overlong way. Perhaps too much detail was being placed on certain childhood games, but I did get a good overview of the lead characters development.

And then I put the book down, and could not pick it up. Plot ennui set in. Nothing much seemed to happen, the lead seemed a permanently scared narrator whose own sense of self was putting me off. What’s more I could not see where the book was going. Would the leads just get older and do all the trivial school stuff which no matter how well observed I was not in the mood for. Or was the slow start in anticipation of a plot twist that would upset the status quo.

I decided I didn’t care and read an Anne Tyler book I found in the cottage we were staying in.


I Hate Music1 comment • 1,222 views


“Sit with my family, drink some English tea
Then I raise my finger and watch football on TV”

Never mind that Brian bellows “football on TV” as if he is the prophet Jeremiah having a vision of the fall of Jerusalem, the burning question here is “Why does New Realer Brian need to raise his finger?”. The possibilities include:

1/ He is raising his little finger in genteel tea-drinking style, because Real Brian is Real in all things and this is the Real Way To Drink Tea.

2/ He is raising his middle finger to get sweary at his family, the tea or the TV. This is because he is a tough stubbly rock star now and that’s what they do.

3/ He is raising his finger and magically summoning the football, because he has mystical powers over TV. Personally I am backing this theory, as I can think of no other reason why his extraordinarily shit video is always on it.

How do you turn a good film into a franchise? The Bourne Identity

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How do you turn a good film into a franchise? The Bourne Identity was a surprise hit back in 2002, a surprise possibly because the first time it was filmed it flopped. But some assured direction from Doug Liman and some excellent casting was coupled with a post 9/11 anti-CIA feeling into big box office. Problem, The Bourne Identity does not lend itself readily to a sequel.

Oh, that did not stop Robert Ludlum, who wrote a number of Bourne books. But they threw the Bourne Identity out of the window on the making of the first film, just filching its theme, so The Bourne Supremacy (the second book) was unlikely to help too much. The film version was it its own way so satisfying because it rescued closure from the jaws of defeat. It had a happy ending which was fought for and won. There was only one way of getting Bourne back in action, and that was killing Newt.

I cannot forgive the Bourne Supremacy for killing Newt*. Motivating the action is fine, but getting rid of the viewpoint character (the normal one in a world of spies) from the first film almost destroys the The Bourne Identity. The happy ending that we willingly suspend disbelief to embrace turns out to be a fleeting (if happy) two years. And despite watching Matt Damon do his impenetrable Bourne turn, which is watchable as ever, no amount of success in his affairs will bring Newt back. And so he finishes the film, triumphant in his objective, cowed, but untamed and potentially ready for another adventure. He is not settled, he has nowhere to go and his ending may be satisfying in some ways (and morally much more ambiguous) but is certainly not happy.

The death of a character to give the lead motivation is not unusual, but it is more problematic in franchises, often used when the original motivation has run out, or a character seems superfluous. Gail Simone’s Women In Refrigerators site looks at the phenomenon in a more commonly serialised medium: comics which shows just how little imagination there often is.

*I know Franke Potente’s character is not called Newt, but frankly the way she is treated in this film she might as well be.

The correct use of

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The correct use of tomatoes

Begins tomorrow, Bunol, Spain. You haven’t lived until you’ve been hit in the face from point blank range with a ripe tomato.

SHIRLEY BASSEY – “I Reach For The Stars”

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#125, 23rd September 1961

John Barry obviously liked this – he lifted the twirling string intro for one Bond theme and the singer for several others. But after those first five seconds the song – another family-friendly export from the German hit factories – is dismally sedate. I’m hardly even able to comment on Bassey’s performance, there’s so little grip for her in the song: no tension, no climax, just a steady stupefying sway.

Olympic Avoidance Log: Blonde Lady Sail & Futurbike

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Olympic Avoidance LogI did remarkably well at the weekend, only managing to see bits and bobs via the news. Apparently winning a couple of medals because other people were disqualified is more important than any other world event. Not watching any event live I would be tempted to say I saw no Olympics at all, but the truth is that the ITV news on Saturday devoted a good five minutes to the damn thing. Being in someone else house, I could not turn it off. Therefore I saw highlights of rowing, some horsey nonsense, and what can only be described as the Blonde Lady Sail – this seemingly being the entry requirement for that group.

There was also some sort of pursuit cycling which has never failed to confuse me. Why chase the bugger. Just stop and he’ll be round in a couple of seconds. Why is it that bikes used in velodromes don’t have spokes and instead look like some FuturBike with all in one flying saucer wheels. Coupled with the long hats and body stockings, it is all remarkably silly. Still the rest of you punters I am sure were clapping along, we won a medal after all.


I picked up a cook book, Recipes From Scotland

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I picked up a cook book, Recipes From Scotland in a second hand bookshop a year or so again. Mainly because it looked genuinely old and I was interested in the wonders that could be kept within its tartan bound cover. The wonders, one must say, generally involve the offal of fish. I have heard of Cod Liver, as in the oil, but when you have a fish on the bone there does not seem to be an awful lot of space left for distinguishable organs.

Anyway F. Marian McNeill?s book was in its ninth edition by the time my copy was printed, 1969. The first edition was in 1946. But I think that even in twenty three years between editions that items like Fish Custard and Nettle Beer were probably already on their way out. (Mind you I was very tempted to knock up some Nettle Beer whilst on sojourn in Scotland recently). The book seems aware of its own position in the pantheon of world food though, often stating the “heartiness” or “warmth” of the food involved. Which is a pity because a good haggis is a joy forever and Dundee Cake is food of the gods (especially if served with a stiff glass of porter). Nevertheless the book sticks to its guns, as is proved by the final recipe in the book. In the beverages section we get this popular Shetland drink:

This popular Shetland beverage is simply the whey of buttermilk left to ferment in an oak cask, and used at the proper stage. To make the whey, pour enough hot water on the buttermilk to make it separate, and drain the whey off the curd(which may be pressed and eaten with cream). Pour the whey into the cask, and leave it undisturbed until it reaches the fermenting, sparkling stages.

It is a delicious and most quenching drink, and sparkles in the glass like champagne. After the sparkle goes off it becomes flat and vinegary, but may be kept at the perfection stage by the regular addition of fresh whey.