Posts from 23rd November 2004

23
Nov 04

‘Good Morning, Night’ is a brilliant film

Do You SeePost a comment • 186 views

‘Good Morning, Night’ is a brilliant film. I saw it over a year ago and my memory of it is too dim to base a review on, but vivid enough for the fact it’s been slept on to get to me. Perhaps it’s one of those ‘You don’t have to have read Mandel’s “From Stalinism to Eurocommunism” to enjoy this film but it helps’ kinds of movie. But I know shamefully little about Italy in the ’70s and found this compelling in an old-fashioned ‘moral problem’ type way. If you adopt a certain revolutionary perspective, killing Aldo Moro is both important and insignificant: politically important and humanly insignificant. But how can you be sure that the masses you claim to represent, who you claim to be ‘waking up’ with your violent acts, will agree? Will in fact the human act have political consequences? And is it even possible that one should consider human consequences first? I think these are important questions, and deserve better than Peter Bradshaw, who complains that ‘the action is disappointingly bloodless and muted’ before remarking that the film ‘fastidiously and even evasively turns away from the horrible fact of Moro’s grisly slaying,’ both missing the point and perhaps illustrating it. ‘Rope done right’ is my esoteric poster quote.

Bee-covered sodomising asteroid

Proven By SciencePost a comment • 236 views

Bee-covered sodomising asteroid: is the use of the term “nuclear winter” here because

i) this has become a real actual science name for any long-term post-explosive atmospheric temperature drop.

ii) this has become a lazy shorthand for any etc etc.

iii) the BBC want to hint that our humble pollinating friends could survive a nuclear war and become masters of the Earth.

iv) the BBC know something we don’t* about the fate of the dinosaurs!

*(unless we have been diligently reading our 2000ADs that is.)

Modern Archaeology may seem a contradiction in terms

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Modern Archaeology may seem a contradiction in terms, but its a big thing in acadaemia at the moment. Maybe its because students like rummaging through landfills. Fact of the mattr is with the disposable aspect of everyday culture there are aspects of human society and behaviour which is next to impossible to get any evidence on at all, once their time has past and everything is junked. Take bus tickets in London.

There was a time when buses used to have tickets given to you by the driver. This became such a littering hazard that the buses used to have special bins on board, small onese by the doors for Used Tickets, which your rolled permit to travel would get flicked into. Then all of a sudden a nasty man called Ken Livingstone wrote a death warrant for all those Used Tickets boxes, and suddenly no-one had tickets at all. So the boxes were removed from the buses as if they werer never there.

You can still see UT bins in other cities, but they are nigh on dead in London. In the future, what will they think happened? An extinction event I daresay.

FT TOP 100 FILMS 10: FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF

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FT TOP 100 FILMS
10: FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF

Matt DC has a Save Ferris 1986 T-Shirt. It is now 2004.

The character of Ferris Bueller is irresistable. Smart, funny, laconic = iconic. A cool kid, but a nice kid, who just wants to take a day off. It is ironic that there is no adult version of FBDO: the work ethic instilled in American life would not allow it. How can someone just take a day off without it having major ramifications. As we see, there are ramifications of the day off, but merely for others, for those in Ferris’ orbit. His sister, his principle, his friend. Ferris himself works hard orchestrating the fun, but it is an adventure, it is a break from the routine.

Is Ferris still out there, taking the odd day off. Well if we are the Ferris Bueller generation then yes. We throw sickies all the time. Do we ever enjoy quite as much. Probably not, our duvet days instill guilt, which counters with a righteous indignation that we re being worked too hard. So up go the feet with The Wright Stuff, and This Morning and the day slides by unproductively. What Ferris shows us is not just the importance of taking a day off every now and then, but also how to enjoy it.

For all its flaws (and there are some major ones) FBDO if an adreneline fuelled ride into adolescence which is applicable to everyone. Perhaps Ferris is too perfect, perhaps he does deserve some comeuppance. But credit to Broderick in embodying the kind of smarmy fuck we want to be, rather than hate.

Go on, take a day off yourself. After all, life moves pretty fast…

THE SEARCHERS – “Sweets For My Sweet”

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#155, 10th August 1963

There’s a weird discrepancy in this song between the verses, which Tony Jackson sings as if he’s keen to get them over with, and the chorus, which the group attack with a lot more enthusiasm. I suppose the band knew a hook when they heard one – the rest of the record is just travelling from A back to A again. The other thing that sticks out is Mike Pender’s 12-string guitar, the high summer sound which has launched and tracked a thousand hopeless crushes (generally in later and other hands than Pender’s, though). Beyond that, it’s flimsy.

ELVIS PRESLEY – “(You’re The) Devil In Disguise”

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#154, 3rd August 1963

A song which hinges entirely on its formal cuteness – pert pluckings for the ‘angel’ sections, breakneck rock’n’roll for the ‘devil’ bits. Compared to the cruder thump of the Mersey sound even the speedy bits are still a little restrained but essentially the conceit works and “Devil In Disguise” ends up one of Elvis’ more successful 60s hits. Slow/fast breakdowns in a pop song are a low, manipulative trick – but hardly ever an ineffective one. Good handclaps, too.

I know that Biskind’s Down And Dirty Pictures

Do You SeePost a comment • 189 views

I know that Biskind’s Down And Dirty Pictures is not supposed to be an academic piece*. But should he really set his stall out quite so clearly in the foreword (not even the Introduction)? In his summary of 90’s independent films he starts off by saying that they are nowhere near as interesting as seventies Hollywood (for which read my other book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls). Then he explains that due to giving him a hostile interview in 1991, Robert Redford – one of the two focuses of the book, would not give him an interview (oh and by the way Redford is a vain, narcissistic, poor manager of people who is insecure about his own intelligence, skill as a film-maker and RIGHTLY SO”). Oh Bob and Harvey Weinstein of Miramax: he mentions how fat they are, what bullies they are and that even if plenty of people did not say nasty things about them (which they do), anyone who said anything nice almost certainly only did so out of fear.

Then he gets into the well researched and nicely drawn narrative parts where he tries to prove all the assertions he has boldly stated as fact IN HIS FOREWORD. Now that’s journalism.

It is a rollicking read of course, in the style of Easy Riders, Raging Bulls – with many of the faults of that book. In particular his habit of telling stories about the production of one particular film at a time constantly stretches and overlaps his timeline so that what appears to be a linear narrative is actually a lot more complicated. And as is the way witha ny interview led book, those who give good interview come out of it the best. With the exception of Ben Affleck**. Also being too close in time, and clearly not overly caring for many of the movies he is talking about, leaves Biskind in the odd situation of championing lousy movies JUST BECAUSE Miramax canned them. The drink and drugs of ERRB is replaced by swearing, Big Macs and endless talks about producer credits. It is to Biskind’s credit that he can make all the contract negotiations as interesting as Dennis Hopper going on a bender, but you have to wonder how much is just for the story.

*This will not stop it being quoted and referenced constantly in every single film students essays about 1990’s US film, to the extent that despite its flagrent prejudices it might already be taken as a canonical work becoz it is fun to read.

**But then the more Ben Affleck breathes, the less well he comes out of it unfortunately. A walking definition of bad karma.

copyrighting the alphabet will not produce more books

Proven By SciencePost a comment • 210 views

copyrighting the alphabet will not produce more books“:

i have to keep my eye on WAY more of this stuff if i am ever to get the last section of my book (the big one) (which i have been writing for 14 years now sigh) back in play: if i hoik it into ILM the discussion will be too big and silly – here it can be small and smart (i believe)… anyway more stuff on the intellectual property debate, via boingboing

meanwhile in the US it will soon be illegal to fast-forward over the ad-breaks in the TV you recorded last night

I have gotten Elmore Leonard and James Ellroy mixed up before.

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 505 views

I have gotten Elmore Leonard and James Ellroy mixed up before. Not in a prose identification way, they are distinctive enough, but merely in the name filing part of my brain. I was reminded of this by looking at the blurb for David Peace’s Nineteen Seventy-Four where three capsule reviews mention Ellroy while one mentions Leonard. I think there was the brain error there as Peace’s book is certainly tarred by the Ellroy brush (why have paragraphs when sentences will do). And to start off with the stark kinetic style really sucks you in.

The relentless violence, authentically anachronistic prejudices of the characters do threaten to push you away. And once the lead has been beaten within an inch of his life, you would think there is nowhere else for the book to take its nastiness (trust me there is). A snuff movie of a book almost, it riffs on its Yorkshire setting to create a miasma of horrors which sit poorly with its actually rather rubbish plot machinations. When the “Book Of Canals” stuffed with kiddies photos is discovered just after our lead is told of tens of missing kids you put two and two together. The journalist hero does not do this basic arithmetic and ends up tortured, battered, bruised and effecting a pointless solution. The literary version of fireworks stuffed with fecal matter.

RIP VHS

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RIP VHS: Marky Mark Lawson on the downfall of VHS. I can’t comment on the ‘common culture’ stuff as I was just a kid back then, but his evocations of overwritten and thick-piled videotape labels obscure one key aspect of the video: in my experience, at least, nobody ever watched the things. Oh, certainly, there were rare occasions when you would miss a program, tape it and actually watch it later, but what the VCR mostly brought was the possibility of “time-shifting”, not the reality.

For one thing it brought television closer to the sphere of cultural guilt-tripping, where the books on your shelf are reminders of an intellectual lack (i.e. you haven’t read the buggers) rather than mementos of intellectual journeys. Taping a programme that you “meant to watch” was a handy compromise between missing it and watching it. For another the bar of what was (theoretically) worth keeping was lowered – it was a short step between making sure you didn’t miss a particular Panorama and taping six-part documentaries on the Gobi desert ‘just in case’. And it introduced the collector mentality to television – I used to have videotapes of every episode of Star Cops taped while I watched. I knew it was drivel, but maybe, just maybe, I might want to watch it again. The result was mountains of never-watched tapes (and as someone who owns rather a lot of Dr Who videos, I know exactly how bulky they can be). So no, I won’t mourn it.