Do You See

Apr 04

According to Hollywood

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According to Hollywood (which is of course where we should get all knowledge from) all the Nazi’s did in World War II was send out troops of soldiers to get involved with all sorts of occult rituals to help Hitler win. At least in Indiana Jones Hitler was after godly relics to help him win. In Hellboy (the name is a clue) Hitler was after help from the Dark Lords of Chaos. Well, he was using Rasputin to summon them Just to add to the ridiculous historical melange.

Perhaps Hellboy as a film fancies itself as a subtle addition to the nature vs nurtue argument. Will the bright red, satanic, behorned child grow up to be good or evil. Well, if you christen him Hellboy instead of – say – Dave, you might be loading the cards against him. However since he is our titular heroic character, and saves kittens, there really is no suspense at all on that issue. Instead we have a low rent X-Men clone (fish bloke, sets herself on poor CGI fire girl) and plenty of up in the air dangling subplots.

And more battles with unkillable opponents. (Here there is every suggestion that Rasputin will yet again find a way to be resurrected and the Lord Of Chaos haven’t exactly gone away. Nor for that matter did the half hundred monsters in the New York Subway.)


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… PAINTS A THOUSAND ERS … The writing in Girl with a Pearl Earring was so awful – and Scarlett Johanson’s word-swallowing mumble so unremitting – that Dr Vick and I began speculating if it wasn’t a ploy of some kind: “We want NOTHING to detract from the loveliness of our scene-by-scene recreations of Vermeer’s paintings…” What, not even the wall-to-wall blandness of address, stupidity of execution and contrivedness of pretext? Not even the fact that every single relationship in this TERRIBLE film was off-register – obviously its director won’t have met many 17th-century dutchfolk, but surely he has occasionally encountered SOME HUMAN BEINGS SOMEWHERE!!?? The idea’s not bad – the making of a masterpiece, and how compromised and contradictory its actual genesis might have been; the domestic politics of an artists’s household when a patron’s must be serviced – but I’ve seen the topic of the jealousy of artist’s wife for artists’s model done (way) more incisively in a made-for-TV Hercules Poirot!! Colin Firth as Vermeer was a vacant blob (as usual); S.Johanson’s pale gobliny face was bizarrely incompetently directed (she was allowed to – or asked to – smile her little private-joke smile all the time, but the whole thrust of the story was that she DIDN’T know what was going on); everyone else was made to look red-faced ugly or red-faced unlikeable or both. The only cliffhanger came where it looked as if SJ (as the maid) was going to start doing some of one of Vermeer’s best-known paintings for him – which wd have been an excellent, amusing, anti-reverential twist – but no, it wz just more unreadable business leading nowhere. Not a single Dutch name is pronounced right (Vick is inured to this in the UK but said this was abnormally useless and lazy…wd an arthouse movie be so cavalier w.French?) The music is a direct rip of one of Wong Kar Wai’s films (I think Chungking Express). It was always kind of obvious this film was going to be dreadful: as a result I wz fighting quite hard to find a way to like it. But all my hard-mustered contrarian perversity failed me.

Apr 04

Farewell ‘4 million

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Farewell ‘4 million: That’s how much the Sci Fi channel is spending on an attempt to attract GURLS, sorry, “to target a more mainstream unisex audience”. If a more mainstream unisex audience wanted sci-fi, I rather think it would be on our TVs instead of Footballers Wives. But fie on my cynicism! The main planks of the ‘4m push? A promotion of, say, Buffy and ads on, oh, Capital? Not quite – a push for The Twilight Zone and ads on XFM.

On the Achievement of No Spoilers

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On the Achievement of No Spoilers: I’m quite pleased with myself that last night, when I finally viewed Kill Bill I, I had not read a SINGLE THING about it more discursive than a billboard. Unfortunately I now suddenly realise this means anything I say abt it you may have read like 1000000000000 times already. So I liked that Uma Thurman does subterranean Clint Eastwood impressions throughout the “Sergio Leone” section: that made me laugh.

(And oddly enough Pam Grier was in the Fresh Prince earlier in the evening…)

Apr 04

Lost in Translation

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Lost in Translation (2nd bite): I kind of wish it had been set in space w. baffling aliens not tokyo in merely tokyan tokyans, cz you kept ending up thinking that the reason they are bored and lonely etc is they have no imagination jeez if *i* wz in tokyo blah blah… i liked the bits w.just them mostly

“Trainspotting” used as metaphor for trainspotting shockah!

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“Trainspotting” used as metaphor for trainspotting shockah!

I don’t know if it won any actual real awards, but The Station Agent is/was a shoo-in for the Ghost World Memorial ‘Indiest Film in the History of Indie’ Cup. Fin (a taciturn dwarf who works in a model shop) inherits a derelict railway depot in the boonies from the shop owner. When he moves there he meets i. Joe, a brash young Hispanic icecream-van man from New York (who’s running his dad’s van while the latter is ill); ii. Olivia, a nervy’n’arty middle-aged divorcee (who hates the telephone and is mourning her son’s death as a child); iii. a plump black schoolgirl exactly Fin’s height; iv. a CUTE LIBRARIAN!!! (!!!)

But actually despite this it’s very good, certainly very funny. It’s about isolated people learning to improvise a micro-community on their own terms, why you might actually choose loneliness over “getting a life”, and the problems that arise when the promise of companionship threatens the safety of solitude (so haha it’s an allegory of ILX huzzah!!)

Fin is an expert on trainlore – not least bcz it allows him a minimal social life with excellent boundaries (= his fellow trainspotters are shy to the point of social hopelessness) – but refuses to consider himself a “train chaser” (one of those um weirdos who drives along behind trains videoing them, then plays the homemovies back to fellow chasers). His deadpan reticence allows his fellow lonelyhearts to project lots of “cool outsider wisdom” onto him: he regards this is ridiculous, even borderline-offensive, but in fact (with him as the catalyst) some of the various misfits DO find a way to create a little provisional club-of-the-exiled.

Self-chosen outsiderdom is also often boring and stupid and deluded; solitude does not necessarily lead to greater wisdom than pub chat or television or the lecture hall. There’s a pretty close relationship between prejudice and yearning to be able to escape, of course – and the film’s good on this really except maybe in the one overdetermined drunk-dwarf-in-a-bar scene, where the “freak” (ie Fin, who we by now really really root for) seems to be allowed to be surrounded by a crowd of easy-target yokel-yahoos. (These too-cartoony demon-figures contrast with Joe, the secretly sensitive’n’lonely loud urban yob who is of course an excellent cook: though to be fair the bar scene does somewhat imply that it’s Fin’s drunken paranoid POV which generalises those around him into a leering ugly mob…)

Anyway I seem to be beginning to find more things wrong with it as I describe it than I noticed as I was watching it: actually I think it’s very well aware of these kinds of edgy-boho-smugness-type pitfalls and deals with them very smartly viz the ending, which is such a classic indie “we’re-indie-and-we-don’t-do-endings” ending that I burst out laughing. (ps a ‘station agent’ seems to be the US equivalent of the UK’s ‘stationmaster’) (eg another of the things i like is that this movie is a whole station goods-yard of rival metaphors shunting complicated between each other….)

Apr 04

A Bird In The Hand

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A Bird In The Hand was what Channel 4 called its biog of tragic emu-wielding funnyman Rod Hull. The show ran along standard tears-behind-the-laughter lines; what really divided the viewers was the question of whether Emu was funny. Alan and I voted an uproarious yes; Emma and Isabel a stony-faced no. I’m always quite impressed by comedians who manage to keep one single joke going over an extreme length of time, and Emu is surely the champion of this. Even watching clips that have turned grey through repetition I couldn’t help laugh – for one thing the gangly Hull was a terrific physical comedian; for another Emu was an unusually expressive puppet (only Kermit comes close); but even at this distance its still possible to get your main thrill from Hull getting away with beating up or groping anyone he likes because he has a cloth bird on his arm. Producers on the Johnny Carson show, we were told, had expressly told Hull not to attack Carson with Emu: but Emu without the violence was no act at all and Carson duly got a beak in the face. Even the programme’s narrator’s couldn’t help themselves – after Emu’s introduction they talked about Hull and his bird as entirely separate creatures.

(And of course now they are – Emu is apparently back on stage after four years in mothballs, on the arm of Hull’s son)

Apr 04


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evazev: why are there not more ghosts in soaps?
tokyo rosemary: there should be!
evazev: yes!!

Apr 04

At Five In The Afternoon is the second film I have seen this year regarding the situation of women in Afghanistan.

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At Five In The Afternoon is the second film I have seen this year regarding the situation of women in Afghanistan. Osama was set under the regime of the Taliban, At Five In The Afternoon is set afterwards, and the difference is initially stark. Yes both have women dressing one way to suit parents or society, and then changing to suit themselves, but in At Five In The Afternoon it is only Noqreh, our lead, who seems affected. A twenty year old who is finally allowed to go to school she talks of becoming the first female president of Afghanistan. And despite all the cultural challenges surrounding her, you get the feeling she might just make it.

Osama was a tragedy, wheras Samire Makhmalbaf’s film is something quite different. It is more a picaresque tale, with Noqreh encountering various factions and parts of modern Afghanistan (refugees returning from Pakistan, a smitten man, a French soldier). Wildly inconsistent it lurches from polemic to beautiful cinematography, from comedy to tragedy. And yet the mess coalesces as a whole, there is no one Afghanistan, and if Noqreh wants to lead it to a better future she needs to understand that. Whilst the ending is ambivalent, with the potential of tragedy around the corner, the film is happier to settle on a vaguely hopeful note.

Makhmalbaf has attempted a very ambitious state of the nation address of a nation that is not her own. As such is this an Iranian or Afghanistani movie, and does the Iranian viewpoint colour things a touch. As much as the European patronising the Iranian patronising the Afghani possibly. Makhmalbaf the younger is probably my favourite of the current Iranian directors I get to see (Rakhshan Bani Etemad – my favourite – not being shown all that often) and probably because she poses such questions without being as smug as her father or Abbas Kiarostami. Always watchable, At Five In the Afternoon does not need to resort to forced tragedy to explain the difficulties of women in Afghanistan. But in expressing some sort of hope, it is much more interesting.

I am starting to reach a similar conclusion to Alan (see below).

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I am starting to reach a similar conclusion to Alan (see below). For me, though, it’s not a lack of interest that’s making me slightly regret the games investment (are you counting the cost of the consoles too? Eek.), it’s a lack of patience and more significantly a lack of dexterity. The problem is that I am simply not very good at games. Boss battles that should fill me with anticipation instead lead to mere dread at the sure knowledge that I’ll be spending the next two hours/two days/ever stuck fannying about with a stupid combo move/boomerang/fucking ridiculous backpack squirter nozzle before giving up in a sulk and then watching Vic Fluro finish off the baddie in two minutes.

The only games where I can really feel the old fire are strategy and management games, though most of them involve managing something poxy like a railroad. Civilisation keeps me happy though, as does LMA Manager 2004. Even there my lack of patience keeps me rooted at an easy level or unwilling/unable to make the leap to Championship Manager.

My dream game would have the immersive atmosphere and design of, say, Ocarina of Time, but be absolutely peasy on a reflexes front. (I’ve been fondly remembering LucasArts point-and-click games, for example, but the humour in most of them hasn’t aged well.) Maybe Alan is onto something with this IF lark…