Do You See

May 04


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This is a film I saw once. When I was six. So why did I nominate it for the Freaky Trigger Top 100 films? You may pick the analytical version or the honest version, dear reader.

THE ANALYTICAL VERSION: As I was saying on The Brown Wedge the other day, there is a certain reluctance among critics to embrace a childlike reaction to art; what you might call the Wow-factor. This applies in films more than anything else, partly because mainstream cinema panders more than any other cultural medium to precisely that factor: if you can hardly move for producers trying to wow cash out of you, it’s easy to become cynical. But rather than honing a sense of when something is actually kewl and when something is ersatz or rehashed or trying too hard, the sensible critic is encouraged to distrust and discount the Wow-factor entirely. When you get a load of people together drinking in a pub, though, “Wow”-ness tends to get its due. So it seems absolutely appropriate that a half-remembered movie that totally entranced me at the Saturday matinee when I was six should have been the first I chose for this list. And it didn’t surprise me in the slightest that my fellow drinkers agreed.

THE HONEST VERSION: It is called “One Of Our Dinosaurs Is Missing”!! It is about a missing dinosaur which is being driven round London on a big truck!!! ROXOR!

May 04


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“I think I’m playing a different game from the others” sez current reason-to-watch-BB Kitten. I don’t know what the game is though and I don’t think she does either, but based on last night’s show she’s winning it.

Kitten is annoying and her rule-breaking is childish – “let’s have a mini revolution” she says, why?, just ‘cos! – but what’s interesting isn’t her, it’s the way the others react. Some ignore her; some are nice or indulgent or reason with her; others turn on her immediately and vehemently.

Kitten is at first sight a troll (she may even be a plant; I don’t think so though). Like online trolls her m.o. is to enter a community with no intention of obeying its customs and bylaws. But unlike most trolls she isn’t out to attack or offend the other community members. Her rebellions pose the question – whether she means them to or not – ‘what is Big Brother about?’ If it’s about 12 people interacting in a closed environment, what she’s doing is harmless. If it’s more about the tasks and rituals and arbitrary rules, what she’s doing is dangerous. The reactions of the other housemates tell you which side they’re on – business school student Vanessa, for instance, leaping within half a second on the chance to punish the rule-breaker.

Channel Four’s whole pre-publicity this year (and last year and the year before) focussed on the latter ‘point’ of BB – the housemates were going to have to jump through particularly nasty and demeaning hoops. So the most interesting thing about last night’s show was Davina’s performance. She either actually detests Kitten or gives a very good impression of it. Before the ad break, when it became clear that K. was the one who would lose her suitcase, she gloated to camera about how badly she’d take it. As it was she took it well and nonchalantly, so Davina cut back to the studio and started rifling through Kitten’s suitcase – raising eyebrows at the “rather feminine” shoes, laughing at the photographs of home (“it’s a man…in a dress”). Suddenly and quickly she stopped and they cut back to the house – I’m sure I wasn’t alone in imagining the horrified producer shouting in Davina’s headpiece, “Christ, don’t you realise how awful this is making you look?”. Too late, though: Davina was implicated, playing Kitten’s game as much as the other 11 housemates, and losing round one.

(I think I found the whole thing particularly fascinating cos I saw myself in it. I have an addiction to arbitrary rules systems – as an RPG Games master in my teens or a message board moderator in my 20s. I think the rules I’ve made are generally quite good or harmless ones but I do know how easy it is to get attached to them, and lash out when people break them. Big Brother made for sobering watching from that viewpoint.)

May 04

“we’re lost and we’ve missed telly!?”

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“we’re lost and we’ve missed telly!?”

= the forlorn cry (immortalised in family legend) of long-ago small-sinker woe, when a daytrip-by-car went awry…

here i wz trying to think of something to say abt watching Transformers: BeastWars and Xcalibur back-to-back, and it jumped into my head: yes, *I’m* lost, and yes i’ve clearly missed the telly (possibly decades of it) required to make sense of Five’s current Saturday-morning fare, unfolding as it incomprehensibly does somewhere out between metal hurlant, robotoid computergame grafix (don’t ask ME to say which) and 19th-century post-preRaph kids fairystory illustration:

(that there’s Eleanor Vere Boyle courtesy, and Beauty and the Beast)

Of course I can tell you lots abt the latter – how this strain of art was an open portal straight into the weird-sex underside of the Victorian mind, all tanglewood backdrop, chix in clingy shifts and writhing erectile monsters… but BeastWars and Xcalibur (just for starters) present such an undergrowth of tired kidflick hand-me-down and startling image, confusion, war, sexlessness, senselessness, libido, manufactured archetype, cliche and i don’t know what else that i couldn’t guess where to begin

May 04

FT Top 100 Films 93: ZOOLANDER

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A satire? On the fashion industry? Well that must be pretty redundant.

Yes. It is. Which is exactly why Zoolander is good. Writer/Star/Director Ben Stiller realised that turning a one minute VH1 Fashion Awards (!) joke into a fully fledged film had to do something else on the side. What usually happens here is fleshing out of secondary characters, complex plots and so on. But wait, the secondary character is also a male model, not much for contrast. And the plot is some guff about ex-models being used as assasins against regimes that want to get rid of sweat shops*.

No the space was filled up with some tremendously stupid jokes. Models are stupid is the joke: as proved when we see four go up in flames after a perfectly choreographed petrol fight. We have the juxtaposition gag – Derek Zoolander as a coal miner. We have the conspiracy theory gags. And out of the blue we have strangeness about Frankie Goes To Hollywood, illiteracy and the inability to turn left. Mainly though the film coasts on the goodwill caused by finding the double act of our generation. Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson have the easy camaraderie that is impossible to fake in movies, and (as recently shown to too much effect in Starsky & Hutch) can talk about almost anything together and be funny. Zoolander goes the extra mile because it is also remarkably stupid.

One should never be surprised by an unexpected David Bowie cameo in a film, the man is a media whore after all. But Billy Zane. Genius.

*The lack of political earnest on this plot line is also a joy to behold.

May 04


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Anthony Easton says:
Night of the Living Dead is Romero practicing. It is the beginning of using horror to express social concerns, it is beginning of making low budgets respectable, and it is the origin of the sex kitten as first victim. The best thing about it though, is his use of the domestic. Horror only really works when fundamental taboos are being shattered, and the idea of family as safe refuge is torn to pieces here. From the bickering sister and brother who notice the first zombie, to the makeshift commune at the farm house, to the child eventually eating her mother, any notion that you might have had that family both born and created would save anything no longer matters after viewing this film.

Pete Baran says:
Night Of The Living Dead shares a similarity with the previous film on the list, Some Like It Hot with regards to the way it is shot. You might say that the set-up and effects are inferior to the later Dead movies, but the zombies are that little bit more convincing. This works better as a horror, the others as satires, because it is in black and white. Just as Billy Wilder chose to film Some Like It Hot in black and white because the make-up made Jack Lemmon look green, the same Dead make-up – so persuasive here – looks blue in Dawn and Day Of The Dead. The shambling masses are still there, but in the later films resembling Smurfs. Which is terrifying in a wholy different way.

Diagnostico confirmado: Pete Baran es un nabazo.

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Diagnostico confirmado: Pete Baran es un nabazo. Such was the suggestion the last time I reviewed an Almod’var film, Talk to Her. And now I am back at the nabazo coalface, having seen La Mala Educaci’n(Bad Education). Will Argentinean youths be scoffing at my naive, western centric rush to canonise the giant of Spanish film-making. Probably.

First up though, I can already say that Bad Education will not be my film of the year. It is a fun puzzle, an exciting self-referential thriller but is emotionally inert. Anyone expecting to be put through the same kind of moral wringer that Talk To Her did would go away unsatisfied. Anyone looking for a thoroughly enjoyable two hours in the cinema would be on the right track. And while the film is surprisingly distant from its audience, it is probably the film I have already discussed more than any other I have seen this year. Almod’var shows he can do all that Charlie Kaufmann script trickery, whilst still engaging us in a great story.

So why all this guff about emotion? Partially due to Talk To Her and All About My Mother were such emotional films. But possibly more because the general consensus has been that Bad Education is a partially autobiographical film. From an autobiography point of view, it looks like Almod’var is playing the same game that Woody Allen did with Deconstructing Harry. Yes, there may be some superficial characteristics between Almod’var and the lead film-maker Enrique. But it pushes credulity to think that he would be involved in such a real life murder, so why should we attribute anything more than cosmetic comparisons between the character and director? The lack of emotional engagement comes from the obscuring of character motivation, it is clear that this is Almodovar’s version of a noir thriller, a day-glo noir but one where no character can be trusted.

As an aside, my companion noticed a surprisingly large number of single men of a certain age and a certain rainproof attire in the cinema. We wondered if this was a traditional audience for an Almod’var or if the reviews, the poster and seeming subject matter had dragged out a paedophile audience. If so they will be sorely disappointed. The most visual, and central plot of the film revolving around the abuse of the leads as children in catholic school is almost presented as an aside. The morality of this situation as well could not be any less clear. As Gael Garc’a Bernal, (compelling in the lead and looking good as a trannie) says in one of the final scenes ‘You don’t love a ten year old boy. You abuse him, molest him.’ Raincoat audience take note.

May 04

FT Top 100 Films 95: SOME LIKE IT HOT

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Oddly, as I went to start this piece “Some Like It Hot” by the Power Station came on my mp3 player. Not really much of a commentary on the film, it did isolate one of the most bizarre things about the film. Its title. No-one likes it hot in the film. Neither in a temperate or metaphorical way (the heat is certainly on Joe and Jerry but the do not seem comfortable). The slightly generic title almost means the 1939 Bob Hope comedy of the same name has almost completely been wiped from consciousness. Trust me, it is well worth seeking out if you like jazz drumming.

But to the cross-dressing farago that is Some Like It Hot. An intensely violent opening act, moving on to sexism, homophobia and a nice round off with more violence. Not your average focus group comedy. One of the most documented film shoots of all time, and one which Tony Curtis has dined out on for much of his life. The secret of Some Like It Hot’s success is doing both the cross-dressing plots at once. You get the bloke who looks quite good as a girl befriending the girl he fancies (Tony Curtis), and you get the girl who looks terrible as a girl being the object of affection of a bloke (Jack Lemmon). Tootsie rolls these characters implausibly into one to use both plots and does not pull it off quite as well.

The on the run from the mob plot has been stolen so many times since it is difficult to believe how violent the early sequences of the films are. Sanitized in Sister Act, True Identity etc: the idea of your own home made witness protection programme is frankly far fetched. But hey, remember, this is screwball comedy and this leads us away from the real grim and gritty St Valentines Day massacre, to a sunny beach with girls and Marilyn Monroe. It is however missing the an appearance from Cary Grant, popping his head up in the final reel to bop Curtis on the nose for his impudence.

But Anthony Easton Says…

Its not as funny or as accomplished as people think it is. Its not as weird or camp as Diamonds Are A Girls Best Friend (where both the drag and the female impersonation is done by women), not as sad as The Apartment (and this movie is supposed to be as sad as it is funny) and not as queer as Spartacus (but then two men in a roman tub would make anything queer.) Its accomplished, though but accomplished as vaudeville, and in that way its a paean to a dying form. A couple of good lines and some decent performances do not extend this past a rather boring relic.

Summer Of Smut II

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Summer Of Smut II: This week’s best Marketing story involves Trojan’s new condom ad. The 20-second ad, which will go out in a Big Brother break, is apparently the ‘first ever’ to show an orgasm on UK TV. Can this really be true?

The Onion AV Club runs through some

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The Onion AV Club runs through some scenes which were rightly deleted from films which hopefully DVD has saved us from official inclusion as some form of directors cut. This subject came up the other day after an experiment between watching Terminator 2 (Special Edition) and the video which displayed that the special edition buffed up a few effects and re cut the entire beginning of the film.

Of course I was accused of rockism when conversation drifted over to the Star Wars question (ie you literally cannot see the 1977 cut), and I guess the accusation may be justified. Sure revisionism happens all the time, but the creeping re:dub of the recent release of Tom & Jerry when the southern Mammie’s voice has been dubbed with a Hispanic voice* alters the history and understanding of the background of these scenes. I can see why the might want to do it but just tell us if you do it ather than release these cuts as the real deal. Its just another incidence of history rewriting itself.

*The suggestion being that it is no longer fitting to have black people in positions of servitude, but its okay to have a Puerto Rican maid.

May 04

Why are you running down that corridor aimlessly.

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Why are you running down that corridor aimlessly.
Because we want to, because we want to.