Do You See

31
May 05

INVENTION OF BAD (parents’ edn)

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following up tom’s post, i just realised i carry in my head a kind of “old person’s equivalent to kid’s free pass” in ref pop cult stuff: viz that if my dad (and obv it applied to my mum too) expressed liking for something, i never applied the “provocation and/or posture filters” that i’d automatically bring to bear if one of you lot say some mouthy ilx bigwig proclaimed a like or (more usually) a dislike for x, y or z

ie re eccleston-as-who: when we were watchin the “winged beats of time” ep, there wz a shot of ecc watching from the street corner in mute appalled disgust as rose created the timefold, and dad turned to me and said “he’s very good in this, isn’t he?”

and i chose to interpret this as “good as in just GOOD” (ie not some triply-complicated crypto-brechtian adjustment in ref what WE ONCE HOPED POP CULTURE WOULD BECOME or ditto) (this wz also why i liked talkin to mum abt TV: bcz she didn’t have an agenda beyond her own stimulation and distraction) — i KNOW my liking for dr who this time round is (partly) complex and positional, even though i also really do actually enjoy it “on its own terms”; but i assume my dad’s has none of the first tumult of faff, so he must be “less likely to be deluded’ about the latter — but now that i have written this assumption out cold, it seems questionable to me somehow (but how?) (or else why?)

28
May 05

BI AGENDA!!!

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(actually of course by the 51st century this is a hopelessly quaint and inadequate formulation)

25
May 05

Not a Star Wars post

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I refer you to this thread instead, where you will find love and hate of an epic proportion. I am on the love side and I care not what you think. (Not entirely true, but you’re not going to change my mind!)

Instead I wish to talk to you about the two absolutely horrific as hell trailers we had to suffer through first on the way to said film. The first was for Stealth, and while the actual trailer you see on the website was a bit different, the net effect was the same: “ARGH! DIE DIE DIE AND ROT!” The hearty boos directed towards it were so satisfying. To my mind it was just astounding because after the glory that was Team America, seeing something that was trying to do this kind of thing seriously was so wrong; all that was missing was the “IN A WORLD…” dude. Top Gun meets Broken Arrow meets D.A.R.Y.L., apparently, but without the charm.

Then there was Mr. and Mrs. Smith, the existence of which I had been blissfully unaware of until that moment. Oh dear dear dear dear. This says more about my relative unfamiliarity with the actresses but it wasn’t until the end of the trailer that I realized it was supposed to be Angelina Jolie instead of J. Lo. Brad Pitt, meanwhile, looks like he’s been through a pressed meat plant and extruded via a tanning bed. The plot revolves around secret identities and guns, which I’m normally more than fine with, crossed with The War of the Roses, which I probably liked more at the time than I do at present (there’s an advantage in not having seen things for fifteen years). I want to assume the intent of the filmmakers is satiric, for their sakes. I suspect it isn’t. The chorus of boos was even louder.

But then the Batman Begins trailer ran. OH HAPPY DAY! (Just so long as Bale’s not sticking post-its to himself.)

24
May 05

The Invention of Bad

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I’m thinking a bit about childhood tastes at the moment*. What I’m quite interested in is the moment at which a kid gets the level of visual sophistication which allows them to identify a visual effect as ‘rubbish’. Be it a bit of cheap SFX, or poor animation, or a badly constructed set, there’s a point at which the suspension of disbelief departs.

Actually even calling it ‘suspension of disbelief’ is wrong – there’s no disbelief to be suspended. There’s an awareness (beyond an age I can’t even remember for myself) that what’s being watched isn’t ‘real’ but there’s no sense that certain things are being wilfully ignored by young children.

I’m not sure older children suspend disbelief, either: when they notice something they dislike they can turn against it very quickly. I kept watching Dr Who** in the late 80s out of habit and despair at the show’s apparent decline: when I returned to it as an adult I was shocked to find that several late episodes were regarded as very intelligent, well-acted near-classics. All I remembered was the naff designs and crappy lumbering monsters.

Watching old TV shows as an adult I’m able to ignore the quality of the effects at will. The circle seems complete – from ignoring crappiness unconsciously, through being hypersensitive to it, to simply not factoring it in critically. But occasionally I still get an odd jolt. In one particular old Who episode, a supporting villain was aged into a skeleton. This terrified me, my only real behind-the-sofa moment. In my memory not only was the effect wonderful but the whole tone of the scene was creepy and dramatic. In fact the effect was awful, the actor hammy and the scene played at least half for laughs. So how did I fill in those gaps? I thought of this while watching Saturday’s episode, with its morphing CGI gas mask faces. “Wow, that’s a bit ropey” I thought, and then thought that a 6 year old watching would never forget it. This isn’t a nostalgic wish to be less sophisticated, more groping for where and how ‘sophistication’ develops.

*OK, for several years now.
**come on, you knew it was coming.

oh my god it almost made me WATCH IT!

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“Father Dowling’s evil twin turns up again, and causes more mischief”

20
May 05

see THIS is where crazy frog’s penis comes in, culture-war-wise

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i sorta plan to post more on this – or maybe not, sigh – but for the moment all i shall say abt that C4 abi titmuss doc is that when mr rod liddle declared that the AT phenom marked the arrival at sensible maturity of british sex, i i had to note that this be an arrival which depends on
i. the um judgment of the respective editors of ZOO, NUTS and FHM, and
ii. the editor of NUTS is a chap w.a face EXACTLY RESEMBLING an old man’s ball-sack

Yoda vs Lara Croft

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In Tomb Raider (the game), Lara Croft’s guns are auto-aiming. Basically if she can see it, she can shoot it. This leads to a particular set of moves when she is fighting anyone or any creature particularly difficult. You make her jump around. A lot. It makes you harder to hit and does not affect her shooting.

It was nice therefore to see an homage to this in the recent Star Wars filum. As this is exactly the same fighting style as Yoda. Yoda is however prone to talking in the most annoying style EVAH and less easy on the eye than Ms Croft.

19
May 05

A Nation Of Tar

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The more I thought about seeing Tarnation, the more my brain started splitting the words up to become Tar Nation, a film about a country complete tarmacadamed. In such a fictional land our hero Jonathon would be a very poor lawnmower salesman, until the day he harnesses the power of the hover mowers to create a new form of public transport.

Some nights I don’t sleep all that well.

The real Tarnation is no less bizarre in form if not content (though even that is a bit shakey). This is the closest I have ever seen to an art film in a cinema. I tend to use the phrase art film in a disparaging way, partially because a lot of rubbish comes under that subtext and I don’t like watching film in a gallery. That there is a narrative in Jonathan Couette’s film is about the only thing that marks it from the standard art film and a lot of them have narratives merely by virtue of having a beginning and an end). What makes it interesting is that it is completely old footage, home videos, camcorder trash and photo’s digitally manipulated, played with to tell the story of his and his mothers life. Probably only fifty percent of it is actual video footage – the rest is cut-up treated photography, which often looks like a bad 1980’s indie music video. Which gels nicely with the bad emo life the lead has led.

Does it work? Yes, but not due to any of the visuals. In the end, a tragic story of a woman who was driven mad by electroshock therapy that she did not need, and her son brought up by the grandparents who did that to her almost gets comic in its bleakness. This story would compel if the visuals were just pixelated photos spinning in and out of the screen. Which is just as well, because sometimes they are.

17
May 05

Stand Up! Stand Up!

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This is a real blog entry right here, folks: ace critic Raymond Durgnat takes on Sight and Sound, the BFI, Hoggart, Leavis, the Free Cinema etc etc, forty years ago. (Later he made up with Anderson, a bit.)
Until it was posted, this piece was rare as hen’s teeth; elsewhere on the site there’s a round-table discussion between Durgnat, Jonathan Rosenbaum, and his mate David Ehrenstein from 1978. Rosenbaum remains a staunch Durgnat champion.
When ‘Standing Up For Jesus’ was written, S&S had just called out the young, pro-Cahiers critics of Oxford Opinion and Movie (Robin Wood, VF Perkins, Charles Barr, Ian Cameron) for being ‘hungry for kicks’ and determined that cinema was about ‘human situations, not spatial relationships’. For reasons I can’t go into right now, it all begins here, full stop. Hit it!

Ong-Bak, When Are You Coming Back?

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Yes, yes, Ong-Bak has repeated sequences of people getting the tops of their head caved in with an elbow, but what is unusual about that? Elbow have been giving people brain damage for years. No, what is interesting about Ong-Bak is the edit job which has been done to make it palatable to Western audiences. Not, you might thing, removing some of the brutality. Nope, that is all there. Rather the slimming down of a romantic subplot which one presumes shows the limit of star Tony Jaa’s acting ability to be – well caving peoples skulls in with his elbow.

That this was done pretty much on the sly by an opportunistic western buyer is probably a good thing. It does mean though that the film opens with a bizarre number of music credits: the music being added later again to make it more palatable to a Western audience. The music is okay, but it is rare that I find out who is playing the ethnic flute on a film before I know who is actually in it. This add on set of credits is done in a very 1970’s way, which does create a great 1970’s chop-socky feel to the whole affair (that the naivety of Jaa’s lead never fails to shake). Elsewhere though this is a modern Thailand with drug dealing, organised crime – the subtext being much of this being payrolled by Western tourists. Nowhere else is the sense of East/West fusion more pronounced than in the fight club sequences, where the majority of the baying audience to the barbaric fights are non-Thai.

Much has been written about Jaa’s use of Muay-Thai (elbow heavy thai boxing). It was not this that stood out to me, rather one of his vanquished opponents who uses a martial arts style very similar to my own self taught method known as Chair-Fu. His eventual loss in the battle with Jaa is not down to it being a rubbish fighting style, but rather a foolish diversification into using tables, illuminated signs and at one point a fridge. The way of chair-fu is very simple: Hit The Man With The Chair. I fear the loss of such an acolyte in a film like this may set back the cinematic potential of such an exciting martial art form by years.