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Some films I have watched recently

Aye, Corona. Normally I would relish the prospect of extended isolation. I guess when it’s forced upon you it feels a little less liberating. I tried to make the best of it, did some reading, did some writing and watched a lot of old films. Here are some of them.

Lone Star (1996)


  1. 52 Pick Up ( John Frankenheimer 1985) This is a fairly decent thriller with Roy Scheider as a philandering husband, trying to put his life together while dealing with a John Glover’s highly charismatic blackmailer. Ann-Magret also makes an appearance as Scheider’s beleaguered wife, trying to maintain her dignity while playing the role of a prominent politician’s campaign manager. Her job precludes Roy from being able to go to the police for help and so sets up our plot.  Adapted from an Elmore Leonard novel, it has some really good moments cinematically. There are a couple of crane shots in particular that look out of time but stand up now amidst the usual by the numbers stuff of the era. Frankenheimer had been out in the cold for a while at this stage, but this was a step in the right direction and he would go on to work for another few years, to varying levels of quality.

2. All That Jazz ( Bob Fosse 1979) Again Scheider stars, this time as a theatre director who’s on the brink of death by exhaustion. We are in contemporary Broadway where the line between erotitism and jazz handed high kicking theatre is barely visible. Scheider is trying to survive as the king of the jungle, propped up by shagging, hard liquor and prescription drugs. Jessica Lange appears as an angel ( fine by me!) who invites him to reflect on his behaviour. Look out for a charming dance routine by Erzsébet Földi and Leland Palmer. There’s also a really good subplot where Scheider’s character is trying to salvage a film with a stand up comedian via some frenetic editing…I feel your pain man! Interest in Bob Fosse has recently been rekindled by a TV series starring Sam Rockwell and Michelle Williams. I would consider this to be a suitable companion to that.

3. The Postman Always Rings Twice (Bob Rafelson 1983) REWATCHED I still haven’t seen the original but I have read the source material since my last viewing. In the passing of time I still am failing to see the criticism levelled at the two leads as fair. It’s well mounted, and the chemistry between Jessica and Jack is tangible. The drama in this is well posted however; you really see it coming from a mile away. I don’t think the director could ever have surprised an audience with this story however, re-adapting a 50 year old best selling novel, he was almost on a hiding to nothing. As it is David Mamet gave it his best shot in the screenwriter’s chair. Angelica Huston also makes an interesting cameo as a lion tamer in a travelling circus.

4. Ironweed (Hector Babenco 1988) To me this is almost an unofficial sequel to Postman. It’s not a stretch to imagine Jack living a few years longer and falling on hard times. The timelines wouldn’t really match up as we are still in depression era America here. But we’re certainly in a universe where his character’s past has consequences on his conscience. Here he is a homeless drunk, palling around with the likes of Tom Waits and Meryl Streep; all well past middle age and living on God’s good grace. Their only objectives in this film are finding a place to sleep, something to eat and staying warm. Streep’s character has also been unable to get past earlier disappointments. She lives now with a slight haughty accent and memories of a singing career that didn’t quite work out. It’s miserable enough stuff. But I’d recommend it

5. Silkwood (Mike Nichols 1983) This is a film that I never quite got around to until recently. I had seen it so many times in video shops, with the box’s artwork typically disappointing for the era. Streep, Cher and Kurt Russell work in a chemical plant, where in 1980s Oklahoma the one horse town has been replaced by the one factory town. She is a roguish presence, slipping between talking about plans for the weekend and trying to arrange a time to visit her estranged children. She also finds time to become paranoid(and subsequently spot on) about the safety standards of the factory and whether the production area is detrimental to the staff’s health. Russell plays her patient but underwritten love interest; It is quite noticeable when the shoe is on the other foot. Cher plays a lesbian character in believable but quite broad strokes. 

Similar to Frankenheimer with 52 Pick Up, Nichols hadn’t made any films for a few years. While John F had been battling alcoholism, Nichols had been based on Broadway( maybe him and Fosse had a few drinks and this whole blog could be tied up in a pretty little bow).

6. Save The Tiger ( John G Avildsen 1973) The one that finally got Jack Lemmon over the ‘Oscars’ line. Here Jack plays a middle aged fashion house manager, negotiating contracts with buyers and trying to appease his pretentious designers. He is suffering from PTSD but it being the early 70s and him being too proud to visit a doctor, this has not yet been diagnosed. His coping mechanism is to remember old baseball games with admirable detail. The game nowadays has changed he thinks, and not for the better. It’s a subtle but beautiful performance.

I remember watching Billy Wilder’s Avanti, which was made around the same time. This is in the same wheelhouse but superior. A little bit of comedy but a lot more wistful. It’s an excellent study of the generational gap in America at that time too. Lemmon’s character drives the same way to work every day and decides to pick up a young hippie who wants to screw him straight away. Fans of Tarantino’s most recent OUATIH will immediately recognise the sequence. Avildsen is better known as the man who helped guide Stallone’s first Rocky film into the stratosphere. He isn’t a particularly showy director but there’s some nice photography of downtown L.A that historians will definitely appreciate.

7. Lone Star ( John Sayles 1996) Described as a neo western film by Wikipedia this can also be classed as pretty damn great. The 90s and the 70s of American cinema are to me at least, friendly cousins. Scripts are generally beefy and over exuberant cinematographers need not apply. This one has plenty of beef, taco flavoured and spicy. Hell, even the opening credits look like a menu board for a lowly Tex Mex.

And that’s exactly where we are. On a Texas Mexico border where three communities co-exist peacefully, often ignoring past indiscretions for the sake of harmony. Chris Cooper plays the sheriff of the town. He is a reluctant copper, stuck in the shadow of his respected father. He harbours thoughts of leaving the force, but is stoic and quietly determined to get to the bottom of an old case before he does so. We are educated on this old case via flashback. Here Kristofferson and a post Dazed and Confused McConaughey play out the scenes with an understated aggression. 

Of the seven I’ve listed here, this is the one I’d recommend the most. Keep an eye out for Clifton James ( he of Sheriff JW Pepper in James Bond) fame. 

Really good stuff folks, get on it!

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The Irish Times Top 50 Irish Movies

What’s currently available and where…

There was a little bit of consternation when this list was released at the beginning of May 2020. Many felt that some films had been unfairly overlooked. Rumours of a Damo and Ivor protest outside 28 Tara Street have yet to be confirmed but there were some controversial omissions.

Conspicuous by its absence is The Field, an excellent John B Keane adaptation. I Went Down would be a better bet than Intermission if you’re trying to secure the Tarantino type voters. I would have also said ‘In the Name of the Father’ and ‘The Snapper’ are arguably more beloved than ‘In America’ or ‘The Commitments’. Also you could argue that In Brugges is more Irish than The Killing Of A Sacred Deer. Or that ’71 is more Irish than The Dead.

My chief concern however, was whether I would be able to watch the 24 films that I haven’t gotten round to yet.

There has often been difficulty in purchasing old Irish produced TV shows or films. Usually this comes down to the production company not seeing enough of a potential profit, not being able to secure licensing rights for music or quite often, said production company no longer existing.

The IFI in Temple Bar is a decent source of old Irish cinema, though I cannot say for sure what they currently have in stock. Likewise Tower Records has a respectable World Cinema section. After that you are down to online shopping. Volta is an Irish website which has tried to find a niche market in independent and arthouse home cinema. Like so many others they are probably struggling against the might of the Jeff Bezos juggernaut so if you can, support them.

Anyway, after a couple of hours of research I made a list of the 50 and their availability. Many are available right now online. Others will be trickier. I am unable to access Prime Video from where I am. Don’t know what it’s like for you folks back home!

50. Korea Cathal Black, 1995: haven’t seen it and could not find it on any notable shopping sites (Volta)

49. Cardboard Gangsters Mark O’Connor, 2017: seen it (available on many platforms)

48. Intermission John Crowley, 2003 seen it (available second hand)

47. Snap Carmel Winters, 2010 haven’t seen it ( listed on Volta)

46. Kisses Lance Daly, 2008 seen it (available second hand on Ebay)

45. Good Favour ,Rebecca Daly, 2017 haven’t seen it (available on prime video)

44. Saviours, Liam Nolan, Ross Whitaker, 2007 seen it (difficult to find, maybe some rights issues with music) 

43. Kings, Tom Collins, 2011, haven’t seen (there is a listing on Tower Records)

42. Hush-a-Bye Baby, Margo Harkin, 1989 haven’t seen it (no record of it on DVD . There is a VHS listing on Amazon for £85! )

41. The Secret of Roan Inish, John Sayles, 1994 haven’t seen ( DVD listed on amazon for $45)

40. Shadow Dancer, James Marsh, 2012 seen it ( available on many platforms inc Prime Video)

39. Maudie, Aisling Walsh, 2016 haven’t seen it ( available on many platforms inc Prime Video)

38. Silent Grace, Maeve Murphy, 2001 haven’t seen (DVD on amazon for $40)

37. In America, Jim Sheridan, 2002 seen it ( should be able to pick up a copy on Ebay quite cheaply)

36. The Commitments, Alan Parker, 1991 seen it ( available on many platforms inc Prime Video)

35. Flight of the Doves, Ralph Nelson, 1971 seen it (should be able to pick up a copy on ebay quite cheaply, also there’s a good chance RTE will show it on a bank holiday)

34. The General, John Boorman, 1998 seen it (DVDs available on Amazon and Ebay)

33. Waveriders, Joel Conroy, 2008 haven’t seen ( should be able to pick up a DVD on Ebay quite cheaply)

32. The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, Kim Bartley, Donnacha Ó Briain, 2003 haven’t seen (It’s on Youtube though)

31. Gaza, Garry Keane and Andrew McConnell, 2019 haven’t seem (available on Prime Video)

30. The Secret of Kells, Tomm Moore, 2009 seen it (Volta)

29. December Bride, Thaddeus O’Sullivan, 1991 haven’t seen (currently available on Ebay)

28. Bloody Sunday, Paul Greengrass, 2002 seen it ( not currently available on amazon but Ebay have a copy)

27. Garage, Lenny Abrahamson, 2007 seen it ( Volta)

26. The Image You Missed, Donal Foreman, 2018 haven’t seen (Vimeo)

25. The Killing of a Sacred Deer, Yorgos Lanthimos, 2017 Seen it (available on many platforms inc Prime Video)

24. His & Hers, Ken Wardop, 2010 haven’t seen (DVDs available second hand on amazon)

23. The Butcher Boy, Neil Jordan, 1997 seen it (available on Prime video and dvd)  

22. Odd Man Out, Carol Reed, 1947 seen it ( DVDs on Amazon)

21. The Rocky Road to Dublin, Peter Lennon, 1967 seen it (available on Prime Video)

20. The Farthest, Emer Reynolds, 2017 seen it ( available on many platforms)

19. Good Vibrations, Lisa Barros D’Sa and Glenn Leyburn, 2013 haven’t (Blu Ray available on amazon)

18. Silence, Pat Collins, 2012 haven’t seen (Volta)

17. The Magdalene Sisters, Peter Mullan, 2002 haven’t seen (available on Prime Video)

16. Once, John Carney, 2007 seen it (available on Prime Video)

15. The Fading Light, Ivan Kavanagh, 2009 haven’t seen (volta)

14. Song of Granite, Pat Collins, 2017 haven’t seen (available on prime video)

13. Mise Éire, George Morrison, 1959 seen it (DVDs available on Amazon)

12. Brooklyn, John Crowley, 2015 seen it (available on many platforms)

11. The Lobster, Yorgos Lanthimos, 2015 seen it (available on many platforms)

10. My Left Foot, Jim Sheridan, 1989 seen it (available on Prime Video)

9. The Wind That Shakes the Barley, Ken Loach, 2006 seen it (available on Prime Video)

8. Adam & Paul, Lenny Abrahamson, 2004 seen it (DVDs available on Amazon)

7. The Quiet Man, John Ford, 1952 seen it ( available on Prime Video)

6. The Crying Game, Neil Jordan, 1992 seen it (Blu Rays and DVDs available on Amazon)

5. Hunger, Steve McQueen, 2008 haven’t seen!! (available on Prime Video)

4. Man of Aran, Robert J Flaherty, 1934 haven’t seen (youtube)

3. Anne Devlin, Pat Murphy, 1984 haven’t seen (unknown availability)

2. The Dead, John Huston, 1987 haven’t seen (DVDs and VHS available on amazon)

1. Barry Lyndon, Stanley Kubrick, 1975 seen it ( available on many platforms)

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My favourite Soundtracks

After my last dalliance with a blogpost on cover artists I decided to show you all just how much of a square I am when it comes to music. I’ve pretty much been listening to the same stuff for 20 years and I’m quite happy in my rut!

These are some of my favourites plus some well thought of others

Once Upon A Time in the West

Ennio! When you get the composer to make the music first and then direct the film to said music there really isn’t much more you can say. This feels like the story itself, perfectly entwined. 

I could have chosen at least four other movies that Morricone composed on. The Mission, OUATIA, work he did on the Dollars trilogy with Leone, various stuff he’s done with QT. Spoiled for choice really. I chose this because it is my favourite.

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

I will return to Bond in more excruciatingly boring detail some other time but this soundtrack deserves to be singled out for extra praise. Although he had been there since the beginning, John Barry only really hit his stride in Goldfinger, when the producers were able to match his full orchestra ambitions. There were some truly great moments before OHMSS but this was THE one. 

As so often has been said with a new Bond in the role, everyone had to up their game. There is the instrumental title track( which hasn’t happened in the 51 years since) then wonderful pieces such as Try and Journey to Piz Gloria. Barry was getting to grips with one of the coolest machines ever made; a moog keyboard. These are still quite popular in certain circles but at the time it was cutting edge and a risk. Much like the casting of George it wasn’t without its criticism either. People of course, can and often are very wrong.

Also, did I mention Louis Armstrong ..

Saturday Night Fever

This film was in the public consciousness for so long it’s easy to forget how adult the themes in it actually were. Then again there was a specific PG version aimed at gentler souls in the US market. 

Music wise, this is very much a Gibbs brothers’ production, with only a couple of tunes not coming from them.

Three tunes in particular shot them right into disco superstardom and a wealth they had never known before. Staying Alive obviously, You Should Be Dancing and How Deep Is Your Love. Bell bottom tastic. 

Also a note on A Fifth of Beethoven. Very funky remix. Not the first time that decade had seen Ludvig Van modernised. Which is almost a segway to…

Barry Lyndon

Kubrick had better films and arguably better soundtracks but this is lovely Sunday afternoon, do some pottering around the house stuff. 

Much like its Irish setting there were unheralded pieces Sean O’Riada with Women of Ireland as well as more European fare with Sarabande from Igor Kipnis. 

It felt really authentic. For period pieces you can either go one way or another. Stanley wanted it to be paired back as his lighting set-ups.

Bronson

A movie built on style, about one Britain’s most notorious criminals of the 20th century. There was a lot of things that could have gone wrong here but Tom Hardy is uber charismatic throughout. 

He is accompanied by some choice pop music from the Pet Shop Boys and New Order as well as more classical staples from the likes of Verdi and The Flower Duet. And not forgetting The Walker Brothers either.

Also Glass Candy, Digital Versicolour is (insert picture of a chef really happy with his work)

Grosse Pointe Blank

John Cusack makes good on his 80s teen threats to grow up and be the consummate adult anti-hero. In a film where there are so many silky smooth edits, an 80s era pop tastic soundtrack with the likes of Bowie, A-Ha and The English Beat is all fine but the real heroes are Joe Strummer and the Violent Femmes.

Trainspotting 

So good they needed two volumes. The Orange and the Green. A who’s who of 90s Britpop means that the strictly literary setting of the 80s is compromised, but look what you get in return.  Pulp, Blur, Elastica, Sleeper( doing a very decent Blondie cover) to add to the likes of Lou Reed and Iggy Pop. But that’s not even counting the dance music. Underworld, Bedrock etc. 

Also full disclosure/ honest opinion; I really liked the sequel. You can @ me if you want to discuss that. I really hate when people say dont@me, so rude!

Jackie Brown

And boy will I get pelters for this. My QT choice was not to go with the obvious Pulp Fiction, which is great but instead the film directly after it. I always felt that both albums summed up each movie perfectly. Pulp Fiction is super cool but doesn’t make me think too much, I just enjoy it. Jackie Brown oozes danger, disappointment and redemption. 

I didn’t rush out and buy a bunch of motown records right after this, but the door was opened and I definitely had a good peak. Delfonics, Four Seasons, Bobby Womack, Bill Withers and Randy Crawford (with a strange but welcome outlier in Johnny Cash). I always felt this was QTs most focused film. The only one to date adapted from a novel. I don’t know if he enjoyed the experience but I think he should consider doing that again.

The Wolf of Wall Street

Ridiculously long and over the top, but hey, last days of Rome and all that. The playlist on youtube stands at 42 tracks( quite a few of which are unfortunately deleted now)

I don’t know where to start with it. Scorsese is relentless in his pursuit of breakneck energy throughout this film and very few songs get more than 30 seconds. Which is fine, he had a similar rule with Goodfellas and Casino and that worked out fine. 

This setlist is almost like a mini history of 20th century American Music, going from Howling Wolf and Lee Hooker all the way through to the Foo Fighters and The Lemonheads. Bizarrely in his cokiest film ever he actually discards The Rolling Stones. But that’s okay. This album is very cool if a little bit inconsistent in tone. If you played it at a poker game or something you might get compliments. Give it a go..

Honourable mentions

Here are some movie soundtracks that have excellent music but are often very short pieces or simply title tracks.

The Graduate: Simon and Garfunkel greatness

McCabe and Mrs Miler: A couple of cracking Leonard Cohen tunes on this epic frontier film

Bullitt: Lalo Schifrin is so cool. Actually just buy a greatest hits of his to get you started(Mission Impossible, Dirty Harry etc)

The Conversation: Ridiculously cool instrumentals by David Shire. He’s had some great stuff. Check out All The President’s Men too

Get Carter: See above, unfortunately too short to rate but the opening tune is class. He also did a kicking tune for the low budget but well regarded SAS film Who Dares Wins

Taxi Driver: Hermann’s music is class but again the album is very short. I bought a special edition CD in HMV one time and it was all kinds of weird funky nonsense.

Sorcerer: Tangerine Dream

Superman: Again , a John Williams compilation album is a sound investment.

Rocky IV: Yes, yes YES! America 1 Russia…didn’t ! 

O Brother Where Art Thou: A delightful compendium of everything from Gospel to cajun

The Royal Tenenbaums: A very solid selection ( Dylan, Nico, Elliott Smith) accompanied by chunks of film narration. Some folk like that.

Garden State: Zero 7, The Shins, Nick Drake, Simon and Garfunkel again and yes.. Coldplay

Into The Wild: Plenty of life affirming Eddie Vedder goodness.

Inside Llewyn Davis; lovely stuff.

Would love to hear from you and tell me what I forgot!

I never saw Purple Rain but Prince is great. I have watched Guardians of the Galaxy and acknowledge its existence. Good soundtrack but like me, is probably trying too hard to be cool.

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Cover Tunes

Like most things in Irish culture, I guess my interest in cover versions probably can be traced back to a pub. Cover bands have been a staple of the local speakeasy’s entertainment offering for almost as long as rock and roll itself, always with varying levels of quality and/or accuracy.

I often recall local bands paying quality tributes to the likes of Pink Floyd and The Verve, wondering if it was a tad bittersweet that audience appreciation might be fleeting and that their own writing would never be appreciated. Still though, the bills have to be paid.

This is not an exhaustive list but rather just a selection of songs that I think sound good. Some are from famous people, some are not. I’d like to hear your thoughts and hopefully get a few other suggestions on some songs that you enjoy listening to in their non original form.

The Arctic  Monkeys- Feels like we only go backwards

Effortless mastery of a song that sounded totally different originally. The Arctics have form in the covers department having released(or indeed not released) a bootleg album with stuff from The Strokes, my beloved Girls Aloud and a Bond tune. Speaking of which..

Katie Melua- Diamonds Are Forever

I will always have a soft spot for Katie. She soundtracked some nice moments in a box room in Phibsboro’ and her voice has a nice sincerity to it. This pips the Arctics to the post, because ultimately it’s a girls anthem

Father John Misty- The Suburbs

Like the AMs, Mr Tillman could easily develop a cotton industry of covers. He’s done Cat Stevens, Johnny Cash and many more. But this…is…stunning. Again he takes a song and turns it on his head, slowing it down and simplifying it with just one instrument, though retaining his trademark falsetto. That line about having a daughter gets me every time.

NB: The music video for the original Arcade Fire version is well worth a watch.

Sarah Eagleson- Gypsy

This lady has a ton of covers on Youtube. Take your pick but this is my mine. This song cannot be forced. There is a very lame version in series 2 episode 12 of the original Knight Rider…I’m not sure if the original broadcasts had Fleetwood Mac but the box set certainly doesn’t. Anyway, back to this. Lovely stuff and the banjo accompaniment by her brother is very sweet.

Honourable mention Sarah Eagleson-Do I wanna Know

Europe The Final Countdown

Europe covering themselves …in glory!

This is class. Obviously not a cover but I wanted to make sure people discover it if they haven’t already. An acoustic version of their big haired 80s classic

Luis Betancourt- Sexy Boy 

Air are the band that rebuilt a lot of bridges between European electronica and mainstream pop in the late 90s. One of those bands that people are always happy to hear. This is from Moon Safari, an album full of potential for ‘covery/coveredness’. I went for this. A very low rent, do it at home type of deal. The artist doesn’t bother with replicating the lyrics, preferring to tinkle the artificial ivories of his dual keyboards while he duets with his Macbook.

Stereophonics- Gimme Shelter

What’s often forgotten when talking about the Welsh boys when people do talk about them( sadly not often these days) is how professional they are. I’ve seen them about five times live and they always give it sox, providing a louder but mostly in tune version of what you hear on the album. As a man none too fond of stadium/festival produced music, this suits me fine.

Here they are in a TV studio, now a four piece. Perfectly solid, like a Seiko SXZ to the Stones Rolex Submariner….That’s a compliment by the way

Phyllotaxis Rooster

This song always sticks with me. A real crossover hit between grunge metal and hard rock. Metallica have had their Vietnam related moments and here was Alice in Chains time. I really like the very beginning of this. The singer strums to find his rhythm, takes a breath and readies himself for the challenge of trying to match Layne Stanley. If he fails, he fails with honour.

Honourable mention to UpChurch for the same song ‘plugged in’

Unplugged 7x- That joke isn’t funny anymore

Lovely almost note perfect stuff by this lad. It is rare to find someone who can replicate Morrissey’s yokel like warbling. Here’s a free lesson

Hero- Nathan and Eva Leach

Another brother and sister team-up. This was their moment of fame. Perfectly impromptu, with the laundry still showing in the background. Kitchen music is great.

Young and Beautiful- Alice Kristiansen

Of course there had to be a Lana reference stuck in somewhere. I went for this one because it offers a real alternative to the brilliant if massively produced original. Whereas Lana’s sounds like it should be heard in Carnegie Hall , Alice takes up her usual spot on the floor (she’s got hundreds of these videos, all really charming) and gently questions her suitor’s staying power.

And that is that. If you got this far without questioning totally my taste in music, I applaud you. But I likes what I likes, so there you go!

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film of the week: The Lobster

I often like to walk along a busy thoroughfare, taking for granted the happy faces, either with friend or lover. What brought them together and will they last? Who can say, we must trust that they actually appreciate each other’s company at least.

This well established trusim is somewhat challenged in the Lobster. A film that although set in near contemporary times, takes on a dystopian reality, where spurned lovers choose to check into a isolated hotel to find another special someone. The duration of their trip is to be forty five days. That’s how long the guest has to find a lover. If they fail they are to be ‘turned’ into an animal of their choosing. David (played by Colin Farrell) chooses to be a lobster if things don’t turn out for him.

We see David stripped of his individuality and personal affects, one arm tied behind his back to ensure no personal relief is attained in his small single room. Thankfully he is allowed retain his dog, which is quite important in the context of the story but I won’t spoil it. He is soon introduced to some of the fellow guests. Ben Whimsaw and John C Reilly with a particularly good lisp.

The only means of increasing the length of your stay (and subsequently, the chances of finding courtship) is by catching one of the loners who live in the woodlands. Loners are those currently living off the grid, preferring to take their chances in the wild, away from the functioning cities of normal people in normal relationships.

The social scene at the hotel is limited. The entertainment is provided by the husband and wife couple ( Olivia Colman, great as always) but despite his best efforts David doesn’t see anyone he likes enough.

It is a film that offers the viewer plenty of time to think about the world we live in now and how while we feel connections are often difficult, forcing the issue in some 1960s style resort with succinct East German style small talk hardly makes for a better option.

The term visually stunning is thrown around far too often these days. Especially in the ea of digital filmmaking and the advantages it offers. However d.o.p Thimios Bakatakis works very well here, often utilizing Kubrikian style wide shots to compliment the eery dated premises of the hotel.

It’s not what you’d call a melodrama either. The actors deliver their lines in a cold, matter of fact fashion, drawing attention to the fact that we often spend so much of our own lives speaking in a routine cadence, trying to convince a stranger that we’re just about normal enough.

As time goes on, the film manages to portray perfectly so many traits of the modern meat markets, be it discos or online apps. Women throwing themselves at men despite their better judgements, men pretending to be something else to impress women. In the film the mission appears to be find someone and move back to the normal life in the city. If you fail you get to live out your days like an animal. It’s fascinating stuff and not only because it’s the kind of swill served up by churches and governments ( and Western romantic comedies) for so long. It holds up the single person as someone been forced to comply for the sake of uniformity.

Eventually David, with time running out on him, decides to try and start something with an unnamed heartless woman. She sees through his falseness and he decides to flee, making his way into the woodlands. Here he meets the previously mentioned Loners and lives happily ever after…

….well not really. But I don’t think me outlining the plot can do this film the kind of service it deserves. Rachel Weisz also stars, as does upstairs in the mecca of Irish retail, the Blanchardstown Shopping Centre.

The producers must have paid a small fortune for that location

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Telefon

*Note: I’ve made a deliberate attempt to shorten these reviews. Less than 300 words is now the aim!

At first this film shows good promise. The set up is done quickly and the stakes are something we can invest in. Sleeper Russian agents living in America. Unfortunately we’re soon into the Hollywood version of the Kremlin. Anachronistic uniforms, Russian characters in either American or English accents (with respect to Patrick Magee who had that grand thespian presence). They discuss the matter of the sleeper agents and come to the conclusion that they have to bring down the rogue agent ‘Dalchimsky’ who is responsible for all this.

And so we have Charles Bronson, a Russian major who is charged with finding Dalchimsky. We are introduced to him coaching young ‘Russian’ ice hockey players. Upon hearing the accents, we are very much in the territory of suspending disbelief.

He heads to America to team up with Lee Remick. She’s enthusiastic and impossibly horny for a person trying to stop men from killing lots of people. We learn too that she’s been sent by the CIA who have a super computer that is trying to help them capture Dalchimsky.

This Dalchimsky chap is played by Donald Pleasance. Pleasance’s first appearance in this film is him sitting in a station wagon admiring the first of his agent’s handiwork from afar. We can tell he isn’t there on set because not only do we not have a cutaway establishing shot, we also have a very noble attempt of back lighting/green screen. I say noble because someone spent hours on it, even though it is simply doesn’t stand up now.

Anyway this film seems like the heart went out of it. Like as if they couldn’t afford the finale they wanted so they settled on something else.

I would have defended this a few years back. Urged people to see it. But there really isn’t a reason. Except of course to watch Patrick Magee. Tyne Daly is also in it and is completely underused as a CIA computer expert.

Anyway Siegel was no doubt saving his energy for the Alcatraz film. This wasn’t his baby and he came on board a bit later into production. There is some good stuff in here. As mentioned the initial scenes are set in Russia and some of these look good, despite being filmed in Finland. The Lalo Schifrin music is also typically class and well eh…yep that’s all I can think of!

*Roughy 400 words, I’ll work on it!

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Riffed: Full Movie

The 2014 film ‘Riffed’ is now available on Youtube for a limited period!

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All About Andy: Ten Years On

Yes, that’s right. Ten years. Don’t ask me where the time has gone, because I don’t have a clue.

I wanted to get this back out into the world after a long absence. I had grand ideas of a new colour grade and spectacular new graphics but alas, I have been unable to do this for a few reasons.

Nonetheless, here are the original four parts , all on YouTube. I will endeavor to get a new and improved version up this year but it might have to wait until I get back to Ireland.

All About Andy Part 1

All About Andy Part 2

All About Andy Part 3

All About Andy Part 4

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book of the month : SULLY (aka)Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters

sully cover

 

In the midst of my recent house move I mislaid my Kindle and only managed to throw a few paperbacks in a box. One of these was Sully. I had won it in a table quiz two years ago along with some Guardians of the Galaxy keyrings I think.

Anyway, Sully( Chelsey Sullenberger) as you may nor may not know was the pilot responsible for the successful landing of an airbus jet on the Hudson in 2009. The book outlines his career up to that point and how his formative years shaped the kind of character who was able to hold his nerve in such trying circumstances.

The story goes back and forth with occasional glimpses of the fateful day of the incident itself, whilst maintaining a steady timeline from childhood through his life as a father and husband. Having not seen the Clint Eastwood film of the same name, I can only hope that they went for a similar approach. The crash lasted approximately four minutes which would challenge the creativity of most film directors. With all that said I couldn’t help but picture Tom Hanks all the way through.

We learn that Sullenberger came from a very modest family home in Texas. His father was prone to mood swings which would later be diagnosed as depression. He instilled in his family a strong work ethic however, with all of the unit charged with assisting in the construction of the house they lived in. Everything from the floorboards to the furniture was made by them.

Sullenberger gets his urge to fly from seeing fighter jets at a nearby airbase and takes lessons in his mid teens. Again he is eager to illustrate the sacrifices his family made to make this possible. Learning to be a pilot has never been cheap. We follow his career into the airforce, where he explains his cautious philosophy of flying in comparison to some of his peers. How he was keeping one eye on his future now that America was no longer at war at this stage and his decision to go into commercial airline work rather than staying in the military.

His recollections are key to creating an easy visual of the time he lived in. In the late 1960s right through the 70s there was still a great glamour to air travel. Passengers used to dress up just to get on the plane.

As cost cutting measures become the norm in the 1990s he is forced to cut his own cloth to measure. His anecdotes about packing his own lunch for flights are very telling. As are his attempts to get free flights for his family and his young daughter calling him out for being a cheapskate.

The book is a fine easy reading account of not only the career of this man but perhaps a subtle commentary on middle class America. For most of his adult life right into his fifties( I think he was 57 when the Hudson incident occurred) Sullenberger is constantly worried about money. He even maintains a second job as a health and safety contractor. Remarkable to think that a pilot would have to do this.

All in all I think this is well worth a read. Sully comes across as a very knowledgeable professional and the now deceased co-author ( journalist Jeffrey Zazlow) really helps him find his voice.

 

 

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Film of the week: Traffic

traffic-trafiki-qartulad

 

Recently I have been spending a few nights re-acquainting myself with some of the most popular films from the first decade of this century. This is in part due to my lack of broadband in the house and also my apathy in maintaining the newness of my DVD collection. So I’m stuck with a big case of ten to fifteen year old films. But that’s okay.
Traffic is a Steven Soderbergh film which gained both audience appreciation and a shedload of awards. It charts the movement of drugs across the Mexican and US border and the efforts of both administration’s efforts to halt said movement. In between the two plus hours of the film the documentary style cinematography is broken up with a melodramatic subplot or two which endeavors to show the human cost of drug taking.
At the time Traffic looked like very little else. We were in the midst of the uncomfortable crossover of textbook 1990s filmmaking being taken over by the digital age. Soderbergh himself had plans to rework the Ocean’s Eleven crime caper, a vacuous but entertaining exercise in 3D camerawork, lighting and cgi. Here he displays his passion for cinema verite, differentiating the changes in location by generously grading each one with either yellow tints for Mexico and blue for Washington. I later learned that he operated the camera himself a large number of the handheld shots. Bet the unions didn’t like that.
Traffic is a template for almost everything which has followed since in terms of raw indie filmmaking. Shaky cameras, jump cuts, the aforementioned grading. This could mean that you feel some kind of anger towards the film merely for the imitation it has spawned. But that would do Soderbergh little credit.
It is a sweeping epic kind of quality. In a similar vein to maybe Heat or indeed the TV series Miami Vice though with a far different aesthetic. The script while often verging on the side of lecture is informative and gives a good grounding in the basics of drug warfare in the US.
Really though the film might be best remembered as an exercise in having Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones in a film together, though in separate strands. Douglas plays a middle aged judge who gets promoted to DC to take on the tricky assignment of winning the war on drugs. He soon is to find out that he is part of an never ending industry and the war is keeping a lot of people in high paying jobs. He also learns first hand the effects of drugs on his family, as his private schooled daughter becomes beholden to crack.
For her part Jones is the heavily pregnant wife of a drug lord who is arrested and almost certain to face a lengthy jail term. As she pursued by the buddy cop team of Soderbergh regulars Don Cheadle and Luiz Guzman, we see her trying to unravel the spools of her husband’s enterprise and how she is going to survive without him.
Of course the film is anchored by Benecio Del Toro, a hugely popular actor who won an Oscar for his portrayal of the unbreakable Mexican cop. He is in fine form here, understated and proud with few ambitions beyond installing lights at the local baseball park so kids have something to do at night.
It is a fine film. The multiple strands of story move the action on at a good pace, wisely not dwelling too much on any character’s arc, instead giving them just about enough shade that we can make out their m.o. Many of the scenes too seem to be improvised which certainly add a sense of authenticity to the proceedings.
Ultimately though many will say it’s safe, a project designed to make some mainly white Hollywood A-listers feel good about themselves, all the while exploiting the rich and fertile ground of crime that Mexico always seems to provide in movieland.
But I still like it.