Month: September 2017

Borg McEnroe – Eavesdropping at the Movies – Ep 7 – 2017.09.28

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Mike and I duke it out over Borg vs McEnroe. Is it as poor as he says? Is it as good as I say? Do we come to an agreement? Listen to find out.

 

José Arroyo

 

 

 

IT – Eavesdropping at the Movies – Ep 6 – 22nd September 2017

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What is IT? Is IT any good? Is IT scary? How much of IT did Mike watch through his fingers? Why would he agree to see IT in LieMAX? Was he right about the bit with the sink? (Spoiler: He has googled it and discovered that he was wrong.)

Recorded on 17th September 2017.

José Arroyo and Michael Glass of Writing About Film

Victoria and Abdul (Stephen Frears, UK/US, 1917)

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This wasn’t as cringey as I expected it to be. I hadn’t realised Stephen Frears is the director. And he does a fine job indeed.

Judi Dench is absolutely extraordinary in the role that first made her a star twenty years ago (Mrs. Brown, John Madden, 1997): she not only brings all her stage-craft and know-how but gives her body up to the camera so that it too can contribute to what’s being dramatised: those hanging folds over the lonely eyes, the wrinkled skin of someone who’s lived too well and lived too long. Frears put the camera on Dench and she no longer fears it or ‘performs’ for it: the camera is placed and then she places herself in it to offer her eyes and skin, a tone of voice, pitched just so; a glance, line-readings that know cadences and haven’t forgotten the power of timing. She’s in a league of her own. But Ali Fazal is very good as the munshi and an excellent counterpoint both dramatically and visually — he’s tall, dark and handsome.  And it’s great to see Osborne, and the jewels and the outfit.

It’s not much of a story really, and what is shown is a bit of a whitewash: the establishment was really racist, but the queen who’s on top of everything isn’t etc etc. Eddie Izzard is very good but my favourite was Olivia Williams as Lady Churchill, eavesdropping at every opportunity, glaring her indignation at all passersby, having an eye cocked to every opportunity. Only great actors do so much with so little.

 

José Arroyo

Kingsman 2: The Golden Circle (Matthew Vaughn, US/UK, 2017)

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i catch myself watching the original Kingsman on TV now with more pleasure than I remember upon the first viewing. I re-see the odd snippet and it seems elegant, fun, attractive. Watching Kingsman: The Golden Circle reminds me that this partial re-viewing is also a partial forgetting: the sexism, the crude anal jokes with the captive princess etc. But nothing about the first film prepared me for how crude, manipulative and exploitative this sequel is. Cynical too, not only in the relentless product placement but in the lassoing in of American stars to pave the way for the success the original didn’t quite achieve there. Thus we see snippets of Jeff Bridges, Channing Tatum, Halle Berry and what what has until now been my favourite presence in the US audiovisual landscape, Pedro Pascal (probably best known from Narcos), none of them except for the latter offered much of a character or even a chance to shine. How much money do these movie stars need anyway? And if the filmmakers brought them in to make the shit shine, they failed. Julianne Moore is the only star who makes anything of the part  played. And Elton John  — who deserves a medal for being so open and game — is the only one the filmmakers succeed in getting some good jokes out of. If the idea behind casting these stars was so that the movie could sell better in the States, then the film is not only cynical but stupid. You can’t cast all the Americans as villains, secondary characters or merely inept and have that be your anchor in their market. But here we are, talking about audiences, markets, stars, what might sell. Yet, one look at how the action scenes are filmed — all so CGI that any human skill, effort, danger, and grace evades one’s consciousness — and the crass ineptitude of the whole project is visible to all. It’s like all the marketing and selling opportunities have been given way more thought than story, characters, and the staging of exciting adventure with slinky gadgets etc, ie. all that we want out of a movie like this. They’ve thought so much about the selling that they forgot to come up with something anyone would want to buy. They should all be ashamed of themselves.

 

José Arroyo

David Bowie: A Life by Dylan Jones

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I highly recommend Dylan Jones’ oral biography of David Bowie. I’ve only ever seen the form applied to sweeping historical subjects and was first introduced to it by Studs Terkel’s landmark work, Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression (1970). It’s interesting to note how this form, developed to put the personal back into the historical, to give first-hand accounts of vast social changes, evolved into first-hand accounts of one person’s experience of a historical period (for example the Nella Last’s Mass Observation Diaries, turned into books and which Victoria Wood then used as a basis for Housewife, 49.) and latterly, as a form of biography cobbled together from interviews of people who knew the subject at various points in their life (Michael Zuckoff’s excellent Robert Altman: An Oral History, 2010)

Jones’ book has the great advantage of getting dozens of first-hand perspectives on Bowie across a long period of time whilst almost entirely keeping the ‘author’ out of the narrative, which, if you dislike him as much as I do, is a good thing He brags, without a soupćon of irony about bringing Giles Coren, Rod Liddle, Piers Morgan. AA Gill and Boris Johnson to write for GQ.  You can imagine all as teenagers, wearing their public school top hats, burning £5 pound notes and throwing rocks at that David Jones with the long hair from Bromley.

What comes across in David Bowie: A Life is a very nice man, unfailingly polite, constantly curious, trying to find form in sound and image to express states and feelings, and seeking to do so with great interest, curiosity and application. Students of film will find his constant process of developing, trying on, marketing and discarding personae so that the changes in personae become the persona itself, particularly fascinating. Fans of Bowie will find an incredible amount of detail on the recording of some of the great pop music of the last century. Those interested in the salacious will also find what they seek in this book.

We’re so lucky now to be able to follow this type of book whilst listening to and seeng all the music and films referred to on you-tube. I was surprised at how familiar I was with all of it, much of which I wouldn’t have recognised by titles alone. In listening and seeing now, I remember what I felt then, but can now name, contextualise and articulate. Great book.

 

Jose Arroyo

mother! – Eavesdropping at the Movies – Ep 5 – 18th September 2017

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What is Darren Aronofsky’s latest fever dream all about? How is it allegorical? What does it mean?  How good is Jennifer Lawrence? Why we both loved it. Is the audience reaction fair and what might that mean?

Recorded on 17th September 2017.

José Arroyo and Michael Glass of Writing About Film

 

PS. You might be even more interested in this lively discussion between Aronofsky and William Friedkin:

 

Detroit – Eavesdropping at the Movies – Ep 4 – 3rd September 2017

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Why Detroit is the best film currently on release. Is John Boyega a star? Does Kathryn Bigelow get the respect she deserves? Is race the political unconscious of American cinema? Why hasn’t a great film on such a timely subject found an audience?

Recorded on 28th August 2017

Michael Glass of Writing About Film  and José Arroyo

The Inhumans on Imax — Scott Buck (creator), USA, 2017

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I was really intrigued by the first two episodes of The Inhumans being released in advance on Imax and saw it as an opportunity to compare the experience and quality of the image with what is shown on TV. But the show is so poor….The image looks just as dense and glossy on a big screen, some of the effects also hold up well, the set seems overly sparse and geometric, but would be less noticeably so on a small screen: the story, acting and all the other production values that go into making a decent-budget film and that are not restricted to CGI are strictly bottom of the barrel. A real disappointment, though not for the reasons expected. The story is far from Best of Marvel.And instead of thinking about the image, the question it left me with was: why is acting on American TV shows often so abysmal?

 

José Arroyo

American Made – Eavesdropping at the Movies – Ep 3 – 2017.09.01

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Is it possible for a film about drug smuggling, weapon dealing, CIA-sponsored militias and getting ludicrously rich to be in any way immoral? Tom Cruise helps destroy several Latin American governments and cultures, oblivious to everything except money and a sense of adventure. Do we empathise? Find out as we tolerate American Made so you don’t have to.

 

José Arroyo and Michael Glass of Writing About Film (In Very Long Sentences)