Eavesdropping at the Movies

39 – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – Second Screening

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Feeling he gave it short shrift the first time, Mike’s keen to revisit Three Billboards, and drags me along for the ride. With the clumsy handling of race issues clouding the film less, we pick up on listener feedback that leads us into ruminations on Frances McDormand’s Mildred, particularly her defiance of the misogynist society in which she lives and zealous attitude towards collective responsibility, and whether the character of Sam Rockwell’s Dixon truly is a redemptive one.

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Red (Caleb Landry Jones) reads Flannery O’Oconnor

We also double down on our criticism of the film’s use of derogatory terms, comparing this to a similar issue in Tarantino’s films. Mike’s been reading about Flannery O’Connor on Wikipedia, and we consider what would have been gained and lost had the film been written and directed by the Coens.

 

The connection to Flannery O’Connor we discuss is obvious since one of the characters, Red (Caleb Landry Jones) is reading one of her books (see above). However, Andrew Griffin, has pointed out a further connection to another Southern Writer, Carson McCullers’, and her Ballad of the Sad Cafe, which Edward Albee turned in to a play and which Simon Callow made a movie I remember as being stiltedly poetic but with a fierce uncompromising performance  from Vanessa Redgrave at its centre, that is not unlike Frances McDormand’s in Three Billboards.

‘The parallels are quite amazing: a woman who has been brutalized by her husband and ostracized by the town who forms a relationship with a dwarf with explosive, violent results’, says Griffin, ‘ I didn’t think of it until you guys mentioned O’Connor, but thinking about it, the dwarf, the setting, the Redgrave character and the images you posted, The Ballad of the Sad Cafe is obviously an inspiration for McDonagh, as both a writer and a director’. I think that’s right and perhaps something to pursue, but not by us; as I think two goes at this film are, for me at least, all I want to give it.

The podcast can be listened to in the player above or on iTunes.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

Homophobia in Z

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As discussed on our podcast on Z in Eavesdropping at the Movies, Z is a great political film marred by homophobia. In talking to friends about it, many of whom had seen the film on its original release, it became clear that they could not remember this aspect of the film. And yet it seems to me to be central. Vago (Marcel Bozuffi) and Yago (Renato Salvatore) are the film’s main henchmen with Vago taking particularly glee in the damage he causes.

In the first clip (below), shortly after we’re introduced to them, and as Yves Montand’s voice talks of the problems of society and the great ideals he espouses, Yago follows Vago’s gaze, tells him, ‘shit, that’s all you think about’, the camera moves up to show us where Vago’s gaze is leading to, and we see an adolescent boy in his undies. Vago grins knowingly and says, ‘yes’. I have mixed feelings about this.

I like that Vago is unashamed of his desires. I like that Yago, particularly as he’s played by the amiable open-faced Renato Salvatore, knows of it; that Vago is out to Yago and that the latter jokes about this in what seems a ‘natural’ way. I don’t think the response would be any different if Vago had been looking at a woman, say. However, it’s very clear that Vago is meant to be the anti-thesis of the handsome, intellectual, heterosexual, idealist, Doctor/Poltician/Saint played by Yves Montand. Montand’s voice-over is the context through which we see and follow Vago’s gaze.

In the second clip (below), Vago, who has earlier wanted his name in the paper, now, since the police are making a case out of the incident he caused,  wants it out. What the clip shows us is that the newspaper editor is gay and there’s a suggestion of trading sex for favours. This feeds into the old cliché of gay men forming a cabal. Vago then runs to the bar next door and clicks his heels. Is this because he doesn’t have to have sex with the editor who’s his age but too old for him? Is this because his mission’s accomplished? Because he’s high on the havok he’s wreaked? Perhaps a combination of all these? After he clicks his heels he runs to the bar, positions himself next to an adolescent boy, makes sure their hands touch, first trying to make it seem by accident and then very deliberately so. The stereotype of the homosexual preying on vulnerable adolescents rendered explicit, and particularly disturbing in a film which finds cause and reason for and  which humanises every other poor person complicit in causing damage that day.

If it’s not enough that Vago is the anti-thesis of Montand’s Z, preying on young boys and part of a secret homosexual cabal, by the end of the film we’re told he’s a convicted felon found guilty four times, including once for raping a young boy whilst a camp counsellor. So to add to all the damaging stereotypes presented so far, this homosexual is a convicted pedophile.

But that’s not the end, as you can see below, Vago’s thuggery is shown to be brutally misogynist as well.

I find this representation of gay men simultaneously exiciting, unusual and reprehensible in what is meant to be a left-wing film. It’s typical of the era’s politics where the ideal left wing figure is that which Montand represents here (and particularly so considering his star persona of working class Communist man of the people; a model of virility who married Signoret and bedded Monroe); and where to be the era’s most reviled figure is to be that which Vago represents. I suspect the only reasons to make Vago an exuberant thug rather than a mincing queen is to condense clichés of that most reviled by the era’s Marxists into one figure. The gleeful thuggery and lack of shame is what makes Vago unusual and exciting. But to put this figure forth at a time when gay men were actively oppressed in all areas of life seems to me to be reprehensible and one of the film’s great flaws.

 

José Arroyo

 

 

Eavesdropping at the Movies 32 – Mountains May Depart

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Mike’s brother corrects our pronunciation of director Jia Zhangke’s name, helping us settle into a discussion of his ambitious, deeply moving tale of friendship and loss that spans two and a half decades. We talk about motifs of keys and coats, themes of capitalism and home, the changing aspect ratios and clarity of the image, the documentary feel to its portrayal of Fenyang and the way of life there, and much more besides. We admire almost everything and still can’t get Go West out of our heads.

Recorded on 11th January 2018.

The podcast can be listened to in the player above or at this link

You can download it from i-tunes here

 

José Arroyo and  Michael Glass of Writing About Film

 

Eavesdropping at the Movies 29 – Molly’s Game

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Eavesdropping celebrates the New Year with a snappy, sharp crime flick about the world of underground, high-stakes poker. We discuss the material’s weakness, our different takes on Molly’s character, the film’s descent into schmaltzy daddy issues, Sorkin’s directorial mediocrity, what David Fincher might have done with the material; the audience’s response to Sorkin’s dialogue; how good Chastain, Elba and Cera are; and the way Star Wars is dominating every bloody screen in every bloody cinema. Mike sounds different because he has a cold; I, because I’m occasionally trying to eat cake and talk simultaneously.

 

The podcast can be listened to in the player above or at this link

 

José Arroyo and  Michael Glass of Writing About Film

27 – Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi – Second Screening

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Mike and I return to a galaxy far, far away, in search of new perspectives and thoughts on The Last Jedi. Mike in particular has been itching to talk more about it since he feels he was unfairly lukewarm the first time. We ruminate on what makes Star Wars feel different to other sci-fi; how films may feel tighter and shorter on second viewing (this one does); Han’s dice; confusion on the resistance cruiser;  we give proper due to the character and performance of Rosie; talk about the great uses of sound in the film; we compare seeing the film in 3D-IMAX and 2-D; whether a Jedi can survive in space; and the differences between the First Order and the Empire, and Hux’s construction as a figure of fun. We still disagree about Mark Hamill’s performance and end the podcast by talking about love.

 

The podcast can be listened to in the player above or at this link.

 

José Arroyo and  Michael Glass of Writing About Film

Eavesdropping at the Movies 26 – Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi

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I loved looking at it. I loved the action. I loved the world it created. I loved Laura Dern and Benicio del Toro in it. Adam Driver is filmed as a Byronic hero, anguishingly romantic and at his sexiest. It’s my favourite film in the series, including Star Wars V — The Empire Strikes Back (1980). Mike felt differently. Matt Moore, also a bit lukewarmish about the film as a whole, joins us for this discussion and points to how the film focusses on female characters and interestingly alters the focus of the series.

We discuss how the film represents a shift from an aristocratic focus on blood and destiny to a more democratic purview on social change everyone, of whatever class, race or ethnicity can engage in. Mike came out of the film gleefully playing with a light-sabre only to sit down and slash through what he saw as the film’s weaker points, though he also points out how he believes Rian Johnson is the right director for the film and how, in spite of its faults, it truly does feel like a Star Wars film. Lots of spoilers.

The podcast can be listened to in the player above or at this link

 

Matt Moore, José Arroyo and  Michael Glass of Writing About Film

 

Recorded on 17th December 2017.

Flatliners – Eavesdropping at the Movies – Ep 9 – 7th October 2017

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With a weary sigh, we get to Flatliners. Ellen Page, James Norton, Diego Luna and Kiersey Clemons expand their minds and run around shitting themselves in fear. Questions abound: Why did they call this Flatliners when the obviously correct title is Hot Doctors? Was Kiefer Sutherland wasted? Is it wise to be wasted while appearing in a film? In precisely how many millions of ways is the film inconsistent? Just how stupid and blind is its attitude towards the very real problems it presents? Does it make sense as a horror flick? Just how obsessed are Mike and Jose with the cast’s attractiveness? Who’s hotter, the ginger guy or the hot girl? All this and Catholic guilt too.

José Arroyo and Michael Glass of Writing About Film

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

The Hitman’s Bodyguard – Eavesdropping at the Movies – Ep 2 – 23rd August 2017

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The second instalment of the Eavesdropping at the Movies podcast with Michael Glass of Writing About Film,  where we hope to offer the experience of eavesdropping on friends chatting informally about a movie after just watching it.

This week the focus is on The Hitman’s Bodyguard and the topics under discussion include: Can an action film that goes through Coventry be any good? Is it important that action scenes are funny? Is Gary Oldman a whore? All valuable questions. All answered in our chat about The Hitman’s Bodyguard. I think.

José Arroyo and Michael Glass.