Sunday, 15 June 2008


You, like me, might have never watched Cocktail. It is one of those films that you either saw at the time, and continue to see, or you didn't, and never will. Unless, of course, you were too young or even (you won't believe it, but apparently this is true for some people) weren't born by then. I myself was nine years old when Cocktail came out in 1988. The impression I gained from other people and popular opinion was that this was a 'fun' movie. When I watched it recently, I found it quite harrowing. Did you know this film was based on a book? I think you can tell - it definitely seems to skip large periods of time where a lot of emotional development has occurred. Big events happen, but they aren't prepared for, or their consequences aren't fully appreciated. Anyway, I'm being too fussy. This movie is fun. Tom Cruise is incredibly young, energetic and exciting to watch. The soundtrack is cheesy (now), but enjoyable nonetheless, and they make cocktails and recite bartender poems. I was surprised by the seriousness of some of the things that happen, but maybe that's because I'm so used to our anaesthetic modern blockbusters? There is something slightly dangerous about 80's cinema, beneath its upbeat surface, that perhaps needs further examination.

Friday, 13 June 2008


I apologise for one more not directly cinema related post. I will get back to reviewing movies soon. Yesterday David Cameron said something that somewhat startled me. I wonder if you'll agree. Criticising Gordon Brown about the recent 42-day detention vote, Cameron said something like 'we're not here to do what's popular, but to do what's right'. Of course, I agree that the popular option is very often, if not always, the wrong one, but then I haven't been elected to government by a popular vote. Isn't it an MP's job to do what the majority of his constituents want? Or does he sometimes have to go against what they want because he believes they'll thank him later? He can't ask them to vote every time he has to make a decision. They elected him because they trust him to do what they want, don't they? I've always been puzzled by exactly how this reciprocal relationship worked, and David Cameron has muddied the waters considerably.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008


I get immensely annoyed by the attitude of the UK terrestrial channels in their coverage of major sports events. At the moment, both ITV and BBC share the Euro 2008 games. However, you'll never hear one channel mention that the other one shows the matches they can't. It's not as if they're offering competing coverage - all they can manage is a highlights show later in the day, and that, according to them, is all that exists of the game. It infuriates me that the channels can't see that we, as viewers, are interested in the sport first, before any channel loyalty (which I don't have anyway). It gets worse when the BBC news will, after reporting on the latest action in Formula 1, recommend you listen to the race on radio. Why would I do that when the ITV broadcast it live on television? I understand that the other channel will not shut down when there are events on they can't cover - they put on shows that they want us to watch, and value their ratings greedily - but it seems such narrow-mindedness, and every intentional silence still staggers me.

Sunday, 8 June 2008


My problem with The Mission, which I watched again recently, is the message, or ethos, it is recommending. Aside from this I believe it is a remarkable film, containing one of the best musical scores ever written, and the most stunning scenery ever photographed. This ethos, however, irritated me. What exactly does the movie suggest? Neither violence or peaceful resistance have any effect. It could be that the outcome of the plot is nothing to do with what the film recommends. Rather, it could be found in nature of the main character. Jeremy Irons seems the 'hero'. He believes in love alone, not that it will conquer over violence in this world, but in eternity. If this is the message of the movie, I find it a bit cloying. Yet, there is something strangely compelling about the film's refusal to give you any clear meaning, any hope, or any particular unhappy ending. You are left saddened but somehow inspired. It is easy to say that this movie is nothing without the score and the scenery - there is little dialogue or action, and the narrator is inconsistent and unnecessary. Overall, it seems, this movie leaves me confused rather than confident.

Thursday, 5 June 2008


[This is the second part of yesterday's post.]

However, this dilemma reminds me of something that is happening, or has already happened, in modern art. Remember a conversation you had with a friend about Tracey Emin's My Bed. Didn't they say something like 'I could've done that myself'? He, or she, was giving a very old fashioned view that says only art made from hard work, experience, and technical skill qualifies as 'good'. This in turn is connected to the equally old view that anything worthwhile in this life takes hard work. It is troubling that anyone can put a pile of bricks together and call it art, or put their writing on the internet and call themselves a writer, but this doesn't devalue the work itself. Ease of production shouldn't affect our appreciation. So, why do I have a problem with Sky+, with its easy access to any show you want to watch at any time? Perhaps it is jealousy? Perhaps it is Western guilt that makes me reject high technology? And yet I have desktop and laptop computers, a mobile phone, an MP3 player, two TVs, Freeview, a VCR, a DVD player and a Home Cinema System. Where have I imagined there is a dividing line? None of this is 'necessary', in whatever terms. Perhaps I am afraid of change, and perhaps the answer is that we should embrace change, but always be aware of the cost of achieving it, and what was lost in doing so.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008


Many years ago Alex and I lived together, and as he bought Sky and then Sky+, I remember complaining 'It makes life too easy'. I don't think I had much of an explanation as to why that was a bad thing. With the recent promotion of Sky+, and Virgin's alternative, I find myself feeling the same thing again. This time, however, I might have an explanation. Slavoj Zizek argues that such devices (like the VCR) take pleasure away from you, rather than give it to you, and I can't help agreeing with him. These are devices that make you more dependent, not more independent. Something is being taken away from you, not given to you. The plush, clean, sophisticated adverts for Sky+ with major celebrities recommending it, in some way dishearten me. They seem empty and vacuous, and I can't help thinking this is the type of life they are advocating also: a life where you no longer have to do anything, everything is done for you. The box will not only record the programs for you, it will watch them too, saving you time and effort.

[Part two of this post will appear tomorrow.]

Tuesday, 3 June 2008


Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is a movie. You might think I need to finish that sentence, but I don't think I do. It's a 'movie' movie, in the sense that Alien is a film and Aliens is a movie*. It doesn't pretend to be anything other than well-made good fun. Those are its own limits, and we shouldn't judge it by our own. Occasionally we have to say 'Its limits aren't high enough', or 'I don't like the limits it has set itself', but that is a different issue altogether. You can't not enjoy this movie in some way, and I don't think it relies on the previous two films for much of its effect. Although, I did want a little more nonchalant Indiana Jones escaping from near-death and smiling wryly about it. On the other hand, Cate Blanchett's character was a little too much comic-book. Also, several scenes were just a little too fantastic, even for Indiana Jones. You also have to ask more wide-ranging questions, such as: Is he an appropriate hero for the age we now live in? (The fear of terrorism, ecological disaster age? I'm not sure that he is.) I won't say whether you should or shouldn't see this film, it's just one of those that you either feel you have to or not, and that, in a way, has already decided how much you'll enjoy it.

*For more on this, see my previous post here.

The Hateful Eight

Tarantino has said he'll only make ten films, and then retire. I don't know if he still stands by this statement, and if he does we ...