Saturday 31 December 2005

Match Point (2005) - ickleReview (cinema)

New Woody Allen movie shot in London and the home counties. Ex-tennis pro Chris Wilton (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) gets a job as a tennis coach in an exclusive club and, through one of his pupils, Tom Hewett, befriends a wealthy upper-class family. He marries Tom's sister Chloe (Emily Mortimer) but then has an affair with Nora, Tom's ex-girlfriend, a sexy but failing American actress (Scarlett Johansson). The plot echoes Hannah and Her Sisters, Crimes and Misdemeanors, and Deconstructing Harry.

The acting is a little edgy: at times I wondered if the lines were being delivered too woodenly; but then they captured the awkward body language of polite social situations. Allen scouts the London sights a bit like a tourist (do New Yorkers feel the same way about how he portrays their city?). I'm also not sure he writes as well for British actors, but then the social set he's aiming at are a bit divorced from my quotidian reality, even in Oxford.

An enjoyable and beautifully shot film, nevertheless, in which Allen seems to encounter the same writing impasse he explored in Melinda and Melinda when an essentially serious plot borders on farce.

Nugget: not his best of recent movies (see Anything Else) but confident, assured Allen, even in unfamiliar surroundings. I'd like to see him shoot another film in the UK, a comedy next time.

Thursday 29 December 2005

Christmas tree lights

Picture 047 Originally uploaded by domeheid.

Another long exposure experiment. Would sometimes like a digital camera of my own. Any recommendations anyone?

Christkindelmarkt at Muenchener Freiheit

Picture 026 Originally uploaded by domeheid.

I was playing around with my dad's new digital camera when we were out at the Christmas market here in Munich on Christmas Eve and came up with this nighttime exposure. The Kinderpunsch and Flammbrot were yummy, by the way - especially the Flammbrot.

Wednesday 28 December 2005

Dialogues you rarely hear, no. 1

"Hello, can I have your babies?"

"Why of course!"

"When can we start?"

"How about next Wednesday afternoon, about 4 o'clock?"

"I'm badger-fencing that day, I'm afraid, but I should be home by 7. Any good?"

Where to look

I am somewhat disturbed by people who have some sort of oddity, such as a squint or a facial disfigurement. I feel awkward because I don't know where to look. I don't mean to be offensive or upsetting to people with such afflictions, but I probably come across that way. But then, at the best of times, wearing glasses can make you feel rude because I don't quite feel I'm with people if I can't see them properly. It's like having an invisibility cloak; apart from the fact that I don't become invisible when everything is blurred (so it's not much like it at all, apart from the feel of it).

The One and the Pig

I have the potential to love her as much as John Peel loved Sheila (the Pig).

(Great book, by the way, Margrave of the Marshes.)

Curb your enthusiasm

Remington Rand Deluxe Model 5 I notice that my mum's Remington Rand Deluxe Model 5 typewriter has no exclamation mark key. I presume this is because in 1940-9, when the typewriter was made, there was no such thing as enthusiasm.

Hearts and Minds (1974) - ickleReview (DVD)

Documentary about the Vietnam war, dealing with the questions: why did the US go to war in Vietnam, what did they do there, and what effect did it have on the country and back home in the US? Director Peter Davis's style is not to interject his own opinions and narrative, but let the pictures and personal testimonies speak for themselves (although he does create meaning in his Eisensteinian montage juxtapositions, which give the film its polemical edge).

In a 2004 interview with the director on the UK version of this DVD, he reveals his intention of pursuing those moments that television networks would consider to be "dead air": when no one is talking. Davis finds in these the real impact of the war: in two Vietnamese women whose home has been destroyed, in a former US bomber pilot who suddenly realizes how he would feel if his kids had been attacked the same way, and in a patriotic couple who try to justify the sacrifice their dead son has made for them and their great country.

The blurb cites Michael Moore, who claims this is one of his favourite movies and the reason he picked up a camera, and you can see how Davis has influenced Moore, particularly in Fahrenheit 9/11. Moore pays tribute by using the same footage from a horrifically bad taste Army musical [can anyone supply the title?].

Nugget: a pretty damn powerful movie, very moving in parts, graphic in others. Not always able to answer the questions it asks of this confusing war, but then these things cannot be neatly explained, and that is the whole point of the movie.

Batman Begins (2005) - ickleReview (DVD)

Christopher Nolan film sketching out (sometimes rather too sketchily) Batman's coming-into-being. Christian Bale plays Bruce Wayne, who, like in the Tim Burton movie (and, I presume, the DC comics), witnesses his parents' murder in a mugging. Since early childhood he has been afraid of bats when he fell down a well in the grounds of his stately home and was smothered by them. As a young man he is still angry and guilty about his parents' death and tries to avenge the now repentant criminal.

Gotham is nowhere near as gothic as Burton's and seems oddly unpopulated. Therefore, when the baddies try to infect it with a rather implausible fear poison the tension is evaporated because we don't care about any of the people in danger. There is a token wee boy who runs about scared with the fiesty DA's assistant (Katie Holmes). It's all a bit clunky and underwhelming, particularly in the second half.

The supporting cast is quite strong on paper, with Liam Neeson as Wayne's martial arts mentor, Morgan Freeman as the Q-equivalent weapons and technology expert, and Michael Caine as the loyal family butler, Alfred.

Nugget: There was no real need for this to be made and the cardboard acting betrays a lack of faith in the project. It's neither a full-on comicbook, nor a realistic movie; falls down the gaping chasm of mediocrity in between.

Eddie Murphy Raw (1987) - ickleReview (DVD)

Movie of stand-up gig in New York, 1987. Hilarious stuff, mainly about relations between (black) men and women. Murphy is brilliant at impressions of Mr T, Michael Jackson, Richard Pryor, Bill Cosby; and does funny voices for foreigners, white men, Italian-Americans who have just watched Rocky and many more. His humour revolves mainly around these characters and his accompanying facial expressions.

This is a great set - better, I would argue, than anything I've seen by the late Richard Pryor, but nevertheless, heavily influenced by him.

Nugget: better than any of Murphy's films.

Dylan Moran: Monster (2004) - ickleReview (DVD)

Irish stand-up comedian. So much funnier than he is in the sitcom Black Books. His delivery is quite drunken and gives the impression of being somewhat dim-witted, but his insight is remarkably intelligent.

This was shown on Channel 4 a few months ago, I think in a more edited version. I enjoyed it much more the second time round, appreciated more the subtlety of his humour. I won't recount any of his jokes here - partly because I can't remember them, but also because they rely somewhat on his delivery for their effect. Subjects of derision, though, include children, women, Americans, smoking in public places (the Irish ban thereon) and rap.

Nugget: a well constructed set, delivered in Moran's own inimitable style.

The Godfather: Part II (1974) - ickleReview (DVD)

Majestic sequel to Scorsese's gangster saga, following in parallel the early career of Vito Corleone (Robert DeNiro) and the mid-life of his son Michael (Al Pacino) forty years later. The emphasis in this one is not so much on the gangster's life of crime and violence, but on Italian-American notions of the family and honour, and the ironical isolation of the head of the family.

Nugget: the best of the trilogy?

Swingers (1996) - ickleReview (DVD)

Dialogue-heavy comedy about a guy called Mike Peters (Jon Favreau), who has just split up with his girlfriend of six years. His buddies in downtown LA, led by Trent Walker (Vince Vaughn) try to encourage him back into the game. And it is a game, whose rules they try to obey: don't call her for two days after getting her number ("the industry standard"). Pretend to forget her when you break up and then gradually you will; then when you have forgotten her, she will call.

"Dialogue-heavy" is an observation; not a criticism; in fact, it is a joy to have so much wit and humour. Trent takes Mike to Vegas in an attempt to look "money" and get laid. Mike is still too much like a guy in a PG-13 movie: too cute and likeable to score. Eventually he retrieves his self-esteem back in LA after numerous attempts gone wrong, accompanied by his good group of friends.

Nugget: great fun, with some sharp perceptions of what it's like trying to meet girls. Biased to the guys's point of view.

Sunday 18 December 2005

Good Will Hunting (1997) - ickleReview (TV)

Gus Van Sant movie written by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. Damon plays Will Hunting, an orphan from Southey who mops the floors at MIT (rather badly, I might add - I would have got a bollocking at McDo's if I'd failed to squeeze out the water like that). One day he solves a Maths problem that Prof. Lambeau (Stellan SkarsgÄrd) has set his class. Lambeau bails the kid out when he gets busted for beating up a guy who bullied him at Kindergarten. One of the conditions is that he goes to therapy: cue Robin Williams as Sean Maguire, the shrink whose wife died of cancer two years ago and he's still grieving.

Will is precociously smart. He meets an English girl at Harvard called Skylar (Minnie Driver). But could she be The One.

That's a bit unfair. Boiled down like this is sounds like a Schmollywood schmuckbucket Oscar-cooking gumbo boat. And there is the Miramax moment wedged in there for Williams, but he delivers the speech beautifully. It's good stuff. It knows what puppet it's holding and how to pull the strings, and there's no shame in being tied to the other end of that. Quality.

Nugget: job done.

Play It Again, Sam (1972) - ickleReview (video)

The Woody Allen movie that begins and ends with the final scene of Casablanca. Try not to choke on your Cornflakes when you read this plot summary. Allan Felix (Woody) splits with his wife (she leaves him). Dick and Linda (Diane Keaton) try to set him up with a number of girls. Linda and Allan develop a little something extra marital. But then you see why Casablanca comes in at the end.

Woody is in slapstick mode, acting like a nervous spastic whenever he's near a woman. He is visited every now and again by Humphrey Bogart (impressively - if obscurely - impersonated by Jerry Lacy), who tries to tell him all about dames.

A solid effort, but not one of Woody's best-looking films, nor his knockabout funniest (try Manhattan and Mighty Aphrodite), but you'll do yourself no harm if you tick this one off your list as well.

Nugget: yes, the title is a famous misquotation: Bogey never says that. He says, "You know what I want to hear. [...] You played it for her, you can play it for me! [...] If she can stand it, I can! Play it!"

Saturday 17 December 2005

The Heraclitean Apocalypse

If I lived in the Mid-West and had starched my shirt for tomorrow, I'd be kinda worried. Don't you think it's been a bad year? First the Tsunami: that's earth and water. Then hurricane Katrina: that's a lot of air, and some more water. Then the Pakistan earthquake: that's more earth. And then last week the fire at the oil storage depot in Hemel Hempstead. That makes up the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse by my reckoning: water, air, earth and fire. We're fucked. The Rapture is coming. Time is near an end. I know. I broke my watch at the ice rink yesterday.

Thursday 15 December 2005

Bananas (1971) - ickleReview (video)

Woody Allen movie. Big mish-mash of genres: sports telecast parody (live at the assassination of a South American president), silent comedy, Marx Brothers, I guess. Amusing, but not Woody's best. Gets involved with a girl who's into women's lib and picketing embassies, who leaves Woody because there's something missing and she doesn't think he's much of a leader. She doesn't want to receive or give (one of the best scenes in the movie, heavily improvised). Great take on the "I don't think we should see each other anymore" speech. Woody somehow - in a carved up script - becomes president of this South American country, San Marcos. Quite slapsticky, but Woody's always funny to look at, so it works. Great scene in which Woody's character, Fielding Mellish, tries to browse porno mags in a newsagent: "Hey, how much is Orgasm?" (You had to be there.) Story of my last few years: "We fell in love. Well, I fell in love - she just stood there."

Nugget: features a young Sylvester Stallone (24-5 years old) as a subway thug.