Archive for Veronica Mars

Exposition Blvd.

Posted in FILM, Politics, Television with tags , , , , , , , on April 16, 2014 by dcairns

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There’s a famous saying that goes something like “Be careful what you want because you won’t get it but something might fall and hit you.” Perhaps it was to test that theory that we went to see the VERONICA MARS movie.

Fiona and I discovered the show on the recommendation of a good friend who discovered binge-watching before us, maybe because he’s American. Possibly all our UK friends were doing it already, but we were too busy watching pre-codes to notice. This was in the early stirrings of the Golden Age of TV when Lost and Battlestar Galactica seemed like a good idea and Breaking Bad probably hadn’t even been thought of. I don’t know, I’m no TV historian. But Veronica Mars had a lot going for it, as we recognized after two or three episodes. True, the actors were a bit uniformly good looking in a Lois & Clark kind of way, only juvenile. Thank heavens for the adults, who were good and schlubby. But the series had a lot of merits, which we looked forward to seeing carried over to the big-screen crowd-sourced version.

1) Plot. This is a major one — usually plot can be downgraded to the status of a series of hooks that keep us watching while the more important stuff is going on, but, to paraphrase Martin Scorsese at the start of THE COLOR OF MONEY, “With some players, plot itself can be an art.” Showrunner Rob Thomas would typically have a main plot and a subplot played out to satisfactory conclusions in each short episode, as well as keeping in the air the overarching series mystery (in series 1, this is the murder of Veronica’s best friend). All this made the show incredibly satisfying to watch — you got a lot — while also keeping you hungry for more. The teasers were irresistible.

2) Nice people. Even the deeply flawed characters, like Logan, were appealing. While we’re used to the Manichean nature of much western drama, it’s rare that I find myself touched by the goodness of a character. It sounds corny just to say it. But Veronica, though comprehensively traumatized before the pilot even starts, and confirmed in her cynicism by her evening job as assistant P.I., was always admirably decent, in a way that was impressive. The series tested her, and found flaws alright, but a good heart.

3) Class. I don’t mean just that the show is classy, I mean that’s about class, in a way that’s surprising and way beyond your basic “girl from the wrong side of the tracks” formulation. Series Two even had a major plotline about zoning. Being a Brit, I didn’t even know what zoning was, but I was fascinated to learn.

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Would the series’ charm survive expansion to feature length and the big screen? It was with a mixture of hope and trepidation that we attended a late night screening at the Cameo along with four friends who are also fans. And would the results please anyone other than fans of the show? Given that fans literally paid for the movie (in advance, rather than the more usual afterwards), the filmmakers (series creator Rob Thomas partnered with regular series screenwriter Diane Ruggiero) would be under more pressure than usual to satisfy their core audience.

We all enjoyed the movie — as fans. Not having watched it since the third series finished, I couldn’t always remember who the minor characters were, but enough of the rest of the audience obviously did to produce laughs of familiarity. The storyline is perfectly comprehensible to anybody, regardless of whether they ever saw the series — the ways in which it renders itself comprehensible are perhaps questionable, though: a big recap at the start and Veronica’s VO (a device used in the show, admittedly). I’d love to have seen the info delivered more in action and dialogue, both of which the film handles well. That show always had sensational zingy talk, and the movie does too — I’d like to see Thomas & Ruggiero write a screwball comedy.

Does it look like a movie? Well, it’s handsomely lit — but then, everything is these Thomas is definitely a TV director though. His modest budget goes on gloss, and his technique is basically coverage. There’s a suggestion of a LONG GOODBYE kind of drifting camera approach to the wide shots, but the editing tends to cut those angles off before they start paying for themselves, interrupting the camera movements just as they open their mouths to speak. It’s a film of fast-cut closeups — some hinky continuity but some very nifty emotion-tweaking storytelling. It’s just that it’s stylistically somewhere between too much and not enough.

But hey — the TV series succeeded on content, and by and large so does the movie.

The plotting is smooth as ever (at one point, an address is humourously given as “Exposition Blvd” but plot info is always successfully integrated into dramatic argument) and one consequence of the movie catching up with its characters after such a gap is a new focus on social media — I can’t recall seeing the cyber-age reflected so clearly in a film since KICK-ASS. Like Sherlock and House of Cards, the movie features onscreen txt msging as a narrational device — the return of the intertitle, or an appropriation of the speech bubble? It’s such a useful method I can see it being here to stay.

The cast are all great. Kristen Bell is adorable as ever, Enrico Colantoni as her dad (that relationship was the heart of the show) is delightful, Krysten Ritter (Pinkman’s tragic girlfriend from Breaking Bad), who I’d forgotten was in the series at all, is fun, all neurotic twitching, and the stand-out is obnoxious ass-hat Ryan Hansen, who was a good heavy in the show but has evolved into a stunning comic relief. The banter with Bell is vintage screwball. Some of the cast has got curvier, some skinnier, but all are great on the big screen. Maybe the movie strains too hard to give all the series’ regular and semi-regular cast bits, but the fan audience appreciated that.

I got worried that the climax was going to swipe TOO much from BLOOD SIMPLE — it borrows just about the maximum allowable dose. In the end, the problem is more that the ending isn’t quite big enough, and the subplot (yay! a subplot!) is left hanging for a potential continuation. The agreement afterwards was that we’d all love to see a continuation — especially on TV.

Fourteen Minutes

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on June 28, 2012 by dcairns

The 14-minute opening take from Shinji Somai’s LOST CHAPTER OF SNOW: PASSION, which resolves into a love story, a search for identity, and a murder mystery with a teenage girl protagonist. Kind of like Veronica Mars.

No subtitles in this clip, but plenty to look at! The camera move actually travels through different time zones, picking up the action a few days forward each time, without cutting. The sequence shows how the heroine, as a child, is rescued from a foster home where the family mistreat her, and brought into a loving environment to be raised by a teacher.

This take is really three separate shots, bonded together by moments where the camera passes into darkness (a little more unobtrusive than Farley Granger shuffling his midriff into the matte-box). The stylised studio set is delightful, and totally unlike the rest of the film (think of Scorsese’s use of a studio set for a childhood memory at the start of ALICE DOESN’T LIVE HERE ANYMORE) — watch for the moment when an entire building starts rotating out of frame to make space for the camera movement…

Let the self-congratulatory meat parade begin.

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 22, 2009 by dcairns

That’s George C Scott’s memorable phrase for the Academy Awards. The Great Man had nothing against awards, he said, but the Oscars had, even then, achieved such an all-encompassing bogus self-importance that they were clearly harmful rather than in any way beneficial. It’s not that stupid time-wasting crap is inherently harmful, but it does seem obscene that the one time of year when everybody talks about movies, is given over to a fatuous fashion show celebrating largely dull work.

And how come the news media conspire in the false earnestness of the event, when everyone I know of who watches the awards show does so in order to mock the bad frocks, ludicrous acceptance speeches and hysteria/histrionics?

Even by paying attention to them here I feel slightly soiled. But come by from around 11pm GMT (two hours before the ceremony itself, wherever you are) and I’ll be throwing the digital equivalent of popcorn at the TV, and updating this here post as regularly as drink and spell-checking permit. If comments appear, then the whole thing might well shift to the Comments section, so keep an eye on that too.

See you in the meat district…

joanfontaine

Image from http://tsutpen.blogspot.com/ — head over there and catch the brilliance.

Part two — am now sat on the couch between David Wingrove and Fiona, waiting for the nonsense to start. Nobody seems too excited about who’s going to win, but if Kathleen Byron doesn’t get a look-in during the Role-Call of the Dead segment, Fiona will be incandescent. I like the animated short HOUSE OF SMALL CUBES, which I blogged about here, so I’d like to see it win, but I imagine Pixar will take the gong.

Conversation has dealt with Steptoe and Son VS Sanford and Son, but is now shifting to the frocks. A lot of black dresses, apparently. “I don’t want to see a lot of black dresses,” protests Fiona. I think it would be good if someone came AS an Oscar, naked in gold paint. Mitchell Leisen through a party for Olivia deHavilland after TO EACH HIS OWN and he had a live Oscar for her. “But his eyes are blue!” she exclaimed in delight.

“John Travolta looks as if his hair has been drawn on with a felt tip pen” — Fiona.

I wonder how emotional Mickey Rourke is going to get. Can he actually locate a working tear duct these days?

Sky  1 has Fearne Cotton on the red carpet in a pink dress, clashing quite badly. And instead of grabbing people on their way in, they’re doing pre-recorded talking heads pieces and speculating about how well Britain’s going to do. Ugh.

They’re running through the Best Film nominees now. “Who’s that woman in THE READER?” asks David W. “That’s Lena Olin.” “That’s Lena Olin? Where’s her bowler hat?”

Just predicting that BENJAMIN BUTTON will get its technical awards but not the major ones. So we’ll see if we’re right.

Our friend Dylan is taking odds on strange things happening: “Odds on Tom Cruise presenting an Oscar and using the opportunity to come out of the closet?” There are no takers.

“Oh look, it’s the Slumdog kids!” “They showed them the other night in a vacant lot filled with sewage, and now here they are, all dolled up.” Danny Boyle has said that they  have a trust fund set up that’ll pay out when the kids finish school “and pass their exams.” No pressure, then.

“Odds on Heath Ledger turning up to accept his award? He’s not dead, it’s all a big publicity stunt…?”

Nicola and Dylan both confess to wanting to sleep with Maggie Gyllenhaal, “At the same time, if necessary.” Since Nicola is straight, this is a powerful testimony to Maggie’s charm.

It is widely agreed that we like Sam Rockwell. And that Frank Langella was a sexy Dracula, but is maybe too attractive for Nixon.

At last, we’re  getting some proper frocks. The mum from BENJAMIN BUTTON looks very nice, and Dylan, who mainly remembers the character in old age, can’t believe it’s her.

Much admiration of Josh Brolin. “Especially with that hair, bizarrely,” referring to his MILK do. Someone claims to have seen his ex, Minnie Driver, in an ad. I suggest she should be in a mini ad, as a mini driver. Everybody being interviewed manages to have one scary person in the background…

Dylan has brought his own cafetiere, and his own special cup. We’re beginning to worry about him.

The guy from TWILIGHT is being interviewed, and standing behind him is a man with an upside-down head. And now a character who looks like someone from Family Guy standing behind the dead girl from Veronica Mars. The people behind Amy Adams look normal though, but we’re complaining that Fearne is blocking our view of the frock.

“And here’s Sarah Jessica Parker dressed as a fairy!” cries Fiona, before we’re overtaken with shock at the sight of Matthew Broderick finally showing some sign of age. And at the same time, a sort of plasticity. I ask if he’s had work. “I take it you mean surgical work, he certainly hasn’t had the other kind,” says David.

“Red is the colour of the evening,” declares Fiona, after Mrs Sir Ben Kingsley makes a good impression. Fiona thinks Mickey Rourke looks like the Cowardly Lion.

(I suddenly remembered that I wrote a feature script in which some violent nuns from the militant wing of the Catholic church ram a Best Original Score Oscar up a man’s backside. I can’t think why that’s come to mind, maybe something to do with DOUBT.)

Sophia Loren is there! But Fearne is talking to David Frost. And Peter Gabriel. “Hi mam,” says Pete.

Claudia Winkleman, who’s doing the post-match analysis for Sky later, calls in, saying she’ll “chew off her own hand” if Kate Winslet doesn’t win. Something to look forward to.

God, some of the talking heads they get are awful. Barely qualify as heads at all. James King from Radio 1 is my bete noir. I don’t want to be mean though. Too early in the evening for that.

Fearne just isn’t pushy enough to grab interesting people on the carpet. Now she’s interviewing the other presenters… now she’s got Winslet. She says hi to anyone mad enough to stay up late in the UK. That’s us! Hi, Kate. Now the red carpet non-event is over, time for the actual crap to commence… except now we get more frockanalysis from Gok Wan, who likes all the wrong dresses. “That’s hideous!” cries Fiona when Miley Cyrus appears.

My Mum and Dad went to see THE CHANGELING, but they had made an appointment at the bank, and had miscalculated the length of the ads and trailers, and the film itself, and being responsible people of a certain generation, they couldn’t bring themselves to be late for an appointment they’d made, so they left before the end. I haven’t seen any of it, so that obviously qualifies me to be holding forth. Me and James King.

THEY’VE GOT STEPHANIE BEACHAM! Who has apparently been Best Dressed and Worst Dressed. I strongly suspect she has more interesting things to talk about than this. Even Steph looks bored.

It’s started! Robert Downey Jnr applauds himself and gets away with it. Hugh Jacktor is singing. “How come comic book movies never get nominated? / How can a billion dollars be unsophisticated?” This is potentially OK. Nobody’s done this since Billy Crystal.

A clip of Vanessa Redgrave’s acceptance speech, but nothing about “Zionist hoodlums.” Five previous Best Supporting Actress winners. They all talk like they’re kiddies in a nativity play. Except Whoopi, who gives it her all. Goldie Hawn says “Taraji P Henson” very carefully indeed. “The Academy salutes you all…and…” says Tilda, when I think she really means “…but…” And then, a mild surprise, as Penelope Cruz wins, disproving the supposed leaked memo. Dylan is disappointed that they didn’t show all the other actors realising they haven’t won.

Screenplay. Usually theres an embarrassing gimmick whenever they deal with something that can’t be straightforwardly illustrated. But some good comedy material, including a poke at Scientology from Steve Martin. Fiona applauds when IN BRUGES is mentioned. So we have favourite. But I like WALL-E. And MILK would be… MILK wins! This is good, I feel. Is it a lone nod or the start of a roll? Am I that interested? Still, good speech, and nice to see something be about something. Now adapted screenplay. The bit of screenplay they choose from THE READER doesn’t match the clip. Simon Beaufoy wins for SLUMDOG. Hmm. Didn’t like THE FULL MONTY much. I’ve seen him talk live and had mixed feelings…

Donald, our host, says, “I’m actually surprised that BENJAMIN BUTTON didn’t get nominated for Best Animated Film.”

WALL-E wins, which is good. The director played Barnaby in a school production of Hello, Dolly! it turns out.

Hooray! HOUSE OF LITTLE CUBES wins! Best short animation. “Domo arrigato mister roboto.” My pal Sharon Colman was nominated a couple years ago, but didn’t won. I think she’s at Pixar now.

BEN BUTT gets design. Happy enough about that, as it’s certainly swellegant looking.

Daniel Craig is not too comfortable with an autocue. THE DUCHESS. The costume designer thanks the composer, which is nice. Then he slightly spoils it by calling Keira Knightley “one classy lady”. “Ewww!” says everyone. “He very nearly said ‘bitch’” says Dylan.

A clip-montage of romance scenes gets us confused. We start reminiscing about previous years.  The interpretive dances! CRASH as a musical number, with Thandie Newton’s molestation by Matt Dillon, recreated in the medium of dance! Marvellous.

What is Philip Seymour Hoffman wearing on his head? He better win so we can get a look. Fiona says he looks like a medieval alchemist.

Cinematographer. SLUMDOG. Anthony Dod Mantle. Very laid-back speech, nice.

Janusz Kaminsky reveals unexpected comic talent. “Suck on dat, Anthony Dod Mantle.” Haven’t seen any of the live action shorts. Since not getting nominated myself…

Inexplicable music medley from Jackman… and Beyonce. This must be the rumoured Baz Luhrmann number. Since they segue from song to song with every other line, it must be Baz. Can’t see who half of them are. Ah, HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL kids. “Reminds me of the end of BLAZING SADDLES,” says Nicola. “That was horrible,” says Fiona.

We’re REALLY enjoying Stephanie Beacham. She hates EVERYTHING. Sorry you’re missing this, rest of world. She didn’t like the Seth Rogen bit because they made fun of serious films.

Nice line-up of Best Supporting Actors winners. Alan Arkin! (How come Philip Seymour Hoffman is up for SUPPORT?) Joel Grey! Great facial contortions from Diane Lane, trying to keep a straight face as Josh Brolin’s praises are sung. Cuba Gooding Jnr on Robert Downey Jnr is good casting, and Christopher Walken on Michael Shannon is INSANELY good casting. Father and son! Kevin Kline looks like he’ll be giving the prize though…

Yep, Heath Ledger. “I liked his pencil trick,” says Dylan. Sean Penn’s crying. Sophia Loren looks moved. Many many cutaways of people looking moved, serious, thoughtful. Strangely, some actors aren’t too good at this. But many of them are clearly sincere.

Documentary! MAN ON WIRE appears. “Nutter,” says Nicola. But Herzog appears several times and she doesn’t say anything. The Maysles brothers made the interview segment. MAN ON WIRE wins. Nothing for Werner, again. That little French guy is great at getting awards though! Somebody needs to give him a job where he can accept awards all the time.

Don’t like these montages. The Oscars should do big expensive stupid things. Failing that, imaginative clever things might be acceptable. But a loud montage of action scenes seems rather a wasted opportunity. Bring out the dead! Oh, they brought out Will Smith.

BENJAMIN BUTTON gets best FX, which surprises nobody. They ARE very good effects, and they’re not the kind of effects we’re used to seeing.

The guy who gets best sound for THE DARK KNIGHT looks like Benjamin Button! Hooray! Two for one! Best mixing goes to SLUMDOG. WALL-E should have won both, I feel. But it already has a big gong. Danny Boyle looks genuinely delighted though. A sweet acceptance speech from the mixer. Now editor. We think SLUMDOG, and it should be an award for MOST editing. Yep. Dev Patel jumping up and down in his seat. Thumbs up from a grinning Boyle. A nice yellow set of non-Hollywood teeth.

Jer! Who should be getting something for his acting AS WELL AS for his humanitarian work. Jerry manages to pull a funny face as well as giving a gracious speech. I’d have liked a MUCH bigger montage of him.

Music. The medley is very smooth, to the point that everything starts to sound alike. Apart from SLUMDOG, which wins. Looks like it may well be the big winner tonight. God, I don’t actually care. Why am I here? Songs montage, introduced by clumsy metaphors delivered by autocue-shy HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL people. It’s 4am here, Brain is decaying. Dylan asks, “Do you think Baz has been crushed by the bombing of AUSTRALIA?” and everybody misunderstands. “Australia wasn’t bombed, it caught fire!”

It does look like SLUMDOG is blitzing this thing. Another movie I haven’t seen and am not that bothered about. This may be a bad thing to admit while live-blogging the Oscars.

Haven’t even seen the Foreign Films, that’s how crap I am.

Dead people montage! With an unwelcome song. “I’ll be seeing you,” not the best choice. They have Vampira, but they don’t have Kathleen Byron, and the whole thing is very badly shot, with a pointless gliding crane that often makes it impossible to read the names. Now Stephanie comes into her own, because she can talk about Charlton Heston and Riccardo Montalban from a standpoint of actual knowledge, unlike everyone else we’ve heard from.

Director. David Fincher looks resigned. Boyle wins. A Brit. Please don’t be embarrassing. OK, he’s cited Tigger from WINNIE THE POOH. Good speech. Even Stephanie Beacham approves.

Actress. Loren! MacLaine! Berry! Kidman! Cotillard! And the music from GONE WITH THE WIND. David W on Loren: “She wipes the floor with them all.” “Or could, if called upon to do so,” I suggest. Hathaway starts crying when they say her name. Does she always do that? Must be awkward. Very strange expression from Winslet, listening. It goes on and on. What does it mean? Loren dries up completely, by which I mean she seems to forget her lines, rather than that she crumbles to dust. Kidman, who has possibly had more surgical intervention than Loren, does Brangelina. Winslet. Uh-oh. Actually, her shampoo bottle line is brilliant. And getting her dad to whistle — great! Also, really ORGANISED. “These GODDESSES!” Good show.

Michael Douglas nods to Frank Langella with an incoherent speech; DeNiro does Sean Penn. DeNiro looks different. Adrien Brody on Richard Jenkins. God, I hate these speeches. DeNiro managed to sound natural. Anthony Popkins suddenly goes VERY WELSH and does Brangelina 2. Handhi Bendhi Gandhi does Mickey Rourke.

Wow, Sean Penn wins! That’s actually interesting. Should boost MILK, which is great news. And a tribute to Rourke, which is sweet. Good to have a surprise.

Best film. They intercut clips from MILK with BRAVEHEART. “I bet he’s really glad to be intercut with Harvey Milk,” observes David W.

SLUMDOG wins — everybody invades the stage. Hmm, am I ever going to watch that film? Maybe someday. Must be a complicated thing for India, since this is a British production taking a not-entirely flattering view of a former colony. And while showing social conditions is a commendable thing in many ways, we shouldn’t necessarily be the ones doing it. But then, Indian cinema hasn’t been doing that…of course, what matters here is whether it’s a good film. Knowing Boyle’s previous form, I have a sense of what it’ll be like… not my thing.

Then we get ads for “next year’s Oscars” which is ludicrous. Ah, every muscle in my body aches, time for bed.

11pm – 5.00 am. I’m thoroughly resolved that next year I’ll be viewing my role as to provide an ALTERNATIVE to this bullshit. Generally the wrong people win, or the right people for the wrong films. Sean Penn is probably the exception this year. Actually, where it was surprising it was generally good. Maybe they should plot it like a detective novel and always have the least likely person win?

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