Archive for September 20, 2008

Thunder Rocks

Posted in FILM, Television with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 20, 2008 by dcairns

We enjoyed TROPIC THUNDER. Asses were duly laughed off. I guess there was a little malaise with the pleasure — I found the gory stuff slightly off-putting, even the bits that were meant to be movie FX gore. And I like gore in gore films. I think the military setting made it a bit harder for me to laugh at.

And there’s a weird thing about it — mostly the film respects the A-Teamconvention of not really hurting anybody with its pyrotechnics and stunt fights. The bad guys torture Ben Stiller, but he kind of deserves it, and then he’s not really allowed any pay-back. The bad guys suffer a bit of property damage and maybe some bruising. The bridge that blows up doesn’t take any of them with it, as far as I could see. Arguably the most extreme bit of slapstick, the hurling of a small Asian child, is followed by a traditional A-Team “mercy shot” that shows the homicidal sprog alive and well having landed in some undergrowth.

But there’s one death. Does this constitute a spoiler? It’s early enough in the film that I think not, but stop reading after the picture if you’re fearful of entertainment-loss.

Steve Coogan, the film’s incompetent director, first seen reenacting a movie explosion joke from Blake Edwards THE PARTY (the idea of a giant special effect that nobody remembers to film dates back to the famous “Ready when you are Mr. DeMille,” joke, and came true for Sergio Leone on the set of THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY — they had to blow that bridge up twice). Coogan gets mercilessly bullied by Tom Cruise’s ferocious studio boss, and together with Nick Nolte (an interesting screen pairing) hatches the idea of planting the movie stars in a “real” combat scenario.

Then Coogan is bloodily blown to smithereens at the onset of the comic war. This serves a definite narrative point, since it signals the moment the war movie becomes the real thing (without some of the characters realising it). I actually found the severed head that results rather unpleasant, partly I think BECAUSE it was so unconvincing. Strange. Strange too that Coogan is picked out for death, when his character, an incompetent and arrogant Britisher, is clearly no worse than most of the main characters. In fact, the film only really started to get laughs for me once the movie stars were placed in situations where their self-obsessed antics conflicted with their self-preservation. One theory of comedy suggests that inflexible, or mechanical behaviour is the key element, and this film is predicated on the humour of a junkie, a method actor and an over-serious action star trying to remain consistent in the face of a situation that demands they adapt or die. (The rookie and the rapper are actually fairly able to respond appropriately to the changing environment.)

So, although it’s good to see Steve Coogan playing with the big boys, I think it’s a shame his character was deemed disposable. I guess it’s just because there’s nothing to do with a director figure once the narrative acquires its own momentum. The movie director can’t pretend to be in charge anymore.

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The Banana Flats

Posted in FILM, literature, Politics on September 20, 2008 by dcairns

This is what we see from our backyard. It has a certain magnificence. Magnificent squalor. 

The building, known locally as “the Banana Flats” due to its elegant spinal curvature, is the setting for Tommy-Boy’s melancholy death from AIDS in the novel Trainspotting. For the film, all the housing estate stuff was shot in Glasgow, for ease of access to technicians, equipment, and funding (the Glasgow Film Fund, which encourages shooting in that city, has no Edinburgh equivalent). Ewan MacGregor runs along Princes Street in scene one to convince us we’re in Edinburgh, then the whole movie ups sticks for Glasgow. It’s a shame, because the slums of Edinburgh have their own distinct character. It could be argued that the bad areas of any western city are more or less alike in their essentials, but the same is true for the tourist spots and rich areas. It’s the details that count.

This great concrete boomerang, which channels any sound, from a pin-drop to a demented scream, directly into our bedroom window, has been known to exert a malevolent influence on its tenants. While many of them are delightful people, quite a few have their share of problems to begin with — they all get shunted into this building by the council, so the social worker only has to park their car once.

Legend has it that a post-natally depressed mother threw her baby from an upper window in the ’80s.

Since we’ve lived opposite the Hell-Block, we’ve seen TV sets, chair legs, stereos, methadone bottles, and used nappies rain from its balconies.

Of course, it’s a listed building, meaning that it’s been judged to be of such architectural excellence that it can never be demolished…

Us and Them.