Archive for Game of Thrones

Life after Mars

Posted in FILM, Politics, Television with tags , , , , , , , on July 27, 2019 by dcairns

Just finished Veronica Mars last night. Really dug it. Always liked that show.

Am going to avoid really specific spoilers but probably watch it with fresh eyes if you haven’t already.

It never had a really great visual style, and outside of the snazzy credits, it still doesn’t, though there’s one nice long Steadicam take reintroducing a great supporting character… but that fizzles out in a standard set of shot-countershot cuts. I’m always of the view that the longer a shot lasts, the more important its ending should be.

No, the appeal of the show was always, in no particular order, plotting, characters, dialogue, performances. I was in awe, during the first two seasons, of how Rob Thomas and his gang managed to cram into each episode one fully-developed mystery plot, one mystery subplot, and one development for the overarching series-long central mystery.

As with Nancy Drew, the key relationship was always between Mars (Kristen Bell) and her dad (Enrico Colantoni) and I hope that’s going to continue if the series continues (and it seems harder to destroy than its unstoppable, battered-about protag). The love-hate story with boyfriend Logan (Jason Dohring) was one for the ages.

These virtues survive intact into the new series, along with the political pessimism (the town of Neptune works even better as a microcosm for the US now — the show has the nerve to draw out plotlines about zoning laws). The eight episodes of season 4 explore one convoluted mystery which spirals off into sub-mysteries, all rounded off in satisfying finishes, but introducing characters perhaps susceptible to further investigation. The dialogue is as snappy, and saltier, than ever, since the original teen audience has grown up with the show. There were always old-timers like us watching, since we’re around the age of the series creators (and only a little younger than Keith Mars) so we felt in tune with a lot of the references.

So we really enjoyed it. Then we looked at the online reaction and Holy Shit. Rob Thomas, shrewdly, is avoiding Twitter. He fully expected an explosive reaction to the final episode’s tragic conclusion.

To me, this feels like the inevitable result of an audience reared on focus-grouped pap — you can’t feed them tragedy because they have no stomach for it. Every time a character they care about is killed, they get resurrected. Audience surveys ask “What was your least favo(u)rite scene?” and everyone cites the scene where something bad happened, and the market survey idiots don’t realize that that scene is where the audience FELT something — “pity, fear and catharsis.”

I could relate this to the audience response to the end of Game of Thrones, except we couldn’t take that show seriously and only watched one episode. Tolkein with tits. But it seems like a similar phenomenon. Social media gives fans the power to talk to creators and they feel ownership of the show. How dare the people who create the show do something that they don’t like? Does this also tie in with all the millennial-bashing stuff about how kids these days are hypersensitive and can’t handle touchy material? Well, that isn’t universally true — I find my students just as hardy, on the whole, as those I taught nearly thirty years ago when I first started — but to the extent that squeamishness and inability to deal with moral complexity or scenes of an adult nature may be on the rise, I would connect it to the feeding of market-tested pablum to the audience.

There are objections to Veronica Mars S.04′s ending that seem to make sense — “It wouldn’t happen, the police would have stopped it” — but are the same as the objections to the ending of SE7EN. The fact is, both endings WORKED in that they caused the audience to have a strong emotional reaction, one apparently intended by the creators. (David Fincher said that he persuaded the key producer to allow the bleak-as-hell ending by asking him to imagine some random TV viewer of the future catching the movie one night, and being forever unable to shake it off.) Quibble s are certainly possible but they don’t take away from the rightness of the overall concept.

I am disturbed at the idea that the media is evolving an audience that can’t bear strong emotion. That’s what you get if your diet is Marvel adaptations, I’m afraid.

I was reminded of this movie’s ending, the only really human moment in a Bond film, and one that would be inconceivable today.

Pillow Talk

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , on February 3, 2016 by dcairns

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In movies, people talk in bed, but only afterwards. There’s zero conversation, generally, during sex scenes.

Of course, dialogue in a sex scenes could sound weird, or just pornographic. The writer/s would have more reason than usual to fear that their own experience, translated into fiction, won’t communicate to an audience, won’t chime with the viewers’ experiences, will seem freakish or off-putting. If the narrative provides a reason why the dialogue might actually be weird, that can serve as an alibi…

In the late Jacques Rivette’s L’HISTOIRE DE MARIE ET JULIEN, on the other hand, when a back-from-the-dead Emmanuelle Beart has steamy sex sessions with Jerzy Radziwilowicz, they spin an elaborate, sort-of sado-masochistic fantasy together which, brilliantly, is more fairy tale than Letter to Penthouse. The bloody imagery (Beart imagines herself torn by thorns) can be explained by her character’s specific supernatural nature as a revenant — she cannot bleed, or cry. Being a bloke, even though Radziwilowicz doesn’t know this, he doesn’t question the strange fantasy. After all, he’s having hot sex with Emmanuelle Beart — why ask questions?

Beart, Rivette’s muse in LA BELLE NOISEUSE, is a fascinating actor. She can seem incredibly ditzy — I saw her present a prize, clad in a floaty dress, at the Marrakech Film Festival, and she had to try three times before she could exit the stage — and, like most stages, this one had only two ways to exit, left and right. But her dramatic instincts are remarkable. She’s electrifying onscreen. It doesn’t matter that she’s had “work,” some of it arguably ill-advised, because everything she’s feeling photographs through her eyes as clearly as if they were windows on a toy theatre. She has cinematic intelligence of a rare kind, and she could Botox her head into an Easter Island sculpture and it wouldn’t stop her emoting.

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Rivette seems to have worked with her mainly by bamboozling her, throwing her off-guard, as she complains in the DVD extra interview (she clearly loves Rivette, but accepted that working with him was never going to be easy). He seems to have felt that anything she brought to a role in the way of a plan wouldn’t help, and that he should provide her with the wrong costume, disconcerting advice, and surprising choices to keep her improvising to the last. Renoir said, “There are undoubtedly some very intelligent actors, but it is not certain that they use their intelligence when they act,” or words to that effect. Rivette, I surmise, was determined to get Beart to act with her talent, not with her conscious intellect.

Back to the bedroom. 90% of sex scenes seem to be the first sexual encounter between protagonists, because that has an obvious (if redundant) plot function — establishing that the deed was done. The good sex scenes have more to do with character — DON’T LOOK NOW’s sheet-twisting contortions can be justified as the couple’s first intercourse since the death of their child, but the movie doesn’t trouble to establish that fact. An expository line, after all, would have been awful. Character predominates.

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When Cronenberg started CRASH with three sex scenes, he faced accusations that his film had no plot, just fucking. Why, he wondered, was it inconceivable that a film could have a plot told through a series of sex acts? The need for every scene to advance story is probably part of the reason there’s so much bad sex, and rape, and improbably-located sex in movies. Witness Game of Thrones and the leering craft of “sexposition”. Horrible sex can change a relationship, good sex generally just affirms it. Rivette manages to show a relationship developing — nothing “happens” in the repeated love scenes, but they are each building to a point where something will — which will be the end of the movie.