Archive for The President’s Analyst

The Sunday Intertitle: Less than an ant

Posted in Comics, FILM with tags , , , , on May 28, 2017 by dcairns

First encountered the generally charming ELLA CINDERS (1926) when prepping last year’s POW!!! retrospective on comic book movie adaptations with Niall Greig Fulton for Edinburgh International Film Festival. Looked at it again last night with Fiona as prep for a project she’s undertaking.

I would have missed the political significance of this intertitle because I lazily assumed “Armenian” was just a comic intensifier, like certain swear words. The old Woody Allen joke about someone trying to commit suicide “by standing next to an Armenian” is certainly racist and would hopefully not be something W.A. would stand by today. It’s mitigated slightly by our certainty that Woody does not have anything against Armenians, but that certainty is in itself racist, born of the belief that Armenia isn’t significant enough to have any strong opinions about.

(There’s a would-be funny line in THE PRESIDENT’S ANALYST about the prez losing sleep over Libya — Libya, of all places! — that kinda falls flat now.)

Fiona pointed out that the Armenian famine was a real thing, the result of genocide by the Ottoman Empire during WWI, less than ten years before ELLA CINDERS. Not so funny now. And curious that a mainstream, lighthearted Hollywood comedy would think this a suitable subject for amusement.

Oh, I see. It’s funny because they’re Armenian.

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Wayne, Bane & Michael Caine

Posted in Comics, FILM, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 11, 2012 by dcairns

Fiona wasn’t sure she wanted to see THE DARK KNIGHT RISES. I said I’d go myself, but she forbade me. So we eventually saw it together (and in IMAX) and in fact she liked it best of all three films — mainly for Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman/Selena Kyle, the only reliable source of humour and sexiness. She was  fan of Michelle Pfeiffer’s work in the role, but Hathaway, though less feline, is more woman-shaped, a fact Nolan even accentuates by having her ride a motorcycle in the doggy position.

This one does seem to me to succeed better than the previous two films, and in fact it could be argued that Nolan’s series defies most if not all historical precedent by improving from film to film.

There’s nothing maybe as extraordinary as Heath Ledger’s remarkable Joker — but to my own surprise I enjoyed Tom Hardy’s Bane, with his ridiculous voice (sounding at times, more in phrasing than accent, like James Mason talking into a polystyrene cup). For a man who’s been through so much (spending his life in the world’s worst prison, having his face smashed off), Bane seems to be constantly very, very happy — I’m judging more by his vocal delivery than by his facial expressions, admittedly. He’s quite inspirational in that way. Of course, he does murder almost everybody he meets. I’m reminded of James Coburn’s diagnosis of CIA assassin Godfrey Cambridge in THE PRESIDENT’S ANALYST — “That’s why you’re so well-balanced: you can get out you’re hostility by actually killing people!”

The film is dotted with favourite actors — Nolan even finds a good use for Matthew Modine, an appealing thesp who seemed to go out of style once his eternal boyishness ceased to match his biological age — and striking faces (stand up, Burn Gorman).

Fiona always maintained that Christian Bale’s Batman voice is that of the dog who can say “sausages” (and “Anthony” and “a jar”) —

It’s nice here to see Bayle given what seems like more talking scenes as Bruce Wayne, who talks like a person and doesn’t require a cheerful northerner to manipulate his jaw muscles.

I did feel a bit sad for Michael Caine, who does too much blubbering in close-up — the kind of big emotion that would play less unpleasantly from a distance. I’ve never had any desire to see Caine blubber (Billy Wilder suggested that strong emotion is best filmed from behind). Incidentally, Alfred the butler in the comics is usually written as a sardonic geezer who masks his devotion to Bruce Wayne with his cutting wit — make him sentimental and the character really loses all depth.

The film is generally better at emotion on the grand, operatic and epic scale rather than the human — which is true of most blockbusters these days, but particularly Nolan’s. Still, it matters than Nolan can deliver the excess required to do this kind of thing well, as attested by the opening aeroplane stunt (featuring a welcome Aidan Gillen) which is gloriously absurd yet put over with po-faced conviction.

Nolan’s shooting and cutting of action has been a talking point throughout this series. There was a cunning plan behind the incoherent cutting of the fights in the first movie — make the audience as confused as Batman’s enemies. The trouble with that idea is that an action movie audience would rather see a stunning action sequence than be plunged into the confusion felt by the third goon from the left just before the caped crusader punches his lights out. The second film was altogether less messy, although by delayed effect it picked up most of the bad reviews for confusing staging (I think only the truck chase really lost me), though I’d agree there was room for improvement.

This time round, we get a chance to see the fights in wide-ish, waist-high shots that actually last more than one punch. Unfortunately, Bale or his stuntman in that heavy outfit can’t really move as fast as we always imagined Batman should be able, so the fights (some set in broad daylight) feel clunky at times. And Batman has a disconcerting way of going in without a plan and getting his ass kicked. The Batman written by Grant Morrison in the comics would never do that, and certainly not twice in a row with the same opponent. It not only makes the character seem dim-witted, and it’s dramatically unsatisfying to see him fail to learn.

But I’m being a touch over-critical — I enjoyed the movie’s sweep, and felt the plot delivered some good surprises that shouldn’t have been possible with such  well-known mythos. Some of this is done by changing character names, and some of it might not have worked if I were more quick-witted, but it felt satisfying to me to find a couple of familiar comic book figures, hiding in plain sight.

“Why so serious?”

The Mysterious Mr If, Part the Twelvtieth

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on August 15, 2011 by dcairns

So, I was looking at my Master Copy of the script of THE MYSTERIOUS MR IF, our Monday serial, and finding it rather funny, if I do say so myself. This is a good bit. Also quite exciting. Normally it’s easy to pick a cut-off point for an installment, I just end at a cliffhanger, but this is was fast-cut dramatic sequence and it’s ALL cliffhangers. Then I realized it would be better to cut it off BEFORE we get to the good bit. Sorry about that.

This episode seems to touch on the creepy, intrusive feelings I got from watching Vincent Price saw Arthur Lowe’s head off as he slumbers in bed in THEATRE OF BLOOD, as well as the paranoid phone-booth anxiety of LA CABINA and THE PRESIDENT’S ANALYST. And also by an experience I actually had on the High Street, when a phone booth unexpectedly started ringing. I was waiting at the traffic lights, and the only other person at the lights was a girl, and we looked at each other, and neither of us answered the phone. 

If we had — who knows?

Now read on…

(Why are the Norwegian soldiers standing to attention for a penguin at Edinburgh Zoo? It’s a good story…)

EXT. EDINBURGH ZOO – DAY

A copy of THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING.

Howie mopes in his cage, riffling through this library book.

The Zookeeper appears carrying an old phone on a silver tray.

HOWIE

Cheers.

Reaching through the bars he picks up the receiver and dials.

SHEENA’S ANSWERPHONE (OS)

Apparently I don’t want to talk to you but you can talk to my phone. Beep.

HOWIE

Sheena, I’m sorry about last night. I behaved like a lower primate. I’d like to make it up –

A rude COYPU severs the phone cord.

ZOOKEEPER

If she doesn’t take it in the right spirit, she’s not the girl for you.

Howie smiles weakly. The Zookeeper wanders off.

ZOOKEEPER

(to himself)

Bloody loony.

Howie returns to flicking through his Milan Kundera. He can’t concentrate – the page swims out of focus. Unintentionally he focuses on the ground outside his cage. He spots something. A trail of bacon leading past his cage.

Howie releases himself and goes to investigate.

Seeing him exit the cage, an OLD WOMAN drops her ice cream and runs off shouting.

OLD WOMAN

The human’s escaping!

INT. REPTILE HOUSE – DAY

Howie follows the trail into the shadowy reptile house.

Empty. Skinks scuttle about boss-eyed, all else is silence.

The bacon trail stops at a SIGN that reads “FEEDING TIME”

From behind Howie, a growl.

EXT. ZOO – DAY

SCREAMS from the Reptile House. A ROAR.

EXT. THE BLUE MUSEUM – NIGHT

The RUMBLE of a closing metal shutter.

After locking the shutters of the museum, Mr. Netherbow heads up the High Street for home.

A voice from behind!

SHEENA (O.S.)

Help me…

Netherbow spins. Sheena stands before him in a transparent raincoat and vicar’s vestments. Netherbow is disgusted.

MR. NETHERBOW

Ms. McQueen! Cover your shame!

Her face crumples like a bag. Her whole figure folds up into a PUPPET. Operating it – a sinister figure in black.

Netherbow splutters and flees.

EXT. HIGH STREET – NIGHT

Hurrying down the sooty street, he passes an empty phone box, the old-fashioned red kind.

The phone inside rings. Netherbow hesitates, then decides to ignore it. He hurries on, the ring hectoring him from behind.

Rounding a corner, he finds another identical phone booth, also ringing. He tuts and hurries past.

He passes another ringing booth, and another.

INT. MR. NETHERBOW’S LONELY GARRET – NIGHT

Netherbow arrives home at his lonely garret and slams the door on the ringing phones, immediately silencing them.

He turns and switches the light on.

RING!

RING!

Standing in the middle of the room is a red phone box. Netherbow is livid. Purple-face, he opens the door and lifts the receiver.

MR. NETHERBOW

What IS it?

A JET OF WATER smacks him in the face, the receiver behaving like a shower head.

Netherbow drops it and backs away, but the door of the booth has jammed shut. He shoves against it, as the dangling phone soaks his ankles with a continuous spray of water.

Netherbow shoulders the door but can’t budge it.

Water laps at his shoes.

He pounds on the glass but it won’t break.

He’s ankle deep.

Picking up the receiver, Netherbow tries to hang it up, hoping the water will stop, but the powerful jet of fluid refuses to let the receiver rest in its cradle.

Knee deep.

He yells into the phone, getting sprayed in the mouth.

MR. NETHERBOW

What do you want from me? I’m – glub – just a museum curator!

Mr. If, shadowy, sits up in Netherbow’s bed, next to a nude Police mannequin.

MR. IF

That’s right, Mr Curator, put things in boxes, categorize them, file them away. Let’s see how you like it in a box.

He circles the police mannequin’s nipples with lipstick.

Netherbow is up to his waist. He hammers on the glass with the receiver.

MR. NETHERBOW

I’ll give you money! Sex! Anything!

If gets out of bed and crosses to the DRESSER.

He scrawls NO SALE on the mirror in lipstick.

MR. IF

Riddle me this, museum fellow. Did the enchantress McQueen return your dossier – the one celebrating my modest escapades?

MR. NETHERBOW

I don’t know what you glub! I have powerful friends! My mum’ll glub glub –

He’s struggling to keep his head above water.

If strolls up to the booth and draws a set of full lips on a pane of the glass.

Drowned, Netherbow sinks down until his face rests against the glass and the lips seem to be his.

MR. IF

Alexander Graham Bell was a great Scotsman. But not as great as Esther Williams. Let that be a lesson to you.

(singing)

A sailor went to sea sea sea

To see what he could see see see

But all that he could see see see

Was the bottom of the deep blue sea sea sea.

As he strolls off, we see that the phone booth is gone.

Netherbow, waterlogged and dead, is in bed with the dummy.

If flicks the light off and closes the door.

DARKNESS.