Tag Archive: James Woods


VIDEODROME directed by David Cronenberg (Canada, 1983)

David Cronberg is commonly regarded as (delete as appropriate) sick / inspired/ depraved /visionary /crazy. It’s probably safest to say he can be all of these things.

Videodrome is widely regarded as a defining work of his early, low-budget period.

Like the majority of Sci-Fi yarns for TV or cinema in the 70s & 80s, technological progress is represented in terms of large unwieldly machinery with a plethora of flashing lights and switches. So while Cronenberg’s virtual reality is clunkier than the mobile gadgetry we now take for granted, the movie’s concepts do not seen so dated.

His depiction of mankind enthralled by, and quite literally absorbed in, the TV screen looks an accurate summation of how our image-dominated culture craves harder and more extreme replications of the real world.

Maverick TV producer Max Renn (James Woods) wants something tougher and more disturbing than soft porn and simulated violence his channels currently broadcast. His search for more sensational, audience-grabbing material leads him into the sleazy world of S & M and snuff movies. His surreal hallucinations come to mirror the violence and degradation he is exposed to.

Inside Videodrome's body horror.

Inside Videodrome’s body horror.

Cronenberg’s so called ‘body horror’ movies revel in the gory detail which makes them off -putting to the casual viewer but it is the psychological distortions which are more disturbing than the graphic blood and guts detail.

His films are part of, and in many ways define, the sub-genre of Mindfuck movies in which nightmare worlds are a little too close for comfort to everyday life.

The increasingly imbedded technologies of the modern world mean that the notion of brains becoming rewired by computers is no longer the stuff of fantasy.

As time goes by, Cronenberg’s dark visions look more and more like social realism. Now that’s scary!

ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA directed by Sergio Leone (Italy/USA, 1984)

Set in the criminal world during the era of prohibition, the full version of this movie stands up besides Martin Scorsese’s  great works of the 70s and 80s and is often regarded, a little misleadingly, as a companion piece to Francis Ford Coppola’s Godfather trilogy.

Yet the fact that the film required eight official screenwriters (including Leone who didn’t speak English!) is illustrative of its troubled birth and the problems persisted  long after it was completed.

Given his esteemed track record, it is astonishing that Sergio Leone didn’t have full control of his work. The bum deal he signed meant that he could do nothing about the savage cuts to his original 229-minute version.

The producers decreed in their infinite lack of wisdom that a convoluted plot spanning four decades was a non starter in commercial terms.

Probably the absence of respect for this great Italian director was partly due to the fact that his ‘spaghetti westerns’ were not taken seriously. Even Robert De Niro admitted he wasn’t familiar with these movies when he was first approached to play the lead role as David “Noodles” Aaronson. Continue reading

NETHERLAND

For a book which has at its centre an entrepreneur (Chuck Ramkisson) with the unlikely ambition of establishing a New York cricket arena in the post 9/11 city, the biggest question this novel begs for me is why the 4th Estate British Edition has an image of an ice skater on the cover while the American image features the correct sport. Perhaps to British readers ice skating is more exotic and to American readers cricket has some quaint appeal.

Either way this proves to be one of the most interesting aspects to what I found a dull read.

Maybe l missed something. After all, renowned critic James Woods and respected author Jonathan Safran Foer both praise the novel.

The title is a play on words since it describes the limbo land of the main character Dutchman, Hans, as well as referencing his nationality. He’s a banker so is relatively well off but his personal life is in shambles. His marriage is on the rocks and his mother has just died. The story is mainly centred on New York but begins and ends in London. Hans takes solace in the very non- US sport saying at one point that “cricket memories were like sexual memories” which says a lot about his sadness and confusion. I think mainly the fact that I couldn’t identify with this character is why I lost interest about a thrd of the way in.

Joseph O’connor is another author who heaps praise on the book saying “that it is hard to put down” – I found the opposite to be true.

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