Category: Movies


Music highs of 2019

weird-banjo-pic-copyFor me 2019 was not a particularly memorable year for music. I found pleasure in some old favorites but made no significant new discoveries.
Mostly, female artists struck the strongest chords with me. Billie Eilish’s debut ‘When We Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go’ and Lana Del Ray’s ‘Norman Fucking Rockwell’ were rightly rated highly in many ‘best of’ lists.
I wrote around 10 reviews a month for Whisperin’ & Hollerin’ , about half of my output from the previous year. Continue reading

THE IRISHMAN directed by Martin Scorsese (USA, 2019)
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Will there be mobster movies in heaven? If so, Martin Scorsese is sure to be the director. Of course, he’d insist on there being an afterlife ban on watching his work on mobile phones and would personally see to it that any films based on Marvel comics were cast into the fiery pits of hell. Netflix would be allowed through the pearly gates as a reward for stumping up the cash for his latest movie.

I find it ironic that Scorsese is now keen to dictate what and how we should be consuming movies in the 21st century.  He is quick to mount his moral high horse even though the charge of glamorizing unscrupulous criminals and cold-blooded killers is one he would be hard pressed to dismiss. I’m sure Mafia members are among his biggest fans.

‘The Irishman’ is a true crime caper in a similar vein to ‘Goodfellas’ (1990) .  Like that movie, Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci have starring roles and the same narrative technique of a start to finish voiceover is deployed. This is a device I usually find irritating and this film is no exception. I believe a story should speak for itself in cinematic terms rather than relying on a constant running commentary. Continue reading

LOCKE – Fuck Chicago

Screen shot 2019-11-04 at 22.15.46LOCKE directed by Steven Knight (UK, 2013)

Locke is Samuel Beckett in a BMW X5. From the creator of Peaky Blinders. A riveting one man show. Tom Hardy brilliant as Ivan Locke. A Welshman who works in construction. Concrete is his speciality. He’s good at his job. A fixer. He gets things done. He knows that details matter. A huge Chicago contract is worth millions. Everything depends on him. Everything must be in place. He knows one mistake can be catastrophic.Sooner or later cracks appear if anything goes wrong. Even the most stable structure will eventually fall.
Locke is driving from Birmingham to London. On the motorway he makes calls by speakerphone. To business associates. To his two sons. To his wife. To Bethan. Locke is the only face we see.
Ivan Locke’s life is built on firm foundations but is falling apart. His job and marriage are on the line. A one-night stand was all it took. An error of judgement. A moment of weakness. The woman is no oil painting. Not young either. Bethan.
She was lonely. He was too that night. He felt sorry for her. He still does. They drank wine. They had sex. One time only. Enough for her to get pregnant. She decided to keep the baby. It could be her last chance to be a mother.
Locke is a father already. His sons are home watching a big match. He is supposed to be there watching with them. But Bethan’s waters have broken. Two months early. He is the father. He feels responsible. He is not her partner. She is nothing to him. But he caused the situation. Now he needs to fix it. To make it right. He will be with her when she gives birth. His father abandoned him. He will not do the same. He imagines his father in the back seat of the car. Mocking his predicament.
Locke is not a bad man. He has everything to lose.
His son has taped the match. He says he they will watch pretending not to know the result. When he comes home. But life has no replay options. We live with the choices we make. What is done cannot be undone.
Owning up to the truth means confessing to infidelity. It means risking the Chicago contract. He could lie. He could say he’s sick. He does neither. Fuck deception. Fuck Chicago.

In defense of movie superheroes

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What’s this shit they’re writing about me on the internet?

The hyped backlash against Marvel superhero movies means these films stand accused, amongst their other sins, of being produced solely to make a handsome profit.

This manufactured outrage all stems from a casual comment by Martin Scorsese claiming that this brand of blockbusters are not ‘real cinema’. Frances Ford Coppola and Ken Loach have since weighed in to back up this elitist viewpoint.

Well, correct me if I’m wrong, but hasn’t box office success been one of the prime motivations among filmmakers for time immemorial.

Of course, they’ll always be a minority of auteurs who put merit before money but they face the problem that art for art’s sake doesn’t pay the bills. The arguments of Scorsese and crew are spurious and are akin to claiming that bestselling books by Dan Brown or J.K. Rowling are not real novels. Your may not like them but that doesn’t change what they are.

Even though corporate branded franchises inspired by Marvel  (and by extension DC comics) spawn as many turkeys as triumphs this doesn’t justify trashing the whole genre. Dark Knight, Black Panther, Thor: Ragnarok and Joker are examples of movies that win audiences (and make money) without dumbing down the content.

There will always be a need for a steady supply of low culture for highbrows just as there will always be those who snobbishly regard all mass entertainment as beneath them.

Joker has the last laugh on critics

JOKER directed by Todd Phillips (USA, 2019)

jokerWho needs critics anyway? All of us have opinions so we don’t need to be told what to like and why.

The initial official press reaction to Joker was broadly positive but winning The Golden Globe in Venice seems to have provoked a bizarre backlash. How dare a popular movie win such an accolade over the latest worthy but dull art house fodder?

Roger Ebert.com has dismissed the movie as “pernicious garbage” and Time magazine’s hack even have the bare-faced nerve to attack Joaquin Phoenix’s stellar performance as “aggressive terribleness”.

On top of this, and in keeping with its liberal tendency for fence-sitting, the UK’s Guardian newspaper try to have it both ways. They currently have a policy of filling space in their culture pages by printing reviews with wildly opposing points of view. On one hand Xan Brooks praised the movie’s “glorious daring” but then Peter Bradshaw described it as “very shallow”.

Thankfully, ordinary punters have wisely disregarded the negative reviews. At the time of writing, the critic’s average rating at Metacritic is a paltry 59% while users have given it a resounding 9.3. Continue reading

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