Thursday, 25 November 2010
Saturday, 13 November 2010
- Generally, watching a film once is enough for me; particularly in a short space of time. Of course, there are movies I've habitually watched at Christmas and seen a dozen times, but I prefer to watch something new, given the choice. With Taxi Driver, though, as soon as I watched it, I felt I could easily have pressed play again and sat right through another play. It's a subtle movie in many ways. It moves slowly and affords itself plenty of silences. There's plenty to think about. There are some hugely impactual scenes, but it's more moving as a piece (ironically, considering it has one of the most quoted lines of any movie).
- When watching, I kept thinking back to a biography I read years ago of Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma Bomber. McVeigh had been a decorated soldier in the Gulf War #1. He struggled to readjust to society's trivialities afterwards and having been discarded by his government, soon became scornful and embittered towards all aspects of the federal state. We all know what happened to him. Travis (De Niro's character), having served in the Marine Corps, battles with what he perceives to be daily injustices. He bemoans the downward spiral of morality engulfing NYC and eventually, takes matters into his own hands. There are certainly parallels and I think Scorsese (and of course, writer Paul Schrader) have framed that frustration astutely. They can't have been short of research subjects in the fallout of the Vietnam War.
- I was genuinely surprised by the ending. I won't spoil it, but I was certain it would conclude differently. For me, it made the movie. Up until that point I thought it was a good movie. The ending really seals it's status as a great one.
- I wondered about the main character's insomnia. It's something I think about quite a bit, being a mild sufferer. Was he a bit tapped beforehand, or was it the lack of sleep that sent him over the age? It has a great track record for ruining people; but equally, some of the most revered creative minds have been sufferers (Proust, Van Gogh, Napoleon, Monroe, Edison, Dickens, B. Franklin).
Tuesday, 9 November 2010
The War on Drugs’ excellent debut album, Wagonwheel Blues (2008), was a heady helping of roots rock that drew comparisons with Dylan, Springsteen and The Band. Since then, though, their success has been arguably eclipsed by that of one of their number. Lead guitarist Kurt Vile elaborated on the dusty
A full length follow up to Wagonwheel Blues has been mooted for some time, but the fact that a lot of the material earmarked for it has wound up on Future Weather doesn’t augur well for the future endeavours of The War on Drugs, at least not in their current guise. In Vile and the mercurial Morrissey to his Marr Adam Granduciel, they have two huge talents jostling for primacy and on Future Weather, it seems that the latter has won out. Vile is a notable absentee and the biggest compliment I can pay this EP is that his presence isn’t missed at all.
The War on Drugs are at their best when embellishing on a classic template. Case in point: first track proper and set highlight ‘Baby Missiles’. Rhythmically and stylistically, it’s archetypal Boss. When you expect to hear a harmonica, there’s a harmonica. Where you imagine there might be a “whoop”, well, that’s exactly what you find. But fed through stratums and substratums of fuzz, reverb and organ it acquires a whole new identity. Strangely enough, it sounds fresh.
Similarly, ‘Comin’ Through’ is a sublime slice of textured mid-70s blues rock, reminiscent of that era’s Fleetwood Mac. It’s a thread darned throughout the EP, particularly on Brothers. The complexity of the pieces, however, and the immersive nature of the sound, belies such comparison, careering instead toward the most introspective, stoned moments of Urban Hymns (‘The History of Plastic’). And so it continues. The War on Drugs recall at one point or another, a dozen or more artists; but none tell the full story. Just when you you’re about to pin the tail on the donkey, it kicks you in the face.
Lyrically, there are some clues to Granduciel’s frame of mind at the time of writing. There are themes of loneliness, abandonment and severance. Whether he’s metaphorically mourning the departure of twelve ships (‘Comin’ Through’), wondering where all his mates have gone (‘Brothers’), or contemplating his friend who “rides all alone” (‘Baby Missiles’), it’s hard not to leap to conclusions. If that sounds a tad grim, then forgive me; for the record is anything but. Future Weather is one to get lost in and at times, it’s entirely joyous.
So used, as we are, to being pummeled with outtake, cover version and bootleg filled EPs, the expectancy has been substantially lowered. It’s rare to hear one as fully formed as Future Weather. Sure, they’ve used it as a platform to try new things – they are courting more experimental tangents than ever before – but they haven’t fired them all against the wall and waited to see what’s stuck. It has been arranged precisely, fluidly and coherently. I sincerely hope it isn’t, but if Future Weather is the last we hear from The War on Drugs, then it’s one hell of an epitaph.
Sunday, 7 November 2010
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman, Morgan Freeman
Director: Clint Eastwood
- Watching this made me realize how much
has changed over the past 100 – 150 years; surely more than at any other point in human history. I have been thinking about this quite a bit and the barren footage in Unforgiven made me think more. In 1880, America and indeed the world had a population of 11,200: smaller than my home town of Enniskillen. Now it is almost 4 million. Sure, the plains of Nebraska and Wyoming haven't come on as quickly as that, but I still find it quite disconcerting that the population boom in America is so huge (and continuing). Los Angeles
- Clint Eastwood has done awfully well, considering his repertoire is so limited. I am not suggesting he is not talented: he has made and starred in some excellent movies. But he seems to play the naval-gazing hard man in almost each one. That said, I found his role in Unforgiven quite moving. His character, Will, struggles to come to terms with the ageing process, realizing he can't do all the things he once could. True to life?
- The last movie I saw of Eastwood's was Gran Torino, which I thought was absolute rubbish. This one, however, is superb. It's beautifully shot, travels at a nice pace and has some great characters (reminds me of a McCarthy book/adaptation). One of the best Eastwood movies I've seen.
- Gene Hackman is a great and underrated actor. His character, Little Bill, was my favourite. Looking at his filmography (Mississippi Burning, Poseidon Adventure, French Connection, Royal Tenenbaums), it's surprising that his name is not often mentioned amongst the greats. And he played one of the best baddies of all time in Lex Luther.
- Clint Eastwood can't shout very loud. I would imagine it's quite frustrating for him. I would place him alongside Phil Mitchell in the inability to shout stakes. I remember feeling very frustrated at Phil's attempts to roar in Eastenders a few years back. There is a downside to having a husky, cowboy's growl.
- Cowboys don't eat very much. This is one thing I always wondered about when watching Westerns, I felt it a bit of an anomaly. Surely in such a taxing line of work, they need to eat more than a tin of beans? I know it wouldn't make for a great movie if it was Clint, Morgan and Gene filling their faces for two hours, but an acknowledgement that they need regular nutrition would satisfy me.
- Overall, a very impressive movie and one I'm happy to have checked off the list.
In the six months I’ve been in
Well, it doesn’t look as though things are going to change anytime soon. I’m enjoying watching movies more than I ever have and whilst I’m not or never will be a film buff, I feel I’m learning more from them and deriving more benefit. I recently checked out the IMDB Top 250 rated movies out of curiosity, to see how many I’d watched. I got to 89, which I thought was a respectable figure, but when I looked at some of the “classics” I hadn’t seen, I was shocked!
Alien, Taxi Driver, Psycho…
Over the next six months, I will be trying to save a lot of money. I’ve decided to try making up for lost time and watch as many of these films as possible and to write a short blog on each one afterwards. These won’t be reviews, just my immediate thoughts, but perhaps some people will find them interesting. Here is the list, with the ones I’ve seen in bold.