Thursday, February 05, 2009

Just watched the TV news for the first time in a week or so. Apparently it has snowed in England for the first time for a couple of years and nobody knows what to do, this being such a rare event.


It's headline news. Reporters wearing full Arctic gear standing in various parts of the Home Counties wittering on about 'blizzard conditions', and 'widespread disruption' while behind them a whole two inches of rapidly melting snow throws the whole infrastructure of a nation into chaos. Apparently - and I find this totally surreal - 15,000 people have phoned the emergency services over the last couple of days because people have been throwing snowballs! "Come quickly! There's a man armed with a fluid ounce of frozen water terrorizing the neighbourhood!"
It always amazes me how quickly England grinds to a halt. Rain, snow, fog, wind, sunshine, any weather conditions at all out of the ordinary and the whole fucking system just collapses.

Natasha Kerplunkski: (Fwaaaaar!)
Emergency services have been strained to breaking point by the prolonged period of slightly overcast weather. Over now to Ken Luton with the latest. Ken, start walking towards the camera... Now!...
Thank you, Natasha. Yes, as you said, and I am now going to needlessly repeat, emergency services have indeed been strained to breaking point by the prolonged period of slightly overcast weather, and it's going to get worse; the Met Office tells me that there is the extreme possibility of slight drizzle this afternoon. Earlier today I spoke to some of those affected...
Bloke, leaning out of his car window:
Well it's diabolical innit? I mean they should do somefing. No one's doing nuffing. I think it's about time the government stepped in and sorted it.
Nice Lady, outside an office:
It's all Europe's fault. We didn't have this sort of thing happen before we joined.
Old Lady, standing outside the butcher's on the high street:
Oh it's dreadful. I'm devastated. I haven't been able to leave the house for days.
Some classic British whining there. And with things set to get even worse as the slight drizzle sweeps across the country I put some of these points to Doctor Anne Leper of the National Institute of Easily Available Experts. Doctor Anne Leper, as an expert from the National Institute, what are the dangers of these sort of extreme weather conditions?
Anne Leper:
Speaking in my capacity as an expert I would say there is the possibility of what we experts call Passive Increased Moisture Absorption.
And in layman's terms?
Anne Leper:
In layman's terms - and I don't want to over-simplify things here, but there is a slight danger that things left outside in the drizzle may, possibly, under some circumstances - become a bit moist.
What sort of things might become dangerously moist in this manner?
Anne Leper:
Absorbent things mostly.
Like pets?
Anne Leper:
Yes... pets could possibly be affected in this way... yes.
Thank you Doctor Anne Leper. And with that dire prediction of dangerously damp pets - it's back to the studio... Natasha.
Anne Leper:
When do I get my fifty quid?
Natasha Kerplunkski: (Fwaaaaar!)
Thank you Ken. And now a round-up of the other, less important, news - Tokyo was at the receiving end of a 30 megaton atomic bomb this lunchtime as World War Three enters it's third day, the Nikkei-225 index fell 66.88 points on the news to 7972.06 points - the worst day's trading since last Tuesday when hostilities commenced...

The thing is, no one knows how to deal any more with weather that stops them driving their cars from their centrally-heated houses to their air-conditioned offices, with maybe a short visit to the enclosed shopping mall on the way home.
People just don't know how to read the weather any more. Even the weather forecasts on radio and TV are all about how the weather will affect 'driving conditions', not what it will be like to stand in the stuff and how wet and cold you will get. Maybe I'm just lucky in that I live out in the country and in a part of the world that has very variable and interesting weather - two miles up the road from my house there are snow gates on the road, gates that get closed when the road is impassable just to stop idiot tourists who can't understand that thick snow is a bitch to drive in 'going for it', not making it, and freezing to death in their cars (and then moaning that no one came to rescue them afterwards).

North of the border, every time England grinds to a stop like this everyone just raises an amused but despairing eyebrow, takes the day off work, and mutters 'Fucking t shirt weather that - southern poufters.'

I'm going to play Six degrees of Kevin Bacon with all my films this year. I'm not going necessarily to choose them because they have a connection with the previously watched but I intend to forge some sort of connection between them all no matter how tenuous.
(This notice will self-destruct sometime in mid February like all other New Year resolutions.)
  1. I Walked With a Zombie - This is turning into an annual event. I started last year by watching a Val Lewton / Jacques Tourneur RKO B-movie too. Screenplay by Curt Siodmak who also wrote the story for:
  2. Earth Vs The Flying Saucers -
  3. Nosferatu - Three movies into my 'Six degrees of Kevin Bacon with all my films this year' thing and I have bowled myself a real googly. How do I get from a crappy 50s invasion paranoia movie to a German art-house reworking of the Dracula story? My first attempt: Morris Ankrum who played the heroine father in Earth Vs appeared in an episode of the Bat Masterson Western TV series and Dracula could turn himself into a bat! Ta-dah!... I know. I'll have another go tomorrow. But Nosferatu starred Klaus Kinski who made a lot of movies. Several of them, like For a Few Dollars More, with music by Ennio Morricone - who composed the most amazingly trashy score for:
  4. Danger: Diabolik - Brilliant piece of cinematic comic book nonsense.
  5. Spacehunter - Molly Ringwald in 3D! God she was annoying enough in two. Note to self: if ever I find myself casting a moviethat need to be watched wearing polarised cardboard glasses, watch this again - then go cast an actress with actual breasts that might work in 3D.
  6. Matilda -
  7. Dark Planet - A stupid stupid SF movie set in a far distant future where space fascists blast away at everything in sight with late twentieth century automatic rifles while trying to survive some of the shoddiest special effects since the opening credits of Blake's Seven. All of which must mark some sort of low point in Michael York's career. The sort of movie even Malcolm McDowell would have turned down.
  8. A Night at the Roxbury - Stupid stupid movie which made me laugh.
  9. Flight to Mars -
  10. Bugsy Malone - One of Mrs JM's favourite movies.
  11. Glen or Glenda - Like Bugsy Malone the first feature for the director. The director in this case being the great Edward Wood Jr. A truly heartfelt, unique and utterly demented movie.
  12. Jail Bait - Ed Wood's most mainstream and least idiosyncratic movie which means that it still retains many of Wood's hallmarks, like the odd cutting, the long long pointless takes where people cross rooms back and forth for no real reason, the stilted dialogue, and wooden acting - but looses most of the weird shoddiness that is so appealing in his work. It's boring. The most noticeable thing about Wood's 'style' in this film is the total lack of cutaways - those essential little insert shots that show the audience in close up what the under-rehearsed actor is interminably fiddling with on the other side of the room. An actor opens a desk drawer - cut to a shot down into the drawer to show the gun in the drawer and a hand taking it out. Cut back to the wider shot and the actor puts something into his pocket. The presumption is made that the actor has put the gun in his pocket. Don't do a cutaway and the actor has to wave the gun around in an unnatural way to let the audience see what it is he is doing..

    A not very good actor getting into an uncomfortable
    position to show the audience something.

    Cutaways like this also have the advantage of letting you cut between different takes of the same long shot (presuming you have more than one take which in this case looks doubtful) so you can cheat the action (ie cut out most of the interminable fiddling.) Wood never seemed to learn about these very useful shots. Or, for that matter, about cheating time. In Jail Bait we see several shots of people arriving at buildings and then entering them to visit people we have already met in the narration - there's nothing essential happening here, the director is just filling a bit of time and getting two characters into a room to have a conversation, he's not introducing a new character or place. It's simple movie mechanics. Standard operating procedure at the time for this sort of set-up would be to show the car driving up the house and stopping, then a cut to inside the house where the character to be visited would hear a door bell ring, and answer the door. There is no way, in real time, that the actor in the car could have got to the door but the audience accepts the jump in time without noticing. Wood on the other hand has to show every plodding step. In one long take, he shows the car coming down the road, drawing up to the house then stopping, the actor driving the car is then shown getting out, shutting the car door, walking slowly up the steps and then ringing the doorbell, THEN Wood cuts to the inside shot at a point where any competent director would be half way through the dialogue that is to follow. All this comes after having just watched the character driving the car tell someone in the previous scene that this was where he was going and this is who he was going to see! Boring and redundant! I may not learn a lot watching crap, but at least I learn a lot more than Wood did watching the good stuff.
  13. The Haunted World of Edward D. Wood Jr. - a touching documentary of a man whose boundless enthusiasm coupled with a matchless lack of talent made him a hero.
  14. Flying Saucers Over Hollywood: The 'Plan 9' Companion - A second documentary on Wood. (if the words 'Box Set' crossed your mind sometime in the last few minutes, award yourself a coconut). The documentary pretty much repeats most of the things said in The Haunted World of. There are, after all, only a limited number of people left alive who worked with Wood and some of the stories were repeated - as they must have been for many years - almost word for word. A little over long too.

    No matter what time of day you watch Plan 9 From Outer Space - it always feels like three in the morning.

  15. Plan 9 From Outer Space - By god, they're right! It's only half past ten and it feels like 3am!
  16. CQ - As a sneakily cheap six degrees - there was a visual reference to Danger: Diabolik very early on (John Philip Law also appeared in the film) which via the links I will (one day) forge between that, Spacehunter, Matilda, etc. brings us back to Plan 9 From Outer Space - I really am starting to think this was a very silly idea... CQ was directed by Roman Coppola whose father, Francis, produced George Lucas' first film THX 1138. Lucas directed -
  17. The Empire Strikes Back - and I fell asleep.
  18. Star Wars - My Kids see the original Star Wars for the first time. And I didn't fall asleep! This is the first time I've watched Star Wars in the past 10 years without waking up half way through and having to rewind rewind the bugger.
  19. Ong-Bak - Bought on eBay for 99p (including postage) because I was intrigued by the title, knew nothing about it (there was no description or picture in the auction) - and it was only 99p. Ong-Bak it turns out is a 2003 Thai martial arts movie with a paper thin plot but lots of fighting - lots and lots of fighting - apart from the occasional burst of exposition or watching people setting things up to be destroyed, most of the 105 minutes running time was spent watching our hero getting kicked in the face while he finds new and interesting ways of hitting people on the head with his elbows - in slow motion, from three different angles, like a sports instant replay. (Paul Whitehouse voice please:) "Let's see that again Geoff - Yes, you can really see how he kicks the little guy in the groin from this angle, and look at the sweat flying off his face in slo-mo here... marvellous."

    It is on it's way back to eBay. (Bugger knows how I'm going to get from Star Wars to this - or from this to anything else...)
  20. Bride of the Monster - A rewatch of another Ed Wood 'masterpiece'.
  21. Cannibal Women In The Avocado Jungle of Death - Attack of the Killer Tomatoes meets Apocalypse Now. With a bit more money (I think Killer Tomatoes had a bigger budget) and/or a a better director this could have been a funny little movie. As it was, it was an almost funny little movie. Any film that can make Shere Hite jokes in the middle of a sword fight has to have something going for it. I have totally given up on the Six Degrees thing.
  22. Year of the Dog - What promised to be a quirky little amusing movie turned into a tedious, woolly-minded, anti-vivisection trudge which wandered about all over the place not making it's shallow points very well or exploring any of the screamingly obvious issues it raised. Why, for instance, does our protagonist Vegan heroine, so incensed about the rights of chickens, cows, and goats to have happy natural lives, buy shelves full of dog food to feed her 15 dogs without apparently realising they are made from meat? Stupid and shallow. For a while I amused myself by counting the number of times our 'heroine' sighed meaningfully - but soon gave that up when I got into three figures. Avoid.
  23. Madagascar - Better than expected Friday night with the kids movie during which I laughed several times - to the bemusement of the kids who didn't get the jokes.

1 comment:

Gil said...

Yes, I know. Beryl and I are chuckling at their ineptitude, and remembering the time when we conducted a drag race in Finland using a pair of Opel Cadets, the course being up a multi-storey carpark that was a solid block of ice, side to side, bottom to top. Beryl won.

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