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Cinema

It’s the Oscars tonight

Sunday, 24 February, 2019

Almost forgot. But Hollywood cannot be ignored, so the deeper thoughts of Nassim Nicholas Taleb about reading will have to wait until next weekend for a follow up to yesterday’s post.

Anyway, last year was an almost cinema-free year here so Rainy Day is in a poor position to judge the candidates. Best Picture? Black Panther, BlacKkKlansman, Bohemian Rhapsody, The Favourite, Green Book, Roma, A Star Is Born, Vice. Haven’t seen any of them. Might never see one of them. What is noticeable about the official list is the absence of some of last year’s best films. No place found for The Death of Stalin or for Game Night. One place that definitely doesn’t get satire is Hollywood. And only a Sound Editing nomination for the terrifyingly original A Quiet Place. Shameful.

From Black Panther to Vice, the Best Picture Academy Awards list has more to do with politics than with cinema. It’s an expression of a worldview by a particular elite that feels more entitled harangue than to entertain. Still, they can’t prevent people from making and enjoying good films.


Dunkirk: A cinematic and auditory masterpiece

Friday, 28 July, 2017 0 Comments

Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk is a cinematic masterpiece. The legendary World War II story — where 330,000 Allied troops, surrounded by Germans, were evacuated from the northern coast of France — is terrifying, poignant and visually stunning. Central to the on-screen atmospherics is the score by Hans Zimmer, which uses an auditory technique caused by “Shepard tones”.

Named after cognitive scientist Roger Shepard, the sound consists of octave after octave layered on top of each other. As the bass fades in, the treble fades out and the tone sequence loops back again and again and again. Because the listener can always hear at least two tones rising in pitch at the same time, one thinks that the sound is constantly ascending. It’s eerie and unnerving and ideally suited to Nolan’s drama.

In an interview with Business Insider, Nolan said that the soundtrack was created to evoke a feeling of ever-increasing intensity that would unite the film’s three storylines. And it does. Brilliantly. Dunkirk is a cinematic masterpiece and its soundtrack is an auditory masterpiece.


The Foreigner, the trailer

Thursday, 29 June, 2017 0 Comments

Tuesday’s post here, Jackie Chan goes to war with the IRA, featured a poster advertising the upcoming film The Foreigner. Now, here’s the trailer.

Directed by Martin Campbell (Casino Royale), and starring Jackie Chan, Pierce Brosnan, Liu Tao and Katie Leung, The Foreigner sees 63-year-old Chan kicking ass in his role as a father determined to avenge his daughter’s murder by Irish terrorists. What makes the film topical is that much of the action takes place in London, scene of recent terror attacks, and Liam Hennessy, the character played by Pierce Brosnan, bears an uncanny resemblance to Gerry Adams, allegedly a member of the IRA Army Council and thus responsible for atrocities such as the Harrods bombing in 1983.


The Silence of the Scorsese

Saturday, 4 March, 2017 0 Comments

In the 17th century, two Portuguese Jesuits travel to Japan to find their mentor, who has disappeared and supposedly renounced his faith. The Japanese authorities, fearful of colonial influence, have outlawed Christianity, which makes the priests’ mission mortally dangerous. In his 1966 novel, Silence, Shusaku Endo explored the many intricate, terrible torments feudal Japan devised to kill priests. Snippet:

“Two trees, made into the form of a cross, were set at the water’s edge. Ichizo and Mokichi were fastened to them. When it was night and the tide came in, their bodies would be immersed in the sea up to the chin. They would not die at once, but after two or even three days of utter physical and mental exhaustion they would cease to breathe.”

The plight of those “hidden Christians” (隠れキリシタン Kakure Kirishitan) portrayed by Endo was one of the reasons Martin Scorsese decided to turn the book into his latest film. The severity of his Silence is complete. The priests who survive capture and torture are forced to live as Japanese subjects, with Japanese wives, and are finally buried as Buddhists. Their notions of religious community and cultural identity are consumed by the flames of the pyre. But there is a ray of hope as Father Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) secretly gives absolution one last time to a hidden Christian.

Silence has not done well at the box office and the Oscar for Cinematography category in which it was nominated, went to La La Land. Still, it is a powerful statement about faith and despair and the performances of Issey Ogata as the Inquisitor and Tadanobu Asano as the Interpreter are stellar. In time, people will come to treasure Silence.


The Oscars!

Monday, 27 February, 2017 0 Comments

Oscars


When Hollywood came to Cork

Wednesday, 1 February, 2017 0 Comments

On Monday and yesterday here, our topic was the impending sale of Luggala, the beautiful 18th-century Irish house in County Wicklow. Sotheby’s International Realty want $29 million for the estate, an incomprehensible sum for many people today and an unfathomable amount for the creative types who once found refuge in Luggala.

Claud Cockburn was one of these and his Wicklow adventures were recalled by his late son, Alexander, in Corruptions of Empire: Life Studies & the Reagan Era. Claude, author of Beat the Devil, met John Huston in Luggala and made a pitch for the novel’s screen potential. The Hollywood director was impressed and soon afterwards he made his way to Youghal, the ailing port on the Cork coast, where the Cockburns lived precariously:

“By the time Huston and his wife came down to Youghal to talk more about the screenplay he couldn’t read Beat the Devil on the phone, not ours at least, because it had been cut off for non-payment of bills. Telegrams shuttled back and forth between Youghal and Hollywood and finally the offer came: £3,000 for rights and screenplay, or a lesser sum up front, against a greater, but as yet insubstantial reward — the famous ‘points’ — in the distant future. My father naturally took the lump sum on the barrel, used some of it to plug the roof and appease the bailiffs and then went to work with Huston on the screenplay.

The film had a sumptuous cast: Bogart, Peter Lorrie, Gina Lollobrigida, Jennifer Jones, Robert Morley. When it finally got to Youghal there was a great to-do in the form of a grand screening at Horgan’s Cinema. The people of Youghal, not entirely without reason, found it incomprehensible but applauded heartily, none more so, I imagine, than the bailiffs and other representatives of the commercial sector of the town.”

But there was a fly in the ointment. As the film’s credits rolled, the screenplay was attributed to Truman Capote, “from a novel by James Helvick.” Who was this James Helvick and how was he related to Frank Pitcairn, Patrick Cork, Kenneth Drew and Claud Cockburn? Or were all they the same person? The answers can be found here tomorrow.

Beat the Devil


Tubular Bells for William Peter Blatty

Saturday, 14 January, 2017 0 Comments

The death yesterday of William Peter Blatty, author of the best-selling novel The Exorcist, brought back memories of the music William Friedkin used in 1973 for his film of the book. Friedkin’s adaptation turned out to be a masterpiece, a landmark in horror cinema, a cultural phenomenon and one of the highest-grossing films of all time. Although it made minimal use of music — a choice that gave the film an air of realism despite the supernatural events depicted onscreen — the score was a winner.

Friedkin had originally commissioned music from Lalo Schifrin, who had done soundtrack work for Cool Hand Luke, Dirty Harry and the Mission Impossible TV theme, but he hated Schifrin’s score and threw it out the window, literally. Instead, he used classical pieces by the Austrian composer Anton Webern, modern work by the Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki, as well as original music by Jack Nitzsche. But what is now considered the “Theme from The Exorcist” is Tubular Bells by Mike Oldfield, which went on to become a hit so huge that it gave birth to Richard Branson’s Virgin empire.


The Spielberg trademark

Sunday, 18 December, 2016 0 Comments

In 1964, when he was 17, Steven Spielberg caught the attention of Universal Studios with his 140-minute film Firelight, about a UFO invading a small town. He went on to direct episodes of TV series such as Columbo and Marcus Welby, MD, as well as his own psychological thriller Duel in 1971, but it wasn’t until 1975 that the breakthrough came. That was the year Steven Spielberg presented the movie industry with the concept of the summer blockbuster in the form of Jaws. The rest is Hollywood.

If you watch any of his films, you’ll notice a trademark element: the Spielberg Face. This is his signature. Characters watch in awe, wonder, fear, sadness, hope, joy. It’s his way of showing us that this is a vital scene. The great storyteller Steven Spielberg is 70 today.


The best #FakeNews film was made in 1951

Friday, 9 December, 2016 0 Comments

And it starred Kirk Douglas as Chuck Tatum, a cynical, amoral journalist who will stop at nothing to get the story needed to boost his ego and income. The New Yorker reviewer called Billy Wilder’s Ace in the Hole a badly written combination of “unjelled satire” and “half-baked melodrama,” adding that Tatum was “the most preposterous version of a reporter I’ve ever seen.” The influential New York Times critic Bosley Crowther claimed that the “responsible elements” at any real newspaper would stop a louse like Tatum in his tracks. “Such huffy comments show that Wilder definitely touched a nerve,” say Mikita Brottman and David Sterritt in their overview of the film.

All this is by way of saying that Kirk Douglas is 100 years old today. Happy Birthday!


The story is about…

Tuesday, 1 November, 2016 0 Comments

… simplicity. The 20 thrillers written by Lee Child have sold more than 40 million copies in 75 countries and one of the secrets of his success is that each story can be summed up succinctly, in a word or two: justice, retribution, salvation or Jack Reacher, for example. Along with Child’s advice to tell the story so tightly that it can be expressed pithily, he offers the following six tips for writers:

1. Set daily word counts
2. The only qualification you need to be a writer is to be a reader
3. Character is king
4. Don’t fall in love with your characters
5. The beginning of the story is crucial
6. Ignore advice!

After losing his job in the television industry in 1995, Lee Child turned his hand to writing novels. His role model was the American pulp fiction genius John D MacDonald and it was his tough-guy character, Travis McGee, who offered a template for Jack Reacher. Child recently explained his fascination with MacDonald and McGee in an excellent BBC Radio 4 programme, 21 Shades of Noir: Lee Child on John D MacDonald.

Note: The 21st book in the Jack Reacher series, Night School, will be published on Monday. The second film in the series, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, premiered on 21 October and has taken in almost $94 million at the box office so far. Moral of story: Keep it simple and encapsulate your concept in a word, or two.


Film of the Year

Sunday, 20 December, 2015 0 Comments

On the outer edge of desolate Highland battlefield, a trio of witches predict that the Thane of Glamis will one day become the King of Scotland. Inspired by their prophecy and goaded into action by his wife, Macbeth murders the monarch and takes the crown for himself. What follows is classic Shakespearean tragedy.

This year’s screen adaptation by Australian filmmaker Justin Kurzel of the 400-year-old work wins the Rainy Day Film of the Year award. Kurzel’s interpretation revolves around a pair of truly powerful performances by Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard. Her fair is an ideal match for his foul and the film captures perfectly their intimate treachery as they plot to take the throne and keep it.

Justin Kurzel is equally good at depicting the psychological consequences of their crimes. When Macbeth confesses to his wife, after the murder of King Duncan, that his mind is “full of scorpions,” one can empathize with the director’s theory that this Macbeth is suffering from some kind of post-traumatic stress disorder. Were those witches a hallucination? What about the fact that he can’t get any sleep? When he begins to talk to Banquo’s ghost, Lady Macbeth tries to calm the frightened nobles at the feast: Don’t worry. He’s had these turns before, she says. It doesn’t work, though, and the guests depart.

Macbeth is about power and the evil that people will do to get it, keep it and bequeath it. But all the cruelty of Mr and Mrs Macbeth begs a critical question: What’s the point in brutally grabbing a crown if you’re going to lose it within a generation? Tragedy.

Macbeth

Tomorrow, here, the Rainy Day Post of the Year award.