Wednesday, February 07, 2007

DSC_1425 - HollywoodThis may end up being a bit of a culture post, but first of all it's not just Blogger which has been hit by compulsory upgrade fever; Flickr is doing it now, insisting Old Skool is now longer cool and I must become Yahooed. Aptly enough they've chosen the ides of March as the deadline for conversion.

Other than the ugliness of the Yahoo log-in screen, what problems does this cause? Because I have two yahoo accounts, assuming they still work. One realname, one pseudonym, only the psuedonym isn't anything-hoo and is really just a log-in spam trap. So if I merge with the realname one, will it decide to start leaking information, or will I be able to suppress everything so the public face is the same? I know the FAQs probably explain this, but usually I manage to misinterpret thing like that, said he suddenly remembering that little realname account I already have on Flickr (for personal photographs, but I haven't added anything to it in a long time). Hmm, so do I merge realname to realname, realname to... I could be here a while.

Drat, it looks as if I'm going to have to create yet another Yahoo account to keep them all lined up. Yes, I know it's my own silly fault for having facets of me, but when the options for limiting views comedown to friends-only, family-only or both, it's not the most flexible of systems. And there is that whole link back to the blog thing (using Google ain't so hard, and somewhat perturbingly the quote from Flickr happens to be MQ's kind words).

I know this verges on the pathetic, but it's change and that always worries me (although lack of change scares me. Happy me).

On with the culture. I've just finished reading The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger (cheap in FOPP). I'm trying to work out why it's a GCSE set text (but not one I had to read). I suspect, and this is partly based on knowing it was only proscribed for the lower sets, it is used because it's thin enough not to disenchant, it's about a child who doesn't feel he fits into his school, and it's about bluster, leading into the damage and harm dishonesty and pretence causes (while not actually doing a great deal beyond being obnoxious).

I have to admit to wondering if I missed something. The tale is as meandering as an estuary and about as sluggish (comparisons to my writing style will not be appreciated). It doesn't really go anywhere, which perhaps is the point, but as such it serves purely to demonstrate a certain mode of thought and a character specific style. But one doesn't need a whole book to do that. Know that Catch 22 "feather in my cap" thing, where the point is so severely rammed home that the housing for it disintegrates, grating with the reader along the way? That's what happens in Catcher. The goddam lousy phonies kill me every time, for Chrissakes.

Perhaps I should have read it when younger, or I need to be older, or perhaps I ought to have read something to inform me what to note, what to look for, what is great about that book. Because I missed it, and I suspect if one has to read the Lett's guide beforehand to understand it then that is a bit of a failing. I found it just a nothingness; a diversion not an improvement. It added nought but a style. About the only distinctive part of it was a quote about maturity which I may purloin, but that was already a quote in the book.

Time go back to the Sin stack (or possibly Omega's pile). At which point I remember that bloody Rushdie thing which left me feeling like the Napoli (firmly aground, rather battered and not likely to make much headway any time soon). I think I'm about a third of the way through it, as I have been since autumn.

In lieu of any exhibitions (did I do a write up of the Holbien thing?), the latest new exposure to art was at an exclusive unveiling this morning. But I preferred January, at least in terms of the Ton Schulten calender.

And now on to our main feature: Fillum 2007. This week we explore, in the style of just-Ben, that seasonal classic, perennial chestnut and whatever else one feels like accusing it of, the Christmas romcom. As I was recently taken to see The Holiday, it seems fairly logical to review that.

ACTING: Diaz, Law, Winslet, Black and Wallach. So that'll be two out of five then. Diaz doesn't quite know how to pull off a zany ice cube thawing, instead relying oscillating wildly between brittle and goofy, occasionally exposing the over sweetened fondant filling that would do better to double as hair gel. Law, who appears be using flashes of his disconcertingly white smile to send Morse, simpers through his habitual loveable rogue, using rampant upstaging hair fiddles and not having the grace or wit to deliver the implausible and awful lines he gets given with anything more than more of the same. Winslet has fun, even if it's not always convincing fun, but she knows it's a pantomime and so flings herself around with aplomb. Black appears to be doing his straight guy act, which basically him on Ritalin; half hearted exuberances and lots of him waiting, impatient to steal the show again. Wallach just about avoids saying "Oy vey" but some other parts feel as though they are pitched at American audiences, but for the most part he's good, and therein lies the rub; Winslet and Wallach end up being the leading couple, showing everyone else how it's done and thus highlighting just how weak the interactions are elsewhere. Honourable mentions to the two children, who must have driven the adults mad through adding so much saccharine to the sticky concoction that it starts to crystallise on screen, and who were obviously trained in true Hollywood tradition which demands they play ickle and yet have a soothsayer's knowledge in speaking the unspoken.

So that's 4 for Winslet and Wallach, then another two for rest of them combined.

6 out of 10

STORY: Guess what, brief encounters lead to romances, and unlike Coward's version they all help fulfil everything in each other's lives and all leave happily ever after. The End. Oh, and there's some technically dubious houseswapping which allows juxtaposition of mirrored lives. And for some reason lots movie set pieces crop up, which it very kindly points out. I imagine the words 'heightened reality' were flung about a lot when pitching this; the term obviously being synonym for jarringly unrealistic. It's like splicing together every romance ever made, but doing so in alphabetical order and cutting by the second not by the scene between films running simultaneously.

The score below reflects the unoriginality of the plot coupled with the damage wrought on it by the makers. They take a solid if formulaic idea and somehow break it.

2 out of 10

PRODUCTION VALUES: One critic decried one half of the scenery as Narnia, which is both accurate and unfair. The places shown can looked like that, albeit usually a good deal less tidy, but only for half a morning in February, not on Christmas Eve (and there's pub shown in the film; I was there on Christmas Eve and it wasn't quite how they portrayed it). Ignoring the squawks as characters drive the wrong way down one way streets. One problem with pretending half the film is set in Lapland is that the actors forget they're supposed to cold, not leaving the front door wide open to stand chatting in shirt sleeves (Law did at least remember at one point, but his brrring made me wish he hadn't). But then it wasn't a real house, being far, far too like the illustration of a brandless cheap box of chocolates, which I imagine upset those people who put offers in for it.

If one watches the first minutes of the film, there's some none-too-subtle product placement (and what's the thing on the left going to be branded, Dell? Oh, no, it's another Sony. One of the lines even namechecks a brand later on), a bit of scene setting which I wasn't watching because it starred Jack Black in the wrong aspect ratio and load of numbers and filenames scrolling in the top righthand corner, which rather distracted me. And then it's England and Winslet at the Daily Telegraph's Christmas party in the Daily Globe's multistorey wooden hall-come-offices which look completely unrelated to 1 Canada Square, and everyone seems to have been told the party had an Eighties theme (brown with white polka dots? Where did you find it?). Miss Winslet then walks to the station via St Thomas's (Waterloo is back thataway) and so goes home alone on a train which is unlike any known in this land. A few more well placed incongruities cause me to give up counting, Canuted by the research failings. Oh, and did I mention the lowly hack lives in a secluded cottage and her shambling, failing publisher, single parent brother (oh bugger, that's a spoiler; what a pity, now it's ruined, ruined for you) lives in an even bigger one with no mention of where the many millions needed came from, but they must be rich because he drives a brand new, shiny, black Range Rover. But then the brother claims to keep "a cow in the backyard" (you'd think Law would at least point out that no way in hell would anyone in this country say that, but no. Anyway, round where it's meant to be set, it would in the paddock. We won't even attempt to explore Winslet's "Surrey" which I can only conclude was a spoof that somehow made it into the final cut).

I imagine Winslet's Fresh Prince of Bel Air taxi ride is equally as irritating, but I've never been to LA and so cannot point out the many mistakes. But half the film seems to have been created by minds devoid of all knowledge on the subject of England, people who have never visited it except through celluloid and probably fact checked stuff with a guy who claims to be from Devizes but is actually from Des Moines.

Nothing is convincing, even allowing for the intentional fairytale aspect, and at times it feels if as the world is drowned in honey, and everything visible are made up of the bodies of ensnared insects. Someone went to a lot of trouble to fling that much paper over every surface, but it does not convince.

But the titles earned a weak cheer, so I suppose that earns them an extra point.

In summary, unrealistic, unoriginal and unimproving.

5 out of 10

OVERALL QUALITY: Dire or pleasant depending on viewpoint. Someone I was with said she couldn't see the point of making it, although the film's many self-knowing, yet curiously unaware, rants against the modern filming process explain precisely why things this pointless get made.

A film completely lacking in gumption. Professional but witless and soulless.

5 out of 10

VENUE: An Odeon. Queues through the doors as per usual. Inept staff. Dotty carpet to conceal the small bits of popcorn everywhere. Before the film but after the adverts and the trailers and endless sponsored warnings telling everyone to behave they had a very long pause while they played dull music loudly to make it more interesting and a a branded gobo bounced round the room deftly illuminating its mounting bracket twice every cycle. They then managed to show the first ten minutes of the using the wrong aspect ratio so Jack Black was even more odd looking than usual and there was nothing left of Cameron Diaz except two cheek bones and a chin. The fault was not corrected until someone from the audience went to find a member of staff, which judging my the time it took for him to stick his head round the door meant he had to be dragged from the front desk and then return there to find whoever it was who knew which button to press to stop the obesity epidemic.

On the other hand I could see the screen and didn't have my knees rammed hard into the back of the seat in front and there was no stealth chewing trying to hitch-hike on my trousers.

Making a mistake is bad, but not correcting until someone who has paid for your service asks you to is just poor.

4 out of 10

REFRESHMENTS: There had no sorbet and the staff when eventually deigning to notice had no idea if they'd stopped selling it, had yet to restock the shelf or if there was no more in the building. As this was the only thing anyone in our party was buying, it doesn't really give me much for which to praise them. I stuck with whatever I happened to have in my pocket, which turned out to be Fruit Pastilles, which I didn't have because the post-sugar-surge slump combined with that film would have sent me to sleep.

3 out of 10

COMPANY: Er, pass. Two of them talked through the trailers about completely unrelated things and laughed at bits in the film which had reminded them of something else, thereby making them about the only people in the cinema to laugh during the entire romantic comedy.

The score reflects their presence and the 241 cheapness it provided.

5 out of 10


For the film: 18 out of 40

For the experience: 12 out of 30

Overall: 30 out of 70

Conclusion: Do not repeat.


I misread "ACTING" as "ACHTUNG" the first time I read that paragraph - but then, with those names, and given how you went on to review them, it still made perfect sense.

Déja Vu, now there's a good film that's not quite what you expect it to be.
Déja Vu? I think I've already seen.

Said he treating fire with fire and groan with groan.
Your post manages to discuss two of the inclusions on the current deathlist (, in Salinger (now 88) and Wallach (92). The trouble with reading The Catcher in the Rye in 2007 is that so many people have copied it, referenced it or borrowed from it, subconsiously or otherwise. It's impossible to appreciate the freshness and impact it must have had on a 1950's audience, in the same way that whilst Airplane is a groundbreaking film, nowadays it looks like just another spoof. Some of Salinger's other stuff (though there ain't much of it - bloody reclusiveness) is more interesting, if you have the time.
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