Archive for the ‘apocalypse now’ Tag

The Oscars: What do they know?

With the Oscars coming up this weekend, it’s a good moment to keep things in perspective. I am a big fan of 1970s Hollywood, a golden age in movie-making, and whilst the Academy honored ‘The Godfather’ in 1972, ‘…Cuckoo’s Nest’ in 1975, and ‘Annie Hall’ in 1977 with the Best Picture gong, some of the other collective decisions across that decade look very dubious with the distance of hindsight. Actually they probably looked pretty dubious at the time in the same way that, for example, ‘Birdman’ (2014) and ‘Forrest Gump’ (1994) did.

Donald Sutherland and Elliott Gould in MASH (1970)

Donald Sutherland and Elliott Gould in ‘M*A*S*H’ (1970)

In 1970 ‘Patton’ beat ‘M*A*S*H’ which tells you a lot about what was going on in the world at the time, particularly from an American perspective.

1974 was a singularly tough year with ‘The Godfather II’ up against another Coppola, ‘The Conversation’, and ‘Chinatown’. They made Godfather 2 an offer it couldn’t refuse which is justifiable but you could still have a pretty good debate about that one.

But 1976 is the real aberration. The Academy picked ‘Rocky’ above ‘Taxi Driver’, ‘Network’ and ‘All the President’s Men’. Really?!??!!! ‘Taxi Driver’ is an absolute masterpiece. The other two are both very fine works which have and will stand the test of time. ‘Rocky’ is a reminder that the Academy is largely composed of American men which for some reason brings to mind the famous misquote of H.L. Mencken:

“No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.”

What the great journalist/satirist actually said was:

“No one in this world, so far as I know — and I have searched the records for years, and employed agents to help me — has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby.”

Not as neat but the point relates – ‘Rocky’ is a real “great masses of the plain people” decision.

The decade is crowned with another humdinger. 1979 saw ‘Kramer vs Kramer’ triumph over ‘Apocalypse Now’. Who even knows what ‘Kramer vs Kramer’ is now? It was enjoyable at the time and well made but no masterpiece for all time. In my eyes ‘Apocalypse Now’ is the greatest film made in my lifetime. Even its flaws are fascinating and right.

So when the Best Picture is announced this Sunday, and if it’s not Martin McDonagh’s ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’ , we can chalk it up to the long heritage of fallibility and short-sightedness of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences…

  • 2015: Spotlight beat The Big Short
  • 1994: Forrest Gump beat Pulp Fiction
  • 1983: Terms of Endearment beat The Big Chill
  • 1948: Hamlet beat The Red Shoes

I’ve seen some of the back end of this as a voting member of BAFTA and of EFA (The European Film Academy). The process, the screenings, the marketing/lobbying, the demographics of the membership, it can all skew the collective judgment. Like when BAFTA failed to notice ‘Selma’ in 2014 (even though it was subsequently nominated for the Best Picture Oscar). Or take this year’s BAFTAs – how did the performance of Bria Vinaite in ‘The Florida Project’ fail to get noticed? (Or of Brooklyn Prince for that matter, the lead kid in Florida Project.) And what about Mary J Blige’s outstanding performance in Dee Rees’ ‘Mudbound’? Instead we got for Best Supporting Actress Allison Janney’s monotone caricature in the joyless ‘I, Tonya’.

Bria Vinaite & Brooklyn Prince in 'The Florida Project' (2017)

Bria Vinaite & Brooklyn Prince in ‘The Florida Project’ (2017)

There’s no accounting for taste. Or maybe there is.

Robert Duvall in Francis Ford Coppola's 'Apocalypse Now' (1979)

Robert Duvall in Francis Ford Coppola’s ‘Apocalypse Now’ (1979)

 

 

 

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Sheffield Doc/Fest 2017

Highlight of Doc/fest for me this year was meeting the legendary Walter Murch, sound designer and editor, who created the picture and sound editing magic of ‘Apocalypse Now’ and the Oscar-winning sound montage of ‘The Conversation’. He gave some real insights into the practice of editing, from overarching comparisons to architecture and choreography to frame-level detail in search of the perfect cut.

Apocalypse Now fan

The link between the ceiling fan and the chopper sounds suggested itself when shots between were removed

Another highlight was an energetic, extended conversation in the wake of ‘You Have No Idea How Much I Love You’, a documentary by Pavel Lozinski – or is it? (a documentary) On the way out of the Showroom Cinema I accosted a fellow producer and asked her whether she’d had the same reaction to the end of the film (basically a punch to the guts). We were then accosted by Amir Bar-Lev, director of the new Grateful Dead doc ‘Long Strange Trip‘ (just released on Amazon Prime) who had the same question. Between the Showroom and Exchange Square with stops along the way the three of us had our own Q&A discussing the ethics of shooting therapy sessions and how they can be shot in an ethical way which doesn’t disrupt the therapeutic benefit. I’d gone to see the film in the first place because one of the films I’m currently working on, ‘Love Lies Bleeding‘ (w/t, directed by Leslie Lee), includes scenes of this kind. Leslie and I spent the week before Doc/Fest working with the wise, seasoned expertise of the likes of Peter Symes and Jihan El-Tahri at Documentray Campus on the story structure.

You_Have_No_Idea_How_Much_I_Love_You

You Have No Idea How Much I Love You (Poland 2016)

 

A past Doc/fest: 2015 (rock, Kurt Cobain, etc.) ; Shorts ; Black Panthers ; Drones.

Boredom Boredom B’dum B’dum

spiral scratch buzzcocks record

Today is Record Shop Day. I’ve been frequenting mine (Alan’s in East Finchley) plenty recently so I’m just making an internal nod to indy record shops and I’ve just played a classic record Spiral Scratch by (the) Buzzcocks (albeit not on vinyl, I’m in the wrong room) – the track I played is Boredom because I’ve been thinking about it a lot yesterday and today.

I’m living in this movie
But it doesn’t move me
I’m the man that’s waiting for the phone to ring
Hear it ring-a-ding-a-fucking-ding

You know me, I’m acting dumb
You know the scene, very humdrum
Boredom, boredom, boredom

Elliott Gould as Philip Marlowe

Elliott Gould as Philip Marlowe

I was just out jogging, listening to a podcast with Irish writer John Banville talking about Raymond Chandler and Philip Marlowe. Banville, under his low-brow pen-name Benjamin Black (which I don’t much like – as fake as they come, a bit like Julian Barnes’ Dan Kavanagh), recently wrote a Marlowe book at the request of Chandler’s estate, The Black-Eyed Blonde. Marlowe stories usually start with the gumshoe sitting bored in his down-at-heel office waiting for something to happen, usually a dame walking through the door to give him a knight-errant mission.

Humphrey Bogart as Philip Marlowe

Humphrey Bogart as Philip Marlowe

Robert Donat as Richard Hannay

Robert Donat as Richard Hannay

Then late last night I was listening to a radio programme from BBC Radio 4 called The Buchan Tradition about John Buchan, marking the centenary year of The 39 Steps. Richard Hannay is bored in London at the start of that ripping yarn when lo and behold a spy dies on his living room carpet and the adventure begins.

Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes

Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes

That’s also often the case with Sherlock Holmes – he’s bored out of his brain, coked off his face, ennui has well and truly set in when a character shows up at 221b with a juicy mystery to solve.

Michael York and Simon Maccorkindale as Carruthers and Davies

Michael York and Simon Maccorkindale as Carruthers and Davies

One of my favourites, a resident of The Shelf of Honour, The Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers, opens with the protagonist bored in the “dead and fermenting city”, London in the dog-days of late summer. When the opportunity crops up to sail around the Baltic and North Sea coasts, in spitting distance of imperial Germany, with an English eccentric in an Aran jumper, it’s the perfect cure not just to boredom, but also to the complacency and materialism of modern life. One of my favourite scenes is when Carruthers, the narrator, can’t fit his trunk through the opening into the Dulcibella, the boat he is due to go off for a trip in and he has to dump most of his stuff (which he never really needed).

Martin Sheen as Captain Willard

Martin Sheen as Captain Willard

Recently I watched again one of my all-time favourite movies, Apocalypse Now, with Enfant Terrible No. 1 (a convert to The Godfather movies). Damn it’s good. Great. Nearly perfect. It opens with Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) bored to near-death in a hotel room in Saigon. Waiting for a mission.

Saigon…shit. I’m only in Saigon.
Every time, I think I’m gonna wake up back in the jungle.

I’m here a week now.  Waiting for a mission.  Getting softer.  Every minute I stay in this room, I get weaker.  And every minute Charlie squats in the bush…he gets stronger.  Each time I looked around…the walls moved in a little tighter.

Bored to death

Bored to death

There’s boredom as debilitating ennui as in Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal. But there’s also boredom as a motivator, a prompt into adventure. The question is whether in real life the blonde walks through the door or the spy expires on your carpet? Does the ring-a-ding-a-fucking-ding really come?

Lauren-Bacalls-style-The-Big-Sleep Bogart office Marlowe

bogart film noir phone maltese falcon

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