Friday, 28 August 2009
As previously mentioned, one of two films I bought when visiting Ireland last month was this film. I watched this in college as part of my Film A-Level ... I think ... maybe Media Studies. One or the other. Point is, I found the video at a car boot sale also and bought it for 50p or something and it became one of about 10 videos I owned. Now it resides with my Mum and Dad in Limerick. The DVD on the other hand sat in my DVD player last night and I completely got involved - whereby at the point that Gareth Pierce (Emma Thompson) passionately argues the Guildford Four's innocence in a courtroom - revealing evidence that was hidden from the defence during the original trial - I was in tears. I am so proud to feel this way - as someone who watches so many films, who could discuss different styles, approaches and genre cliches, and yet if a film has me I can get emotionally involved, to the point that I cry. The simple case that, as the film showed this crucial moment, I knew that - to some extent or another - this actually happened. There was a point whereby the truth escaped the Guildford Four and Maguire Seven for 15 years and yet, in one trial, it was shown that evidence that proved their innocence was hidden focing them to face decades in prison. Such a powerful film.
What I reckon...
To some extent, this has been summarised above. I love the film - Daniel Day Lewis is - as usual - excellent, portraying such a flawed character. He was a petty thief, a drug user, etc - but he was not a terrorist so it is a testement to Day-Lewis how well he portrayed such a character for us to sympathise with. Pete Postlethwaite playing his father was equally strong, if not more subtle. Guisseppe Conlon (Postlethwaite) was a devout, quiet man - slowly building a campaign for their release while Gerry grew angry and frustrated, understandably, towards the justice system. Their relationship I personally found fascinating - though my Dad could argue pretty damn well with me (nowhere near as reserved as this Father character), he did have the patience and fortitude to think carefully about what to do next in situations and this gave this film a very personal connection with me.
Now, as I got so personally involved, I had to do a bit of research into the credability of the film. I found little - if anything - about it. Nobody seemed to think that it was false or a bad representation except one. Interestingly, the film was shown to MP's and members of the Conlon family and one of the investigators on the case argued, post-screening, that it was a misrepresentation of the police work conducted (see http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/first-night-drama-follows-four-film-screening-in-the-name-of-the-father-committee-room-20-house-of-commons-1391461.html). In response to the film itself and its representation, Gerry Conlon himself stated "English people, English MPs and English church leaders played the lead role in getting me out of prison. It wasn't Irish people. I would never want to be part of a film that stigmatised a whole nation or a whole police force for the actions of a few." clearly pointing the blame at the perpetrators and the staff who were content in the crime committed - who have yet to be charged in any way.
Obviously, the spine of the story is Gerry's innocence - and proving that. We know throughout the film that an appeal is going to court - as Emma Thompsons lawyer listens to a cassette Gerry recorded for the first two acts flashing back to the whole situation and his time in jail prior to his fathers death. Considering the recent commotion regarding the Lockerbie bomber and the compassionate-grounds factored into his release, it makes the lack-of-compassion towards Guisseppe Conlon even more horrendous. Then again, Megrahi has always professed his innocence - and in a similar way to Gerry Conlon, evidence was found by the CIA with regard to the timer in the Lockerbie bombing that was deemed 'vital evidence' and was withheld from the trial defence team. Witnesses were paid and, a statement by Professor Robert Black QC explains "that not only was there a wrongful conviction, but the victim of it was an innocent man. Lawyers, and I hope others, will appreciate this distinction". This makes this film that much more relevant and powerful. Other factors not explored in the ilm, was another part of the case whereby Paul Hill (played by Sliding Doors cheating-boyfriend of Paltrow John Lynch ... who, to be honest, I always thought was cooler than Beatles-and-Monty-Python-quoting John Hannah character) and Paddy were additionally convicted - and then charges dropped following an appeal - of the Woolwich bombing. In a quirky turn of fate, Paul Hill married the daughter of Robert Kennedy (brother of recently-deceased Edward Kennedy and deceased-President John F. Kennedy). Through this contact, while as Prime Minister, Tony Blair apologised to Paul and the Guildford Four for a miscarriage of justice.
I was in a Camden music shop (the exchange one on Chalk Farm road) and saw that they had a copy of the single 'In The Name of the Father' by Bono and Gavin Friday. I have to admit, after watching the movie and hearing the title-song, I am quite keen to purchase it - though I wouldn't buy the soundtrack itself as there were also some awful panpies on the soundtrack that, in my opinion, ruined the sequence post-Guisseppe's death whereby the prisoners dropped burning paper from the prison walls. It looked stunning - well done Jim Sheridan - but the music simply didn't work, which is annoying because in most of the other sections it remains exceptional.
To finish, I was not suprised to learn that it was nominated for Best Picture and Best Lead Actor amongst other many other Oscars. It lost out on the Best Picture to Schindlers List. Fair enough. Tough Year I guess. Remains of the Day and The Piano were the same year. I couldn't recommend this more - truly is a great film about a truly fascinating story.
Monday, 24 August 2009
This is a really serious video. Personally, my lack of knowledge when I was younger led me to believe that the kids dancing in Moonwalker to Bad was in fact the video to Bad. Of course, its not. So this is the final music-video analysis on the blog 'in memory' of Michael Jackson. We had David Fincher and Spike Lee. We could have had John 'Boyz in the Hood' Singleton's Remember The Time, or John 'American Werewolf in...' Landis Thriller or even the short introduction to the Dangerous film directed by David 'Twin Peaks' Lynch. I am sure we could go back to these if we get a chance. Nevertheless, Bad has a full version of the video spanning 14 minutes and is directed by Martin Scorsese Pre-Goodfellas (he must have been discussing it though with Nic Pillegi at this point) but Post-Mean Streets, Raging Bull and his most recent film at this point was The Color of Money so he was hardly an unknown or director-in-need-of-attention. He was well established and, to top if off, for the writer of the music video (obviously not the song itself - that was Michael Jackson, but for the script that precedes the video) was no other than the writer of Sea of Love Richard Price. Price also managed to write many episodes alongside a man called David Simon recently, in a TV series called The Wire. Thats Sarcasm. I am a huge Wire fan.
What I reckon ...
You know Scorsese was hardly going to be able to bring the amount of depth and meaning to a Michael Jackson music video as he does in his own films - so you are not going to get any religious symbolism and Catholic iconography here - but you do get a little masculine-identity issues and some technicial correlations that could be discussed. First and foremost the sequence the precedes and follows is shot in black and white, similar to Raging Bull, I assume - if we were going to look 'deep' into the video, because the dream-like sequence shot in full colour with the dancing and completely-different 'bad' look of Jacksons is not what actually happens. Black and white is the real world, while the colour is - possibly mentally - what Jackson wants to express but until the last act, does not manage to explain.
Its an incredibly dark video too - we have references to theft, vandalism, drug dealing - and taking - and the constant problem of breaking free from poverty. Justified, we get no idea as to how 'Darryl' (Jackson) broke free from the 'dodgy' end of NYC, simply that his mother (Roberta Flack interestingly enough) clearly works exceptionally hard to support him (so she is not home when he gets back for the summer) and that he acknowledges this. He has begun to appreciate his life. He's not racist towards his classmates in the private school he attends, while they clearly are not racist towards him (then again, his skin by this point was so bleached maybe this is a difficult issue to discuss when talking about race and MJ...). They are proud of him, and accept his friendship - as we see on the train, while the shifty guy on the train who appears to be someone to fear, in fact only asks him about his pride - something that, I assume, can be detroyed in any area of society and, yet both agree in the sentiment: "Be the man". The question is, what is it to 'be the man'?
Its so upsetting to imagine how only a year - possibly within a year - after this was made, Jackson makes Moonwalker. Such a shame. Nevertheless, its not long before we meet friends of Darryl who clearly - without stating it directly - has issues about Darryls circumstances. He's in private education - there is no indication these men have even gone to school ("no school tomorrow? ha ha ha") and so you can see the conflict. Darryl is more intelligent, he has morals - he has a caring family who will do whatever they can to get him out of poverty - while his friends, including a young Wesley Snipes, clearly have very little of anything. They refer to him as 'joe-college', making sexual references, mocking his school friends and manipulating him when he makes any comment that implies his intelligence. You can feel how awkward it is. This is when it gets even more sinister as we see a drug deal - the four guys attempt to threaten the dealer who carries his own protection. We pan across their faces and Darryl despises what he is doing - but we see the other guys expressions too. While Darryl is out of his element, they are clearly in their element.
In leads to the obvious confrontation - Snipes reacts. All his friends turn on him - the pressure is physically and emotionally claustrophobic as the guys grab and challenge him, knocking down everything he and his family have worked for: "Are you bad? hm? or is that what they teach you up in that little sissy school of yours? How to forget who your friends are?". Darryl knows them, he cares - and he caves. Building himself up for one last 'bad' act. He plans to mug a civilian - but as soon as he see's that the civilian doesnt understand him at all, that this man is completely innocent, alarm bells ring. This whole sequence reminds me of The Godfather the pressure mounting parrallel with the train sounds getting louder - except instead of Michael Corleone shooting Solozzo, Darryl can't do it letting the man go. Snipes and co. get angry - Darryl tells him his thoughts: "If I ain't bad, you ain't nothin' - you ain't nothin!"
The music video itself is what it is - flawless dancing and choreography, dancers from a diverse background representing the range of cultures that are affected by poverty and, inevitably, crime. It is interesting to note that, as soon as this finishes, Snipes and Co. decide to back down on Darryl and as the camera pans back, he is alone again in his usual clothes. Clearly, Snipes' gang don't change their ways themselves - there is no indication that they even agree with Darryl as they walk away. Darryl is just on his own and they respect him for taking the opportunity he was given - fact is, Snipes' gang have not been given that opportunity and they clearly cannot stay friends with Darryl, hence their decision to walk away. Darryl is not 'one of them' anymore.
It is great that such dark themes are brought to the forefront, Jackson never shy's away from these society and worldwide issues, utilising his fame and influence to highlight them to the mass market. So many people claim MJ as inspirational - and people in horrendous domestic circumstances state how Jackson specifically is what got them out of crime and depression - seriously this is true. I would not be suprised that it was videos like this, like Man in the Mirror, like Stranger in Moscow and other inspirational videos that created such a personal link with fans. As fans we can look at his stories and understand - at a very young age - what opportunity is, what 'to-dream' is and how, ultimately, it is down to us (and not down to our parents or our circumstances) to dictate what to achieve.
Interesting info - If you listen to the lyric of the song, you can imagine it as a duet - apparently that was the original intention, whereby Jackson was to duet with Prince! How would that have sounded?
Sunday, 23 August 2009
The documentary, to some extent, is discussing what is Timothy Treadwells true reason for his summers with the bears. As a filmmaker, Treadwell manages to capture beauty - the fox playing on the top of the tent and then sitting outside, Treadwell tracking the chase following the playing in the grass, etc. Its fascinating this footage of the foxes - 'Ghost' and 'Spirit' - and if it wasn't for the majesty of the Grizzly bears, this footage alone could show a fascinating insight into nature. As Herzog states himself, it really is warm and comforting to watch these playful animals amongst nature.
One opinion he doesn't state is what he thinks of Treadwell's ex-girlfriend (opposed to the girlfriend who died alongside him). She is quietly reserved about her real personal connection to Treadwell - she was a girlfriend, she was an employee, etc - but did she like him? love him? did she fear when he was out in the summer? did she argue with him about the safety or the danger of he grizzly bears? or did she feel the same? We see her receiving the watch he wore - we even know how it was found, attached to a ripped-off arm, post bear-eating - and she wears it, amazed it still works. It simply feels like she perceives it as some sort of prize or something - I don't know how I'd feel if my ex-partner was eaten by a bear, but I feel that if I was given anything so attached to them I would simply break down - never having it captured on film and I sure as hell wouldn't wear the watch. Thats just me. Maybe she is a stronger woman.
Funnily enough, in a film rooted in archive footage we do have a few interesting film references. Notably when Treadwell wakes to find that, around his tent, are piles of rocks - one of which has a smiley face on (uh-oh, a wanring?). Two years after the release of The Blair Witch Project you would imagine he would get the reference but, alas, he does not. He even see's the message from the 'poachers' of 'see you next year' as some sort of threat - does it not just acknowledge his -and their - stance. As he will track and trace the Bears next year, they also will will track and do-what-they-do- next year. No 'warning', no threat - just a little joke.
The description of the final audio of both Timothy Treadwell and his girlfriend is referred to a fair few times - obviously it is exceptionally powerful, but it also explains to us how the situation was in highly moving detail. Treadwell being attacked first, while Amy tells the bear to 'go away!' standing loyal to Treadwell before being killed herself. Her death, many people - including people featured in the documentary - is the real tragedy. A woman who wasn't mad - crossing lines she knew she shouldn't cross. This woman even thought that Treadwell was "bent on self-destruction". Timothy Treadwell had demons in his closet - frustrations he vented through the camera akin to diary about the park itself and his trouble with women, etc. Amy did not want to appear on camera and was scared of the bears herself - is it possible that this choice to bring her along changed Treadwells composure and attitude - prompting the attack?
To close this (I need to write shorter reviews!), Treadwell regularly states throughout the documentary "I will die for these bears", and he was granted this wish. His final videos are clearly very eerie and, although he believes in his 'quest', you question whether he understood enough about himself and the bears, to want to fight against it so strongly.
Thursday, 20 August 2009
Does it need one? I mean, really? A title like Anti-Christ clearly provokes the viewer. Before I continue, its worth noting that this is the first [mock me indeed] Lars Von Trier film I have seen. I question whether it is a fair representation of him as a director ... but it is nevertheless my first. Not seen Dogville or Mandalay or (apparently a friends favourite ever film - Rachel) Dancer in the Dark. So, with no frame of reference, I rely on what I read to assist in my understanding of such a film. But as it is such an explicit and excessive film, with such, almost obsessive, links to raw emotion it inevitably is inspired by a very personal stance of Von Trier himself, rather than something attempting to top previous films. According to Catherine Wheatley [S&S, August 2009], he wrote this "during a period of severe depression", which backs up the exceptionally personal nature of this film. He was raised by atheist parents and feels that "Religion is a nasty business", while not being "a believer", but using the description of "a poor christian" to describe himself.
From what I know, the theme of "long-suffering women at the hands of a manipulative man" (Empire, August 2009) is something that appears often in von Triers work so it clearly links with his previous works - going against my assumption it may be on its own. So, I'm sure the more I watch other von Trier films, the more I will realise how apt this film is ... but I doubt I will re watch this film again, and that says nothing about the well-executed, scenic and spooky nature of the film, it just says what type of film I prefer to watch. Turns out, analysis of grief and suffering though extreme torture and sexual pain - inflicted on both sexes - is not my bag.
What I reckon ...
I'm going to praise the film. The first thing I told Jo as we left the cinema was that there was clearly nothing in the film unintended. Jo felt that it might have dragged in the middle a little bit, which I counter-argued, questioning whether there was anything that should have been taken out of it to speed it up - he, and I, didn't know. Everything was exceptionally framed, lit and planned and prepared. 'Well-executed' does not give the film justice, but it is what it is. If you want to explore the stages of mourning (lets list the stuff it tackles) -of death, suffering, pain, despair, sex, masculinity, femininity, good and evil, religion, Satan - censorship merely hides the truth of such emotions, effectively not giving the topics justice. The sense of destruction of oneself, of a fear of nature in man, whereby you want the audience to experience, to some extent, the horror of evil-nature, of destruction, you cannot expect to shy away from the explicit nature of such a theme.
For one, its not gratuitous - its not an exploitation film, it is an art form and respects these boundaries. This might be a shallow point to raise on something which, to be honest, the majority of film-goers, don't expect the latest Saw installment to be directed by Lars Von Trier. This is not that type of horror - it is psychological, personal and considerate of the audience. The scenes of horror we do see are planned, prepared and controlled. We begin with a prologue, showing the death of Nick - the child of 'his' (Dafoe) and 'her's (Gainsborough) child. The child falls out of a window while the two have sex in the shower. The whole experience is shot in black and white with the Phantom Camera that captures the drops of water from the shower and snow from the sky so carefully it forces you to see every slight movement as a separate art piece unto itself (though the clerk who cleared my tickets said it reminded him of a Marks and Sparks advert ... hmmm ...). Every sequence is introduced by 'Epilogue', 'Chapter 1' etc, painted by an abstract artist by the name of Per Kirkeby - emphasizing that it is first and foremost a work of Art, and not all art is something you put up on your wall (or in this case, own on DVD).
Interestingly, I have recently watched Herzog's Grizzly Man, whereby one part Herzog disagrees with Treadwell (the tragic victim of the bears) was how Treadwell ignored the horror and destructiveness of nature. The 'chaos' and lack of 'harmony' in nature is what Herzog strongly believes in - and clearly this horror is the spine of Anti-Christ, and what von Trier also believes.
Going against what I stated earlier - about the film being what the director intended - there was one part which, though Jo and I sat quietly though, the whole cinema burst into laughter. Dafoe, in the process of coaching his wife through the mourning process, stumbles across animals, mothers in most cases, having killed their young: a deer with the semi-born fawn hanging out of the deer itself, etc. In one case he sees a fox, that appears to eat its own womb, look to him and speak: "Chaos Reigns". Apparently, there is a sense of irony in von Triers work (something I missed completely in this) and maybe this is an example of that, but it broke down the amount of involvement the audience had with the film up to this point. Was that a flaw in von Triers film? I would have to ask if laughter was what he expected from that section ... then again, I imagine von Trier does not expect anything from his audience, making the film for the sake of art itself.The film finishes as Dafoe walks down the hill - having been tortured, pierced by a sharp implement, crawling into a cave, whereby the rock fell to shut it, then - you could say - he was 'resurrected' and manages to walk away. Remind you of anyone? Dafoe played the role himself too! Nevertheless, as he walks away, he walks past a mass of women walking up a hill. I imagine this relates to the evil woman he has just killed, does not link with all the other women with no evil desires. One interesting choice of word is exceptionally interesting. Dafoe's character is attempting to work out what Gainsborough fears - and by tackling the fear - she can move past this point of grieving. He considers that her fear is 'nature' (which to some extent it is) but crosses it out, writing 'Satan' (which to some extent it is), and then - upon realising that she was purposefully placing the wrong shoes on her sons feet (to the point that he had a deformity in his feet recognised on the autopsy) its not a completely impossible assumption that she was content with letting her son kill himself (which, in flashbacks, we see was the case). He crosses out her fear of 'Satan', realising what she truly fears is "Me", before smashing Dafoe round the back of the head, knocking him to the ground. My automatic assumption was that it is her definition of herself - labelled as "Me" - that was what he felt she feared. Clarifying the hatred she began to believe following her research into witches and 'evil-women' she researched when last in Eden, that she now believed she was. But, she hated and despised Dafoe too - so the choice of word "Me", verbalised by Dafoe himself, might imply that to some extent she feared him. Throughout the film she resents him and his arrogance and pride - and his psychiatrist-mode and therapeutic measures do nothing to change this opinion. Thus she attempts to destroy him, who she believes is some sort of Satan - natures man. Just an interesting side point.
Nevertheless, the non-innocent part in her child's death voids all the progress and therapy her husband attempts to 'help her' with. She thinks she is to blame, he tells her she is not. But he is wrong, because she is to blame. She is actually evil, akin to the witch women she researched when in Eden previously. Dafoe constantly tries to help her, but his self-satisfied attitude hinders any progress - she does tell him that it is recommended that patients must never be your partner, and yet he thinks he is better than that and this is the consequence, confirming her belief in his god-like attitude: controlling, creating ("I'm going to teach you to breath" - can he give her life?), etc.
Food for thought I think. I'll stop going over all of it - because there are bound to be bits which are completely wrong. Oh, before the conclusion - Art references, Hieronymous Bosch and all the bodies in the woods, naked and in foetus position. William Blake in the tone and portrayal of a Satanic-like presence. And, I considered not saying it, but the yellow jacket of Gainsborough, the sitting on the porch of a victorian-ish, old cabin did remind me of The Village ... I'm sorry, it did, and all you Shyamalan haters will hate the comparison.
It is a dark-subject, and the raw emotions it explores require visceral, vivid detail to relate the horror and pain to the audience but I question whether this is the type of thing I personally enjoy and, to push this further, I am dubious about the audience members who 'enjoyed' (is that the right word?) the film, people who will buy and, akin to me watching my favourite film many times, they would do the same with Anti-Christ. Surely if, genital mutilation and destruction is what you want from a film then there must be deep-rooted issues you have not faced. By extension, maybe this means that i do not condone such a film. The irony is, as a fan of the torture-porn genre (to some extent, by no means a professional) I feel like the completely OTT horror, fairground-ride nature of, say, the Saw films, somehow makes the films that much more palatable. So, when guy saws his foot off - you know its a prop, you know its fun and games and then you can laugh about it afterwards. While, with Anti-Christ I was so engrossed with the actors and the story itself that by the time we see her visual destruction o her femininity, I literally could not watch and had to quickly turn as the scissors cut. Jo said he forced himself to watch it - and that was what was expected of me, I guess. We don't make films so people turn away at the first opportunity of horror. It's a cheap shot comparing Saw with Anti-Christ - and I do apologise for it. I do not compare the acting, the directing, the cinematography - in fact anything and everything structurally is hugely superior in Anti-Christ. I merely discuss the nature of censorship and violence in cinema - fact is, nothing like this appeared before 2000. Apparently Irreversible raises the same type of concerns... and, as I said, I hope I never see this film again. But Irreversible is highly acclaimed ...
Listening to a radio interview on The Guardian podcast and Lars von Trier gives a great analogy - that he also stated at a press conference, possibly in Cannes - whereby he does not feel any need to justify his work, let alone justification of himself. He states how, as an artist, he has created something that you are a guest to - a party, however sick, - that you are invited to. The invite in and of itself is not a bad thing, so - in that sense - I assume he intends to state that, therefore, the justification in his actions are unneccessary. Interesting point.
Tuesday, 18 August 2009
Straight off the bat we have problem with this song. First off, we have two videos - both directed by Spike Lee - but it begs the question (which I shall try and answer) about why two and, the lesser seen video, is not seen so much. Michael Jackson sure does court controversy but its often brought upon by himself. If you write a song about injustice - people are going to have a problem with it. It happens so often whereby people get into heaps of 'controversy' because, to show pure and morally sound perspectives, it is neccessary to show ugly and immoral perspectives to contrast the argument with.
It is also worth noting that the 'Prison' version of the video I had never seen prior to this week. So, to think that I, as a pretty big fan, was not aware of a music video of Michael Jackson is pretty shocking. Either the makers did not push the video as much or I am actually not a big fan of MJ ... I think its the former.
Rio De Janiero Video
SummaryThis is a very run-of-the-mill video to some extent: Singer sings along, no narrative, lots of dancing, etc. But on the other side of things, it is actually quite groundbreaking. MJ constantly reiterates his view to the police on the streets - shoving his hand in their face, [it looks like] he is swearing at them and they do no respond. Clearly uninterested in his view. They don't care about him. The percussion is different to the music in the song as rather than a very solid-beat, we have 200 drummers, drumming in time perfectly. This drumming continues after the song itself has finished and we see over a minute of flawless cultural brazilian music.
What I reckon...This has to be one of my favourite music videos by Michael Jackson. Seriously - over 'Bad' and 'Thriller'. I can appreciate how it has not got the complexity and cinematic value of other videos, but as a music video, it looks and sounds stunning. Its more the song I think - which for obvious reasons - makes any visuals look better. The best part of the song is the beat that, as we pan over hundreds of drummers, simply adds to the force that the beat is supposed to emanate.
The vivid colours and beautiful setting of the faeva in Brazil simply adds to this cultural and angry video. Apparently, there was a huge problem with filming in this location - whereby the Brazilian government were concerned about how MJ highlighting the poverty in Brazil would affect their chances of holding the Olympics. It truly is suprising that they felt like that becaue the video appears to - on one side with the song lyrics itself - highlight human injustic that not only affects Brazil but many other parts of the world, but also manages to show the beauty of Brazil. The panning shot of Christ the Redeemer at the start simply looks stunning - and the children singing and dancing simply adds to the cultural traditions of this country. We jump from the ignorance of the police -an important point - when Michael dances, to Michael dancing in the street - prompting fans to run out and hug him, not so important.
On the flip side to this, a friend of mine (shout out to Richard B) noted how the video is hardly a 'Spike-Lee-Joint'. You don't see credits written on signs or clear signifiers of human brutality - and this is true. But then, when you watch the second video for this song, you realise where Spike Lee's direction becomes clear. This first video with its brilliant percussion is what we see the most and makes us want to dance and move ourselves, while the second video actually angers, frustrates and upsets you ...Prison Video
Michael is in a cell, with TV's surrounding him, 'broken' into the wall. The film is interspersed with human rights violations from across the world and then mixes this up with men in jail, banging on the table - rocking the screen and room with their anger - as they punch the sky in time and bang on the tables. It truly is a work of real Art.
What I reckon ...
This second video begins with a child coverng their eyes - ignoring the brutality of the world. As the music beat starts we see CCTV footage of riots, whereby police use brute force on the people. We hear children ad toddlers crying as they sit alone, covered in garbage, we see Tank man in Tianamen Square and we see footage of assasination attempts and the KKK. This is before we see MJ himself, in a cell, with the footage we have just watched surrounding him. He is in the middle of all of this violence and horror.The lyric - which on this version of the song, you become accutely aware of - is filled with anger an aggression. Amongst the lines are the following lines: "You rapin' me of my pride/Oh, for Gods sake" and "I'm tired of bein' the victim of shame/ They're throwing me in a class with a bad name" and so it goes on. (Seriously, check out the lyrics: http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/michaeljackson/theydontcareaboutus.html)
This is a song about the divide in society - how people are ignored, beaten and -ultimately - not given their human rights because of their race. There was a huge uproar when the song was released with the lines used in the song "sue me, jew me" and "kick me, kike me, don't you black or white me". These slurs or use of race as an insult is what the song is trying to highlight - Jackson isn't ignoring the issue he is putting it out there for all to see. The song is 'They don't really care about us' and through people ignoring what actually happens - rarely showing the video and censoring the lyric (which is what happened), in my opinion, it seems, people don't want to swallow the pill. Human rights are violated in a number of ways, but we ignore it.In the face of such abuse, how much are people expected to go through before they snap - Will me, thrill me/You can never kill me", even though Roosevelt and Martin Luther King, years before, attempted to stop such out-and-out racism, it still exists. You notice all the moves of the prisoners are all linked in frustration, anger, and sadness and then when the - how do I put this - 'rock-bit' kicks in, rather than have some fan hug Michael Jacksn (as in Rio De Janiero), it shots Michael Jackson spinning while we clearly see shots behind him, and it cuts away to, shots or violence and racism, Vitenam, Civil Rights protests - am I right for thinking that its Rosa Parks in one shot? - and it really is shocking.
As the song builds up - we see hands reaching through fire for freedom - we see the guards in the prison intimidated, we see prisoners holding their hand up, in protest. The video ends as we see Jackson run through the streets of Rio de Janeiro and we move back to the other video ...It is shocking to think that this video is 14 years old and yet these things still happen. In Northern Ireland, only recently, Romanian immigrants houses were burnt down. This was in the last six months. Such a brilliant video and director, such a brilliant song and performer - and such an important issue.
Sunday, 16 August 2009
Its all a little messed up to be honest. I watched this a while ago and came away feeling non-plussed. I think the idea of an antichrist is clearly a great idea for a movie, while practically having an actor effective as the antichrist is something different. Probably why the film rests on Gregory Peck's shoulders, and even Damien - the antichrist - needs a nanny to fight off the good guys.
Now, maybe its rooted in some fascinating back-story and history - akin to the history of Dracula and Frankenstein, but I have a funny feeling its not. I mean, 666. Yeah, we get it - the number of the devil. "Born on the the 6th of the 6th of 1966" at 6.06am. Just because you can't do 6.66am. Or maybe you can. he is the antichrist.
As mentioned in the introduction - it wasn't particularly new. Exorcist and Don't Look Now was years before this, so you know it was a product of the new kids-as-evil craze that was sweeping through Hollywood so you have to ask yourself the question - what was so special about this one, because, honestly, I'm not too sure. Its a boy for one - alot of the pre-pubescent girls-who-are-possessed/evil often have some subtext of girls growing up and all that puberty stuff. Exorcist is a prime example, while this is a boy possessed since birth. The horrors are visual also - impaling on a church fence and the dogs, which are adds to the fear factor, but I felt it was all a bit horror-by-numbers and, alas, I am in an awkwards position because I don't know exactly the context it was released within in '76 as I was not born for another four years. maybe there is something about modern day outlook (London) versus traditional, religious outlook (Rome/Vatican). aith was beginning to be less important in society in the seventies, so these little digs at Catholocism might be a product of that - how technology (photography) is, bit-by-bit, making us ignore the real question of faith.
I can't knock the score by Jerry Goldsmith - but it hardly beats The Exorcist now, does it? The little gander I have had of other materials claims that it got more credability because it is played as a Thriller (hmmm...) and that the sequence of the lady hanging herself, happy-as-larry ("this is all for you Damien") is indeed, messed up and can't be really topped by other horrors.
Nevertheless, I have a funny feeling that the franchise this spawned, combined with the notion of a 'Damien/antichrist' tag (To the point that Only Fools and Horses references it) used in pop culture has given us the impression that this film is important to the canon of cinema - or at the very least of horror, when in fact, it just happened to benefit from publicity it didn't ask for.
Friday, 14 August 2009
Now I am a huge Michael Jackson fan, and this is his only 'feature length' movie (I am not gonna count films like Men In Black 2 because that was just a cameo) so it is inevitable that I bought, watched and, consequently, review this title. I will come back to the music-video reviews I explained I would do ... but this does not fall in the three, lesser known, music-videos I said I would discuss. Nevertheless, Moonwalker does have some stunning sequences in and so it is worth a once-over at the very least.
What I reckon ...
Okay. There are two ways to describe this film: "Influenced by directors as diverse as Paul Verhoevan, Carol Reed and Robert Zemeckis - alongside Pop Art influences - comes Moonwalker" or I could describe it as "a mish-mash of incoherant stories that have no background, connection or depth to even qualify as a feature-legth film - it might as well come free with the Bad music album". The 'story' - if you could call it that - was by Michael Jackson. You can imagine it: "then spiders and then, then, then I turn into a car ... and then I turn into a robot and shoot him away... and, and, and the bad guy is a Joe Pesci-like drug lord... etc". Any sense is not applied - you coould call it 'surreal'. I'd call it random. "From the imagination of Michael Jackson, comes a movie like no other" - indeed.
Interestingly, there are some great influences - mainly taken from 80's movies - that may have played a part. The whole robot-thing seems very Robocop-esque (1987 was its release date ... so, it might be too close to call...), while the Michael-Jackson-car speeds off leaving a trail of fire akin to the Delorean in Back to the Future (1985...) and - to top it off - the colours, music and general sense of wonder we are expected to have when the Michael-Jackson-spaceship flies off into the night recall E.T. (one of MJ's favourite films apparently), when E.T. goes back home. I think, because it is so obvious, it takes the edge off of any credability that could be given. Nevertheless, the whole Smooth Criminal story is very separate to the rest of the film - bookended by live performances of Man in the Mirror and Come Together, and music videos of Leave me Alone and Speed Demon (Directed by Will Vinton, it is a very strange Roger Rabbit inspired sequence whereby live-action mixes with stop-go-motion creatures). That is not to say some inspirations go unfounded -its clear the film-noir style of the Smooth Criminal and the tilted cameras come from Carol Reed's The Third Man and - lets be honest - the dancing sequence inside Club 30 is up there as one of the top Michael Jackson dance sequences and that gives the entire movie a higher-quality - the fact that the sequence is preceded by what must be ten minutes of 'chasing', torches and shooting, for no clear reason does hamper the film.
To close, it is worth noting how impressive the music-video for Leave Me Alone is. It is directed by Jim Blashfield (not Jerry Kramer or Colin Chilvers interestingly enough...) and shows Michael trying to escape dog-press people on a fairground ride. He rides through all the gossip, rumours and newspaper articles that spiralled out of control after Thriller so it features references to the Elephant Man, Elizabeth Taylor (footage from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof) and the cryogenic-freezing chamber. The whole thing reminded me of Richard Hamiltons Pop Art pieces - using collage to make up an entire image - or in this case - a video. The video ends with Jackson emerging from the theme park - and akin to Gulliver in Gullivers Travels he breaks free from the 'chains' of entertainment that restricted him before. The i-hate-the-press song has been done by Michael Jackson on his Invincible album, with the song Privacy. Even Britney Spears has her own i-hate-the-press song on the album released post-baldness. Something about 'You want a piece of me', etc. But, thi video shows Michael completely mocking them and their goals - he laughs and dances in what he believes is complete fun and games. he doesn't take them seriously and, it is clear, that as much as he hates them, at this point in his career he gt frustrated but understood their neccessity. But he still wants them to go: Leave Me Alone, he cries ... and, they never did.
Interestingly, the video to Leave Me Alone was the only video from Bad that got a Grammy award. In fact it was the only Grammy Award given for the Bad album.
Wednesday, 12 August 2009
Monday, 10 August 2009
Saturday, 8 August 2009
To be honest I only knew about this from the coverage in the film magazines and, ultimately, the winner of Best Documentary at the 81st Academy Awards. Strangely enough, my Uncle only recently bought it and was singing its praises and - regular commenter Jo - watched it at the cinema (possibly twice... but don't quote me on that). I'm always wary about documentaries. I keep track of the 'important' ones on the cards - but I am hardly going to make records of the snippet 'making of's on DVD's. Or the Rihanna music video I happened to watch on MTV. Or the rubbish programme I happened to catch on BBC1. But, this one has some credibility so I thought, well, why not - and believe me, I have a few things to say about documentaries by Michael Moore or the visual feast that is Waltz with Bashir and hopefully, their time will come.
What I reckon ...
To summarise, we are tracking Phillippe Petit - a wire-walker - who managed to set-up and walk in between the twin towers in the seventies. The film jumps between the documentary talking-heads talking about the day itself and then flashes back to archive footage showing the young Petit wire-walking in between the Notre Dame and a big bridge in Sydney, Australia. Its based on a book Petit wrote called To Reach the Clouds, and so he is credited as writing the documentary also. He truly is a fascinating character - and his passion and desire forces itself through the TV and onto you, so that you personally feel incredibly excited about this prospect of walking between these two giants.
The coverage of his childhood - following the opening - is truly inspiring. We see a blurry, black and white reconstruction of when Petit first knew about the twin towers being built. It was his destiny to walk in between them - and this in itself, he felt, was fascinating, because they were not even built! The documentary cuts between Petit himself narrating this destiny-dentist visit, while also showing the twin towers themselves being built. His concentration and passion for circus-skills (unicycling and juggling, etc) leads, inevitably, to tightrope walking and wire-walking. This seamless editing is down to Jinx Godfrey whose work, because it is so seamless, can easily be unacknowledged - but it is a credit to him that the documentary flows so fluidly. We even see actual footage of Petit walking across the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris - opposed to the lack of film-footage of him crossing the twin towers (whereby their are many pictures, all shown in this documentary!)
It also tracks his relationship with Annie Allix - a relationship that ended soon after he crossed the twin towers. She held him and supported him through his life - and we see beautiful footage of her holding Petit across a tightrope. He mentions how, post-twin towers, he slept with a different woman - "pleasure of the flesh". I have a funny feeling that this was the nail in the coffin of their relationship.
The documentary is so well made that all the technological factors all assist in telling a smooth story - they use reconstructions, talking-heads, archive footage, etc - and yet you know the footage which is real (colour, dated) from the conscious choice of blurry, can't-see-their-faces footage that is used for the reconstructions. The one aspect, which I was aware of prior to watching this was that the finale solely relied on photographs - not film footage. I have to admit that I felt that it would be difficult to get me tense about something that is still - while the beauty, I felt, was in his movement. By the time we reach this point in the film, you are thoroughly aware of his movement and his characteristics - so the subtle layering of the sound of commotion of NYC far below the twin towers while we see the footage makes you feel as if you are watching something truly beautiful. They set everything up so perfectly.
Petit claims that the beauty is how what he is doing is 'framed by death' - you are in awe because you know the slightest lack of concentration and he's gone. This is what makes the documentary so fascinating - every time you see him balancing you see that concentration and beautiful balance.
Quick note - Michael Nyman composed the majority of the music, but it did just sound like a bulk of music taken from a 'Classical Chillout' CD - indeed Nyman's 'The Piano' score often features on these albums - so the addition of Erik Satie tracks did nothing but confirm my feelings.
Thursday, 6 August 2009
Tuesday, 4 August 2009
I mentioned Wesley Snipes role - its quite funny really, because his role is incredibly small but, in my opinion, is pivotal. His character is Thomas Flanigan and - as mentioned in the cops wedding sequence - he is one of very few (if any) African American cops and this is mocked by both Jimmy Jump and his cronies. One sequence when Jump manages to squeeze his way out of any arrest -an arrest that was humiliating and overblown managed to be squashed very quickly by Walkens top-end lawyers. CSI-cop spits in Jimmy's face. He wipes it off. But Snipes just stares at him - you question how much Jimmy cares but you can see the anger and frustration in Snipes face. Something that spitting-Caruso will never understand. It nevertheless evens the score - as humiliating as Jimmys arrest was and being spat in the face, Jimmy completely mocking the justice system and mocking Snipes position in the force was far more humiliating for Snipes himself. While discussing the race representation in the film, Walken himself is one of the very few white criminals - within a gangs of African-americans, Chinese, Columbians, Italians, etc. This racial divide gives Walken - by far the worst criminal of them all - the opportunity to not only mix within the underground groups but also the upper-class politicians and congressmen and women (to the point that a top-class female lawyer he goes out with represents him and his clients - wilfully, he even reduces her up-class status, as he has a quick fondle of her on the train, in the subway. Could she get more underground?), therefore gaining a political prescence in the city.
The irony is in the finale - his 'gang' and business is not wiped out. In fact, it is quite clear that they inevitably continued. Hence my choice of rank's words at the top of this overview. The unit deovted to catching Frank White are all wiped out. Two killed in a failed ambush that, in itself, was illegal and showed how corrupt the NYC police were, another killed at the funeral for the previously mentioned dead cops. (Frank pulls up in a limo, shotgun out, bang - killed). The last one is the only one with some sort of dignity. Frank has the power to get into his apartment and tell him his stance - as a businessman - then leaves under the assumption that he will stay out of his way. But he decides not to - appearing on the train Frank has got on for a showdown. Remember the cops are portrayed as di*kheads and, consequently, rank sprays him up with bullets and, in response, the cop manages to squeeze out one bullet.
We see Frank stumble away - was he shot? he see's the commotion of the streets and gets into a taxi. We see he's been shot in the belly. The music starts up as we see brilliant crane shots over all the New York cars residing around this one taxi ... the police surround the taxi. He drops his gun. He's dead. Alone in a taxi. I assume the point is that this one last cop - a decent man who was in no part of the failed attack on Franks crack-house - was the one that succeeded in their mission to catch him. Bishop (Victor Argo) is the cops name and he clearly is aware of the problem in the city and, to some extent, doesnt care anymore - its gone to far. The film lacks any hope for the future and this is merely pointing out the flaws in the legal system and the power of criminals and in this way, on a much smaller scale, it has themes which are similar to The Wire. A programme which, ultimately, is superior to King of New York, showing every side to the very complex story of crime, law and justice. If anything, it is this in comparison to The Wire that shows how TV is a better medium to present stories through.
Quickly - in Michael Jacksons music video to You Rock My World, Marlon Brando shows up as some Godfather-esque bad guy. When MJ first see's him, he says "bang bang" in a very similar tone to Walken as he leaves Bishops house. Maybe all of Brando's lines in that music video are taken form kick-ass Gangster films ... it would make sense whether this was referenced or whether, more likely, it is simply coincidence.