OCCASIONALLY, MY BRAIN PLAYS ROLEY-POLEYS.

It’s not unusual: you watch one movie, and realise just how perfectly a line from that movie would fit into another movie. So, you know, you download an image, and open it with Paint, and, you know…… right?

Anyway, I was washing the dishes, and my mind was wandering, and that’s how the first one happened. And then I was watching The Untouchables, and I was getting bored (it really hasn’t aged well), and my mind was wandering……. and anyway, it amuses me, and there’s bound to be more, I’ll post ’em as they happen, ‘k?

‘K.

Continue reading “OCCASIONALLY, MY BRAIN PLAYS ROLEY-POLEYS.”

RUTGER HAUER. 2019. OF COURSE.

I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.

Let’s be honest: it’s the greatest death soliloquy in cinema. Delivered by Roy Batty, the hero (YES, HE IS!) of my favourite movie, and classic SF dystopia, Blade Runner. Now the actor who delivered it, who created it as perhaps the most brilliant ad-lib ever devised, has died. 2019. The year of Blade Runner. The year Batty died.

Of course.

Continue reading “RUTGER HAUER. 2019. OF COURSE.”

10 MOVIES, 10 DAYS: A NIGHT AT THE OPERA

A Night At The Opera

Oh, God. How to describe the impact the Marx Brothers have had on my psyche? You know that thing where my first reaction to everything you have to say is a wisecrack? You know how I’ve had three sons, and if they’re within five feet of me you have to keep telling me to stop rough-housing with them? You know how, every now and again, I tell you that it made sense to me? That it’s not my fault if people can’t keep up? That I’m only here to amuse myself, and everyone else is only watching?

Yeah. That.

Continue reading “10 MOVIES, 10 DAYS: A NIGHT AT THE OPERA”

10 MOVIES, 10 DAYS: DOCTOR STRANGELOVE

Strangelove

Art should never be comfort food. It should always challenge, undermine, rebel, and otherwise find apple carts to upset. And while humour can be a reassuring reinforcement of your thought patterns, I’ve always been drawn to a rather black variation of the form.

Doctor Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, to give it its stupidly full title, is a deliciously uncomfortable viewing experience. It is absurdism writ large and painful, cut so close to the cultural bone that future archaeologists will take it as proof of cannibalism. It is, in many ways, Stanley Kubrick’s misanthropic masterpiece, and the perfect exploration of his working habits– every scene, every moment, cut and recut until they are pared down to their very minimum; no fat, no blether; simply distilled, pure, predatory, poison. It’s all tied together, of course, by the pitch-perfect performances of George C Scott, Sterling Hayden, Slim Pickens, and the never-better Peter Sellers.

I never quite cut it as a stand-up comedian. I couldn’t bring myself to pitch my material at the heart of the beer-and-knob-gags crowd that populated Perth’s evenings, and late in my career I developed a case of the performance yips that sunk me completely. And movies like this were partly to blame– perhaps, had I been less in love with Kubrick’s acidic perfectionism, and more a fan of, well, Porky’s…… but as an artist of a different stripe, the beautiful turns of phrase, the sublime juxtapositioning of elements, the obsessionally fierce holding to point of view and narrative voice, all have been part of my artistic education. And, just as importantly, this movie remains a sublime and simply magnificent slice of perfection, more than 50 years after the possibilities with which it concerns itself have reached their first-run nadir.

It’s still the War Room, and you still can’t fight here.

 

10 MOVIES, 10 DAYS: YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN

Young Frankenstein

For a period of my teenage years, Mel Brooks was the funniest man alive. I was, and remain, an unabashed fan of his off-color, utterly inappropriate humour. Blazing Saddles, Spaceballs, Robin Hood: Men in Tights, The Producers, Silent Movie, History of the World Part One, To Be or Not To Be…… they make me snort with unrestrained, childish glee.

Young Frankenstein is something better. It’s everything Brooks’ other best films are: funny, scatalogical, sexual (Madeline Kahn was an early, intense, crush), nonsensical, and absurd. But it also shows a deep love for its source material, in a way that most of hos other parodies don’t. And it is also very, very clever. It can be argued, with some success, that the central trio of talent involved– Brooks, Gene Wilder, and Marty Feldman– were never in better form, certainly never better together. And the whole thing just hangs together so beautifully.

For most of my career I’ve been a speculative fiction writer, but the label has sat uneasily upon me. I’ve been open about it– I like being a spec fic writer, but I didn’t set out to be one. I set out to be a writer. No prefix. I’m fascinated by artists who transcend their prime activity, by polymaths, by people who aspire to break out of their artistic restraints.

Young Frankenstein stands out. It’s a sign of artists investing in something so deeply that they transcend their surrounding ouvre. In many moments within the film, their investment transcends the material itself. It’s funny, it’s anarchic, it’s everything you want in a Mel Brooks film… and then it’s a bit more. For an artist who has failed more often than he has succeeded in transcending his own ouvre, it’s an education.

And it’s still fucking hilarious.

Blucher!

 

10 MOVIES, 10 DAYS: HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER

High Plains Drifter

There’s some damn weird shit going on here. A stranger rides into an isolated town, rapes one of the local women, bullies the local businessmen, shoots folk, and generally terrorises the townspeople until they hire him to protect them from three Very Bad Men ™ who are returning to cause mayhem after a stint in the pokie. In response, he anoints a dwarf as Sheriff, orders the townspeople to paint every building bright red and rechristen the town ‘Hell’, and sets out a giant picnic using every scrap of food the town has to spare……

High Plains Drifter is not your average western. It’s a metaphysical rumination on the nature of evil, and the deals that marginally-honest people will make to keep hold of power. It’s downright spiritual. It operates on multiple levels at once, taking a brutalist approach to themes of betrayal, power dynamics, and heroism. It is, at once, both repellent and utterly fascinating. Its surface layer is skin thin– the expendable loner versus the trio of obvious baddies– like High Noon seen in a fun house mirror. But the surface narrative is simply the delivery medium: what’s really being discussed here is something far deeper, and far more insidious.

Clint Eastwood has always been a master filmmaker, and his record as a total jerk of a human being is also well established. High Plains Drifter is a nearly-perfect vehicle for him– a psychological examination of extreme viewpoints, in which innocence is seen as weakness and the only strength comes from a toxic masculinity that eats the person wielding it, even as it reinforces the might-makes-right conservatism that we know is central to Eastwood’s world view. It is no simple western. It is a brilliant western, and its brilliance lies in the fact that its brilliance as a western is almost entirely irrelevant to its brilliance as a truly weird psychological horror story.

It’s a jaw-dropping piece of cinematic wonder, and I find myself returning to it on a regular basis, just to watch in awe as it remorselessly unfolds its weirdness. It is a perfect lesson in character development, and how to build a narrative from nothing but rotten materials.

 

 

10 MOVIES, 10 DAYS: THE GENERAL

The General

The General is a stunningly funny film. Thing is, I didn’t realise that until the third time I watched it. The first time, I spent the whole experience with my jaw hovering just above my ankles. The second, with my face pressed up against the screen as I spent my time trying to work out how. The third time was the one where I could sit back, relax, and take in just what an unbelievable genius Buster Keaton was.

And a lifelong fascination was born.

Continue reading “10 MOVIES, 10 DAYS: THE GENERAL”