Archive for February, 2010

Dogville

February 28, 2010

I once videoed Lars Von Trier’s Dogville off the TV. Never watched it. Here is my review:

Is there any symbol of Hollywood’s decadence, any totem of its brainless overexhaustion of every cinematic cliché, any example of its fake-assed, phoney-bosomed artifice more potent than the wall or ceiling? Even the decent Hollywood films are ruined by the distracting presence of these architectural abominations. How are we supposed to focus on Kowalski’s proud Polish face in A Streetcar named Desire when in every scene a wall or ceiling leers into shot, hogging the screen with its offensive horizontalness or verticalness? How can we enjoy the shadowy copulations of Tom Cruise and his flight instructor in Top Gun while ever these loathsome sheets of absurdity hover in the background? ‘Why’, as Laurence Olivier once exclaimed, ‘must I put up with this fucking shit?’

One director stands apart. His name is Lars Von Crinklehorn Von Buckleathon Von Frumpstein Von Trier (He was christened Lars Trier but his peers at film school gave him the nickname ‘Lars Von Crinklehorn Von Buckleathon Von Frumpstein Von Trier’ for a number of reasons too European to repeat). Von Trier, as a member of the Dogme circle of directors, vowed to remove all unnecessary ornaments from film, beginning with the despised ‘wall-ceiling matrix’, as he and his fidgeting foreign friends referred to it.

Hence it is that Dogville features no walls or ceilings. If Von Trier would have had his way, it wouldn’t have featured floors either, but he relented after Nicole Kidman astutely commented ‘Oi cahn’t flipping floi’. With the walls and ceilings went all natural or unnatural lighting, coherent sentences, clothes, bodily movements and camera shots. In the masterful fingers of Von Trier, cinema was stripped down to its very essentials.

Hollywood was so enraged by these subversive innovations that it tried to assassinate Von Trier. But ‘you can’t kill a ghost’, as Von Trier remarked from beneath a white sheet, seemingly in an attempt to convince his would-be murderers that he was some kind of avant-garde European phantasm and not just a bog-standard, flesh-and-blood Dane.

Von Trier wanted to take this minimalism to its logical extreme and chop off all of Kidman’s limbs and her delicate Australian tongue, but Kidman, after consulting her agents, decided not to go through with it. Luckily for Von Trier, his next leading lady, Charlotte Gainsbourg was more committed to her craft, and let Von Trier set savagely about her unmentionables as might a jittery Edward Scissorhands on prom night.

Dogville, however, features none of the spirited smashwanking and knackerbashing of Antichrist. It is a well-informed meditation on something depressing that I couldn’t quite make out. It shows us that Lars Von Trier has not always had to rely on mutital genitation and other spicy parlour tricks in order to convey a powerful message powerfully.

If you liked this film you might also like: ‘Wrongo in the Congo’, ‘Santa Buys a Flugelhorn’, ‘Stepmom’ and ‘Fuzzy Peaches’.

Working Titles 3

February 27, 2010

Here are some more working titles, pasted from the comments section of the two previous Working Titles posts, where they languished in undeserved obscurity. I’ve indicated the authors at the end of each entry. BF = Banjo Fett (or Boglin Fist), PR =Pariah Rustbucket (or Perpendicular Ruffian), SE = Spicy Eggnog (or Snaggletoothed Empress). Spicy Eggnog is the latest addition to the Agoraphobic Reviewer hive-mind. We should be treated to one of his ponder-pieces very soon, provided he can get off his indolent, gopher-groping haunches and write something. In the meantime, you can read about his adventures in Scandinavia and his own mind at the Fiskepudding Chronicles.

Last Tango in Paris = Butter My Love (BF)

Back to the Future = How I Nearly Did My Mom (BF)

The Neverending Story = The Story Without End (BF)

The Neverending Story II: The Next Chapter = The Story Without End, Part II (BF)

The Neverending Story III: The Escape From Fantasia = The End of the Story Without End (BF)

2001: A Space Odyssey = 2001: A Space Iliad (PR)

Dances with Wolves = Shuffling Gopher Grope (SE)

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button = The Intriguing Instance of Zebediah Zip-Fastening (PR)

Who Framed Roger Rabbit = The Bunny Boiler (PR)

Up = Down (PR)

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope = The Daring Adventures of Young Captain Lazer-Sword (BF)

The Sixth Sense = The Ghostly Detective (BF)

Se7en = I’ve Gone and Done It Again! (BF)

Toy Story = Child’s Play 4 (BF)

Love, Actually

February 27, 2010

I might have seen Love, Actually. But if I had I wouldn’t admit it to you of all people. Here is my review of Love, Actually:

Pull a turnip out of a fallout field. If you can, select the stubbliest hunk of irradiated fibre. Cover it in sequins. Remove the heart from the chest cavity of a toad that died of ennui. Pin it to the turnip. Creep home before your paramour finishes work. Attach it to the light fittings in your living room and set it a-twirling. Bang! When your partner gets home they will find a beautiful Valentine’s Day Glitter Ball spangling and spinning as if from the very heavens: a heartfelt token of your affection and esteem.

Or buy your partner Love, Actually. There are, after all, many ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day. But you’d better hurry up and choose one sharpish: Valentine’s day is only 352 days away!

The title of ‘Love, Actually’ mimics the tendency of British people to use redundant mincing adverbials in their plum-cheeked speech. Walk down any turnpike in ye olde Albione and you will invariably encounter a variation on at least one of the following expressions: ‘Uhhh, it’s the Magna Carta, actually’; ‘He handled the Suez Canal crisis tolerably, actually’; ‘The tea party went swimmingly, actually, but the bombing raid actually went terribly horribly, actually’; ‘He isn’t the actual Chancellor, actually, he’s just a bumpkin with a nose for danger and mean left hook’.

British people are world-renowned for the high regard in which they hold their own capacity for self-effacement, their British irony, and their tiny penises. I should know, I’m one of them, and I’m pretty much the most self-effacing person I know.

This is a bonking good caper about a bunch of British people who manage to enter into consensual romantic relationships with one another in spite of their inability to speak sincerely. It raises the intriguing conundrum: how can we express our feelings to one another if we are permanently in thrall to British irony? Is it possible to say ‘I love you’ and mean it even when you don’t mean it? I’m not sure (I’m being ironic).

Hugh Grant plays a prime minister who goes through puberty while in office. His female aide offers him some useful tips and reassures him that the changes he is experiencing are perfectly normal. Love grows like the tentative tufts of pubic hair that newly sprout in the PM’s pants.

Alan Rickman plays a melted old sagpuss who falls in love with a binman. The binman thanks him, says he is very flattered, but that he has just got out of a difficult relationship and needs some time to think.

Who else is there? Let’s see. Andrew Lincoln plays a thoughtful and sensitive sexual harasser. Bill Nighy plays a furious octopus man who copulates with walruses. In short, there’s something for every one in this film. Except me. And possibly you. But I’m sure your partner will really like it, if you wrap it up nicely.

Working Titles 2

February 24, 2010

Here are some more working titles that were cruelly denied their chance to shine from the billboards of history:

Chocolat = Chocolate

White Men Can’t Jump = Caucasoid on Court

Ladyhawke = Dame Kes

William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet = Romeo and Juliet

West Side Story = William Shakespeare’s West Side Story

The Little Mermaid = Fishy Homunculus

All the President’s Men

February 23, 2010

‘All the President’s Men’ is a film that someone should really see at some point. I’d love to, but I’m really really really busy. Here is a review of the film in question:

The political process is a lot like the digestive process. Something goes in at one end, gets covered in acid and robbed of all of its goodness, and then comes out at the other end shivering and brown. If you don’t believe me, have a look at Michael Portillo’s autobiography ‘They done me Ma, real bad’, or, alternatively, have a look at Michael Portillo. Not for nothing do the civil servants of Whitehall refer to Portillo as ‘Old Man Faeces’.

Satire doesn’t come easily to the likes of The Agoraphobic Reviewer. The AR dedicates itself to the pensive pains of providing the public with perspicuous portrayals of pilms, sorry, films (it hasn’t seen). Holding the folly of great men up to ridicule is a thankless task, requiring a steely wit and a stooly sense of humour. The AR has neither the steel nor the stools to do battle in the Thunderdrome of satire. If only it could find a big beefy Blaster and sit atop its shoulders like a vindictive, atrophied little Master. Why, then, it would be unstoppable. We would kick other satirists such as Ian Hislop and Ian Wright around like saggy bags of dog business. Then we would fly over to America and crack Rush Limbaugh and Jon Stewart’s heads together, resulting in a hideous tableau of left-on-right lip-locking, like some sort of erotic pyjama party at a Ministry of All the Talents sleepover.

I’m a sick pup.

Anyway, the subject of politics and satire leads me to the subject of this review: All the President’s Men. This film shows how Richard Nixon, the demonic muffin-faced Archimago of American politics, hired some oleaginous gentlemen to slide like greasy nuggets through the air vents of the Watergate hotel and steal important documents pertaining to the Democratic Party. Using these documents they were able to spread a number of outrageous but true slurs about its principal members, to wit: (1) Prior to becoming Governor of Wherever, Jimmy Carter starred in four pornographic films (‘Fiscal Stimulus’, ‘BIG government’, ‘Presidential Pardon my Presidential Hard ‘Un’, and the deeply unsettling ‘Nanny State’) (2) JFK was ‘a pussy’ (3) Lyndon B. Johnson urinated sitting down (4) After his death, Bobby Kennedy admitted to shooting himself ‘just to spite the Military-Industrial Complex’.

Initially, no-one knew where these rumours originated. But two spruce journalists named Ignatius Woodward and Leeroy Bernstein put in the hours and pulled out a plum. They discovered a skid mark the size of the Hudson River that led directly to the White House u-bend. Finally, Nixon had been caught with his pants down and an enormous steaming pellet of corruption coming out of his bum. He was impeached before he had a chance to pull the flush on the whole affair, and then David Frost wiped him up on TV.

On reflection, this was a balanced and well-informed dramatisation of a complex and controversial scandal. I just wish they could have cut out some of the arse and shit jokes.

Grey Gardens

February 20, 2010

I’ve never seen ‘Grey Gardens’. I’ve never seen a real garden for that matter. But I like it that way. Here is my review of ‘Grey Gardens’.

Mousey little debutantes hiding in trees. Erstwhile socialites positively humming with fleas. Young man, young man, Miss Edie would like to beg a favour before you leave. This is an unchivalrous age but I can tell you are a gentleman young man. Please assist Miss Edie with her crunchy underskirts. She seems to have become entangled.

The strapping young fellow steps gallantly up with his helpful forearms displayed in an attitude of gentlemanliness. Never fear, ma’am, he says and daintily lifts the frayed lace-work up to a dusty shaft of light. But wait! There is nothing wrong with the underskirts. He looks up. Miss Edie grimaces like a deranged succubus. Her withered reptilian eyeballs, now visible, roll with fearsome desires. She leaps upon the terrified youth, a frothing maenad who intends to take her pleasure upon him. She ruts him like a monstrous guinea pig then eats his bones. It is a shocking bit of footage.

Now that Teddy Kennedy – that proud shepherd of men who, with dauntless breast, would not be cowed by the unreconstructed prejudices of the highway code – has snuffed it, we forget how easy it was for his family to evade the law during the mid-twentieth century. Edie and Edith Bouvier Beale were only distant relations of Teddy, Jack and Bobby, but they were nevertheless able to molest and eat their way through the male population of the eastern seaboard for twenty years without fear of recrimination.

This documentary reminds us of their mucky legacy. It informs us that their collective body count surpassed that of Ed Gein, Ted Bundy and the Ham Burglar put together. There has been a tendency in recent years to sentimentalise this murderous mother-and-daughter team. In Drew Barrymore’s portrayal of Miss Edie, for instance, she was depicted as a sort of cross between Florence Nightingale and Robin Hood – a misguided philanthropist whose prolific consumption of human flesh was driven by a need to get closer to her fellow beings. This documentary turns that idea on its head. Then it leaves it there.

But for all that, there is something faintly titillating about Miss Edie, with her suggestively greasy headscarf and what the Marquis de Sade would have called her ‘fuck-me-lazy-eye’. It just goes to show that the most dangerous creatures come in the most pleasing packages.

The Aristocrats

February 13, 2010

I haven’t seen ‘The Aristocrats’. It looks like a drag. I have reviewed it however. Observe:

Take a pot pourri of references to taboo sexual practices, a professional entertainer and a punchline that name-checks a stratum of society commonly found in countries with an honours system, and you got yourself a joke. Add a few more professional entertainers and you got yourself a something you can almost pass off as a film.

Stand-up comedy is a closed world, much like a monastery or an Austrian family. The merry and jocular individuals who labour in the vineyards of laughter are aware of this and employ a number of shibboleths to root out the outsiders from the insiders. Have you ever played the ‘straight man’? Did you ‘corpse’ during your ‘set’? If these questions leave you scratching and trumping with moist confusion, then you have never been initiated into the dark mysteries of stand-up comedy. You are an outsider, and, as such would have never heard of ‘the Aristocrats’ joke were it not for this limp tendril of a reel of celluloid.

Stand-up comedians save all of their best jokes for each other. This is why everyone is clamouring to penetrate the membranous film of exclusivity that surrounds this closed world. Every once in a while, however, they afford lowly punters such as you and me a glimpse into the ‘classic material’ and ‘killer gags’ that they ordinarily share amongst themselves. One such ‘hot jaffa’, or ‘crunchy Caliph’, as they are known in the comedy universe,is ‘the Aristocrats’ joke,  which, as noted above, has been stretched out like a stringy concertina into a two hour film. Rather than attempt to summarise the essence of this ‘greasy bagpipe’, I have transcribed a number of the different versions of the joke that are offered by the various ‘saggy hacks’ who ‘spin their guff’ throughout the film:

Sarah Silverman: ‘A man goes into a circus agent’s office. He points at a picture of a womb and identifies himself as a gentile on the asperger’s spectrum. The agent says ‘great act, what do you call it?’ The man replies ‘The Aristocrats’.

Jerry Sadowicz: ‘A man goes into a circus agent’s office. He points at a picture of a gentile and identifies himself as someone on the asperger’s spectrum. Also he has a womb. The agent says ‘great act, what do you call it?’ The man replies ‘The Aristocrats’.

Terry Wogan: ‘I first heard this joke when Frank Sinatra and I were locked in a closet during WWIII. Frank had got radiation poisoning pretty bad. Now it’s well known that Frank never swore even when he was shouting at people or hanging out with his Mafia friends. But as he was so close to death and his teeth and hair were falling out (his blue eyes shining nevertheless like the empyreal towers of Jove throughout the madness of that time), he decided to cut loose on this one occasion and tell me about this blue joke called the ‘Aristocrats’. I can’t tell you what he said but it did involve the holocaust and Oedipus. The thing about it was it made you think as well as laugh. We had a good hoot, even though we knew the fallout was turning our innards and brains into poisonous shanks of deathmeat. Poor old Frank. Vegas hasn’t been the same since he died. I couldn’t possibly repeat the joke but I can tell you it was 100-carat comedy gold.’

A point frequently reiterated throughout this film is that the basic concept of the joke is so flexible that there are hypothetically an infinite number of ways in which it might be told. Thus far no-one has managed to imbue the joke with any humour as such, but comedians are a hard-working bunch, and we can rest assured that one day they will find a way to make the Aristocrats joke funny. They’ll keep fighting. And they’ll win! (to paraphrase Father of the Bride 2).

More Batman 3/Dark Knight 2 SPOILERS

February 6, 2010

Here is the final instalment of the Dark Knight 2/Batman 3 spoiler sequence. Pasted below is an actual scene from the actual script of the actual forthcoming Batman film, written by Jonathan and Christopher Nolan (Jonathan wrote every odd word and Christopher every even word). As you can see, the film will be much, much darker than all of the previous films. According to the Nolans, the psychology of this sequel will be unprecedentedly psychological. Take a peek Batchumps:

Scene: The Batcave.

Bruce Wayne enters clutching the head of a dead horse. He laughs. The hoarse and sour chuckles emanating from his grizzled cavernous mouth segue seamlessly into chuntering sobs. He puts on his hood. The Bat ears droop tragicomically. The dead horse appears to speak:

Pig: My mother was a Russian mute

Bruce: Shut up

Pig: It is said that in her youth she had a musical accent

Bruce: I said shut up

Pig: Stalin awarded her a medal and a year’s supply of gruel because she gave birth to 20 children

Bruce: Please. I can’t take any more

Pig: All of them were strapping sons of the Revolution fed on Soviet spatchcock and steel

Bruce: Please…

Pig: Except for me with my loathsome mule’s head

Bruce: [….]

Pig: After she first laid eyes on my repulsive snout and sleek, distended face she never spoke another word. I made her mute, Bruce. Me. Now do you see?

Bruce picks up a Bathook and plunges it into the dead horse’s head. The dead horse dies, again. Bruce looks stoically into the darkness.

Bruce: There is a thin line between madness, death, truth, evil, goodness, horror, belief and moral ambivalence. I must walk that line. Alone. I am darker than the Darkest Knight. I am the Dark Knight.

Bruce swoops into the darkness.

Working Titles

February 3, 2010

Working titles are the palimpsests of the movie world. No, that’s wrong. Working titles are the vestigial tails of the cinematic universe. They are the discarded pennies in the wishing-fountain of our collective dreams and aspirations, gathered up by covetous hobos into their sticky little pouches that they might one day redeem them for a delicious can of discount special brew. They are the exiled princes of IMDB: never mentioned, except when they are mentioned. They are dead stars, still twinkling at us from the sarcophagous of time. Are they? I don’t know. Someone find out for me. Anyway, here are some working titles that never made the grade:

Turner and Hooch = Floppy Dog and the Policeman

Withnail and I = Withnail and Ian

The Curious Tale of Benjamin Button = Jammy Button!

The Towering Inferno = The Infernoing Tower

Idiocracy = Stoopid Footure

Gremlins = Boglins

Deep Throat = I’d Prefer a Lozenge

Sex and the City: the movie = Retinal Bleach