Posts Tagged ‘Martin Scorcese’

The Last Waltz

January 20, 2012

Recently, I didn’t watch ‘The Last Waltz’, a documentary about The Band’s last ever concert at the end of the 1970s. Here is my review:

After two hard decades on the road, Bob Dylan’s old backing band, ‘The Band’, decided to call it a day. After all, one can only spend so long on a single municipal thoroughfare. In order to mark the occasion, the pin-sized director Martin Scorcese agreed to film it. Previously, Scorcese had cut his chops making entertaining fictional films, including ‘Taxi, ‘Taxi 2’ and ‘The King of Comedy and I’. But in ‘The Last Waltz’ he threw away all of the childish flim-flam of fiction and dedicated himself to recording the hard, gritty reality of five hairy men singing songs about obese women called ‘Fanny’.

The concert begins with Ronnie ‘the Hawk’ Hawkins. Ronnie resembles a hawk in much the same way that that Martin Sheen resembles a housemartin, i.e. not at all. Even so, he has dressed for the occasion, and swoops onto the stage via a zip-line, sporting a huge prosthetic beak and devouring live sparrows by the bucketload. The only way that the Band can get him to stay still and sing is by means of a vision-obscuring hood. While crooning he perches on the wrist of the drummer, Levon Helm.

Confusingly, Helm has the smile of a nice old grampaw and the eyes of Charlie Manson.

Next up is Van Morrison, the Gospel-Pig: O he of swinish pus and souly, squealy yelp. His tight teddy-bear bod is wrapped in purple velvet pyjamas. While the boys excrete a wet dollop of funk, Van wiggles his curly tail at them. “Squee” he says, “squee”. Methinks this little piggy has had quite enough white nose-swill for one evening.

After Van has bounced off the stage like a noisy ball of bacon, his place is filled by the maiden aunt of folk-rock, Boney Joni Mitchell. Her bearded nephews strike up a shuffle and each vies to supersede the others in her affections. “Look at me, Aunt Joni” says Richard Manuel, “I can play real neat. Now can I have some Victoria Sponge”. “Nay, Aunty” shouts Rick Danko, “don’t give that beastly Richard any sponge, for he is a naughty boy. Give it to me, for I have said my prayers and combed my beard. I am a good boy.’

Then cometh Eric Clapton, the dapper CEO of blues. Clapton does a little powerpoint presentation about why he’s such a good guitarist. Before exiting, he gives all of his employees a bonus and then takes a vacation in the South Sea Islands.

Throughout the concert Robbie Robertson, the guitarist of The Band, struggles manfully to contain his rapidly-multiplying teeth within his mouth. Meanwhile, Garth Hudson, a brainy bear with a tiny face, copulates with his moog.

Among the other guests is Neil Diamond, whose name evokes an angry emperor ordering a precious stone to prostrate itself before his majestic splendidness. Diamond’s music evokes stomach cramps and sadness.

Finally, just as the concert is coming to a close, a strange little man runs onstage and commandeers the microphone. He bellows atonally and snickers, as if parodying the other guests. Strangely, no-one tries to remove him from the stage. Instead, everyone comes back on stage and sings along, embarrassedly. The evening is ruined. The Band sigh, shave their beards and exit the stage. Scorcese’s camera zooms in on a clump of hair as it falls from Manuel’s cheek.

Is it not true, my friends, that the careers of rock stars end not with a bang, but with a whisker.

 

The Colour of Money

July 2, 2010

Yesterday someone asked me if I’d seen Martin Scorcese’s ‘The Colour of Money’. I said yes, then ran away. The joke was on them, though. I hadn’t seen it at all. Tee hee hee. I do love a good prank. Here is my review of ‘The Colour of Money’:

‘The Colour of Money’ belongs to the noble tradition of ‘Rain Man’, ‘I am Sam’ and ‘Forrest Gump’. It stars Tom Cruise as an endearingly handicapped man, who, in spite of his handicap, or perhaps because of it, succeeds in brightening up the lives of the normal people around him. Dustin Hoffman provides support as Cruise’s brother, Brucie, fulfilling the clause in the Rain Man contract stipulating that he would have to ‘play the normal’ in his next film, and that Cruise would ‘get to be the disabled [sic] this time’.

When we meet Cruise’s character, Teddy Redbrown, in the first scene, his condition is undisclosed. Through the subtle inclusion of understated cues by the director, however, we begin to suspect that there is something compellingly wrong with Teddy. Note his khaki shorts pulled up to his ribs. Mark his child’s combover. Observe the way he says “Hi I’m Teddy” and sticks his hand out rigidly in a sort of actor’s approximation of a child’s approximation of an adult greeting. See how he squints at traffic lights in anxious perplexity. Teddy seems to tick every box on the movie checklist: he is really shaping up to be a Classic Hollywood Savant! I can’t wait to see what kind of scrapes he will get into! (contd. below the picture)

Tom Cruise's acting in 'The Colour of Money' was reputedly inspired by Al Jolson's performance in 'I am Sam' (pictured)

Sadly, the viewer’s (that is, my) high hopes prove (that is, proved) to be premature. Teddy’s handicap is decidedly underwhelming. He is colour blind. Screenwriters take note: this is really scraping the barrel as far as disabilities are concerned. Teddy’s distinct lack of a severe behavioural disorder and/or genetic condition make it very difficult for me to sympathise with him. A harsher critic might say that he is just a normal with defective eyes.

The plot of the film concerns Teddy’s quest to perceive the hue of an American dollar bill. “I got to know what colour that note is, Brucie” he implores, “I got to see the Colour of Money”. Brucie and Teddy set off on a road trip. Teddy finally gets to experience the vernal greenness of the dollar bill. But at the very moment that he learns what it is to be a normal, he loses all of his innocence. “We gotta go back, Brucie” he says. So they get in a time machine and go back to the time before Teddy was able to see the colour green. His innocence is successfully restored. The conclusion is somewhat confusing and inconsistent, but these are the vagaries of time travel, no?

I was very disappointed by this film. It promised to do a full Rain Man but it did no such thing. Who cares what the colour of money is? No one. Who cares how many matches fell on the floor? Everyone. Tom Cruise has the acting ability to play a convincing challenged person, but he is wasted on this film. His heart-rending squinting does little to render Teddy interesting to the sensitive and broad-minded viewer. The sensitive and broad-minded viewer knows that Teddy’s problem is only eye-deep, and so the sensitive and broad-minded viewer is thwarted in his attempt to feel sorry for him. The sensitive and broad-minded viewer deserves much better. Give us a savant we can get our teeth into, Hollywood.