Bopping with Niall JP O'Leary

Niall O'Leary insists on sharing his hare-brained notions and hysterical emotions. Personal obsessions with cinema, literature, food and alcohol feature regularly.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


After all that marching on Saturday we ended up in Mahaffy's, except it isn't Mahaffy's any more, it's The Lombard, and a far cry from the grubby place I used to frequent. Marching on an empty stomach should have taught me something, but I misinterpreted the signals and believed my body meant beer. Now given the choice between food and drink, food has always been my first love, but often enough I don't mind a threesome. This occasion was a blatant infidelity (and she's a demanding mistress). By one in the morning I was engaged in some pretty reprehensible behaviour. I did suffer the next day though, oh, suffer I did! In true 'as in Heaven so on Earth' style, the public protesting of the day before became a very private revolt by my insides.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A Curious Case of Film Adaptation

I read the Fitzgerald story 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button' is based on yesterday. The end cannot but be a little touching, but all in all they did a far better job with the movie than Fitzgerald does with his slight story. Fincher (director) and Roth (screenwriter) ultimately take the basic idea and run with it in another direction. The romance element for instance is completely at odds with the view on romance Fitzgerald presents. By rights I should prefer the Fitzgerald take (it's truer), but the movie works better overall. Afterall a fantastic storyline can easily accomodate an unrealistic view of love.
Anyhow as Fitzgerald himself noted, the premise is based on a casual remark by Mark Twain and Samuel Butler apparently contemplated something similar in his notebooks, so it's fair game for any manipulation, in my book.
The movie, by the way, is no masterpiece, but it does entertain. A lot of critics have highlighted its similarities with that other Roth-scripted epic, 'Forrest Gump'. It's not nearly so bad as that.
As an aside, though not quite the same, Martin Amis' "Time's Arrow" is another telling of a life lived backwards, though this time quite literally. A Nazi war criminal (I believe) is born at his death and lives his life in reverse, the concentration camps thus becoming a joyous place of birth. Dark stuff, though a little gimmicky, it's still worth a look.

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One in the Eye

At the optician the other day, some freckles were discovered on the back of my retina. Funny place for them, so few being on my rather pale face. The optician, a young blonde woman not without some attractions, started mooning around three inches from my face with her little light. I just had to laugh, and did. The sushi I had had twenty minutes before probably didn't make her job any easier.


As I stormed across the campus I met with a woman who has been giving me plenty of work of late. She held her hand up in a conciliatory gesture of peace. I gave her a Hi5.
Where is my mind these days?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

They're All Going to Laugh at You!

How many times can I watch the last half-hour of 'Carrie' without getting sick of it? Watched it twice over the weekend. It's the perfect mix of kitsch, opera, nasty but good vengeance and real human pain. De Palma's finest hour, I mean half-hour. Poor little Carrie White! She burns in hell, you know.

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The Wrestler

Taking the cliched arc of every Rocky-story you can think of, then inverting it from an up-down-up trajectory to a down-up-down model, 'The Wrestler' cannot claim originality and, in tune with all Aronofsky's earlier downers (eg. 'Requiem for a Dream'), can't leave the audience on a high. It rises or falls on the strengths of its performers. Marisa Tomei and Mickey Rourke are fine, but then you get the feeling they're both pretty close to their characters anyhow. Much has been made of their characters selling their bodies as spectacle for a living (Tomei plays a lap dancer, Rourke a wrestler), but the fact is they are playing actors. Actors of rarefied sorts it is true, but actors nevertheless. They are also playing actors coming to the end of their natural sell by date and desperately seeking that comeback role. Rourke seems to have hit that spot with most of the awards bodies, Tomei less so (though she deserves better), but you have to wonder what Rourke could do if not a burnt-out wrestler. It's all too close to the bone, and just a wincy bit pornographic in the true sense of the term.



A variety of people stumble (mostly fatally) across the ancient hideaways of three of the world's nastiest witches (well, two of them anyhow).
I'd been meaning to watch this for a long time and gave it a shot finally tonight.
With the stylised lighting of 'Suspiria', the first in Dario Argento's 'Three Mothers' horror trilogy, 'Inferno' is beautiful to look at and well directed. Despite helping to write Leone's 'Once Upon a Time in the West' (with Bernardo Bertolucci) though, Argento is not a particularly great screenwriter. Take for instance the classic plot contrivance of a man selling rare books detailing the witches' secret hideouts , but selling them next door to one of them. It's ludicrous stuff, only partly explained away by accepting a certain amount of dream logic. I just couldn't get involved in the thing, and so it just didn't scare. In the end the blood was as stylised as the lighting and it's difficult to respond instinctively to style.

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The Small Breakfast Roll Mentality

Haven't I got little to be worrying about in these troubled times when a 'small breakfast roll' troubles my mind. Yes, I suppose so, though my brother hasn't such trivial concerns; he just lost his job. This levy too, the public sector 'pension' levy, that might trouble more than a few people. Perfectly unfair and hitting the poorer wage earners. But it's just a 'public sector' thing, isn't it? Nope, bring one (large) section of the workforce down and your setting a lovely ongoing precedent for everyone, everyone that is except the top. (Heard a rumour recently of pay increases for our top staff, only a rumour mind. Anyone care to comment on that one?) Oh, and one thing the media doesn't always broadcast is that benchmarking for the public sector was negotiated to take account of those great pensions we're meant to have; less pay, more pension. Take them away and benchmarking doesn't really apply so well. That on top of pay freezes etc..

Add It Up

Went into the Spar on campus today and asked for 2 sausages on a baguette, no butter, a little brown sauce. While they made it, I noted the pricing on display; one sausage €1.10. I took my order and headed to the till noting the price, €3.50. Hold on! €3.50? But the sausgaes come to €2.20. €1.30 for bread and brown sauce?! Yes, it's a 'small breakfast roll'! That's the logic folks, that's what I was told. A 'small breakfast roll'....

Friday, February 06, 2009

The Fog Revisited

John Carpenter's 'The Fog' just started on tv and I had to start watching. There are many problems with that movie, but the opening is not one of them. The whole opening sequence from John Houseman to the 1 am end is magical. The common lament, certainly from me, is what the hell happened to Carpenter? You look at that beginning and just look at the shot in the supermarket with the guy taking a sup of orange juice. There is no shot - NO SHOT - in Carpenter's later oeuvre that even looks like that (by later I mean the post-The Thing movies). I mean literally looks like that, a slightly off angle shot that nevertheless does not draw attention to itself. Art within the mainstream. There are no shots like that. A small little shot looking up a supermarket aisle. All his later movies, competent though they are, feature standard shots. They are well-made films without any individuality (even 'In the Mouth of Madness'). What the hell happened? Surely a director's internal vision doesn't just die.

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Sunday, February 01, 2009


After 'Revolutionary Road', I suppose I'm still in my 50/60s America frame of mind, but I'm listening to Lenny Bruce in Carnegie Hall right now. Bill Hicks lived before, maybe he might live again.

Revolutionary Road

Based on a novel by Richard Yates, 'Revolutionary Road' tells of a hip young couple who get sucked into suburbia and struggle to find their way out. For 'suburbia' read middle-class comfort, second-rate dreams, social acceptance, ordinary life. Except, as we all know, there is no such thing as ordinary life, it's just a matter of how many throw their lot in with one particular fantasy.
Everyone has an interest in seeing our young couple fail, because if they win they show the lie we have chosen to accept as truth, we end up having to face our own failure. And of course, in an 'insane' society it takes an 'insane' man to tell it as it is which is where Michael Shannon's unhinged mathematician comes in. The art types' less popular fantasy of escaping to Paris and really 'feeling' (and one might argue it's as middle-class and comfortable a fantasy as the more widely held one around them) creates a whispered subculture of neurotics and 'special' people.
This is weighty stuff and, as a friend of mine, Jules, put it, it's a story that could happen at any time, not just in the 50/60s American milieu in which it is set. Obviously that particular era when the US was struggling to escape the conforming grasp of Eisenhower's 50s throws it all into relief, but Jules was right, it's a timeless story.
Timeless or not, I feel it would never have happened had the studios not seen the success of TV's 'Mad Men', but it stands on its own. The suits are the same, the suburbia/city divide is there with the morning train commutes and secretarial affairs, but it is in the service of a that familiar, but resonant, story. The movie itself though is not without its faults.
The dialogue is often slightly arch. The Wheelers (Di Caprio and Winslet) may be sensitive, arty types, but you can be too literary. Winslett has been lauded, but I didn't find her as convincing as in 'The Reader'. Di Caprio seems to have found his muse when working with Nicholson in 'The Departed' and I for one saw some incongrous mannerisms borrowed from the great Grinner. He's still solid though and probably deserves more credit than he's received. The soundtrack though is very annoying. Thomas Newman seems to have knocked his jaded score together from some odds and ends left over from 'Road to Perdition' or 'American Beauty'.
But I suppose I'm quibbling. Mendes' direction is competent and Roger Deakins' weaves his usual magic with the look of it all. It is the story though (and I'm presuming this is in large part due to Yates' original novel) that is strong and ultimately carries us along. Frank Wheeler may be a coward, but he's painfully recognisable. April's desperation is real. As a couple they sum up too much of what makes us modernly human.