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.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Nothing Lasts Forever

Nothing Lasts Forever
Nothing Lasts Forever - Let's make forever never!

Released in 1984, 'Nothing Lasts Forever' is an obscure pastiche of classic Hollywood schmaltz, and in a roundabout way, everything else that happened in the Twentieth Century. It follows Zach Galligan's quest to become an 'artist', a quest which brings him to a New York ruled by a Communist-style Port Authority; an underground society of secret rulers who also happen to be tramps; a consumer-oriented Moon populated by moon girls and... well, other stuff just as weird. All of this would be 'so Indie' were it not for the off-putting presence of stars like Dan Ackroyd and Bill Murray and a score by heavyweight composer, Howard Shore ('Lord of the Rings').
I first saw this way back on Moviedrome, a film slot on BBC2 hosted by Alex Cox in the '80s. Somehow it stuck with me and I have kept my eyes open for it ever since. I came across it the other day and had to watch it one more time.
It's still weird. Ostensibly set in the 1930's, and using stock footage beautifully, the film flippantly refers to the '50s, video and other anachronistic bits and pieces that confound this general feel. Though shot in black and white, the film bursts into colour 'Wizard of Oz'-style when Galligan enters the underground kingdom of the tramps or lands on the Moon, and all this evokes fantasy films of the '40s where colour was still a novel way of indicating a change of world (done in a typically idiosyncratic way by Powell and Pressburger in 'A Matter of Life and Death'). The story, which is more a string of episodes than a solid tale, doesn't make an awful lot of sense, but instead follows a dream logic that seems to remind us of early Hollywood too. It's totally bonkers, yet oddly coherent. All in all it reminds me of another film that mixes up its Twentieth Century elements willynilly; 'Brazil'. While being nowhere near the masterpiece that film was, it's just as successful in creating that sense of a Twentieth Century that never was.
A writer from Saturday Night Live, writer/director Tom Schiller somehow gives an authentically 'nostalgic' feel to the whole enterprise. The cast play it beautifully straight too with Gremlin's Zach Galligan in particular being stunningly naive throughout. Again this is no masterpiece, and I half suspect this kind of thing appeals only to very odd souls like me. However, it deserves a DVD reissue at the very least. As the fetching lunar maiden sings, 'Nothing lasts forever, If this must be, Let's make forever never.' Ahem, yes, quite.

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Wide Open Spaces

Don't go there.

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Sunday, July 26, 2009


Lars Von Trier's new movie, 'Antichrist' received a lot of ridicule at this year's Cannes festival. A couple, grieving at the loss of their child, end up in a forest cabin and resort to torturing each other. Well, one ends up predominantly torturing the other. Is it that bad, or is it, as some would hold, a misunderstood masterpiece?
With its supernatural undertones, forest setting, talking animals and hints at possession this plays like nothing so much as an 'arthouse' take on 'The Evil Dead'. Sadly it is nowhere near as much fun. Willem Defoe (one suspects chosen for his previous Christ role) and Charlotte Gainsbourg give their all, but this is sadistic, iconoclastic twaddle. Von Trier shows once more that he can't write and some very arch dialogue alienates the audience from the outset. As director, he does manage some beauty and often does create an eerie effect, but just as often he has the audience laughing unintentionally, as with a ludicrous talking fox episode. Of course, there will be those fooled by his pretentious junk and he has enough arthouse concepts thrown in to have the Film Studies departments hailing him for the auteur he no doubt is. Certainly no one else but Von Trier should take the blame for offensive rubbish like this. And I am not even talking about the very uncomfortable violence; that I can (almost) accept. The blatant misogyny, however, I cannot accept.
Hold on, Niall! You're missing the whole point! This is about the brutalisation of women over the centuries and the inevitable outcome; afterall it is Gainsbourg's character who suffers most for the visit of the Three Beggars (Pain, Grief and Despair). I can hear those defenders now. NO! Von Trier is a sly misogynist and delights in degrading, hurting and punishing women for nothing more than what he perceives as their nature. He did this in 'Breaking the Waves', 'Dogville' and I suspect (as I haven't had the interest to see it), 'Dancing in the Dark'. Defend it as much as you like; there comes a point when the obvious is just a little too obvious. Once upon a time I was a fan of Von Trier's iconoclasm. 'The Kingdom', 'The Idiots', 'Europa' were films I could admire for their bravura in terms of style and effect. The more I have seen, however, the more disillusioned I have become. 'Antichrist' does not reverse this trend. Misery for sadism's sake.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Holiday Snaps

I came across still more pictures from my trip a few years back. For all the panda lovers out there.


Sunday, July 19, 2009


Moon - Where No One Can Hear You Sigh

It's here! It's finally opened! No, not 'Potter'. 'Moon'! I've been waiting for this for quite a while since the first whispers started. A taste of all things past (bits of '2001: A Space Odyssey', 'Solaris', 'Silent Running', etc.) with a twist, or so they said. All the quiet hype (!) has been helped immeasureably by the fact that you can't really tell too much about the plot without giving stuff away. So I had a sneaking worry I might be disappointed. I wasn't.
Sam Rockwell plays a man working on the dark side of the moon (where else?), running a mining operation upon which most of the world's energy demands depends. After three years, his contract, with Lunar Industries, is coming to its close, and that's just as well, as the isolation is getting to him. That's really all you need to know except that all those previous film references - everything from the aforementioned classics to Sean Connery vehicles like 'Outland' - play their parts in what is ultimately a simple tale. Yes, it's fun spotting that bit and that bit, but the film has to say something for itself too. Thankfully Duncan Jones, director, is as interested in questions of humanity as he is in constructing a neat little story, and ultimately this is what raises the film above the average.
I can't help but point out that "Moon"'s ideas are not original and are just as integral to far older films (and books). How it deals with them isn't too original either, certainly not for anyone familiar with the works of Philip K. Dick. In fact, there are probably several directions that the film could have taken that would have added far deeper resonances. Still it is a joy to have a movie that doesn't tell the audience everything at once, that instead allows the audience the opportunity to think while they are being entertained. As it is there are at least two major plot points that are not explicitly explained (though again anyone familiar with 'Blade Runner' will have the answer to at least one of them). And if you really wanted to be picky you could dispute the whole premise.
I don't have the heart to be picky. On top of everything else, it looks, sounds and breathes perfectly. The model work (little or no CGI here) cries out to be loved, the lunarscapes somehow looking as fresh as they've ever done. For such an airless environment, composer Clint Mansell ('Requiem for a Dream') delivers an appropriately minimalist score. And then Sam Rockwell, who was pretty (let's be generous) 'average' in "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" (as Zaphod Beeblebrox), is exceptional here. He has a pretty tough job to pull off; besides being onscreen almost the whole time, the demands of the storyline require some nuanced acting (you'll know what I mean if you see it). He delivers.
'Moon' is no heavyweight; it isn't an epic masterpiece a la 'Solaris' (Tarkovsky's version, not Soderbergh's). And just in case you haven't been reading, we have seen a lot of this done before. However, to bring it all together and lovingly wrap it up in a satisfying narrative for our delectation, is like a love letter to the cinema-going public. Having had Hollywood flush its toilets on to our eyes for so long, such consideration is a surprise. I for one was touched.

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Monday, July 06, 2009


Franklyn-stein - good bits sewn together with some dead parts

Kind of an anti-Fisherking, the British movie, 'Franklyn', follows four apparently disconnected stories to a point where they all inevitably intersect. What sets things askew is that one of those stories is set in the fantastical city of Meanwhile, where Ryan Philippe plays a costumed loner at odds with his religion-riddled environment. In the other tales, Eva Green plays a suicide-obsessed artist, Sam Riley tries to recover from being jilted at the altar, and Bernard Hill searches for his missing war veteran son.
This is director Gerald McMorrow's first feature and though competent, his inexperience shows in some distinctly sub-Matrix fight scenes. More crucially, his competence as a screenwriter is also tested and it is in this that the film falls.
The problem is a.) his 'real-world' stories are too slender, too sketchy and too uninvolving, while b.) his 'Meanwhile' strand demands your attention, distracting from the others. Who wants to see Eva Green, all dippy and depressed, indulging in half-hearted suicide attempts, when you can see Philippe (looking like a cross between Watchmen's Rorschach and 'The Nightmare Before Christmas's Jack Skellington) hunting religious fanatics in a grotesque version of London. (Which is not to say fair Eva isn't shaping up to be the next Helena Bonham Carter rather well.) 'Meanwhile', with its backstory of a land dominated by religions, thousands of them (eg. The Seventh Day Manicurists, or a cult devoted to washing machine manuals), is crying out throughout the movie for more screentime. I'm not sure if McMorrow could deliver if he was to make a Meanwhile film (look at the sadly underwhelming 'Mirrormask' for what it might become), but it's a movie I would prefer to 'Franklyn'.
The cast is good. Green certainly does her usual scowling, but occasionally shows signs of some previously unsuspected acting muscles. Sam Riley, apparently excellent in the Ian Curtis biopic, 'Control', (I haven't seen it yet), is just a little too wimpy here, but his romantic tale is hardly a strong foundation for any performance of power. He gets by. The always reliable Bernard Hill bumbles around well too, but ultimately we just don't know enough about him to really care.
One thing I did like was the discrepancy between the subjective experience and the objective reality, something very central to the film's theme. The heroic is very easily flipped into the villainous, and vice versa, simply by changing perspective, instantly adding a dimension to the film that almost lifts it out of the ordinary. However, this aspect of the film is hardly a surprise and I for one had the 'twist' worked out very early on. Which brings us right back to a script that though it believes itself original, is actually patched together from many other (better) films before it. The ending itself ultimately sews things together a little too neatly.
There's a lot going on then, but in the end it boils down to a neatly played thesis on the power of fantasy versus the demands, and magic, of reality itself. Simple though this theme might be, it is a strong one and worth a movie (which is probably why we have 'The Fisherking' already). 'Franklyn' says its piece well, but never well enough to be really memorable. Well, except for Meanwhile....

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Robert McNamara Dies

The Democrats' Kissinger died today. If you get a chance watch 'The Fog of War'. Enlightening.

Saturday, July 04, 2009


It's many years since I last saw Sidney Lumet's 'Fail-Safe', but having just watched it again, it still packs a hell of a punch. Essentially 'Dr Strangelove' played without the laughs, it's a shame it got eclipsed by Kubrick's masterpiece. A brilliant cast is just one of its many strengths; Dan O'Herlihy is exceptional, while Henry Fonda plays the solid president as only Henry Fonda could (while still being eerily close to Peter Sellar's President Muffley). Walter Matthau takes the position of Scott's General Turgidson, encouraging a first strike, and in his hawkish anti-Communist academic at least one real-life Pentagon advisor comes to mind. All in all well, well worth a viewing even today. The same issues really haven't gone away.

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