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|63 reviews in total|
I started watching "Teachers" rather late in the piece, I think during
series 3. I thought it was OK, but not unmissable. The unusual thing
about "Teachers" for me was that, though set in a school, the pupils
and the teachers' interaction with them was mere background that barely
intruded into the episodes. The stories mainly centred around the
teachers' interaction with each other. It was clearly comedy-drama
rather than straight out comedy. Occasionally it was somewhat funny,
but the humour was of the mild, inoffensive, observational, Seinfeldian
variety. Some would call that sort of humour subtle. I would call it
bland. What's more the comedy was diluted by drama, and was delivered
in the telegraphic acting style of crap 1980's American sitcoms. I
didn't find the episodes terribly memorable.
Then came series 4. Wow! It was like a completely different show with new characters, new sets, and a new lease of life. Even the old characters weren't quite the same. It was exactly like the difference between "Seinfeld" and "Curb Your enthusiasm", or the difference between MASH the TV show and MASH the movie, between Pete & Dud and Derek & Clive. Not being familiar with the details of the show, I assumed that last series was the first as it was so much more fresh and funny than what had gone before. Bob even looked younger. The mild, bland inoffensive characters had gone, and the nastiness and grotesquery of the nastier and more grotesque (and therefore funnier) characters such as Bob and the headmistress and the fat kid was played up. Most importantly, from being a comedy-drama with somewhat realistic plots it became pure comedy with surrealistic plots that had me howling with laughter numerous times per episode. And the laugh-out-loud jokes and plots dealt with wonderfully, hilariously politically incorrect subjects like masturbation, religion, homosexuality, obesity, mail order brides, death, pupil-teacher shagging, etc.
As with Cook & Moore, many fans of their earlier work felt Derek & Clive was beneath themselves and beneath the performers. Others consider Derek & Clive to be Cook & Moore's crowning glory, even if it did mark the end of their comic partnership. The latter set of fans were right, and the former set can be ignored. Although I gave this program 7/10, it's really 5 or 6 for the earlier eps, and 8 or 9 for the final series.
In interviews done at the time of the film's release, Julien Temple
talked about the genesis of this film, and the reasoning behind some of
the peculiar and novel gimmicks he used. Basically he had some
out-takes that he had filmed for "The Great Rock & Roll Swindle", as
well as some random British TV recordings from the 1970's that he had
recorded on one of the first commercial VCR's. Temple wanted to use
this material to tell the story of the Sex Pistols from their point of
view, rather than Malcolm Maclaren's point of view presented in "The
Great Rock & Roll Swindle". He said he included the ancillary material
such as the video recordings to give a flavor of the times. The reason
he gave for recording the living Pistols in witness-protection style
silhouette (and Maclaren in a mask) was to hide their age and make it
seem like the interviews were contemporaneous with the other footage,
especially with regard to the interview of a non-silhouetted Sid
Vicious in London's Hyde Park in 1978. In practice, the silhouettes are
annoying and repetitive and make it hard to identify who is speaking on
This film has exactly the same flaws as Temple's original effort, "The Great Rock & Roll Swindle" - its account of the Pistols' story is a biased, inaccurate, incomplete, poorly-structured mess, frequently interrupted by unnecessary, gimmicky, distracting, pretentious irrelevant inserts that have nothing to do with the main story. Only this time, instead of portraying the Sex Pistols as mindless puppets in a cynical commercial ploy by a clever manager, they are portrayed (implicitly via news footage from the 1970's) as idealists making political statements about their society, financially exploited by a useless Maclaren. Both slants are fantasy. The Pistols have repeatedly pointed out they were not political, although Rotten has in recent years started parroting some of the fantasies written about him and the punk scene by intellectuals; any quasi-political imagery foisted on the band was largely the doing of the supposedly useless Maclaren and his cronies. We see all the usual tricks of agenda-pushing documentaries, with isolated, possibly irrelevant snippets of visual interest (e.g. a fat racist squirming through a window to rant to a TV camera) edited together to imply relatedness. What's more, many of these clips appear to date from long after the Pistols formed. Likewise we see the bad guys (Maclaren and cronies) in unflattering shots and the good guys (the Pistols) in flattering or neutral shots. That's just childish, as are the sudden dramatic increases in volume every time a Pistols song starts playing.
Instead of Rock & Roll Swindle's cutaways to shots of Maclaren singing, mugging and pontificating, we get Olivier playing Richard III or TV ads or weather reports or forgotten comedians. These non-sequiturs are supposedly justified on the grounds of Rotten citing his influences or as a reflection of life in the 1970's, but it goes on and on and on long after the original point (if any) was made, until the original point is lost. When Temple was asked if there was any Pistols footage left unused after "The Filth and The Fury", he said there wasn't really, apart from additional concert footage which he considered redundant. This, I suspect, is the real reason for the excessive irrelevant footage, i.e. filler to get a commercial length for a feature film. I would dearly love to have seen the "redundant" concert footage instead. It would have been infinitely more interesting, entertaining and relevant. Temple's TV archives could have interest in their own right, but they belong in a separate documentary.
Ignoring the inept, pretentious directing, this film does have many priceless moments, and does reveal a number of obscure or unknown facts about the Pistols, although I was surprised at how little unused footage there really was, and how much was reused from the final cut of "Swindle". The Pistols are shown to be funny, intelligent and personable, far removed from the punk caricatures. The 3 Johns, and John's closeness to Sid, and John's crying over his dead friend are a revelation. So too, the Pistols' last concert before their American tour, a firemen's benefit with lots of young dancing children joining the band in a cream pie fight - not very punk, but oddly touching. We see footage from the Pistols' very earliest days, together with some of the bizarre early fans like Sue Catwoman highlighting the bohemian roots of the punk scene. We get to see footage of the disgusting Nancy Spungeon. In a remarkable stroke of luck, Temple captured skinny teenage punk fan Shane MacGowan, long before he was famous, doing an acapella rendition of "Anarchy in the UK" on the grounds of a council flat, and schoolteacher Sting playing a gay rapist in a scene from the abortive "Who Killed Bambi" movie. But by far the funniest scene in the film was the intro to a 1978 American TV music show, in which the Pistols were the most normal, most successful, and least ridiculous-looking band to appear on the program.
In summary this film was a wasted opportunity on account of the talentless director. But it's still essential for the odd gem of obscure Pistols footage, which even Temple couldn't mess up. If you want to see the definitive Pistols documentary, check out the "Never Mind The Bolloks" episode of the "Classic Albums" TV documentary series.
I caught this movie by accident on TV flipping through channels. Reading the plot summary, I thought this would be another Memento ripoff. But boy was I wrong. Oh my god I haven't laughed this hard and this long at a foreign comedy in years, if ever. This movie can be summarised as "Dumb and Dumber" meets "I Kina Spiser De Hunde", and is every bit as funny as both those movies combined. I can understand the Marx Brothers comparison, but this is Marx Brothers acting with a modern and funny script. I simply cannot understand how this great gangster comedy got such a low rating, and why it isn't already legendary as a comedy cult classic. I am pleased to read that there are others in the series, and I will certainly be checking them out. About the only criticism I have is that it does peter out a little towards the end, sacrificing comedy for a satisfying plot conclusion, but by then I had already screamed with uncontrolled laughter several times.
This apparently (I say apparently because I honestly have no idea why this film was released, let alone made) was an attempt at a spoof of spaghetti westerns, something like Blazing Saddles, albeit with no discernible gags and no discernible plot. It looks like something you would get if you took a bunch of indie actors and post-punk musicians to a holiday resort, got them drunk, then asked them to improvise a series of disconnected sketches based around spaghetti westerns with "they're all addicted to coffee, ha ha ha" as the only direction given. Which for all I know, is probably exactly what happened. The cast at least look like they had a good time of the "Look at me I'm in a film" ilk. It is very much like watching amateur video of a private party, and about as much fun for the audience. I am a huge fan of the Clash and the Pogues and Jim Jarmusch, and this is truly an amazing cast, but a cast does not make a movie. I must admit, though, that it was fascinating to see Courtney Love of all people being plucked from obscurity years before she became famous and put into a leading role in this film, despite looking even more hideous in her youth than in middle age. Although she was even less talented an actress than she was a musician or stripper, for me the only laugh in this chode of a film came unintentionally, when one of the characters says, referring to Courtney Love: "You have a beautiful wife." The cast, and the excellent Pogues theme song "Rake at the Gates of Hell" were the only things I enjoyed about this movie, and are the only reason I'm not giving this a minimum score. The one good thing about this movie's release is that it killed the talentless Alex Cox's directorial career.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Like Michael Powell, I was struck by the pathos when I learned of the
story of the abandonment of St Kilda, and the concomitant end of a
centuries-old way of life in this harsh but oddly beautiful place. I am
facinated by abandoned places, both modern and ancient, as well as by
the creativity employed in eking a survivalist living out of extreme,
inhospitable, barren environments far from the comforts of
civilisation. Therefore I was delighted when I learned of this movie's
existence, hoping to get an insight into the islanders' way of life,
lingering shots of the village ruins, and a sense of the pathos of the
I didn't quite get what I was hoping for, as some things seemed a little rushed in this short film, while others such as the protracted dancing at the birth took up excesive time. The key aspects of the islanders way of life are only revealed in brief glimpses. We do get a scene in the church, but without the DVD commentary we wouldn't know that the church was the island's central social institution. The occasional famines which destroyed the real St Kilda are only briefly hinted at in the film, with one brief scene talking of how the poor growing conditions will affect the harvest. I didn't fully understand the effect of the fishing boats without the DVD commentary. The laird's feudalistic power isn't really touched on - indeed when the laird makes an appearance, I didn't even know who he was. You don't get enough of a look at the old way of life to appreciate or lament that anything has been lost. Instead you jump straight into the arguments over whether or not to abandon the island, which should have been Act 2. Instead of the plot centring around the struggle to survive on Hirta, the story and the arguments over whether to leave centred around a soppy, melodramatic love story. When the islanders do decide to leave, it's all a bit of an anti-climax, without the escalating dramatic conflict one would expect leading up to the film's central moment. The two tragedies which provide the film with its drama are admittedly tense, but you can predict exactly how they'll end when the episodes have barely begun.
Despite these quibbles, I thought the film was amazing, not for its story but for its visual poetry. The cinematography is magnificent, and the shots of the island and its hardy characters take the breath away. While the stilted acting may betray the film's age, there is nothing out of date about the beautifully composed images. Some of the shots from seemingly impossible angles would make Kubrick proud. It's all the more impressive when you consider the trying circumstances in which it was filmed.
In short see the film for its spectacular must-see images, and don't worry too much about the plot.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
There is an old joke about two African-Americans who come across a
booth that says "Turn yourself white for $1". Seeing this as a solution
to their hassles, they decide to pool their resources (50c each) on the
proviso that the one who goes first will emerge from the booth and
(exploiting his new whiteness) obtain $1 to give to the second guy. The
first guy puts his $1 in the slot, enters the booth and emerges with
white skin, Caucasian features, a briefcase in hand and wearing a
business suit. "Hey, it really works!" says the impressed second guy,
"Now you give me a dollar." "Get a job, Niger" replies the first guy.
Such is the apparent attitude of the half-caste Joe Leahy, a product of a union between the first white explorers of the PNG highlands and a local woman. Joe, wealthy owner of a coffee plantation, lives in western luxury in a large house with a satellite dish on his roof and large cars in his garage. Meanwhile the Ganiga tribespeople he only half belongs to, and appears to half despise, live a subsistence lifestyle augmented by the 50 cents/bag they earn picking coffee berries.
Joe understands enough of the tribespeople's primitive customs and lifestyle to participate in their ceremonies, enough to barely contain the inevitable envy his wealth generates and maintain his exploitative relationship with them. He essentially bribes the big men of the tribe into getting the tribe's co-operation with joint venture deals, the dream of future wealth and gifts such as his aging truck. But not all the young men are satisfied with their lot. Some see through the tawdriness of his bribes, and feel they should concentrate on their own subsistence farms rather than pick plantation coffee for a pittance. When the coffee price plummets just as the crop is ready to pick after years of waiting, Joe is forced to cut wages even further to make the plantation profitable.
Joe clearly seems himself as better than the tribespeople, more intelligent, more ambitious and more successful. He is above their tribal aggression and silly superstitions. This does not make Joe a particularly sympathetic character. Joe's demands for sacrifices from the already impoverished tribespeople make the viewer gag, when put beside his own extravagant wealth. It sticks in the craw when, at a tribal ceremony, they offer Joe gifts such as a supermarket packet of sugar or alive pig, gifts which probably represent significant sacrifices to the tribespoeple, but nothing to Joe. Joe is also seen discussing the tribespeople's obstinacy with his elderly and largely deaf white uncle, who sympathises with Joe and calls the tribespeople "bastards" for not picking the coffee. This doco could easily have been edited as a simple straightforward story of the half-white man's exploitation of the noble savage.
Except that this is real life, not some idiot Rousseauian fantasy, and the film-makers deserve credit for telling the full story. Joe IS better than the tribespeople, and their prosperity depends on him, even if they don't fully appreciate it. When two nearby tribes start fighting, the Ganiga join in with their allies, to Joe's anger and disgust. The coffee beans on the plantations, including the joint venture plantation, is left to rot on the trees as the ignoble savages start fighting and dying with their primitive but deadly bows and arrows. Joe has lost control of the tribe. His mock funeral ceremony for the plantations, aimed at getting the tribe to realise the cost of their folly, is taken as a grievous insult, and in true western style culture-of-complaint whining, one tribesman demands financial compensation for the emotional injury. Joe is forced to abandon everything and move to Australia while the tribesmen continue to fight and the plantations turn to weed gardens. Some tribesmen think they can manage the plantations themselves, but without Joe they are utterly incapable.
In summary, this fascinating story tells in miniature the warts and all universal story of the advent of modernity and capitalism to savages. Yes, it can be exploitative, the success of the capitalists breeds resentment, and the path to prosperity is not always smooth. But it is also a force for peace and progress, and a hell of a lot better for the people than the primitive, barbaric, superstitious cultures it replaces.
This film was responsible for putting me off biopics about people who
are still alive. The reason being that we know what the individuals
involved looked like then and look like now, and we are aware of what
really happened, and can compare the real people to the fantasy version
that the director chooses to put on screen. For example, Sid Vicious's
famous swastika T-shirt gets bowdlerised into a hammer and sickle
T-shirt, the latter apparently being more in-tune with director's PC
totalitarian sensibilities. Yuck.
In this movie, the director comes off looking like the talentless, pretentious declassé wannabe that we always knew he was from his other films, a Will Self of the cinema. Alex Cox has totally bought into the synthetic cartoonish on-stage public image of the Sex Pistols and the punk movement, and mistaken it for the real people involved. The result resembles Star Trek fan fiction, a lame geeky attempt to rehash someone else's already shallow work of fiction by an overly obsessive fan, made all the more irritating because it is presented as if it was telling a true story. So we get Gary Oldman and Chloe Webb and the supporting cast mugging their one-note cartoonish punk caricatures throughout the length of this film, with occasional injections of out-of-touch intellectualisms. It's not entertaining and it's not funny, although the characters behave as if they believe they are. The plot, what little there is, moves quite slowly to its known and muddled conclusion. The low budget shows in the poor cinematography and weak script. The only emotion I felt by the end was embarrassment for the film-makers, combined with the fervent hope that they would change careers to suit their true vocations as checkout clerks and sociology lecturers.
Quentin Trashantino has spawned many imitators over the last few years,
most of them more talented than he is. While his influence is most
keenly felt in Japan with its long tradition of gangster films centred
around the Yakuza, this very entertaining Israeli film easily matches
those Japanese ones, and of course, easily tops Quentin. In fact it's
easily the best of the few Israeli films that I have seen.
The film centres around a team of police trying to safeguard prosecution witnesses from a drug dealer who doesn't care for the wellbeing of witnesses, and has been steadily thinning their ranks. The police try to stay one step ahead of the drug dealer as they protect their last witness. Meanwhile Aya Mastrichi (Yael Hadar), a sexy female Dirty Harry and the most effective of the police officers, is having relationship problems with her insensitive pig of a policeman boyfriend, and the people she incidentally meets while working on the case encourage her to be more demanding of her right to an orgasm. All these different subplots are neatly and hilariously tied up in a very satisfactory manner by the end of this beautifully structured film, with our hero outsmarting everyone.
As expected from a Tarantino ripoff, the characters are all humorous, ultraviolent eccentrics, filmed with a particular emphasis on saturated colours to give it that slightly cartoonish feel. Yael Hadar in the lead female role looks very fetching, very much resembling a young Beatrice Dalle, although they have had to put the makeup on with a trowel as Hadar bears little actual resemblance.
I am not a fan of French movies generally, as they tend too often towards smug pretentiousness, more-sensitive-than-thou preciousness, and Marxist petulance. None of this makes for good comedy. How refreshing then to see a truly great black comedy concerning a common but under-explored comic theme, the evil, manipulative grannie, a woman whose best years are far behind her and whose only remaining purpose in life is to try to drag everyone else down to her level of misery by cynically exploiting their naive pity and sympathy, sort of a one-woman Religion of Peace. As the director said in interviews at the time, every family seems to have a Tatie Danielle. While the Australian television series "Mother and Son" was based on a similar premise, "Mother and Son" wanted to make the characters ultimately sympathetic whereas "Tatie Danielle" has no such agenda. Consequently Tatie Danielle goes much further and is therefore much funnier. You could not have picked a better actress for the role than Tsilla Chelton. Her facial expression combines to perfection pure malice, feigned helplessness and impish glee, and the film largely succeeds on the strength of her acting. This is a must-see comedy, especially in company with your elderly, manipulative female relatives. If you enjoyed this film, do see the equally excellent "Baxter" made just one year later, another highly original French black comedy albeit less funny and MUCH darker.
After "A Clockwork Orange" things did not go so well for the great
Stanley Kubrick. He was blamed for violence allegedly incited by "A
Clockwork Orange" so he had the film pulled in England. His pet
"Napoleon" project got canned after much effort in pre-production,
which prompted him to make "Barry Lyndon" as a consolation substitute.
After many arduous and expensive months of location filming, "Barry
Lyndon" flopped both critically (not unusual) and commercially (which
was unusual for Kubrick). Kubrick badly needed a low-risk hit movie,
particularly in America, to raise his stocks again with Hollywood. "The
Shining" was that movie, and was indeed a hit in America.
The trivia section mentions that Stephen King was surprised that Kubrick was sold on the first chapter of the novel, since the first chapter was atypical of the rest of the novel. It certainly contained no real scares. However when you consider the above background, you can sort of understand the novel's appeal to Kubrick as a film adaptation. The first chapter describes in great detail the layout of the hotel, in which almost the entire snowbound story takes place, as well as the seething writer's anger at being questioned about his struggle with alcohol and his personal failures (poignant for Kubrick?). Here was a film which could be shot entirely in the studio (low risk, low cost) using a small, relatively inexpensive cast featuring a well-known star (Nicholson) with whom Kubrick had wanted to work for some time. This allowed Kubrick unprecedented and relatively inexpensive scope for his notoriously excessive re-shoots. It was also based on a best-selling book, thus drawing in the numerous Stephen King fans. The hotel's long empty passageways also gave plenty of scope for Kubrick's trademark tracking/zoom shots down the length of long symmetrical corridors, while Jack Torrance's mental disintegration allows Kubrick to use his other trademark, The Glare.
As a gadget freak, Kubrick generally had a technical innovation in almost every movie. In this case it was the Steadicam, to which he had been introduced several years earlier. The stairwells and carpeted corridors provided a perfect opportunity to use the Steadicam on previously "impossible" shots, and some shots (e.g. the Big Wheel ride over the carpets, or the staircase ascent preceding the Dog Man) seem to have been included purely to show off the capabilities of his new gadget.
Yet in focusing on the technical appeal of this project, Kubrick lost sight of one important thing - he has no understanding of the horror genre, and thus doesn't have a clue as to how to make a scary film. Though the film is reasonably interesting and absorbing, there are only a couple of even moderately scary scenes in the whole film. Nicholson's acting throughout is outrageously hammy, Shelley Duvall is monochromatically hysterical and tearful for too much of the movie, while the child actor does as well as you can expect a 5 year old to do, which isn't very well at all. Kubrick apologists try to claim he wasn't trying to make a scary film, that he was actually commenting on the role of television, or the plight of the Indians (or some other barrow the apologist is pushing) in the guise of a horror movie. However when Diane Johnson was given the job of co-writing the screenplay, Kubrick told her to make it "completely scary". So they failed to achieve their goals.
The film is justly famous for the ambiguity of its plot. At first Kubrick repeatedly implies that the ghosts are merely imagined for most of the movie, then only towards the end suggests they are capable of action in the physical realm. While this gets the audience discussing the movie, it is also blatantly inconsistent. Likewise with the film's punchline suggesting Charles Grady, Delbert Grady and Jack Torrance may or may not have previously been there and may or may not have been the same person. There is a point beyond which the shifting of perspective turns from tantalising ambiguity and fascinating puzzle into annoying and unsatisfying confusion. Kubrick's extra edits for the 2 hour version seem to remove a great deal of clarifying information, and accentuate this confusion further. I don't know if this was dome out of incompetence or a love of confusion. Either way it's not impressive.
In short, this is an unsuccessful Kubrick film, but nevertheless a moderately entertaining one.
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