Reviews written by registered user
|49 reviews in total|
The large part of the fun of watching A Kiss Before Dying is looking out for the number of Hitchcock movie moments the film is paying tribute to: from Psycho's shower shots and the lonesome mother's house our Norman Bates has escaped from, to the bleaching of the heroine and taking the Kim Novak role a la Vertigo with possibly lethal consequences. I was hugely amused and never mind the creaking plot. On a technical level, I loved the Technicolor hue of the film, very Hitchcock period too. I'm not sure why the lead actress, Sean Young, got a double Razzie award for her dual role. It seems undeserved. I'm sure there must have been far worse performances in 1991 to choose from.
It's not only the western economy that is in a funk these days, please spare a thought for the creative, poor, but good-looking young men who, in their ephebic years, could always rely on making much more money by getting their clothes off and getting it on than working in a dead-end job, but now, thanks to the creative destructive forces of the internet, file sharing and sheer ease of satisfying customer demand for fresh faces, the economics of the porn industry have collapsed under the weight of over-supply of films, easy DIY marketing and zero distribution costs. A Finnish documentary, Poikien Bisnes (All Boys), seen on NZ's Documentary Channel the other night, was a worthwhile attempt to trace the gay porn business in Central Europe, especially its move eastwards by producers searching for ever cheaper models. If you have been fed up with all that relentless Czech and Hungarian twink for the past decade, you are not alone! But the expose of the sheer exploitation by mostly foreign (German, American) porn producers - inevitably always sleazy old men - of any hairless, white, uncut, well-hung young man with a swimmer's physique, is the film's major strength. One of them proudly told us that his was the first full length bareback movie which heralded the condom-less trend in porn production, and which has led to a general disregard for the health and safety of his 'employees'. And then he had the hypocritical gall to tell us that his favourite model 'didn't love him' or 'only thought of himself', so he had to get rid of the boy after his cherubic years were over, back to the homelessness of the Prague streets, while bemoaning the fact that his films were available all over the internet for free and he's not able to make money anymore from trawling the Eastern European back alleys for fresh meat. Forgive me for not feeling sorry for him. But the health havoc he caused is unforgivable.
If I had to name one of my favourite film directors, a few always come to mind, and they always include Michael Powell. He has made some of the (for me) most fascinating, thrilling, strange, intriguing and often exhilarating movies ever. He has made about 60 films in about 40 years and plenty of them would easily fit into my all time favourite top-10 films: The Red Shoes, Black Narcissus, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, Peeping Tom, Gone To Earth, A Canterbury Tale, 49th Parallel, One of Our Aircraft is Missing, A Matter of Life and Death, I Know Where I'm Going, Contraband, A Spy in Black - I can recommend them all as essential viewing if you are interested in English cinema of the 1940s and 1950s. Now the Arts Channel (in New Zealand) decided to screen one I hadn't seen before, The Edge of the World, from 1937. A tragic and powerful tale of an isolated island off the coast of Scotland (in Roman times known as Ultima Thule, the island of Foula standing in for St Kilda) affected by diminishing local resources of fuel and manpower, causing emigration, economic, social and environmental decline. It was fascinating and moving to see the stories of local families intertwined with the larger social and economic issues driving change. A constant recurrence of a cinematic theme throughout the film was gravity, which of course pulls everything down: people and sheep falling off cliffs, the pull of the wider world out there affecting the economic base of the island, fishing, livestock and crofting. The camera angles are fascinating throughout as every scene is filmed either from a upward or downward position, emphasising the will of men to fight for what they want and believe in, or being looked on by the camera acting as mother nature overwhelming the actors by the majestic cliffs, pounding seas and constant winds. You'd wish there could have been another outcome for the people involved but in the end it seems it's not possible to live at the edge of the world: you either choose to leave or die on the island.
BBC Knowledge is re-running a 1998 series by Louis Theroux in which he goes Gonzo-style into 'weird' subcultures. It makes a worthwhile change from the standard fly on the wall stuff. He's filming openly, to the point of even participating in the main activity reported on. There is no subterfuge or undercover try-to-catch-them-out but he leaves it, thankfully, up to the viewer to ponder the lifestyles of the strange and unknown The episode that caught my attention was about the Los Angeles porn industry, then (1998) in the midst of an HIV scare (several performers had been recently diagnosed and caused shock waves through the industry with many reconsidering their careers) but not yet fully affected by the online free-for-all (performing and downloading) which has made the current business model basically untenable. But what we learn from the film is that it's an excellent short term money spinner for performers despite the risks to your physical and mental health. The glaring difference with the real world - speaking in terms of male and female pay rates in doing the same job - is that men earn far less than women and actually have a much harder (to excuse a pun) job than their female co-stars: keeping wood and delivering the money shot after a long day filming on a set with many staff around and when many of your co-performers may not be of your sexual taste is admirable. The attrition rate mentioned by the producers and casting agents, who, of course, make the most money out of your talent, is not surprising. A few vignettes stuck in my mind: the English girl who preferred to work in American porn instead of Europe because "she doesn't get bruised or injured here"; the male former Airforce performer who looked genuinely puzzled when asked what he was going to do if porn didn't work out in the future (there is never a plan B in America, it seems); the sheer stress on all the males to perform - and you got to feel sorry for those gay-for-pay straight dudes who have their minds and genitals messed with.
Men and their dicks have the most intimate of relationships but, like in most relationships, it can all go horribly wrong and divorce isn't really an option unless you are a transsexual, of course. The Documentary Channel showed "My Penis and Everyone Else's" exploring the vast terrain of the fixations men have with their dicks: whether it's the wrong length, girth, shape, colour, in bad working order or laughed at by women. Comparing cocks isn't really an option in the straight world and mental health issues are being created by the distorted lenses used in pornography showing unrealistic but aspirational sizes, girths and tumescence. Competition between men is fierce in the sexual arena and it's made even more relentless by the perceived female judgments behind their backs. Somebody should tell those smirking women that it's not the cock that's too small but their vagina that's too big. It would save a lot of male heartache and anxiety. Again unfortunately, this was a very hetero-centred programme and forgot to draw on the vast real-life experience of gay men in penis sizes and shapes and not only from pornography. Gay men of course have size issues too, hence the half-jokingly gay male dual typology of size queens or liars. Not that that encourages gay men to talk about their dicks either but at least they are not as ignorant as the males in the film at the (inspired) exhibition of photographs of anonymous (flaccid) cocks collected via Snap Your Chap. I was surprised that no-one picked up on the fact that flaccid cocks are really a bad indicator of how big they can grow and thus shouldn't be a worry (or as Gay Banker said he'd rather have a hard one than a large one). But the revealing thing was that it only took a few pints of beer at the exhibit to get the boys talking and eventually snapping their chappies too for an instant polaroid addition to the exhibition. The one thing that did annoy me was the cod historical lesson in classical Greek sexual aesthetics. Greek marble statues of boys and men have all small penises but you cannot conclude therefore that Greek people ignored genitalia. The aim of the statues was to portray the ideal body, i.e. its athleticism and muscle definition. Since the penis isn't a muscle and therefore can't be worked on at the gymnasium, having big cocks on statues would only detract from the real object of beauty: those shoulders, those arms, those pecs, those legs, that six-pack, that arse! And pointing out that satyrs and 'uncivilised' creatures were portrayed as having big cocks just means that as long as you have big one you don't need to be beautiful to be successful in the sexual arena. A truth still valid today.
A suave, urbane, ruthless and completely amoral Edward Fox taking the
lead in this really superb political thriller as a sort of inverse
Roger "The Saint" Moore character. It really gets very nasty as he
kills off anyone who is in his way or even on his side but threatening
to blow his cover en route to assassination of President De Gaulle. The
film's pace is relentless and not a frame of it is boring. I simply
loved the Technicolor look of 1970s Paris and I was surprised at how it
actually still looks largely like that today. Inserting film action
flawlessly into a real "Liberation Day" parade without the help of any
computer graphics was European film making at a high point. Favourite
bit of dialog:
The Jackal: Half a million. In cash. Half in advance, and half on completion.
Montclair: Half a million francs?
The Jackal: Dollars.
Montclair: Are you mad?
The Jackal: Considering you expect to get France in return, I'd have thought it a reasonable price.
"Two Hands" is a hilarious Australian gangster movie set in really sultry Sydney. I bet tourists never envisage Sydney and Bondi to look like it did in this film: all sweaty bodies, oppressive nighttime and gangsters in nylon shorts and jandals. Heath Ledger plays an amateur boxer with an eye on becoming part of the local King's Cross boss's gang. He looked rather magnificent in his green wife beater and blue patterned budgie smuggler. A sweaty tattooed bod does become him. I always had him down as a "Home & Away" boy, and he has been in that soap, which is a little sweatier than the Weetbix-insipid "Neighbours". The film is really worth watching for its combination of sardonic humour and nasty violence - the drowning scene is expected to give me nightmares soon. Totty awards: Country girl love interest city brother and tattooed streetkid.
The Documentary Channel screened this BBC Horizon programme called "What's the problem with Nudity" the other night. It tried to figure out why nudity is such a social problem for our species by asking 8 total strangers who have never stripped or been nude in front of other people (and a battery of TV cameras) to do exactly that. Coupled with a potted history of homo sapiens and more ancient forebears, it tried to figure out at what stage in our genetic and cultural history we decided that it was not OK to be around others without "clothes" on. As this kind of cod TV science goes, it was rather un-illuminating on practically all questions it set out to answer. On the contrary, it left me with a great deal of other queries about aspects that never got touched on. The obvious clanger was asking 21st Century males and females to rate male chests' sexual attractiveness based on hirsuteness or baldness of said chests. This was supposed to give a clue that evolutionary we have lost our body hair because females preferred to mate with hairless men. But what this really showed was the scientific incompetence of the sex researchers setting up such a thoughtless, biased and uncontrolled experiment: even intuitively (if I may) I would have shown the subjects a range of hairy and hairless women to rate, and I bet the outcome would have been far more pronounced in favour of hairless-ness than the male-only version. Hairy females did far worse evolutionary speaking than hairy males, just look at the number of hairy men still with us compared to the amount of hairy females (ladies with moustaches notwithstanding) and the relentless marketing of lady-shaves, depilatory products and the opprobrium heaped on unshaven continental women. And we all know that when woman are at their most fertile era in their cycle, they prefer hairy bad boys as bed mates over plucked metrosexuals - and this has a long history too: interbreeding with hairy Neanderthal men apparently was far more common than many of us would like to remember.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
UKTV has started screening a terrific cop series here in New Zealand.
Inspector George Gently has the appearance of a run-of-the-mill
detective series but its setting in 1960s rural England makes it
interesting. The death penalty was still in force and enforced, which
makes a conviction for murder a risky affair for your own life. The
lack of modern gadgetry in crime solving such as DNA testing,
cellphones and computer databases are still decades away. It makes for
so much better drama when it is all about the relationships of the
protagonists, the criminal motives and the psychological games played
between the 'cops and robbers'. Hence the popularity of series like
Cracker, Inspector Morse and (even) Waking The Dead.
Male homosexuality was verboten at the time but that didn't make it invisible or unknown and it featured as a crucial subplot in the first episode. The hotel lobby scene, gay "Brief Encouter"-esque in feel if not linked to the reality of the scene, turned the frisson between the closet and the contemporary illegality into a marvellously subtle criticism of the law's nonsense. The waiter, in the briefest of appearances, gave a brilliant performance on how to skirt the sensitivity of the subject professionally. And Martin Shaw's face was priceless at the hapless Bacchus. "I'm not like that, I'm married!" still echoes down the ages as the truth that dares not speak out.
What I also liked (in episode zero at least) was that despite the psychotic revenge binge the Philip Davis character embarked on, the actual violence or gore was barely shown and the horror was implied off-screen, which makes it a very classical Greek-style drama.
Jackass Two isn't normally my kind of fare. The grossness of the skits,
involving mostly pain and humiliation, is in contrast to some areas
that remain taboo. The Jackass idiots do a lot of anal stuff but would
never involve any male erections on screen - there are hardly any
penises (limp or otherwise) on view in the film, compared to the
acreage of male arse. John Waters's cameo making the "wee man"
disappear was an inspired moment (if you haven't seen the film, it's
not what you may think).
I watched the film when on holiday at a backpackers accommodation, which had an earful of eye candy, if you allow me to mix metaphors, consisting of American and English surfies. Gauging their reactions to the film was much more fun than watching the movie.
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