Pavarotti

The most recent in a glut of “famous musician” biopics, “Pavarotti” is the story of Luciano Pavarotti, arguably the most recognisable of the “Three Tenors” and arguably the greatest singer of the twentieth century. A man blessed with a truly supernatural voice. I say blessed because the man in question appears to have been the rarest breed of towering artistic talents. His great voice made everybody happy – his audiences and just as importantly, him.

Make no mistake, this is no “tortured artistic genius” biopic. Pavarotti made no bones about trying to make everyone around him happy. And by and large he seems to have succeeded. In fact through the entire film, I don’t think he ever stopped smiling – except once, while singing “Pagliacci” – which he did so well that in a phrase of notes less than ten seconds long I was moved to cry and feel a great ebullient joy at his talent – both emotions at the same time.

To greater or lesser extent, “music star films” are usually rather sad films. Freddie Mercury in “Bohemian Rhapsody” was an undeniably tortured genius who by some quirk of fate, had the knack of using his talent to mutate his personal pain into mass joy. Maria Callas was far from being a happy person. Please don’t ask me for my opinion of Elton John or the film “Rocketman” instead if you want a great experience at the movies, see “Pavarotti”.

Its been a very long time since I’ve seen a film about such a major talent, and since before Pavarotti, there was only Caruso some eighty years earlier, we may have to wait some time and I can only say that whoever they are, I hope the vicissitudes of genetics and life allow them as much happiness as Pavarotti. Highly recommended.

(C) Alex Rieneck, 2019

Hustlers

Hustlers is one of those films that seems to have “pricked” a nerve. (Hee hee)
On one Hand (! The makers seem to have bent over backwards!) to make their film based on the New York Magazine article as fair as possible, but of course controversy has been aroused anyway. With allegations that the film portrays sex workers in an unflattering light, specifically as criminals. Knowing the kind of malignant bilge the the U.S can produce, I went to this film with some trepidation. Happily I was pleasantly surprised; with the sex workers guild have very thin skins or I have a comfortably thick one.
In any event this retired veteran was not offended, instead, I revisited a few long-vanished friends (or their stereotyped acted equivalents anyway). There is the altruistically minded girl who is working the industry only to earn enough to keep her grandmother alive, not to mention feeding her cute child because the “straight” job market is (as always) nastily rigged against people who actually need a job. The choice for those in dire straits is, as always, crime or sex work. In my experience, this means that most, but by no means all, sex workers are honest decent people interested in doing only what they have to do (no matter how distasteful) to keep up their side of the employment contract. On the other hand, while working I have seen disgruntled workers steal and cheat and as a customer I have been robbed and cheated. (One of each – once in Sydney, once in London). Having done the work myself, I found it hard to hold a grudge.
“Hustlers” is a bit vanilla, the characters are not out-and-out prostitutes (or should that be ‘In-and- out’ prostitutes?) Instead they are strippers and lap and pole dancers, but of course for Bible Belt USA these girls (and this film are the sexist double standard personified. Each and every girl is pure US porn -industry sex droid, siliconed and plasticised to the point of inhumanity; It is to the actor’s credit that their ability brings their personalities to the fore, making the “real” people as opposed to cookie-cut tits-& ass paraded and jiggled for our delectation, before our hypocritical censure and contrition. “Hustlers” makes great use of its stars; pole dancing crotch shots abound and the last frame is pure black with stark white text listing the length of the prison sentence doled out to one woman. Itsdifficult to understand when it seems to me that a fairer sentence would have been a spanking for the male “victim”- although that is very likely to be another ugly double standard creeping its way out of the subconscious. “Hustlers is a good, thought-provoking film about a minefield of knee-jerk reactions. It handles itself adroitly and with moments of real panache. Recommended.

(C) Copyright Alex Rieneck 2019 All Rights Reserved

Ad Astra review

I would have thought it was almost impossible for me to dislike a film so much influenced by “2001:A Space Odyssey,” but “Ad Astra” managed it. Indeed, while “Ad Astra could contains so many visual references to “001” that it could almost be described as fan fiction; However, For the purist, “Ad Astra is “2001” but written by Robert Heinlein when he was drunker than usual-but the early, pre”stranger in a Strange land” writer. “Ad Astra” is rather like watching a film of say “Space Family Stone”, without the cute kids, with a big ladleful of Clarkian bombast mistakenly stirred into the soup tp Spice things up” The “tourist arrival on the moon scene from 2001 is repeated with a modern slant, but perhaps just slightly less biting Kubrickian satire Almost before you can credit it, the film stops being Kubrick , and starts channeling one of the more idiotic scenes in “Moon Zero 2”(“The first space Western”) a sub-standard sci-fi action film from Hammer(1969); A film which shows a similar contempt for scientific realism and commonsense.”Moon zero2 has Catherie Schell in a skin-tight brown leotard. “Ad Astra has Brad Pitt, and enough of the cast of “Space Cowboys” for it almost to be possible to consider it to be a sequel to that film.(And jeez but I like Donald Sutherland!)

I hope I’m getting the point across here; “Ad Astra” keeps referencing “2001” and demanding to be seen as period science fiction, while rocket engines roar in the vacuum of space, just before the moon-buggy car chase and gunfight Brad Pitt hiJacks a rocket at takeoff with it still being quite unclear to me exactly how he does it. He’s the only one inside wearing a spacesuit which is lucky for him because this is an American space rocket & some batshit crazy are member has a gun.

The quick review:”Ad Astra is shit. Kinda fun but too schizophrenic to be able to be laughed at all the way through with an entirely clear conscience. Like- I’m sure there’s worse stuff around

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Right off the top, for clarities sake – I’ve never been a fan of Quentin Tarantino. I saw “Pulp Fiction” within the first couple of days of its release and I’m forever grateful for being introduced to Amanda Plummer (“Honey Bunny”) but overall the film didn’t really bang my bongos and the endless hosannas of the fan club went quite some way towards properly alienating me, to the point that I missed or avoided a lot which followed. And since you ask, I hated “Resevoir Dogs”. I found it to be sadistic, malicious, and simply violence porn. I felt the same way about “Inglorious Basterds” – the long scene of a captive German waiting to be murdered made me really angry. I never saw the end of that one.

I have no idea why I was at the first session, opening day for this effort, but I was – and to quote “Oddball” in “Kelly’s Heroes” the film is ultimately some kind of “weird sandwich” – but a tasty one, and one that is interesting to examine the workings of, because ultimately “Hollywood” does work, and work well, but for the majority of its running length it is rather like listening to someone trying to start a fucked tank engine – occasional moments of hope when the bloody thing actually works and long periods of embarrassed forbearance listening to the starter-motor grinding away and the driver swearing until finally the thing bursts into respectable life and drives off, up the driveway into the night and unexpectedly pleasant memory-land. In my case anyway, it completely redeems itself in the last minute or so of running time.

This is no mean feat. “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” is pretty easy going, and it is not short either being 161 minutes long; but while those desperate for a blizzard of action may be disappointed, it is worth pointing out too, that prior knowledge and understanding of the Manson “Family” and their activities and subsequent place in the American subconscious is essential for any real appreciation of this film. And before you scoff and say that “everyone would have to know of them”; I have been asked by quite a few people (all born since 1990) whether they would like this film – they had no idea at all. Neither did my carer who saw it with me, she didn’t like it and was illuminated by my explanation in the foyer after the film had finished.

“Once Upon A Time In Hollywood” fits squarely in Quentin Tarantino’s mini-genre of what could probably best be called “shallow alternative histories”, where the stupider possibilities of alternative history are considered. Unlike Len Deighton’s “SS-GB” which examined the long term effects on Britain of a loss to Nazi Germany, or Phillip K. Dick’s “The Man in the High Castle”, examining the U.S after a loss to Japan. Tarantino has never run much deeper than the Goodies arriving at a crux point in history, with guns, and slaughtering all the “Nazi Rat-Fuck Bastards” that need Slaughtering. His interest in history goes little deeper than getting to watch Hitler’s body writhing under the impact of a magazine’s worth of machine-gun bullets in gory, pornographic slow motion. Strictly primary school masturbation material, which of course finds rich fertile soil in the hearts and minds of the American Gun-Nut brigade, and the hearts and minds of people who rather like the idea if Hitler being turned into cat food with a machine gun. Of course that happens at the end of “Inglorious Basterds”.

In “Once upon a Time in Hollywood” there is no Hitler, instead Tarantino takes on the Manson “Family” who quite arguably did more damage to the US than Hitler ever did. Tarantino’s intercession of good into that fateful night is more sure, more mature than “Inglorious Basterds” and altogether more worth seeing. I found that it lost a fair bit of its excitement and shock value on a second viewing three days after the first, but if anything I found it to be a more worthwhile matter film than anything Tarantino has done before. In fact I found the absolute ending, including Sharon Tate’s last words to be more heart-rending and poetic than I had the first time. A fitting death knell to the joyous innocence of the 1960’s.

Recommended.
( If you know the story of Charles Manson)

The Lion King (2019

When I told one of my friends I was waiting for “The Lion King” to start; she said “really?” In a voice so laden with doubt that she might as well have added, “You’re fucking kidding”. She was honestly shocked, as well she might have been .

I have never seen the original film, even on video, and I didn’t see the live show, even though the giraffes’ heads come right out over the audience. I never saw the sequel to the original film, the sequels to the sequels, or any of the spin-off television shows. Likewise I had never purchased, (or used) “Lion King” themed toilet tissue, and had in short done my level- best to avoid the entire franchise right from the start.

Why? I’ve always seen “Hamlet” set in a pride of lions as a rather tacky idea, but from what I saw of the publicity of the first film, I thought the animation looked really naff and things kinda snowballed from there. I fought off the advice of friends that frequently crossed the line into brow-beating and remained “Lion King” free for the last twenty-five years.

I liked the look of the trailers; simple as that. Off I went. Somehow I was 3 rows from the front row on the first session on opening day; either perfectly qualified to be a consumer of the film, since as a complete virgin to the franchise, I would not be distracted by niggley, trivial differences to earlier versions. And the short review is simple; I absolutely loved this film! From the ghastly cartoon drawings to this – I am sure I have never seen more perfect artificial lions. From the first I simply marvelled at the fact that these animals were not living, breathing, pooping animals at all, but creations of CGI and more than being “simply” animals they were called on to act as well; and did so too, not as humans wearing lion faces either but as lions, somehow using cat mannerisms to express completely understandable and moving emotions – and notoveracting either. In recent years a plague of coarse acting has overtaken the American film industry and scenery chewing has become the order of the day. No. The lions deliver precise and economical performances , that frequently had me wondering how the top- priced human talent on display elsewhere gets away with their frequently Academy Award winning melodramatics.

Seriously. I’ve no idea what you call the skill but there must be an academy award for people who coax performances from computer simulacra, and, in my opinion the person or people responsible here deserve one – and an extra Cola at the party afterwards.

“The Lion King” made me cry once, right at the end, so I was caught, tears running down my face, just as the lights came up. Filthy trick. But I liked the rest of the film so very, very much, I was more than prepared to forgive.

Verdict: The magic of cinema does not get more magical.

(C) Alex Rieneck 2019

The Lion King (2019)

When I told one of my friends I was waiting for “The Lion King” to start; she said “really?” In a voice so laden with doubt that she might as well have added, “You’re fucking kidding”. She was honestly shocked, as well she might have been .

I have never seen the original film, even on video, and I didn’t see the live show, even though the giraffes’ heads come right out over the audience. I never saw the sequel to the original film, the sequels to the sequels, or any of the spin-off television shows. Likewise I had never purchased, (or used) “Lion King” themed toilet tissue, and had in short done my level best to avoid the entire franchise right from the start.

Why? I’ve always seen “Hamlet” set in a pride of lions as a rather tacky idea, but from what I saw of the publicity of the first film, I thought the animation looked really naff and things kinda snowballed from there. I fought off the advice of friends that frequently crossed the line into brow-beating and remained “Lion King” free for the last twenty-five years.

I liked the look of the trailers; simple as that. Off I went. Somehow I was 3 rows from the front row on the first session on opening day; either perfectly qualified to be a consumer of the film, since as a complete virgin to the franchise, I would not be distracted by niggley, trivial differences to earlier versions. And the short review is simple; I absolutely loved this film! From the ghastly cartoon drawings to this – I am sure I have never seen more perfect artificial lions. From the first I simply marvelled at the fact that these animals were not living, breathing, pooping animals at all, but creations of CGI and more than being “simply” animals they were called on to act as well; and did so too, not as humans wearing lion faces either but as lions, somehow using cat mannerisms to express completely understandable and moving emotions – and notoveracting either. In recent years a plague of coarse acting has overtaken the American film industry and scenery chewing has become the order of the day. No. The lions deliver mannered precise and economical performances , that frequently had me wondering how the top priced human talent on display elsewhere got away with their frequently, Academy Award winning performances.

Seriously. I’ve no idea what you call the skill but there must be an academy award for people who coax action performances from computer simulacra, and, in my opinion the person or people responsible here deserve one – and an extra Cola at the party after warwards.

“The Lion King” made me cry once, right at the end, so I was caught, tears running down my face, just as the lights came up. Filthy trick. But I liked the rest of the film so very, very much, I was more than prepared to forgive.

Verdict: The magic of cinema does not get more magical.

(C) Alex Rieneck 2019

Parasite

Parasite.

World cinema is an interesting pursuit, after awhile you start to understand the world in almost unfashionable ways. Indian films are very Indian and Definitely an acquired taste, French films have a particularly piquant taste all their own. The French sense of humour is frequently very twisted and, when you get the wavelength, sometimes exceptionally funny. German films are never funny. Their comedies are worse. The Japanese have made some of the best films ever, and also some of the craziest shit in history. In fact the Japanese probably provide the widest spectrum of cinematic quality of any nation on earth. From Akira Kurosawa’s “Ran” and Nagisa Oshima’s “In the Realm of the Senses”; all the way through to “Godzilla versus Frankenstein” there is something for everyone.

Right next door to Japan, almost within a stone’s throw(her her) is Korea. With a very much smaller Film industry, they have an utterly different outlook on life, and maintain a remarkably high quality standard in their recent output.Mostly.From “The Host” (which is probably the best “giant mutant creature film ever made )through to fascinating independent films like “lies” and the OTT bloodstorm war movie “Brothers in War” their industry stands on the horrendous trauma of the Korean War, which simply cannot be ignored as a major formative influence on the culture, and by extension, their film industry. In this film “parasite” it does not take much effort to see the formative influence of the trauma of war, on their culture and this subtext adds another layer of meaning to an already very interesting film.
Synopsis: A family of subterraneans live off the grid in a semi basement area in a stinking alley. Their windows provide close-up views of drunks pissing and puking in the street The group like like alley rats, eating what they find, stealing what they need; if they have “hope” it is a very short term proposition; since the concept of “having a future depends entirely on the prospect that you will be able to eat both today, and tomorrow.
Against all expectation however the grown son of the group, has managed to get an education, and has, indeed, graduated school with prospects. This is an amusing point at which one can diverge from the actual film itself and wonder athwart the plot line might have been if “parasite” had been made in different countries. The U.S is dead easy. If it had been made their the family would have been black since it is a commonly accepted trope that the only people horribly grindingly poor in the U.S are black. The clean -cut son, probably played by Denzel Washington, would, graduating school attempt to secure gainful employment. Here, apparently for the first time in his life, he would encounter the affront of white racism as an obstacle to his path. He would meet this challenge nobly, perhaps unburdening himself of some rhetoric at some applicable point, and roughly at the same time conflict would enter the plot! Black hoodlums would attempt to bully him into selling drugs for them! Or get shot! This plot section would form the major impetus for the films climax (usually involving tragically gasped last words from a bullet-riddled body cradled in the street by an alternately crying and screaming mother.
You can rest assured “Parasite was not made in the U.S; it was made in South Korea, and the Korean worldview is entirely different to that of the Western world. In fact, to someone brought up on a diet of American Media, the Koreans are downright weird. So “Parasite” trundled along towards its uniquely Korean and very satisfying ending I was left simultaneously aghast, and post cathartically almost shocked at the way I had found the ending uproariously funny. This is a bloody good albeit niche film that has the makings of a cult sleeper hit all over it, if such things exist anymore,
Copyright(C) Alex Rieneck 2019