Category Archives: other

Quite probably one of the worst films I’ve seen…

…or at least, the most SURPRISINGLY bad film.

(Yes, I’m answering the question I posed below, and I’m going to write a review)

This film was so bad that had I spent money I would have wanted it back. With a gift voucher as a goodwill gesture, from God, to make up for the loss of time incurred in the course of my life. At the same time I was completely fascinated, on tenterhooks, not because of the plot but because I was waiting to see whether it could actually get worse.

It was not bad in the way that Showgirls or Boom! is bad. In fact, the experience of its badness was much more akin to watching a piece of bad theatre than anything else.

OK so the film I’m talking about is Matchpoint and it was written, produced & directed by Woody Allen. It starred Jonathan Rhys Myers and Scarlett Johnansson and some other people. That woman who was in Young Adam (I usually like her as well).

I suppose I should say, SPOILERS, for anyone thinking of watching this, but can I just say – don’t? Or rather, DO, but only so I can have someone to talk to about the totally dispiriting feeling that envelopes a person afterwards.

I haven’t watched a lot of Woody Allen films but I have never come away from one before feeling so thoroughly soiled. To make things worse, I watched this film straight after watching Manhattan for the first time (they were shown back to back on the cinefil imagica channel) and it was shocking to think that these two films were made by the same person. What the hell happened, Woody?

As an artistic experience I think Matchpoint ranks up there with that Romeo &J performance we were forced to sit through on the Writing for Stage course (the production where they were sometimes dressed as Fascists, sometimes as Mafia members from Goodfellas, which featured the Italian flag being lowered melodramatically and in complete seriousness onto Tibult’s body).

This film made me at first amused, then bemused, annoyed and finally rather disbelieving as to its utter awfulness. It made Eastenders look like Shakespeare. The actors were quite wooden & completely miscast but above all it was the script & plot which were so bad. I quite honestly wonder if W. Allen made the whole thing as a joke. Watching it straight after Manhattan, which was ok, made it all the more depressing, as there is that suspicion (could he have…? & didn’t anyone say…?) that this film was made in utter earnestness; which means that somewhere between the two films Allen’s artistic sense became completely corrupted, for to have made this film seriously & think it good one would have to be the most doltish beginner. Yes I say that despite never having written or made a film – but it really is because I am so SHOCKED.

I don’t think I am a filmgoer with especially high standards – I do like well written scripts but it doesn’t always stop me watching something if the script is bad. Usually there is some compensating factor. At least. Or if the script is not good, then there are usually times when it at least patchily competent. Even if not, then maybe it is so bad it is funny or at least doesn’t take itself too seriously. For example – I like Bad Girls and Footballer’s Wives. I know they are TV shows but the point’s the same. The plots are ludicrous but they don’t claim to be good in the sense that they aren’t making a claim to high art.

This film seemed to have…pretensions. The main character quotes Sophocles and reads Dostoevsky (I think there is supposed to be a reference to the fact that the plot is a refutation of Crime & Punishment). This despite the fact that there ARE no books in his apartment. So – on certain levels, the film assumes (or attempts to assume) a type of sophistication in the viewer. Yet the dialogue, character & scene development are the most terrible schlock, and worse, the expository speeches the characters make IN EVERY SCENE are extremely patronising.

It got to the point where it was being done so much & so often, even by several characters in the same scene about the same expository point of the plot, that I thought, “how can this not be deliberate? Is it some kind of meta-fuck you?” eg. The scene where the family find out about Nola’s murder, then phone each other up, and we are treated to exactly the same repeated, banal dialogue by each one (‘Terrible tragedy, isn’t it? Yes, it’s a drug murder, apparently. Did you read it in the newspaper? Yes, I read it in the newspaper just now. Did you read it in the newspaper? Yes, I too, was reading the newspaper just now when I saw it and called you at once. Isn’t it a terrible, terrible random tragedy?’ etc etc)
My question (oh, I have so many questions) is, how can the writer of Manhattan and the writer of Matchpoint be one and the same? For IF Woody Allen did NOT mean Matchpoint as a private joke or something, IF he actually thought it was even competent on any level (for it fails on every one; plot, character, dialogue, action, even background, even PROPS and SCENERY, even MUSIC – all of them horribly off-key and distractingly bad in their own way. It even fails on quirks, incidental notes) – then I must sadly speculate that he is perhaps suffering some sort of illness, or at least the debilitating effect of drinking or drugs. Even just while he was making this perhaps. How could he (some would say, genius, but above all original, different, never cliched except in the sense that he repeated his own created cliches) have made this thing, so very stale, so very cliched, so very wooden? It is baffling! I had to keep watching through sheer, perverse wonder, all the way through I was thinking – ‘where’s the punchline?’

And as it dragged on, and on, and grew worse, and still worse, until it became farce yet never lost its apparently straight face. I was left wondering: was this the most subtle comedy ever made? Like an intellectual dog whistle, was the joke too cerebral for me to get? Because nothing in this film made sense – no incident was too small to be without its own annoying ridiculous redundancy. For example – the brother-in-law gets married, to a wife we never hear speak, although she is in a few scenes. In another scene, Rhy-Meyer’s wife mentions in passing that her brother has had a baby with his new wife, yet this fact is never referred to again, nor is the child in evidence, even though we see the family gathered together for family occasions, one of which is the birth of the sister’s baby where they are all toasting this new grandchild etc etc. What are we supposed to think? Was this a mistake? Why mention this extra child at all – it bears no relevance to the plot whatsoever? Just a throwaway comment? Then why did no-one think to mention the odd non-appearance of the said child?

Above all, this sort of sloppy incidental plothole is by no means the only one in the film. Most of the dialogue which doesn’t relate to the main story line –and even much of that which does – has the same odd, throwaway, unchecked feel. It’s not realistic, slice of life, but it doesn’t work as drama either. But so sloppy, so careless, so many loose ends and continuity errors/bloopers! How CAN this be Allen’s work? Which is what makes me think it is a joke…but if that is the case, then the joke must be on the viewers…

The thing which underlines the strange crapness of this film is James Nesbitt’s character, right at the end – the policeman who wakes up having dreamt the solution. Is this some sort of in-joke, because I did NOT get it. Anyone who has seen this film, and knows more about Woody Allen’s films than me, please let me know. Sample dialogue: Nesbitt; “I want to know the truth, but it’s difficult to find out much more without causing trouble for a lot of people.” Another copper; “I know. Well, we’ll just have to hope the answer falls into our laps.”

And WHY did there have to be about 50 different policemen on the case (OK, three or four, but it’s still too many considering this is right at the end of the film, and they only appear for a really short time)?

All in all, then I would say:

best moment of the film: the cameo appearance by that one off League of Gentlemen who played Glen in Nighty Night. He appears for about 0.5 seconds as Scarlett Johnansson’s previous ping pong partner in an aristo country house and is never seen again, nor is any explanation given for his presence (though the scene between SJ and JRM that follows is hilariously bad.) Nevertheless, this guy manages to pack into that 0.5 seconds more character development than any of the film’s “real” characters. I like to think that he had a whole backstory as a mad inbred cousin; if you see the film, watch what he does with his mouth and how he lays the pingpong bat down on the table and you will see what I mean. I am actually not joking about this.

worst moment of the film: everything and everybody else.

UPDATE: After writing this review, I went over to imdb to read some of the reviews there (where it has gotten an unbelievable 7.8 stars) to try & find out what I am “missing” about this film. The reviews seem to be pretty much divided between love & hate, which is intriguing, although I couldn’t find much in-depth analysis of why there were so many plotholes. But I did find one review which said:

“This is a great film. One of Woody Allen’s best. There are many, many people who complain of plot holes in this film. What they are talking about are not really plot holes. They are LIFE holes. The events such as the police not investigating Nola’s (alleged) pregnancy is maddening.

That however, is not a shortcoming of the film, but instead one of it’s strengths. Chris Wilton was a very, VERY lucky killer in that there were many ways he could – and should – have gotten caught. But, due to a seemingly open and shut case, and a lazy police department, he emerged completely unscathed.

In a way, Woody Allen’s manipulation of the audience to an almost angry state over this fact is the mark of a master.”

-so this person is saying that the plotholes are deliberate, and that is WHY the film is good…hmm. I just don’t think so. Although I can see now that maybe that could have been the intention behind them – i.e. that they are there to emphasize the “theme” of the film, which is to do with luck being all and justice being an illusion. If that is the case then this is one nihilistic film and indeed it IS a meta-fuck you. Not only because of the philosophical point being made either. If the plotholes ARE intentional, then I wonder if the rest of the jarring faults are too, including the cardboard characters, stilted unrealistic dialogue etc. If these things are in the film in order to make a point about artifice and triviality, I’m not at all sure that it works. Although, if that was what Allen was trying to do then at least there is a vision there. I’m just not sure what it is, the pointlessness of cinema or some depressive’s view about the trivial and arbitary nature of psychology, even the flimsiness of fiction? I don’t think I buy it.

Happy Birthday, William Blake

Born on this day 250 years ago. His words = relevant still.

Prologue, intended for a Dramatic Piece of King Edward the Fourth

O for a voice like thunder, and a tongue
To drown the throat of war! When the senses
Are shaken, and the soul is driven to madness,
Who can stand? When the souls of the oppressèd
Fight in the troubled air that rages, who can stand?
When the whirlwind of fury comes from the
Throne of God, when the frowns of his countenance
Drive the nations together, who can stand?
When Sin claps his broad wings over the battle,
And sails rejoicing in the flood of Death;
When souls are torn to everlasting fire,
And fiends of Hell rejoice upon the slain,
O who can stand? O who hath causèd this?
O who can answer at the throne of God?
The Kings and Nobles of the Land have done it!
Hear it not, Heaven, thy Ministers have done it!

and from America, a Prophecy (read the whole thing here):

Fiery the Angels rose, & as they rose deep thunder roll’d
Around their shores: indignant burning with the fires of Orc
And Bostons Angel cried aloud as they flew thro’ the dark night.
He cried: Why trembles honesty and like a murderer,
Why seeks he refuge from the frowns of his immortal station!
Must the generous tremble & leave his joy, to the idle: to the pestilence!
That mock him? who commanded this? what God? what Angel!
To keep the gen’rous from experience till the ungenerous
Are unrestraind performers of the energies of nature;
Till pity is become a trade, and generosity a science,
That men get rich by, & the sandy desart is giv’n to the strong
What God is he, writes laws of peace, & clothes him in a tempest
What pitying Angel lusts for tears, and fans himself with sighs
What crawling villain preaches abstinence & wraps himself
In fat of lambs? no more I follow, no more obedience pay.

——–

Roger McGough introduces a selection of readings of Blake’s poetry on radio 4 here.

——–

You can view copies of some of the original plates & illustrations along with poems here.

It’s freezing this morning

Currently wearing: bed socks; knee socks; wool pajamas; a dress; a jumper; the daddy coat; a hat.

The daddy coat is a padded tartan housecoat/smoking jacket sported (usually) by the discerning Japanese pensioner-around-town, which I picked up for a song in the local village store.

Questions You Must Answer – Interview Meme

This post is in response to an interview meme at Violet Ink – Aphra kindly decided to pose some questions for me to get me out of a non-blogging rut… if you want to (dare to?) take part, please read the instructions at the bottom of the post!

What was your first queer moment, by which I mean, the moment you first realised something was different?

Oh boy. It took me a long time to realise something was really different, as opposed to suspecting that what I felt was just something people didn’t really talk about. Yes, I confess to a rather arrogant assumption: secretly I suspected that everyone was really bisexual for ages. This crops up in my mind from time to time but I’ve come to understand that it’s not a helpful way to think about it really. I think it’s rude/self-centred of me to even put it like that, now….but it was how I thought about it rather when I was growing up. Having said that there were a few things that happened when I was a kid that gave me a bit of a clue, in retrospect. Like playing kisschase with boys, but also playing ‘truckdriver’ with girls. Or the time my mother came in and discovered my best friend hiding naked underneath the duvet after a game of said ‘truckdriver’ ( I guess I can date to that one the realisation that I was doing something…er, naughty?)

Actually, now I think about it, I kind of realised I was a bit kinky or something before realising I was queer in the sense of relating it to other people. But that’s a different question in my mind – so I don’t have so answer it, phew.

What’s the best thing about living in Japan?

There are lots of good things about living here. I am really enjoying the opportunity to live somewhere completely different to the cities I’ve previously lived in – a small, rural community. It’s a very good chance to practise speaking a new language with the native speakers of that language. Also, for me, it’s been an extremely good experience to distance myself from the culture I grew up in – you know, question a lot of assumptions about the world I didn’t even know I had. One of the most surprising aspects that I hadn’t really considered is the different perspectives I would encounter on global politics…I guess my expectations before coming here were centred around the UK/ Japan but I hadn’t factored in the many other nationalities and interests of people here – other western countries, the US, Canada, NZ as well as Brazil, China, Korea… This is probably more to do with being an expatriate than living in Japan specifically, but it has definitely been a big part of my life here.

What counts as comfort food?

Hmm, I have a terribly indulgent attitude to food. I’m a savoury girl, so no sweet things or cake, but apart from that most food that tastes good and is bad for you. I will say this, b/c I know my friend Knickers will be reading, but I have a terrible weakness for a ham shank. (Yes, Knickers, one of THESE and not the other sort, you filthy minded scoundrel). I also have a tendency to put mayonnaise on everything.

If you could be anywhere right now, where would it be?

I have to say, I’m pretty much happy with where I am right now. Other than here, though, where I’d most like to be is at my friend Sara’s – I want to meet her new daughter!

(And I’m keeping this one from roro) If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

For one so intensely nosy about other peoples’ lives as I, this question is an easy one. It would either be the ability to read minds or invisibility. Since reading minds, I think, would cause a lot of confusion, hubris, even possibly despair, I’m going to have to go with invisibility (that way I could be the fly-on-the-wall in 10 Downing St!). I also have to reluctantly conclude that the ability to Time Travel, IMO possibly the most potent of all superpowers (a la Hiro from Heroes), would not be for me – I don’t trust myself enough not to disrupt the space-time continuum in order to not be late for work.

So if you want to do this meme…

Leave me a comment saying, “Interview me, please.” I will respond by emailing you five questions of my choosing. You must update your blog with the answers to the questions. Whether you like them or not. You have to include this explanation, and an offer to interview someone else in the same post. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions. So, there you go. Cheers.

A message for my blog “partner”

I know I haven’t updated in a while (as opposed to S, who seems to have the ability to blog whilst asleep) but I have been quite busy. Also lazy.

But not as lazy as Knickers! Yes, knickers, I am publicly rebuking you: it is now almost 1 year  since you said you were going to write a series of hilarious guides to gay dating in Osaka’s nether regions. Amongst other things. We have had the conversations, the experiences, sang the karaoke, destroyed the photos, I have even seen your notes for the write up but I, and the rest of the world, are still waiting. Spare a thought for those coming after you! We wouldn’t want them to fall, unwary, into the traps waiting for them at Physique, amongst other places…would we?

Dublin: Kilmeinham Gaol

While I was in Dublin I visited the famous gaol, Kilmainham. It’s a pretty interesting place and also kind of spooky. Maybe it comes from watching too much Most Haunted but I always think about spirits in those sorts of old buildings.

I sometimes wonder about the theory that certain places act as a sort of psychic depository of past emotions…for example, Auchwitz as a site of pain & suffering. Many people who have visited agree that it is a sad place (sad, here, a pitifully inadequate adjective) – but is that due to their knowledge, the preservation of the buildings, imagination plus history? Is it measurable, does it contain echoes of the actual grief that was enacted there? Or does it act as a site of projected grief, the place pregnant with the collective mediatations of the contemporary visitors?

In my life, I’ve had two powerful experiences of places which caused in me an extreme reaction. One was in Wales, which is rather a long story. The other was in the Conciergerie, in Paris.

I was 12: on a school trip. I can’t remember too much about the place, but what does remain with me is a memory of the rising panic and claustrophobia I experienced there. I remember they were showing some video re-enactments, and there was the usual tour and informative stuff, so maybe it acted violently upon my imagination: but I also remember the clear sense of having been in that place before; a struggle against a physical nausea; a sort of disorientated jumbling of my conscious thoughts; an absolute necessary impetus to get out of that place immediately. I’ve never been back.

All sorts of theories exist to explain this sort of feeling. One is that of reincarnation, which, whilst I haven’t ruled it out, sounds a bit too neat to me. Too tidy, perhaps, to be true (because it offers such a pat answer for so much of life’s happenings – it makes too much sense, if you like. Call me perverse and stubborn.)

Another theory is that of a sort of haunting – that places may be haunted, not just with actual ghosts but with the pain and suffering of the people that have lived there. This is a very poetic hypothesis, and part of me agrees that it does feel like it could be true in certain buildings etc. Some places just have a good or bad vibe to them. But I read somewhere once that there can hardly be ten metres in any historic city, any city which has existed on the same site for millennia, which hasn’t been witness to a murder. So why aren’t there more of these spooky sites? Perhaps the other emotions that have been felt – the other acts of kindness or mercy, say – that have been enacted on the same spot as murders, separated by years and bodies, have somehow cancelled out any definite negative energy. Whereas somewhere like the Conciergerie, or like Auschwitz, remains as a preserved place of human misery and spiritual abjection. Hmm.

I didn’t feel anything of the sort at Kilmainham. I must confess, it did cross my mind whether I would. If I had felt like that in the relatively unconfined halls of the Conciergerie…! And I don’t even know much about French history! I wondered what my imagination would make of this place, the emblem of so much suffering for the Irish people. Well – I felt interested, intrigued. I felt the romance and the terror, imagined the terrible privation and hunger. But no physical reaction or identification. So much for the genetic memory theory! My ancestors were far more likely to have been banged up in Kilmainham for stealing turnips than incarcerated in the Conciergerie for being nobility…