Thursday, September 21, 2017

Familiar Faces

After Tuesday's brief excursion into politics we're back to pop culture trivia here at Sleaze Diary.  Increasingly, I feel much more comfortable discussing the trivia.  There's only so much you can rant about politics before it becomes repetitive - it's not is if it achieves anything, either.  Well, apart from allowing me to vent my frustrations in a safe environment, I suppose.  But enough preamble, let's get on with today's real business.  Have you ever noticed how the same actors appear in multiple TV ads for different products?  You'd think, with all of the aspiring (and out of work) actors out there, they'd be able to have entirely different casts for every series of adverts in a campaign.  But no, casting directors seem to fixate on certain actors, casting them over and over again.  Which, when you think about it, is potentially confusing for viewers: if you start to associate a particular face with a particular product, then seeing them in an advert for something else can be very disconcerting.  I find that I end up getting confused as to what the new advert is actually trying to sell me, because one part of my mind recognises the actor and assumes that the ad is for the brand I already associate them with.

Obviously, I'm not talking about those 'name' actors who appear in adverts, (and there do seem to be increasing numbers of big name actors doing TV commercials).  Generally speaking, their level of fame is sufficient to transcend whichever brand they are selling.  You don't think of Harvey Keitel, for instance, as simply that guy who sells Direct Line insurance.  No, I'm thinking of those anonymous 'stars; of commercials - the bit players and drama school graduates looking for their big break.  And, as I've noted, some of them do seem to becomes 'stars' of a sort, within the confines of the world of commercials - fame in thirty second bursts.  There's that guy who plays Charlie in those ads for the credit rating checking service, you know, the ones where he has Moose, the talking dog.  Anyway, he can now also be seen selling the Lenovo Idea Pad 320S for Currys-PC World, sometimes doing both in the same commercial break.  Then there's the bald bloke with the red beard who started off advertising Heinz baked beans, then did a series of ads for, I think Sainsburys, over the Summer.  Of late he's been doing an ad for breakfast cereal.

But this kind of fame can be short lived.  Casting directors for commercials seem to go through phases: they see someone they like in one campaign, then start putting them in everything.  Until their next favorite commercials star turns up.  Then the previous person just vanishes.  Just look at that short guy with the beard - you know, the one who played the short sighted vet in a Specsavers ad.  Well, after that, he was in everything: ads for Tesco Mobile, Microsoft Lumia, the bloody lot. Then: nothing.  I can't remember the last time I saw him (apart from the odd time when the Specsavers ad turns up in a commercial break).  Then there was that other beardy bloke - he was in a Plus Net which still runs, playing a call centre operative.  Off the back of that he started turning up all over the commercial breaks, before vanishing.  Will we ever see him again?  Longevity in this world seems to depend on a willingness to stick to a single brand: the main guy in the Plus Net ads, for instance.  He's been doing that for years and is effectively now the face of Plus Net.  But there is hope for all those actors toiling away in commercials - a handful of them do make it big.  Let's not forget that David Tennant was a regular in a series of commercials for Boots pre Doctor Who, as was Amanda Mealing before  she was Connie Beaucham in Holby City and Casualty, while James Nesbitt was the king of commercials before Cold Feet.  So, fingers crossed for the beardy guy from Specsavers - a starring role in Game of Thrones could be around the corner.

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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Thickness of Cable

Apparently Vince Cable, (who seems to be leader of the Liberal Democrats these days), thinks that it isn't inconceivable that he could be Prime Minister after the next election.  Actually, it is - completely and utterly inconceivable.  It is impossible to envisage a political scenario where he could be back in government, let alone Prime Minister.  Discarding the totally ludicrous idea that the Lib Dems could garner sufficient to support to form a majority, one has to assume that Cable's fantasy rests on another hung parliament in which he has sufficient seats to hold the balance of power.  Unfortunately for Cable, I really can't see any way that either of the two main parties would agree to a coalition with the Lib Dems with him as Prime Minister.  Indeed, it is hard to see either of them being willing to enter into a coalition of any kind with the Lib Dems, regardless of Cable's position.  After the 2010-2015 coalition government (in which Cable served), I don't see the Tories being in any hurry to repeat the experience and I don't see Labour rushing to get into bed with the Lib Dems after they enabled what was, in effect, a right wing Tory government.  More to the point, I doubt very much that the Lib Dems rank and file membership would wear either another coalition with the Tories, or with Labour under Corbyn.


But the real issue here is Cable himself - this latest flight of fancy on his part simply highlights the man's hubris.  He really seems to believe that he is some kind of political giant.  The media's constant indulgence of him undoubtedly stokes his high opinion of himself - they forever try to make out that he is some kind of political elder statesman imbued with the wisdom of ages.  The reality is that his time in government revealed him to be incompetent and illiberal: a reactionary forever threatening Trade Unions and workers rights. His hubris eventually laid him low when he was caught out in a newspaper sting - he just couldn't help boasting to what he thought were constituents (but actually undercover reporters) of how he was going to use his position as Secretary of State for Piggy Banks (or whatever it was) to frustrate Rupert Murdoch's planned takeover of Sky.  Not surprisingly, this lack of discretion resulted in the decision over the controversial takeover bid being taken away from him and given to Jeremy Hunt, instead.

But, perhaps worst of all, Cable is a bore.  As a public sleeper he can put you to sleep.  I speak from personal experience, havng had the misfortune to hear him speak - utter tedium.  As I've said before, however, the media frequently mistakes dullness for gravitas and assume that Cable's saying something important and profound.  Which, in reality, he never does.  Of course, there's still a chance he might wind up in Number Ten again - probably by trying to climb in through Larry the Cat's cat flap.  But thefact is that he has proven quite conclusively, that he is unfit ever to be allowed near the levers of power again.

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Monday, September 18, 2017

Equal Opportunities Offender

Apparently I did SPECTRE and Ernst Stavro Blofeld a disservice when, in the previous post, I dismissed the characters of Wint and Kidd in Diamonds Are Forever as 'appalling gay stereotypes'.  It has been pointed out to me that their presence in the film is an indication of how enlightened an employer SPECTRE were, decades ahead of other organisations in their equal opportunities hiring policies. Which is fair enough.  After all, where else in the early seventies could you find anyone else employing a pair of openly gay men as assassins?  Certainly not in Her Majesty's Secret Service, the CIA or KGB.  Indeed, in any of those organisations being gay would have been grounds for dismissal, as having an 'abnormal' sexual orientation was considered a security risk.  But the international crime consortium headed by Blofeld seems to have had a far more positive approach, as, by the early seventies, at least, Wint and Kidd appear to be their most trusted killers.

But when one thinks about it, SPECTRE's attitude toward the employment of openly gay hit men shouldn't come as a surprise.  Throughout the sixties they had already been blazing a trail with their employment of women in prominent positions.  Who could forget the forceful presence of Irma Bundt as Blofeld's right hand in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, for instance?  No man could best her, not even 007.  In contrast to many of the other women portrayed in the series, she is sensibly immune to the agent's shallow charms.  Similarly, Rosa Klebb in From Russia With Love, obviously frustrated by the lack of opportunities for advancement in the KGB, joined SPECTRE and was entrusted with running one of its most important operations.  Then there were Helga Brandt in You Only Live Twice and Fiona Volpe in Thunderball, both top SPECTRE killers playing major roles in their operations.  Honourable mention here should also be made of Goldfinger, who was happy to employ the lesbian Pussy Galore in his organisation (even if she did fall at the final hurdle and swap sides, in every sense).

And where was MI6 in all of this?  Certainly not practicing equal opportunities for women, that's for sure.  Miss Moneypenny was the most prominent woman they employed and she was just a secretary, entrusted only with the typing and flirting with Bond.  Damn it, they were even doing better when it came to employing minorities - let's not forget that they had Quarell on the pay roll in the sixties and his son in the seventies.  No, as far as the old school tie brigade running the Secret Intelligence Service in those days was concerned, women existed solely for the purpose of being imperiled by villains and seduced by friendly agents.  Even the KGB, by the seventies, was ahead of the game in this respect, with their top licenced to kill agent, Triple X, revealed to be a woman in The Spy Who Loved Me.  Like the female assassins employed by SPECTRE, she was treated with respect by her colleagues, recognised for her professionalism and skill.  (Except when they fouled up, when they could find themselves being fed to piranha fish - but male employees who underperformed could expect the same treatment.  Equal opportunities in action at SPECTRE once more).  OK, I know that MI6 eventually had a female M, but, in my opinion, it was too little, too late to dispel its image as a bastion of institutionalised sexism.

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Friday, September 15, 2017

"Named After Your Father, Perhaps?"

Another Friday night, another Bond movie to unwind to, (don't worry, I'm not going to write about every Bond movie as ITV4 show them again on Friday nights), this time Diamonds Are Forever from 1971.  Diamonds Are Forever makes for a fascinating contrast with its immediate predecessor, On Her Majesty's Secret Service.  The latter was generally felt to have been a disappointment at the box office, with the blame being firmly placed upon the fact that it was 'atypical' of the series, from the casting of the leading man to the plot and style, it was felt that it had deviated too much from the established formula that loyal Bond audiences had become accustomed to.  Of course, the situation hadn't been helped by George Lazenby announcing that he wasn't going to to do another Bond movie before his first (and only) film in the series had even been released.  The Bond producers were left in a quandary, not only were they going to have to recast the role again, but plans for Diamonds Are Forever had been predicated upon Lazenby continuing in the role.  Indeed, the film had originally been intended as a direct sequel to On Her Majesty's Secret Service, quite literally picking up where the previous film left off: with the murder of Bond's wife by Blofeld on their wedding day.

In the end they opted to play safe in every department with the new film.  Most crucially, after touting a series of uninspiring and  unsuitable actors for the lead role, the services of Sean Connery were eventually secured, returning to the role on a one off basis and for a fee of a million dollars (which, it later transpired, he gave to charity).  The completed film makes no direct reference to the events of On Her Majesty's Secret Service - the pre-title sequence shows an angry Bond beating up various characters, demanding to know where Blofeld is, before confronting the super villain at a plastic surgery clinic where doubles are being prepared and seemingly killing him.  The reasons for Bond seeking Blofeld, or his apparent fury at him are never made specific.  In the opening scenes of the film proper, M makes reference to Bond having returned from a leave of absence, which he spent dealing with 'personal business'.  Thereafter, Diamonds Are Forever unfolds as a typical Bond movie with world once more being held to ransom by Blofeld, (the real one, not the double killed by Bond in the pre-title sequence).

There is absolutely nothing unexpected or novel in the film.  Everything is reassuringly familiar.  It's clear that the producers are trying to reference Goldfinger - the most successful and popular film in the franchise up to that time - throughout the film.  Many of the tropes from the earlier film are present: an obsession with a precious substance (diamonds rather than gold) which threatens the financial stability of a country (the UK rather than US), a villain with a high tech arsenal (both Goldfinger and Blofeld have powerful lasers), the use of gangsters as a front by the villain, even a climax involving a countdown to a potential disaster.  (At one stage in the film's development it was even proposed to bring Gert Frobe back as the villain - playing Goldfinger's diamond-obsessed identical twin brother).  Even the direction of Diamonds Are Forever was entrusted to Goldfinger director Guy Hamilton (a professional director of many British war films capable of handling large spectacles on screen, but visually less than inspired).  Consequently, the film has a similar look and feel to Goldfinger, returning to the glossy but solid look of earlier Bond productions, rather than the slightly harder edged and 'arty' look of On Her Majesty's Secret Service.

Diamonds Are Forever has a far lighter feel to it than its predecessor, featuring a jokey script which ramps up the campness.  (In this respect, it pretty much provided a template for the subsequent Roger Moore films).  Not only is Bond's animosity to Blofeld quickly forgotten, but Blofeld himself, played by Charles Grey, replacing Telly Savalas, is so archly camp as to be utterly non-threatening,  Even camper are his henchmen, Mr Wint and Mr  Kidd, a pair of appalling  gay stereotypes who, despite ruthlessly and efficiently dispatching various members of a diamond smuggling ring, fail time and again to kill Bond, always leaving him too many opportunities to escape.  Not that we ever believe that 007 is under threat at any point in the film, with him returning to his usual invulnerability after his flirting with humanity in the previous film.  We never fear that he's going to do anything as rash as treating women as anything other than sex objects and actually fall in love with one.  Connery's performance as Bond is virtually a parody of his previous appearances in the role, with wisecracks and smugness replacing his earlier ruthlessness.  His performance isn't helped by an unconvincing hair piece and visible paunch.   Unlike On Her Majesty's Secret Service, beyond the title, a few basic plot elements and Las Vegas setting, Diamonds Are Forever bears little resemblance to its source novel - in the interest of protecting its box office, obviously.

Despite being inferior to On Her Majesty's Secret Service in virtually every respect, Diamonds Are Forever was a huge success with audiences.  Familiarity, it seems, breeds not contempt, but increased box office takings.  To be fair, it is an entertaining film when seen as a one off - it only becomes disappointing when compared with its predecessor.  Diamonds Are Forever is a perfectly standard Bond movie with all the elements you'd expect, many of them very well executed.  It rolls reasonably smoothly from set piece to set piece, without the plot ever making entire sense.  But its highlights include a brutal fight in a lift, a decent car chase through Las Vegas, the sequence at the undertakers in the desert (where Bond nearly gets cremated).  Shirley Bassey (another nod to Goldfinger) blasts out a  typically bombastic theme song, ('sing diamond, think penis' composer John Barry allegedly directed her), which, along with the rest of the score, whilst entertaining, is far less subtle than Barry's work on the previous film.  Much of the film - like Connery's performance - feels somewhat perfunctory and the whole thing builds to an entirely underwhelming climax on an oil rig.  It does, however, feature a celebrated piece of smutty dialogue when busty Lana Turner introduces herself to Bond:

"I'm Plenty."

"But of course you are."

"Plenty O'Toole."

"Named after your father, perhaps?"

Ah, how witty and sophisticated secret agents were in the seventies.


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Thursday, September 14, 2017

Homes Hammered

I was right about that house.  You remember, the one I was on about a couple of weeks ago.  The one I used to fantasize about buying, only to discover recently that it had just been pulled down.  I predicted that the land it had sat on would be used to put up a small village.  Well, I drove past the site again the other day and lo and behold, there was a hoarding up outside, advertising the yet to be built new 'houses'.  I say houses, but I'm not sure that the collection of miniature one and two bedroomed houses illustrated qualify as such, they are so tiny.  I know I'm going to sound like a Daily Mail editorial, but the proposed buildings really are out of character for the area - which is a long winding village road full of largish detached houses.  I know that we need more new housing in the UK, particularly in rural areas, but these proposed houses are clearly not intended as low cost or social housing.  They'll be sold at ludicrous prices to first time buyers desperate to get on the bottom rung of the housing ladder.

But that, it seems, is what the modern property market is all about - selling the least possible property for the highest possible price.  It's all about buying nice old houses like my former dream house and demolishing them to exploit the land they sit on.  Never mind that people need space to lve and breath, we'll just pack as many of them into as small a space as possible.  I've had cause to look around a large number of modern houses over the past couple of decades and, increasingly, they make my two up, two down, look palatial by comparison.  I was lucky enough to be able to buy my house during the depths of a depression, when repossessions were high and prices rock bottom.  Before I bought it, I'd looked at several more modern properties.  They were awful: cramped, poorly lit, bathrooms with extractor fans rather than windows and built on top of one another, with nothing separating you from the neighbours.  In short, bloody depressing.  So, I opted for this Victorian end of terrace.  It has its own problems, of course, but the rooms are relatively spacious and I don't feel the neighbours are on top of me. Anyway, I blame the likes of Homes Under the Hammer for encouraging everyone to believe they can be a property developer and to go around pulling down perfectly good houses which would still make decent family homes.

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Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Behind the Wall

Apparently Donald Trump is planning to build a 'prototype' for his proposed border wall between the US and Mexico.  Since when did anyone need to build a prototype for a wall?  I thought that walls were pretty much a proven concept, pretty much perfected several millennia ago.  I mean, if Trump wants any tips on boundary walls separating countries, then I'd suggest he look no further than Hadrian's Wall.  Failing that, I believe that the Chinese could give him some good tips on the subject.  Not that I think the idea of building a wall along the border with Mexico is a good idea - it's completely impractical, for one thing.  Personally, I think that Trump came up with idea whilst watching The Alamo - as all those Mexican soldiers swarmed into Texas and stormed the Alamo, I can imagine him thinking: if only those Texans had built a wall, Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie would be alive to this day.  Perhaps that's what he imagines Mexico to be planning: an invasion of the USA to claim back Texas, involving thousands of soldiers wearing elaborate nineteenth century uniforms.

One must also question why Trump isn't right now building some kind of wall to keep out Hurricane Jose?  After all, he definitely sounds like some kind of bad hombre from south of the border.  Actually, while we are on the subject of hurricanes, I'm bloody sick and tired of the media breathlessly telling me that Richard Branson's home on his private island has been rendered uninhabitable by Hurricane Irina - I'm more concerned about the people who aren't multi-millionaires and don't have luxury homes all over the world who have been rendered homeless by the storm.  As for the British Virgin Islands - well, I hope that the wealthy tax dodgers who hide their money in this government sanctioned tax haven are going to fund the reconstruction work there rather than us tax payers (who they are defrauding).  Apparently, people from the British Virgin Islands can come here and use the NHS, buy property, live here, even, but if you or  I, UK taxpayers who subsidise them, were to go to the British Virgin Islands, we would be denied entry unless we had a valid return ticket or a ticket on to another destination.  We can't use their facilities, buy their property or settle there.  Bastards.

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Monday, September 11, 2017

The Dutch Reach Around

It seems that, as a car driver, I'm being a bastard to those saintly cyclists again.  Apparently, just opening the door of my car to get out poses life-threatening danger to people on push bikes.  Believing that they don't actually have to pay attention to the road, the two wheeled paragons of virtue frequently collide with the doors opened by us thoughtless drivers.  As you can doubtless tell, I have little sympathy for cyclists.  Don't misunderstand me - they might be a bloody nuisance on the road, frequently holding up traffic, blatantly ignoring the rules of the road when it suits them and generally getting in everyone's way, but, unlike a lot of other motorists, I don't want to maim or kill them.  My biggest issue with the self righteous bastards lies in my experiences as a pedestrian, having to dodge them while walking on the pavement, or nearly getting run over by them whilst crossing the road, as they don't pay attention to what's ahead of them.  Indeed, not so very long ago, I was nearly run down by a cyclist riding on the pavement without lights, fluorescent clothing or even a bell - ironically, I'd just crossed the road safely and was mounting the kerb when the irresponsible arsehole nearly collided with me.

But to get back to the original point - the inability of cyclists to avoid open car doors - something 'has to be done' the BBC's website was telling me earlier today.  Now, I would have thought the easiest solution would have been legislation to force drivers to have their car doors welded permanently shut, forcing them to climb in and out of their cars through the windows, Dukes of Hazzard style.  But no, instead it is proposed that we delinquent drivers should learn to use the 'Dutch Reach' when opening car doors. Or 'Dutch Reach Around' as I originally read it.  I naturally assumed that it was some kind of technique developed by the Dutch porn industry to better facilitate back seat car passengers pulling off the driver.  Or vice versa, even.  Obviously, I was wrong - it simply has to do with the driver opening the car door from the inside using your left hand instead of your right (in a right hand drive car).  This supposedly means that you open the door more slowly and ensure that it doesn't swing out into the path of cyclists.  Alternatively, you could just check your mirrors before opening the door, except that the bicycling bastards come down the road too fast and too close to parked cars, so that even when you've checked, they appear out of nowhere.  But hey, they're cyclists, so it isn't going to be their fault, is it?

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Friday, September 08, 2017

"We'll Head Him Off at the Precipice"

In the interest of tying up loose ends, that brute force attack on The Sleaze I was talking about this time last week eventually subsided by Saturday evening.  Which was pretty much the timescale I'd expected - if a hacker hasn't cracked your login details with 24-36 hours, they'll just move on to the next target, in the hope that it will have less effective security and an easy to crack login.  The trouble is that even if the bastards don't succeed in hacking your site, their activities eat up your bandwidth and play havoc with your server logs.  But I don't want to waste too much time talking about these bastards - it's Friday night after a long week which saw my employer making more concerted efforts to kill me by putting me in harm's way.  But I survived to enjoy some respite - which right now means watching On Her Majesty's Secret Service again.  For many years this was a deeply unfashionable Bond movie, appearing only intermittently on TV and only available on VHS in a version missing several minutes of footage (there was an entire key scene deleted).  For a while, in fact, it was this butchered version which ITV chose to screen.

In recent years, however, it has been reappraised (the 25th Anniversary VHS edition, released in the mid nineties and featuring a complete version of the film, helped) and is now held in greater esteem.  Certainly, it is now included in its proper place during ITV's regular showings of the entire Bond series.  Personally, I've always rated it, right from the first time I saw it on its UK TV debut (when the complete version was shown) - of all the Bond movies, it is the most faithful to its source novel, it is beautifully shot and edited, features some of the best action set pieces in the series and features Diana Rigg, who doesn't just kick ass, but also drives a 1969 Mercury Cougar convertible.  But it isn't so much what is in the film which led many people to ignore it, rather than what wasn't in it.  Namely Sean Connery.  Instead, in his only appearance in the role, George Lazenby portrays James Bond, 007.  Much has been written about Lazenby's performance, but seen from a perspective of nearly fifty years, I think we can now take a more objective look at it.  Sure, he was nowhere near as good an actor as Connery, nor as charismatic as his eventual successor, Roger Moore, but he still gives a likeable performance.  His Bond isn't quite as ruthless and vicious as Connery's and his delivery of the one liner quips isn't as natural as Moore's, but he does bring a certain vulnerability to the character.  We can believe that, unlike Connery's version of the character, might genuinely fall in love with a woman and treat her as an equal rather than simply treat her as a sex object and use her.  He also doesn't seem invincible - we can believe that he might be in genuine peril when in Blofeld's lair, for instance.

As I mentioned before, the film is a remarkably faithful adaptation of the Ian Fleming novel - I was surprised when first seeing it that they even included Bond getting married ans the subsequent unhappy ending.  In many ways it feels like the definitive sixties Bond movie, packing in all the familiar elements, from car chases to ski sequences, all photographed like an art house movies and showcasing some fabulous sixties fashions and decor.  Whatever his short comings as an actor, Lazenby is superb in the action sequences, which are all impeccably choreographed.   It also features on of John Barry's best scores to keep the action moving along.  Sure, there is a huge lapse in series continuity - we're supposed to believe that Bond thinks he can infiltrate Blofeld's HQ unrecognised, despite the fact that Bond and Blofeld had met face-to-face in the previous film.  (OK, they were both played by different actors in the two films, but this glitch arises from Eon Productions' decision to film On Her Majesty's Secret Service and You Only Live Twice out of sequence).  But it does feature my favourite ever Bond movie one liner, when, during the ski sequence, as Bond is getting away, Blofeld announces: "We'll head him off at the precipice".

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Thursday, September 07, 2017

Out of the Headlines

Have you ever noticed how certain stories simply disappear from the news?  I don't mean those that have reached a natural conclusion, or have run for a long time without a conclusion, resulting in them being down graded from the top tier of the news agenda.  I'm thinking more of those stories which are incredibly prominent when they break, plastered over every front page and topping the schedules on the TV news, yet vanish from the headlines within days, never to be mentioned again.  A recent example which caught my attention was that murder at an M25 service station a few months ago.  It was all over the news media - press, TV, internet - largely due to the sensational elements of the story. As originally reported, it all started with an altercation over a parking space between the occupants of a car and those of a van, which culminated in the car's driver being bludgeoned to death with a shovel.  There were all the usual police requests for help in tracing the vehicle and the tributes from friends and relatives of the poor bugger who was murdered.  It looked set to run and run.  But after a couple of days the story completely vanished.  No reports of arrests, no coverage of the victim's funeral, none of the follow ups you'd normally expect from the media.

After a few weeks of this silence, my curiosity got the better of me and I took to the search engines in attempt to try and find out what had happened to the story.  In the end, I had to look to the local press to find out that there had actually been arrests made in the case, with at least one suspect charged with murder - completely unreported by the national press.  As I read more in the local Essex press (the victim hailed from Essex), I started to get an inkling of why the national press had apparently decided to drop the story like a hot potato.  AS it turned out, both victim and alleged perpetrators in the case turned out to be members of the traveler community.  A community generally characterised by the media as being a bunch of criminal degenerates.  As long as the incident had appeared to be a random act of violence between complete strangers, sparked by road rage, it had obviously looked like a winner for the press, the sort of story they could milk for sympathy for the victim and moral outrage toward his killers.  But once they realised it was possibly part of an ongoing dispute between rival groups of a vilified community that refuses to play by middle class rules, they obviously felt that they couldn't sell it to their readers. So they just dropped it instead.

All of which tells us something not just about our media, but our modern society, where the worth of a murder victim is still apparently measured by their social background.   Of course, this isn't the only story to vanish after breaking sensationally.  Some have simpler explanations than social prejudices.  Remember when Max Moseley had his private life splashed across the papers, accused of indulging in 'Nazi themed' bondage orgies.  I clearly recall many of the early reports mentioning that one of the women involved had turned out to be married to someone from the Security Service (MI5, as the press still likes to call them).  Now, apart from implying that the Security Service pays so poorly that its employees have to put their wives on the game to make ends meet, this detail raised all sorts of questions along the lines of 'was it some kind of set up?'  But this detail quickly vanished from the reporting, never to be mentioned again.  Not even in the court case in which Moseley successfully sued the paper involved for libel (there was no Nazi theme to his orgies).  In this case, this detail was clearly suppressed in order to avoid embarrassment to the authorities.  Nevertheless, such manipulation of what we see in the news is very troublesome.

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Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Some Seventies Movies in Retrospect

So, after yesterday's therapy session, it's back to business today.  During my time off, in between trips to the beach and deer spotting, I had something of a retrospective with regard to my DVD collection, rewatching several movies I haven't looked at in years.  There was no theme to my viewing - it ranged from low budget horrors like Incense for the Damned to the French war epic about the liberation of Paris, Is Paris Burning?   Some had sub titles, some didn't.  A lot of them dated back to the seventies.  This retrospective allowed me to reassess my impressions of these films - I found that I liked Corman's Von Richtofen and Brown (aka The Red Baron) a lot better the second time around for instance.  (Historically, it is still a travesty, but as an anti war war movie, it scores very highly.  Plus, it has some superb flying sequences and bursts of well choreographed action which keeps it moving along nicely).  In other cases, it just confirmed my opinions: Watch Me as I Kill is still a lackluster Giallo, despite its inventive murder sequences and intriguing premise - it falls a long way short of even Dario Argento's weakest efforts in the genre.

Watching the seventies movies, (which included a pair of late period Jean-Pierre Melville pictures and Sam Peckinpah's The Killer Elite), brought home just how bloated and dumbed down studio product has become over the past few decades.  Back in the seventies film makers knew that less is often more.  All of these films had action sequences, for instance, but they aren't the over blown CGI-driven sequences of contemporary films, which frequently take up twenty minutes at a time, without actually advancing either plot or characters in any meaningful fashion.  By contrast, the seventies movies deploy their action sequences sparingly, giving them far more impact, and they always advance the plot in some way.  They also spare us the insistence upon filling in every detail of a character's background so as to make sure that we fully understand their 'motivation'.  These films offer us no backstory for the characters, we can deduce details from the things they say, the photographs on their walls and desks and so on, but there is no laborious explanation of their 'origins' (the modern obsession with the 'origin story' in movies has been a plague upon things like proper character development and subtle writing). 

In Melville's Le Cercle Rouge, for instance, we never learn exactly what crime Vogel is being transported back to Paris to be tried for, nor are we ever told exactly what Alain Delon's Corey has just served a five year prison sentence for.  But we can assume, from their characters and other details, that they are career criminals specialising in robbery.  Likewise, we're never explicitly told what Commisaire Mattei's domestic circumstances are, but the photo of a woman on his desk (which he tenderly returns to its correct position when it is knocked out of place by a suspect), his lonely apartment full of cats implies that he is a widower (the cats surrogates for the children he and his wife never had).   It is this spareness of characterisation and plot detail which helps the film linger long in the memory - even after it has ended, you can't help but speculate about the characters based on the visual cues Melville has provided.  I'm sure that, in due course, this retrospective will result in me posting here about the individual films (I've already covered Incense for the Damned), so I'll refrain from discussing any more details here.  Suffice to say, I've enjoyed this retrospective and hope to find time to continue with it soon.

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