A Catch up of Sorts…

Well, it’s been some time. To recap, I used to write something, most weeks, called Five Things I Saw and Heard This Week. Obviously, that’s not been the case lately. I know that at this point I’m a prize-winning dilettante, but really… I’m going to attempt to stick to a schedule in 2020 (and hoping that someone, somewhere is thinking of a song-by-song cover of the Beach Boys’ 20/20). So, on waking from falling asleep in the Second Quarter of the Super Bowl to see first Shakira, then J Lo, strutting their stuff terrifyingly (especially the outdated Jackson-era crotch-grabbing) I went to bed, only to miss the outrageously exciting end to the game. But I awoke and started writing a Bunch of Things as a kind of catch up, along with a few observations from the last few months of movie watching in anticipation of the Oscars.

{ONE} I’d like to personally thank Joe Biden for bringing the word Malarkey into the modern world. Trump brought Blowhard and Carpetbagger back, and Joe is making his linguistic pitch with his campaign slogan, painted on his campaign buses as they criss-cross Iowa — “Joe Biden: No Malarkey”. He once said to Paul Ryan that what he’d stated about Obama’s foreign policy was “a bunch of malarkey”. Something makes me feel that Joe doesn’t have his finger on the pulse of the nation, or, possibly, anything. In more US politics news: the story that this New Yorker piece, “Impeachment by Day, Drum Solo by Night”, tells is just so weird…

{TWO} Sam Mendes’ 1917 was, for its first 45 minutes, exceptional. And then it got less and less exceptional as the Mendes traits of cliched storytelling and over-egged theatrical performances from stunt-cast stars (Firth, Cumberbatch, Scott) took its toll. The night time stuff looked like a video game, and the last scene with “Wooden” Richard Madden (as he’s known in our house) was the final straw. Of course, it won all the BAFTAs.

{THREE} I’ll watch Adam Driver in anything*, even a Kramer v Kramer for the New Twenties, Marriage Story, which was compelling, save for the two musical interludes courtesy of the Steven Sondheim songbook. Driver’s was in a New York bar, singing “Being Alive”, and Scarlett Johansson’s family performance of “You Could Drive a Person Crazy” took place in Sunny SoCal. Both were strangely naff and slightly WTF. Apparently they “represent some of the finest interpretations of Sondheim ever seen on-screen, capturing the richness and emotion of the lyrics and, in recontextualising them, adding new meaning”, according to Little White Lies. I beg to differ. 

*I say that but I’ve just realised that I tested that theory to destruction with Jim Jarmusch’s dreadful The Dead Don’t Die, hands down the worst made, most narcoleptic, in-joke drivel I’ve ever (half) seen. 

{FOUR} Spoiler Alert: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood has Quentin Tarantino’s signature use of music — finding the best 30 or 40 seconds of a song — intact. A great example is the Mamas and the Papas’ “Straight Shooter”, a proto-“Last Train to Clarksville” (they both use the same musicians, a few months apart). It has a great lick for the intro and then, after you hit the end of the first verse, becomes much less compelling. 

The same is true of “Little Green Bag” by the George Baker Selection from Reservoir Dogs, a fantastic first minute followed by a truly terrible mariachi chorus, where it goes major Torremolinos. The film — you know the Hollywood one I started talking about, that one — it’s awful. It meanders and tries to be funny, and not one section of it works as a satisfying part of an over-arching story. You won’t ever get that 160 minutes back. It used the same dopey trope as Yesterday, the “what if someone stopped the Manson gang on the night of August 8th” replacing “only a couple of people in the world knew the Beatles existed”. 

And the day after I watched it, browsing in Fopp, I bought Etta James’s first 5 albums bundled together for a fiver. A cursory listen revealed that “Seven Day Fool” from Second Time Around gets nominated for my “Should be Used in a Tarantino Film” music award. I’m also partial to her fantastic vamp over a spectacular arrangement on “One For My Baby (and One for the Road), also from Second Time Around. The way sings “One Mo-awwwww…” before the modulation is just fabulous. 

{FIVE} If you’re looking for something Tarantino-esqe, but good, then try Drew Goddard’s Bad Night at the El Royale, better written and more fun than Once Upon a Time, with a great ensemble cast (Jeff Bridges, Chris Hemsworth, Jon Hamm, Dakota Johnson) and a show-stealing turn from Cynthia Erivo as a nightclub singer. She’s an actor and singer — both totally convincingly. She’s up for an Oscar for Best Actress for her portrayal of Harriet Tubman. Another double threat is Jessie Buckley, who was, apart from Joaquin Phoenix, by some stretch the only reason to watch the BAFTAs. She sang a song from the film Wild Rose, “Glasgow (No Place Like Home)”. Before it, she said, “I woke up this morning and thought: I’m going to enjoy myself tonight. I’m doing the song with my beautiful friends Neil MacColl and Ben Nicholls. We’re sitting on a stool and we’re just going to give it laldy [Scottish for “thrashing”]. I’m just going to sing my socks off and really enjoy it. Life’s too short not to enjoy these things.” She did, indeed, sing her socks off.

Oh, and Parasite is the best fiction film that I’ve seen in the last year. Its nailing of character and plot by the tautest of dialogue is like an object lesson in nuance and style. Your sympathies and loyalties shift with each scene, you find out all you need to know with the deftest of strokes, and the film as a whole is beautifully played, directed and edited. 

{SIX} Show Me the Picture!

At the Elgar Room in the Royal Albert Hall, we see an early showing of a beautifully made (great footage, exceptional editing, wonderful soundtrack) documentary on the great San Francisco photographer, Jim Marshall. Q&A with director Alfred George Bailey and Marshall archive director Amelia Davis hosted by RBP’s own Barney Hoskyns. Highly recommended.

{SEVEN} For my birthday I was given the beautiful 50th-anniversary box of the remastered Band album. It is a fabulous thing. Leaving aside the usual complaint about price (£90) and the gouging of faithful fans who have bought this album in three formats over the years, listen to this alternate version of “Rag, Mama, Rag”. It’s looser than the released version (if such a thing is possible) and has an inimitable piano intro courtesy of Garth, no tuba and the slinky Richard Manuel groove that shouldn’t work, but does because of the counterpart of Levon’s chunky mandolin and Robbie’s taut guitar.


If you’re receiving the email out, please click on the Date Headline of the page for the full 5 Things experience. It will bring you to the site (which allows you to see the Music Player) and all the links will open in another tab or window in your browser.

Comments

  1. Welcome back, and don’t be a stranger!

  2. Mike Ollier says:

    Hey, thanks very much… not seen the Tarantino yet, I knew there was a “big twist” to come… now, I don’t have to wonder what it is. Well done you.

    El Royale was, I thought, a bit of a mess. Nicely shot, Bridges doing his mumble throughout ~ did nowt for me, I’m afraid.

  3. John Cuneo says:

    It’s so fun to read this Martin. I’ve missed it so. Lately , after a few glasses of wine , My wife Jan has taken to requesting we order up the last waltz and watch portions of it. She’s crushing on Danko and thinks I don’t notice when she beams as he flaps his elbows around and yelps about crazy Chester. ( Jesus , he WAS handsome back then. I wonder if Scorsese thought of that opening pool table scene when he was shooting the color of money.) I bought her music from Big Pink. The cd I got has a few extra tracks and there’s an almost acappela I shall be released that’s kills me. ( Manuel really WAS the lead singer back then , wasn’t he?) Have you written anything about that album that you could point me to? The trailer for the upcoming Band doc from Robbie has a whiff of Robertson self mythologizing – I hope I’m wrong. It also looks to have some of the promo performance footage that was taken here in our place.

    The dead don’t die was filmed around here. Lots of celeb sightings locally and down the road at The Emerson where some of the actors stayed . Jesus it sounds terrible, But I read somewhere that the highlight is hearing Driver say” ghouls “. Thought his SNL monologue was pitch perfect. Anyhow, just saying hi. jc

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

Leave a Reply to John Cuneo Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: