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Month: June 2016

Page Eight (2011)

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MONEY    Monstrometer2
LONELINESS   Monstrometer4
BOREDOM    Monstrometer2
FEAR    Monstrometer2
TIME    Monstrometer2


Stuff About England

A BBC2 movie with a dream casting, Page Eight is a quiet spy drama in the John Le Carré’s vein, extremely well written, elegantly directed and, not surprisingly, supremely well acted. It is best enjoyed for its deadpan dialogues, wryly delivered by some of the best British thespians around. A small gem with not an ounce of violence but filled with menace and danger.

Johnny Worricker (Bill Nighy, who can load a seemingly innocuous line like “I’ve got a question” with chilling tension), is an old school MI5 analyst reporting to his Cambridge friend Benedict Baron (Michael Gambon, great in an old chap role he could play in his sleep) with whom he “shares a wife”, Emma (Alice Krige, always gloriously venomous). She was pregnant with their daughter Julianne (Felicity Jones) when he left her for another woman and she married Baron. Julianne resents her father to have let her and her mother down and expresses her anger and resentment through troubled paintings, which Johnny, a fond art collector, does not appreciate. He lives a quiet, discreet life in an apartment which walls are covered with art, and listens to jazz. He doesn’t believe in the Special Relationship with USA.

Two events disrupt this routine in rapid fire. He meets his neighbour, Nancy (Rachael Weisz, a guarantee of quality in herself), daughter of a Syrian activist and whose brother has been killed by the Israeli while waving a white flag, and a possible set up. His boss dies after presenting out of the blue a report to the Home Secretary (Saskia Reeves, whose great first line is “Let’s start the bloody meeting!”). The report, from a secret American source, proves that USA have secret prison facilities abroad and its page eight establishes that the British Prime Minister (Ralph Fiennes, reptilian as ever) has knowledge of it.

The conundrum is the following: is the report wrong, in which case USA has left Great Britain in the dark, or is it true, in which case the PM has left his Home Secretary in the dark? Head of MI5 Jill Tankard (Judy Davies, not seen often enough) does not appreciate to be caught unbalanced and threatened Johnny to fire him if he does not return the top secret report he has in his possession. Will Johnny take a stance or yield to pressure? One won’t tell, but the way he navigates this tricky waters makes for some very good, if subdued, espionage.

The job of an analyst is to know who to trust. The legacy of Johnny’s friend and boss is “a matter of honour”. Faced with spin doctors and treacherous politicians, he remains “an all round decent person”, the trait we love in British people even though it largely remains a mystery, like most of Angliana. Asked why he changed his mind at some point, he eludes “Oh you know, wind, caprice…” A feast of understatement, Page Eight is an all round decent movie, well, more than decent, actually. No question.

IMDB page

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The Danish Girl (2015)

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MONEY    Monstrometer2
LONELINESS    Monstrometer3
BOREDOM    Monstrometer1
FEAR    Monstrometer2
TIME   Monstrometer2


The Movie-ish Girdle

Another poison-pen love letter to freaks and monsters around, The Danish Girl is, like the pastry of the same name, sugar-glazed heavy fluff. While we all know that Denmark is the happiest place on Earth, something is definitely rotten in the Kingdom; that’s why the aftertaste, one guesses. This is a BOATS movie, see, Based On A True Story but reality has been careful edited for the viewer (or is it the voyeur?) to take a stroll by the edge without taking a hard look at the precipice, the sulfurous subject-matter sanitized by soft lightning, period dresses and politically correct dialogue. “Toddle-oh”, as they often say in Elsinor!

Einar Wegener (Eddie Redmayne, looking both good and repulsive in lace and satin), and his wife Gerda (Alicia Vikander, happy recipient of an Oscar for supporting role when she is the female lead, a proven studio strategy) are both painters. He’s brushing successful, moody landscapes and she’s a portraitist, a lesser artistic form in friendly, neighbouringly Copenhagen. But she’s definitely wearing the pants in the relationship, while Einar enjoys stockings and lingerie because “it’s pretty”.

It remains unclear what Gerda’s endgame is: is she creating an alternate version of herself out of an unfulfilling husband, or the muse for a sea change in her artistic career? The character is ambiguous, expressing thoughts like “Kissing you was like kissing myself” or “I’ll never be as pretty as you”. There is, under the layers of varnish, a canvass of cruel rivalry, the wife detaining the compass point at what her chrysalis of a husband should be. Or so she thinks.

Enter the man which will precipitate Einar’s metamorphosis, Hans Axgil (Matthias Schoenaerts, sweet as a lamb but almost embarrassingly manly in such a girly environment) He kisses Einar and she becomes Lili, in a reverse frog-to-prince moment. Her nose bleed: she has become a woman. Soon she webbing lies to her suitor and spreading her newfound wings in a dumbfounded small, small capital city where no one ever recognises her for who he, a public figure, was.

Gerda and Lili move to Paris, where their portraitist/model double act is a success, Gerda on the course of becoming Tamara de Lempicka. They are on a see-saw, through. Lili’s chemical imbalance has led to a radiation treatment which let him sterile. A painter becoming a model is even more awkward than a model becoming a painter, in an obvious parallel to a man so twisted he would like to becomes a woman. Einar has left the building, both as an artist and as a man; Lili devour him from the inside, a painful process including the mandatory homosexual mugging scene in the Tuileries garden. “Elbe like the river”, she says when asked her name; she’s adrift, drowning in a dark current stronger than both of him/her.

Obviously it does not end well, but in a dignified, symbolic way, a lot being made of a scarf, a confrontation with a pregnant woman emphasizing that gender realignment surgery (as they called it in the Twenties… sigh) will never make her a real woman. “The trick is to only eat sugar”, Lili says at some point when complimented on her figure; the trick here is to film the horror story it is as a treacle treat. The director, Tom Hooper (the atrocious The King’s Speech) and his production designer did their homework by pilfering paintings from Villhem Hammershoi and it seems everyone involved enjoyed recreating a monster to observe him/her suffer and die.

As usual, there are two ways of watching this particular exercise of glossing over a subject matter too dark to be used as such. The first is to wonder why to make such a complacent, emasculated Oscar vehicle of it, and be a bit ashamed at having watched it, or even worse, reviewed it. The second, which one guesses is what The Danish Girl deserves, is to consider it a 25 M$ spoof of Little Britain‘s unconvincing transvestite Emily Howard doing her lady things with her friend Florence, and have a good laugh at it.

IMDB page

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The Slow Disappearance of Meaning and Truth

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Did We Just See a Pale Horse?

The featurette The Omen Curse, plagued by conspiracy theory and complacent satanism, is a giggle feat, given in retrospect that two more movies, a TV follow-up, a remake and a series were made without any trouble, but still, “The Devil didn’t want the picture made”, says whoever among the talking heads. Still, “We prevailed over Evil” says another one, or the same. Which leads us to this week’s next piece. Holy Wood!

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Were you working on The Omen?

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  1. You accepted the lead role, knowing that you had to kill your screen son, but your own just committed suicide. You are a veteran but nevertheless conflicted.
  2. Your flight to shooting location is shot by lightning strike
  3. Your flight to shooting location is shot by lightning strike, but this time you are the producer, not the star.
  4. You accept a discount for a later flight to shoot aerials, and the aircraft you were supposed to board crashes, given a flock of birds fly into it.
  5. You are an awful brat everyone involved wants to strangle.
  6. You padded as thick as you could, but the rottweilers still sent you too the ER.
  7. You freaked out when baboons didn’t act Method.
  8. You were a zoo-keeper and you got killed by a tiger, leading to the scene ending up in the cutting room floor.
  9. Your hotel got bombed by the IRA.
  10. The restaurant you booked for a recomforting diner after the bombing of your hotel got bombed by the IRA.
  11. Being convinced than Satan is at work, you chicken out of the logical ending of the movie and you get killed in the process.
  12. You have a terrible time with Marketing after all of the above.
  13. On your next movie, you unexplainably jump between airbags and end up in ER.
  14. You know Hebrew, so every figure stands for a letter and 666 means the Internet is the work of the Devil.
  15. On your next movie, your assistant is cut in half 66.6 miles to a place called Ommen.
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Life’s Too Short: The Mentalist (2008/2015)

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We @modernmonsters are concerned for your wellbeing, so here is the second issue of our Life’s Too Short guidance manual. So here’s a question: do you wanna go through seven seasons of poor drama to find about the meaning of life? Think twice before answering: that’s 283 days of your life, 40 weeks, the best of one year, following the inner turmoil / superiority complex of the less charismatic character of late: Britney Spears. Well, that’s how he presents himself in the pilot. Haha.

All false intensity awkwardly set on light comedy music and weak one-liners, not to mention artificial tension between the two leads, The Mentalist is garbage of the first order, judging by its pilot (and what is it to judge but that in the first place?).

Simon Baker looks like a jerk and acts like one, an ex-phoney psychic shamelessly built up to be the hero through family massacre by a serial killer nicknamed “Red John”, drawing smiley faces in blood on his wake AND proving that someone at least got fun in this clenched-jawed, useless, uptenth crime drama about unlikely partners, rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb.

Pilot promises endless Sheraton Junior Suites and medium frames on TV actors doing the best at emoting, the female lead (what’s her name?) being the most unlikely and needy uninteresting character possible. Since it’s a “clever” series though, they say “Eureka” instead of “Bingo”.

Appealing to a desperate demographic who will watch the thing right after (or before) TV evangelism, The Mentalist‘s ambition is to get into your head. Evidently, if you get one, you will see it as it is: condescending ethnology, easy-watching and visual crap. Life’s too short.

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