(July 30 – August 5)
This week I had the privilege of going to vote in my local by-election—only the second time I’ve been able to vote since becoming an Australian citizen. Because of this, there’s been a lot of political messaging flying about lately. The government, however, didn’t even run a candidate (which is a shame, as it deprived me of the opportunity to put them last), leaving the opposition candidate to steal the show with flyers, posters and the like everywhere. In a surprise to no one, he won.
This week has also seen continuing discussion about getting the Nazis off twitter. While twitter management appear to be doing very little in that area, it does turn out that they’ve enabled banning of Nazis in Germany and Poland—where Nazism is [rightfully] outlawed.
So, in one instance, we have a right-wing party who have decided not to contest an election, and consequently spend no money on communications of any kind. On the other hand, we have fascists continuing to have access to a free communications platform that enables them to spread their repugnant views.
In an odd way, it reminds me of Coke. Bear with me.
When I was growing up I was always puzzled why Coke would continue to advertise: everyone knew what Coke was, and the little red cans were everywhere, virtually advertising themselves. Turns out that brand awareness is an important thing: if we’re not continually reminded that Coke is a spectacular lifestyle choice then we might realise that it’s nothing more than sugar and water and stop drinking it. The veil may slip once the lack of advertising gives us space to think for ourselves.
It’s no different with politics. Don’t run a candidate, and people will vote for the other person. Stop giving the Nazis a platform to broadcast and share their messages on Twitter (and other platforms) and people will (hopefully) move onto the next thing.
In the US, Australia and UK the right wing has become a huge political force largely due to the wrangling of the Murdoch press. Take that messaging away—that bullhorn voice that shouts in the public’s ear and stops them considering the alternatives—and I suspect that we’d be living in a much nicer society right now.
Two more episodes, this week, of Mark Kermode’s excellent Secrets Of Cinema. This time covering heist movies and coming of age movies. And someone out there really needs to produce a list of all the movies that Kermode covers, so I can remember which ones I need to watch.
Friday’s horror movie was Brian de Palma’s Sisters, a fun horror movie that manages to be a slasher movie, detective thriller and psychedelic chiller all in one. It features an excellent performance, in one of the leading roles, by Margot Kidder. Seeing her here makes a bit sad that her career ended up getting completely subsumed by the Superman movies, and makes me wonder how many other fascinating and excellent performances that we ended up losing.
I finally caught up with The Shape Of Water, which was absolutely lovely. It’s a film steeped entirely in the language of cinema; that exists purely in reference to and reflection of other movies. I’ve been very critical of Guillermo del Toro’s storytelling limitations in the past, but you can see that this is one of those films where everything clicks perfectly right from the start—music, light, mood, performance, story: it’s all there. I’m not surprised that this film, as oddball as it is, scored the Oscar wins (and nominations) that it did.
Over the weekend I also had sufficient time to wrap up my Dirty Harry marathon with Sudden Impact and The Dead Pool. By far the most disappointing part of this entire process was coming up with the perfect hashtag—#Harrython—as I was watching the final movie in the series. I guess I’m all set if I decide to watch all the Harry Potter movies again.
However, both films were highly underwhelming. Sudden Impact was a serviceable enough thriller, but was let down by Harry acting out of character (basically, acting like a gentleman towards the leading lady, who happened to be Eastwood’s girlfriend at the time, so of course their characters are going to have a thing) and by moving the location mostly away from San Francisco. It was a perfectly serviceable thriller, and a story I could see it working well with the late seventies Dirty Harry aesthetic, but this one just didn’t feel much like a Dirty Harry movie.
The Dead Pool fared slightly better, though still suffered from the late eighties traditional thriller dilemma. This was a year when a lot of traditional movie genres were struggling to find their place in front of audiences whose tastes were rapidly changing. The biggest hits of the year were typically movies that offered something unique or different (Rain Man, Big, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Twins) and had a strong leaning towards comedy. Meanwhile, the biggest thriller of the year was Die Hard—a film which could almost have worked as a Dirty Harry movie, except that it firmly injected the action component into the genre and showed up the fact that an aging Clint Eastwood wasn’t really the actor to carry that type of movie any more. It’s possibly no coincidence that Eastwood released Unforgiven a few years later: an excellent movie that partly works because it provides a rumination on Eastwood’s aging (and reformed) gunfighter dealing with the sordid victories of his past.
I finally wrapped up From a Certain Point Of View this week, with a set of stories set around the Death Star battle and its aftermath. While there’s only so much that a writer can do on the fringes of those particular scenes, I’m once again impressed at the different perspectives that this book offers. We have a story about the ill-fated Biggs; a story about a pilot left behind, unable to join the fight because there simply aren’t enough X-Wings; and a story about a ground crew member watching silently as her friends and colleagues are killed by TIE Fighters.
I’m also very, very close to wrapping up my audiobook of Redshirts.