Archive for April, 2017

Buddies: ending Broadchurch

20 April 2017

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There was a writer’s moment right at the end of Broadchurch (right at the end, so no spoilers here) that said quite a lot about how the writer, Chris Chibnall, thought about the drama.

After three series, and twenty hours of drama, and after solving their latest and last case, Miller (Olivia Colman) and Hardy (David Tennant) are sitting on a bench, not that close,  with the cliffs behind them.

MILLER: I could do with a drink. Do you want one? We could go to the pub, we’ve never been to the pub.

(Pause)

HARDY: Nah.

MILLER: Nah.

(Pause)

MILLER (getting up): I should get back for Daisy.

HARDY (also getting up): I should get back to my boys.

The detective series that always ended with the detectives having a drink, of course, was Morse, and that tradition carries on with its offshoot Lewis. Morse and Lewis are puzzles to be solved, and the pint is like a reward for finishing a difficult crossword.

I think what’s going here is a writer’s side-swipe: Chris Chibnall is saying that those shows where they have a pint as mates after the case is solved are just stories. The narrative gets closed as the case is cracked. Life, on the other hand, isn’t tidy: the case may be over (Hardy says just before , “We did our job, Miller, we got the people responsible, that’s all we can do”) but life carries on. Drama is closed but life is open. In other words, Broadchurch isn’t just another one of those television cop shows.

Of course, it’s a writer’s conceit, since obviously Broadchurch is another television cop show. But because the detectives’ family lives have been so much a part of the story (unlike Morse) it’s a conceit that works.

The image of Miller and Hardy on the poster is by Mikey, and is published here with thanks under a Creative Commons licence.

Moment#2: High Fidelity (2000)

17 April 2017

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Moments No. 2. Stephen Frears directs a version of Nick Hornby’s novel, relocated to Chicago with John Cusack as Rob, the owner of the struggling record store, breaking up with his girlfriend Laura (played wonderfully by the Danish actress Iben Hjejle). The Chicago version of the record store is still called “Championship Vinyl,” which can’t translate well across the Atlantic. Although set in a nominal 1990s present, High Fidelity is more an elegy for a lost 1970s and ’80s world of vinyl records and small independent stores run by fans. At heart, film and book are about growing into adulthood and accepting the pleasures of commitment.

Formally, the film’s interesting: the novel’s interior monologues are translated into speeches direct to camera; Bruce Springsteen pops up to give advice (shades of Woody Allen); some scenes replay several times in Rob’s head. Some critics found this irritating but it worked for me. No reason why mainstream cinema shouldn’t break the fourth wall.

Two moments: number one, when the neighbourhood skateboarders shoplift some records, but when they’re noticed they leave a skateboard in the shop in their rush to escape. There’s a standoff and the skateboarders put the stolen records down on the pavement. “I think you have more”, says Rob. One of the skateboarders throws down a dogeared copy of “The musician’s guide to home production.” It’s a visual gag, yes, but it’s also a joke that turns out to be a plot point.

Second: after Laura leaves, Rob rearranges his record collection. His record store colleague Dick drops by to invite him to a gig:

Dick: It guess it looks as if you’re reorganizing your records. What is this though? Chronological?

Rob: No…

Dick: Not alphabetical…

Rob: Nope.

Dick: What?

Rob: Autobiographical.

Dick: No fuckin’ way…

Rob: …If you want to find “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac you have to know that I bought it for someone in the fall of 1983 and then didn’t give it to them for personal reasons.

Dick: That sounds- –

Rob: –Comforting.

Though I’m not sure that Rob would actually have Rumours in his record collection. Joan Cusack–who also lights up The Runaway Bride–is terrific as Laura’s fried Liz.

Script courtesy of Springfield Springield

Moment#1: The Runaway Bride (1999)

16 April 2017

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Moments #1. I keep forgetting which films I see, so here’s a small project. In the spirit of the film critic Manny Farber, who thought that film was about moments, I’m going to try to do a short post about a particular moment in the film when I watch something. Think of it as a deliberate strategy to try not to write too much.

The Runaway Bride teams up Richard Gere and Julia Roberts nine years after Pretty Woman, borrowing the plot of a 1947 Ginger Rogers’ film, It Had To Be You.

He’s a columnist on a big city paper. She’s the woman who keeps ditching her would-be husbands at the altar (three and counting). He knocks up an inaccurate column about her, she complains (in the sort of witty letter-to-the-editor you only get in movies), he gets fired, he decides he needs to go and meet her to find out the truth. It’s not a great film, by the way. As the vastly lamented Philip French put it, “Scene after scene falls flat, and promising situations are set up only to expire like deflating balloons.”

It’s a romantic comedy, so you can fill in the rest of the plot right from there.

The moment (and massive spoiler alert): She’s about to marry him (like I said, you can fill the rest of the plot right there) but she runs away from the church and gets a lift from a FedEx van.

“Where’s she going?” asks a guest.

The reply: “I don’t know, but she’s guaranteed to get there by 10.30 tomorrow morning.”

Lumps of energy

3 April 2017

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I’m always interested in how professional sportspeople think about their craft. It’s intrinsically interesting, and sometimes there are life lessons to be taken from it as well.

So I was interested to see Lizzie Armitstead talking in a Guardian interview this weekend with Simon Hattenstone, about using energy, or conserving it, during bike races.

She refers to racing as a game rather than a sport. “It’s like chess on wheels. Imagine your energy as a big block of sugar. You can only chip away at it a couple of times, and you need to use that energy at the right time. If you have the instinct and logic to attack 20km into a race, it might look like a strange move to somebody else, but if it pays off, there is nothing better. It’s very tactical. On the road, it’s not always the strongest person who wins.”

It reminded me of the period after my son was born. He didn’t sleep at all well for the first eight months or so, and so I was always tired. (To borrow her phrase, my energy had become quite a small block of sugar). I found that managing my effort at work was essential if I was to function in the job I was doing at the time. My solution was to focus on the one or two things that actually mattered each day, rather than spreading my concentration and application too thin, and making sure my energy went into those.

The image of Lizzie Armitstead (left) on her way to winning silver at the 2012 Olympic Games is by Doug Shaw and is published here under a Creative Commons licence.