Friday, December 30, 2022

Last Looks / Waldo (2021)

Of all the things Mel Gibson has done to trash his reputation over the past decade or so, this performance might just be the one that does the trick. 

In a movie in which almost all the leads are acting in an accent that is not their own, Mel's British luvvie is the stand-out. It's as if he prepared by watching a show-reel of our finest mid-twentieth century thesps (Olivier, Richardson, Burton, Guinness, Gielgud et al.) and still ended up in the Don Cheadle zone. 

Other than that, this is a likeable bit of noirish fluff set in Hollywood and a place a short bus ride away where one can live comfortably with 100 possessions. 

If not a career reboot for Gibson, it could well be for Hunnan.


Thursday, December 29, 2022

The Revenge of Power by Moisés Naím

Revenge is a dish best served...with tacos and papas fritas

While many of us have become all too aware of the malignant and dissembling form of political power which Moisés Naím details here, he suggests that the need to comprehend all of its strands is urgent if we are to avoid further erosion of the fundamentals of free societies.

“What we’re seeing today is a revanchist variant that mimics democracy while undermining it, scorning all limits.” The agents of this new autocracy are geographically and ideologically diverse, yet he sees uncanny parallels in the playbooks of politicians like Bolsonaro and López Obrador, Bukele and Trump.

He refers to them collectively as ‘3P’ stealthocrats, leaders who “reach power through a reasonably democratic election and then set out to dismantle the checks on executive power through populism, polarization, and post-truth.”

The 3Ps are constantly seeking often furtive new mechanics for breaking free of constitutional and institutional restraints, for establishing legitimacy in an environment where unconstrained power is taboo. This is typically done “by faking fealty to the liberal consensus, all the while eating away at it from the inside,” an action he compares to 🐝 larvae consuming their arachnid hosts from within.

The author concludes: A limited, contingent form of power will not be enough for practitioners who “have learned how to leverage trends like migration, the economic insecurity of the middle class, identity politics, the fears globalization gives rise to, the power of social media, and the advent of artificial intelligence. In all sorts of geographies and under all sorts of circumstances, they’ve shown they want power with no strings attached, and they want it for keeps.”



Dirty Old Fascists

Back in August 2019 I wrote this post about a discernible gringo subculture here in Antigua: the Mara Apestatrucha.

The piece was intended as a bit of light comedy, yet the sniggers became more ingrained when it was read out in a Guatemalan courtroom supposedly as damning evidence in a case for which it had no relevance whatsoever.

Yet since the pandemic I have come to see more clearly just what these men represent and it is frankly no laughing matter, so let us call them for what they really are.

The scruffiness of their attire should be less concern than the scruffiness of their being.

Most of them appear to have fetched up here as middle-aged, sociopathic misfits, presumably having discovered that in their own societies there could be actual consequences for the toxic attitudes and behaviours they espouse.

Antigua seems to function like a bricks and mortar equivalent to one of those furtive online forums where those who would normally find themselves on the fringe can gather, socialise and mutually reinforce.

Some are more candid in their online self-expression than others. A glance through the relevant feeds quickly reveals a medley of misogyny, anti-semitism, anti-vaxism, pro-Putin Rushist propaganda, adherence to conspiracies and other kooky fanaticisms, a sort of faux anti-establishment bluster that will tend to do little other than bolster those who accumulate actual power...and ignorance dressed up as privileged knowledge. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Triangle of Sadness (2022)

One of V's most frequent complaints is about the inevitability of vomiting in contemporary cinema. At some point we were compiling a list of those rare movies that eschew the spew.

It's surprise, interruptive puking that V most objects to, and to be fair to Östlund, the chundering in this movie hardly strikes like a dramatic thunderbolt. And the sheer scale of it surely moves it into a wholly different category of plot development.

If you are in any way tuned into Scandi humour and lack the aforementioned reservations about bodily fluids on screen, then you will probably find Triangle of Sadness very amusing.

After it claimed a second Palme D'or for its director, critics rather split into two camps, one of which, the naysayers, complained that this time Östlund's targets were just a bit too easy.

Well yes, the ultra-rich do make for a broader form of satire, but there are plenty of more intricate little situations included here, especially during the luxury cruise scenes, to make the comedy feel clever enough.

My problem with the film is a little different; it is that overall it is just a collection of loosely interlinked situations. Östlund has conspicuously divided the action into three acts, but in truth it is precisely that familiar dramatic structure which is absent.

The first act introduces us to an awkward dynamic between two young models and although they later turn up on the cruise as social media freeloaders, the potential they represented as characters appears to have been squandered.

There is underlying note of sadness in the viewing of this film as one of its stars, Charbli Dean, playing the empty-souled model and influencer, died suddenly from a respiratory infection just as it was being released.




Friday, December 23, 2022

The Banshees of Inisherin (2022)

Fourteen years after In Bruges, Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell have teamed up again for another of Martin McDonagh's mini-masterpieces.

It's Father Ted, done as an exercise in edgy melancholy and existential despair. 

Nobody, neither man nor God, cares about 'nice' (nor indeed, little donkeys) becomes the underlying anxiety in this tale of stalled male bonding. 

Few mainstream movies released this year will have quite the same power to convert even the dullest members of its audience into inadvertent 'thinkers'.

V was a little less impressed than I was, but then a) Irish landscapes do nothing for her and b) she’s usually a bit less existentially fragile than I can be, and c) she dozed off during the crucial donkey scenes.

Thursday, December 01, 2022

Twitterstorm PR

There was too much decent footie on yesterday for me to become seriously annoyed by this story, but then on came Belgium…

It seems to me that if you attend an event at Buckingham Palace attired to suggest a proud heritage and as the representative of a group which protects women of African and Afro-Caribbean descent from culturally-persistent forms of masculine violence, “We’re based in Hackney” might not be the best way of heading off this gathering misunderstanding. 

Some of the ‘insistence’ was probably mutual here, though the text version is sadly bereft of the aggressive snootiness vs aggressive chippiness tonal layer. 

One can note that the old 🦇 did not actually say “You must be from Africa” as the Beeb subsequently reported. 
Having previously once asked George Bush Snr (then POTUS) what he did for a living, Lady Susan Hussey on this occasion reportedly went the extra mile by first surveying Ngozi Fulani’s badge for clues. 
If a US-born woman of Guatemalan heritage were to attend a White House cocktail party in traditional Mayan corte, a broadly similar interrogation could reasonably be expected from the sort of doddery old politician likely to be in attendance...perhaps generationally-inclined to a certain awkwardness in such interactions. 
And of course most Yanks are usually only too willing to inform all and sundry where ‘their people’ are from. Indeed, the furore unleashed here led me to speculate what an Irish American could wear in order to set up a similar sort of social media gotcha.
We Brits don’t manufacture much these days besides outrage.

(In Britain the more common done thing is to adopt a name and fashion habits that allow one to 'pass'.)