“CHECK YOUR PRIVILEGE”: SOUTH PARK – (SEASON 19) REVIEW BY PAUL LAIGHT

“CHECK YOUR PRIVILEGE”: SOUTH PARK – (S/19) REVIEW BY PAUL LAIGHT

**This contains massive spoilers and offensive language**

Up until 2013 I had only watched a handful of episodes of the irreverent and scurrilous animated show South Park. But since then I have caught up with a hell of a lot of episodes and it has become one of my favourite ever TV programmes and a new season of Trey Parker’s vicious satire is always a highlight of my cultural year. Moreover, one of my most efficient and extensive blog articles was Respect My Authoritah which listed my favouritest seventeen episodes up to Season 16.  Which if you can be arsed can be read here:

https://paulraylaight.wordpress.com/2013/10/28/respect-my-authoritah-my-favourite-17-south-park-episodes-ever/

Seasons 17 and 18 have come and gone since I wrote that and they had some terrific episodes including my own personal favourites: Informative Murder Porn, Goth Kids 3: Dawn of the Posers, Game of Thrones parodies Black Friday/Song of Ass and Fire, Freemium Isn’t Free, Grounded Vindaloop and #Happy Holograms.  What these and many other previous episodes contained was a keen knowledge of cultural, social and political issues with two parodic fingers on the pulse of the zeitgeist, ripping into many media and political targets. This of course was done while continuing the misadventures of Kenny, Cartman, Stan, Kyle, Randy, Sharon, Mr Garrison and other inhabitants of South Park.

What Season 18 did especially well was to link the episodes with call backs to previous events forming a narrative continuum as opposed to just funny stand alone episodes. This allowed for much joy to be had through individual and connected gags as well more satisfying storytelling. Trey Parker obviously felt this worked so he continued this trend with the whole of Season 19. In fact I felt that this season was the most complete and satisfactory in regard to the humour, themes, continuity and narrative. My teenage son says the earlier ones were much funnier and ruder and less political and perhaps he is right, but I defy anyone to find a more scathing and funny satirical show on TV at the moment.

Season 19 began with Stunning and Brave; and we got a brand NEW character in PC Principal.  It’s risky to bring in new elements to an established show but this character hit the ground running with his muscular Jock-look, frat-boy speech and aggressive politically-correct motivations. The writing illustrated the apparent rise of left-leaning-liberal-movements in society and social media which while having decent motives, have become as fascistic in their application of their ideologies as much as right wingers. Indeed it could be argued people have become scared of saying anything in case it’s racist or sexist or offensive and positive discrimination has become so prominent to blind us to character deficiencies.  Indeed, the episode parodies transgender celebrity Caitlyn Jenner who has been proclaimed a societal heroine. However, one may argue she is essentially just another media whore seeking attention in any way they can.

Caitlyn Jenner would pop us a running gag and mate of Garrison in the next episode, Where has My Country Gone. The disgraced teacher Garrison is in despair at the Canadian immigrants spoiling his country, so he politicizes himself vowing to fuck all immigrants to death. Eventually he ends up in Canada where it has been revealed that Canadians have fled their country because a Donald Trump like “joke” politician actually won the Presidency.  Garrison fucks fake-Trump to death and this “policy” propels him forward as a Presidential candidate with Jenner alongside him.

What Trey Parker does so well is highlight the ridiculous but dangerous nature of soapbox politics and so-called immigration perspectives. Of course, freedom of speech is important but when a wealthy man shouts loudest we must be wary that apathy and inaction by the majority are his weapons too. The use of the Canadians as the whipping boys of South Park is a recurring theme and of course they are merely symbols for attitudes toward all non-Americans.  There’s also a touching “Romeo and Juliet” subplot involving the ever-innocent Butters and his Canadian love.

Having Garrison run on an anti-immigration ticket causes South Park to be ridiculed on television. The shamed residents led by Randy and the Mayor then attempt upward mobility and get a Whole Foods opened in the town. Such social snobbery satirizes the preposterous idea that where you shop makes you a better person.  As such within the episodes City Part of Town and You’re Not Yelping we get some brutal satire at the expense of gentrification and narcissistic individualist behaviour in which people attempt to give their life meaning by elevating their social shopping status or writing pretentious restaurant reviews. As someone who writes reviews for their own enjoyment I did find it particularly hilarious when Gerald Broflovski (Kyle’s Dad) disappears up his own arsehole while writing his Yelp review.

I personally loved the scathing critique of apparent “hipster” culture and gentrification which invaded this season.  I don’t think it’s because I am old and the hipster is supposedly new and cool. No, it’s because they seem to try too hard to be right on plus why should SOMEONE else’s idea of style be all pervasive. Indeed, the episode Safe Space also rabidly attacks charity and the guilt-induced tactics used on Randy; can it not be free choice rather than a system of control over who one gives money to. Meanwhile, poor Butters suffers once again as he hallucinates via sleep deprivation having had to edit the social media accounts of Cartman, Vin Diesel, Steven Seagal and many more celebrities because of fat shaming. Of course, bullying of any kind is a wicked thing but what Safe Space says is that it’s part of reality and we must change our reality rather than simply edit out all that is negative about our lives.

The next episode Tweek x Craig (which calls back to the 3rd season episode Tweek vs. Craig) finds Trey Parker innovatively incorporating satire of Japanese yaoi art while examining the different parental perspectives when an offspring is thought to be gay.  The episode is hilarious in the stereotypical portrayals of the Chinese but more importantly the ridiculous lengths people will go to appear non-homophobic. Cartman also ends up in “love” too as he finally falls in love with himself; not a pretty sight in the bathroom.

What the season arguably lacked was a great ensemble episode of the boys and their particularly brutally honest and funny interactions; however, we got that with Naughty Ninjas.  Here Kenny and Token then Stan, Kyle, Butters etc. and then Cartman (and then not Cartman) become Ninjas but get mistaken for ISIS by typically idiotic and ignorant South Park residents. The subplot involving police brutality is hilarious as police methods are seen as barbaric and over-the-top in these times of tolerance. Yet, when a tough job has to be done such as clear junkies and homeless away from the Whole Foods, understanding will always needs a baton and jackboot to do its dirty work.

The final triptych of episodes — Sponsored Content, Truth & Advertising and PC Principal: Final Justice — dovetailed all the characters and themes of the previous seven into a wholly satisfying end to the season. Trey Parker’s main target was the oppressive and aggressive nature of advertising which, while a necessary industrial evil has become so sneaky it brainwashes us subliminally reading our search engines and attacking us at every window. The episodes had satirical digs at social-justice warriors and gun control, with a plot that revolved around Leslie a “human” advert that has gone sentient and was attempting to control South Park and the world.  Full of fun surprises and nods to sci-fi classics like Bladerunner (1982) and The Terminator (1984), PC Principal ultimately ends up being a kind of action hero. Overall, the message seems to be that in controlled bursts political correctness is appropriate but we must be wary to avoid following trends and always retain an individual perspective.

Season 19 was a triumph of savage satire, cogent narrative, zeitgeist references, brilliant songs and of course, some gloriously offensive humour. It poses many questions in relation to political correctness and trendsetting progressivism. I personally feel that with the amount of morons and ignoramuses in the world who like nothing more than to oppress people due to their race, country of birth or colour of their skin, political correctness is necessary. However, it is important that such ideologies are not used to make everything homogenized and bland and that freedom of speech is permitted. Ultimately, we can check our privilege but definitely not check our humour because what’s life without it?  Indeed what’s life without South Park:  no life at all?

GOD & TARGETS: TWELVE SCREENPLAYS BY CHRISTMAS from PAUL LAIGHT

GOD & TARGETS: TWELVE SCREENPLAYS BY CHRISTMAS from PAUL LAIGHT

“You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.” Frederic Nietzsche

I have over the years always wondered why I am alive. I mean: what’s the point of life?  Why are humans here at all?  Are we just animals or are we meant for something more?  God or faith is one such thing that has papered over those cracks for some people. However, I am not a religious person as I prefer to believe in my own eyes, ears and experience. I am open to theories and hypothesis but do not require ideological brainwashing to help me get through the day.
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Blasphemy it may be but much of my spirituality is gained from worshipping movies, music, sport and other cultural interests.  Of course, family and loved ones are the priority and quite rightly give my life meaning and structure.  But what keeps a person going from one day to the next?  Money, work, exercise, drugs, travel, hobbies and the sheer desire just to stay alive are up there.  Indeed, fear of the abyss can be another powerful reason to keep going; death is a great motivator!

 
Generally speaking my philosophy is be good to others, don’t be a cunt and if you can’t be positive make sure your negativity is either funny or interesting. I don’t need a God or a set of spurious ideologies to live my life. But, what I do like though from year-to-year is some kind of creative or personal target with which to propel me through the months. It gives me focus and takes my mind off death. There’s also a delusion in my psychology that perhaps one day my creative ability could get rewarded either in some form of employment or financial reward. You never know! Miracles do happen.

 

Targets of late have included:

  • Lose weight and get fit.
  • Start a diary where I record my events and thoughts through the year.
  • Write and produce a cultural blog reviewing films, shows and events.
  • Give up smoking.
  • Write and perform comedy at one of the Fringe Festivals.
  • Write, film and edit my own short film productions.
  • To train and achieve a 10 mile distance run within a 12 month period.
  • Do something for a Charity.

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I can honestly say I have achieved these targets over the last ten years and in 2015 I decided to set myself another goal. On top of continuing my blog and diary and fitness routines I decided I would set about writing TWELVE short film screenplays in a year. Given I have a full-time job and am a parent this is quite a big ask. But on December 21st 2015 I hit this target! Good for me!!

So, for my own benefit I have listed the short screenplays I have written and the ideas behind them.  Here’s to 2016: small victories are the way forward!

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WAITING FOR GODDARD – DRAMA

PITCH

PAUL MORRIS is owed money by his so-called friend GODDARD and desperately needs it back. However, he’s in for a very long wait.

PREMISE

This is a snapshot story of friendship and betrayal. I wanted to write something that was simple to shoot and also a kind of homage to the opening sequence of Once Upon a Time in America.

 

SCREENWASH – COMEDY

PITCH

Comedy short satirising film shows incorporating reviews, clips and trailers of classic and upcoming film releases.

PREMISE

METRO LIVE is a bold, colourful and fun new TV channel serving London. It’s youthful and energetic and punchy and its USP is many of the shows are presented ‘LIVE’.  SCREENWASH is its ‘LIVE’ weekly movie review show.

The show takes the structure of new movie release reviews; classic DVD/movie reviews; articles on featured movie director/actor; an artistic strand where he champions a gay/lesbian/black Eastern European filmmaker etc.; movie news and forthcoming presentations including trailers; competitions etc.

I basically wanted to embrace my love of movies through quick fire comedy sketches structured within a review show format. I also wanted to satirise the contemporary hipster styles and pretentious nature of arthouse reviewers. It’s probably my most ambitious script as it also incorporates a crumbling relationship between the presenters of the programme.

 

THE STAIRWELL – SURREAL COMEDY-DRAMA

PITCH

Postman, JOHN MILLER, gets trapped in a spatial loop on a building stairwell and can find no way of escape.

PREMISE

This story is classic-one-location-short-film-low-budget-territory with a Postman trapped in a spatial-time-loop unable to escape. I was inspired by my love of Dr Who as well as the notion of characters being trapped by circumstances and a dead-end job.

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SOUND WOMAN – COMEDY

PITCH

MARTHA FOLEY wakes up one day and finds her every sound, movement and action is replaced by a movie sound effect.


PREMISE

When I was editing my comedy documentary The Rock ‘N’ Droll Experience I used some sound effects and I got the idea from that. I just liked the idea of experimenting with the form and content of sound effects. It’s a simple, silly idea with which to have fun with so for example our protagonist yawns and it sound like a duck quack. There’s no depth involved just a one-joke short.

 

MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS – COMEDY

PITCH

At the cinema ALICE and her boyfriend JOHN are terrorised by the noises made by fellow filmgoer, DARREN. When an argument ensues between them the characters from the film also take umbrage as chaos ensues.

PREMISE

This was inspired by my own experience of rude crisp and popcorn munchers at the cinema. So I set out to write something ridiculous and funny that deals with that particular pet hatred of mine. The idea of the characters on the cinema screen coming to life and interacting with “real” people is not new and clearly influenced by Woody Allen’s classic Purple Rose of Cairo.

 

SAMARITAN – DRAMA

PITCH

Two strangers reach out for each other on Beachy Head.


PREMISE

This is a very heavy drama about the desire to commit suicide. My filmmaking partner Gary O’Brien suggested I write something about an older man and younger woman but without any suggestion of anything sleazy.  On TV and film older males are often characterised as “dirty old men” and he wanted to portray something nobler. Lastly, I had visited Beachy Head recently and found it to be a beautiful place tinged with a suggestion of tragedy as it is apparently a suicide spot for people in the UK.

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C’EST FINI – EROTIC DRAMA/COMEDY

PITCH

HOSTAGE and KIDNAPPER find themselves attracted to each other in twisty crime drama.


PREMISE

Essentially an extended sketch I wanted to write something that was risqué and a little bit saucy so utilised oft-used kidnapping scenario for a dark story with a twist in the tale.
THE SHREDDER – COMEDY/HORROR

PITCH

Workaholic JONATHAN LAKE finds himself terrorised by a Shredder while working late at the office.

PREMISE

As someone who has spent long hours missing their family at a dead end job I wanted to do a simple morality horror story. Here the main character is committing more time to work than his family and the Shredder is a necessary evil to remind of what is actually more important.  The horror genre is always good for symbolism of this sort and this film is silly but with a serious message.

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RE-CYLE – POETIC DRAMA

PITCH

The up-and down journey of a bike from the United Kingdom to Africa.


PREMISE

In Britain, millions of bikes are thrown away or lie unused in sheds, whilst many people in Africa have no access to transport of any kind. So, I wanted to chart the story of a bike from the UK and follow its journey to a new home in Africa. A bit of a preachy one this one with a serious message as in the UK and Western world we take so much for granted and chuck things without making proper use of their potential.

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TOLERANCE – HORROR

PITCH

SADIE CORT plots evil revenge on the sex-addicted boyfriend who did her wrong!


PREMISE

Good old-fashioned revenge story here with a little twist. Inspired by Edgar Allan Poe and Roald Dahl this is a sweetly plotted two-hander which I really enjoyed writing because it’s funny and involves bloody death.

 

FAMILY TIES – HORROR/COMEDY

PITCH

Having killed his father and made it look like a suicide, SIMON BORG is hunted down by the tie he strangled GERRY BORG with.


PREMISE

Similar to The Shredder this finds an inanimate object – a Tie – taking on anthropomorphic powers and wreaking havoc.  It’s obviously ridiculous but I like the idea of an object representing an emotion or feeling; and in this case it is guilt.  Also, I love the idea of playing this one straight with heavy drama and homage to Jaws (1975) thrown in.

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YOU HAVE A NEW FOLLOWER – DRAMA/MONOLOGUE

PITCH

Following a mysterious time-slip,  KEVIN MANN’S life is thrown into flux when he finds out he has a double.

PREMISE

This idea was inspired by the many doppelganger films and stories around and I wanted to have a go at one of those. I also wanted to write something about a really normal, “boring” person and how they might react to having another version of themselves in existence.

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MY CINEMATIC ROMANCE #7: JAKE GYLLENHAAL by PAUL LAIGHT

MY CINEMATIC ROMANCE #7:  JAKE GYLLENHAAL by PAUL LAIGHT

Here’s another filmic sojourn into the roles of one of my favouritest actors. Last time I looked at Robert DeNiro while today it’s the difficult-to-spell yet ultra-talented Jake Gyllenhaal. Jake was a former child actor who has progressed into one of the finest leading acting stars around. Here are SIX of his best roles.

**CONTAINS MASSIVE SPOILERS**

 

DONNIE DARKO (2001)

This genre-busting maelstrom of sci-fi-time-travel-teen-rites-of-passage-meets-weird-super-anti-hero movie is obtuse but powerful. Gyllenhaal confirmed himself as a dark, brooding force of nature as the young American being haunted by strange emotions and demonic rabbits. Gyllenhaal’s bravura performance somehow knitted together the string of imaginative concepts and pain of growing up, making this a mesmerizing cult classic.

BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN (2005)

This beautiful heartbreaker incredibly lost the Best Film Oscar to Crash (2005); but we all know there is no justice in the world kids!   Jake Gyllenhaal’s flashy cowboy falls for Heath Ledger’s less verbose ranch hand in a moving story of forbidden love within a masculine western setting. Gyllenhaal and Ledger are incredible with Ang Lee directing Annie Proux’s story with a deft and wistful touch. Much is made that this is a “gay” film but it is not – it is a very human story which will break the heart of anyone who has struggled in love.

ZODIAC (2007)

While frustrating in terms of satisfactory narrative closure (because it’s a true story, Paul!), David Fincher’s crime classic contains a series of brilliant burnt-out-obsessive performances from Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jnr and Mark Ruffalo. Each character becomes fixated on the identity of the vicious and random Zodiac killer including Gyllenhaal’s comic-strip artist. It’s a slow-burning film which benefits from Fincher’s shadowy style and there’s a palpable sense of creeping paranoia throughout which chills the bones.

SOURCE CODE (2011)

I loved this fast-paced, sci-fi actioner with a twist-in-the-tale from Moon (2009) director Duncan Jones.  It’s basically Groundhog Day-on-a-train as Gyllenhaal plays a soldier stuck in an eight-minute-loop trying to both foil a terrorist attack and discover where his identity has gone. The action fizzes along and as the plot twists and turns rarely allowing you to catch breath.  Gyllenhaal carries the film with both physical and emotional power right up to the breathtaking surprise ending.

PRISONERS (2013)

It was a tough choice between this brilliant crime story and Gyllenhaal’s doppleganging performance in Denis Villeneuve’s weirdly compelling Enemy (2013); however, I chose this one as the story was so enjoyable. Fantastic acting from our mate Jake as the preposterously named Detective Loki tracking down Hugh Jackman’s kidnapped young daughter and her friend. Jackman and Gyllenhaal are both full of obsessive angst and rage in a taut thriller which had me gripped throughout.

NIGHTCRAWLER (2014)

Gyllenhaal should’ve been Oscar nominated for this incredible turn as sociopathic self-starting media-bloodhound Lou Bloom. His rendition of Bloom was of a ghost; a shell of a man with little in the way of backstory and yet through his dynamic performance we absorb the horror of his character. I was drawn in so much by Gyllenhaal’s magnetic performance, and the film is a compelling satire on the parasitic press as vampires draining the life out of humanity.

APOCALYPSE WHEN? VISIONS OF FUTURE EARTH BY PAUL LAIGHT

APOCALYPSE WHEN? VISIONS OF FUTURE EARTH BY PAUL LAIGHT

“It’s the end of the World as we know it – and I feel fine!” Michael Stipe

Driven by a romantic fog and a momentary lack of aforethought I bought tickets for a Singlonga Sound of Music (1965) event for my girlfriend’s birthday recently. It’s her favourite musical and I thought: try it – you might enjoy it. Well, I liked the film: an opposites-attract-love-story tied up with a formidable musical presentation beautifully performed, choreographed, directed and lit.

But what I did not enjoy was the preposterous introduction/warm-up compered by a rubbish Drag Queen plus a plethora of drunken morons dressed up as: nuns, Maria, Austrians, brown-paper-and-strings, and a goat!  Actually, I must say, some of the costumes were impressive; but, call me a stick-in-the-mud, I don’t need to fancy-dress up to enjoy something because I have no desire to externalise my personality. I can actually use my brain and a thing called imagination. Still, each to their own I suppose.

Anyway, once the awful horror-show introduction was over the film itself – even the Singalonga aspect – was pretty bearable! The Sound of Music is a good film!  But my underlying memory of the night is of a drunken man dressed as a Nun shouting at the Prince Charles Cinema employee complaining that a member of staff had been rude to his party because they were texting during the film.  His exact words were:

“Your staff are out of order! I want a full apology or we’re going on Social Media to complain.  We’re going on Facebook! THIS WILL GO VIRAL! THEN YOU’LL BE SORRY!!”

And at that moment in time in the Prince Charles Cinema Foyer, as I sipped my Hobgoblin ale from a plastic cup, I recalled idiot global governments bombing hell out of Syria while viewing this over-lubricated Man-Nun yelling; and I just thought we’re doomed as a species aren’t we?! Perhaps not today or tomorrow but, irrespective of all the great things humans have achieved, Judgement Day is inevitable.

What kind of future do you want, Paul, I asked myself?  Why not have a look at some visions of the Apocalypse as seen on the film and television screens. I mean you have to hand it to humanity; it’s able to distract itself from the possible end of the world by creating stories and entertainment ABOUT the end of the world!   Here’s some of the best I could think of.

**THIS CONTAINS MASSIVE SPOILERS**

 

PLANET OF THE APES (1969)

Poor old Charlton Heston never had much luck with the future as his characters often ended up as dystopic visions of hell. Such films included: Soylent Green (1973), Omega Man (1971) and the classic Planet of the Apes where simian humanoids are running the place enslaving the savage natives.

MAD MAX: ROAD WARRIOR (1981)

In between the road-raging original and this brilliant sequel there was some kind of global nuclear meltdown hitherto bringing about a dusty wasteland where fuel is God and humans will kill to get their hands on it!  Mmmm. . . doesn’t sound like now at all does it?

THE TERMINATOR (1984)

Bloody Internet, sorry Skynet!  We create these wonderful computers to help us with everyday life including our Missile Defence Systems and they turn on us!  Only one man – who hasn’t been born yet – can save us from a life of death and slavery at the hands of the machines. What do you mean: it’s better than your current life?!

THE MATRIX (1999)
Damned Artificial Intelligence enslaving humanity and feasting on our fluids and organs for energy in some sick, twisted vision of a futuristic Harvest festival. Then again, compared to some of the shitty office jobs I’ve had I think I’d choose the Matrix over those; just don’t tell me I’m in the Matrix so I can use films and TV to distract me from my physical torment!

SOUTH PARK – GO GOD GO/GO GOD VII (2006)

Pissed off that he cannot get the latest Nintendo Wii, impatient Eric Cartman accidentally freezes himself and ends up in a no-religion 2546 future where talking Sea Otters and humans battle it out in a wickedly-funny-Richard-Dawkins-bashing-Buck-Rogers-parodying-classic-two-parter.

WATERWORLD (1995)

In this future we will basically live in the water, grow gills and dirt will be our most priceless commodity. Well, that’s what will occur according to this apocalyptic-polar-ice-caps-melting-earth-swimming-pool-with-pirates movie. At the time it was one of the most expensive film flops in history but actually wasn’t bad with Kevin Costner playing a soaked version of Mad Max.

TWELVE MONKEYS (1995)

Seeing someone close to you die in front of your eyes as a child is not a future you really need is it?  Following the opening of this brilliant film prisoners are sent back in time to find the cause of the deadly viral apocalypse. The awesome mind of Terry Gilliam filtering Chris Marker’s classic short La Jetée makes this an intelligent and exciting end-of-the-world blockbuster.

DR WHO – THE END OF THE WORLD (2005)

Of course, up and down and across the years the Doctor and his companion(s) have witnessed the end of Earth and time itself on many occasions. In this episode though Rose, in her first adventure with Christopher Eccelston’s Doctor, sees the apocalypse via a satellite station called Platform One. The Sun has expanded yet the destruction of Earth has never looked so stunning, sad or beautiful.

 

HAPPY CHRISTMAS!!

MY CINEMATIC ROMANCE #6: ROBERT DENIRO by PAUL LAIGHT

MY CINEMATIC ROMANCE #6:  ROBERT DENIRO by PAUL LAIGHT

“If you don’t know Robert DeNiro – he used to be an actor.” Doug Stanhope

In a recent stand-up special Beer Hall Putsch drunken, irreverent funny man Doug Stanhope does an extended routine about Jake La Motta. During the hilarious piece he refers to Raging Bull and more specifically Robert DeNiro. As the above quote suggests DeNiro’s career in the last few years has been more akin to that of a jobbing journeyman with the occasional flash of former genius thrown in.

With forgettable roles in Grudge Match (2013), Killer Elite (2011), Showtime (2002) and many more, his C.V. reads like something Steven Seagal would be hard-pushed to be proud of. He has, it seems recently, aside from a few David O. Russell films, been picking acting roles based on scheduling and a pay-cheque rather than their artistic merits. But hey who am I to worry about a man making a few quid; we all have to pay the rent!

Yet, from a craft perspective it is worth remembering DeNiro appeared in films by some of the great directors such as: Scorcese, Bertolucci, DePalma, Mann, Tarantino and Coppola. At one stage he was the greatest ever living actor and here are SIX roles to remind us of that. It was a tough choice but these are my FAVOURITE performances of, perhaps THE finest actor of a generation.

**MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS**

MEAN STREETS (1973)

Harvey Keitel is the lead character, Charlie, in this classic-early-Scorcese-urban-street-epic, but DeNiro steals every scene as the ducker-and-diver Johnny Boy. It’s a funny and violent performance containing that trademark grin, verbal dexterity and cool intensity which would become hallmarks of the young Italian’s subsequent performances. His Johnny Boy is flighty and unreliable compared to Keitel’s solid gangster-wannabe and their scenes together are a particular joy as Johnny Boy drives Charlie mad with his irresponsible nature.

TAXI DRIVER (1976)

Isolation and slow psychosis have never been so compelling in DeNiro’s portrayal of lonely anti-hero Travis Bickle. Schrader, Scorcese and DeNiro were young, edgy artists who delivered a character study which found Vietnam veteran, Bickle, trying to stay sane on the bleak, venal streets of New York. DeNiro bleeds desperation and desire for love and hope. Bickle so desperately tries to fit in with society and do right by people but he’s just too wired to achieve this socially. However, via mania and violence he finds redemption and the acknowledgement of the humanity he so desperately craves.

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RAGING BULL (1980)

In terms of marrying both a physical and psychologically formidable performance then THIS is probably DeNiro’s finest role. Obviously he’s famous for putting on a shedload of weight for prize-fighting role of Jake La Motta, however, it’s not a gimmick to sell a film. No, the weight gain is part of the character’s arc as he moves from prime physical masculinity and deteriorates to a fat, useless mess of a man who has pushed all his loved ones away due to mounting paranoia and self-loathing. DeNiro designs a character who hates himself and others and whose ability to suck up punishment and pain is a boon to his boxing ability but detrimental to his sanity. In this performance DeNiro proves there is most certainly method in the madness; a stunning film for which the Italian deservedly won a Best Actor Oscar!

KING OF COMEDY (1983)

In this stunning, dark comedy of embarrassment DeNiro is the deluded stand-up comedian who is SO desperate to get a break he kidnaps a leading chat show host portrayed by the wonderfully jaded Jerry Lewis. DeNiro is brilliant at all forms of madness whether it be: psychos, paranoiacs or the obsessively maladjusted such as hapless Pupkin. I can identify with the character though as he is just so desperate to gain fame his persistence, if not his methods, are actually something to be admired. Not known for his comic roles generally, DeNiro is fantastically funny with his skippy walk, bad dress sense, ticks, delivery and imaginary conversations with the celebrities he so badly longs to work aside. You know what too: his stand-up comedy isn’t actually that bad either. Overall, stalking and obsession have never been so funny or painful.

MIDNIGHT RUN (1988)

What! No Godfather II! No Deerhunter (1978)! No Heat (1995)! And no Casino (1995). Not trying to be contrary but I love this film. It is a rollicking road movie and concerns ulcerated bail-bondsmen, Jack Walsh (DeNiro), who must take a fastidious accountant (Grodin) on a “midnight run” to ensure he testifies against a violent gang boss (Dennis Farina). Obviously, as this is a buddy movie the two “opposite” characters bicker and fight over the course of the story but eventually settle their differences and find a common bond. The pace never lets up as the two “rivals” use every form of transport possible to get across country and it was great to see DeNiro in a less serious role cutting loose with a witty and zinging script.  DeNiro brings a world weary pain and cynical humour to a great genre character film.

GOODFELLAS (1990)

As far back as I can remember this has always been my favourite gangster film. Scorcese, Pileggi, Pesci, Liotta and DeNiro were all on fire here in this epic ensemble character story focussing on the rags-to-riches-to-rags-again-narrative of mobster Henry Hill. Yes, Liotta is the lead and Pesci won the Oscar but DeNiro steals pretty much all his scenes as Jimmy “The Gent” Conway. His characterisation is of a charming man who is in fact a bloodthirsty yet charismatic career criminal. DeNiro’s arc shows a man graduating from lorry-jacks to masterminding one of the biggest robberies ever in American history before descending into paranoia and an aging gangster always looking over his shoulder.

DeNiro would give other commanding or at least interesting performances later in his career, for example: Cape Fear (1991), Casino (1995), Heat (1995), Everybody’s Fine (2009), Jackie Brown (1997) and Silver Linings Playbook (2012) but his CV since Goodfellas is, if I’m honest, very patchy. So let us not forget that he has provided some of the most memorable celluloid performances ever. Yes! I’m talking to you!

“YOU’RE HAVING A BATH” – SOME GREAT MOVIE BATHROOM SCENES by PAUL LAIGHT

“YOU’RE HAVING A BATH” – SOME GREAT MOVIE BATHROOM SCENES by PAUL LAIGHT

I’m unsure why but I thought it may be fun to look at some classic movie bathroom scenes.  Perhaps to take my mind off the horrible conflict in Syria which has escalated now?  Perhaps just to remind us how great some of the films on this list are?  Anyway, the bathroom is a place where we spend the beginning/middle/end of our day cleansing ourselves or relaxing or having some ME time. It also happens to be a good place hide, fight, murder and haunt people in culminating in some classic scenes of horror, comedy and drama.

(NOTE TO PEDANTS: most of these scenes are exclusive to the actual bathroom but there could be slight toilet crossover!)

**CONTAINS MASSIVE SPOILERS**

LES DIABOLIQUES (1955) – HENRI-GEORGES CLOUZOT

DO NOT WATCH THIS CLIP IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE FILM!!   IT GIVES AWAY THE WHOLE END!!

A massive influence on Psycho (1960) this story of murder and betrayal at a boarding school in France is a brilliant and devious thriller. It also has one of the scariest ending of all time!

PSYCHO (1960) – ALFRED HITCHOCK

THAT shower scene!  Need I say more!

 

THE SHINING (1980) – STANLEY KUBRIK

“Here’s Johnny!”   Bathrooms and toilets represent danger throughout when Jack encounters a naked nefarious women and the creepy butler earlier in the story. But, after a slow-burning descent into madness Jack Torrance finally cracks with Nicholson on fine maniacal form in this iconic scene from the Kubrik classic!

 

SCARFACE (1983) – BRIAN DEPALMA

Tony Montana’s rise from “political refugee” to peaky cocaine King is not without its violent troughs. One such scene occurs when he witnesses a colleague ripped apart by a chainsaw. I feel sorry for the cleaner of the apartment block after this wicked sequence.

 

NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984) – WES CRAVEN

You’ve had a hard week and you need to soak your bones and a dead serial killer invades your bath-time dreams. You don’t need that do you!  Great nod to Jaws (1975) too in this horrific scene.


FULL METAL JACKET
(1987) – STANLEY KUBRIK

The disintegration of Private Pyle (Vincent D’Onofrio) at the hands of Sgt. Hartman is a grim series featuring physical and mental torture. The episodes are painful and microcosmic in relation to what military life can do to a human being. This tragic latrine scene is memorable and unexpectedly brutal as it culminates in bloody death.

 

FATAL ATTRACTION (1987) – ADRIAN LYNE

The film that gave us the phrase “bunny boiler” is a taut, scary thriller of the sex, lies and obsession variety.  The fantastic scare-ending though is the one that really sticks in the memory as Glenn Close goes mental following harsh rejection by Michael Douglas’ have-your-cake-and-eat-it-cheat.

 

THE BIG LEBOWSKI (1998) – ETHAN AND JOEL COEN

The Coen Brothers classic stoner detective film has many, many classic scenes but I defy any writer to come up with a comedic concept funnier than a character being threatened in a bath by nihilists with a ferret!  Pure comedy gold!

 

WHAT LIES BENEATH (2000) – ROBERT ZEMECKIS

Zemeckis made this film in between shooting of Castaway (2000) while Tom Hanks lost loads of weight and it’s a really decent suspense thriller.  Getting drugged by your husband and unable to move is not the kind of date night you imagine will happen. Indeed, never has the creeping fill of a bath been so terrifying!

 

TRAINING DAY (2001) – ANTOINE FUQUA

At first watch I thought this scene was a bit of a narrative cheat. However, with a shotgun at Ethan Hawke’s head the suspense is palpable and how he escapes is fitting. Because, this clever and ruthless urban Western is about karma and retribution; with Hoyt’s earlier noble actions saving him from certain death.

DAWN OF THE DEAD (2004) – ZACH SNYDER

Before he set about ruining the Superman franchise Zach Snyder made some decent facsimiles of other artists work such as 300 (2006) and this souped-up George Romero remake.  The early scenes are the most dramatic because the bloodthirsty zombies are out the traps like Usain Bolt, as Sarah Polley finds when she’s trapped in her bathroom.

 

CASINO ROYALE (2006) – MARTIN CAMPBELL

This sequence rebooted Bond for the Millennium perfectly as he takes down a hardy spy in the bathroom while confirming his “00” status in the process. It’s a brutal, clinical and a perfect prologue for a great Bond film. The scene is touchingly counterpointed when Bond calms Vesper Lynd down in the shower in an altogether less violent scene later on.

 

SCREENWASH – NOVEMBER 2015 – FILM AND TV REVIEW ROUND-UP BY PAUL LAIGHT

SCREENWASH – NOVEMBER 2015 –  REVIEW ROUND-UP BY PAUL LAIGHT

A quieter month compared to October but I still watched some decent television and filmic entertainment in the month of November.  For your information the current seasons of Doctor Who and South Park are providing cracking entertainment so do check them out too. I will offer a full season review to each show when they have finished.  As usual my marks are – in tribute to Spinal Tap – out of eleven!

**MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS**


ASSASSIN (2014) – NOW TV

This is a pretty standard crime thriller with Danny Dyer as a contract killer who goes up against a gangsters Martin and Gary Kemp. I quite like Dyer’s cocky style but he plays deep and brooding here which doesn’t suit him. So while he carries the plot pretty well — and there’s some great shots of London — I wanted a bit more wide-boy attitude and humour throughout. (Mark: 5.5 out of 11)

BETTER CALL SAUL (2015) – NETFLIX

I finally caught up with Breaking Bad spin-off and really enjoyed it. I don’t usually like prequels as the drama is generally undercut by knowledge of what has gone before but Jimmy McGill’s story (and Mike’s) was funny, dramatic and actually quite touching. It’s a really compelling plot that takes some unexpected twists throughout and contains some damn fine acting. More episodes please as the writing and Bob Odenkirk are just great; highly recommended. (Mark: 9 out of 11)

BIG EYES (2014) – NOW TV

Tim Burton’s film is a biopic of artist Margaret Keane (Amy Adams) and con-artist husband Walter Keane who infamously fought a court case over ownership of her paintings in the 1960s. It’s wonderfully acted by the two leads and once again Waltz is on fine mischievous form as the brilliant salesmen who duped his wife and a nation. Burton harnesses his usual excessive style for once and this benefits the drama. Overall, it’s a fine character study of an oppressed artist finally finding her voice in an aggressive and masculine world. (Mark: 7.5 out of 11)

BLACK MASS (2015) – CINEMA

With this performance you realise Johnny Depp has been wasting his acting talent poncing about as a pirate in the Caribbean for far too long. He portrays master criminal Whitey Bulger during 70s and 80s Boston as his gang snake their way up the crime ladder to gangster notoriety. This is a really good film: gritty, bloody, compelling, oozing darkness where humanity is concerned. Depp is almost unrecognizable as the brutal Bulger while Joel Edgerton is excellent as the compromised FBI Agent. Slow, brooding pace sparked by firework violence, plus a supporting cast including Kevin Bacon, Adam Scott and Benedict Cumberbatch make this a superior genre film. (Mark: 8.5 out of 11)

DOCTOR WHO: SEEDS OF DOOM (1976) – DVD

The mercurial Tom Baker and steady Sarah-Jane find themselves in the Antarctic investigating two mysterious alien pods. Lo and behold the pods explode and cause a massive plant monster to sprout and take over the grounds of a stately home owned by millionaire megalomaniac Harrison Chase. I loved this fun, sci-fi romp which was clearly influenced by The Thing from another World (1951) and The Quatermass Experiment (1953). Baker, as always, is wonderfully wry and booming as the Doctor and even Boycie (John Challis) pops up in a supporting role. Great stuff!
(Mark: 8 out of 11)

EX-MACHINA (2014) – NOW TV

A sci-fi A.I. chamber piece set, pretty much, in one location with an excellent cast including Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson and the magnetic Alicia Vikander. It’s a glacial-paced thriller which has some fantastic ideas from writer/director Alex Garland, although it’s essentially a hipster love triangle story with robots.  I enjoyed it but the slow pace worked against the suspense and the twist-that’s-not-a-twist is unexpectedly expected. Black Mirror has kind of done this story better, but it’s a decent science fiction experience nonetheless. (Mark: 7 out of 11)

GYPSY (2015) – SAVOY THEATRE

I’m cheating here a little as Screenwash becomes STAGEWASH!!  But I really wanted to sneak in a little review of a BIG production and performance. In this classic Broadway musical Imelda Staunton as Mama Rose gave one of the greatest performances I have ever seen on a theatre or comedy stage. It’s a depression set story of rags to riches featuring the ever-so-pushy mother whose daughter eventually hits the big time as burlesque dancer Gypsy Rose Lee. Staunton owned the theatre as her and the cast ripped through some classic songs including: Everything’s Coming up Roses and You Gotta Get a Gimmick. During the heart-storming finale Staunton wrings every note of emotion from the song: Rose’s Turn.  I don’t know much about musicals but I know when something’s great; and this was it!  (Mark: 10 out of 11)

HUNGER GAMES – MOCKINGJAY PART 2 (2015) – CINEMA

I was disappointed with the final Hunger Games stories (Part 1 and 2) which reduced a fine arc of human revolution to soppy, plodding closure; as well recuperating the positive leading protagonist to a clichéd and reductive vision of femininity. The excellent Jennifer Lawrence finally brings Katniss Everdene’s story home in a finale which had some horrible monsters in the middle but gets bogged down with love-triangle nonsense and laboured manipulative-media-evil-government-geo-politics. The movies’ pace really let it down and splitting the film in two just took liberties. More action and less talking would’ve served a better end to Katniss’ heroic journey. (Mark: 6 out of 11)

LET US PREY (2015) – NOW TV

A nifty little horror film with Liam Cunningham playing a devilish character called SIX who wreaks havoc on an unsuspecting Scottish police station. Faust meets Assault on Precinct 13 in a bloody tale of vengeful murder and gut-wrenching death. All the characters have their demons in a bloody and fiery hellish movie which has some great gore and evil premise at its heart. (Mark: 7 out of 11)


THE LOBSTER (2015) – CINEMA

If you like dark comedies about strange love, fascism and violence then you must see The Lobster. It’s weird, wonderful and very funny as Colin Farrell plays a single man – in the not-too-distant-future – who has a limited time to find a mate or he’ll be turned into an animal of his choice. Obviously, he chooses the eponymous crustacean and what ensues is a peculiarly dark and hilarious satire of human relationships and dating mores which is barbed by moments of extreme violence and strange tenderness. The Greek filmmaker, Yorgos Lanthino, made the equally peculiar Dogtooth (2009) –about a family shut-out from society – and he has crafted one of my favourite films of the year. It is destined to be a cult classic which will reward those after something completely different from the usual homogenous Hollywood shite which peddles love and romance as an illusory saviour to our existentially pointless lives.
(Mark: 9.5 out of 11)

MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (2015) – BLU RAY

I have to say on I thought this film may suffer on re-watch but it actually got better because it is a lustful, muscular and jaw-dropping spectacular which while having NO actual plot revels in the orgiastic nature of car-bombing action and deathly stunts.  Tom Hardy takes on the iconic Max Rockatansky role in this mega-budget-future-shooting-guitar-flame-throwing-blood-draining-crash-smash-and-burn epic.  Enter Charlize Theron’s kick-ass Furiosa who is on a mission of her own to protect those she cares for from nefarious Immortan Joe; the Citadel Overlord!

This is an incredible visual feast with carnage galore in a barren yet beautiful desert setting.  Hardy and Theron share great chemistry within the action and Miller executes some mesmerising moments of dialogue-free pure cinema. One may argue that it is style-over-substance but the style IS the substance. The concepts on show such as the flame-throwing guitar; moving blood-banks; mud-people on stilts; assorted pimped-up cars and souped-up weapons are what impress. As such George Miller proves himself a visionary filmmaker who owns the post-apocalypse on screen making it a terrifying and stunning experience. Action film of the year bar none! (Mark: 10/11)

SAN ANDREAS (2015) – DVD

Duwayne “The Rock” Johnson drives, pilots, flies and hovercrafts his family to safety from a gigantic Earthquake and Tsunami which decimates most of California. He gives an impressive action performance and in combination with some jaw-dropping effects makes this a decent, over-the-top and undemanding disaster movie. (Mark: 6.5 out of 11)

SPECTRE (2015) – CINEMA

Expectations were very high and alas not met because overall, the first hour-and-a-half of Spectre writes a spectacular cheque the final act cannot quite cash.  The big-bad-wolf reveal is not as surprising as I would have hoped and the Orwellian supporting story didn’t feel that deadly to me. . . It’s fine entertainment but overlong and tries to be too tricksy, wasting the talents and Christophe Waltz and Monica Belluci in the process. However, Daniel Craig is excellent and the set-pieces are a real joy. (Mark: 007.5 out of 11)

For my extended review please see here:

https://paulraylaight.wordpress.com/2015/11/13/spect-acular-times-spectre-2015-a-film-review-by-paul-laight/