Saturday Night at the Movies

I went to watch Joker.

Just as Yesterday was not the sort of film I would go and see, so the same applies here. I’m just not into that whole cartoon superhero world. I couldn’t give a monkeys what happens at the end of Avengers Endoscopy or whatever the last one was called. Until Deadpool 2 came along, I hadn’t visited my local fleapit to watch a comic-book inspired movie since way back in 1978 when I went to see Christopher Reeve as Superman. You know, when I was a kid.

Actually, I did go and see Logan, the last/latest in the Wolverine franchise. Thought it was okay. Nothing special, just okay.

And the reason for going to see that, and now Joker, was because my interest has been piqued by the fact that these films seem to be stepping away from the world where our caped hero battles and inevitably triumphs over the bad guy, and stepping into darker terrain, where the darkness and a credible back story take precedence over Biff! Bang! Pow!’s.

The Creation – Biff Bang Pow!

I’d read a lot about Joker in advance, and was aware that it has divided audiences, some thinking it to be brilliant, others believing it over long and self-indulgent. Joaquin Phoenix plays the lead character, so I was expecting the latter – has he made a good film since Walk the Line? I’m struggling to think of one.

I mentioned to someone at work that I was going to see it, and he grunted that he wasn’t interested, considering it “a rip-off of Heath Ledger”. I was tempted to point out that if they were going to try and cash-in on Ledger’s Oscar winning performance then they probably wouldn’t have waited the eleven years since The Dark Knight to do it. Rather, I thought the reverse to be true: leaving it so long to try and stop comparisons being made was probably the idea. And besides, I’m sure had they been able to cast Ledger in Joker, then they would have, but I gather his agent has stopped sending him to auditions.

Mind you, this is the same work colleague who, apropos of nothing asked me earlier the same day “Why do they give ugly birds a pleasant personality?”

My response was: “Welcome to the 1970s!”

He came back at me with: “Bloody PC, you can’t say anything anymore”.

“No,” I replied, “it’s nothing to do with political correctness, it’s just most people prefer not to say offensive things anymore. And that sentence had at least three offensive things in it.”

He laughed.

“Go on then,” I ventured, despite myself. “What’s the punchline?”

“There isn’t one!” he exclaimed, still laughing.

“Jesus, that was the punchline?” I exasperatedly sighed.

I digress, but not without reason. Being funny is difficult. Being a stand up comedian even more so. We’ll come onto this later.

Regardless of my work colleague’s sage (by which I mean outdated) words, I booked a seat and then read something which mentioned the name of the director – Todd Phillips; not a name which immediately rang any bells, so I popped to imDb to see what else had his name attached to it. The list almost made me unbook my ticket: Old School, The Hangover (Part I, II and – Jesus wept, they made three of them?? – III), Project X…the signs were not good.

But I decided to give it a go. Mostly so I had something to write about here. I suffer for my art, see.

Here is a spoiler-free synopsis: Phoenix plays Archie Fleck, a man who by day earns his crust dressing as a clown and performing wacky moves to promote local stores, by night he looks after his housebound mother, and fantasizes about appearing on his favourite late night chat show, hosted by Murray Frankling (Robert De Niro).

Here, if I may interject the plot spoiling for a moment, was one of the things which impressed me in the film: I had read how, when writing the script, Phillips had been inspired by the films of Martin Scorcese, and this reference to 1983’s The King of Comedy was not wasted on these eyes and ears. It wasn’t overplayed, it was just there, hiding in plain sight for all those relatively well versed in cinema history.

Back to the plot: we see how Fleck’s life unravels: he is beaten up by kids whilst working; his analyst has to end their sessions due to governmental cuts, and with them go his medication; he loses his job.

Added to this, you are aware that there is a blurring of the lines between reality and Fleck’s hallucinatory imaginigs. At first this is clear from him envisaging how he is picked from the studio audience at one of Frankling’s shows, whilst he is in fact watching the show at home with his mother, but as the the film progresses, one becomes less sure about what is real and what is in Fleck’s head.

This culminates in the film’s denouement, where he is invited to appear on Frankling’s chat show, only you’re not entirely clear whether or not that’s true or not. Until you are very sure.

But all of this confusion does lead to one really good, Sixth Sense-esque “Oh, so that‘s not real either!” moment, which I won’t ruin for you.

As for the bits where he is trying to do stand-up, well there’s only really one scene, and much has been made of the fact that one of the two jokes he tells has been stolen from elsewhere. I certainly heard Bob Monkhouse tell it (at least) once. And that’s probably the point: his first (self-written) joke gets no laughs, his second is stolen, a guaranteed ice-breaker which gets a similar reaction. It’s all part of his life, and even his aspirational life, unravelling.

The one thing that bugged me about it was this: there is a lot of emphasis on the fact that Fleck has mental health issues, as does, it transpires, his mother. And that is what is painted as being the issue, that people with such problems are an often violent concern. And that simply isn’t true. But maybe I’m reading too much into it.

It’a not terribly clear exactly when the film is set; there is a scene where a Charlie Chaplin film is being played, but then to counter that answerphones exist. But it doesn’t really matter when it’s set, because there’s a message here, one which comments on mob culture jumping onto the actions of one deranged figurehead, blindly following them despite their obvious-to-everyone-else flaws. The target of the rioting protestors just happens to be the wealthy, and in particular the Wayne family are, literally, in the cross-hairs: it’s pretty well handled – you don’t really notice the surname until one particular scene – but the link between Fleck and his soon-to-be adversary has its roots explained, even if we don’t get to the point where they’re actually locking horns here.

Overall, I came away from the cinema having rather enjoyed it; I embraced the darkness and I think I like it, to misquote Katy Perry.

Which leads me on to the soundtrack. To be honest I found most of the original music annoying, sounding like a light aircraft hoving into earshot and out again.

But as for the other tunes used? Well, I was particularly impressed by the juxtaposition of these two tunes seamlessly segue waying into each other, and thereby highlighting the difference between light and dark:

Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass – Tijuana Taxi

Cream – White Room

(R.I.P. Ginger)

NB: I’m pretty sure that’s the Herb Alpert track that is used, but curiously I can find no mention of it in any OST searches.

Which leads me on to a certain song which pops up in the film, and some criticism it has received in the redtops in the past week or so.

The song in question is Rock and Roll (Parts One and Two) by Gary Glitter, and already you can sense quite why the sensationalism.

For the inclusion of said song in the film had the usual papers – The Sun, The Daily Mail, etc etc etc – frothing at the mouth because convicted paedophile Glitter would earn (a lot of) royalties from its use.

Now. I’m not about to start trying to defend a child molester, but there’s someone else to be considered here, namely Mike Leander, or, more accurately, since he’s dead, the estate of Mike Leander.

See, Leander co-wrote that song with Glitter, and I’ll wager since Glitter got put away, his family haven’t made a single penny out of his efforts for the past twenty years or so, such has been the blanket refusal to play any of their records.

Plus, nobody seemed to give a monkey’s when this record, which samples heavily from the same tune, was a smash hit back in the late 1980s:

The Timelords – Doctorin’ The Tardis

I’ve tried really hard to find out whether either got a writing credit and/or any royalties from that, with no luck, but since it plays such a major part in the track I imagine they got something out of it.

They certainly did for this one, since both Glitter and Leander have co-writer credits on it:

Oasis – Hello

Funny, I don’t remember a peep from the tabloids about either of those at the time.

It’s almost like they were looking for something this week to deflect attention away from Brexit, backstop alternatives, Boris and the American former pole dancer he’s alleged to have had an affair with and – more importantly – ensured (again, allegedly) public funding was funnelled into her company as she obtained clearance to go on some overseas business trips with Johnson, despite having permission blocked previously, to distract our attention.

Yup, I can crowbar an anti-Brexit comment into pretty much anything.

See.You thought I’d do something utterly predictable like posting The Steve Miller Band’s The Joker, didn’t you?

Credit me with at least trying to post the unobvious, won’t you?

The Beat – Tears of a Clown

Oopsies!

Anyway. Joker. I liked it. Go see.

More soon.

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Friday Night Music Club

Evening all. Lots to get through tonight, so we’ll get straight down to it if that’s okay with you?

First up, and kinda carrying on from where we left off last week, more one-hit wonderness in a cod-white sauce:

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50. Snow – Informer

It seemed apt that as we entered the countdown to Christmas that I should post at least one tune with a wintry-weather connection.

But what’s this I see coming over the horizon? Only a bloody theme starting, that’s what:

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51. Kid Creole & The Coconuts – Stool Pigeon

This is not as uncool a record as you might think it is; anyone owning a copy of The Avalanches seminal “Since I Left You” album will know that a sample from this crops up, and anyone who had the pleasure of attending DJ Felix (from The Avalanches) sets will vouch for the fact that he would usually drop it live too.

Plus, Kid Creole’s real name was August Darnell, which is a pretty darn cool name too. And I didn’t even have to look that up (thanks Smash Hits!) which makes me pretty darn…erm…well, you get the idea.

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52. The Specials – Gangsters

There’s a few reasons why I’ve posted this: firstly, because it’s ace; secondly, because it continues the theme; thirdly, because I found the above gif which is worthy of sharing, and fourthly because it nicely leads me to where I want to go next, which is a lil ska section:

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53. Bad Manners – Lip Up Fatty

I’ve deliberately avoided posting their most famous single, The Can Can, as I don’t think that there was much more disconcerting a sight in my youth than that of Buster Bloodvessel, in a dress, bounding round the Top of The Pops stage, waggling his tongue and attempting to recreate that iconic dance. Don’t believe me? Have a look for yourself:

Actually, scrub that: the most disconcerting sight in my youth was the Hairy Cornflake himself, DLT.

Let’s move on. Here’s Camden’s favourite deceased wobbly bee-hive wearing warbler:

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54. Amy Winehouse – Monkey Man

It’s a bouncier version than the original by Toots and The Maytals, which is the only reason it’s here and not the original.

And just in case anyone was expecting me to do some terrible Winehouse gags..

the-beat-hands-offshes-mine-go-feet-arista

55. The Beat – Hands Off…She’s Mine

I’m not arguing with anyone called Ranking Roger. She’s yours.

Madness The Prince

56. Madness – The Prince

No ska section would be complete without a contribution from The Nutty Boys, and this, a very early single, was a homage to this guy:

Prince Buster Fabulous front

57. Prince Buster – Madness

(See what I did there…?)

Greatest Hits albums designs have really come on, haven’t they?

Now, what’s that I see coming over the horizon? Only a neat segue into another bloody theme, that’s what:

Prince-Lets-Go-Crazy-3182

58.Prince & The Revolution – Let’s Go Crazy

…and probably my next DMCA take-down notice, that’s what.

Ah well. Tonight is the last Friday before Christmas, a night which when I lived in Cardiff, was known as Black Friday, the night that the city went mental, with every office, shop and dental practice spewing it’s staff on to the streets of Cardiff for a night of drunken debauchery, which would undoubtedly culminate in them spewing up on Chip Alley at 3am, having attempted to either consume a tray of chicken curry half and half, or having just noshed off Terry from Accounts in a bus stop. Not sure which would be the tastier, to be honest.

Retailers of the world take note: THAT is the true meaning of Black Friday.

So, partly to honour my brothers and sisters (not my actual brothers and sisters, you understand…) who are right now taking deep breaths, insisting they’ll be okay, but asking Suze from Admin is she’d mind just staying with them for a few more minutes, and maybe rub their back a little and hold their hair out of their face a bit longer, but mostly to continue the theme, two more songs to round things off:

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59. The Peth – Let’s Go Fucking Mental

and

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60. The Cramps – Let’s Get Fucked Up

Happy hangovers!

More soon.