Behind The Boredom

Good grief.  When I was on my sabbatical in Britishland a year or so back, I tried watching BBC’s GMTV (Good Morning TV) and after the second day I had to stop because I was starting to suffer brain damage.

An unending diet of pablum will do that to you.  The topics were banal, the “celebrity guests” (with only a couple of exceptions) were awful to the point of dire, mostly nonentities (Third Cop From The Right in some turgid detective show with a viewership numbered in the dozens).  If the point of morning television is to present the audience with material that doesn’t tax the morning brain, then the BBC succeeds magnificently.  If they showed it at night, sales of sleeping tablets would plummet.

So with that introduction, read this article about what happens backstage and off-camera on GMTV.  (It doesn’t matter if you don’t know the characters involved:  all you have to know is that all this nonsense is happening behind the most stultifyingly-boring show of all time.)

The only thing that ever saves the show is when one or the other of the hosts is either drunk (at 7am) or still drunk from some awards show after-party the night before — one of which seems to take place on a weekly basis Over There.

And all the hosts are appalling, without exception.  (For reference, Piers Morgan is one of them, on the ITV channel’s equivalent, so there you have it.)  Were it not for the fact that a couple of the women are quite attractive, there’d be even less point in tuning in.

By the way, the presenter whining about the way she was treated, Anthea Turner, was quite a babe back then — which is probably why all the other backstage women on the show hated her.

…because this post would be useless without pitchurs.

Best Of All

I see that director Franco Zeffirelli died a couple days back, and as always the Jackals Of The Press are talking about his “love of excess” and all the other irrelevant nonsense that they spout when they are confronted with genius.

The fact remains that of all movie adaptations of Shakespeare’s works, Zeffirelli’s Romeo & Juliet is the greatest — the closest to the original play, some of the best characters / casting (the Nurse and Mercutio being the best examples), with excellent cinematography and costuming.  It is quite possibly the perfect movie.

And then there’s Olivia Hussey:

And if for some inexplicable reason you’ve never seen Zeffirelli’s Romeo & Juliet, buy or rent it today.   No thanks needed;  it’s all part of the service.

Less Is More

The best-selling author Alistair MacLean was once asked why none of his novels contained any sex scenes, and I remember his answer as though I read it yesterday:

“It slows down the story.”

He added:  “”I like girls, I just don’t write them well. Everyone knows that men and women make love, laddie – there is no need to show it.”

I’ve never forgotten that maxim, although I haven’t always followed it in my own writing.  Basically, I believe that reading a book can  allow for a little slowdown in the story — unless it’s a breakneck-paced thriller (like those of MacLean).

Movies, however, are a different matter altogether.  Even in love stories, I’ve found the sex scenes to be a pace-killer, and unlike books, where you can take as long as you like to get through them, a movie has to be consumed pretty much in one go.  And unless the movie is all about sex (straight porn or an art movie like Gaspar Noé’s Love  or the depressing 9 Songs ), sex scenes are pretty much unnecessary.  You want the actors to have sex?  Show them together in a bedroom, or near one, have one start to undress the other, and then cut to the morning, showing them still together.  They had sex, we get the point, thirty seconds, tops (Cary Grant and Eve-Marie Saint on the train, in Hitchcock’s North By Northwest ).  Now get on with the story.  Others, of course, may disagree with me — like SFGate.

I know it’s a San Francisco media outlet, but really?

Sex is disappearing from the big screen, and it’s making movies less pleasurable

Ummmm… no.  Oh sure, when you’ve been watching some tired plot rerun from every movie made since 1920, why not have (say) Katherine Heigl bonk Keanu Reeves for five minutes or so?  (Because a. they all use body doubles for the close-ups and b. see above for why a movie shouldn’t need a brake pedal.)  SFGate continues:

Today, whether it’s in “Long Shot” or “Rocketman,” the sex scene has been reduced to a shorthand, an instantly recognizable grammar that begins with some jokey or flirtatious foreplay, cuts to some flesh (tasteful enough to honor the actors’ no-nudity clauses), then discreetly cuts away when things get real. You know what happens next, the camera seems to tell us. Do you really want me to spell it out for you?

Well, yes.

Well, no. But let them continue:

When you deprive audiences of a really good sex scene, you’re depriving us of what was once one of the greatest enjoyments of going to the movies, a part of classic cinematic grammar that, when choreographed with sensuality and sensitivity, can be memorable as genuine entertainment – maybe even great art – and not just a lascivious clip on Pornhub.
What’s more, you’re pretending to build a world grounded in realism that is completely devoid of one of the core elements – and joys – of the human experience. It’s as if Hollywood – fixated on families, teenagers and global markets – has given up on American adults as anything more than arrested adolescents interested only in revisiting the distractions of their youth.

Frankly, I can count maybe a dozen really fine sex scenes I’ve seen in movies, but scores more that have actually made me laugh out loud or exclaim in disgust.  Those  scenes — and let me be very clear about this — have occurred in movies that are aimed at “families, teenagers and global markets” —  in other words, where sex scenes are not part of the plot, and therefore completely gratuitous.

And here’s the basic problem.  When the word “adult” became a synonym for “pornographic”, we lost a perfect description for a movie type, aimed at adults per se, that could  contain a decent sex scene — e.g. The English Patient  or A Good Year — and said movies have, over the years, almost disappeared from the studios’ offerings.

What’s also disappeared is the directors and writers who could create a decent sex scene.  Instead, we’ve ended up with cretins like Michael Bay and Jud Apatow, who taken together couldn’t do something that could coax a semi(-woody) from a randy twenty-year-old, let alone from an actual adult viewer (like, say, me).  Considering that I have only watched one Marvel movie (the first Iron Man, and that only because of Robert Downey Jr.), none of the Transformers and ditto the Guardians of the Galaxy, you may consider me well outside the mainstream — and not for the first time, either.

What I want is to watch true  adult movies — as I said, aimed at adults, not porn — with grownup stories, mature actors, (not necessarily “old” — another piece of modern terminology which gets up my nose) and realistic conclusions.  And if a sex scene is an integral part of the story, fine — but it doesn’t have to be graphic.  A good example is the sex- and nude scenes between Alex Baldwin and Meryl Streep in It’s Complicated — a howlingly funny and accurate depiction of sexuality in an otherwise silly movie which was integral to the plot but which, thank goodness, involved grownups and took less than a minute of film time.  (And thankfully, you don’t get to see Meryl’s nude body, but — and this cannot be left unsaid — you do  get to see Baldwin’s horrible hairy ass.  It is very definitely part of the plot, however, and it’s hysterical.)

As with so many things, they used to do it better in the old days — think of any sex scenes in the black-and-white era involving, say, Gary Cooper or Robert Mitchum and their various female co-stars, and you’ll see what I mean.

What we did not need to see was a scene of thrusting buttocks involving James Stewart and Donna Reed in It’s A Wonderful Life  — and thankfully, we never did.  It was all left to our imaginations… even though the two above were, in the terms of today, totally hot.

Much better in our imaginations, I think.

At Last, The End

So the interminably-horrible Game Of Thrones  TV show has ended.  Hoo-fucking-ray.

Watched the very first few episodes because the Son&Heir (who had read all the books) said I should, then walked away when Sean Bean was killed — I knew even back then that a writer who slaughters the main characters in his story has only contempt for his readers, and so it proved.

Good riddance.  But hey, don’t take my word for it;  try this bloke’s take on the final episode (if you care):

This whole pitiful spectacle couldn’t have been more stultifying if it had opened with the words, ‘This is a party political broadcast on behalf of the Liberal Democrats of Westeros’. The problem was that Game of Thrones, once so irreverent and mercurial, started to believe its own press releases. After winning more Emmys than any series in history, it imagined it was Great Art. Since its first episode in 2011, which stunned viewers with two electrifying shocks in the final scene, the show has killed off more than 100 characters, not to mention countless thousands of serfs and nameless soldiers – and never paused to regret a single one of them. But that psychopathic streak was forgotten yesterday, as the handful of survivors moped around the city of King’s Landing to a soundtrack of sad cello music.

Sometimes when one has seen an especially-bad movie (e.g. Lord Of The Rings trilogy), one demands a return of those hours of wasted life.  Imagine what one would feel after eight seasons of this shit…

Which reminds me:  I need to call the Son&Heir and mock him.

The Full Texas Thang

Last Saturday I took New Wife out for a Full Texas Day (I know, I know:  never go Full Texas).

Part One was the Fort Worth Gun Show (that was for me, of course, although she found several Girly-things to buy there, and did).  Blessedly, there was more on display than the usual AR-15/Glock/Tacticool stuff (although there was plenty of that too):

… although that mythical unicorn (mint condition Colt Python for under $1,000) was nowhere to be found, of course.  There was a S&W Mod 65-3 for sale, but it looked like it had been towed behind a Ford F-150 for a mile or two, and they wanted $700 for it, so:  pass.  However, there was a vendor selling from a huge  selection of Anza knives, and somehow I managed not to buy a single one (although I could have bought six or seven, easily).

Good grief, they’re lovely knives.  I’m rapidly starting to think of Anza knives as I do .22 rifles — i.e. every home should have at least one — and the next time I go to the Ft. Worth gun show, I’m going to buy another one, because… I shouldn’t have to explain myself on this one, should I?  Here’s one that caught my eye, just because of the shape:

…but honestly, I could also see myself getting any one of these little beauties too.

We were planning on getting a late lunch of BBQ in downtown Ft. Worth (Part Two), but as it happened, there was a vendor at the show from Robinson’s BBQ (“since 1947”) so that was the brisket taken care of — and it was excellent.

We did take a little drive trip through Ft. Worth, and would have stopped to listen to the orchestra playing in Sundance Square, but parking in downtown is crappy, so we didn’t.  Instead, we went out to The Stockyards for a little shopping and entertainment.

The shopping at the various Western wear stores (Part Three) was patchy — some expensive stuff there, Bubba — but I did manage to snag a decent summer-weight vest which doesn’t look like a mil-surp, fishing- or photographer’s vest for a decent price.  New Wife, not so lucky.  (She steadfastly refused to let me buy her some cowboy boots, but hey:  she’s been in Texas less than five months, and I only got a pair of cowboy boots after over fifteen years  here, so it’s a long-term project.)  Also:

Anyway, it was getting late, so we went into Riscky’s for more BBQ and margaritas (Part Four):

Decent ribs, outstanding  grilled shrimp (seriously, maybe the best I’ve ever tasted), and Ernesto the barman is brilliant.  (I tended bar in my distant yoot, so I know the trade.)

Dinner over, we went to Part Five of the Full Texas Thang:

Oh yeah, baby… rodeo! 

Now I have to confess that I’m no expert on rodeo — mostly, I think it’s cheap country entertainment — but you can’t go Full Texas without rodeo, right?  So we watched the bull-riding, bronco busting, calf-roping and all that, until the over-loud PA (and screaming commentator) got to my tinnitus and the hissing/whistling sound became unbearable (my ears are still ringing as I write this, the day after).

But New Wife enjoyed the day thoroughly, even the gun show — although she won’t be going to another one anytime soon — and hey… how often do you get to go Full Texas with a newbie?

Real Goths

…and we’re not talking about the sad, trendy youngins who look sad, feel sad and listen to sad music.  No, we’re talking about the people (of all ages) who are inspired by the gothic novel form, as seen in Bram Stoker’s Dracula.  And where else can one indulge one’s inner Goth than in the town which inspired it all?

When it comes to dressing up in costumes, I’m all for it.  Many’s a costume party I’ve attended wearing Viking dress (complete with battle-ax and horned helmet), or a Roman toga, or a Fifties-era outfit, or a French military uniform from World War I (to name but a few of the personas I’ve adopted).

My rule of thumb:  when it’s a party, it’s fine.  When it becomes your lifestyle, then it’s fucking pathetic.