Thursday, 25 August 2016

Planet of the Apes (1968)

On a recent night flight from Salt Lake City to London, I was unable to watch many of the movies  because  the sound quality of the complimentary set of ear buds was so poor (must  acquire proper earphones). As I can't sleep on airplanes, and not wanting to disturb everyone around me by keeping the light on for the sake of the latest Sue Grafton, movies were the only time-passing option I had besides grabbing any wine on offer. Peering at other screens yielded only films I had no interest in, like "Ali" or "Mother's Day" (the two popular choices with men, strangely enough), so subtitles it had to be, except that precious few of the movies had English subtitles. One that did was "The Intern", which I duly watched by reading the dialogue instead of using the audio. It was an extended advert for Apple and Audi, with said intern - an improbably perfect 70 year-old - thrown in as padding (Robert DeNiro in his comedy, face-pulling mode). After that, it was back to slim pickings until I spotted the original 1968 "Planet of the Apes". This was manageable, as the dialogue was well articulated (and surprisingly intelligent), and the famously atonal soundtrack lent itself to the uncomfortable environment. I'd seen it before, decades ago, so it was a pleasant re-visiting of something familiar. Charlton Heston's performance is committed: he's mostly half-naked, under stress, mistreated, but he really goes for it and is totally convincing. I still have a soft spot for Heston because of "The Ten Commandments", first seen at age 10, although now it's a bit disconcerting to realise how similar his facial features are to Andy Murray's. Nevertheless there he was doing his Taylor thing, and there were the 'apes' doing their highly evolved thing with brilliant prosthetics, and it was all very well made and entertaining.  Philosophical notions of religion, scripture, animal rights, non-violence, even vegetarianism are in the mix too, testiftying to the cold war fears and hippy developments of the time. I've ordered the novel it was based on (Pierre Boulle, La planète des singes) and will be interested to see how the orignal story and the Hollywood version differ. "Never trust anyone over 30", Taylor facetiously advises young chimpanzee Lucius towards the end - though without noting the irony that he's way over 30 himself. Apparently the film was selected for preservation by the US National Film Registry in 2001 for being "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant". Quite right. Whether one agrees with its politics or not, it is a memorable film. And it translates remarkably well to an airline seatback screen and bad quality ear buds.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Rio's inescapable soundtrack

Do Olympic events in Rio need a soundtrack of deafening pop music and old rock tunes? The swimming, the rowing, the gymnastics - there's no escaping the intrusion of blasted-out music, and presumably it will be the same with the athletics. Typically starting as soon as a particular race, performance or game has finished, and only stopping while the next ones get underway, it's as though the noise becomes not the background but the purpose of the proceedings. The rehashed tracks are the point, the sport is merely an expensive punctuation. The playlist is all. This noise also invades the commentary space. To press the mute button in frustration at this aural assault means to sacrifice the experts who could (unlike the music) enhance the experience of top-level competition. Life can no longer happen without a soundtrack of overused hits, apparently: neither daily life (shops, restaurants, public spaces), personal life as lived through various tech devices, or the public spectacle of Olympic Games, where the only music that should matter is the national anthems of the victors. Maybe the pop/rock juggernaut of contemporary life as expressed in Rio is a way of trying to drown out the reality of nations, or indeed of victors. Maybe the point is to make stately music like anthems seem old and creaky, pointless and undesirable. Because diversity is strength, all you need is love and, of course, 'imagine there are no countries'.

Monday, 8 August 2016

What about Bill's health?

There's been a lot of speculation on the state of Hillary Clinton's health recently. It is entirely justified, and I mean that sympathetically. The job Hillary is campaigning for - and the campaign itself - requires a superior physical constitution. Tip-top stamina is a gift few people possess, especially as they are entering old age. She has managed to be in public life for decades already, so even if she has had high levels of stamina in the past, by now, at age 69, those levels could be running perilously low. Also, many video clips doing the rounds do show strange reactions on her part in various situations, reactions which could be consistent with neural damage of some sort. Her 'short-circuit' explanation may be very close to the truth. And of course Mrs Clinton's demeanour suggests she is by nature an introvert. There's absolutely nothing wrong with being an introvert, except that it's painful to watch her overcompensate for this by trying to look at socially at ease when she clearly isn't. Again I say this with sympathy. But what about Bill? He looks like he's about to drop dead at any minute, or at the very least be taken very ill, perhaps long-term. This raises the possibility that should Hillary become President, she could soon become a carer or a widow. A President without spousal support does not seem like a good idea in general. A President who has the care of a very ill spouse would be compromised in their ability to deal with the relentless pressure of the job.Worse, should Bill die, the thought of Hillary let loose on the world without her problematic but also stabilising husband should make every voter pause and wonder what the consequences could be. Not least of those consequences would be the further deterioration of her own health due to the grieving process. And yes, his illness or death would affect her. Bill and Hillary's lives, careers and ambitions, have been tightly interwoven for over 40 years. Any major change to their marriage would have profound consequences on her as the relatively healthier or the surviving partner.