Friday, February 24, 2012

Into the Abyss Margaret

I don't get out to the cinema enough. Every time I do I am reminded how much more powerful and engaging an experience it is than tv or computer. A law of diminishing returns obtains.

I went to two films at the Dublin International Film Festival last Tuesday, Werner Herzog's Into the Abyss and Kenneth Lonergan's Margaret. They were both oustanding although I had to endure the baritone snuffling of Lonergan for much of the latter film - the director was sitting beside me (he did a Q and A afterwards) and seemed to be having sinus trouble.

Into the Abyss was Herzog's examination of 3 senseless murders in small town Texas and the repercussions for those involved and their families. It was mostly talking heads with the occasional venture into crime scenes and death row. It featured a clearly deranged and damaged Michael Perry interviewed shortly before he was executed and his handsome and creepily affectless accomplice Jason Burkett - who escaped the death penalty thanks to his father's intervention. These two characters were however less interesting than the attendant cast of victim relations, prison guards, and a death row groupie. Herzog's camera stared unblinkingly into their souls. The prison guard and Burkett's father were particularly articulate. After officiating at more than 50 executions he had a breakdown following Karla Faye Tucker's. He quit the prison service and walked out on his pension. Burkett senior was doing life just like his son and had the grace to feel ashamed at the bad influence he had on him. In a fine example of gallows humour Perry smilingly warned Herzog to
get out of Texas as soon as you can
as they parted.

Margaret featured one of the most annoying heroines in the history of the cinema. I defy anyone to watch Anna Paquin's performance and not feel the urge to give her a good slap. Lonergan was big on urban alienation (in New York) and the healing power of music - specifically opera, and more specifically Norma. Some of the shots of the city at night (monolithic partly lit buildings) with accompanying music were sublime. The action revolved around an accident caused by Paquin and its repercussions but the film was more an examination of a teenage monster and the chaos she caused in the lives around her. There were some painful mother and daughter set pieces and all kinds of engaging side shows. Check it out.

Monday, February 06, 2012

What a Sickener

Don't give me that pious nonsense about Wales deserving to win. Of course they did and that makes it worse. There's nothing sweeter than an undeserved win. Last year Ireland deserved to win and Wales stole it - literally. This time Wales deserved it and stole it again. The reason we lost to this weakened Welsh team are manifold - not least a criminally stupid decision to take a long-range penalty with 5 minutes to go, and inevitably concede possession, rather than kick for the corner and keep it tight.

So another disappointment inflicted on us by this Irish rugby team. I'm becoming a bit sick of the golden generation stuff. They scraped a Grand Slam in a weak year and have been dining out on it since. They have lost every important match bar one over the past few years - usually to France or Wales. They were dire yesterday against a depleted Welsh team who played with far more spirit and resolve. They never seem to be able to bring their provincial zest to the Irish stage. Kearney and the front five should largely be absolved of blame but elsewhere there were poor performances a plenty. Bowe's fumbling and weak tackling cost us two tries, Darcy and McFadden were rolled over at will by the Welsh juggernauts, Sexton and Murray kicked poorly and gave away possession, the back row was largely anonymous (except maybe Heaslip), and there was a general lack of hard physical commitment. And, dare I say it, O'Connell's leadership has to be questioned. Maybe he's an NCO rather than an officer. And Kidney has blown his chances of coaching the Lions in Australia. He's way too conservative anyway - Gatland is the man for the job.