Friday, 5 August 2016

My Lawyer Will Call Your Lawyer: Game of Thrones Season 6 (HBO)

Illustration: Varpu Eronen

"But wait! What is this among our midst? Is it forewarning of warmer climes? I see, there be a light, a beacon of hope, a redemption that will bathe my body in the brightest sunshine. Yes, for fucks sake: Jon Snow, the bastard, LIVES! Everything else, in my world and your world is meaningless."

Read the full review via One Quart Magazine

Thursday, 7 July 2016

My Lawyer Will Call Your Lawyer has found a new home: Singin' in The Rain (1952) Directed by Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly

illustration Juulia Niiniranta

My Lawyer Will Call Your Lawyer has found a new home.

From now on Nick and Astrid's reviews will appear at One Quart Magazine.

We'll still post resumes of the features here, but the main article will appear at One Quart.

Read their thoughts on Singin' In The Rain 

"So Singin’ In the Rain remains one of cinema’s perfections, one of the reasons we keep going back to the movies. It’s in the fleeting hope that cinema can make us feel as thrilled and alive as this."

Monday, 30 May 2016

Maps to the Stars (2014) Directed by David Cronenberg

There is a real movie draught in our house. Mainly, because when evening comes we usually feel like watching something (a series) alone – comforts and personal pleasure first. The personal computer has lead to personal choices and increasing inability to share this viewing. On Mondays we watch the latest Game of Thrones together, but that's not enough to keep this here blog alive. It's a sad state and one which we are trying to fix as we are missing each other's company. There's something great about watching a film together, talking about it, snuggling, sharing. But good things are coming, I promise you. Nick and I have gotten our hands dirty with a new large scale project. You'll hear about it soon.

Mia Wasikowska in Maps to the Stars
Maps to the Stars was a surprise to me. I thoroughly enjoyed it like I used to enjoy narratives of dysfunction and glittering pain decades ago. This is an uncomfortably sarcastic, ironic, cruel and sadistic movie. Like so many other films directed by David Cronenberg. This time, I was totally in the right frame of mind for it. And don't be alarmed, it is also funny, even light and comic at times.
Maps to the Stars combines family drama with satire about Hollywood in a way that doesn't compromise either agenda but blends them into a crazy, daring ride. Julianne Moore does some crying, farting, group sex and portrays her fantastic capability for nervousness. She plays an actress haunted by her mother and her insatiable hunger for fame and love. It's kind of not like the roles Julianne Moore usually gets, which is fun. Of course her own persona as a stylish super successful Hollywood star backlights her performance and frames things oddly. John Cusack is also uncharacteristically cast and he too plays things well.

Robert Pattinson and Mia Wasikowska in Maps to the Stars
The stars of this satire are the children: Mia Wasikowska and Evan Bird. They do much of the satirizing of Hollywood, but more than that they bring to the fore the pain and anguish their parent's secrets have caused them. They react. Hints of Romeo and Juliette, horror stuff I never wanna watch again and the scent of burning fire and drying blood linger in my mind long after the film ends.
The lack of morals these characters convey ring both true and false. But this is not a film about reality. It keeps moving, still retaining an admirable inner peace and structure.

Life has had its series of niggly consequences recently. People have invaded my space with an unbelievable capacity to annoy me. Obviously, I've managed to align some people's behaviour to mental illness, but then this doesn't explain why a lot of people's actions are a choice and not a necessity. In short, my tolerance levels have worn thin. In the past I may have just pleasantly smiled and headed for the nearest exit after being subjected to arshole rheotric – now I'm merely trying to eradicate cuntish behaviour towards me, flushing it down the cistern of life. Having turned 50 recently, that old cliché 'life's too short' has never felt more apt. David Cronenberg continues to impress with his ability to shine a light on his perceived paragons of cuntish behaviour and bring those culprits to the screen so we can laugh at them and generally feel superior. I needed to watch a film like Maps To The Stars to contextualize my current predicament. 

Julianne Moore as fading actress Havana Segrand
Maps To the Stars is black comedy as much as it is insider expose thanks to Bruce Wagner's shrewd and knowing screenplay. A collection of dysfunctional human beings hedging their bets in the hurly burly world of Hollywood. It sounds familiar but Cronenberg brings his creepy perspective to the picture. These Hollywood Hills have ears and eyes and all kinds of fucked up grievances and familial shames. Cronenberg carefully weaves a tale that must in some ways feel familiar to him – the clues are in his portrayal of types he clearly feels disdain for. And who can blame him? These people are tragically lost. Child stars who treat everyone like shit, therapists who treat everyone like shit, has-been-actors who treat everyone like shit. Even the chauffeur lets us down in the end. This is a dark affair from Cronenberg, and rather like Eastwood, he knows how to bring the most impact home with the occasional violence that litters the screen – disturbing us and shaking our bones.

Evan Bird as child star Benjie revels in the dark stuff
Acting honors are all high. Maps To The Stars puts a certain vulnerable strain on these actors. From Julianne Moore's spoilt has-been actress trying to shit, to John Cusack's beyond greedy therapist – on screen masturbation almost seems mild amongst the many trials and low deeds these characters go through. And at the base is the merry-go-round of the Movie Industry, a moral free place where anything goes as long as it gets me from A to B. It's brutal. Cronenberg's gift is to make us flinch at the sickness of it all, to out-gross us with an 'honest' depiction of the ultimate grossness. Maps to the Stars portrays something we already knew but didn't want to admit to ourselves: decadent badness that we lap up at the cinema multiplexes, 'superstar' conduct that we justify by the 'entertainment' it brings. We are all complicit in this cesspool. Cronenberg's movie is the timely reminder. 

Sunday, 1 May 2016

The Jam: About the Young Idea (2015) Directed by Bob Smeaton

The Jam were very important in my life. An interest in politics fermented from Paul Weller's establishment critiques. I grew up down the road from Weller, was working class and like Weller, dealing with the consequences of the just elected Margaret Thatcher, the maggot hatcher. Not only this, but I had a man crush on Weller, he was my style icon when I was 13 (it didn't last so long, Joy Division came along and Gitanes, doom-coats, existentialist fiction with DM shoes were the order of the day). Weller was a divisive character amongst me and my friends (the political mutterings especially) and I'm not sure if anyone of my peers was into him as much as I was. I even had a Jam scrapbook with cuttings from NME, Smash Hits and so on featuring our fearsome threesome. Bob Smeaton's documentary is very entertaining in that it gives the Jam fans (and some famous ones at that) the opportunity to discuss their relationship toward the band (and the impact The Jam had on their lives). Of course, the three original band members are telling their story too. None of the fans Jam story is like mine, though I definitely identify with that sentiment that The Jam were like us, one of our own. Weller, as well as being a voice to my own political views, articulated a lot more about being a young person from 'a strange town' who didn't quite fit in. 

An early The Jam promo shot, the band broke through with their own brand of RnB infused punk. 
Weller is the stand-out here (and probably worth a serious study that takes in his whole career). If anything the documentary could do with a bit more Paul and a lot less Rick Butler and Bruce Foxton. Jesus, no wonder Weller split the band up at the height of their fame. Watching this you can't imagine spending serious time on the road (as Weller obviously did) with the nice but dim rhythm section of The Jam. Yes, they were very important to the sound of the band, but whenever they appear here they just doll out the usual music doc clichés. Thankfully, the fans really elevate this. They paint a picture of why the band seemed like their own mini youth culture, but also through various talking heads, About The Young Idea shows how The Jam represented so many young people's views about the establishment – an establishment hell bent on fucking up their lives. It was only recently that a dear friend of mine reminded me that we used to hang out a bit with Martin Freeman (The Hobbit, Sherlock, Shaun Of the Dead etc). And here he is, #1 Jam fan – he articulates well his Jam fandom (and if only i'd know all those years ago how much of a mod he really was). 

Paul Weller (left) is the standout talking head from About The Young Idea
Frustratingly About The Young Idea misses a beat by not showing how massive the band became in the UK. They had a series of straight to #1 records at a time when singles were selling on average 300,000 copies a week. Those singles were songs of articulate political comment. The Jam at their height were also at their most protest potent. Remarkable. This won't ever happen again, even though the world faces the kind of austerity measures Thatcher brought to Britain in the early 1980's. That popular music voice of protest just isn't there anymore. It says much about the political potency of popular music in 2016 (i.e. it has none). This meaning The Jam brought to their craft also explains why it was a shock to so many (or it felt like it) when the band broke up at their commercial peak. That Paul Weller, eh? He's still a mod and still a man of substance and as About The Young Idea shows, he was an uncomfortable though telling 'voice of a generation'. There might be a better way to delve into some of The Jam story, but About The Young Idea manages to convey their impact on the mere mortals, and that's enough in itself. 

The Jam is one of those items of culture that makes me realize just what an outsider I am in relation to English culture. Yes, I have been living with Nick for nearly 15 years now, but there are some connections that I just don't get. I wasn't a teenager in London in the early 1980s. I was a baby in Malminkartano, a suburb in Helsinki. In the late 80s I listened to Hassisen Kone on a cassette and sang Tuomari Nurmio lyrics thinking they were children's songs. My dad listened to Joy Division among his prog and jazz and his Beatles, but The Jam didn't exist in our house. The people around me probably looked somewhat like people in The Jam documentary footage of English young people at that time: the haircuts and the persistent presence of brown and huge geometric shapes for example. Still, there is a script that I cannot read here. Paul Weller and The Jam are one of the last mysteries (?) yet to fully open up in front of my eyes. Why are they so important?

If anything, the documentary The Jam: About the Young Idea is a little bit boring. There is not enough focus on Weller walking out on his bandmates pretty suddenly and then never speaking to them again. He just went off to have a solo career. The others still to this day play in some kind of The Jam cover band with a different lead singer...
What was EVERYTHING for two out of three members of the band, was just a launching pad for Weller. And that's fine. This happens all the time in creative collaborations. The difference is that Weller went on to having a long and influential career while the other members obviously relate to the time in The Jam as the best career moment they had.

In typical music documentary form the talking heads in this one drive me nuts. In a way though, I can see how wide the influence of the band was from the different kinds of people telling their stories about falling love with The Jam in their early teens. My favorite one is a Japanese woman who moved to England 'to learn the language' for two months and never went back home. Her true motivation was to see the The Jam live. Now she is in her early 50s. Weller comes across as someone I wouldn't wanna hang out with. I prefer his music to his personality.

I understand that for Nick The Jam is an integral building block in the narrative of how he became who he is now. He could be one of those talking heads in this documentary. He should be.
This morning I wondered out loud to Nick why did he want to be with a Finnish woman born in 1982? After all these years of listening to his stories there is so much I don't get. And never will.
He said something about me being nice.

Monday, 11 April 2016

Everything Is Copy (2015) Directed by Jacob Bernstein & Nick Hooker

I have become the biggest Lena Dunham fanatic. I love Girls (the HBO TV series). I think it's a feminist masterpiece. I also loved Dunham's memoir Not That Kind of Girl, which I read last week. Then there is Lenny Letter, which is a genius publication in its own right and another kind of feminist move to admire. Lena Dunham manages to discuss womanhood and girlhood in a way that's both unashamed and unafraid of the difficult issues and remains always funny in a kind of Woody Allen way. I was not surprised when I learned that Dunham went looking for women who write about women's lives in 1970s self-help books, in Erica Jong's 'zipless fucks' and in Nora Ephron's writing and films. I feel like my love for Nora Ephron movies has finally been scientifically proven sane. It is surprising though, that I didn't know anything about Nora Ephron, the writer.

Everything is Copy is a respectable effort to try to understand who was the woman behind so many successful comedies – the most famous being When Harry Met Sally (1989) and You've Got Mail (1998), I guess. She went from being a journalist and a novelist to being the director of her own films. This is why she is an important role model to Lena Dunham still in the 2010s. The documentary is empathic, but shows that Ephron had many personal traits that appeared unconventional, difficult, even unlikeable.
What is central to the documentary is the way in which Nora Ephron seemed to have taken in her mother's phrase 'everything is copy' to justify writing about personal experiences and people close to her. She had the need to open locked closets, so to speak, and to air taboos and secrets. She also had a strong need to succeed as a writer. The documentary shows that her parents had been Hollywood script writers but had turned into abusive alcoholics when Ephron was a teenager – a tradegy for Ephron and her siblings.

Meryl Streep and Nora Ephron. Streep was a usual collaborator with Ephron
Lives are full of contradictions. Demanding openness and the ability to break some glass ceilings, do not mean that there is nothing a person doesn't hold on to in silence. When Nora Ephron got diagnosed with cancer, she chose to tell no one. She hid her illness for years and then when she knew she was terminal, still kept it a secret from everyone apart from her close family. The documentary wants to understand this decision but fails to, in my opinion. Letting go of life, knowing that your own death is happening very soon is a very personal, physical and concrete matter. It is not anyone's copy. Dying is singular. Therefore, I think that the documentary is painting a contradiction that isn't there. Naturally, there is sadness and that shows in people's memories as they recount stories in the doc. But Nora Ephron movies remain. All the bad and the good. The fluff and the tuff. And her books ––I will be reading her memoirs soon.

The last few weeks have felt like a strange limbo has gripped my body. The inevitable apocalypse that will inflict pain on all of us is surely round the corner. I thought I'd cheer myself up by going to see the Batman v Superman film. I had been warned it was the worst film ever made not only by the universal critical consensus but by friends on Facebook. In the end it was a pretty OK superhero flick with two or three jaw-dropping scenes (which let's face it – most movies don't even manage one). The media attention/obsession on the films subsequent box-office takings tells you all you need to know about these 'times'. We live in a numbers era. Click bait and so forth, leave your integrity at the door. Fuck it, leave your talent while you're there as well. We don't need it maaan. We only need to know those fucking numbers. It hasn't always been this way. We watched Everything Is Copy, the Nora Ephron documentary made for HBO and I wonder how she would have fared with her subtle, sharp and real talent if she burst onto the scene nowadays. Unfortunately, whilst watching this, I realized I didn't really like Ephron and her world – it's so white, elitist and middle class. A bit like the Finnish hip–hop scene.

A younger Nora Ephron
I'm not sure what bugged me about Ephron. But really I don't really rate the work of hers that I'm intimate with as much as everyone else does in this doc. That's OK. The bottle says one thing, the taste is something else. And I sure admire Nora and what she achieved. She was an inspiration to many. Everything Is Copy is a very perceptive and well made documentary because her son Jacob Bernstein really gets an essence of who Ephron is on the screen and possibly it's an essence Ephron doesn't want you to know exists. Ephron was so much about being in control. She hid her impending death from everyone (and some friends felt anger). She's interviewed here as well as her nearest friends, family and colleagues. There is genuine love and insight of Nora Ephron in this film. I haven't read any of Ephron's books (and maybe that is where the true genius lies – as Lena Dunham and many others tell us). But what about her movies? For me they're at best whimsical at worst indulgent disasters. But saying all that, at times the writing stands up in those films (and I haven't seen them all).

Woody Allen with Ephron.
We did watch the truly abject Heartburn awhile ago. Based on Ephron's bestselling novel the movie stars Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson. Heartburn is a very biographical look at Ephron's own relationship from the time. It's raw and real in some respects, but the movie just doesn't work on any level. Then there's Silkwood, which is great and When Harry Met Sally has a real sharp Ephron script. I'm a sucker for those sentimental titans Sleepless In Seattle and You've Got Mail. But maybe that's why I dislike what Ephron stands for (at least in a filmic sense)? A cuddly sentimentalist that softened my own edges and my standards (or maybe Ephron just reminds me how old I'm getting). But then the excerpts of her writing in Everything Is Copy narrated by various talking heads still sound so fresh and edgy and attitude filled and exciting you wonder at what moment did Ephron decide to become the Chris Rea of cinema? In the middle of pondering this confusing mess it suddenly dawned on me: Nora's still in control and how things seem are exactly how she want's them to seem.

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Velvet Goldmine (1998) Directed by Todd Haynes

We should all trust our instincts and judgements. Sometimes the memory plays games on you and you remember things much better than they really were.  The problem was I always thought Velvet Goldmine was rubbish and yet there I was on the sofa telling Astrid it would be nice to watch it again. I mean, you never know, right? Velvet Goldmine, over the passing of years may have transformed itself into something genuinely interesting and with some great points to make about gender, sexuality, duality, homosexuality – well any fucking uality you can think of. I saw this movie when I'd just arrived in Helsinki all those years ago, in some pokey cinema, the film was recommended to me by Uncut magazine as something worth my while. And Todd Haynes, although hit and miss, usually sustains enough quality across a picture, no? All you can really say is that the start of Velvet Goldmine holds some promise, early Brian Eno blaring, the youth running in platforms down the street. This scene holds some memory for me, going to the Saturday Morning Pictures in Staines with my sister who at the time was a huge Bolan/Bay City Rollers fan. I remember the tartan flares and sparkly platforms, there was a genuine high street revolution that involved both sexes.

Ewan McGregor embarrasses himself as Lou/Iggy hybrid Curt Wild
Sadly, Velvet Goldmine collapses under its own pretentiousness straight after this opening. Someone told  Haynes it would be important to throw Greil Marcus's' Lipstick Traces, Glam Rock and Citizen Kane in the blender, with a little sprinkle of Rocky Horror Picture Show naffness and everything would be alright. And let's not talk about Ewan Mcgregor's bloody accent or his even worse 'Performance' (a couple of the Roeg movie locals/ideas are used). Mcgregor plays an amalgamation of Lou Reed /Iggy Pop, whilst Christian Bale does his best as a coming of age journalist (although he looks too old most of the time). Jonathan Rhys Meyers sports his Bowie-like pout amongst the over the top fake-glam. One of the biggest problems for Velvet Goldmine is the soundtrack. Trying to tell the glam/Bowie story without any Bowie music is hard enough, bringing in members of Radiohead and Placebo to write a bunch of 1970's style tracks (with dated 1990's production) really drags the film low – especially when a lot of the film is soundtrack heavy. This is only really emphasized when a classic Bolan or Eno cut appears on the soundtrack. And although it's highly likely that this period was a heavily 'having it off with anyone' period for Haynes, he misses a big point about the fashion of the time. It was the feminisation of masculinity, a universal male awakening of identity. As an example, the football terrace's suddenly being populated by long haired, make-up wearing flared-up hooligans, whose hetero credentials were still in tact but liked a bit of rouge on their cheeks to go with their after game violence. That was the revolution, a slight subversion of gender identities.

Jonathan Rhys Meyers (right) plays the Bowie aping Brian Slade 
Haynes tries to tell his Glam picture story by mixing up characters from glam's history under one guise, stealing scenes from other rock referencing films and basically bringing a magpies mis-mash to the mix. The scene stealing from Citizen Kane is just plain bizarre (Haynes riffs on the investigative nature of Welles movie), something that Haynes gives up on mid-film. The nadir comes when Brian Molko appears on screen, it's probably a low point for cinema history. In fact, after the midway point when the film should pick up and maybe offer something, Velvet Goldmine drifts off into a lazy, hazy musical of indulgent fucking, little dialogue and no particular story. It's not like we really care for any of these characters amongst the exposed arses and tits. The best thing you could have said about Velvet Goldmine was its phantasy world of homo-heightened glam offered some insight, danger and innovation (as the scene itself offered originally) – but no, this glam world is so hopelessly dull you wonder why any of the seemingly glammed-up members of the public portrayed in the film got interested in the first place. 18 years on, Haynes movie feels and looks cheap. Many years later Haynes returned to Rock n Roll with his Dylan masterpiece I'm Not There, and in the processhe seems to have abolished in his own mind the disaster he created here.  

Today, the first of four holidays, I've spent going through papers, diaries, photos and other saved memorabilia in our cupboards. Therefore I've been living the past. I have managed to organize things better and to get rid of a lot of unnecessary stuff that got stored because of hasty packing. I have also had time to peek at some old photos and some old writing of mine. Looking at some journal entries from when I was 12, I must say I agree with Nora Ephron's mother: "everything is copy". Yes. And often the saddest little details from the past can seem funny or even hilarious 22 years later. For me Velvet Goldmine is from that personal past. I'm not sure if I saw it straight away when it came out into the cinema, or later from TV or at someone's house. Nevertheless, I remember feeling that it was a film made for me. I got it. In that way that is particularly possible for a teenager devoted to pop music. Later I got many other Todd Haynes directed films. I'm still a fan of his aesthetic.

Velvet Goldmine (1998)
Then years really piled on. I remembered Velvet Goldmine as this great movie about strange rock stars, mysterious love affairs, good looks, borderline behaviour and just beauty. What I found, watching in 2016 is a ghastly mess. A mess cinematically, a mess in relation to pop history, a mess of a narrative –– disappointing in every way. What used to be an approach to emotions that I found comfortable, is now something that makes me want to scream: the emotional ambiguity at the heart of this youthful film ultimately makes me indifferent to the whole piece. But in the 1990's emotional un-attachment and straight-up dissociation was just part of the package. I truly think that the movies I saw as a teenager encouraged me to swallow my feelings and not express them. It made me more tragic and cool –– like Juliette Binoche in Kieslowski's Blue. Blaah...

Juliette Binoche in Blue
Velvet Goldmine has not fared well. Now that David Bowie isn't here anymore, I feel offended when I see his character portrayed or reduced to a mere masquerade. Or when Iggy Pop gets the psychoanalytical treatment (and Ewan McGregor looks more like Kurt Cobain). Also, it is awful to hear some bad 1990s versions of classic songs. Makes the whole thing seem even more cheap. What about the gay themes? Shouldn't this have been a fun celebration of homosexuality, theatrical rock'n'roll and the youth culture that bloomed in the early 1970s in London? It just feels so lame the way desire and sex is dealt with here. Just hints and coy nods as if the movie was made before the 1970s and not after. Even rock docs will have more attitude in them than this polite collage. Maybe though, like my old journal entries, this movie will seem more fun in 10 to 15 years time.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Vinyl (2016) Directed by Martin Scorsese

Why is it so difficult to make good movies or TV series about making music? Picturing the process of songwriting, the life of a creative so often appears phoney to me. What about the life of a person who helps these creatives to be heard? The music business with its mix of risk taking, creativity, art  
and business and consumerism seems like a fantastic topic for a new HBO series. Yet, the pilot of Vinyl leaves me shuddering in disappointed horror. Remember Robin Wright in Forrest Gump yelling 'run Forest run' and then shaking through various cliches of heroin addiction, violent activist boyfriends and ultimately dying of the no-name-killer disease? In my opinion it isn't great if in 2016 I have to sit through yet another depiction of the late 1960s and early 1970s from that same Forrest Gump perspective.

Robin Wright in Forrest Gump
I take watching Vinyl personally. Yes, I live and breathe in the world of music making, performing and the business side too. I also have romantic notions about New York City in the early 1970s and the creative buzz I imagine over the worn-down city. Ironically, I share this blog and a household with my husband who comes from an Italian immigrant family and who also happens to be running his own record label. So, even if I try to distance myself from the home scene and the fictive story, the parallels are heavy – but boy and girl, are the times different in Helsinki 2016! This proximity to the subject matter is why I am allergic to the way Vinyl parodies everything to the point of cliché and worse. It makes cartoonish mixtures of oral histories, Scorsese classics, fiction and facts. It trivialises the meaning of art making by suggesting that the scene was only about decadence and destruction for no reason.

Olivia Wilde in Vinyl
I am aware that this harsh criticism comes after just one episode of a series. Yes, there is hope that something better will grow out of the series. Maybe we are better off with younger directors, who do more than just mimic their past styles and successes. Maybe we need more Mick Jagger here and less actors trying to be Mick. We need to forget about thinking of this as capitalist development and really go for the punk that is bubbling under the surface. At this point though, New York, New York directed by Scorsese in 1977 is a better description of the music business than Vinyl. And a final feminist argument: just because men are the main protagonists in your drama does not mean that your perspective has to be utterly misogynist. Here's to hoping for surprising twists and turns on Vinyl.

Still from the Vinyl trailer for HBO
So last week it finally creeped up on me. 50 years of age. I was born when England won The World Cup and The Beatles and The Beach Boys started their fight to the death as to who released the supposed greatest album ever (are you for Revolver or Pet Sounds?) In any case, we threw a party and many friends and family from England flew over and I even managed to get my band together and make some loud noise. Tired, hung over and a flu fast approaching is where I find myself now writing this. Or could it just be old age? Shit. Some friends even got me some vinyl. The black stuff that spins. Right now I've been indulging in heavy vinyl purchasing. I'm pretty poor compared to most but I'll always manage to scrape up some money for a piece of the black stuff. I'm slowly replacing a very large vinyl collection I sold before I moved to Finland a very long time ago. So, as you can probably guess, when news leaked last year that the very great Martin Scorsese was going to launch an HBO series called Vinyl about the New York underground music scene from the early 1970's, I was bound to be at the least piqued. So, understand me when I tell you the supreme disappointment of the pilot two hours snooze-a-thon that was the first episode of Vinyl. Turns out that the New York underground was populated by white middle aged men on the prowl for some action – drugs, sex and rock'n'roll. Is correct no?

Bobby Cannavale as A&R man Richie Finestra feels the rock'n'roll force 
Vinyl is produced by Scorsese, Mick Jagger and Terence Winter of Boardwalk Empire/HBO fame. Winter and Scorsese have got form: Winter wrote the screenplay for Wolf of Wall Street, whilst they both act as producers on Boardwalk Empire. Scorsese directed the Rolling Stones documentary Shine A Light, so he's in with Jagger. Scorsese is 73, Mick Jagger is 72, whilst Winter weighs in with a modest 55 years. But this should tell you all you need to know about Vinyl. It's old white men (much like those that run the music business) telling us about rebel youth. The pilot is directed by Scorsese himself. Sadly, we get the over-indulgent Scorsese from Wolf Of Wall Street rather than that true New York street movie Mean Streets. Where once Marty brought us tight and taught he now peddles overwrought and flabby. Scorsese has given us heavy doses of Vinyl throughout his career, much of what we see in the pilot could be taken from Goodfellas, Casino, Mean Streets and any Scorsese film involving a banging rock'n'roll soundtrack and copious amounts of drug taking. To confound Vinyl even more, the main role of flailing A&R executive Richie Finestra is given to Bobby Cannavale (a daddy Travolta in Saturday Night Fever ringer), a journeyman actor who doesn't elicit the right sense of wear withal A&R genius his character supposedly possesses. As an A&R man of many years myself, I just don't relate to Ritchie. Vinyl is unable to process the inner workings of something that admittedly isn't so easy to portray. This alone makes it difficult for me to relate.

Will this bunch manage to sign the next big thing?
Vinyl also displays an unapologetic sexist and cliched depiction of the music business. Vinyl brings no insight or new perspective to this world or profession. We're merely dealing with well worn territory here. There is an uneasy mix of fact and fiction which I can't quite decide is complete bollocks or a real smart turn. So we see actors playing members of Led Zeppelin and The New York Dolls rubbing shoulders with fictional bands and characters (and since when did Johnny Thunders look like a member of Santa Cruz?) Period details, especially flashbacks to the 1960's look very 1990's which in itself is sloppy. Scorsese's pilot takes an age to get going. The last half an hour picks up, giving you some hope to maybe check out the next episode (and the main interest here ironically is non-music related).

Episode two, not directed by Scorsese, already seems more linear and engaging, with Cannavale even beginning to warm up. But inner workings of musical chemistry don't really rub off here and I'd point you towards Scorsese's own New York, New York for a much better picture of this kind of creativity (even if the era's don't match). Ultimately, one wonders who Vinyl is for? The +40 audience craving for a certain kind of nostalgia will already know this territory well, versed in monthly doses of Mojo magazine and the incipient selling of its past by the music business. A younger audience simply won't relate to these middle aged white men. The fact that Scorsese et al. can't inject any fresh excitement into this fable perhaps paints a larger picture of the general decline of popular music as a cultural force. And Vinyl's pilot at the least confirms a slight decline in Scorsese himself. At one time not so long ago Vinyl would have been a must see, an event, unprecedented and unique, the zeitgeist film maker showing it like it is. This poses the question if Scorsese will reach his own high standards again? Don't go looking for those from Vinyl.


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