Monday, 19 September 2016

20,000 Days On Earth (2014) Directed by Iain Forsyth & Jane Pollard

Illustration: Tytti Roto

In typically late fashion, Nick Triani and Astrid Swan get around to reviewing 20,000 Days On Earth, just in time to co-incide with the release of a new Nick Cave documentary and album.

"The documentary affords us Cave’s view of himself as a singer/performer and the certain amount of role playing this entails. It’s an astute awareness of Cave’s own relationship to his art." Nick

"Nick Cave knows how to peel himself like a fictive onion layer by layer. He knows that to give yourself openly only creates a mystery, the wonder of who we really are." Astrid

Thursday, 8 September 2016

A Star Is Born (1976) Directed by Frank Pierson

Illustrations by Juulia Niiniranta 

The latest My Lawyer Will Call Your Lawyer revisits one of Hollywood’s perennials, the seventies remake of the yet again soon-to-be-remade A Star Is Born.

"Hollywood stories about creative artists, gender and relationships rarely play out like this for the women characters. Still, variations on this theme have existed over the whole history of Hollywood." Astrid

", re-boot, re-saddle – this is in some ways Hollywood’s own calling-card, an eternal franchise drip-fed to an ever desperate audience." Nick

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.


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