Femme Fatale: Brigid O’Shaughnessy

In Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon, made into the film noir classic of the same name, we are initially introduced to Brigid O’Shaughnessy as Miss Wonderly. A truly wonderful name.

O’Shaughnessy is revealed to be a black widow, which provides us with a different type of femme fatale. Our other femme fatales may be alluring and attractive, but this one is all of that and hiding so much more. She is smart, dangerous and as capable as the men. In the cases of the men who fall victim to her, she is more capable. To Sam Spade, she is attractive, but ultimately punished for her sins.

O’Shaughnessy provides an interesting contrast to the other women in the story. There is Effie the ever obedient secretary and Iva, the widow of Spade’s partner.

Unlike the ending of other femme fatales, O’Shaughnessy is defeated in a way that allows Spade to continue with his life. Spade’s partner Archer is not so lucky and joins the ranks of other femme fatale victims like Walter Neff in Double Indemnity, providing us with a different interpretation of the femme fatale.

 

 

 

 

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The Good People of London Fallen

Just as “bourbon and poor choices” led Mike Banning to become the secret service super machine, beer and poor choices led us to late night Netflixs and London has Fallen.

If you saw the first instalment, the second is no surprise. A forgein guy (with religious and ideological issues tastefully removed) had a revenge plot against western civilisation. He didn’t throw the first punch, he probably says in a delicately accented voice, but he is going to change the world forever. Errr…probably not.

The film isn’t going to win any awards, except biggest fearmongering effort of the year or lamest sequel since every other lame sequel. What is most interesting is the good people of London. By good, I mean obedient and invisible.

London is a backdrop, a stage prop that falls into place behind the actors and does very little apart from having a number of recognisable landmarks that get destroyed. The people of London end up being insignificant.

When it becomes obvious that the army of terrorists are dressed like emergency services, the chief inspector pulls all emergency services and sounds the air raid siren (do they still have one covering the city?) so only the terrorists are left. Now Banning can kill everyone he meets without worry about identifying them because they are carrying a non-standard issue machine gun. Handy.

But would the people of London be so obedient without emergency services and CCTV surveillance? I sure hope they wouldn’t. While anyone’s first thought would be riots and public disobedience, might there not be a second reaction? Given the absence of obvious protection would not Londoners rise up to protect themselves and their families. I like to think so.

Violent Delights: Westworld Finale

Pete Postlewaite’s voice echoes with Shakespearean significance: “violent delights have violent ends”. No wait, it was Anthony Hopkins, I’m thinking about a different film.

The first season of Westworld has been and gone with its HBO serious tone of adult importance. Has HBO ever had a good comedy? Entourage maybe? Even then it was as much drama as comedy. It is the serious adult nature of Westworld that defines it as an distinctive property. You know when that HBO logo appears with all that static you are going to see some boobs and naked ass cheeks. With so much pornography so readily available, HBO is the final bastion of softcore. The cheesy 70s movie from a Michael Crichton novel about a futurist theme park is a faded memory, erased like the unwanted memories of so many hosts. Do you think Crichton was on retainer with Disney or Universal, because he certainly promoted theme parks. Or maybe not if you consider Jurassic Park and Westworld both contain lots of death paying customers. Not good for business.

The Westworld series gave us parallel narratives separated by different time periods. A usual collection of undecipherable clues, more origin narratives than there were characters and dramatic realisations a plenty. Or at least that is what we were supposed to think. Remember the boobs and naked cheeks? Well, you can add killing because other than a child’s toy, the final reveals in Westworld were a little empty.

Ed Harris’ man in black turns out to be William? No really? Dolores achieves freedom? I’m shocked. Bernard is brought back and the old town that seemed so hard to find turns out to be pretty boring. So what at the end of the series carried all that HBO seriousness? It is probably more the repeated images of naked and dead hosts than any insight realisation about human existence. If we pretty much know how this all plays out, what are we watching for except the dead bodies and naked cheeks? Which inevitably leads me to the question of whether to watch Season 2: the hosts rise up because they get tired of all the fucking and killing, when do we rise up against shows that can’t seem to see past dead bodies and naked cheeks?

You can’t get more B-movie than Violated (1953)

Crime B-movies are a dime a dozen. There are more crime B-movies than a there are porterhouse steaks in a butcher’s shop. Except Violated would be a steak a little too bloody with too much gristle.

From the opening sequence, which contains an unseen vicious murder, an unseen killer and lots of screaming, to the ending, which provides a convenient psychological answer, the doctors tell us it was “subconscious compulsion right down to the hair fetish,” Violated is the very epitome of B-movie.

The premise of the film is everything you might expect: a violent crime with sexual motivations by an unknown individual investigated by the police. There are a couple of suspects, some explanations from a doctor and a couple of possible victims (in this case a young girl starting a modelling career and a burlesque dancer).

The police are as wooden as the plain room sets they inhabit. It’s not worth your while distinguishing one cop from another, they are all one formless entity only in the film to help the viewer figure out the identity of the murder. At one point, a roomful of cops are interviewing a suspect and one, I can’t remember which and it doesn’t seem to matter, says you’ll talk “you dirty rat.”

One of the most interesting elements of the film is the reaction of the police. A cop fires into the air after hearing someone shout “Hey, stop that guy.” It makes you wonder whether the film is being overly dramatic or the fifties were a very different time. Let’s hope it was the former.

Look out of the lynchpin of the police’s investigation, it’s a suit sent to the drycleaners with hair on it. A far cry from modern police procedurals and crime scene investigators, but it works in the movie as does the killer’s explanation. After the doctor puts the guy under, we get a brief explanation

The killer’s failure to go through with marriage because her “was afraid of having children” leads the doctor to ask, “Was your childhood so terrible?” Of course it was, how could it not be. The first problem was “I once saw my father cry,” but then it turns out the killer saw “A man was stroking my mother’s long beautiful hair and kissing her.” Who was that man? Well, he’s not in the film, but he also wasn’t his dad.

Violated even has a moral for us, more of a warning if you like. Want to know what we should look out for to avoid this morally corrupt individuals? Look for the guy that helps you pick up papers when you drop them. If you’re not careful he’ll turn out to be a sexual monster with a pair of scissors.

My favourite parts of the film? Easy, couple of burlesque dancers getting into a quick cat fight and the creepy killer as he goes down a fire escape. Forget the wooden cops, this actor was going out Stanislavsky on the part.

Watch Violated online. The extended shot of the burlesque dancer in a top hat is the very definition of gratuitous. 

 

12 Monkeys: Is change possible through time travel?

12_Monkeys_Intertitle12 Monkeys is running through a pretty solid second season. The show might not have Terry Gilliam’s aesthetic, Bruce Willis’ confused gruffness or Brad Pitt’s all too convincing insanity, but it is providing consistently gripping narratives and a whole host of insights into the characters.

 In an effective development on the original plot, the virus that drove the first season and the original movie has been defeated and yet the future still looks bleak. The ability to navigate the thin line of consistency and change is one of the show’s strengths.

The post-apocalyptic world is crucial to the narrative, but to suggest that time travel changes nothing undermines the whole narrative. Balancing the two produces those mind-squeezing moments when you think you know how time travel works and then it slips away.

The show has included a number of excellent moments of the future defining the past. As the Traveller, Ramse defined Cole’s actions for the whole first season and still gave us a redemptive moment when Cole and Ramse were reunited. The existence of the Witness as a time travelling manipulator with the objective of collapsing all time, is a threat who seems to be connected to an irreversible existence of time alongside changes that define the problems encountered by the opposition to the Army of the 12 Monkeys.

The ability of the show to throw up questions of indirect causality is one of its higher-function achievements.

When Cole and then Ramse and then Cassie travel back in time, do they merely enact what has already happened or what was already going to happen or do they merely support the events that have already happened because they went back in time?

The most recent moment was when Cole and Charlie saved Victoria Mason from Slade, the serial killing primary in episode 6 Immortal. Do we think a little Mason is going to appear as a significant figure in the army of the 12 Monkeys?

However, episode 8 Lullaby creates a time loop experienced by Jennifer Goines (thanks for the Groundhog Day reference, Jennifer’s 80s film references are great. The future intention to kill Jones and stop time travel creates a problem with Cole and Cassie repeating the same day until they are able to change the day while keeping it the same. They leave Jones thinking her daughter is dead while saving her daughter and leaving her in the care of Jennifer. In the future, Jones is reunited with her daughter. The actor who plays Jones’ daughter interesting appeared in a previous episode. Beyond the question whether the writers already preparing for this eventual plot line is the real question about time travel driving the show, had the change already taken place? Was Hanna always alive or was Jones and Cole experiencing a timeline without Hanna until Cole and Cassie return to save her?

Maintaining this balance between time travel change and consistency is what is making 12 Monkeys compulsive watching. How long can 12 Monkeys keep up the balance between change and the irreversible nature of time? Hopefully long enough to show us the identity of the Witness. Then who knows what the future holds…

 

Hardcore Henry

Hardcore Henry. It sounds a little like a cross between a kids programme and an adult film, it’s neither. If you haven’t already seen the trailer you are missing out. At first it looks like a gimmick and after a few different shots you realise it is a serious film shot completely in first person.

There is nothing new under the sun, just better versions. Hardcore Henry looks like a much better version of the 2005 film Doom, staring Dwayne Johnson. Now Doom was a box office boom, bringing in less money than it cost to make. There have been other, better first person movies like the 1947 adaptation of the Raymond Chandler novel Lady in the Lake. Hardcore Henry is a lot more, well Hardcore, in terms of violence and action.

Is it going to be easier to watch Hardcore Henry than The Blair Witch Project? Probably, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to make any money. At the very least, someone found a good use for a GoPro.

Hardcore Henry

Keeping us Guessing about TV Shows

Mystery, does it keep you watching?

In the not too distant past, less channels had original content. We have more shows being produced and consequently more shows being cancelled. At one time, for the majority of shows, there was only a passing awareness of seasons. Did we know when we passed from The Simpsons season six to seven? Probably not. We also weren’t as aware of narrative arcs. We didn’t anticipate the finale or have a sense of a main protagonist for a show.

In short, the way we watch TV has changed.

The big question is whether this changes us or whether our expectations have changed the shows? It is a bit of a chicken and an egg question. What we do have is an increasing awareness of rating and show cancellation. Does this make us invest more in our shows? Do we establish a sense of ownership when our shows are threatened? Currently, there is some uncertainty about the future of Agent Carter. The ratings have been falling across the season and you can show your support with #RenewAgentCarter.

The Walking Dead finale has caused a little contention with its mystery death. Should we have been told who was killed? Should we have to wait weeks to see the next episode? Are we just being dragged along for the sake of it or is this gripping TV?

the-flash-iron-mask

Another good example is The Flash’s midseason break. We have one big reveal with the identity of the main protagonist Zoom, but we still have the ongoing mystery of the man in the mask. Like Walking Dead, the identity of the masked man has created multiple online discussions (I won’t go into my thoughts but I’m between Wally West and Eddie/Eobard Thawne). Is that the point?

The Flash example is a good one because it pushes us towards becoming engaged with the mystery. After just unmasking Zoom, we are reminded the mask purposefully hides an individual’s identity and the reason why Zoom was hiding his identity was because he was (possibly) one of the good guys. Zoom’s identity also reminds us we should have been able to figure out his identity because it was right in front of us. Its stands to reason we should be able to figure out the identity of the man in the mask. Everything about the man in the mask encourages us to anticipate the return of the show and discuss the details online. Is that the point? Is that how we have changed? Are we all just people who read the last page of a mystery novel after the first chapter? If there is someone on a show we think we know or are confused about a plot or eager to find out what happens? What do we do? Wikipedia.

In a world of Wikipedia, do we need the mystery in shows to keep us watching?