Friday, 20 January 2017

LaLaLa Reviewland

La La

What is Art?
It’s a biiiig, oooool’
SONG! AND! DAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!A!A!A!N!C!E! Number, with loads of people.
(At the start.  And then not at all after that.  It’s just to set the scene.)

Art (and, particularly, performed art) is the only area of life where you can get away with being irascible, erratic, an asshole to colleagues and customers, unreliable and self-destructive – and still be respected and admired, if you’re “a genius”, or different from most other people/artists.
If you are an office administrator, no one will ever say about you: “He turns up late, sometimes not at all, he does nothing when he’s here, he’s rude and doesn’t get on with anyone else in the office – but, oh my, the way he manages spreadsheets!  Poetry in motion.  He’s a genius.  So, we just put up with him being a dick.  He’s a nightmare – but he’s a fucking genius.”
If you are a brick-layer, meteorologist, barista, cleaner, dentist, laboratory technician, President of the International Olympic Committee, delivery driver or Head of Purchasing for an NHS Trust, no one would ever have said the above about you.  If you are a – well, you know.  You would use three off that list. 
But this isn’t about the stand-up routine you never had the gall to perform, or even write.
It is about Art.
You will, no doubt in all sincerity, think “Balls to anyone making a big-budget Hollywood film who thinks to pass ham-fisted comment on individuals trying to make it in Hollywood.
“In this day and age”, you added, in your head.  How smug and petty it all seemed; you remembered Chris Rock’s warning about the targets of comedy: if you are aiming above you, go ahead.  If you’re a middle-aged white guy in a suit, where are you targets?  (You were paraphrasing, naturally.)  And you considered (in the same moment – also the same moment you noticed that thoughts do not occur sequentially) that the Tim Robbins film, The Player, at least satirised the influential producers of Hollywood and the culture in general.  That was all very well, but if they’d misfired on it, it would have come off cruel, like it was aimed at aspiring actors.  Perhaps even as if it was aimed at a lot of people who are in the thing which is failing miserably to hit a target, you thought.  Which would have made it look a bit callous.  You did think that, didn’t you, even though you were rarely sure about these things, in that day and age.
La La La
There are a few amusing moments in the film, but by far the funniest is at the end, just as the house lights go up, a woman in the middle of a row near the back turns to her companion and says “That was fucking shit!”.  Everyone looks round as she explains exactly why and how it was shit (she lists the reasons, and makes a convincing argument).  Her companion, smiling in a wry sort of way, asks if she is joking, and she assures him she’s not, asking pointedly: “Did you like it?  Did you like it?  Did you like it?”
Her companion giggles nervously, while people in the surrounding seats look at her, aghast.  Presumably, they have enjoyed the film.  Or they are just surprised by such a blunt criticism of a critically-acclaimed film, and unused to such candour.  The woman does have a northern accent.
It’s a disappointment to the woman who thought it was shit, perhaps, because her expectations have been high.  Maybe because everyone in her facebook feed has declared the film a triumph.  On the way out of the cinema, the woman and her companion try to list The Few Things That Are Actually As Good As Everyone Says They Are, and can only name a few (OK Computer, Pet Sounds and Trainspotting are the first three, in case you’re interested).  It pays to be wary of hype and high praise for these things, the woman opines; in this day and age, it seems essential to take seriously little or nothing of what we see on facebook and the like….
Her companion, who has said little until now, counters:  “There’s a lot of stuff in it: first, I didn’t like it at all, then I didn’t like it much, then I liked it a bit for a while in the middle, and then I was unsure about the end.  I didn’t particularly like it, but there were some enjoyable moments – but my expectations were low, so I’m not too disappointed.  If one expects disappointment, one is rarely disappointed…”
Following the pair down the street, (we can do this because it’s third person, so the prose can just follow the most promising set-up, without regard to the privacy of the characters described).
The whole discussion seems a bit disjointed, like the pair can’t decide between a whimsical take on a film review, a comment on the life of artists in the popular arts and the shallow culture of Hollywood, a big, ol’ fashioned song & dance musical, or all of the above. 
It doesn’t really succeed in any.
In the end, the companion laments:  “But this film isn’t for me.  Films never are, and neither should they be.”
The day after, I will take my usual route through the park, past the lake with the heron which reminds me of a Faith No More album cover, which I will eventually remember is called Angel Dust, though I will not be able to decide if it’s any good or not.
I will see the M32 bridge over the Eastville roundabout framing the Victorian townhouses on the other side, lit orange-gold and pale blue by a beautiful winter sunset, waning natural light answered by electrical light.  I will pause and look.  I will breathe it in.
I will be glad to have something to think/write about that isn’t the dystopian nightmare present playing out on a show called The News that used to be taken seriously.  I will consider that in this day and age it seems faintly ludicrous to present something fantastical that aims to make whimsical and playful music out of mundane situations, given the precarious grip we all seem to have on reality.  But I will also recognise that it takes a long time to make a film, and so will not expect a film to be timely.  I will also probably think that it is late in the day for a pastiche of Hollywood’s Glory Days, and that a glamorously old-fashioned font used for credits and some playing with colours does not constitute an homage.
Glad as I am to not think about these things for a Hollywood minute, I will likely be compelled, somehow, to realise the country Hollywood is in is currently transitioning from a leader who is a cautiously optimistic, pragmatic, modest, thoughtful orator and consensus-builder frustrated by partisan congressional intransigence, to one who seems a negative, abusive, narcissistic, bellicose, delusional schoolyard bully with verbal diarrhoea.  There is a film in there, but we’ll probably have to wait a few years for it, since most of us did not predict the farce currently playing out as reality which has killed any surviving vestige of satire and rendered jokes about stupidity utterly inadequate – redundant, even; it will definitely make the playful nonsense of Hollywood seem a bit hollow.
Because, despite the technical and commercial realities/constraints, no piece of art/entertainment can be divorced from the context in which it is made/presented.  And nor should it be.
The Inevitable, Simple-Minded Tying Up Of Loose Ends
So, it is OK, but could be so much better, and isn’t as clever or interesting as it thinks it is. 
Like me.

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