Ghosts in the corners, and well done, Ridley!

roomThe building where I have worked for the past 25, going on 26, years is being demolished, to be replaced by something newer/cheaper/more impermanent, which has necessitated in being temporarily relocated to a building towards the city centre and trips up and down busy motorway at an ungodly hour. Unfortunately this has impacted on the frequency of my posting here, and I suspect will continue to do so, which is why I’m writing this post. Hopefully things will return to normal in a few months.

I feel a bit like Noodles in Sergio Leone’s masterpiece Once Upon A Time In America; I’m spending my days going to bed early. Five am is a lousy time to be getting up, and cold dark February mornings trying to beat the peak motorway traffic (and usually failing, as like the eponymous city, the motorway never sleeps, and that traffic just keeps on rolling) is a depressing way to start any day. Back end of the week, thirteen to fourteen-hour days have a way of wearing you out. Oh well, as the song goes, a change is gonna come, but I’m sure these long days were rather easier years ago. None of us are getting any younger, and neither are our movies- did someone mention that Blade Runner is 36 years old this year?

Changes. They have a way of sneaking up on you. Where do 25 years go? That last Friday evening, when I walked the empty corridors and rooms of that old building, alone in the shell of what was once a bustling, vibrant building full of people (in truth, it’s been a long slow decline towards this inevitable end, but when I started there back in 1992, it was something else entirely. It was like every corner, every room, was full of ghosts. I could almost hear them in the suddenly echoey, empty rooms; old voices and laugher, lurking like ghosts in the corners.

The majority of the building had been emptied in preparation of the demolition teams and asbestos removal experts (the building dates from the 1950s/1960s and the building practices of unwiser times), so most of it was already a dim shadow of its former self of decades ago. In the early nineties, the canteen/mess room on a Friday evening such as this would be bustling, like a working men’s social club minus the booze- smoke hanging the air, men playing cards, shooting their mouths off, watching the television bolted high in a corner… voices long gone, now. And soon the building with them.

riddersI mentioned that Blade Runner is 36 years old this year. Last night at this years BAFTA, Ridley Scott -sorry, Sir Ridley Scott- was given a BAFTA Fellowship award, marking his 40 years in the film business. Well surely it’s longer than that, when did The Duellists come out, 1977 wasn’t it?  Well, whats a year or two? Nice to see Ridley up there taking an BAFTA award for once -the first time, in fact, according to him, and he was certainly visibly moved by the occasion.  A video segment with clips from many of his films demonstrated two things – one: that they may not all have been brilliant, but it’s one hell of a body of work for any director to have behind him, and two: bloody hell I’m getting old, I’ve seen most of them at cinemas over the years, many of them at cinemas that no longer even exist. Here we go again, demolished buildings.

At least in LA 2019 they had the good sense to retrofit them rather than demolish them.

It was nice, too, to see Blade Runner 2049 pick up two awards at least. Roger Deakins award for cinematography was no great surprise (although the huge injustice if he had failed to win might have broken the internet for a few hours “suddenly a great wail was heard, as if a million film geeks had cried out and were suddenly silenced…”) but the visual effects award was a pleasant surprise. Its fully deserved, but I rather feared the more ‘showy’ spectacles of  films like The Last Jedi might have trumped it. I do feel rather aggrieved that it didn’t win for Best Sound though. I think the sound design in BR2049 is just sublime, its gorgeous, like an aural painting, a sound canvas if you will that’s equal to the rightly-lauded Deakins cinematography.

Well, two awards isn’t bad. Blade Runner won three, mind, back in 1983…(it didn’t win for sound back then, either, which is a similar grand injustice- they gave that one to the team behind the Pink Floyd movie The Wall, go figure…).

Moreover, it didn’t win for Best Visual Effects either- they gave that one to Poltergeist.

I know. Poltergeist. I mean, sure, its a good film and the effects were nice for the time… still are, I guess, but come on, Blade Runner‘s effects are in a whole different league.

Awards never get it right, every film geek knows that, just wait for Oscars to upset everyone. The Oscars REALLY know how to not get it right. They gave the Best Visual Effects that year to E.T. for goodness sake. Bloody E.T. I’ll never make my peace with that film.

 

Blue Jasmine (2013)

jas12016.53: Blue Jasmine (Amazon VOD)

Blue Jasmine is a very good Woody Allen film (okay, maybe not up there with his ‘greats’ but damn good nonetheless and proving his continuing his validity as a film-maker even after so many years/films), that is graced by a powerhouse performance by Cate Blanchett as the title character.

Penniless and post-mental breakdown from her failed marriage to high-flying financial New York businessman Hal (Alec Baldwin), Jasmine has flown to San Francisco to stay with her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) and her two young boys, giving up a wealthy socialite existence in New York for a crowded apartment above a shop. Jasmine, who is clearly already fragile emotionally and mentally, has to start a new life in a world she considered far beneath her, seeking menial employment and fending off men with little or no prospects.

It’s a fish out of water/culture-shock film, quite funny in places but also rather affecting, chiefly due to Blanchett’s remarkable performance. Jasmine isn’t necessarily a likeable character- certainly there’s more opportunity to laugh at her predicament than share her pain at the film’s outset, but Blanchett’s genius is that she opens up and displays a vulnerability and warmth as the film progresses. A series of flashbacks, that are quite jarring and awkward at first, start to unravel the true story she would rather keep to herself. By films end (and mild spoiler warning here) we are left caring very much for Jasmine and it’s a sobering, not particularly positive conclusion, the end of her road (or at least where the film leaves her) not a welcome one. It feels a perfect ending, a real ending, just not the kind Hollywood usually delivers.

The cast as a whole are excellent, as usual for a Woody Allen film. Sally Hawkins is fantastic as Ginger, a divorced woman struggling to make ends meet and find some happiness for herself. Its a great performance unfortunately overshadowed by Blanchett’s brilliant, mesmerizing turn-  I hadn’t realised that she had won both a BAFTA and OScar for the role, but I don’t find the awards surprising at all (whatever awards mean, anyway) and they are well deserved.

Blue Jasmine is a fine enough film, but it certainly deserves watching if only for that central performance.  Actresses don’t get many meaty roles such as this in films these days, and you can tell that Blanchett is playing the part for all she is worth, conscious the role is a rarity. Great stuff and a real pleasure to watch.