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Monday, 27 December 2010

The New Socialism


Have you ever wondered what a collaboration between all your favourite creative people would look and sound like? To be honest I had not - it's such an improbable event, the chances of such a thing happening are so remote, that it's not even worth thinking about...

(Roll VT)

I am sitting in the superb Grosvenor Cinema in Glasgow's West End about to enjoy the latest offering from David Fincher, The Social Network. I knew that it was scripted by Aaron Sorkin - he of West Wing fame - either one is a strong recommendation on its own, but both together bodes very well indeed, I am anticipating eagerly. Trigger Street Productions - ah, an unexpected bonus, my favourite actor of the 90's Kevin Spacey (Glengarry Glen Ross (92), Swimming With Sharks (94), Se7en (95), Usual Suspects (95), LA Confidential (97), American Beauty (99) - an incomparable body of work in such a short period) has produced, truly a stamp of quality.

Even now a full house has not even entered my head, and then the opening bars of the soundtrack creep from the speakers as the camera tracks up the stairs, only the first handful of notes are required, it's only Trent Reznor who's written the soundtrack, prophet of an alternative generation and my touchstone for musical inspiration. Right from the opening lines you have to run to keep up. Sorkin's dialog is as snappy and intelligent as the West Wing or Studio 60 ever were, it's nasty, smug, angry when it needs to be, but always, always, very, very clever. Who do you pick to write a script about a 'computer genius'? A scriptwriting genius of course.

The central performances are all good, Jesse Eisenberg in particular as the anti-hero Zuckerberg, excellently portrays a detached and somewhat bemused persona that I would imagine most computer 'geniuses' have. The protagonists all have their faults and none of the characters elicited any sympathy from me. That's usually my cue to switch off, but The Social Network transcends the characters and the plot, which is largely irrelevant in the sense that we all know how the story ends (to this point at least). But the script holds everything together and I found it impossible to take my eyes off the screen. On paper this is a turkey, a movie about an Internet billionaire and the contractual and legal fog that surrounded his success? It could not be a better example of what true genius can deliver to the screen. As a child, like most children, I used to think that the actors did all the work, and I wondered who all the other people in the credits were - if ever there was a lesson in how wrong that childish view is it in the team that brought us The Social Network.

So This Is Christmas...

You know you're over the hill when...

Santa stops leaving Kerrang! in your stocking and leaves Classic Rock instead! But am I disappointed? Not a bit (probably the biggest giveaway that the sentiment is true!). Rush received the Living Legends award at the magazine's annual honours bash this year, and it could not be given to a more deserving group of gentlemen.
Over the decades Rush have conducted themselves with absolute decorum, through good times and hard times, concentrating on delivering the most stimulating, challenging and enthralling rock music that I have ever heard and (I strongly suspect) will ever hear. They are second to none, and I mean none. No one can do what they do, the power, the virtuosity, the insight, the passion, the sensitivity.

Truly inspirational, and you can dance to most of it.


'Emotional feedback on a timeless wavelength.'

Long live Rush, and thank you.

Thank you Doug, thank you Paul, thank you Robert

It would be easy to give too much credit to the excellent Bourne Trilogy for making an intellegent and sophisticated film like The International possible. It has become something of a cliche to give a heavy nod towards Doug Liman and Paul Greengrass, and their slick realisations of Robert Ludlum's source material whenever a thriller appears that is set anywhere east of Norwich, and to forget the films that went before like Funeral In Berlin, The Quiller Memorandum, The Third Man, to name but three, is regretable.

The International is however brilliantly constructed in its own right by Tom Tykwer, director of Run Lola Run and Perfume, and Clive Owen is excellent as the brooding investigator with a troubled past. Naomi Watts shines as always, pleasingly not glammed up as DA Eleanor Whitman (despite the obvious temptation), and Armin Mueller-Stahl brings effortless depth to insider Wilhelm Wexler.

The shoot out in the Guggenheim is a visceral centre piece. Owen's Salinger is no black ops killling machine, he is a man on a mission, driven to succeed at all costs. Indeed he and his temporary associates seem positively fragile as they scurry and dive to avoid the hail of gunfire that rips through the gallery set. There are further signs that Salinger is increasingly on the brink as events rattle forward, and Owen conveys that sense of running on the edge of control so well.

Like so many things in cinema, as in life, however it is the journey that is the real experience. So it is with The International, by the time it arrives at the denouement all the best scenes have passed. It is a disappointment that nothing better than a brief rooftop pursuit can be conjured up by Tykwer and writer Eric Singer - and the coup de grasse lacks true impact, despit the attempt at a twist.

But don't let this minor personal quibble put you off, The International is entirely worthy of 2 hours of your life, and desveres to be widely recommended to anyone who does not want to leave their brain in a jar in the cloakroom.