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197. The Circus – This Just In (#232)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, The 250 is a (mostly) weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users.

This time, Charlie Chaplin’s The Circus.

Desperately fleeing the authorities, a lovable tramp finds his way into the heart of a local circus. Initially struggling to find a place among the performers, the rogue strikes up a connection with the cruel ring master’s daughter. However, as a dashing tightrope walker vies for her affections, can the tramp strike the perfect balance?

At time of recording, it was ranked 232nd on the list of the best movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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118. The Kid – Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival 2019 (#99)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, The 250 is a fortnightly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. New episodes are released every Saturday at 6pm GMT. This week, the pair are joined by Sarah Ahern, the programmer of the Fantastic Flix slate at the Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival.

This time, Charlie Chaplin’s The Kid.

When a wandering tramp discovers an abandoned baby in an alleyway, he takes the young child into his care. The pair forge an unlikely familial bond, living at the margins of society, but it all threatens to unravel when the authorities become involved.

At time of recording, it was ranked the 99th best movie of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

The Kid is being shown as part of the Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival. It will be shown in the Lighthouse Cinema, next Saturday 23rd February 2019. Tickets are available online. Any Irish listeners of the podcast interested in watching the film are more than welcome; the film is introduced in broad terms at the start of the podcast.

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New Podcast! Scannain Podcast (2019) #5!

It’s time for the latest Scannain podcast!

This week, I join Ronan Doyle, Jay Coyle and Alex Towers from When Irish Eyes Are Watching to discuss the week in film news. We have a broad and wide-ranging discussion of what we watched, including everything from John Carpenter’s The Fog to 3,000 Miles to Graceland to the work of Agnes Varda and some preemptive highlights of the upcoming Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival. We also discuss a little bit about David Fincher’s Zodiac, which we all caught on 35mm at the Lighthouse.

In terms of film news, there is a lot to cover. The big story concerns the cinema-going habits of the Irish (and international) audiences. However, there’s also news from the European Film Market, including a number of prospective Irish films on sale.

The top ten:

  1. Second Act
  2. Escape Room
  3. Mary Poppins Returns
  4. Mary Queen of Scots
  5. Vice
  6. Glass
  7. The Mule
  8. A Dog’s Way Home
  9. Green Book
  10. How to Train Your Dragon III: The Hidden World

New releases:

You can download the episode here, or listen to it below.

 

Non-Review Review: Sleeper

Sleeper is an enjoyable Woody Allen film, coming from relatively early in the director’s career. He had yet to direct either Annie Hall or Manhattan, arguably his two most popular works, but was coming off a string of well-regarded movies. Sleeper is an affectionate look at many of the science-fiction movies that Hollywood was producing in the late sixties and early seventies, to the point that Allen himself actually sat down with Isaac Asimov to make sure the science-fiction elements of the script were kosher. However, Sleeper is remarkably fluid, allowing room within that framework for Allen to really explore any and all ideas that might possibly have occurred to him. The result is, to borrow a quote from the poster, a highly enjoyable and almost whimsical “nostalgic look at the future.”

Robot in disguise…

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The Mustache Must Dash: Random Thoughts on Green Lantern’s Facial Hair…

I’d like to take a moment to deflect attention away from the disappointing quality and box office returns on Green Lantern, and focus on a matter much more serious and important. You see, I noticed the most peculiar thing. The cast of Green Lantern features two major supporting players with that most oft-maligned piece of facial hair: the mustache. It strikes me as quite strange in this day and age (at least outside of National Mustache Month) to see so many key players wearing that delightfully old-fashioned piece of facial hair.

In fairness, their mustaches are the first indications that they're evil...

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In Good Humour: The Calamatous Case of the Comedy Classics…

The wonderful lads over at Anomalous Materials are running a tournament over the summer to find the best comedy of all time. Think of it as a world cup, for film nerds. However, the competition – like our quad-annual footie fest – has had its share of upsets. Most notable in an early round where Galaxy Quest triumphed over Some Like it Hot or the trumping of Arsenic and Old Lace by A Fish Called Wanda another day (the same day The General went home empty handed, losing to Mrs. Doubtfire) or Bringing Up Baby getting trounced by Little Miss Sunshine. There are more borderline cases, with The Apartment beating The Circus or The Great Dictator losing to The Graduate. However, the only victory for a “classic” classic film I could find was that of City Lights over A Christmas Story. This sparked a bit of discussion between those taking part (which is, in fairness, the rather wonderful thing about events like this), but it got us wondering: Is comedy a fickle mistress? Has what the audience expected from a comedy changed dramatically with the times? Are what many consider to be “classics” of the genre subject to this winds of change and popular taste?

Modern Times are tough for Charlie...

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When Did The Oscars Become a Lifetime Achievement Award?

There’s been a fair amount of hub-bub (it’s a word – I swear!) about these year’s presumptive Academy Award winners. I’ve been following the Oscar race since early last year, and I was as surprised as anyone when Sandra Bullock’s name came into the race, first as a nominee and then as the sure-bet winner, for her dramatic turn in The Blind Side. I was also, I must admit, a little chuffed when the ever-loveable Jeff Bridges moved to the head of his pack for is own turn in Crazy Heart. However, I’ve noticed a lot of people talking about these two nominees and one question seems to be coming more than others: do those favouring these performers believe that they deserve to win for these roles, or simple that they deserve to win for years as solid and respectable actors? Do these roles just offer us a chance to recognise their longterm contributions? And is that necessarily fair?

Don't worry, Colin, your time will come...

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Academy to Cut Honorary Awards from Telecast…

I’m going to give the expansion of the Best Picture category the benefit of the doubt and I don’t really care about the Original Song rules, to be completely honest, but I am a little ticked off at the announcement that the Honorary Oscars are being shunted back stage. Talk about completely missing the point – the Academy doesn’t seem to get that most viewers aren’t clamoring for that extra High School Musical song so badly that they’re shunt off someone who has made such a massive contribution to popular culture as to warrant the Honorary Award. I just don’t get this decision.

We want the Academy to take its hat off to Charlie Chaplin...

We want the Academy to take its hat off to Charlie Chaplin...

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Does Christian Bale Suffer From Sean Penn Syndrome?

I like Christian Bale. Or at least, I want to like Christian Bale. Having watched him since American Psycho (joining relatively late in his career-to-date but earlier than most), I am continual impressed by the quality of his acting. Yet I find it very hard to refute when my brother begins justifying his hatred for the erstwhile Welsh thespian. Eventually – after much soul-searching – I figured out why. Christian Bale suffers from what might be termed ‘Sean Penn syndrome’. In short, he’s an incredibly talented douchebag.

Is this the face of a highly talented douchebag?

Is this the face of a highly talented douchebag?

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Non-Review Review: Chaplin

I caught Chaplin for the first time last night on Sky Anytime. I was quite impressed for a film I’d heard next to nothing about – always a bad sign.

I quite enjoyed it. As much a love letter to the ghost of Hollywood past as to its lead character, it managed to successfully evoke the slow dwindling of the Hollywood dream. Director Richard Attenborough manages a number of inspired touches (my favourite being the scene where Charlie theatrically claims that The Tramp called out to him (the first hat he tried on, the cane flew to his hand), only to be called out by his editor, leading to the much more mundane days of searching for props and the character’s voice). You almost believe you’re there in the golden age of Hollywood, thanks to costume and set design, as well as staging. In particular, the film works well emulating famous bits of Chaplin schtick (an extended sequence where they flee his wife’s lawyers while editting the film, playing with a volleyball so as to remind viewers of The Great Dictator). It realises that there’s more to Charlie than the life that he lived, and manages to recreate an air of magical non-realism around him. Somehow I imagine his life was much more mundane, but it feels good to imagine it wasn’t.

While we’re on the strengths of the film, three words: Robert Downey Jnr. He was only twenty-eight years old when he played the role, but the audience could be forgiven for being unsure – the film traverses Charlie’s life and, while the later makeup mighty be a bit ropey by today’s standards, it ages Downey relatively well through the bulk of the film. It’s a difficult performance, but one that works. As imagined by Downey, Chaplin is a flawed human being. Not so tragically flawed as the more recent Oscar-nominated performances in recent biopictures (Johnny Cash or Ray Charles are easier to sympathise with), in that he is openly condescending and bitchy about the people close to him, without ever seeming to need to apologise (check out his blithe summary of “America’s Sweetheart”). On the other hand, it’s hard not to feel proud of a man so unwilling to compromise his humanism, even when he knows it will land him in hot water.

It’s to Downey’s credit we neither love nor hate the man, but feel a little like we understand him. It’s also to the performer’s credit that his schtick embodies Chaplin so well that Attenborough can play clips of the man himself (who plays himself on celluloid, save a recreation of the finale of The Great Dictator where Downey steps in) without shattering the illusion.

The rest of the performances are hit-or-miss. Very few supporting characters get screentime, so the really great actors make their mark with that time. Traditionally underrated players, like Dan Ackroyd, Kevin Kline and Diane Lane, in particular make the most of small roles. Veteran performers like James Woods and Marisa Tomei seem criminally underused. The parade of women in Charlie’s life seem like little more than extended cameos, despite being played by Penelope Ann-Miller, Milla Jovovich and Moira Kelly among others. At this point I should reflect that Moira Kelly’s Oirish accent is terrible. It’s painful to hear, but it’s not there for long and is worth soldering through.

There are the usual complaints about biopics to be made here. It does lack focus and suffers from confused priorities. Does Charlie’s sex life deserve the attention is receives at the expense of his career? Is the handling of his politics deep enough, or is it lost amid the tragedy of Douglas Fairbanks? The truth is that – at least in films of this scale – it’s nearly impossible to strike a balance. This film lands squarely in the middle of the pile – landing with W. or Beyond The Sea rather than Nixon or Walk the Line – but is elevated slightly be those inspired director’s touches, a genuine love for the material and a fantastic leading performance.

Call this one a cautious recommendation, though I’m always biased for a love letter to the golden age of Hollywood.

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Chaplin is directed by Richard Attenborough (Ghandi), based on the life of film maker and comedian Charlie Chaplin. It stars Robert Downey Jnr. (Iron Man, Tropic Thunder) and a huge ensemble cast featuring Kevin Kline (A Fish Called Wanda, The Pink Panther), Anthony Hopkins (Silence of the Lambs, Fracture), Marisa Tomei (My Cousin Vinny, The Wrestler), Dan Ackroyd (Ghostbusters, Evolution), Diane Lane (Nights in Rhodesia), Penelope Ann-Miller (Carlito’s Way), Milla Jovovich (Resident Evil, UltraViolet), James Woods (Videodrome, Nixon) and David Duchovney (The X-Files, Californication). It was released in the US on 8th January 1993, but was actually released earlier in the UK and Ireland on 18th December 1992.