Drunken Irishman correctly predicts end of the world

Saturday, May 12, 2012 at 1:07 pm Comments (6)

Bomberman Fantasy Race has been ported to the new layout. Not much actually new, but you don’t have to look at that awful dark green tiled backdrop any more.

Watched The Birds. A few days ago I’d caught that episode of The Simpsons that parodies it with the babies in the daycare centre, and figured, hey, let’s check out the source material!

Melanie Daniels, entranced by a hotshot lawyer named Mitch that pesters her in a pet shop, seeks out his home to bask in his company for a while longer. Mitch lives with his mother and sister, and is apparently renowned for being a bit of a lady killer; the local school teacher lived far away once, but chose to stay to be in touch with him. Mitch’s mother worries not that her son will be with another woman, but fears of being abandoned with no one to love her. As such, Melanie earns her automatic scorn, but as time goes by, the two wind up warming up a little to each other, with the hope that eventually HEY HOLY SHIT BIRD ATTACK

Yeah, I knew Hitchcock’s films can be long-winded and spend a lot of time on something that’s ultimately rather meaningless (as intriguing as it was, the plot around the girl’s first identity in Vertigo was basically something to tide the audience over until the real plot kicked in), but The Birds was a bit like a romantic drama/soap opera about the human emotions and desire to be wanted had a head-on collision with a zombie movie (with birds!). And then fell down the stairs somewhere along the line.
Sure, there’s bird attacks within the first hour, but for the first seventy five minutes, the inter-personal relationships between Mitch, his mother, his sister, the school teacher and Melanie are what dominates the picture. It’s not your typical horror movie “hi then die,” this is over half the movie dedicated to the goings-on of the townspeople, with a lot of complex relationships going on.

The worst bit about this is that the acting is really stilted. I admit I am plenty biased and have come to expect old-timey films to have rather dodgy acting, but a lot of it isn’t bad. Vertigo was perfectly enjoyable, and I got rather engaged in the character drama. This, however, spends seventy five minutes of time on the drama between these people, and they felt like marionettes bouncing around. Actually, the leading lady reminded me a hell of a lot of Lady Penelope from Thunderbirds – they share a similar car, they share a similar look, and they’re both just as wooden! I should be soft considering this was the actress’s first film, and I’m hardly a talented actor myself (and certainly don’t have a pretty face to fall back on), but my god, for a film that tries to be about human drama, they don’t feel like humans.

But the movie is shot well. Really, really well. Spectacularly well. The cinematography is beautiful, and there are plenty of really fantastic scene setups. A lot of the shots, especially with the birds roosting around the town, have a strange, dream-like quality to them, especially the iconic ending shot. The first twenty minutes are dedicated just to Melanie tracking down Mitch; barely a thing happens, but seeing the great landscape views makes it worthwhile. The premise of killer birds is a rather iffy one, but Hitchcock knows how to shoot a film about them without it getting too corny. The imagery of the flapping creatures and the downright spooky electronic chattering and fluttering, it combines to make some truly devilish scenes.
… but the acting! My god, the acting! I wasn’t a big fan of the little girl in the first place, but after a haunting scene of the school teacher found dead on the front step of their house, the three characters drive away in silence to safety… and then she has to start blubbering and explaining what happened. I could live with the iffy direction, but this was the one scene that really ground my gears. You had a perfectly good visual setup there! That one scene explained everything! I don’t need to be told she got the little girl to safety! CUT!!
Mind you, Hitchcock is pretty renowned for treating actors like trash, so I can imagine that’s why the acting is bad. The actors might have been perfectly talented individuals for all I know, but this was most certainly not the film to persuade me.

The premise of killer birds is really fascinating. I’m just a sucker for birds, plain and simple. Why do you think I’ve got these photos of them on hand? I love them, I respect them, and I’m also aware just how freaky they can be. My dad didn’t really like the ‘behaviour’ of the birds in the film – they act as lethal threats one minute, and then ominous bystanders the next. Personally, I dig it. Take zombies, for instance – they’re brutish, brain-eating monsters, but since they bear a human image, we cast certain traits upon them, so to speak. Characters tend to predict their attitudes and behaviours, and they can serve as ham-fisted social commentary.
But birds, man, who the fuck knows what’s going through their heads? Birds be crazy! And that creates a very alien threat – how do you know how they’ll behave the next time you see them? Dad suggested a few ideas, even brief visual themes just to ground the threat a little. The sheer lack of predictability is part of the appeal to me. And let’s face it, we only see the bird attacks through the eyes of the main characters – as far as I recall, there’s no major cutaways to show what the birds are up to now.

My main beef with the film is that nothing really gels. There’s a lot of fantastic elements, but none of it clicks together as well as it could do. A huge amount of time is dedicated to these dudes and we learn a lot about their relations and emotions, and I kept expecting some sort of theme to run from it… but nothing comes of it. Melanie talks about how her mother abandoned her family, and as such she doesn’t have a mother figure in her life – at least, not one she respects. Mitch’s mother doesn’t like Melanie, but the two do warm up a little, and by the end the mother tends to her wounds, and the last shot of them is of Melanie leaning against the mother warmly. Does that signify, hey, she found the mother figure in her life? I guess? Really, that’s about the only storytelling theme I got out of the movie. Besides “don’t fuck with birds.”
Personally, I expected the mother’s abandonment worries to come up again. You’ve got a horror scenario where the characters want to make a break for freedom, but are trapped indoors; it would be easier to escape alone than as a group, but nobody wants to die alone. It’s a terrible thing to think, but when Mitch was preparing the car for the getaway I was expecting him to take the car and just fuck off on his own. There’s your abandonment issue, bitch!

Like a lot of films, I’m glad I watched if just so I can say I watched it. Some fantastic elements, but none of it really clicks. I can hardly judge when I’ve only seen one other of his films, but it’s a very shaky one for Hitchcock. I’ve only seen bits and pieces of Psycho, but I get the impression “monster horror” isn’t quite his forté. Still, good to discuss.

Today’s observation: If there’s one thing of showing how productive you are, it’s by griping about the internet!
Is it just me, or is there a trend of sites (mostly Tumblrs, it seems) sporting impossibly small text and/or hard-to-read font colours?

I can live with the small fonts (I’m guilty of it!); most browsers at least have a zoom function, so you don’t need to jam your face all up against the monitor like you did ten years ago. But the colours… for god’s sake, why? Does very light-grey text against a white backdrop suddenly become legible if you read it on a phone? Does everyone just hit Ctrl+A before they attempt reading any web pages nowadays? Is not being able to read a damn thing the “in” thing nowadays? On one hand I’d like to know why, but on the other hand if someone has to justify why they deliberately chose such a monstrously bad design, I don’t think I’d want to hear it.
(my excuse for the terrible blog layout is that I can’t understand WordPress to save my life)

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6 Responses to “Drunken Irishman correctly predicts end of the world”

  • carlmarksguy says:

    My biggest complaint about “The Birds” was that Hitchcock evidently translated “The Song that Never Ends” (from that Lambchop show?) into French or Esperanto or something, such that it sounds like:

    “Ribbledy Robbledy Rom Rom Rom
    …Ribbledy Robbledy Ro Dobby Dobby Dobbeldy Ribbledly Robbledy Rom Rom Rom!”

    Good God, I can’t remember the beginning part, but I can remember the phonetics of the chorus (and how they go on forEVER) and I haven’t watched this movie for …4 years?

    I taped it off tv on an AWESOME tape which contains the following:

    -The Birds: (discussed above)

    -Arachniphobia: ok, animal attacks, still in the same genre…also it has a hilarious turn by John Goodman as “Delbert the Geeky Exterminator”)

    -Mortal Kombat: possibly the best videogame-to-movie movie ever, in that it captures the spirit of the game [dudes fight to decide the fate of the word] as a movie [they are taken to a place to decide the fate of the world by fighting]. Compare that to, say “The Streetfighter II Movie” with JC Van Damme and the guy who played “Ogre” in “Revenge of the Nerds” as Zangief. There are more machinegun battles and supersonic speedboats plowing through mined water than fistfights, and they put all the fistfights at the end. IMPORTANT NOTE: Though I’d argue this is the best videogame-to-movie adaption, it’s also a pretty bad movie; maybe a C or C+ if you’re feeling generous. Yes, Ulwe Bowl, you’re directing in a genre where the highest success you can achieve a C+. Now if only you could break the C- barrier!

    -Mortal Kombat II – Ant-hill-iation (or however that’s spelled):
    Going by memory…this movie is most notable for swapping out the lady who played Sonja Blade last time for Billy Madison’s girlfriend; and replacing Christopher Lambert with…some dude. It also has my most favorite way to jam more franchise characters into a movie: in one scene, some evil henchman reports to one of the badguy bosses, “Two of the earth’s most powerful defenders, Striker and [another character?], have already fallen!” That way people can be like, “Hey, they included Striker (Stryker?), the baseball-playing riot cop, in the movie! he just got killed off camera, but they totally mentioned him so it counts.”

    Wow, I thought I had a whole lot less to say about Mortal Kombat II the movie. Sorry for writing a novel here….

    Also, nice pictures of birds!!

  • carlmarksguy, you must have a tape from the future to fit so many films on. I want one.

    Great photos Ragey. You managed to capture that swan’s expression so well. You just know he’s got a plot to take over the world, or at least the lake.

    Why do Bomberman and Bomberman’s bunny rabbit look so nice and lovely in Japan and Europe’s box arts, but are angry and ready to kill in America?

  • CrazySteveFM says:

    I saw a cat get dive-bombed by a magpie the other day. I think it’s starting…

  • MightyKombat says:


    I have the first MK movie on DVD. Its some good shit. Even if you’re not a Kombatant you can enjoy the film as a silly martial arts flick about an Asian Kung Fu fighter, a movie star and a secret agent saving the world.

    The second film blows goats though. Too much shit shoved in there to make an effective film.

    Also Street Fighter The Movie wants a word with you. I don’t care about its inaccuracies so much as how hilarious it is to watch.

  • Ragey says:

    carlmarksguy: That’s definitely one of the film’s most iconic scenes, but man, it really could’ve done without that singing. Apparently it’s a real song, but I think anyone who sings it should be shot. What kind of teacher makes their pupils sing a song like that, anyway? Unless it’s a school for future jackasses, you’d think there were more productive things to be teaching.

    RQ87: That sounds about right for VHS! Back in the day you could get tapes that held up to like six hours of recording on them. I’m pretty sure we had a couple of them, but I’ve no idea if we ever filled them up. It was cheaper to just buy stacks of three or four hour tapes anyway.
    And it’s not the angry attitudes that get me, it’s the big blurb that reads “wacky animal racing!” in the corner. As if throwing bombs at kangaroos wasn’t inherently crazy enough, they really gotta underline THIS SHIT GONE OFF THE RAILS

    Steve: They must be starting small and building their way up. :o
    (also I gotta credit you for the photos of the duck and the swan! … and now that I think about it, I’m not sure if the peacock one is mine. I’m the worst photographer.)

  • carlmarksguy says:


    @Mighty: the “Mortal Kombat” is indeed good modern B-movie fun.

    “Street Fighter The Movie”, though…I donno, as far as goofy train-wreck video game adaptations go, I prefer the Alyssa Milano/Robert Patrick “Double Dragon”. Where bizarre turnip-looking Abobo is forced to eat spinach, and then has gas.

    Though I’ll be the first to admit that “SFtM” has at least 2 moments of badness that are bad enough to be great:

    1) when E.Honda (who is part of Chun Li’s tv film crew(!?)) is being whipped, and he uses Sumo Mind/Body Techniques to ignore it, and they play hawaiian music in the background. Then when Balrog (ALSO part of Chun Li’s tv film crew(!)) asks him what happened, he explains that he sent his mind somewhere else, and Balrog says, “next time, can you have your mind bring back a pizza?”

    2) when Sagat and Zangief and the other bad guys are watching a live video feed from Chun Li, where she shows them the truck full of explosives driving at the bad guy’s tent, and a panicked Zangief yells, “QUICK, CHANGE THE CHANNEL!”

    Actually, you know what? I take it back, “Street Fighter the Movie” rocks!

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