My first visitors of the year today. And with only 2.47% of the year elapsed! This may be a new record for me. I think in 2009 my first foot would technically have been the gas man who came in June to replace my gas meter and, free of charge, tut at my cooker.
My guests today, let’s call them Jo and Soo because that’s their names (their short, some would say laughably over-vowelled, names), were sporting enough to give me a bit of notice. Not much notice, but enough to allow me to run round the flat trying to make it seem slightly less like a place where bears fight skunks on a regular basis.
Being visited by Soo and Jo is like being descended upon by a young, attractive Hinge and Bracket, or forty percent of Pan’s People after one too many Cinzano Biancos. It’s nice, but a tad unsettling.
“How many DVDs have you got?” “Bring me some hot water in a cup.” “I’m growing a penguin.” These are all examples of the winsome pair’s conversational style. It’s disorientating. If I’d been wearing orange coveralls and heavy bracelets I would have assumed I’d been the victim of special rendition.
Soo has a nine month old child and is therefore temporarily and understandably mad. Jo though has always been something of a psychopath, and a brow-furrowing worry to all who know her. She’s the kind of girl who would bring a flame-thrower to a knife fight. A scented flame-thrower probably, something nice like jasmine or loganberry, but a flame-thrower nonetheless.
Anyway. Good times.
I thought I might have been able to squeeze a movie in before bedtime last night, but no such luck. I put Public Enemies in my Blu-ray player and it damn well bloody wouldn’t work.
I have known this day would come, but have been living in denial about it. Almost every Blu-ray disc comes with a starkly presented warning that the technology is pretty new and changing all the time so newer discs might not work in older machines. Tough titty, it goes on not to say.
Samsung, the manufacturers of my apparently prehistoric 2008 Blu-ray player, knew that this would happen and helpfully offer firmware upgrades for free from their server, but in order to effect that I had to find an old yellow Ethernet cable and connect the player to my broadband router. I’m not going into all the details, but if you look up “kerfuffle” in the dictionary you’ll have some idea. Some stuff had to stay plugged into the phone line, some had to stay plugged into my telly, and unfortunately the distance between those things was more than one yellow cable’s worth.
I got it done in the end, albeit in a living room that wound up looking like a Wilf Lunn contraption from Vision On, but by then it was far too late to watch anything.
This is a newish thing, I think, with technology. It used to be that when you bought stuff you were the dominant one in the transaction. You told the stuff what to do and it did it. If it didn’t then it was bad stuff, naughty stuff, and you chucked it out in favour of new, better things.
These days gadgets wander in like they’re Jack bloody Bauer from CTU and say basically “All right, sir, we’ll take it from here.” The first PC I bought came with elaborate instructions about how to install the operating system. The last one, I turned it on and a message came up whose meaning I interpreted as “I’m installing my own operating system. You just go away for ten minutes and have a cup of tea or something. And try not scald your stupid sausage-fingers on the kettle you drooling, mouth-breathing meat-bot.”
I bought a Nintendo Wii some time ago, and it’s all right I suppose. I don’t use it often. There’s a bit too much jumping around for my liking and I see my gaming as an extension of my “sitting still time”. So mostly it sits there liked, but not loved, and idle almost always. On a monthly basis it takes exception to this and starts pulsing its big blue light. It’s a nice light, but it’s kind of distracting like the throbbing of a bruise or the ache of a tooth, and it won’t stop until the wretched thing’s been turned on and played with a bit. To be frank I’m starting to feel a bit bullied by it.
Today anyway, once the ladies had gone, I finally got to see Public Enemies in high definition on my newly updated Blu-ray player and I was once again reminded about why a lot of blokes get pointy pants about their audiovisual kit.
It looked amazing.
Public Enemies is not Michael Mann’s mumbliest film (that would be Miami Vice), neither is it his best (that would be Heat), but it’s OK. Johnny Depp is a fine actor but doesn’t, I think, bring enough brutality to the role of John Dillinger. Christian Bale is better as the intense, driven G-man Melvin Purvis. Marion Cotillard outshines both of them as Billie Frechette.
Mann is at his best not with the interpersonal stuff but rather with the technical stuff: directing action sequences, attention to period detail and so on and, to repeat myself, he makes this look absolutely wonderful. Not all new films look much improved on Blu-ray but this is pin sharp and a joy to behold. I had wondered if the contemporary photography would feel anachronistic (as it does for me in De Palma’s The Untouchables) but it didn’t. The hand held hi-def digital stuff looks great, and there seems to have been a hell of a lot of set dressing and dirtying down. In many of the scenes the period detail is piled up to an almost Gilliamesque extent.
A pass mark from me then, but it wouldn’t have got on my list of favourite movies from last year, and man I still feel like I’m catching up. Don’t think I’ve seen any films released in 2010 yet. I saw Sherlock Holmes but that was a 2009 release. And it won’t be at least until I’ve seen Avatar that I’ll feel able to draw a line under 2009.