To the doctor’s today and an appointment with yet another new name. They regenerate faster than Time Lords at my medical practice and it’s been a long time since I’ve had someone I could call “my doctor”. This one was called Dr. Dalgety, and I genuinely hoped she would turn out to be a lady doctor, just so that there could be an outside chance that she would marry bombastic film director Michael Bay and thus become Dr. Dalgety-Bay and twin herself with the place in Fife of the same name.

Dr. Dalgety turned out to be a man, dammit.

Well, man. He looked like he was about 14 years old, but he was good at his job and I am thankful for that.

After that I tottered into town to do some research in HMV (I bought Antichrist and Dawn of the Dead on Blu-ray, a bunch of crap in the four for twenty quid thing and Blood Feast 2, hmmmm) and thence to the bookshop for a poke around. Luckily for me my pal Toby was on duty. If you are in Inverness and have ever been pleased with the service in a bookshop then the chances are that you know Toby. Half man, half bush baby he can only exist, hairy and blinking, in the warmth and half light of literary retail.

Having trapped Toby in the corner of the shop I embarked on one of my anecdotes (longer than the Icelandic sagas, much less funny), this one about the advert for the chap’s hair product that does away with your grey bits. I think it’s called Just For Men, but that sounds awfully like a pornographic magazine. Razzle? Fiesta? I’ll stick with calling it Just For Men.

It’s a weird advert and looks like it has been beamed in from another dimension where everything is exactly the same apart from the concept of comic timing. If you haven’t seen it, firstly well done for not watching TV during the day. Secondly, let me explain what it is: it’s a man getting nagged by a child into dyeing his hair before a job interview. There’s some faffing about with a tie, then cut to later as he returns and tells the kid “I’m going to need some more…….. Ties!!” Ha ha. It’s a joke. Is it a joke? I don’t get it, and usually I get jokes. But it’s definitely presented as though it’s intended to be a joke.

Bizarre. And definitely not a good way to try to sell stuff that leaves your head looking like a cack-handed imbecile has daubed it with matt brown paint using a toilet brush.

So, there I was just about to check with Toby whether or not this could possibly be a deliberately bad ad, made crappy for maximum impact (what used to be known as the “Shake’n’Vac” gambit in the eighties) when I dawningly became aware that I was being watched by another bookseller who had on his face on the front of his head a look that I can only describe as appalled.

“Hello,” I explained helpfully.

“Don’t mind me. I’m just listening to your old man conversation,” he said.

I think he knows me. Obviously he felt he could join in my monologue in a jocular way. But what had happened was that his lightly thrown barb had got right through my defence systems. The truth hurts and all that. I didn’t even have my stick with me to wave at him. I had to have an extra toffee to cheer me up when I got home.

I am beginning to suspect that I am no longer the dapper, energetic young shaver I see in my head, but that I may have become some mangled, decrepit figure of fun, and no amount of dodging out of the way of cameras and ducking mirrors can change that. Forty-four doesn’t seem that old to me but I am aware that by that age Mozart was dead and Jesus’ career was pretty much behind him.

Perhaps I should find new benchmarks.

One movie to report on from last night: The Spirit. This won’t take long. It wasn’t very good.

Frank Miller will always get credit from me for having written one of the finest comics of all time: Batman – The Dark Knight Returns. It’s a transcendent piece of work, and if you haven’t read it, good grief, what are you waiting for? Why are you reading this flatulating guff-blog when you could be reading that? In it an elderly Bruce Wayne has retired from being Batman, and Superman has become a boy scout pawn of a corrupt right wing American government. They clash as the Joker runs riot. It’s a fine piece of work beautifully written and beautifully drawn.

Miller’s output after that continued to be impressive with 300 (the graphic retelling of the Battle of Thermopylae) and his on-going noir inflected series Sin City, but gradually there seemed to be a coarsening of his sensibilities and what had once looked tough started to look simplistic, ignoble and, ahem, perhaps slightly misogynistic.

He has recently seen 300 and Sin City turned into decent movies by other people and has now turned his own hand to directing with The Spirit, based not on his own work but that of Will Eisner.

It’s hard to say if it’s Miller’s fault as director or writer (he penned the screenplay) but the film is a frightful mishmash of incongruous elements. It’s a bit reminiscent of Mike Hodges’ 1980 movie Flash Gordon in that all of the actors appear to have been informed differently as to what kind of film they are appearing in, so you get straight acting, spoof straight acting and broad comedy, often in the same scene from characters who are supposedly talking to each other.

I’m all for a bit of rule-bending, but you have to establish what the rules are before people can appreciate how they’re being bent. A lot of it looks very handsome, but you need a bit more than that to make a movie work. This is just a shambles.

2 comments on “11/01/10

  1. Yup, Toby’s one of the good ones.

    I think the Just For Men advert is probably for the European market more than us. And they don’t have a proper sense of humour in Yurp, they just laugh along when someone else does in case people think they don’t have a sense of humour. The Fabreeze advert is a bad example of this, a guy is cooking fish that smells so bad you have to hold a cat to your nose! HILARIOUS! Even though hiding that smell means the family will die of food poisoning from eating the rotted mess of fish…

    Think I’ll be suffering The Spirit myself at some point…

  2. The Spirit is one of those films I knew I wasn’t going to like before I watched it but I watched it anyway “just in case”. The most disturbing thing about it was it failed to deliver in every single way I expected it to. I think I’d find it difficult to hate but it does seem to suffer from a tremendous identity crisis and as you so rightly pointed out it occupies a bizarre no mans land between seriousness and spoof. Not to mention the frankly insane plot. Shame really.

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