Thursday, 27 July 2017

Microchips - and other small thoughts

Company to implant employees with microchips. What could go wrong? Okay, stalkers, yes. But can you imagine the scenario at your work where the stalker would be a tech-savvy geeky loner who works in the IT dept? Cyber theft? Maybe, but can you imagine anyone in your company who might get into debt, thru embezzlement of fraud or the like, and would be so high up in the company they'd have unique access to the computer systems? And as for real crime? Oh come on. Can you picture anyone at your place of work who might get in trouble, with drugs or gambling or whatever, so they'd end up rubbing shoulders with the criminal fraternity and have pressure put on them to share this info outside the company? Exactly. Don't worry. Don't go thinking it'll ever get to the stage where someone would cut off your finger to get access to your microchip. It'll never happen. Trust me, that is a news headline you will never see.

Private Eye don't want it, so here's that gag you all loved so much.

Last night we watched The Graduate, 50 years old this month, which is an excellent comedy that hasn't aged at all. Then you go away thinking, so what else has Dustin Hoffman made in the intervening 50 years? Try it. I came up with Tootsie, Marathon Man, and Kramer Versus Kramer, but then I was struggling. Think a bit harder you'll get Papillon, Midnight Cowboy, Lenny and All The Presidents Men. But then I get to thinking, there must be sooo many "Pointless" answers out there. Turns out, no so many. This is what happens when you're selective about the movies you make and don't cram in a lot of dross.

If you're going on Pointless, and Dustin Hoffman comes up, I'd say Agatha, Alfredo Alfredo, Madigan's Millions, and Who Is Harry Kellerman And Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me? would be your winning answers.

Pop music has always been such a big part of my life. So it's increasingly chagrinning to be reminded how out of touch I've become. I totally sympathise with this article, yet at the same time have not heard of a single artist mentioned (except the ones from 10 years ago). Whenever I accidentally turn over to Radio 1 or 1Extra, I usually get one track in before realising "wait a minute, this is wrong" and turning back to 6Music. It must be like if our grandparents accidentally stumbled across a Pirate radio station in the 60s.

Is it too late to re-educate myself into 21st century pop music or has that ship sailed? Will I forever be able to instantly recognise singles from their intros, however bland, as long as they date from the late 60s to the late 80s (try me, from Andrea True Connection to Tiffany, no track's too naff to have gone under my pop radar), but be destined to be unable to tell Dua Lipa from Ria Lina and Maggie Rogers from Roger Whittaker?

Just enjoyed, for the first time, Gore Verbinksi's Lone Ranger. It was brilliant, an exemplary bit of action film making. Obviously it suffered bad publicity because, at its heart, it has Johnny Depp playing a Comanche, which is problematic and, well basically, racist. Which is a shame, and I don't know how you'd get round it apart from casting a Native American actor as Tonto, or having Johnny Depp do his brilliant comic action acting in a different film.
Johnny Depp really is outstanding in this, merging a Buster Keatonesque comic timing with Buster Keatonesque physicality and Buster Keatonesque... he's essentially doing Buster Keaton. And so is Gore Verbinski, wielding his CGI toybox with the greatest skill and, again, comic timing. There are direct lifts from The General and other Keaton movies, as well as heaps of references to everything from Ford to Leone, but not in a fanboy way (if anything, more of a La La Land way - is it an homage, or is it just "that's nice, I'll have that for my movie"). Genius steals, and having stolen, uses the bits well.
You can see why it had box office problems, the Indian-pretending aside. The rest of the cast, particularly Armie Hammer as The Lone Ranger, are good but they're not outstanding. He grows on you, but it would have been helped by a real name in that role, or some of the others. It also has an uneasy balance of Disneyesque light entertainment, and blood and death. Being in the Western genre doesn't mean that you're Tom & Jerry, and I'd think a few kids & parents would be squeamish at quite the amount of indiscriminate death that is dealt out throughout.
But for action sequences, and tight unpretentious writing, it's an exercise in showing other film makers how it should be done. I'd like to see Verbinski apply these talents to something other than second hand pirate and cowboy franchises, he might make something that'll really stand the test of time.
Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who et al, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries and art centres - email for details, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter. View the promo video

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