Thursday, February 28, 2008

All Bets Are Off

The scent and smoke and sweat of a casino are nauseating at three in the morning.
Ian Fleming, Casino Royale

I nearly wrote a short post yesterday speculating that Nick would be pleased by the death of the supercasino super-delusion. He's not. He thinks our hapless Prime Minister has been lucky with his PR. And I think he's pretty much right there. I agree with his thesis - that more casinos was a bad policy.

The restraints that the Labour governments of the Sixties imposed on Britain’s casinos will go. There will be drinks on the gaming floor, no cooling off period before a new gambler is allowed to play and on-site sport betting. Beyond the regional casinos, New Labour has allowed tens of thousands of roulette machines in bookies, and poker and blackjack machines will follow soon.
Although it's not my vice, I've nothing against gambling as long as there are sensible controls.


I'm with all that. I had some doubts about 'sensible controls', but I think the Labour government in the 1960s got most things about right.

But when it [gambling] is exploding because of the Internet, those controls need to be tightened, not loosened.


Here I'd disagree - if I didn't think the subject merited proper economic research. Though I think my instinctive position would be something like, "it's better to have some control than none: if tightening controls means no one obeys the law, it's not worth it." From my point of view, a better piece than I've come to expect, apart from one pedantic gripe.

On the other [hand], Brown hopes no one will notice the thousands of new fruit machines and blackjack tables arriving soon in a casino near you.


Well, if Gordon Brown "is terrified that tax revenues will vanish into cyberspace" he must hope that enough people notice these "fruit machines and blackjack tables" to contribute to that $3 trillion war. At least there'll be none of that nauseating Monte Carlo smoke.

But then, well, oh dear. He attacks Helena Kennedy as an "unelected peer" (she's also a Caledonian Scot, a female woman, a human primate, and probably an overpaid lawyer)*. Of course, it's all about Ken.

Livingstone ... spends twice as much on PR as the entire Scottish executive ...


That sounds like a big spending difference, but Scotland has a population of 5,116,900 while London's is 7,512,400. That makes twice the money for one and a half times the target audience. More, I agree, but given business overheads and salaries in London, I'm not sure it's outrageously more.

And then, well, the now boilerplate Hollywood rant. I refer the reader to Jonanism - The belief that everybody you hate is exactly the same.

I'm certain that Hollywood doesn't care about my opinions. But it should worry that both the big winners on Oscar night were art house movies that did modestly at the box office. As a result, the Oscar ceremony got its lowest viewing figure ever. Hollywood dominated 20th century culture because it knew its audience. Now there's a gap between the films the industry celebrates and the films the public enjoys.


Hollywood - despite appearances to the contrary - is not the Borg. "It" doesn't think in the singular. I thought one had to be a little flaky to watch the Oscar bash anyway, but I didn't know psychic powers were mandatory. How else to explain the 'big winners on [the] night' influencing the audience figures? If audience figures are all that counts, why not just have a chart of ticket sales and be done with the frocks and speeches? I know this is hard to believe (more so if you've seen the Coens' earlier 'Barton Fink'), but the Oscars are about artistic integrity: the recognition of one's peers. The IMDb [Internet Movie Database] has all the past winners. Of those, 'The Departed' [2007], 'Million Dollar Baby' [2005], 'American Beauty' [2000], 'The English Patient' [1997], "Schindler's List" [1994], and 'The Last Emperor' [1988] - to cite only the past 20 years - look like art house movies to me. In 1978 the winner was 'Annie Hall'. Now I'm a huge Woody Allen fan, but Allen in more popular in Europe than he is in the US (outside NY and CA, anyway). If popularity was the issue, which of the films on the shortlist should have won? (NB, alive at the time have to be you do not.**)

I've not seen 'No Country For Old Men' yet. Yeats title good in my opion; Cormac McCarthy unforgivably bad.

Great films can contain a great deal of violence, but they use it to explore ambition, power and corruption, this was sadism dressed up as art.


Not sure here. Steven Spielberg makes films like 'Saving Private Ryan' and 'Flags of our Fathers' (he produced it) as well as "Schindler's List". I don't think any of those explored 'ambition, power [or] corruption'. Nor, now I think of them, did 'A Clockwork Orange' or 'Apocalypse Now'. Sometimes, to misquote Freud, violence is only violence. To be clear, I've not seen 'Saving Private Ryan' all the way through (can't stand Tom Hanks); but the others are great movies in my opinion. And yes, I know I should see it.

As for the final thoughtlet. My jaw dropped. I am speechless.


*Of course, he may have meant that she was a peer who unlike some - Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven for example - did not win any elections. However, I think to call the former plain Mrs Thatcher an 'elected peer' would be to do a disservice to the language and to clarity.

**OK, OK, In the second film, Yoda was. Understand me, you do. Your father, I am not.

3 Comments:

Blogger ejh said...

can't stand Tom Hanks

Neither do I but I believe the bastard's got two Oscars...

2/29/2008 07:46:00 AM  
Blogger Ray said...

"Great films can contain a great deal of violence, but they use it to explore ambition, power and corruption, this was sadism dressed up as art."

Bloody hell, the old argument that art is only good if it makes some political point that Nick agrees with. He's just annoyed because the violence wasn't the evil violence of Saddam Hussein, isn't he?
The point of the violence in No Country for Old men was that it was senseless and excessive, that it made Sheriff Bell question his ability to continue.

2/29/2008 09:55:00 AM  
Anonymous mastershake said...

even more 'fish in a barrel', but Nick on art in general is really pitiful. Remember when he thought that Mark Wallinger was given the turner prize for an anti-war protest as opposed to a representation of an anti-war protest? This Oscar thing is no different.

Great films can contain a great deal of violence, but they use it to explore ambition, power and corruption

I thought that NCFOM did that spectacularly well, especially by lingering on the wounds. You don't get that in many films. Equally it was clearly a film about the passage of time and the increase in violence alienating the sherrif as Ray says.

it should worry that both the big winners on Oscar night were art house movies that did modestly at the box office. As a result, the Oscar ceremony got its lowest viewing figure ever.

So people didn't watch an awards ceremony because of... the things that were revealed, during the programme, to have won? surely that makes no sense. Also looking at the winners in recent years it sppears that Nick believes the only worthy winner of the best film oscar in recent years to be titanic. How many people saw 'Crash' at the cinema? very few. Did Nick not think 'Brokeback Mountain' was worth the gong?

Now there’s a gap between the films the industry celebrates and the films the public enjoys.

wasn't there always a gap, with a few notable exceptions? How often has Arnie won an oscar?

If Hollywood wants to know what happens when the gap becomes a chasm, it should look at pitiful remnants of the British film industry and be very afraid.

you mean the industry that produced, um, oscar-nominated Atonement, an adaptation of a novel by uber-Decent author Ian McEwan, Nick?

Is it only me who completely fails to see the link he's trying to make? Is he arguing that the British film industry should be more populist?

2/29/2008 03:21:00 PM  

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