Nightman Listens To – Bon Jovi – Burning Bridges!

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Greetings, Glancers! I wasn’t originally going to listen to this album as it is highlighted as a compilation release. When I decided to read a little about it, its seems to be a compilation of new songs…. isn’t that just a new album? Then it turned out they were mostly unreleased or unfinished songs from the last few albums with a couple of new songs thrown in. That’s close enough to a new studio release for me, so I’m going to give it a go. The name seems to be a play on words regarding Sambora leaving the group, but apparently they had left their long time record company too. Like I mentioned on their last album, maybe these circumstances translate somehow to the music and tone. Lets do this!

A Teardrop To The Sea‘ kicks things off in moody form, slow and neat, building in volume as the ‘ohh ohh’ vocals come in. That’s a very good intro and not something the band does often. The verse pulls things back a little, volume-wise, and delivers a strong melody. The chorus brings the happy a little more than I would have liked, but it stops itself from getting too jubilant. It’s a song which suits Jon’s vocals such as they are now – no need for the big notes, but still able to bring the emotion. A good, understated opener.

We Don’t Run‘ is a familiar name. Wasn’t it on another album? Who knows. It’s a similar tone to the opener, but more bombastic. The verse is heavier, the vocals more talky, and it has the unnecessary ‘hey’ shouts in the background. The verse is middle of the road Bon Jovi fare – it’s crowd-pleasing stuff but one which reminds us that they have at least ten very similar songs which are much stronger than this. Lyrically, it’s all very positive and us against the world.

Saturday Night Gave Me Sunday Morning‘ gets stuck in immediately, buoyant melody and big vocals. Good verse, a lot of promise. A good chorus too, these type of songs have a habit of falling down at the chorus for me, but this one makes the grade. The lyrics are pretty sappy but I can overlook that based on the strength of the melodies and the overall warmth and conviction. Even the middle is good. This feels like one of their best late career songs.

We All Fall Down‘ is another mellow starter. The move into the chorus made me feel like Westlife more than anyone else, or some other blanket boy band. The music is more like background noise without a lot of character. Still, I quite like it. It’s an uplifting ballad but is far too plain to have any impact on me. I’m always talking about how much I love ballads – but in general they need to be over the top or something special for me to really get on board. This is your average mid album ballad – nice and airy, but no substance.

Blind Love‘ opens just like the previous song – more focus on keyboards. It immediately feels more up my alley in terms of ballads. Yeah, it’s unashamedly sweet and cheesy, but as I say I’m usually a sucker for these things if they feel authentic. This one works while the previous one didn’t. Bonus points for the strings. It’s very simple, and the lyrics get better as the strings grow and peak.

Who Would You Die For‘ is another ballad? Three in a row is rarely a good idea. At least it’s another different sonic approach, this one using Dance beats. It feels like a late 90s Dance track, just without the bass beat. The bass beat is replaced by a big guitar chord for the chorus, which gives the song enough venom to take it out of ballad territory. It cranks up for the second verse thanks to a simmering solo and some more threatening drums – could do without the organ and the drum break though. And the vocal standalone. A song which could have been more to my tastes if they’d kept it simple – they experimented a little to get to the first chorus, but they try to take it further and it doesn’t pay off. An interesting one which is sure to stand out but just misses out on hitting the higher grades.

‘Fingerprints‘ opens with guitar hinting at another cowboy epic of sorts. The verse takes it more down the ballad route than the dusty cowboy path. I’m not sure how I feel about this one on first listen. The melodies aren’t doing it for me, the strings are doing their best to pull it up, and I can feel the emotion from the band but it doesn’t translate to me. Even with the double solo, I’m not sure it does enough to justify its length.

Life Is Beautiful‘ is a song whose opening ten seconds I already know because YT keeps making it the automatic next song after any of the ones above have finished. Now I get the full thing. It feels like a single, it feels like any number of recent Bon Jovi singles – fun, light, singalong chorus. It’s a little forgettable for all that. They miss a melodic trick in the chorus by not ‘going up’ in the ‘away’ in ‘wash away’. If you’ve heard the song you’ll understand. It’s satisfactory for a band long past having to try to please the fans.

I’m Your Man’ is another moderately up tempo song, feels like one of those mid-album tracks which flies under the radar of most people but leaps out at me. The verse confirms the sentiment – it’s as simple but as effective as you can get with this sort of thing. It’s not great then that there isn’t really a chorus, just one recital of the title followed by instrumental. It’s a song I don’t think will knock anyone;s socks off, but I like it.

Burning Bridges‘ is the title track, obv. You don’t usually get these left until the end like we have here. I put my hands over my face when it started because it opens like a joke song with spoken parts and hippy beats. It is a joke song, but thankfully it’s better than what the opening ten seconds foretold. The lyrics are pretty funny and they’re clearly ripping the arse out of things. It’s not great, not bad, but at least they had the balls and wit to do it.

Another album and another solid, fan pleasing effort. This time they don’t take any risks or aim to bring their sound towards a new direction. It’s exactly the sort of sound and the type of song you would expect them to make thirty years after starting, with a little less exuberance and vitality. Of course, we all lose those things with age. I keep expecting to dislike more songs than I like, but that hasn’t been the case for a few albums now – sure most are going to be forgettable to me, but there’s always a number of standouts which I’ll throw on the playlist and introduce in my car journeys. Bon Jovi were never the sort of band I would simply stick on and listen to for the pleasure of hearing an album, like I do with other bands. Outside of a small collection of outstanding songs, they’re a band for getting pumped up or partying to thanks to their biggest hits, or for having in the car to accompany driving and chatting with melody and memory – and that’s a lot more than I can say for most groups.

Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Nightman’s Playlist Picks: A Teardrop To The Sea. Saturday Night Gave Us Sunday Morning. Blind Love. I’m Your Man.

Best Original Score – 1979

Official Nominations: A Little Romance. Star Trek. The Champ. 10. The Amityville Horror. All That Jazz. Breaking Away. The Muppet Movie.

A Little Romance and All That Jazz were the winners this year, the former netting Georges Delarue his Oscar. It’s a suitably twee, gentle, unassuming score for a cutesy coming of age romance. Star Trek finally hit the big screen this year with Jerry Goldsmith providing the epic music – most notably the central theme. Dave Grusin’s theme doesn’t adequately match the emotional content of the movie while 10 by Henry Mancini is perfectly bland.

The Amityville Horror gets the rare horror nomination. Music for the genre wasn’t quite starting to copy itself yet, but you can grab many moments from prior classics here, saved mostly by Schifrin’s pedigree. The strings sound creeping, not creepy – there’s some insect like about the way they jab quickly and I like how the brass mimics the string notes. The love theme is pretty good too. If you know me by now, you’ll know my feelings on anything called All That Jazz. Breaking Away is another film which features mostly adaptations while The Muppet Movie is as fantastic as you would expect, though it’s the songs which stand out rather than the other music.

My Winner: Star Trek

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My Nominations: 1941. Alien. Apocalypse Now. The Black Stallion. Mad Max. Moonraker. Nosferatu The Vampire. Quadrophenia. Rocky II. Star Trek. Zombie Flesh Eaters. Stalker.

An almost entirely different roster this year, starting with John Williams and Steven Spielberg up to their old tricks. 1941 doesn’t seem like their typical collaboration but still features plenty of great selections with a military feel. It’s that man Goldsmith again – remember he did Star Trek this year too – with the inspired and creepy score for Alien. Not only are their chilling parts which must work even without having seen the movie, but it inspires a sense of wonder and adventure too. Apocalypse Now merges original pieces with period hits and classic music to create a truly hallucinatory whole – merges genres, overlapping with snippets of gunfire, rotors, and warfare. The Coppola love continues with the underrated score of The Black Stallion – Carmine bringing the grace and class.

Over on the other side of the world the score for Mad Max is every bit as chaotic and unhinged as the film with booming brass blasts and thunderous percussion almost blocking out any trace of melody. Moonraker has a score better than the film it blesses, Barry’s familiar strains working oddly well for the unusual setting. Also working against the odds is Popol Vuh’s soundtrack for Nosferatu The Vampire, a work of electronica, chanting monks, sitars, each finely tuned to unsettle. Quadrophenia is The Who’s best opus – far better than Tommy and I much prefer the film too. This one has the much better songs, and the much better overall score. Bonus points for the movie being on as my wife was giving birth to our second child. Rocky II expands upon the original score in a few ways, though I do feel a little dishonest including it because it reuses so many pieces and motifs from the first film. Those are modified enough to suit the sequel and the original pieces are just as good as anything from part 1 – Bill Conti bringing the goods again.

Star Trek brought the famous series to the big screen, feeding off the success of Star Wars. Jerry Goldsmith indeed took inspiration from the music of Williams as well as expanding upon the original TV series themes to create a majestic score in its own right, as mentioned above. Tarkovsky’s Stalker joins him once more with Eduard Artemyev for another unearthly score, mixing oriental string instruments with strange mechanical synth. Finally, ahem, Zombie Flesh Eaters. Seriously, it has a great soundtrack. It’s really creepy, elevating the film itself and working as a great standalone – all threatening beats and epic synths along with random weird noises.

My Winner: Star Trek

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Nightman’s Least Favourite Movies Of 1998!

Shakespeare In Love Review | Movie - Empire

It feels like a long time since I’ve posting one of these. I think that’s because my last batch of favourite/least favourite movie posts were written months ago, then posted sporadically in the weeks afterwards, but I haven’t actually written any new ones in 6 months. Time to get back into these now.

I had a tough time with this one – I had to resort to scanning down all the movies released according to Wikipedia, and it wasn’t until the letter H that I found one that I was even remotely inclined to include here. Quite a few of the movies I’ve listed – I don’t think they’re bad, I don’t even dislike them much. It’s just that out of the movies I’ve seen from 1998, these ones I liked least or had some personal issues with. There are, of course, a few stinkers.

Hard Rain

The letter ‘H’. It’s a film I don’t have anything against, it’s just a little meh. Underwhelming. It was one of Christian Slater’s last shots at the big time before he sadly fell into straight to DVD fare. He’s one of my favourite actors, he’s in some of my favourite movies, and he’s capable of so much more. Here he rejoins Morgan Freeman in a sort of action, sort of thriller, though both the thrills and action leave plenty to be desired. It’s a decent idea, coming around the same time as all of those 90s era disaster special effects blockbusters, but it lacks the entertainment or the scope of those.

The film looks good – it just lacks that spectacle. Danish Cinematographer Mikael Salomon directs – famed for his work on The Abyss – but the story doesn’t deliver the thrills which the setup promises. It’s basically a heist movie inside of a disaster movie, which sounds great on paper, and the disaster is the flooding of a small US town. Slater is the everyman good guy, while Freeman plays against type as the villain. It’s worth seeing, it probably didn’t deserve to flop as badly as it did, but it’s hardly the most memorable movie of the year.

Knock Off

In the 1980s, Jean Claude Van Damme made his name for himself as a respectable action movie star. Then again, in the 1980s you could get away with a lot of nonsense which simply wouldn’t work in any other era. When we entered the 90s, much of the cheese went away and the surviving successful action stars had to adapt – bigger budget movies, higher concepts – with Van Damme doing well in the first half of the decade thanks to Universal Soldier and Timecop. Those less inclined to follow every movie such stars release would have though JCVD dropped off the map, but he was still there pushing out a mixture of cult classics, lesser known fun times, and shite like this.

It seemed good on the surface – Tsui Hark is a man renowned for his flamboyant, amusing, action packed Hong Kong movies, with the Once Upon A Time In China series being one of the greatest Martial Arts franchises. But then Rob Schneider appears in the cast. And Paul Sorvino. And the plot is about… stolen pairs of jeans? It doesn’t matter. It all circles on Knock Off clothing and Van Damme and Schneider are the cops tasked with sorting all this shit out and making sure only wholesome American brands are worn on ever thickening American asses.

The movie is camp as get out, something I’m usually resolutely against in my humour, but there are a few amusing moments. Mostly because the whole thing is ridiculous. It tries to follow the straight man/weirdo buddy cop formula… but the mixture of Hong Kong algorithms into the mix really throws things off meaning it becomes a bizarre, unwieldy mish mash which isn’t really suited to anyone. The most egregious crime is that it lacks the kinetic and visual flare of the HK side, or the brutality and coherence of the US side. If you like JCVD, it’s certainly one of many curios in his career, but it’s not worth the time for anyone else.

Little Voice

1998 was one of those years where the influence of Britpop and Cool Britannia spilled over into British Cinema – on the surface all of these new British voices – writers, directors, actors, were hitting the mainstream. The worldwide mainstream. British Cinema was firmly on the map again. Four Wedding And A Funeral kind of kicked it off, and Trainspotting blazed the trail in a different direction, but it wasn’t until the latter half of the decade that all of these British (English) movies made an impact beyond our shores. People suddenly loved British Cinema again. The stupid thing is, the whole era resulted in a grand total of fuck all good movies. There are a few of them on my list this year, and each in their own way signifies everything I hate about English film in the populist sense. From the sickeningly desperate leg-humping attempts to be notice by the big boys in Hollywood (rather than having the self respect to be their own thing), to the inevitable cutesy twee humour which, again, is something which exists only because it’s what the big boys in US expect. These movies are always, always comedies, with slightly offbeat characters – the types of people you cross the street to avoid, then wait until they’re out of sight before following them home and shitting on their doorstep – but they completely avoid the truest, best trappings of British humour. Look at any number of British sitcoms of comedy TV shows from this same era, which were made primarily for British audiences; there’s simply no comparison. TV writers were pumping out some of the finest characters and sketches ever committed to screen, while movie makers were shoving this shite down everyone’s gaping holes.

You know exactly what this film is before seeing it – it hits all of the same character, comedy, and story beats of every other film of its ilk. Shy woman from working class background hides from the world and impersonates her favourite singers (read – has zero personality of her own). Her mum, who is a shit, thinks she is shit. She is encouraged to sing in public, and after some misfires becomes a success. The end. The amount of awards this was nominated for is ridiculous.

There was any number of other British films this year that I could also have included here (further down the list I have) but the likes of The Land Girls, Waking Ned, Titanic Town almost made the cut but were just redeemable enough to avoid such embarrassment.

Lock Stock And Two Smoking Barrels

With its poster adorning the walls of idiots around the globe, Lock…. was a sensation and launched the career of Guy Ritchie – a man who has yet to make a single film I have even tolerated, never mind enjoyed. His success is truly bewildering to me. I get that people love his early work, but I just don’t understand any of it. It’s cut rate Tarantino at its worst, and even more unforgivably it centres on a bunch of Cockney twats who I wanted out of my life within seconds of seeing. A bunch of people I don’t like arsing about in a convoluted yet empty crime plot with a soundtrack by artists I can’t stand – the only good thing about this was that I generated a nickname for one of my English teachers at the time – Mr Blackstock And Two Smoking Armpits. Because he was a sweater. And because I am a genius.

Psycho

There’s a silly argument which goes on about remakes of foreign movies – that the US version must somehow be superior, or that the original is somehow inferior or overhyped simply because it is foreign. Because it is subtitled. Pushers of this argument double down on the remakes which are essentially scene for scene. Ignoring the casual racism inherent in such a statement, it’s a very silly argument to make. I could make the argument that if the US remake isn’t very good but the foreign original was lauded and lavished with praise – simply that the critics and reviewers were wrong or that the wrong films are being remade. The whole thing is rendered pointless when we think of US shot for shot remakes of US films. Gus Van Sant’s remake of Hitchcock’s masterpiece is as close to a shot for shot remake as you’ll ever get. Yet it somehow lacks the chills and the shocks and the atmosphere and the intelligence of the original. Which highlights the simple fact that, no matter how similar you make your remake it’s still an entirely separate entity. Different director (probably), different cast, different filming period, different everything. Before comparing remake to original or blindly assuming the original must somehow be a product of reviewer bias if the remake is poor, maybe go watch the fucking thing yourself.

Rasen

Ringu is one of the greatest horror movies of all time. It’s also one of my personal Top Ten movies of all time. Rasen is the forgotten… side sequel? Honestly, the whole Ring book and movie series is quite complicated, but basically both Ringu and Rasen are based on the original books by Koji Suzuki – Ringu is the first novel and Spiral is the second, with Rasen based on Spiral. Both movies share some cast members – namely Hiroyuki Sanada and Miki Nakatani, and exist in the same universe. That’s about where the similarities end. The book series is loosely horror, and as it proceeds begins to deal with artificial intelligence and the link between the supernatural and technology, and that’s kind of the tone which Rasen follows. Ringu is all terror, all the time. Ringu was a massive hit, singlehandedly kicking off the J-Horror movement, while no-one remembers Rasen exists. It’s hardly surprising, because Rasen is a slog to get through, isn’t scary, and doesn’t really know what it’s supposed to be.

It doesn’t make an ounce of sense. The books are incredibly well written and in dealing with complex theories they actually drive an engaging narrative and convince the reader of what is being proposed. Rasen jumps from scene to scene and twist to twist with little explanation, and what explanation there is ends up bewildering further. The film was such a flop that those in charge demanded a new sequel – the vastly superior Ring 2 more closely following the events of Ringu insteaf of the books.

Shakespeare In Love

Here we go again. Another British Rom come. This ticks a tonne of my no go boxes – English (kind of)? Rom Com? Period Piece? When I first heard about it… I thought it was a good idea. As an English Literature Degree holding guy this should have been up at least one of my alleys. But a combination of irritating casting and misguided humour, along with the aforementioned no go boxes meant this was at best an annoyance best forgotten. The fact that the film was such a monumental success was salt, ketchup, and garlic and chives into the wound. We’ll get to the whole Oscars debacle at some point in the future, but it’s neither here nor there – the film is utter balls.

Sliding Doors

Two Gwyneth Paltrow movies in one list in one year? I’m not surprised, given how garbage an actress (human?) she appears to be. Existing in this space entirely on the backs of famous parents, her entire career is a mess. If I look down her entire filmography, there isn’t a single performance that I’ve seen that I’ve enjoyed, and her appearance in films I have more or less liked – The Talented Mr Ripley…. actually, that’s probably the only one – her appearance has brought those films down. Why is she a thing?

Sliding Doors… another quirky English Rom Com which panders to the big boys. It’s actually an okay premise – how something as uneventful as getting on or not getting on a train could be on your life. In reality, such things don’t actually make a difference to anyone’s existence – few things do, but that’s the Hollywood lie to keep us poor folks hoping and dreaming and giving over money to our betters. The idea is used only to serve the ‘romance’ which is what really matters, but the horrible dialogue, the cutesy twee crap, the awful casting, the production line beats of the script… it all adds up to yet another wholly unnecessary entry in a genre which has produced more shite than almost any other.

The Thin Red Line

Terence Malik, I love ya but… this increasingly feels like a meandering misstep. With every new Malik film released it feels like the dude is only good at one thing, and thing stopped being interesting in the 70s. Still, The Thin Red Line is a beautifully shot experience and should be seen by anyone with even a passing interest in Cinema as an art form. It’ll certainly pick up plenty of nominations in my personal Oscars lists when I get around to those. I only wish I cared about any of what was happening. By no means a bad film… it just passed me by like yet another exhibit in a gallery I didn’t have to pay to enter.

You’ve Got Mail

Gwyneth Paltrow and Meg Ryan may well be the same person. Have you seen them in the same room at the same time? In any case, they both select the same sort of material and play the same sort of characters regardless of the film or the genre. Of course, that genre is usually RomCom, but you get the idea. Ryan, to her credit, is a better performer and has sometimes chosen more edgy and exciting material, but it’s movies like this that she is known for. Films for hopeless romantics (read – hopeless people), movies which have these people in ridiculous situations and somehow come out of them with a diamond ring and a nice pretty husband. You’ve Got Mail is one of the most notable of these sorts of movies – it’s equally illogical and annoying as the others, it’s a void of ideas, it’s shot with the flare of a housewife filming her baby’s first birthday, and… well, it’s just for me. I think we’ve established that repeatedly by now. If people enjoy this, more power to them. For me, it’s just another inane entry and the garbage spewing canon.

What are your thoughts on 1998? Have I treated any of these films unfairly? Which films from my list, or from 1998 would you include as your least favourite? Let us know in the comments!

Best Supporting Actress – 1979

Official Nominations: Meryl Streep. Jane Alexander. Barbara Barrie. Candice Bergen. Mariel Hemmingway.

We have another selection of crap to wade through this year – highlighted by the fact that Meryl Streep was nominated (and won) here instead of being in the Lead category. That’s purely because they wanted both Field and Streep as winners. In any case, Streep is the the choice here. She is joined by another Kramer Vs Kramer star – Jane Alexander – as the neighbour who, at different times, befriends both Kramer and Kramer. She’s good, as she always is. Barbara Barrie as the mum in Breaking Away is another puzzler – it’s a veteran nomination without her really being a veteran in the movie sense, and the role and the performance aren’t anything out of the ordinary. It’s another case of The Academy liking a particular film, then chucking a pile of awards at at.

The final two nominations are not something I would personally ever choose, with Bergen being a mostly one-joke unlikable character, played with conviction of course, and Hemmingway coming across as the latest unfortunate victim of Woody Allen’s filthy games. The performance is okay. As much as Streep shouldn’t be in this category, she’s the only choice.

My Winner: Meryl Streep

Meryl Streep Addresses Alleged Dustin Hoffman Assault | The Mary Sue

My Nominations: Jessica Lange. Meryl Streep. Talia Shire. Pat Evison.

No-one makes it over to my list this year. Is that a first? If The Academy is going to put Meryl here, then I’m going to put Jessica Lange. Know that I’ll be grasping and reaching a little this year. It’s more of a supporting role than Streep’s. Lange plays the Angel Of Death in All That Jazz who watches over Gideon in his final moments, often in surreal scenes. But wait, Meryl Streep is on my list – for a different movie – The Seduction Of Joe Tynan – one of those forgotten political dramas that was going out of vogue. Streep plays a married woman who begins an affair with Joe Tynan – it’s Streep so you know what you’re getting, even if it isn’t one of her most memorable performances. Talia Shire I nominate because she’s still great as Adrian in the Rocky sequel (and there isn’t much else to choose from) and Evison I nominate for the little known Australian movie Tim where she stars as Mel Gibson’s protective mother. A crap year all round, so pick whoever you like really.

My Winner: Jessica Lange

Let us know your winner in the comments!

Best Supporting Actor – 1979

Official Nominations: Melvyn Douglas. Robert Duvall. Justin Henry. Micky Rooney. Frederic Forrest.

The most notable thing about this category this year is in the age differences of the nominees – Melvyn Douglas won for Being There at age 79 and Justin Henry for Kramer vs Kramer at age 8. It’s difficult on the surface to see how an 8 year old could be nominated, but then you see his performance and get it – he’s fully committed and even though his parents probably still brushed his teeth for him, he achieves something few of us ever will. You get the sense he understands the character and he’s convincing. Douglas, there’s an argument for him being the lead in Being There depending on how you view the film, plays a dying businessman and adviser to the President who strikes up a friendship with the simple-minded Peter Sellers. It’s a gentle comedy and a quiet veteran performance.

Robert Duvall would normally be the sure-fire winner; it’s Apocalypse Now and he delivers one of the most famous, quotable speeches in movie history, strutting around topless as bombs drop and bullets whiz by. The problem is, it’s short a small role – pivotal and iconic, but he’s not on screen for long. Then again, he’s just so damn good. Mickey Rooney is another veteran nod – he’s good but doesn’t deliver anything out of the ordinary, while Frederic Forrest (also in Apocalypse Now) got a deserved nomination for The Rose as the driver who gets it on with Bette Middler’s ill-fated character. I’m torn between two here, but when I factor in who is the most memorable….

My Winner: Robert Duvall

Armed Storytelling: The Weaponry of Apocalypse | Apocalypse Now 101

My Nominations: Robert Duvall. Justin Henry. Frederic Forrest. Marlon Brando. Ian Holm.

Look, we get it. Brando spurred you. It hurts. Get over it. There’s no way he doesn’t get nominated for Apocalypse Now – it just makes the whole thing look like a sham. Of course we know it is, but they could be less obvious. Brando as Kurtz – similar to Duvall’s Kilgore – isn’t on screen for a long time, but manages to squeeze more intensity and a more memorable performance into a few minutes than many actors do their entire careers. There’s iconic, then there’s Brando. My only other addition is Ian Holm for Alien, a performance played so straight that the revelation behind his character is still a shocker for newcomers. It’s one of the best quietly creepy performances you’ll ever see, with Holm calculating every word and movement to the extent that, when you watch it again knowing the twist, you’re looking for clues. This is a close one out of the main three, and any is a worthy winner.

My Winner: Ian Holm

Best Director – 1979

Official Nominations: Robert Benton. Bob Fosse. Francis Ford Coppola. Peter Yates. Edouard Molinaro.

Kramer vs Kramer was the runaway success of 1979, not only picking up the Best Picture win but also the Best Director one, even though there are at least two better choices up front and with hindsight. Benton was always a better writer than he was director and with Kramer vs Kramer he played both hands. Striking gold with some heavy-hitting performances, it’s undoubtedly a good film but not one which lends itself to any particular flair from the director’s chair. Especially not when face with Apocalypse Now and All That Jazz – two grueling shoots by all accounts and which likely couldn’t have been pulled off by anyone else. As self-indulgent as All That Jazz is, Fosse commands every facet of what we see and hear, while Coppola somehow pulls together a manic shoot, huge cast, and film with a singularly impressive scope to reveal one of the finest, most iconic war movies ever.

The final two nominees don’t stand a chance – as good as Breaking Away is, you get the impression that any number of directors of the time could have made just as good as film as Yates does, while Molinaro’s farcical, fast-moving comedy doesn’t have the appeal for a Western audience.

My Winner: Francis Ford Coppola

Apocalypse Now (1979)

My Nominations: Bob Fosse. Francis Ford Coppola. Ridley Scott. George Miller. Werner Herzog.

Aside from my two official nominees, we bring over the obvious snub of Ridley Scott whose Alien still ranks as one of the most influential science fiction and horror movies of all time. The unique thing about Alien is that it is still both timeless and terrifying today – age has not taken away any of its charm, and everything from the script to the performances to the effects still pack an authentic punch. Indeed, much of the effects and make-up work here look less dated than Prometheus and its sequel. It’s a character piece as much as it is a creature feature, a Lost World story as much as it is a straight horror and Scott packs the cast with skilled performers who have never been more authentic. George Miller’s Mad Max is difficult to categorize – it’s a road movie, a thriller, a violent action movie, an apocalyptic tale, a revenge tragedy, a story about one man and one world’s descent into madness. Perhaps the broad stroke description of a stylized depiction of the final days of humanity as a cop on the verge of insanity hunts down a roving biker gang is best. In any case, Miller imbues the film with a unique and dizzying atmosphere and offers an array of tricks to disorient and thrill the viewer. Finally, Herzog’s take on Nosferatu is as gripping as it is off-putting, as beautiful as it is ghastly, with the lead character’s violence shown through necessity while portraying it a lonely addict.

My Winner: Francis Ford Coppola

Best Animated Film – 1979

*Apologies for fans of these posts for the lack of consistency recently – work, babies, Christmas – it’s all happening at once these days, but we should be resuming our regular programming shortly.

My Nominations: The Castle Of Cagliostro. Galaxy Express 999.

1979 saw an unusually high number of animated features being released around the world, perhaps the most notable being the first directed by Hayao Miyazaki. The Castle Of Cagliostro is an entertaining, fast moving entry in the long-running series featuring the charming acrobatic thief Lupin. While it doesn’t have many of the trademarks we would come to learn of from Miyazaki, it is still energetic and drawn with detail, with a story easy enough to follow for any age or country of audience. Japan pumped out a number of animated movies this year, the most successful being Galaxy Express 999, an oddly slow sci-fi adaptation where humans have achieved a degree of immortality by transporting their minds into mechs. Although many films were released this year, the best of these were TV movies featuring the likes of The Flintstones and Bugs Bunny and are therefore exempt from my voting – most of the other films don’t meet the standard of quality of the two nominations.

Art of Lupin the Third: The Castle of Cagliostro

My Winner: The Castle Of Cagliostro

V/H/S 2

The most bonkers, jaw-dropping and memorable horror in recent years is on TV soon | JOE is the voice of Irish people at home and abroad

It feels like I’ve been away. I have been. I’ve neglected my usual monthly blog posts and I haven’t even been arsed posting any of the hundreds of already written posts which have been sitting in my drafts for months. I need to go through those and set the scheduling or something. It has been a busy few weeks, with real life stuff taking up most of my free time. On top of that, all of this Marillion stuff is taking up time too, listening to their albums multiple times, taking notes, and then forming those notes into monumentally huge posts. And of course, listening to the related Podcast. It’s fun, but time consuming. That’s not to say I haven’t been watching a lot of movies – I have – but usually in the depths of night by myself, with my wide awake hours spent on TV shows with my wife.

What has any of this got to do with V/H/S 2? Absolutely nothing – I just didn’t want to write a separate post explaining my mysterious absence. Regular Glancers to my stinking hovel of the internet should know by now that I enjoy a good Anthology. The format made a bit of a comeback in the Noughties thanks to an onslaught of new Horror voices, and the relative ease and budgetary freedom of making a smaller film. I enjoyed the first V/H/S for what it was – a mixture of cool ideas and missed opportunities, and it wasn’t long before I hunted down the sequel. Unusually for an Anthology – this is a sequel, albeit with a mostly new set of directors and writers and actors joining Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett. It seems the wraparound featured in V/H/S was only part of a larger story – the discovery of another horde of mysterious videotapes and way too many screens for any sane person – hinting that there is an expanded universe at play.

I say expanded universe, but we’re hardly dealing with MCU or Dark Tower levels of content here. It’s just a framing excuse to allow the narrative to flow between shorts and to loosely connect the two films together (along with the final third movie). Our protagonists in the wraparound are a boyfriend/girlfriend team of PIs/amateur money-grabbers dealing with the more seedy of cases – we are introduced to them in the midst of blackmailing some poor bloke who only wanted a taste of gratuitous titty grabbing on the side. As the couple threaten the man to pay up or pay a visit to his wife, they head towards their central case – a young man’s disappearance. Breaking in to his last known residence, they stumble upon a room in disarray – blankets on the ground in front of stacks of screens and scattered VHS tapes. Just like the first movie, one of team decides to pass the time by watching the tapes, while the other searches the house, and just like the first movie they may not be alone.

The first segment is the not to distant future story of a man who has a camera placed in his eye socket after a car accident. It’s an experimental trial, and the doctors will see and experience everything he does. He heads home to his mansion and quickly experiences some unusual behaviour – things moving from where they were left, the shape of a person lying in his bed. Things escalate. With a premise like this, you’re probably already guessing much of what transpires – nifty use of first person, plenty of jump scares, glitch marks, and the inevitable attempt to remove camera from eye. It’s a fun intro with a few effective moments, but you’re probably not going to remember it in the grand scheme of anthology segments.

The second segment is another idea which has probably been rattling around filmmakers heads for some time, and I’m fairly certain parts of this have been done before. A guy is riding his bike in a forest and finds himself in the middle of a sudden bloodthirsty zombie outbreak – he rides with a couple of cameras (one of which is clearly there only to set up a single gag). It’s another fun segment, a little lighter than the first but ramps up the gore factor. I enjoyed how the buck is passed here with each zombie attack, following a different character every few minutes, and I like how we get straight into things with little set up. Eduardo Sanchez and Gregg Hale of The Blair Witch Project direct this one.

The third segment is the most notorious, and the one I was most keen on seeing when I heard reviews of the film. Directed by The Raid’s Gareth Evans and The Night Comes For Us (one of the most brutal films you haven’t seen) Timo Tjahjanto, Safe Haven follows a documentary crew as they infiltrate a cult under the guise of shining a positive light on its charismatic leader – a man who has been accused various crimes, not least certain activities with children. The four people have their own shit to deal with – the woman of the group (Lena) is in a relationship with Malik (the interviewer) but has got it on with one of the other guys in secret. The cult leader allows the group access to his Jonestown-esque centre of operations, and it becomes clear immediately that nothing about him or his followers is right. Cut to demented scenes of carnage, full frontal facial shotgun blasts, suicide, demons, and assorted chaos. It’s great. It ramps up quickly with little thought given to meaning or explanation, but like the output from both directors it is riveting and dark and bloody and brimming with invention and energy.

Slumber Party Alien Abduction is probably the most forgettable of the bunch – it’s not bad, and I think the idea has a lot of potential, but it’s quite messy in its execution and it suffers from the most shaky cam pitfalls of found footage. It does exactly what it says on the tin – a bunch of insufferable millennials are having a slumber party and are interrupted by aliens. It would have been more interesting if the characters weren’t a bunch of entitled dicks – or maybe we were supposed to enjoy what happens to them precisely because they are dicks. In any event, it’s fine. I like those segments or movies where normal every day shit is interrupted without warning or explanation by the supernatural. Unfortunately the director relies far too heavily on tape scratching effects – once or twice is fine, but every few seconds is ridiculous. There’s a bunch of characters who show up and either disappear before the abduction or are dispatched with basically off camera, which defeats the purpose – not that we cared in the slightest about them. Somewhere in here is a decent thirty minute episode – hell, someone with the skills of John Carpenter could stretch this into a solid supernatural siege movie.

VHS 2 doesn’t differ too much from its predecessor. What little wraparound connecting plot there is serves to adequately set up this film, for those who care, and two link back to the first film, for those who care. The segments vary in quality but each is perfectly watchable and each has a fun idea at its core. It’s a chance for younger directors to show off and have fun, and that’s the overriding feeling I get from this series – they’re fun, sometimes gory, and they act as a little shot of adrenaline and a warning to other filmmakers that these young upstarts mind have something bigger and better up their sleeves. Safe Haven is the highlight, but the whole package is well worth a watch.

Let us know in the comments what you think of VHS 2!

Megan Is Missing

Megan Is Missing's Viral TikTok Challenge & Controversy Explained

Every so often a film comes around, dragging such a weight of hype behind it that it begins to resemble a cannibalistic graverobber hauling a couple of corpses through a dank and hilly moor. Then there are those films which fly under the radar, only picking up a few glowing reviews sporadically and becoming something of an urban myth. Megan Is Missing falls into the second category – a film heard of, in whispers, but rarely seen. It has been years since Megan Is Missing was released, but every few years the film seems to strike a connection with the latest viral trend, and pops up again in social media feeds from concerned parents, duped tweens, and disgruntled critics. In recent weeks, the film has once again resurfaced thanks to kids on Tik Tok (whatever that is) watching it, being shocked by it, sharing it, and watching each other be shocked by it. But what does a seasoned horror fan make of it all? Spoiler Alert: it’s not very good.

Megan Is Missing is less of a movie and more of a masterclass in exploiting viral media and its audience. I was very impressed by director Michael Goi’s Twitter comments, advising viewers to switch off the film if they see the number ‘1’ appear on screen at any point, as they would have a few seconds to shut it off before being scarred for life – especially if what they had seen up to that point had disturbed them. Having already seen the movie and being aware of what he was talking about, this was actually quite a shrewd and amusing tactic to get more kids to watch it. Disingenuous or not, that seems to be the goal of the film – to get as many kids as possible to see it, and their parents, to warn them over the dangers of blind online interaction. 

The film follows a couple of girls as they meet a man online who claims to be the same age as they are and strikes up a friendship. If someone says their webcam is broken or doesn’t want to share their cam even as you share yours…. it’s probably not a good idea to continue communicating with them. Megan is popular with peers, but has a hidden history of abuse and clearly enjoys attention. Her best friend Amy doesn’t necessarily approve of Megan’s sudden change in behaviour and the online relationship she is beginning, but she is shown to be somewhat naive and jealous. Before long, Megan disappears and Amy takes it upon herself to launch an online and offline search for her friend, believing the guy Megan was talking to is responsible for her disappearance.

The film is made up of mobile phone footage, laptop cams, news reports and vlogs. Normally this would be a jarring experience – and here it is – but at least the simple narrative is kept coherent. The quality of acting is a low point throughout, though I didn’t have as much of an issue with this as most reviewers (although the guy playing Josh off screen is notably cringeworthy and a creep from first breath making me question the intelligence of anyone sucked in my his shite), and I was more accepting of the obvious low budget and attempts at authenticity. Certainly many of the recent batch of viewers have inexplicably been convinced of the film being a true story, or even going as far as somehow believing the final 15 minutes or so to be genuine crime footage retrieved by the FBI. Sometimes I despair at the youth of today, dagnamit.

The film doesn’t try to make us feel any sympathy for Megan – some for Amy – and maybe it’s the generational gap, but their behaviour, their dialogue, it’s all grating and off-putting, and the same is true for the surrounding cast. More than that, it seems to revel with salacious glee of it’s detailed descriptions (and thankfully less detailed depictions) of pre-teen sex. It’s a catalogue of annoyances before we get to any real pay-off for the horror fan – the infamous final scenes.

Those scenes have of course been hyped far beyond what they are deserving of, and have spun off already into a multitude of memes. I can only hope that those genuinely shocked by, or claiming to have been traumatised by these images subsequently move on to some good horror movies. What is there that is so shocking? We get a couple of photos of torture, which I can only assume are shocking due to the suddenness of their appearance, and there is a muffled yet exploitative rape scene towards the end which reviewers have highlighted as offering zero merit – admittedly it’s tough to portray such things with any true merit or purpose. We get the final split second reveal of what happened to Megan, followed by an excessively drawn out scene which was done with far greater potency decades earlier in The Vanishing. It’s far too little, and far too late, and having to sit through a lot of padding and a lot of inane conversations with general unlikeable people to get to this point, I’d have at least wanted a stampede of zombie dinosaur sharks to liven the thing up. 

Is it worth the hype? Of course not. Is it worth watching? Not really. There are better examples of similar plots and the technical ability on show is extremely limited. The filmmakers will defend this by pointing to the low budget and the fact that it is supposed to be a compilation of unprofessional bits – that’s all well and good, but it doesn’t make the end product any more worthy or worthwhile. Honestly, there are a tonne of more potent, more powerful, more emotionally devastating documentaries out there made with genuine craft and artistry which make this look like the half-assed mess that it is. Did I enjoy it? Unusually, I didn’t hate it. I have a low bar of expectation for this sort of thing anyway and it’s clearly not good, but if I’m honest it did set me loose on the internet for a few weeks binge on real life cases of abduction and missing persons. I’m not convinced that the reasoning behind the film was to highlight to impressionable kids the dangers of online interaction, if it smacks of ‘old man is scared of new technology/young people’, or if it was a cheap and cynical cash-in on real life tragedy at the boom of the found footage phenomenon. If there’s any positive from it all, it’s that you can easily watch it for free online – seriously, if you have to see it, don’t pay for it. 

To sum it all up – if you’re curious about the hype, by all means watch it. If you’re a seasoned horror fan you will absolutely be disappointed and confused by such hype. There are better things to do with your time, and better movies to watch. Let us know in the comments what you thought of Megan Is Missing!

Nightman Listens To – Marillion – Misplaced Childhood – Side B!

Marillion - Misplaced Childhood (1985, Gatefold, Vinyl) | Discogs

Greetings, Glancers! Today I share my thoughts on Side B of Marillion’s hit album Misplaced Childhood. Overall, I enjoyed Side A and beyond a selection of personal quirks which dampened my enthusiasm for listening to the whole thing again, it was a pleasant experience. Good songs, solid concept, all played out with the usual musical and lyrical skill. Lets see what Side B has to offer.

Waterhole started out with two thumbs up – it’s named after a famous pub from Neighbours, it has a vicious snarling vocal and continues the threatening tone which ended Side A, and it features some bloopy key sounds which crop up in any number of 80s action movies I enjoy. In essence, while not Metal, it feels like it has more of that sort of edge. However… and if you’ve read my Side A thoughts you probably know what’s coming – those fucking wide boys are back. Of all of the terms to repeat across songs to aid in the coherence of your concept, you have to pick the one phrase which makes me almost physically ill. This genuinely annoys me because I think it’s a great song, but I can’t listen to it now without getting angry knowing that ‘wide boys’ is going to be shouted in my ear.

The music then – great, no complaints. As for what Waterhole suggests (drinking?) and what Expresso Bongo is all about I don’t know. The lyrics read a little neater than the majority of songs from previous albums – this goes hand in hand with the more direct commercial approach Misplaced Childhood seems to be going for. The lyrics are almost in rhyming couplets! The images remain poetic without being obscure or derivative – striking that fine balance which will intrigue casual listeners and presumably please existing fans. However, I couldn’t concentrate on the lyrics without getting fixated on you know what and being bombarded by images of cockney twats strutting around and being ‘wide’. Mostly what I get from the lyrics is the sense of being cheated, used, and abused – hoping for something – maybe following a hero or turning up to some specific destination only to be repeatedly taken advantage of and seeing your hopes turn to ash. 

Lords Of The Backstage is another short one – less than two minutes – and another instance of songs merging seamlessly into each other. This merging of songs is not something which was new by the 1980s and it isn’t something exclusive to Prog, but it is a hallmark of Progressive music, and of the Concept album. I can’t recall precisely when I first experienced these types of transitions but I can pinpoint some of the Rock and Metal albums I listened to growing up as using this technique, and little me having my mind blown. You have to consider that, when you’re young your main exposure to music is likely whatever is in the charts (or whatever passes for charts these days) and we are therefor taught to expect all songs to have a simple start, middle, and end – even when working your way through an album. One song ends, there’s a pause, and another begins. So when I first heard, to use a continued comparison, Alice Cooper’s Hey Stoopid I was mesmerized by the fact that organ at the end of Burning Our Bed didn’t stop and became the intro to Dangerous Tonight, and that the noises at the close of Dangerous Tonight morphed into the spacey start of Might As Well Be On Mars. That may well have been the moment I understood music and musicians as a true art form, and not just some stuff to sing and jump along to.

Lords Of The Backstage leads in with a looping, hypnotic riff which first emerges as Waterhole finishes, and this riff engulfs the entire song. As much of a Rock and Metal fan as I am, riffs can be hit and miss for me. I prefer my riffs be the introduction, or to act as a bridge between other sections of a song rather than being the central focus. If it is the central focus, then I want some key changes, some dynamics, something to stop the thing from becoming repetitive. Luckily, the riff in Lords Of The Backstage remains fresh by sometimes climbing to a higher key with a slightly different spread of notes and due to the length of the song the riff doesn’t outstay its welcome. I spoke about shorter songs on a previous post with respect to Concept albums – do they only work as a part of the complete album, or do they work as a standalone song? Can you hear it on its own and enjoy it without being aware it is part of a Concept Album? I’m somewhere in the middle for this song – I’m not sure it’s something I would get a hankering to stick on on its own merits, and I think it is stronger when played alongside the bookending tracks. It’s a tricky one, but the example I always give as a song which works wonderfully on its own, and as part of a whole is Vera by Pink Floyd. Vera just so happens to be my favourite Pink Floyd song, a song that isn’t even two minutes long and some of the running time is taken up by samples. I fully understand that this song would be dismissed by most people if heard on its own, and even overlooked in the grand scheme of the other hundred songs which make up The Wall. But to my mind, it’s a masterpiece. If there’s any point to any of this, it’s that I’m sure there’s a Marillion fan out there who calls this out as their favourite Marillion song – but you should probably keep your distance from such an unusual soul.

What I understand from the lyrics to Lords Of The Backstage is that the narrator is sick of his own lies – we already know he has spent a chunk of his life trying to write that one love song which cements his feelings about, lets call her Kayleigh, a song worthy enough for her and his feelings but that over time he has been churning out other meaningless material to merely meet the demands of being in a band. And now that he’s in the band, he’s so wrapped up in drugs and touring and excuses that he doesn’t know where he is, what should be abandoned, what should be chased. I realise I’m stretching a little, which comes with the territory, but it doesn’t sound like much of a stretch.

This song leads into a much longer piece – like on Side A – there is now an epic made up of several parts. Blind Curve tops the nine minute mark and is immediately tonally different from Lords Of The Backstage. Even though the shorter song sounds like a fun little rock song, it’s obviously a more downbeat piece when the lyrics are considered. Blind Curve leans into this desperation from a musical perspective, yet it manages to uphold its epic sensibilities. Doing desperation while sounding huge is not an easy thing to achieve, let alone master. For me it’s the guitars which allow the track to achieve this blend – I love the tone and how the higher notes sound like they are questioning, merging with some of Fish’s best soft moments. There are other vocal moments I don’t think work well, but I’ll skip those.

The song begins with a thumping chord, and a slow, downtrodden beat. I’m sure there’s no relation, but it’s not the first time during this album that I’ve noticed a comparison between the two bands – that opening chord made me immediately think of the Nightwish song Rest Calm. It’s from what is ostensibly a Concept album, though one which is somewhat more confusing. But the fact that Nightwish went and made a movie based off the album – Imaginaerum – means I’m happy calling it a Concept album. The opening of Blind Curve and Rest Calm are very similar, a crunching chord, a slow beat, and a prominent guitar lead. Go compare both songs on Youtube – you only need to listen to the first 2-3 seconds of each to get what I’m saying – and there’s…. there’s something there. I did a quick Google search but I couldn’t find any instance of Nightwish calling Marillion an influence. But I would be very surprised if the band had not listened to Misplaced Childhood quite a bit. The cynic in me slaps the conspiracy theorist around and says ‘there are millions of songs out there, of course you’re going to encounter songs which happen to sound the same, never mind three seconds of music which have some base similarities’…. but there’s something there. Both albums feature a concept about looking back to one’s youth and childhood, both feature a washed out Rock Star as their narrator, both feature a hit single named after a woman, and both feature a song with a long spoken section with a Scottish voice. I’m sure there’s a Nightwish fan out there who is also a big Marillion fan, so let me know I’m not entirely barking up the wrong arse here.

What I assume is the Passing Strangers piece of the song is particularly lovely – it’s dark, ambient, and atmospheric and has maybe my favourite Fish vocals, all topped up with a face-melting guitar solo to rival anything the Metal bands were churning out in 1984. This seems to transition into the Mylo section where one of my irks about Fish’s vocal style comes out – the way he raises, drops, and wobbles his vocals in the space of a single word. That has begun to grate on me over the last couple of albums – I get that’s his style, but it’s one of those instances of the more I notice it the more it annoys me, sounding like he’s singing in the backseat of a car going over a particularly bumpy road. Couple that with some increasing nasal activity and I get the impression that Fish isn’t ever going to be my favourite singer. Jesus, don’t hurt me okay, I fully admit to listening to singers most people would not enjoy. If you happened to listen to Rest Calm from earlier, you probably heard some male vocals you hated. It’s fine, he makes up for it with his lyrics and overall unique style – but some of those inflections and choices do irk me.

I thought I heard ‘boys’ again towards the end of the song, but it turns out this was actually ‘convoys’, which is fine. Lyrically the song starts out in a bleak position, and although I wouldn’t say it ever becomes hopeful or finds a happy place, it does seem to shake free of self doubt to a place of action, or at the very least a place where the narrator is questioning what he sees in the present rather than dwelling in mumbling apathy. Is it a battle cry, or is it suicidal? Maybe it’s because the music also takes on a more euphoric tint as it heads towards its conclusion, and this tone rubs off on the lyrics. The entirety of the song is conversational and there is little of the poet flapping his quill in the air and sighing for inspiration over another chiastic metaphor (there’s my seven years of Latin coming through). It reads like a blend of arguments, both internal and external, a series of drunken recollections and associated reflections – I’ve no idea who Mylo was or why he was so important – all through the voice of the rock star who is just done with it all. It’s quite similar to some of the thematic moments from The Wall as I’ve mentioned already, but the life of someone in the public eye is something I can only assume to be quite a bizarre state and it’s a theme which pops up again and again in music. That theme of course leads to notions of regrets, a wish to return to something more simple, a blank, clean, mistake-free slate. I find the song quite similar to Incubus from the previous album – I believe I called it out as something more mature or cohesive – and this feels the same. It has unique moments of poetry, but it doesn’t over extend. It gets it’s point across in a relatively straightforward manner without resorting to hackneyed clichés or ancient unread texts, and it sustains its central conceits of the running time. 

Childhoods End? feels like a closing song. I thought it was the closing song the first few times I listened to it. Lyrically and musically it seems to conclude matters. The muted guitar riff combined with the synth create a mournful yet accepting tone and the vocal melodies in the verses also blend sadness and happiness. I don’t find the chorus as strong or as interesting but it’s not weak by any means, and it does remind me of So Far Away by Dire Straits which I believe was released in the same year. But it’s not the last song, and White Feather comes blasting in at the end with all of its U2 guitars and echoing vocals. White Feather feels like a bit of an anti-climax after Childhoods End – it does have enough of the musical tone of everything which has preceded it but it does feel like a bit of a bonus track, and it does sound noticeably more upbeat than the rest of the album. They’re singing about carrying a white flag, but it doesn’t sound like the surrender which the rest of the album suggests is coming or has already happened. Does this mean that the narrator has escaped his doldrums? It’s not sudden at least – Childhoods End suggests that we have come to a breakthrough and are climbing out of the darkness, with White Feather being the rallying call for the narrator, the band, and the fans. I’m not sure the album needs it though, but what do I know?

I’m aware there is a Pink Floyd song called Childhood’s End – that always felt like a trial run for everything on Dark Side Of The Moon – I don’t know if there’s any story linking these two tracks together beyond the name. Lyrically, Childhoods End continues the conversational approach while being a more upbeat affair. You have your standard images – looking out the window to see the rain has stopped, understanding you’re not alone – aligned with the running images of the album such as realising that the child you once were never really left. The narrator has had his epiphany and can presumably move on in the accepting understanding that ‘she’ has moved on too. It’s all self explanatory and I realise Fish says all this much better than I ever could within the lyrics, so there’s no point in me explaining in my own words. White Feather then, does it act as the beginning of whatever’s next rather than the ending of this album? Yes it feels like a rally call, the narrator cleansed and asking everyone to trust him as they embark on the next piece of their journey, rejuvenated and free of poison. I guess that works as a closer.

cover art for Script For A Jester's Tear - Side 1

It’s a… good album. I don’t know if I’ll ever love it as much as those who grew up with it, but I definitely appreciate it and can understand why it was a hit and a breakthrough. I’m reminded of one of those sad facts – it’s that tad more difficult to fall in love with unheard music when you’re older versus when you’re younger. Those formative years are embroiled with feelings and experiences often felt for the first time – it’s only natural that the music enjoyed during those periods are going to be what stays with you for life over and above the more fleeting experiences and songs. Still, I always want to grow and learn and experience more – not in terms of anything genuinely tangible or useful – but in terms of listening to the next generation’s music, reading the perspective of an author from another Country or era, or watching movies made by people whose own cultural upbringing differs from my own. I’m not exactly chasing the next thing to love in the hope that it’ll recapture some spark of youth – I just want to expand the horizons of what I love beyond what I already do. 

So, that’s partly why I joined Paul and Sanja on this journey. Regular Glancers will know that I’m in the unending process of catching up on the bands and artists I missed and following this Podcast is plugging one gap. If this is the peak of what Marillion achieves, then I’m good with it. There’s still a long way to go and I’m sure there will be songs I haven’t heard yet which I will love. Paul and Sanja begin this episode of their Podcast by recapping some of what was discussed in the previous episode and why they made the decision to split the episodes the way they have. Today, they’ll be talking about the songs! And ghosts.

Paul calls Pseudo Silk Kimono a scene setter, while Sanja sees it as the opening credits, the period of Civil War text crawl. Sanja sees the song as picking up directly from where Fugazi left off, if we’re following the story of Fish. Incidentally, Fish Story is a great Japanese Movie – nothing to do with Marillion though. As it has been so long since I wrote my thoughts on this song, I can’t remember what I said about it. The analysis is plot and character and theme heavy, with further references to masks and persona. Paul sees it beginning somewhat In Media Res, linking with a later song. Did I see it as a standard opening where a trigger sends Fish’s memory off on its travels? That sounds right. Either way, there is something which sends us back in time, with the rest of the album being a journey back to present day and into the hopeful future. I remember that doodle-ooh bass bit. That’s a bit like my favourite moment from Vera – that shrill shriek like a piece of glass scratched down a chalk board during ‘we would meet again’. 

I don’t know when I heard Kayleigh – possibly on some TV show or movie, or maybe on the radio during the 80s, or possibly on the Death Rock Compilation. No idea, but I did know it. Sanja then says some words I didn’t understand. This Shamanic Treatment is something alluded to in Buffy The Vampire Slayer, when Buffy wants to find out more about herself and the true purpose of a Slayer, heading off to the desert with a gourd to contact the spirit of The First Slayer only to learn that Death is her gift. Seriously, go watch Buffy. I promise one of these posts I’ll make a meaningful comparison. 

The song has an obvious sadness, not anger. I took it as acceptance – I had my chance and now it’s gone, so there’s nothing I can do about it. Paul gives some of the background details about the writing of the song. There’s a Podcast called Fish On Friday? I just don’t have the voice for a podcast. I’m writing this on a Friday, and now I really want a Fish supper. It’s hardly the biggest story in the world, but obviously it’s huge for Fish – the band got big, he buggered off to the US, she left, and he wrote the song as a bit of an apology. They reconnected a little twenty years later, before a tragic twist ending. There’s a certain woman I knew and haven’t spoken to since 2002-ish… that’s almost time for her to contact me again I suppose. 

We’re talking about Lavender now, but I’m already dreading any future discussion of ‘wide boys’. Fish mentions Joni Mitchell in his creation of Lavender – did I mention Joni in a previous Marillion post? I’m much more of a folk Joni fan rather than her jazz stuff. Those first four albums or so are breathtaking. What is it about ancient folk songs being about sex? Damn pagans. Look at Willow’s Song from The Wicker Man – a lovely song, but you can’t hear it without seeing Britt Ekland’s arse. Which is not a bad thing. The band has obviously evolved over the course of these albums, though it’s hardly the shift of entire Genres or sounds, like from Country to Rap to Metal. Maybe they will in the future. I have plenty of bands I love which many people hate, or which will never hit the mainstream… but that’s fine. It’s a little tragic when others miss out on what I feel is great music, but if they give those artists a chance and still don’t like it – fair enough. Just be thankful you’re not a Sensorium Girlybox fan.

Bitter Suite is called out for his its darkness, its thickness, and for Fish’s spoken part. I say no to spoken parts. Oh jeebus, don’t repeat ‘lager’. The anger is described as ‘natural’, not forced, which is a good description of the album as a whole – natural, not forced. Paul and Sanja both agree on the song being sad, with the character looking for a replacement… which I think is what I got from it too. All these encounters and women… Fish was a bit of a ladies man. He could have been in Friends with the amount of relationships he’s flying through. He’s also seen a lot of movies. I haven’t seen Blue Angel. It seems apt then that this song is so Cinematic, with its sections named after movies.

On to Heart Of Lothian, and you know what. Sanja loves the song but sees the character as a little desperate. She also loves one of the ‘wide boy’ lines, which we can all agree is unacceptable. Paul gives his assessment to the theme, from what I remember I had similar vibes and takes. Can we all stop saying ‘wide boy’ now? The team end the Podcast on this song, so I’m going to head straight to the next episode and keep slapping my thoughts here. We start with Expresso Bongo, which I only recently found out was the name of a Cliff Richard song, or an older Engilsh song? I typed the name into Youtube and Cliff Richard’s song was the first return, with Marillion’s being fourth or fifth in the list. It looks like I got the interpretation of this one a little different from Paul and Sanja – them saying it is Fish judging others for their antics. Ah, Paul clarifies that it was a Cliff Richard movie, not a film. Fair enough. Time for my regular Manics comparison – A Design For Life – a song taken up by drunks and rugby louts and every other twat who thought the song was about getting drunk, is actually a song about working class identity and how the toffs see the working class as, well, scum.

Sanja loves Lords Of The Backstage and recognises a progression in the character – he’s understanding his position and is struggling upwards. Paul’s interpretation is of Fish being sick of being in a band – I think my take on it was a mixture of these. I can’t hear the name ‘Derek’ now without thinking about The Good Place. Whereas before I saw that show, I only thought of Derek Carpet – a comedy creation of my own. Blind Curve is a ‘slide into the depths of despair’, says Sanja. That about sums it up for me, although I did go off one one of my infamous tangents and talked about Nightwish instead. She picks up a musical cue connecting Grendel which I didn’t pick up, but which Paul appreciates. Paul says this is the acid trip song where Fish recognises the child he once was, almost has an out of body experience, and this shoves him upwards and out of his funk. SuperFishal? He also fills us in on who Mylo was – a guitarist the band knew who had died, so obviously most of the emotion of the song and the lyric is coming from a real place – it’s a song born rather than built. There’s a discussion about the craft of the song, the reality of the emotion, and the power of music when music and words are symbiotic. Some albums have a power, an aura, and while I will say a lot of such power always comes from whatever baggage the listener brings, the best of these types of albums have an innate ability to wrap up any listener in its clutches.

Sanja teared up while listening to Childhood’s End? and describes the song as a journey coming full circle – similar to me spotting it as an obvious closer. Paul and Sanja talk about magpies for a while – magpies popping up on several albums so far – and what this could possibly symbolize. When I hadn’t moved out of my parents’ house yet and played guitar in my bedroom, two magpies would always come and sit on the windowsill. Were they listening? Were they entranced by the shiny strings? Were they superfans and were hoping to pick up a plectrum if I launched one out the window? Who knows, but this was a daily occurrence. I love magpies – they are very pretty birds – and much preferable to the giant monster spiders which would also find their way into my room.

White Feather brings the podcast to a close, with Sanja filling in some gaps in World History by saying the white feather was a sign of cowardice in military circles – I wasn’t aware of such things. Paul believes the song is Fish admitting he’s happy being a coward and that the album as a whole feels like a therapeutic journey. There’s a summary of the personal connection the guys have, obviously most potent on Paul’s side as a lifetime listener. I haven’t listened to any of these with headphones in the dark – I haven’t done much of that since I was much younger – but I’ll admit to feeling the emotion in the album, and I’d say (in my limited opinion) that it’s their best album so far. It’s the lightning in the bottle, it’s the cohesive nature, it’s all of the guff going on inside and outside the band around the time of recording. There are more B-sides, but I don’t know if I’ll get around to talking about those – it’s that time of the year when Birthdays and Christmas and work starts ramping up to ludicrous levels. 

Let us know in the comments what you think of Misplaced Childhood!