Speaking of many things

Lovelace.

In the first half of the film, the 1970s are sexy fun times as Linda Lovelace throws off the shackles of her mother’s oppressive Catholicism, and becomes the poster girl for the sexual revolution.

In the second half of the film, it becomes apparent that it wasn’t sexy fun times at all, and that Lovelace was the victim of domestic abuse at the hands of her violent and manipulative husband, Chuck Trainer.

It’s this split approach which makes the film less than satisfying. The whole thing could not be Boogie Nights without being factually inaccurate, but it could be cut in half and turned into some worthy miniseries.


The music industry.

I bought myself an iPod Nano last week partly because I have it in mind to have enough devices on which all my music can be left permanently, and partly because it gives iTunes something to do.

So far I’m very pleased with the iPod. I especially like the earphones which produce decent quality sound and which managed to stay in my ears without being jammed in as is the case with the noise-cancelling Sony ones.

I had thought my days of editing the metadata of sound files were largely over, but it seems I was wrong. I’ve been curious to know how changes made in Windows Media Player, iTunes, Winamp, and mp3tag affect the other programs.

My hypothesis was that whatever change I make in one program should affect how the file is read in all the rest. In reality, they all seem to keep their own counsel. While I prefer using WMP to edit the metadata with new material before I load it into iTunes and Winamp, it seems that the peculiarities of WMP which annoyed me in the first place still remain.

I was trying to correct “Privilege” in Reach the Beach by The Fixx. I may have misspelt the title myself, or it was always that way and I’d never noticed. No matter how many times I corrected it, though, it kept reverting to “Priviledge” in WMP after a second or two until I went into Explorer and moved the entire folder, which seemed to have the desired effect.

I also discovered that right clicking on an album in WMP and selecting “Update album info” caused the entire album to be restored to its original state even although it might’ve been two or three years since that last existed. It also makes me wonder why such information is preserved when it’s either incorrectly presented or completely wrong. In addition, WMP seems to have issues with music ripped using iTunes even although the current version plays m4a files. For reasons I cannot begin to explain, WMP read some tracks, but refused to read others, and even moving folders didn’t wholly correct the issue. (Perhaps there was also a problem with setting iTunes as the default player for m4a files.) Well, at least it was only an experiment.

The behaviour of iTunes is also variable, although it’s not as querulous as WMP. It seems to detect changes made in Winamp and mp3tag (at least sometimes), but also often requires manual updating. It can be quirky in that when I moved some files to a new folder, the album art vanished even although the files were the same as before. (Album art is an odd thing because it may appear in some programs but not in others, and changing it in WMP, for example, doesn’t mean that it’ll change in other programs.) It has advised me on one occasion that about 40 tracks were missing, but this information was volunteered for reasons best known to iTunes. I had to then find the missing files, which included Pachelbel et al. played by The English Concert. Why had iTunes misplaced this particular album? No idea.

Winamp seems to be the most flexible of the media players because it can be told to rescan either the entire Music folder or to reread the metadata in an album. It’s also the most technical, but doesn’t demand a high degree of technical understanding at every turn.

mp3tag is good to a point, but requires every little change to be saved manually, which can be a nuisance.

WMP is mostly all right, but can be temperamental and I don’t like the fact that it seems to retain data that ought to have been overwritten long again. If I’m instructing it to update an album, I mean for it to read the tags in their current state. iTunes seems less temperamental, but could do with options such as telling it a.) to find files which it can no longer find and present them for review, and b.) to have the option to reread the metadata for a whole album rather than individual files. Winamp the least temperamental of all even if it does present a technical face behind. Of course, it shouldn’t matter matter which program I use to edit the metadata of music files because they should reread the data in the Music folder – if not in its entirety each time the program is started, then from the files which comprise the particular albums I’m looking at.

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Film reviews Part LXIX

American Hustle.

A couple of con artists are nicked by the FBI and forced to work for them to nick some corrupt politicians. The Mafia gets involved. Things could get very unpleasant, but our heroes manage to wriggle out of trouble and keep everyone happy apart from the FBI.

The film lacked spark, I thought. There were tense moments such as the appearance of Robert de Niro (yes, again) as the potentially über-violent mobster who could speak Arabic, but that was just largely a cameo which resulted in no particular payoff. All mouth and no trousers. No one seemed to be in any real danger and the denouement of the film was not one of those moments when the audience breathes a sigh of relief that the main characters have got away with it.


12 Years a Slave.

Solomon Northup get a job as an itinerant musician, but one night, after imbibing a little too much, he wakes up the following morning to find himself in chains and bound for the slave states where he is called Plat(t) and must hide the fact that he’s an educated freeman. During his time in servitude he witnesses and suffers all manner of barbaric treatment on the plantations, but eventually manages to get a Canadian to get word to people in New York, who rescue him.

Sad to say, Northup never received any justice for his abduction because although he had papers to prove that he was free, the law did not permit him to testify against the men who abducted him. He became an abolitionist and was involved in the underground railway that smuggled slaves to freedom, but the circumstances of his death are wholly unknown.

Not a bad film overall, but it suffered from feeling episodic in that there was this part from the book, that part from the book, and the other part from the book with only a fairly loose connection between them.


Saving Mr. Banks.

P.L. Travers, the author of the Mary Poppins books, proves to be a difficult collaborator during her involvement in the making of the 1964 film because she objects to almost everything about the production. Eventually, Disney mostly wins her over and everyone sings happily ever after.

The story is intercut with scenes from Travers’ childhood when she was Helen Goff, the daughter of an alcoholic bank manager in Australia who died of influenza at the age of 43.

As my subsequent research revealed, this is the Disney version of the making of a Disney film. In reality, much of Saving Mr. Banks is invention. More interesting would have been a biopic of Travers’ life because although she does seem to have had a very prickly personality, she wasn’t exactly conventional, having had a string of boyfriends and a very close, long-term relationship with another woman. She has started out as an actress and won fame and fortune as a writer. Although Travers had no children of her own, she had adopted an Irish boy, Camillus, whose twin brother (passed over by Travers on the recommendations of an astrologer) eventually found him in London. At the premier to which she had not originally been invited, she cried not because she was moved by the film, but rather because she was furious at what it’d done to her books.

But who cares about reality when Tom Hanks is playing Disney’s version of Walt Disney, the genial storyteller rather than the right-wing con­serv­at­ive?


The Butler.

After seeing his dad murdered with impunity, Cecil Gaines decides to leave a life of picking cotton behind him and gets a job in a hotel. He then gets a job in a hotel in Washington where he is headhunted to work as a White House butler, serving eight presidents and finally seeing a black man ascend to the American throne.

The film contrasts Gaines’ subservient role in the White House with events which were affecting black Americans as they fought for equality. One of Gaines’ sons gets involved in the Civil Rights Movement, but another goes to Vietnam and is killed.

Much of the film focuses on the 1960s and early 70s, and is dedicated to the people who were involved in the Civil Rights Movement. Apart from protests against the apartheid regime in South Africa, much of the rest is glossed over.

The film does tend to drag on and I found my interest in it waning. Like other films I’ve been watching recently, this is an American film for Ameri­can audiences.

If anything can go wrong, it will in the worst possible movie

Gravity.

I had high hopes for Gravity, but it brought me down to Earth. Disaster movie based on Murphy’s Law.


Elysium.

Social satire. The bosses live on a posh space station. The plebs live in Los Angeles, which looks like a South African shantytown. The villains have the most outrageous Seth Efrican accents. Jodie Foster has a weird accent. Matt Damon dresses up like a robot and downloads himself for the greater good.


The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones.

The film is based on some book I’ve neither heard of nor read, but it’s painfully obvious that the producers cherry-picked bits of it because there are various non sequiturs (e.g. “Hello, we’ve just met,” says Lily Collins. Five minutes later. “Now I’m going to address you as if we’ve known each other for years.”).

It’s a little Harry Potter (“I’m a special girl,” says Lily Collins), and a little bit Star Wars (“You’re my dad?” says Lily Collins. “You’re not Darth Vader, are you?” No, replies Henry VIII from The Tudors, but you did snog your brother).

After Buffy, why does anyone bother with these sorts of stories any longer?


The Family.

A black comedy about a Mafia family in a witness protection programme who end up in a village in France where they prove that an apple never falls far from the cliché. Their old associates track them down and send a hit squad to take them out. Fortunately, it’s not played for deliberate laughs, which saves it from being utterly dire.