Tag Archives: Game Of Thrones

Rocks In The Attic #760: Bo Hansson – ‘Lord Of The Rings’ (1972)

RITA#760Ah, the fantasy genre. The truly awful middle-ages have never appeared as good as they have in the last fifty years.  Books, films and television shows have glamorised these times, adeptly sidestepping the harsh realities of living in filth; a time when all food tasted like dirt and the average mortality rate was something like twelve years old.

J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord Of The Rings trilogy remains the genre’s high-water mark, of course, represented here by some lovely organ work by Swedish prog-botherer Bo Hansson. Before Peter Jackson’s film series in the early 2000s, and aside from a 1978 animated film, Tolkien’s work was only really visible through the imagined art of John Howe and Alan Lee.

Hansson’s Lord Of The Rings album adds to that work as a quasi-soundtrack, inspired by Tolkien’s writing and acting as an aural backdrop to the events of the books. As you might expect, it doesn’t sound a million miles away from the likes of Genesis records from around the same time. It’s the sort of music you might expect to hear in a shop that sells crystals and incense, run by a bra-less lady in her sixties.

Peter Jackson reintroduced Tolkien to the world, and gave the fantasy genre a commercial shot in the arm. This renewed interest in the anything-goes optimism of medieval times has led, of course, to the success of Game Of Thrones, both on television and in the writings of author George R.R. Martin. To be taken seriously in fantasy writing, it looks like you need to have two middle initials. One wonders whether the Yellow Pages’ fly-fishing book would have sold in greater quantities, and therefore been easier to find, if J.R. Hartley had had another middle name.

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The Game Of Thrones TV show recently concluded. After eight seasons of soap-opera level dialogue scenes, interspersed by the occasional action sequence, it’s finally over. I won’t have to hear people go on and ON about it anymore. All of these people, who have probably never seen The Wire, Band Of Brothers, or The Sopranos – or in some cases, not even Breaking Bad – will no longer bore me daily with their opinion that Game Of Thrones is television’s greatest achievement.

I have to admit, I’ve enjoyed this eighth and final season. The budgets have matched those you’d expect from feature films, and the long-separated main characters finally came together to fight a mutual enemy. If it had been like this throughout the show, I would have enjoyed it a lot more, but on the whole it’s been a long, ponderous show.

The first season was enjoyable, particularly the first episode reuniting The Full Monty’s Sean Bean and Mark Addy. It all fell apart after that, as the storylines drifted further and further apart. Most of the show’s fans seem to miss the point too, thinking that the show is about dragons and battles and the quest to sit on an iron throne. It’s not. It’s simply about a family that gets split up by the greed and bureaucracy of another family. Anything else is just dressing.

More than anything, the show was perfectly timed to cash-in on the young fans of the Harry Potter series, those annoying middle-class children who grew up immune to the derivative nature of J.K. Rowling’s books and their respective film adaptations, and were left adrift with nothing in popular culture to capture their attention. These children spent their adolescence in a time when science-fiction was in decline and Hollywood had almost killed off the traditional action genre. Suddenly, fantasy was king.

The other low point of Game Of Thrones was its unashamed use of sex to attract new, younger fans. This isn’t a new thing – even Homeland, a more serious (grown up?) show that ran over the same period, had more than its fair share of tits on display in its first season. Game Of Thrones seemed to relish in its portrayal of the female body though. You have to wonder how many of its hardcore fan-base came to the show primarily for this; came for the clunge, stayed for the dragons.

Hit: Leaving Shire

Hidden Gem: The Old Forest

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Rocks In The Attic #735: Various Artists – ‘A Clockwork Orange (O.S.T.)’ (1972)

rita#735I often wonder what Mary Whitehouse, the UK’s self-imposed guardian of decency, would think if you sat her down and played her an episode of The Walking Dead. Perhaps that episode where the bad guys made someone eat his own leg. Or maybe that one where Rick and crew were captured, kneeling at a trough, and waiting to be picked off one by one. Or that episode where Glenn and Abraham both got a baseball bat in the back of the head.

Maybe she’d prefer Game Of Thrones. She might like the episode where half of the principal cast were killed off at the red wedding, and the show took great joy at showing a pregnant woman being stabbed repeatedly in the belly.

It’s fair to say that we’ve gone a long, long way from the dark days of overbearing censorship; but have we gone too far?

I was reminded the other day of the United Kingdom’s video nasties list, something I hadn’t thought about for twenty years. Reading up on it, it feels like some kind of whacky parallel universe.

rita#735aIt all started with a legal loophole in the early 1980s. It’s hard to believe a market as big as home-video being unregulated, but as the popularity of home video wasn’t foreseen, videos were originally released without being reviewed for classification. Bonkers!

The subsequent list of films – 39 titles which could lead to prosecution following the Video Recordings Act 1984, a further 33 titles deemed less obscene (but which could be still seized by the police), and a final 82 films deemed even less obscene (but again could still be seized) – make for some interesting reading.

Of the first list, I’ve only seen two – The Driller Killer and The Last House On The Left – and if the quality of these films is anything to go by, I won’t be seeking out the rest. I’ve seen two on the second list – The Evil Dead and The Living Dead At The Manchester Morgue – but I have the most success with the third list, which seems to be a catch-all of pretty much every other horror film of the time, having seen eight titles: Dawn Of The Dead, Friday The 13th, Friday The 13th Part 2, Night Of The Living Dead, Scanners, Suspiria, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Thing.

One film commonly associated with the video nasties list was A Clockwork Orange. However, this was withdrawn from cinemas by Stanley Kubrick himself, after reports of copycat crimes. Subsequently, it was never released on home-video. Only after the director’s death was the film re-released in cinemas in 2000, and made available on VHS and DVD.

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While A Clockwork Orange is a fantastic film, it will never be one of my favourite of Kubrick’s. It’s just so damn depressing, with Michael McDowell’s Alex impossible to empathise with. Of course this is just as much to do with McDowell’s performance as it is with the character written by Anthony Burgess. I can’t ever remember McDowell playing a sympathetic character – he oozes repulsion both in the people he plays, and from the audience watching him.

Even though the age of censorship that bred the video nasties list feels like a lifetime ago, one of today’s top directors was affected early in his career. Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs was originally denied a home-video release in the UK, despite being classified for a cinematic release in 1992. Herein lies the real headache – video classification was originally considered completely separate from cinematic classification. Another example was William Friedkin’s The Exorcist, which didn’t see a home-release until 1999, despite regularly playing at midnight screenings across the country (including my local Roxy cinema in Failsworth) since its 1973 release.

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What this all boils down to is a lack of trust in the consumer. The government would (begrudgingly) allow a film to be viewed at the cinema, but wouldn’t allow it to be viewed at home because they had no control over who would see it on the family television. In theory, it sort of makes sense, but it fails in practice. A huge home audience was initially refused the opportunity to see Reservoir Dogs, once declared ‘the greatest independent film of all time’, which despite featuring a lot of blood, doesn’t actually have much on-screen violence.

Hit: Title Music From A Clockwork Orange – Wendy Carlos

Hidden Gem: I Want To Marry A Lighthouse Keeper – Erika Eigen