Tag Archives: John Cleese

Rocks In The Attic #702: Alexandre Desplat – ‘Isle Of Dogs (O.S.T.)’ (2018)

RITA#702Okay, I’m calling it: Wes Anderson has run out of ideas.

There was a time when I’d be over the moon about a new Wes Anderson film. For a long time, he was my favourite director. David Fincher films would show me the scary side of humanity, but Wes Anderson films would hold my hand and reassure me that it’s going to be alright.

But then the first damp squib emerged with 2007’s The Darjeeling Limited, a film lacking originality beyond its armchair tourism setting. Back in 1974, John Cleese opted out of the fourth and final series of Monty Python’s Flying Circus out of a fear of repeating himself. In the same stale frame of mind, Anderson turned to a new medium to spark his creativity.

2009’s Fantastic Mr. Fox is the last great Wes Anderson film, and strangely so. It might be the first time he’s adapted the work of others – in this case, Roald Dahl’s children’s book – but the challenge of filming it with stop-motion puppets reinvigorated Anderson. After two decades of computer animation ruling children’s cinema, it was great to see something so home-made, yet so quintessentially from the whimsical mind of Anderson.

What followed were two live-action films that played like parodies of Wes Anderson films: 2012’s Moonrise Kingdom and 2014’s The Grand Budapest Hotel. They looked great, they were complimented by wonderful ensemble casts, but the spark just wasn’t there. It was a long, long way from something like Rushmore, The Royal Tennenbaums or The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou.

So it was with great trepidation that I approached Isle Of Dogs. As with all of his films, it looks nice, but it’s nothing more than a rehash of everything we’ve seen before.

The music, as always, is wonderful, and while I prefer the more idiosyncratic soundtrack collaborations with Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh earlier in Anderson’s career, these later ones scored by Aexandre Desplat come a close second. This particular soundtrack is worthwhile if only for introducing me to I Won’t Hurt You by The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band, a beautiful latter day Kinks song in everything but name.

I don’t look forward to Wes Anderson films anymore. In fact, I dread to think what Steely Dan think of his films now?

Hit: Midnight Sleighride  – The Sauter-Finegan Orchestra

Hidden Gem: I Won’t Hurt You – The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band

Rocks In The Attic #621: Monty Python’s Flying Circus – ‘Monty Python’s Flying Circus (O.S.T.)’ (1970)

RITA#621I recently watched Holy Flying Circus, the BBC’s dramatisation of the events surrounding the release of Monty Python’s Life Of Brian in 1979. Portrayed by a bunch of lookalikes and soundalikes, including an uncannily accurate impression of Eric Idle by the comedian Steve Punt, Holy Flying Circus is overloaded with Pythonesque references and absurdist humour. The film finds the Python team and their management in the middle of a backlash from Christian groups and local councils against Brian, culminating in the now infamous television debate between Michael Palin and John Cleese versus Malcolm Muggeridge and the Bishop of Southwark.

RITA#621aAs much as I love Python, their television sketches have lost a lot of their edge over the years; what was once irreverent now seems fairly quaint. More interesting to me is the behind the scenes story of the Python team themselves, and their journey from television sketch comedians to ‘blasphemous’ film stars and beyond. Holy Flying Circus doesn’t really add anything new if one is already familiar with the team’s 2003 autobiography or Michael Palin’s diary concerning The Python Years (2006).

Still, I could watch an Eric Idle sketch like Nudge Nudge over and over without ever getting bored. Or the sight of Michael Palin having the courage to repair bicycles in a world full of Supermen. Or Terry Jones dealing out religious justice as The Bishop. Or The Meaning Of Life’s impending doom from glorious slow-motion topless pursuers.

Hit: Pet Shop

Hidden Gem: Nudge Nudge

RITA#621b

Rocks In The Attic #521: Fawlty Towers – ‘Fawlty Towers’ (1980)

RITA#521.jpgI went to see David Brent: Life On The Road the other night. A major disappointment, the film didn’t really go anywhere past its initial premise. In fact, it would have made a much better hour-long TV special.

Even since The Office finished after two series, Ricky Gervais has claimed to be following John Cleese’s model with Fawlty Towers: two six-episode runs, leaving the public wanting more, but killing the show off before standards start to slip. A couple of lukewarm Office Christmas specials muddied the water slightly, but it did look like Gervais had left the show behind ever since.

Unfortunately, the latest appearance of David Brent is a failed attempt to hark back to the early 2000s success of The Office. The absence of Gervais’ writing partner Stephen Merchant could be to blame, but I just think too much water has passed under the bridge. The mockumentary concept – never original, merely forgotten by the time The Office first aired – is now a staple of television comedy. It’s so ubiquitous that shows don’t even bother alluding to the format anymore (see Parks & Recreation, Modern Family), and audiences don’t even question the way that talking head interviews to camera break up the narrative.

The most annoying aspect of Life On The Road was Brent’s high-pitched laugh – a sound used sparingly in the television show, but rolled out seemingly after every other line in the film. Still, the damage that Gervais has done to the Brent legend is nothing next to the awfulness of John Cleese recently rolling out Basil Fawlty for a Specsavers commercial. How the mighty have fallen…

Hit: “Mrs. Richards” Scene 2: Mrs. Richards’ Room

Hidden Gem: “Hotel Inspectors” Scene 2: Dining Room At Lunchtime