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The Thirty Nine Steps (1978)
The Thirty Nine Steps (1978)


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Being The Geekly Diary of Waider
(may contain traces of drinking, movies, and sport)
January 23
I don't recall if I'd seen The 39 Steps before, but I do recall reading the book and waiting for the twist that didn't come (I think, maybe, I was waiting for apparent saviours to turn out to be in league with the bad guys). This is a pretty good movie, but I can't for the life of me remember if there was a love interest in the original; certainly this seems clumsy and grafted on - "OH! You're handsome but I'm engaged." "Ah yes, but *waggles eyebrows" "OH! My fiancé has been murdered. Are you free?" The other somewhat jarring sense throughout is how capable the protagonist is; someone makes a passing expository remark late in the day to account for this, but this is a guy randomly thrust into international intrigue and before long he's mugged a vicar in a railway station toilet to steal his clothes. Which, you know, people under pressure driven to extremes and all, but really now. I think I'm going to have to read the book again to see how this actually worked in the original.

January 22
Rewatch: Rogue One: it stands up well, 4 years on from when I originally saw it. I'm not sure if I noticed the various hat-tips to the franchise the first time around: there's the obvious "I have a bad feeling about this" which you can't miss, but there's some more subtle stuff going on in shooting angles and scene compositions that harks back nicely to that first outing in 1977 (which, well, I didn't see it then; I really don't know when I did see it). And there was definitely at least one visual nod to Blade Runner, too. There are flaws as well but I think I'd echo what I said the first time around: it's leaps and bounds ahead of what Lucas did with the prequels.

January 21
One of the more amusing facets of having hooked up some home automation: I've got a TRV on a radiator next to the front door which in addition to controlling the radiator also reports the temperature. I collect this data and put it on a graph (to be honest, mainly because I have no idea what I want to do with it, and until I figure that out it can't hurt to keep collecting it). Looking at the graph, you can tell - during current cold spells - when the door has been opened, even if only to receive a delivery.

January 19
Well, I guess as season finales go, "driving a car through your ex-girlfriend's house, injuring your best friend in the process" is pretty dramatic and, uh, final. So that's the conclusion of House Season 7. One season left!

January 15
Grabbed The Man from U.N.C.L.E. off the tellybox during the week and watched it this evening. Verdict: an absolute riot. Leans more into the humour than some of Richie's earlier work, and it really works well - the dock boat chase is particularly excellent. I didn't see the twist coming, nor the twist on the twist - although I had my suspicions on the latter. Nicely shot and scored, and some lovely tips of the hat to the era of the original (which to be honest I'm not familiar with, although I think it may have shown up on the box at some point). I'd happily watch this again without a second thought.

January 09
More Hitchcock: Dial M for Murder. This is, again, brilliant. I'd seen the 90's remake (A Perfect Murder) but I'd forgotten how it worked and, it turns out, it mucked about with the plot anyway so it's not a clean match for Hitchcock's work. This is a Columbo-like whodunnit: you know what happened from the outset, and the puzzle is more how the truth will come to light. Amusingly, the detective on the case does one Columbo-like "afterthought question" as he's leaving the apartment - which of course is not an afterthought at all. The other funny thing is that the detective is sort of a cross between Columbo and Poirot - the former because he appears to take the alibis and explanations at face value, and the latter because he's a very proper gentleman with a moustache and a keen mind - and who played the detective in the remake? David Suchet, better known for playing that little Belgian detective!

One other note on these: I'd mistakenly thought Rear Window was based on a play because we'd looked through a few movies and I'd confused the descriptions of two of them. I find that the dialogue of straightforward stage-to-screen conversions tends to be very distinctive, particularly when there's a conversation; noone is ever lost for words, and there are quite complex back-and-forth sequences with no pauses for thought. It turns out that Rear Window is based on a short story, and Dial M for Murder on a play, but curiously it's the former that has play-like cadences while the latter comes across as "written for the screen".

(and now I learn that Dial M was originally written for television, then moved to stage, then to film, which maybe accounts for the less stage-like dialogue.)

January 08
I've an idea I may have watched Rear Window a long, long time ago, and since I don't appear to have a note of it in this diary that would suggest it was before August 2000... it's a brilliant piece of work. The conceit of having the main character confined to his apartment is an interesting challenge from the story-telling perspective, but Hitchcock of course carries it off easily and makes it look pretty as well. There's some lovely visual touches, like the reflections of the view in the lenses of the protagonist's camera and binoculars, and both female leads run away with every scene they're in - I think it's reasonable to say that this movie passes the Bechdel Test, which is a little surprising for something made in 1954. And even having (maybe) seen this before and seen the derivative Disturbia, I still couldn't remember or anticipate if the main character was right or wrong. If you've not seen this, you're missing a treat.

January 01
Right, let's try this again, shall we?

December 31
Good Riddance, 2020. May we never see your like again.

Final movie watch for 2020 was The Mummy and let's put it this way, it did not improve on the general shitshow that this past few months has been. It's worth noting that this was a big enough flop that it killed of a planned franchise, and it still took in $400m worldwide. Pro tip: if taking in $400m is considered a commercial failure, you may be doing something wrong.

RTÉ's New Year thing was even more atrocious than I had expected. Graham Norton seemed to be doing his regular chat show. Jools Holland's live/replay was ok, but I couldn't help noticing his entire band were maskless, by comparison to the earlier show I'd skipped past where the entire RTÉ symphony orchestra had masked up; it's not just about whether or not they need to, it's leading by example. In the end we figured we'd watch RTÉ for the roll-over; they ran a long ad break at 23:55 and then had four talking heads yammering about rubbish until suddenly it was midnight and to be honest there was so little notice of it that we almost missed it. At least we had a repeat of last year's view of fireworks both on TV and "live" to the south of us.

I am DONE with this year. OUT, DAMNED SPOT 2020!

December 29
Losing track of movies here. Somewhere along the line we've watched Stargate, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and Jason Bourne - all rewatches, so you can probably find my previous observations somewhere else on this site. Stargate holds up remarkably well for a mid-nineties movie - some of the special effects are very obviously rotoscoped or poorly chromakeyed, but aside from that it could've been made any time between then and now.

Sanctuary Runners - Good People doing something good.