Articles Square Eyes Television USA

24-hour plot people – 24 reviewed

Sunday, April 28, 2002

It?s 8am in 24, and we?re a third of the way through the day. How?s it working out for you?

On the plus side, the plot?s gripping and has more twists and turns than Robert Pires on the dodgems. And there?s some good use of technology to drive the story along – closed circuilt cameras, mobile phones and a large number of beautifully lit Macintosh computers.

Some of the set pieces have been good too – we?ve had lesbian assasins escaping from exploding aircraft, spook pseudo-dads murdering their offspring and surprised slackers getting shot in the head.

Of course the biggest draw is the basic premise – 24 hours of drama each taking place over an hour (allowing for US ad breaks). Back to at least one of the Aristotelian unities.

But the writers have failed to take advantage of this framework, confusing action for intensity, and forgetting about characterisation.

Everything takes place at the same helter skelter pace – when nothing?s happening with one storyline, we just concentrate on another. Or rather, they make sure that there?s never nothing happening. So when Jack?s driving along, he?s also on the phone, or scanning fingerprints, or talking to Gaines.

This means that we get no real sense of the passing of time because all the characters are in their own little world. For example, there?s never any connection made between the events of the drama and real activites that take a set amount of time. We never see a kettle boiling, or have the action measured in the time it takes to play a song on the soundtrack.

And where?s the classic thriller device of the countdown to disaster? A simple ?if you don?t get here in five minutes, I?m killing your daughter,? would work wonders, as we?d see exactly five minutes played out on the screen. The plot is clever, but there?s no playing with the form, which is a real waste.

Senator Palmer?s breakfast was supposed to be the big hit that Jack and the boys were trying to stop, but because we?re not halfway through the series, Palmer couldn?t die, and there was so much other stuff happening that there was little enough tension anyway.

And with no pauses for breath, there?s little room for characterisation.  Kiefer Sutherland keeps looking unkempt and slightly desperate, young Kim is trying to avoid popping out of her red top, and the Senator is too good to be true. But we don?t really care enough about any of them.  Why is the CTU trying to kill Palmer in the first place? Why did Jamie turn bad, and why is soul patch Tony suddenly cuddling with Nina?

With another sixteen hours to go, I?m not sure I?ve got the necessary commitment to last the course. I propose the main figures all head off for a long breakfast (has anyone eaten anything yet?) so we can get to know them better. Otherwise it?ll be a race to see whether the characters or the audience run out of energy first.

Posted by David in • Square EyesUSATelevision

Articles Film Square Eyes

Oscar War – What should really happen at awards ceremonies

Tuesday, April 02, 2002

In our playground there were simple rules of engagement. Three boys would link arms and stride around the playground chanting ?Who wants a game of War??, or if we were feeling cheeky, ?Who wants a game of Kiss Chase??.

Soon others would join in, and then the teams would be divided along certain agreed lines. Most of the time, the captains would alternately choose one person, until the only one left would be the new kid with the patch over his NHS specs to correct his lazy eye.

But on occasion, we?d divide the teams up in a different way – for example, Mrs Bowring?s class stick the rest. While watching the dreary Oscars last week, it dawned on me that the ceremony would be much more exciting if it was a team event.

So Paul Newman and Kirk Douglas would loudly declaim, ?Who wants a game of War?? while strutting around the huge auditorium. Cameron Diaz and Jennifer Connolly would stop talking about whether Nicole Kidman fancied Robbie Williams, and slouch over to join in.

Soon they?d have to work out how to divide the teams.

?It should be everyone who?s got at least one Oscar against all the losers,? says Tom Hanks. ?Except you can have Julia Roberts because she runs like a girl.?

?I?m not going on your fucking team,? bellows Russell Crowe. ?You and your flag-waving Oscar-bait ?Run Forrest, run!? piece of shit. Where?s Denzel? No way is he getting the gong for Training Day. I am Russell Ira Crowe – Commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions, loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.?

?Didn?t I see you in Neighbours?? says Gwyneth Paltrow, playing with her hair and keeping her black eyes downcast in her new grunge head-girl look.

?You leave Neighbours out of this!? say Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, Kylie Minogue and Natalie Imbruglia in unison.

?Children, children,? says Charlton Heston. ?We all know that Hollywood is the cradle of cinematic creativity, but lame-ass Europeans who don?t even allow their police to pack heat always argue that they do the good work. Let?s settle it once and for all – Americans over here, the rest of the World over there. If we win, you only get to compete for the best film in a foreign language category from now on. Mike Myers and Jim Carrey, where do you think you?re going? You?re on our side – we need your deadly comic timing.?

?No way, Moses,? says Myers. ?We?re Canadian, remember? And you don?t get Donald Sutherland, Dan Akroyd, William Shatner or Christopher Plummer either.?

?But isn?t Canadia part of the US?? asks Liv Tyler, in a very fetching way.

?Which side am I on?? pipes up Catherine Zeta-Jones. ?And how do we play? I never really did playground games when I was in primary school.  I was always rushing home to watch The Streets of San Francisco and Romancing the Stone.?

Soon the fighting begins. The Americans have the good looks and healthy diets that athletes need, and the crack Saving Private Ryan squad of Hanks, Matt Damon, Ed Burns and Tom Sizemore makes early headway against the Fops and Weaklings brigade of Hugh Grant, Rupert Everett and Ewan McGregor.

In the corner, the Baldwin family is getting their asses kicked by the Redgraves, but Billy Bob and Angelina are making mincemeat of Sam Mendes and Kate Winslet, until Billy Bob and Angelina forget about the fighting and start making gymnastic love and giving each other tattoos.

The Queen?s Own Royal Thespians are doing well for their age, with Sirs Ian McKellen, Derek Jacobi, Anthony Hopkins, and Ben Kingsley being ably assisted by Dames Maggie Smith and Judi Dench.

At one point Andie McDowell says, ?Is it raining? I hadn?t noticed,? and both sides pause to beat her like a red-haired stepchild.

The ANZAC regiment of Baz Lurhmann, Jane Campion, Nicole Kidman, Sam Neill, Peter Jackson, Russell Crowe, and Mel Gibson are sent into the heart of the mel?e without proper support by the spineless British directors Anthony Minghella and Guy Ritchie, who are safe behind lines.

Richard Harris and Peter O?Toole have adjourned to the bar, where Woody Harrelson?s rolling a big one. Winona Ryder?s slipped out the back with everyone?s coats.

In the music battle Paul McCartney, Sting and Enya are up against Randy Newman and John Goodman. Sting refuses to fight, as it?s against his Buddha nature, and Enya wails, ?I don?t perform live, I need hundreds of hours of studio time and overdubbing to make an impact.? Sir Paul miraculously withstands the heavyweight stylings of Newman and Goodman because he appears to be made of money.

Vinnie Jones strips off his tuxedo to reveal his Wimbledon FC shirt, and takes out Steven Spielberg and Ron Howard with a couple of fully committed tackles. ?I?ll give you feelgood entertainment,? he snorts.

Pacino and De Niro are both fighting dirty against the British Bad Guy division of Alan Rickman, Jeremy Irons and Robert Carlyle, who keep coming up with elaborate ways to kill the Americans only to let them go again.

Ridley Scott and his brother Tony are having their own fight. ?I make Bladerunner, Thelma and Louise, and Gladiator,? says Ridley. ?And you sully the family name with Top Gun and Days of Thunder. You know our Mam hates Tom Cruise.?

Suddenly the lights go out, the cameras and microphones stop working, and for a few moments there?s chaos. When the lights come back up, all the US forces are on their knees with their hands tied behind their backs with gaffa tape. An elite cadre of make-up artists is doing unspeakable things to the complexions of the stars.

Charlton Heston looks like a broken man. ?Against you tricksy character actors and Antipodeans we might have had a chance,? he says. ?But I forgot that all the technical people and make-up artists in Hollywood are British.

?But don?t worry, we?ll be back – we?re going to come and boss you in your own house next year at the BAFTA Smackdown.?

Posted by David in • Square EyesFilm