The never-ending endings of Edgar Wright

Look, I love Edgar Wright. I do. I was a devotee of Spaced, watching both miraculous seasons of that show so many times it’s replaced parts of my vocabulary (certain friends will forever be greeted by ‘you big bloody man’, ‘pickle’ and ‘fucking… plum!’). When Shaun came out, I liked it, though I less enamoured than my peers: I’d come of age watching action rather than horror, so Hot Fuzz was more my bag (and was it ever my bag). Scott Pilgrim deftly combined a lot of geek-out passions (music, video games, comics), and The World’s End… Ok, The World’s End I need to watch again, but I remember it being, at worst, not as good as his best. Still far from shit, though.

Now that I’ve had some time to digest Baby Driver (which, to reiterate my love for the man, I really enjoyed – saw it twice in the cinema), I’ve been able to put my finger on one of Wright’s weaknesses as a writer-director: the man is not content to end a film once. Or maybe that’s unfair – rather, he creates narratives of so many threads that he ends up having to knit a massive, unwieldy blanket to tie them all together.

There follows A LOT OF SPOILERS:

Shaun of the Dead

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Shaun of the Dead could have ended in the Winchester. Shaun and Ed, professing their love for each other, before dying romantically in a fiery blaze (with Liz looking on with a mix of understanding and disbelief). Or it could have ended with Shaun and Liz being rescued from said bar by the army. Or with Shaun and Liz adjusting to normality. Or, where it actually ended, with Shaun going to the shed to play video games with Ed. Now, I didn’t notice Wright’s many-endings syndrome at this point, because (a) it was the first big feature he’d directed (no, Fistful of Fingers does not count), and (b) it actually functions quite well: Shaun and Ed getting back together is the perfect way for this story to end. Still, I count four potential jumping off points there.

Hot Fuzz

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As with Baby Driver, what Wright (and returning writing partner Simon Pegg) did here was set up too large a cast to be disposed of neatly. Of all the members of the Sandford Neighbourhood Watch Alliance, obviously Skinner and Frank needed big, climactic send-offs. (In fact, Frank’s was satisfyingly anticlimactic.) But of course, they weren’t the actual climax, because then we need to see off Tom – a character who wouldn’t merit his own big face-off were he not played by Edward Woodward, godfather of the village conspiracy horror genre. And then there’s the exploding police station, with Danny’s fake death. And then the flowers on the gravestone fake-out. And then the triumphant screech of brakes as the car takes off. You could make a strong case for several of these being elements in the same ending – Tom + explosion, graveside + car – but my point is, they all feel like big beats where you could solidly end the film had you engineered the story that way. Wright engineered a story that required all of these endings, and it dragged a bit as a result. And I say that as someone who regards Hot Fuzz as his favourite Wright movie.

Scott Pilgrim

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I’m gonna hold my hands up and admit I have not read the Scott Pilgrim comic book, so I don’t know how faithful Wright’s ending was to the comic book, but as its adaptor, it’s his responsibility to decide which bits to trim. There’s the fight with Gideon, then the second fight with Gideon, then the Nega-Scott face-off (again, a satisfying little anticlimax), then the resolution with Knives (I’m told this was maybe the original ending?), then the resolution with Ramona. Again, these endings do a good job of tying up threads and foreshadowings from earlier in the narrative, but remember: Wright started those threads. He painted himself into a corner, storytellingwise.

The World’s End

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As mentioned above, TWE is the Wright movie I am least familiar with, so I’m on less sure ground here, but as far as I remember… they have the face-to-face with the aliens, and the aliens bail (1), and as a result the world ends (2), and then we get… I mean, I only remember one epilogue (Gary’s, at the water bar with his robot followers) (3), but something’s telling me every surviving character got their own sign-off? Even if it was just Gary, that’s still three endings.

Baby Driver

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  1. Baby could’ve left his foster-dad at the old folks’ home and made a clean getaway. But no.
  2. Jon Hamm could’ve died at the diner, leaving Baby and Debora to go live a life on the run. But no.
  3. Baby could’ve won round Kevin Spacey and then got away with Debora. But no.
  4. Jon Hamm could’ve died when his car went into the elevator.
  5. Or when his car went over the ledge.
  6. Or he could’ve died when he did, and Baby and Debora get away, and Baby would have had to live with hearing loss for the rest of his life, and that’s his karmic payment for his life of crime. But no.
  7. Baby surrenders, goes to trial, gets five years (parole), comes out, and THEN he and Debora get to drive off into the sunset.

Would endings 1-6 have been as satisfying as ending 7 ended up being? With the exception of maybe number 6, no – undoubtedly no. Number 7 tied up all the loose ends, paid off various foreshadowings from earlier on. As with Wright’s other movies, it’s all wonderfully layered and neat, storytellingwise. But it’s still a bit bloated, innit? He may make a very satisfying filmic lasagne, but no-one forced him to make it with 17 layers.

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Bloodline: Part One (S01E01)

I found myself in a bit of a strange situation, this evening: I’d completed Netflix. Which, ok, fine, not completely true: I have not, for example, subjected myself to a single Adam Sandler movie, but in terms of the stuff I knew I definitely, definitely wanted to watch? I was at a stage of complete catched-up-ness. Orange is the New Black, Better Call Saul, Rick and Morty, Stranger Things, Hannibal, Jessica Jones, Black Mirror, Community, The Thick Of It, The Expanse, Top of the Lake, Making a Murder, The People vs OJ Simpson, Luke Cage: these were the shows that Netflix got me invested in, and none of them have new episodes forthcoming (in some case, permanently; in others, there’s a short-to-long term wait). There’s some additional shows around the margins, of course: The Get Down and Master of None, I just couldn’t get into; Daredevil and Kimmy Schmidt both lost me halfway through their second seasons; I actively disliked Santa Clarita Diet, switching it off halfway through episode one. And yes, there are dozens of comedy specials and movies (including, just as an aside, the great Dig Two Graves and the unexpectedly entertaining Unfriended), but in terms of long-range narrative series I could sink my teeth into? Spent.

(Oh, there’s also House of Cards and Dear White People, but I’m watching both of those with my girlfriend, who’s away the moment. Last time one of us skipped ahead on a joint project, there were tears. And they were mine. And it was season one of Serial. Seriously, how are we still together after that breach of trust?)

So, casting about for something to do that wasn’t just rewatch episodes of Rick and Morty or my perennial fallback of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (which, I’m sure we can agree, doesn’t meet the standard criteria of long-form narrative), I stumbled upon Bloodline, which I believe I’ve heard is not being picked up for another series. Perfect: until I caught up with Netflix, seeing just-cancelled shows was my modus operandi. See also: Hannibal. See also: Breaking Bad. See also: Boardwalk Empire. It reassures me to know a TV series has a definite end in sight, an arc – it means the creators don’t end up spinning their wheels in an effort to keep the gravy train rolling. See: Lost.

All of which pre-amble is to say: I had no investment in Bloodline. I knew Kyle Chandler played the lead in it, and while not being his number one fan, I regard him as a solid, non-offensive presence on-screen. He’s reassuring, like a custom-built oak chair from a respected neighbourhood carpenter. So I flick it on, and become steadily more impressed as the credits roll. Ben Mendelsohn, one of my favourite character actors from Animal Kingdom and Killing Them Softly and The Place Beyond the Pines and all number of wonderful things. And Linda Cardellini, who I never really got over since being dazzled by her smile in the opening credits of Freaks and Geeks. And fuck – Sissy Spacek and Sam Shepard, two very respectable older character actors. And, er, Jamie McShane? As in, son of Ian McShane!? Oh, no, he’s not… well, turns out he’s also had small-to-medium parts in Gone Girl and Argo and Nightcrawler, and I enjoyed all those movies, so sure, why not? Jamie McShane’s in it too.

The aforementioned Chandler plays John, county sheriff and favourite son of the south Floridian Rayburn clan. His parents Sally and Robert (Spacek and Shepard) run a popular beachside hotel; his younger brother Ray (Norbert Leo Butz*) and sister Meg (Cardellini) are locals, of some variety; his older brother Danny (Mendelsohn) is the troublemaking family black sheep, come back home to celebrate the annual Rayburn reunion. ‘Part 1’ does a solid job of laying out the strained familial relations, though the dishing out of certain characteristics to certain genders is a bit predictable: Sally and Meg are the supportive womenfolk most keen to stick up for Danny, while Kevin and Robert are the practically-minded patriarchy with memories of disappointments past.

As a peace-keeping lawman, John is called upon to make most of the important decisions this episode: Danny, angling to stick around, asks him to speak to their father on his behalf, and when Robert, with Solomon-like wisdom, defers the decision to the remaining siblings, John has the deciding vote between the forgiving Meg and the stubborn Kevin. At first, John favours Danny staying – he hints to Kevin that he and Danny have a long, unknown history – but after big bro disgraces himself one too many times, upsetting even his doting mother in the process, John opts to put him on the next bus out of town (though not without sneakily laying the blame at Robert’s door).

I was enjoying this slow burn of simmering family resentments and tangled relationships, so I felt a bit let down by the overly dramatic flashforwards of John dragging an unconscious Danny through a storm-drenched bayou. ‘Chill, Netflix,’ I said, out loud, on my own. ‘You’ve already got me involved. You don’t need to tease me on with this sensationalist foreshadowing.’ The idea that John would end up being his brother’s keeper was already subtextually evident – why tip the hand this early?

Of course, I was wrong, in exactly the way Netflix wanted me to be, and the episode ends on an explosive cliffhanger that throws John’s steadfast image off-kilter. I’m pretty sure I’m into Bloodline for the long haul now, giving Netflix another good stretch of time to prepare more margin-area shows for me to trawl through.

*How does someone with a name like Norbert Butz get this high-profile a job? Seriously?

Brian Eno to deliver Edinburgh Uni lecture

Legendary record producer, artist and musician Brian Eno will deliver this year’s free Andrew Carnegie Lecture at Edinburgh University’s George Square Lecture Theatre on May 10, 2016.

The news comes one day after Eno unveiled his latest song, ‘The Ship’, a 21-minute epic taken from the forthcoming album of the same name. The Ship LP is out on April 29, 2016 on Warp Records, with a series of installations scheduled to coincide with the release… [read the rest on wow247.co.uk]

Eight of the best kebab shops in Edinburgh

As recently reported on our sister site, the Edinburgh Evening News, the winner of this year’s prestigious Best Kebab in Scotland award was Nawroz Restaurant (you can find it in the student hot spot of Potterrow).

While we’re fully on board with Nawroz picking up the main gong, we feel the full shortlist is also worthy of celebration – and we’re not the only ones.

Here are some heartfelt recommendations from the people who value Edinburgh’s kebabberies the most, the humble punters (aka you guys)… [read the whole thing at wow247.co.uk]

 

 

How the new Robot Wars is shaping up: an eye-witness account

After an absence of more than a decade from our screens, Robot Wars is back. Long-time fan Niki Boyle was there to watch the filming of the new series in Glasgow – and it was as exciting as you’d expect. ACTIVATE! 

There were three great things about watching Robot Wars as a geeky teenage boy. First and foremost, it was presented by Craig Charles (the less said about ‘bad boy’ Jeremy Clarkson’s initial stint, the better), who was already a figurehead among nerds for his role in Red Dwarf.

We already idolised Lister as someone who could travel through space while being unashamedly gross and juvenile – having him rant, rave and deliver self-consciously cringeworthy poetry in the (semi-)real world was glorious… [read the rest on wow247.co.uk

Five Alternative Uses for Edinburgh’s Public Loos

Earlier this week we learned that ten public loos around the city, including conveniences in Canonmills, Tollcross and London Road, are set to be sold off by Edinburgh City Council for private investment.

If you think that sounds like an excuse to pee money up the wall, think again; David Alexander, of estate agents DJ Alexander, has estimated that the public loos in Canonmills could be worth up to £200,000.

With that much money to splash around, we’ve had a quick think on how the buildings could be used… [read the rest on wow247.co.uk]