Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Disk jockeys !

A film I hate: THE BOAT THAT SANK ... 
We like to talk about movies we like here at The Projector, maybe get lesser known films some airtime - there are also of course movies we absolutely LOATHE with a passion. That BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL was one .... (Trash label).  Then there is the abomination that is THE BOAT THAT ROCKED from 2009, Richard Curtis's supposedly affectionate tribute to the Sixties Pirate Radio ships .....

"The Boat That Rocked" is an ensemble comedy in which the romance takes place between the young people of the '60s and pop music. It's about a band of rogue DJs that captivated Britain, playing the music that defined a generation and standing up to a government that wanted classical music, and nothing else, on the airwaves. The Count, a big, brash, American god of the airwaves; Quentin, the boss of Radio Rock -- a pirate radio station in the middle of the North Sea that's populated by an eclectic crew of rock and roll DJs; Gavin, the greatest DJ in Britain who has just returned from his drug tour of America to reclaim his rightful position; Dave, an ironic, intelligent and cruelly funny co-broadcaster; and a fearsome British government official out for blood against the drug takers and lawbreakers of a once-great nation.
Everything about it is wrong though - it was actually Harold Wilson's Labour government, and particularly the revered Tony Benn, the then Postmaster-General, who shut down the pirate ships, Radio Caroline in particular, and Radio London (so everything we see here is total fantasy). The BBC then re-structured its radio shows, creating Radio 1 in 1967, where a lot of the Caroline disk jockeys ended up, Tony Blackburn, Kenny Everett, Dave Lee Travis, Johnny Walker etc, as they created names for themselves. I was 19 or 20 then, listening to pirate radio myself on my little transistor. 

The other thing that jars is that as this was the 1960s the guys were playing sixties records, the current hits of the time, on 45's. They were not rare records then, just the current top 20 - if a Dee Jay lost any records, they just replaced them at the record shop, or the record company provided more. They were not rare artefacts to be hoarded or risk your life to save if the ship is sinking.... it was of course the era of the 45 single, buying an album, like The Beatles latest, was an event. But we were living that time then, it was the present for us - not "The Sixties" as we look back at that era now. Incidentally, there is no Beatles music included here .... and some of the music used is not quite the right period, its set in 1966 but a lot of 1967 music is featured - like that album we see by The Incredible String Band (a folky combo that the hippies liked, I had a copy of it myself then) - The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again" dates from 5 years later, and it must have seemed very clever to re-create the cover of the Jimmy Hendrix "Electric Ladyland" gatefold album cover of naked ladies. The montage of record albums (including Joni Mitchell's BLUE) is a nice touch at the end, showing how the music goes on.

The plotting though is dire, full of sub-plots -  I can't even go into them, it seems mean to be unkind to all round-good guy and tireless charity fundraiser Richard Curtis, but this of all his films seems totally misconceived. He called in his pals though: Philip Seymour Hoffman is the Emperor Rosko lookalike dee jay here, and theres Emma and Ken. Branagh is simply ghastly as the cartoon (supposedly Tory one imagines) government minister who is a total killjoy out to stop pop music being broadcast, and his sidekick (Jack Davenport) is named Twatt - no wonder he looks glum here, saddled with an impossible role.  As the many negative reviews on IMDB say: the humour is pitiful and crude, the characters obnoxious, and the plot unengaging. 
It is all so relentlessly heterosexual too - Simon Callow of course made his name in the movies as the exuberant gay who topples over dead in FOUR WEDDINGS, while the lesbian sub-plot in LOVE ACTUALLY (headmistress Anne Reid looking after ailing Frances De La Tour) was shunted to the dvd extras ...

Also now, in the light of the recent Jimmy Savile revelations, the casual sexism and using the girls as groupies willing to have sex with anyone, even a naked Nick Frost (sorry, Nick) leaves a nasty taste. It is all just hopelessly wrong and peurile in the worst way. Bill Nighy seems to be enjoying himself though. 

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