Saturday, December 26, 2009

New Guy Ritchie movie honors Irish crime writer

Well, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was born in Edinburgh, but the Doyles were an Irish Catholic family, and Doyle's mother was Mary Foley.

OK, I admit that that was just a hook. I mentioned it because several minor characters in the new Guy Ritchie/Robert Downey Jr./Jude Law movie, Sherlock Holmes, speak with what sound to me like Irish accents. I eagerly anticipate a critique from the blogosphere's leading critic of Irish accents in movies.

More notable is a scene of Holmes fighting a bare-knuckles boxing match to the accompaniment of Luke Kelly and the Dubliners singing "Rocky Road to Dublin," even though the band members did not write the song, as the movie's credits say they did.

The film also makes interesting use of the vaunted Holmes logical method, alluding to it at the very beginning, and then having Holmes do so just a time or two later on. This lets Guy Ritchie do his action/special effects thing without getting bogged down in old-fashioned mannerisms.

What other contemporary touches does Ritchie bring? In the aforementioned fight scene, he turns Holmes' famed logical method into a kind of Zen-like meditation that will be familiar to a generation raised on latter-day, glossy martial-arts-influenced movies. And the central plot strand, more thriller than detective tale, has a steam-punk overtone.

Robert Downey's Sherlock Holmes is more dissipated than the typical Holmes, falling into a depressed funk and letting his room fall into an alarming state of disorder. (The emphasis on the dark side goes only so far, though. Holmes used cocaine, but probably could not be shown doing so in today's moral environment. See Smithsonian.com for interesting speculation on a possible literary source for the darker side of Sherlock Holmes. That source, too, is Irish.)

That's how Guy Ritchie updates Sherlock Holmes. How do other directors update old stories?

© Peter Rozovsky 2009

Labels: , , , , , ,

47 Comments:

Blogger pattinase (abbott) said...

And a happy holiday to those in Philadelphia, lucky ones. I will see this because I never pass up a chance to watch Downey at work. But it seems too action-oriented and not cerebral enough.

December 26, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks.

I don't keep up with movies, so I had this idea that Downey was just one more doped-up, spoiled celeb. But his performance was quite good in a role that must have offered ample temptation to go over the top.

The movie certainly is action-oriented. Perhaps readers who know their Holmes better than I do can tell if any of the Conan Doyle stories were thrillers, as this movie was, rather than detective stories. The movie did make occasional bows to the Holmes tradition, though. Irene Adler plays a prominent role, and I suspect the sexual tension is closer to the surface than in her one appearance in a Sir A.C.D. story.

December 26, 2009  
Blogger seana said...

No, I think Downie's the real thing when it comes to acting. His drug problems or solutions are secondary to all that. I haven't seen this yet, but it's high on my list.

My v word? tweetive.

December 26, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

You'd better rush to trademark tweetive before Twitter does so.

I thank you for the good word on Downey. It's not easy sneering at everything, so it's good for me to hear that the man is good at what he does even though Time magazine put him on its list of the 100 most influential people in the world.

December 26, 2009  
Blogger seana said...

It's probably too late for tweetive. I'm sure Google has a copyright on everything the word verifier generates.

If Downey can use his influence to make people think there is something in life beyond being a drug addict, his making that list is probably a good thing.

December 26, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

If that's why he made the list, you know more than I do. I found out he had made the list only when carrying out a search in preparation for this post. You will guess from my comments about George Clooney that I am wary of and vaguely nauseated by the spectacle of celebrities craving respect and getting it.

I am not making this up, but I think Princess Diana made a similar list of the 100 most important people of the last 1,000 years. I am content to salute Robert Downey Jr.'s ability as actor without having to be told that he is one of the most influential people on the planet.

December 26, 2009  
Blogger seana said...

I'm just guessing, but I doubt Downey cares much about that list either.

December 26, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Unless he regards the list as just one more source of good pub.

I worry myself needlessly about stupid lists and about Time being indistinguishable from People and CNN from Entertainment Tonight. I'll forget all that and rejoice that I've discovered the work of a good actor.

December 26, 2009  
Blogger seana said...

He may be more calculating than I credit him for, but in the end, it doesn't matter. I think that for a real actor, celebrity may be more trouble than help.

The movie I've heard that one should see is his version of "Chaplin". He was quite young when he did it, and no doubt on drugs. Again, it doesn't matter, at least in terms of the acting.

December 26, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

One criticism I remember of "Chaplin" is that it breaks off at an odd moment in Chaplin's life. I salute any actor with the guts to take on a role like that.

I could take or leave celebrity until celebrities started being taken seriously -- that is, until newspapers would bruit about Bono's name for the Nobel Peace Prize, and George Clooney started thinking he made millions of dollars per movie because of his brains and commitment and political seriousness.

December 26, 2009  
Blogger seana said...

I see your point, but the fact remains that they do have influence. Celebrity is a sort of commodity, and it's interesting how people feel the need to use it for altruistic purposes, even if their original fame is for something like acting or sports. Given that they are famous, what would you have them do with that fame instead?

December 27, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Ah, I don't know. I wish it were possible to be a celebrity quietly. But that would defeat the point of being a celebrity, wouldn't it? This thing goes beyond movie stars, I think. Any athlete with an IQ over 100 and a salary over $10 million and without a rap sheet (or with a small one) is regarded as a spokesman on social issues.

If I had to choose among politically committed movie stars, give me Paul Newman over George Clooney any day.

And I wonder, as The New Republic did some years ago in a piece about, er, George Clooney and the TV series K Street, whether Hollywood overrates its own influence.

December 27, 2009  
Blogger Linkmeister said...

Doug Glanville (former major league baseball player) has been writing some good essays in the NYT for the past few years, and today's column has some relevance to the topic of celebrity.

December 27, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks. Doug Glanville is a local guy. He played a few years for the Phillies, and I think he went to Penn as well. He always had a repuation as a good guy.

I skimmed the essay, and I like whaat he has to say. At least he's ot like the occasional idiot who has defended Tiger Woods.

December 27, 2009  
Blogger Linkmeister said...

No. It's more an explanation of how easily newly-minted professional athletes (and other people) can trip and fall.

Glanville was a serviceable MLB player, and I think he got an engineering degree from Penn.

December 27, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I read the piece. It's a good bit of advice for athletes and an argument for the old-fashioned virtues of brains and education.

Of course, Tiger Woods went to Stanford, so he has the education.

December 27, 2009  
Blogger seana said...

The Glanville piece actually makes me have more sympathy for the miscreants than I normally do--you wonder how any of them resist the temptations.

v word=crowba, which is interesting, as one has just figured significantly in Alan Glynn's Winterland, the novel I'm currently reading.

December 27, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

A crowba is used to pry open crates in Massachusetts.

Glanville is an intelligent guy who has a level-headed outlook on things. I also read an interesting commentary that compared Tiger Woods unfavorably to other current athletes, among them Derek Jeter. Those guys, knowing the temptation available to a young, rich and coddled athlete playing in New York, have chosen not to get married yet.

I think some people are angry at Tiger Woods less for cheating on his wife than for lying, circumventing the law, and thinking he was above scrutiny. I have absolutely zero sympathy for him for his lost endorsement income, because the companies that hired him as a pitchman were not buying a successful golfer, they were buying an image. When Woods got caught, he no longer supplied that image. He was no longer giving Nike and Accenture and so on what they bought, and therefore he no longer deserved to be paid.

But think of it: What does being a great golfer have to do with a consulting company like Accenture? It's the cult of celebrity. So I'm not sorry to see Woods take a fall. it would not be a tragedy if he were forced to make a living by actually doing what he's good at, which is playing golf.

December 27, 2009  
Blogger seana said...

There are other uses of crowbas in crime fiction, though.

Because I am slowly making my way through From Dawn to Decadence by Jacques Barzun, on Adrian McKinty's recommendation, I am seeing the whole Tiger Woods debacle through a slightly different lens. Glorification followed by disgrace is part of the trajectory of the heroes of Western civilization according to Barzun. He says that this is not due to mass stupidity but is kind of a check and balance on the mavericks of our culture, but I don't know. I'll place my bets on stupidity every time.

December 27, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Crowbar was also the name of a Canadian rock band that had a hit in the 1970s called "Oh, What a Feeling (What a Rush!)" I don't suppose many people here other than me and possibly John McFetridge remember it around these parts, though.

I ought to read the Barzun book as well. The pattern of Tiger Woods' downfall may be familiar but the standards by which his moral descent is measured are different. He has fallen short of standards dictated by corporations. Woods was undoubtedly stupid to get caught as he did, but his greater stupidity, or at least that which the story interesting, is that he was lured by the false god of money, then realized he could not live up to the impossibly high standards of rectitude set by his corporate paymasters and, driven mad by this moral imprisonment, .started sleeping with strippers

December 27, 2009  
Blogger seana said...

Of course on one level I think his sense of entitlement is appalling. But I also find it interesting that it's not just the usual suspects that are titillated by what is probably an all too common story, it's "thoughtful" news commentary shows like Keith Olbermann's and Rachel Maddow's that have taken the bait in a gleeful way as well. I'd think that there was far more of urgent and pressing need to discuss than this if you actually want to talk about serious news rather than just distractions. I would also think Woods' corporate paymasters might have known where to send the money to hush this up, as you can be assured that if he hadn't been caught out, they wouldn't have cared one whit about his "moral rectitude".

December 27, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Well, Keith Olbermann got his start in sports, snf Rachel Maddow is a little too perky for me take her too seriously as a thoughtful commentator.

They care for Tiger Woods' moral rectitude only insofar as it constitutes the image that they are paying good money for.

December 27, 2009  
Blogger seana said...

Yes, but that was an image they decided upon. They could as easily have portrayed him as a rakish George Clooney type. So we have to wonder--is this the end of Tiger Woods, or only the beginning? A "rebranding", so to speak?

December 27, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

The end of Tiger Woods as a brand, perhaps. The end of Tiger Woods as a golfer? One hopes not.

I suggested that some stock brokerage or mutual funds house could snag Tiger Woods as a client. The campaign's tag line could be: "Be like Tiger: Diversify" -- accompanied, of course, by an appropriate procession of attractive women.

December 27, 2009  
Blogger Linkmeister said...

Ouch. Peter, that's snark. Brokerage houses want to exhibit calm and measured, not sarcasm or even dry wit (unless you count John Housman's "We make money the old-fashioned way; we earn it" phrase for Smith Barney.)

December 28, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

A secondary tag line: "Who says mutual funds are boring?"

And what about the old television commercials that said: "When E.F. talks ... " followed by all action in some crowded scene coming to a halt as everyone strains to hear what E.F. Hutton says.

December 28, 2009  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

Thats what I get for being, er, incapacitated for a couple of days. Missing an interesting thread like this. I'm going to see Sherlock Holmes on the 28th so I'll get back to you on the accents.

I still hold to the contention that Scotsmen cannot do Irish accents: Billy Connolly, Sean Connery, Gerard Butler etc.

The only convincing N Irish accent I've ever heard by a non N Irish peson is Miranda Richardson in The Crying Game.

December 28, 2009  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Maybe I'm an old perv but I find Rachel Madow hot in a brainy-girl forbidden fruit kind of way (she was a Rhodes scholar and of course is gay).

December 28, 2009  
Blogger Brian O'Rourke said...

The wife and I are looking forward to seeing Sherlock Holmes, especially as it seems to be sharply dividing crowds everywhere.

I'm no expert on Doyle's stories, but I do remember that Holmes had a background as a fighter in them, and he was certainly a little more rough and tumble than the Basil Rathbone incarnation everyone seems to regard as holy canon.

December 28, 2009  
Blogger Brian O'Rourke said...

Re: Woods.

My question is, why did he get married in the first place? He already had most, if not all, of these major endorsement deals before he took his vows, so his image didn't need any help. And I'm willing to bet 99.9% of golf fans everywhere wouldn't have cared one iota whether he ever got hitched or not.

And (in this hypothetical universe where he never got married) if he got caught "man-whoring" it up, he wouldn't have been looked down upon at all. Nobody is boycotting George Clooney movies because the guy refuses to settle down. If anything, just the opposite.

But then again, this is the human heart we're talking about, so dissecting Woods's behavior with cold logic might not get us much of anywhere.

December 28, 2009  
Blogger seana said...

I think Rachel Maddow is actually pretty tough behind the perky, or I would say comic facade. But I still find it strange that she and Olbermann have taken much time over this one.

You're right Brian--it would have made sense to follow the George Clooney model, but I doubt that his actions were actually deeply analyzed and thought through in such a logical way.

Too much of the Christmas wassail bowl, then, Adrian?

December 28, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian, I'm glad to have you back. I'd guessed that your failure to weigh in on this matter might have been due to holiday celebrations or to intense writing. Some of us here have heard that you write novels, you see.

Interesting you should maintain that Scotsmen can't do Irish accents. An earlier commenter in this string says that several Irish names turn up in the Sherlock Holmes cast list and that the palm reader, a character whose accent I had noticed, was played by a Irish actress. I'll be interested in that commenter's opinion of the accents if he sees the movie, since the man is a Dubliner and presumably knows something about Irish accents.

In any case, much discussion of this movie centers on its new take on Holmes. An Irish presence in London is part of that, I think. I'm no Holmesian, but I don't remember such presence in Doyle's stories or previous movies. "Rocky Road to Dublin" just might be an especially apt choice for the soundtrack.

December 28, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian, you'll have to give better evidence than that before this court will accept your old-perv credentials. She is decidedly attractive in a brainy-girl way (I don't know about the forbidden-fruit part), and I suspect I might enjoy her company. But that part of the CNN schedule strives so mightily to project an image that I find it hard to watch. Not every news host has to project the (bogus?) gravitas of a traditional white male anchorman, but CNN's obvious and deliberate effort to be different is grating.

It's the same with the grating bonhomie of sportscasters on American television these days - the laughter, the talking over one another. It's a look, it's a style, and I don't much like it.

December 28, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Brian, someone who knows more about Holmes than I do wrote on another blog that he (Holmes) does indeed know boxing and another form of combat that turns up in the film. But I have this impression that Holmes' experience in such matters is largely confined to his and Watson's recollections. I'm not sure the stories show him using those skills. The scriptwriters may have done some savvy extrapolation. Whatever changed the movie rings on the Holmes legend seem to have been carried out with some thought and intelligence.

December 28, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Brian, you ask the same question that the commentator I cited with approval did. Derek Jeter knew the temptation were there, apparently decided there was no reason not to take advantage of them, and decided the time was not right to get married.

Tiger Woods was not nearly as smart as Jeter.

It's not that hard to bring cold logic to bear on Woods' behavior. It's easy to simply guess that he was too naive, too stupid or too arrogant to realize what he was getting into.

There are two lessons to be learned from this, and neither will be preached in the mainstream sports media. One is that successful athletes really ought to think about not marrying during their careers. But that little bit of anti-hypocrisy will not play in Middle America.

The other lesson is about the danger of being drawn too tightly into the thrall of sponsors and the images they demand. I don't expect we'llbe hearing too much of that on ESPN either.

December 28, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, I'm guessing that most people here will have more insight into television that I do, but I don't find it strange that Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann would spend so much time on Tiger Woods. On MSNBC, at least for the bloc on which they appear and which my next-desk colleague at work watches, news and entertainment are indistinguishable. Tiger Woods' situation lets them discuss a titillating celeb story and pretend they are discussing a Big Issue -- just like we are going right here.

I have absolutely no trouble believing Rachel Maddow is tough any more than I have trouble believing that Conan O'Brian and Craig Ferguson are savvy and intelligent. It's the ends to which they direct that toughness and brains that are so distressing.

December 28, 2009  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Going back to Jeter for a minute. Probably the canniest player of any sport in America today. For someone so high profile he's completely off the radar, which is kind of brilliant.

December 28, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I referred earlier to "CNN's obvious and deliberate effort to be different, as exemplified by Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann. I meant MSNBC, of course.

December 28, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian, I was waiting for you to weigh in on Jeter. You're right about him. I just hope the mainstream sports media don't start turning him into a commodity: the personification of class.

I have probably mentioned the time in 1997 when, after Curt Schilling had struck out 16 Yankees in an interleague game, Jeter was wandering around South Street when he complimented my colleague's girlfriend in her appearance, and apparently did so in a most gentlemanlike manner.

December 28, 2009  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

I like the fact that the NYY gave him the #2 jersey as a rookie, this after a horrible year in AAA. Even back then it seemed that people knew there was something special about him.

December 28, 2009  
Blogger seana said...

Since Jeter is brilliant enough to be off my radar entirely, I'll just say that I have a theory that a lot of these lefty infotainment news shows got their start in the Bush 2 years, when the news was so relentlessly dismal that you had to have something to compensate for that in the telling of it. It's interesting now with Obama that it's harder for them to just counter him. It's a dilemma for the left in general I think. They're disappointed in him, but they don't want to say it too loud. I say they only because I have been somewhat skeptical about his whole change platform from the start. If anything, I am probably a little less disappointed because I see that, as a political animal, he's really quite brilliant--indeed, one might say Jeteresque.

December 28, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Derek "Single-Digit" Jeter will forever be known as the last Yankee to wear a single-digit number, and he'll deserve the honor. There have been blessedly few paeans to his "class," and I respect him all the mroe for this.

December 28, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, that's an interesting socio-entertaino-political take on the news. I'd never have tied MSNBC's frivolousness to the Bush years. I'd have thought it yet one more example of the amusing-ourselves-to-death phenomenon. (And no, I have not read that book.)

I can sympathize with the left's dilemma. The right has its house news network; I can understand why, given this circumstance, the left might feel constrained to mute its criticism.

December 28, 2009  
Blogger seana said...

Actually, I think both Olbermann and Maddow have been more analytical of the details of health care bill than say the PBS newshour. Lehrer's show, which for some reason doesn't want to call itself the Lehrer Newshour anymore is better on reportage, on showingan effect of how health care plays out, but the other two are better at plowing through the general obfuscation around the entire drawn out mess and in a way that's fairly palatable. It's not all frivolous. It is, though, like the kind of strategy a gifted teacher would use in getting across a difficult subject to a bright but disinclined high school class. On that level, it works for me, but probably doesn't work for you.

December 28, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, I feel shamefully superficial right now, and I will give no details for the moment other than to say that your observation in this matter carries far more weight than mine.

December 28, 2009  
Anonymous solo said...

Peter
I'm afraid I still haven't seen the latest Sherlock Holmes but your post got me thinking of the worst Irish accent I've heard in the movies. It was in a little seen 1961 western called Gold of the Seven Saints starring Clint Walker and Roger Moore. The bould Sir Roger, which I think we have to call him nowadays, plays an Irish cowboy no less. His brogue is an enunciatory atrocity the like of which I've never heard, making later abominations by Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, et al, seem positively authentic.

I don't know why actors or directors bother with accents. I think a cost benefit analysis would show that the good from a convincing accent is vastly outweighed by the damage done by a bad accent

Not that it matters a damn at the box office. Dick van Dyke's horrible Cockney accent was a classic for the ages but despite that Mary Poppins was one of the highest grossing movies of the 60s

Athbhliain faoi mhaise dhuit DBB!

December 31, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Go mba hé duit!

I have fond memories of Mary Poppins. I'd probably regard Dick van Dyke's accent with a smile today.

Movie actors probably overestimate their skill with accents, and I'm not sure a director or a producer wants to alienate his stars. And accents can be too perfect. I don't know my American South accents well, but the accents in The Drowning Pool, the sequel to the Paul Newman movie Harper, struck me as too studied to be convincing.

December 31, 2009  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home