Muse by Craig Ranapia

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Muse: TV Review: Night in the Garden of Pain

22 Responses

  • Michael Stevens,

    I tried to watch it - out of duty, but couldn't be bothered. Wooden acting, dull dialogue - risible sauna scenes. Maybe if they'd got a gay man invloved in the production it would have come across as less po-faced and patronising.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 229 posts Report Reply

  • philipmatthews,

    Sentimental about the Maori world. Unsentimental about the gay world. Would have been better the other way round.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2007 • 638 posts Report Reply

  • Andre Alessi,

    (who’s screwing an evil white devil bimbo who escaped from a bad parody of Go Girls).

    Is it possible to parody Go Girls, badly or otherwise?

    Devonport, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 838 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Michael Stevens,

    Maybe if they’d got a gay man invloved in the production it would have come across as less po-faced and patronising.

    For that utterly naive statement, you will be tied to a chair and forced to watch Sex and the City 2 (which I mentally acronymize as “SCAT TOO”) Clockwork Orange-style. Forever. Having a gay writer-director on that pile of crap didn’t prevent the unedifying spectacle of Carrie and Charlotte’s pet fags getting hitched. I’ll hand off to Salon’s Andrew O-Heihr for the ghaslty details:

    Our central foursome, with various partners and offspring in tow, reunite at the beginning of “Sex and the City 2” for the Connecticut wedding of ol’ pals Anthony (Mario Cantone) and Stanford (Willie Garson). As Carrie tells a Bergdorf clerk, “Just when you think your friends are too old to get married, here come the gays!” In staging this long and often mind-boggling wedding sequence as a combination of Broadway musical and teenage-girl ballet fantasia, and dressing his extras in caricatured Fire Island get-ups, King seems to be posing the rhetorical question: Can a gay-wedding scene staged by a gay director still be homophobic and offensive? I think I’m voting for yes, especially since Stanford and Anthony disappear from the movie right after their nuptials and play no role in what happens later. (Spoiler alert! Liza Minnelli dance number Liza Minnelli dance number Liza Minnelli dance number! OMG scary!)

    To be fair, SCAT Too is gleefully contemptuous towards straight men, women and the rest of the human race that isn’t lucky enough to be privilege-denying American dudettes. I’m just not so sure that an out gay director proving he can be as big an arsehole as anyone else is much of an advance.

    ETA: For that matter, I don't care how much dick Ryan Murphy and Alan Ball suck Coach Beaste (geddit!) on Glee and the nasty treatment of Tara on True Blood is still epic #ladyhatefail.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11614 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Andre Alessi,

    Is it possible to parody Go Girls, badly or otherwise?

    Well, yes. Go Girls isn't my cup of tea, but as guilty pleasure tosh it does the job with a modicum of style and intelligence. It's good bad television, if that makes any sense.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11614 posts Report Reply

  • Juha Saarinen,

    Funnily enough, I was reading about Brian de Palma's Dressed To Kill in Michael Caine's autobiography a short while ago, thinking I'll make sure to give it a miss.

    Since Nov 2006 • 520 posts Report Reply

  • David Herkt,

    There is a whole thesis to be written on pain in depictions of gay-sex for presumed heterosexual audiences. Leonardo DiCaprio does one of the best ‘pained’ blow-jobs in cinema history in the Basket Ball Diaries (first 2 cuts in this montage – however Leo had the added burdens of prostitution and drug-withdrawal to communicate. So Calvin Tuteao’s performance in ‘Nights in the Gardens of Spain’ wasn’t totally without precedent…


    But I was fascinated by the subtextual shit with gayness going on, especially when coupled with an ersatz Maoridom blown up to Tourism New Zealand levels. There were so many ‘But why?’ questions going on in my head that I was doing loopy-loops trying to figure.

    There is very obviously the funding issue. Let’s stick that in Caps. FUNDING ISSUE. Gay isn’t fundable, really. Our broadcasters don’t think so. So in some ways throwing in the Maori Baby here was purely a financial decision. Changing the race of the characters to from white to brown probably meant all the difference in having the production selected for broadcast by our unchartered state broadcaster and funded by NZ On Air, which remember, is working for ‘us’… obviously in some weird broad political sense of the word.

    Using Witi’s original scenario with its Gay and Pakeha mileu would have been impossible, I suspect. It wouldn’t have got past its first proposal to a Commissioner.

    So the change of race and sexual context makes sense here, at least from the drama-maker’s perspective. Its work, right? I can’t think of any other reason for making the changes from the book to the TV drama. But I’d be interested in having the logic explicated, from a purely intellectual fascination with contemporary double-speak and some more than small interest in dominant ideologies in their practice.

    As for the execution of the drama, alas… In my more despairing moments I think that perhaps as New Zealanders we can’t do ‘drama’ because ‘let’s pretend’ doesn’t work for our allegedly practical history. I do love getting convinced by performance. I do admire the art of acting. That was the other problem with ‘Nights In the Gardens of Spain’ for me – I wasn’t convinced in any way shape or form.

    Auckland • Since Sep 2007 • 37 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to David Herkt,

    I think that perhaps as New Zealanders we can’t do ‘drama’ because ‘let’s pretend’ doesn’t work for our allegedly practical history.

    I suspect James Griffin and Rachel Lang would beg to differ. I've noticed the publicity is straining not to use the f-word (that's fantasy) but I'm cautiously optimistic The Almighty Johnsons (link contains spoilers for the pilot) will turn out more Misfits than Heroes. And, honestly, Outrageous Fortune wasn't exactly kitchen sink social realism.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11614 posts Report Reply

  • Cecelia,

    Mounting horror is how I’d describe my reaction to Nights in the Gardens of Spain. It was a giant step back for television drama in NZ. I wanted to like it, but from early on the poor acting, poor productions values and unenlightened storyline just did my head in.

    I persevered for an hour or so and then had to turn it off. If there was reconciliation at the end, I missed it.

    Does anyone remember the film of Ihimaera’s short story, “The Maketu on Mrs Jones”? Made in the 70s I think with Annie Whittle - and much better IMHO.

    A couple of specific gripes:
    • The main character said, “I can’t be Maori and … that.” I thought Polynesian cultures had always been more accepting of homosexuality. Was he referring to kaumatua status or what?
    • Some of the action took place “up north”. Looked like Mangawhai Heads to me. Heck, it’s in the Supercity, isn’t it, or nearly! Looked cheap …

    Hibiscus Coast • Since Apr 2008 • 505 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Bennett,

    If you’ll please excuse the shameless plug, there’s a Youtube for The Almighty Johnsons here:

    And it really isn’t a fantasy show. There are fantasy elements, but it’s quite unlike anything else, I think.

    I remember in the build up to Outrageous Fortune, some media outlets latched onto the notion that OF was ‘NZ’s version of The Sopranos’. Not what anyone who made the show was thinking!

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 140 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __,

    You know what Nights In the Gardens of Spain reminded me of? Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?. Kawa was much too perfect to be credible; everybody loves everything about him, except for the gayness, which they learn to tolerate. It doesn't really make for dramatic tension.

    Also, Kawa seems virtually asexual. He seems to take no pleasure in anything, quite a contrast with David in the book.

    I know you don't recommend the book, Craig, but I do! David's complicated and interesting, I was completely engrossed in the story. Don't be put off by the bland adaptation.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3298 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Simon Bennett,

    And it really isn’t a fantasy show. There are fantasy elements, but it’s quite unlike anything else, I think.

    *cough* When a large chunk of your cast are incarnations of Norse Gods (or something) living and rooting round the corner from Cheryl West, of course it bloody is – and you’re in very fine company at that. (Series one of Misfits was a pleasant surprise last year, and what I've seen of series two just keeps getting better.)

    Don’t worry, I won’t out you guys. :) Still, many thanks for suggesting a hook for a post next week.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11614 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to Cecelia,

    "The Makutu on Mrs Jones" was good, as a story and filmically- and I totally agree with your other point: there is a long Polynesian history of mahu/ fa'afa'ine so- WTF?
    The whole sorry spectacle reminded me yet again of what I learned as a tv director: only some adaptations of written material work in front of the camera and- what I added later - some things only work behind your eyes-

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Bennett,

    Okay, fairy nuff Craig.

    However, it doesn’t tick the boxes of the fantasy genre. It’s more a male orientated sex comedy, with dramatic twists. And rooting.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 140 posts Report Reply

  • Aotearoan,

    The book "Nights in the gardens of Spain" was OK actually and caught an era of gay life when people were less at ease with coming out & it was love in the time of AIDS- something not addressed at all by the "updated" treatment.

    I too hate to bag local drama, but this was trite shite. It took a good heartful and important story about whanau & sexuality and the pain and joy of being who you are in front of the world and rendered it into clichés.

    Northland • Since Jan 2011 • 6 posts Report Reply

  • Cecelia, in reply to Islander,

    Islander, I was very fond of "Hooks and Feelers", story and film too. Same series? Winners and Losers????

    Hibiscus Coast • Since Apr 2008 • 505 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Parks,

    [Simon says:] And it really isn’t a fantasy show. There are fantasy elements, but it’s quite unlike anything else, I think.

    You’ve gone from “it’s quite unlike anything else” to “It’s a male orientated sex comedy”.

    It’s hard to know what to make of that promo. I’ll keep an open mind and give it a chance. There were certainly some funny parts (“as Odin I order you to stop that!”.)

    I’m also a bit weary of the “it’s not really a fantasy” claims about these sorts of things. There were ample overtly fantastical parts in that YouTube clip. Fantasy isn’t really a genre that has boxes to be ticked.

    Fantasy

    Fantasy

    Fantasy:

    Wellington • Since May 2007 • 1122 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    (Series one of Misfits was a pleasant surprise last year, and what I've seen of series two just keeps getting better.)

    Heartily recommend Misfits. In particular the Nathan Young character is fantastically written and brilliantly played. Thanks to the people on here who recommended both that and The Walking Dead which I enjoyed over the Xmas break.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6145 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Lilith __,

    Critical honesty forces me to admit that a lot of people obviously disagree with me on the merits of the book, otherwise it wouldn't have been continuously in print for fifteen years.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11614 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Simon Bennett,

    However, it doesn’t tick the boxes of the fantasy genre. It’s more a male orientated sex comedy, with dramatic twists. And rooting.

    That sounds exactly like Norse mythology to me -- endless trouble caused by short tempers and an inability to keep their dicks in check. :)

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11614 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to Cecelia,

    Cecelia - the film adaptation of "Hooks & Feelers" came out a looong time ago (1981?1983?) and I have forgotten any details about it (though I think the director was Melanie Reid?) The only copy I have is a -doubtless rotten - video-tape: have never heard of it being re-broadcast...

    And thank you for the comment! "H&F" was soooo long ago, but meant quite a bit, in terms of recognition, for family( "Hey, publication and a prize! You probably can do something!") & self ("I know I bloody well can.")

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Tamara,

    Yes, I finally caught up on NITGOS last night, which I only watched because I had enjoyed the book. And yes, super disappointing.

    New Zealand • Since Oct 2010 • 96 posts Report Reply

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