Monday, 31 October 2011


So I've been away for a bit. Obviously. And I'm now willing to admit why:

For loads of this whole post transplant period I've been seriously depressed, compensating for some major mental health issues and dodging reasons and how I feel about how unfixable some of those reasons felt. Some of the post transplant problems to do with general wellness and energy, as well as constant sleep problems, they've not responded to any of my fixes and I started feeling like I'd never fix them so nothing will ever change, I'll remain spending most of my life in the house tired and usually sick with whatevers going around. Oh, and as part of this I got addicted to the net. Only, you know, not in a good way - with all the time on my hands I could have been getting loads of useful stuff done, not least building a wordpress blog that works and looks better than this one and post on it everyday. But instead I'd bounce from one thing to another 'researching' for my scripts which I wasn't really writing, and wouldn't let go of the laptop all day while feeling more and more crappy.

So when I figured that out I went cold turkey - no internet for a period of time, handed it to Ant and let him get on with stuff. I also got into counselling, and starting over analysing being an adrenaline junkie from birth and why I can't handle people seeing me do technical stuff with my hands. All very self indulgent.

And there you have it - in the privacy of my flat I went mental, and I'm still mental but in a slightly less mental way. All very inconvenient but necessary. I can handle going on the internet for a bit now, and then leaving it again without stroking it and speaking babytalk, but I still haven't gotten around to doing useful stuff.

Hopefully soon xx

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Cool Off With The Classics - A Go See Talk Blogathon

After last month's infectiously fun 'Double Feature' blogathon by Marc of Go See Talk, this month Marc brings yet another marvellous theme, Cool Off With The Classics. Excited to be doing this one! The rules are simple - Top 10 favourite golden oldies. Must be in black and white, and not by choice like Clerks, but due to era. Stick as much as possible to the 30's, 40's and 50's.

Damn good blogathon - if it didn't have to be black and white I'd probably end up with a massive list of things like Blithe Spirit and then go on a tangent waxing lyrical about how awesome Margaret Rutherford is (and about if I ever had the chance to speak to Tony Benn I'd have to ask him if he likes being related to her, etc etc). And if it didn't have to be classic golden age cinema I'd probably get lost wanting to include La Haine and all sorts of things.

Either way, you end up with a big list, and get lost. Still, sticking to only ten is pretty hard, even for someone like me - I'm a novice when it comes to old movies, and you can see that in my favourites. I'd love to write something insightful about the universal power of films like Seventh Seal or 400 Blows, or maybe try to prove that you can gain a deeper meaning from that episode of Buffy where she thinks she might still be in an asylum if you pay attention to the floor throughout The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. But it's simple films with fun, snappy stories, good dialogue and great actors speaking it that I lean towards... a lot more than I thought I would.

Sticking to one or two lines was also a challenge since I love my digital voice so much... for the sake of those of you who'll be yawning I've split my comments into two parts - a swift summary or what I like, and a total ramble about memories, or facts, or opinion. Step over the ramble if you start to hear birdsong in your head :D

So here's my fluffier than intended, longer than intended, list... in no particular order:

Summary: One of the funniest musings on truth and perception ever made, and beautifully shot.

Total Ramble: Seven Samurai probably ranks equally and I Live In Fear is a hidden gem but for it's sheer personality Rashomon is my favourite.
Rashomon is the product of splicing two of Ryunosuke Akutagawa's marvellously satirical stories together, as well as adding a fourth view of the events at the heart of the story to great comedic impact, which apparently isn't in the books. As wtih Kubrick, one of Akira Kurosawa's skills was knowing how to make the best film possible regardless of loyalty to the source material. What makes the film such a timeless classic is how identifiable the characters were then and still are regardless of historical period, culture, principles or profession. It's no surprise that Rashomon is claimed by many to one of the first if not the first Japanese film to gain huge international attention and bring Japanese Cinema to the attention of the world.

Summary: I love a woman who sweeps in with a brilliant business plan, incorporates pure love into it economically and then flips the bird at her own father.

Total Ramble: I wouldn't call myself a David Lean fan, but I must be because this is one of my favourite films of all time. I have an irrational love of films that prefer radically progressive characters to simple stereotypes. Along with Mae West's She Done Him Wrong, I love Hobson's choice for that

Laughton - always brilliant - gets the most praise, but here he is not better than his supporting cast. De Banzie and Mills don't support him but complement him - their pitch perfect relationship is as delightful as Laughton's crass and sparky Hobson is amusing. And
an adorably yound Prunella Scales plays a sister so any diehard Fawlty Towers fans should give it a look.

3 Sweet Smell of Success (1957)

Summary: Many, if not most, people would claim Citizen Kane as their favourite film out of the small group of unofficial biopics of real and infamous people with questionably flawed personalities and dramatic lives. And with good reason, but for some reason I just prefer the sourness of The Sweet Smell of Success.

Total Ramble:

"I'd hate to take a bite outta you. You're a cookie full of arsenic"

One of the most quotable films of all time, The Sweet Smell Of Success is said to have been a huge flop, a fact that may explain why Burt Lancaster wanted to punch the hell out of the main writer. It's not hard to understand why - at the time some fans of both stars weren't very interested in seeing the beloved leading men playing such horrible people in a horrible world, and it is only one of many excellent noiry films out there. Despite all that, the film is intense in
every sense, and one of my favourites for that reason - beautifully photographed, the syncopation of the soundtrack mirrors the similar movement between scenes, and Lancaster and Tony Curtis, both relishing the uncharacteristically acidic leads, resonate with degrees of cruelty, arrogance and desperation. Lancaster's performance is exquisitely arresting, and Curtis somehow manages to have you caring about him even as you embrace disagreeing with everything he does. Even the flaws only make me love it more.

4 Kind Hearts And Coronets (1949)

Summary: A masterwork comedy of manners and a subversion of it, who can resist all those playful murders and Alec Guinness?

Total Ramble: What needs to be explained about Kind Hearts and Coronets? Brilliant cast. Deep seated working class bitterness against the self indulgent upper class and a 'so obvious it hurts' knowledge of intellectual superiority. Alec Guinness doing a Peter Sellers before Peter Sellers. Revelling in creative murder. That's it. Cast, Classist, Guinness, Funny Murders. A tantalisingly enjoyable film, possibly near perfect. Though I guess that is questionable depending on whether we're talking about the British or American versions with their minor ending changes.

5 Rome, Open City (1945)

Summary: I admire the balls of a film where making it could lead to the same sort of trouble that the characters in the story are afraid of. The very essence of practising what you preach.

Total Ramble: Roberto Rossellini's Rome Open City was instantly hailed as a masterpiece of neorealism of it's time, and for some considered it the flagship of the Italian neorealism movement. Some claim that stylistically and narratively it has become paradoxic that it would be heralded as the emblem of neorealism as a filmmaking choice. Some claim it should have it's status as a classic revoked because it hasn't stood the test of time and remained timelessly relatable.

Personally I don't give a shit about any of that - it is in some ways outside of the typical definition of neorealism as its age defined it, but I think of that as a strength not a flaw, since it is its integrity that separates it from so many other films. I'm a fan not only of the moving story being told but of the filmmaking ethos. Simply put, it was fucking dangerous making this film. The possibility of getting shot if they were found doing certain scenes or arrested possessing certain film stock was still very real. Waiting a few years for a safer time to make this story was not considered an option - relevance demanded immediacy. I get that some people might think it doesn't hold up as a masterpiece without its historical context, I get that some people think it's aged so much it's overwhelmingly boring. I don't agree but I get it. I wouldn't get anyone who couldn't agree that these people had some massive cojones.

6 Witness For The Prosecution (1957)

Summary: All the right elements come together in a fantastic addition to all the other films that faithfully or loosely have their roots in Agatha Christie.

Total Ramble: I'm a fan of Dietrich. I'm a fan of Wilder. I'm a fan of Laughton (see above). I'm even more of a fan of Laughton's wife Elsa (goddamn, wasn't she hot when she was young?) and anytime she's playing
opposite her husband as a harmlessly manipulative woman pretending to not be as on the ball as she really is until they become super friends and tenderly share advice (see also their Henry VIII movie where she steals the whole film in a matter of minutes). Here we have all, in one of the best twist films that contributed to paving the way for twisty films of all kinds. If this wasn't a top ten I could wax lyrical about several other Elsa performances from her homage in Murder By Death, her cuteness in Bell, Book and Candle, but of course her most renowned is The Bride, which no doubt other bloggers will cover better than I can.

7 Metropolis (1927)

Summary: Metropolis incorporated comprehensively so many things that are naturally and logically at the very core of Science Fiction that if you like the genre by proxy you like Metropolis - whether you like it or not. You have to admire that.

Total Ramble: The film that keeps on giving - you could spend a lifetime not just researching and appreciating this film, the context of how it was made, but as a bonus you could happily continue for eons researching why Lang hated his finished film and the connotations of its popularity with the Nazi party, and the
political allegiances that some of the production team were to take, the journey from butchered film to suddenly finding the lost footage, and a variety of criticism for its social statement from the likes of H.G. Wells who apparently wrote plenty on his opinion that it had no one single new idea and that some of its ideas might have been directly lifted from some of his stories.

Regardless, any sci-fi fan of any kind cannot call themselves such unless they have seen this film - it deserves its own Scouts badge as a fundamental education in science fiction film production.

8 Limelight (1952)

Summary: Such a tender, poignant little film, it made a Chaplin fan out of me despite having never paid any attention to anything he'd ever done before.

Total Ramble: An old chestnut opinion is that comedy actors don't have the chops to handle drama. A belief that completely ignores the extent that pathos plays a role in comedy and a masterful use of it is essential in a great performance. There are many examples that pop up to show this, such as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. But for me
Limelight will always be the best example that pops in my head. Whether you've seen all his work or none, the elegant beauty of the touching, semi autobiographical (and humbly, respectfully 'there but for the grace of god') story is easy to empathise with, and hard to forget. And the delicate restraint Chaplin employs amplifies the heartbreakingly subtle reflections within. Even if you never see anything else by Chaplin (although I'm a satire obsessive so I'd say you should) this film showcases his thoughtful and compassionate genius.

9 Ace In The Hole (1951)

Summary: I love Satire, even before I knew what it was. I love films that piss loads of people off by saying something that goes just that little bit too far out of the realm of funny for their liking. So Ace In The Hole is a must.

Total Ramble: Like I said, I'm a Wilder fan. Who isn't? I was going to go with The Manchurian Candidate here, but I just can't resist Wilder.

The hook of Ace In The Hole is strong and simple, but within it caustic and aggressive: it's about the poisonous sting of personal greed and self interest of all kinds, a nasty indictment of the media and a genuinely claustrophobic, disquietening film, literally for the guy trapped in a mountain and figuratively regarding our protagonist and every other corrupt jerk in the film. The biting, abrasive confidence of the film touches on numerous things at the time that brought massive criticism to it, with detractors arguing that it fails by putting forward the preposterous claim that journalists would sabotage matters of public safety for their own careers (I'm sure any fellow Brits out there will snigger along with me at that) and disgust at the depiction of public awareness of human interest stories as anything other than wholesome and pure. The film of course gains more and more relevance as the years go on and the media become more and more mental. And the opening is one of my all time favourites.

Last choice. Tough One.

10 You Can't Take It With You (1938)

Summary: It won awards so it's not like it's criminally overlooked, but nowadays it doesn't seem as loved as Capra's Wonderful Life. Personally I prefer this because it's more fun, it comments on things that wouldn't become popular for years (sometimes decades) and it's Barrymore being adorable instead of evil and grumpy.

Total Ramble: No doubt like everyone else, there's loads of other films I'd want to include. Some of them to look less vapid like The Defiant Ones, some to break the rules (that'd be 8½
and Dr. Strangelove :p), some just because they are so adorable, like Harvey, Sullivan's Travels or naturally the Rutherford Miss Marples'. But it has to be You Can't Take It With You because it's probably the first time that I ever saw a golden oldie as a kid and actually twigged 'Wow - people in old movies were interested in stuff that we think about today, and sometimes today think is fresh and new and radical, and they thought that ages ago!'
The impetus for me to watch this film was when my older brother wouldn't stop saying 'It/She Stinks!' over and over again in a Russian accent, in reference to the Russian ballet teacher who comes to the house even though the daughter on pointe is a useless dancer. My brother thought the Russian's constant habit of criticising ballet troupes and ballerinas while stealing food was Fried Gold, and eventually I had to watch to see what the hell he was quoting and cackling about.

Personally I can watch it over and over because of all the other fabulous touches - an open family, anyone can join and anyone can do anything they want, the patriach has a healthy, liberated attitude towards people telling him he must do (must believe he should do even) things the government tells him to just because they tell him. The fascination with photosynthesis as a preferable career to Banking - if they could have written in that black characters are also entirely liberated members of the household instead of working for them it would have been the coolest, brassiest film ever made. Technically you're supposed to care more about the conventional love story of the two youngsters but give me kittens used as paperweights and fireworks shooting out of the basement any day.

So that's my list - that was hard but awesome! Some of those films, I haven't watched or thought about in so many years, rediscovering them feels just as novel and enlightening and unexpected as reading about everyone else's faves will no doubt be! Well done Marc on a brilliant idea and thanks for letting me take part.

P.S. Like some of these but for radically different reasons? Is my opinion not just stale but totally wrong? Have I got my facts wrong? Are some of them your all-time faves too? Or do you prefer entirely different bits and bobs of the golden age?

P.P.S. Would you have loved to take part but think it's too late to ask? Go say hi to Marc at Go See Talk - Cool Off With The Classics

Saturday, 13 August 2011

My thoughts on the different types of rioters re London Riots.

So as per my previous post, I'm currently entrenched in Riot research, in part because the decisions made after this are going to say a lot about Britain today and what we are going to become, and in part, ahem, to figure what I am going to do with my script.

As part of the research I've found myself involved in some discussions about the rioters, and even though I don't want to turn emotions into arguments I wanted to write something about my own bias in the argument. The context follows, largely about my childhood. If I had gotten around to building an appropriate blog just for all my personal crap and rants I would, but this interrupted it! Migration of film blog will happen soon. But let's get to why I have a bias against treating the people involved in the riots like one mindless mass.

Now, to the point - I'm from Cardiff. I grew up in a dangerous place, in fact so dangerous that several years ago a series of those exploitative documentaries that pretend to be a somber analysis about Britain was actually just an excuse to take one known case of craziness after another and use them for Springeresqe fun started the series about someone in my town. The documentary was generally about the decline and delinquency of today's youth, and the first episode specifically about a teenage girl who had started smoking when she was about 6, started Horse when she was about 12, and was on the game by the time she was 13. She lived around the corner from me; my mother played bingo with her mother.

My mother was agoraphobic. She did an excellent job but inherently she wasn't able to bring us up as happily and safely as she would have wanted. By 'was agoraphobic' I don't mean she was cured. There is no inspirational story of someone in the media or social field coming into her life to give her some help that has magically improved her life. She tends to say her problem is a fear of the fear, and the decades of dealing with it mean she has a system she can handle so she can leave the house a couple of times a week. She's been this way all this time because when she first tried to get help about 30 years ago she was told to 'pull herself together'. My father is an idiot who wasn't around; at one point in my childhood the goverment started this initiative that if single mothers wouldn't name the man responsible to make him pay money for the kid so they could lessen her child support, they would cut child support anyway to punish her for not being helpful - she named him, he borrowed clothes so shabby he looked like a tramp, pretended he had no money in court and the court decided to make him pay - wait for it - 1 PENNY.

My mother was on benefits because she couldn't go out without the accompanying panic attacks, something she wasn't happy about - before she got sick she had worked every viable day since she was 14 to get away from her abusive father and help her mother. We lived in a small cul-de-sac until I was ten, and the person I was shaping up to be was very different from the person I was after we moved. In those ten years my mother had guns pointed at her every week, I had attack dogs set on me, the neighbours smashed our front windows every week, put tampons in our letterbox, occasionally alcohol and lit matches, the kids stole all my toys, I was bullied, the one night none of us slept in the house we were robbed by our next door neighbours who the police didn't prosecute even though they told my mother they agreed it was them, because once they knew she had insurance they told her it was pointless. We managed to swap houses with a family that were more than happy to admit they were a big enough family and tough enough they weren't scared of moving into that sort of crowd.

I was sick alot for half a year in school when you learn to read, and despite the fact there was no miscommunication over the circumstances of me being behind the other kids, the teacher responsible for our class put me in the school's special class where I stayed until my mother found out (years later) that they never taught me to read, she taught me over a summer with dahl books. Might I add, you learn nothing in special class - I was kept busy because I was good at art (a skill that can naturally improve exponentially when you have nothing else like enjoying novels or doing math to distract you) so the teachers thought it would be a good idea to exploit me by making me do pretty cards and banners for any event or retiring teacher/maternity leave/sick child or to win art competitions. And the stigma follows you to high school - I was put into the stupid tier for all high school classes until one teacher realised in creative writing I understood narrative and got me into the top english group, where I was accused initially in front of the rest of the class of getting another family member to write my my first essay which was about An Inspector Calls. That kind of dampened the experience... there's nothing quite like being accused of fraud to ruin the revelatory experience of learning something exciting and provoking in a class that exercises your mind for the first time. Eventually I got A*/A/A on my english gcses' despite the suspicion amongst some of the faculty that I had somehow scammed them.

At the beginning of high school my mother found a lump in her breast. Our GP told her (I'm not joking) that the mobile van for detection was in another part of cardiff (which would amount to 6 miles away) and wouldn't be placed in Ely for about a year, she would have to wait. He was too lazy to get a referral regardless of how much we pointed out we could bus it. Eventually he only sent her to the hospital because I and some friends threatened his reception staff that we would call Cardiff's newspaper and picket outside his surgery. From then on it no longer seemed strange that each and every year one of my mother's friends had been diagnosed with a hard to find cancer too late and they were going to die.

Oh, and one time around about the age of 13 or 14, my brother got accused of raping me. The first discussion about this was me, my mother, a teacher, the headteacher and 3 cops telling us that's what they thought and it would be best to admit it now for everyone's sake. And that was over a totally reasonable picture I drew that indicated nothing other than the fact I knew at that age that rape is bad, police look for rapists, and they often attack in dark alleys and are violent, and it also indicated I didn't have the slightest idea what male genitalia looks like. My mother took the position that she would rather I knew what abusive contact by a stranger is than not, especially in the area we have where one particular thoroughfare had been so neglected for over a decade it was widely known as Rape Alley and everyone was so acclimatised to calling it that you almost forget the connotation and thought of it as just an appropriate nickname. I think her lack of fear and eloquence in the face of the intimidation was what resolved the issue so quickly but it scarred me for years - I thought I was a freakishly naughty girl for not being as naive as my fellow classmates. It took me years to realise it was insanity that the Police would interrogate my mother in front of me when not a word had been spoken to me about why my picture could mean anything other than my mother had taught me not to let people touch me. My massively bitter prejudice says that such a frigtheningly negative and tactless meeting wouldn't be the first contact for an upper class kid who draws alot and is illustrating nothing more than a sensible knowledge that sexual abuse is bad. 

I could go on but clearly this makes me look a little mad as it is so I'll stop. I'm trying to get to one point anyway so lets get to it.

Poverty, and the lack of options and equal rights that often go with it, IS about violence, an awareness of the inequality that some people in society who are comfortable have no idea what it is like to be able to closely tie their lack of financial comfort and flexibility to terrible things that shouldn't happen just because you are poor. Having and having not is about violence. Live with that quality of life for long enough and it won't be long before thinking of everyone else who doesn't know what a drain that is as the other. Live with knowing that your choice everyday to not rob, not attack, not impede on anyone else's liberties, to not cause any trouble in the community, not hamper anyone else's life with no respite to the troubles in your own life, and you will start considering that if society wants to pretend that the danger you face, the losses you experience all the time is not morally important to everyone in society (in fact has nothing to do with the rest of society) it won't be long before they take the position that the opposite applies too.

My mother tells me after the breast lump incident I became obsessed with wanting to be rich because of the simple connection to power. That I became mindfully obsessed with getting rich so that anyone I cared about never had to wait for treatment again, never had to live in an area that might kill them again, would never be viewed as social scum who could be treated anyway other people felt like because their voice and mind didn't matter. And that was back in a time when, as far as my memory serves, the barometer amongst the poor for differing levels of wealth and equality was more reasonable. One family had a car (any car) one. Another had to bus everywhere. One family could pay all their bills and bye their kids trainers when their current ones look like they are about to get holes. Another family might have decide to forgo any luxuries flu remedies the week they really need to replace their kids trainers because they're falling apart and they can only just afford them. Those parts of my community, though inequal, still empathise with each other for seeing how closely 'there but for the grace of god' they really were, and many inequalities still applied. Today the gulf between different types of poor is different, that is a fact, and the lack of empathy between those groups (not to mention the middle classes) IS dangerous. It isn't measured, it isn't reasonable, it is reactionary. The people calling for all rioters to have their benefits cut, or worse still - calling them animals and scum who should be shot - are willfully ignoring the need to find out how making these people want to responsible members of society who contribute instead of destroy can be achieved. Anyone who can't see that if they are alienated EVEN MORE from this moment on it doesn't make this less likely to happen again, it makes it a lot more likely to happen worse. You cannot tell people they nothing but animals with no human rights and expect them to care more about your rights and empathise more with your humanity.

People want to look at the riots and say that the riots are entirely without reason BECAUSE they targeted shops instead of the town hall, because they didn't know to direct their anger only towards the council, or government, or other public service bodies who had failed them. This also is a giant elephant in the room. Of the many of the people saying the riots meant nothing because a lot of them targeted pointless goods, how many can say that the way they live their own life is that whenever they wish to buy an item they don't need, or go on a holiday, or spend to much on one day out of fun, they ponder asking their friends and neighbours and co-workers whether they NEED money to pay for something that has just a knock on effect their life will become bad if they don't pay?  I believe with no shame that it is unreasonable for so many to want so much they don't need and then act like these people are mindless for thinking such items hold esteem. And that applies to all of us, including me. I'm poor, I have to put off getting a dental appointment because we have no money, I stay in the house for days or weeks the times we can't even afford bus passes and sometimes I have to ask my GP for 3 months of pills because my budget says I can't afford the 7 odd quid it costs if I pay once a month for a view months coming. But we try to go to the cinema once a week even if that's the only time we go out, and we might get a half price voucher a couple of times a month and go to a restaurant even though that we could just go to the shop and cook in the house.

Yes, wanting to look rich takes on a vacuous consumer edge, but subconsciously a hell of a lot of it is knowing that there is a violence to other people being able to complain that their holiday wasn't very good when you and your friends are stigmatised with being stupid when they're not, with getting a paranoid sense (sometimes justified sometimes not) that in health, mobility, rights alot of society doesn't care that you wish you only had spending your student grant too quickly, not liking your shitty boss, wishing you could get an ipad because the macbook you got is more white than sparkling white now, society doesn't care if you live or die. Knowing that at the most you'll end up being a statistic about the underclass is a horrible knowledge to have. Back when I was young and full of rage at the glass between me and a lot of the people in better circumstances than me it was at least tempered with the knowledge that it was more reasonable - my friends' parents could apply for a mortgage and not get escorted out of the building, wow!

My comments above will only apply to some of the rioters. I am biased towards wanting rational treatment for those who haven't committed a serious crime and who do experience similar hardships. Many other types of people were there, worse and better, from teachers to people like my neighbours who learned to point guns before they learned to walk. We have systems for dealing with criminals and calls for cutting benefits is only to the benefit of those who want to cut our rights - I wonder how many who call for the petition and all sorts of other horrible things would feel the same if it applied to future protests of job protection or student fees that became aggressive. And we have systems for those who have been a part of social unrest but not criminal. But many out there aren't even admitting their bias and are calling to treat everyone the same, as if every rioter was the same even if they only did similar to what happen in the studen protects and the like. This is hypocritical since many signing the petition and calling for 'marshall law' would be the first to expect to have their lives and actions treated on it's specific merits, to have their individuality recognised.

Being angry at these people is a natural reaction, wanting them to face punishment for ruining some many peoples' lives is the most logical response in the world. But claiming they can not be understood when many of us feel the same way about the limitations placed on our lives but social expectations mixed with limited resources, support and options to improve our lives just on a more stable level is madness.


Tuesday, 9 August 2011

A&E, London Riots, and screenwriting.

This was my week:

Friday: Start fooling around with wordpress to figure out the basics and figure out what I want for the fundamentals of new blog, as per Custard's (of recent helpful posts about blogging. Realise I really don't find it easy to navigate and decide to do the boring bit first - laboriously test out different options so I know how they work in practise and figuring out where things are in wordpress. I don't get much of use done. Ant feels really sick but in a strange transcient way, and has a less work focussed day.

Saturday: Get up, feel sluggish, in a bad mood, try to do more wordpress design stuff, go out to, get sick, come home and sleep, wake up at night. Go back onto laptop. By 4am feel really sick. Ant's kidney is starting to hurt. Get worried, try to sleep, wake up early.

Sunday: Feel strange and hurt more than I think is normal. Hospital tells me to go to A&E. Go, sit in cubicle for 5 hours, don't see anyone, don't do much. Get told I've just had an infection, nothing to worry about, no transplant rejection, take some meds to get over infection. Go home. Feel sicker, really painful, getting worse, meds not working.  End up back in A&E, again in the middle of the night, eventually I'm fine again. Get better advice about meds, go home and sleep.

Monday: Feel better, mind clearer, so Ant thinks it's a good time to update me on what's been going on starting with LONDON IS ON FIRE!

This makes me realise several things. Firstly I seem to have an almost preternatural habit of only getting sick at times of the day when seeing my smooth running, impressively efficient and familiar, knowledgable medical team are NOT working and when no buses are running. When I go by ambulance I'm a drain on resources and when I go by taxi it's a drain on our tight budget. I need to get a scooter or something.

Secondly I really need to start paying more attention to the news and keep some form of cloud communication with me at all times. I check the news every other day. So it is when you're as disconnected to normal schedules and a reliable system of contact with the wider world as I am, half the time it's medical or depression but a lot of the time it's just because on the surface the news seems to be about stuff that I don't care about or everyone can predict eons before it happens, like the financial cuts. But like everyone who reads this blog, I could have had friends in trouble in London! While I was worrying about a little medical problem that ended up being nothing at all, people have been ending up in London hospitals with real problems because of a huge event I didn't even know about. If I checked even twice a day I would have known about this before I went into hospital and if I have a phone, or always carried my laptop with a dongle I would have know about this earlier than YESTERDAY NIGHT!

Now on an emotional level, it's terrible. Regardless of whether you know people who might have been hurt. Yet I can empathise with those involved who are only taking advantage of the looting. I wouldn't do it myself, yet I understand, and for the sake of simplicity I won't go into why. Suffice to say I'm not amongst those who seem fond of shouting THEY SHOULD ALL BE SHOT! People who say such things really aren't thinking, if anything they are attention seeking and make me quite angry. As if any individual can know the needs and reasons why all those people are there. But I'm just as horrified as everyone else about the violence and mindless destruction of entire buildings going on regardless of whether there are people still in them or not. The people who go there thinking wrecking havoc and mugging any passerby is a bit of fun are a different breed. This in London and Birmingham et al is madness, fuelled by the insanity of poverty and it's periphery issues and unhinged by the hive mind of permissive shifts in norms within a lawless crowd. The paralyzing feelings of sadness, anger and helplessness can overwhelm you.

And then there's the thoughts that make me uncomfortable and want to get drunk to forget about it. On an intellectual level I find myself in a huge quandry. Once again, because of the script. And it's something that won't go away until I decide what to do.

I've not ever posted much about the story because, for one thing, it's the sort of thing that takes ten times longer to explain in conversational terms than it does to write in screenplay form. I planned on never explaining it properly until it was all in draft, and preferably copyrighted so it didn't matter if I knew the reader well or not, or how many people read it. What would be explainable in a few well chosen images complemented by a short expositional bit of dialogue takes a lot longer to explain why those images explain themselves and why certain tiny bits of body language and coincidence will all make sense 'at the end'. Yes, the story is a bit twisty, somethings' build up to the ending and that's just how it is. And for another thing as dramatic as it sounds, Ant and I have had issues with people stealing ideas. Luckily it never happened with an idea we ever really cared about but still we learned if your narrative is unique and not just a fresher look at an old concept like yet another zombie movie, never tell anyone enough of the story that if they try to do the same they are carbon copies and you end up in court.

So I never discussed the entire story. Script Factory had a very badly written 2 page synopsis referencing all of my subplots but mostly referencing what happens to the main characters, and there's about 3 individuals who have EVER heard the jist and the basic point of the story.

Point being: I have a story about a group of people in an adrenaline fuelled satirical horror. The needs of the characters are on the same lines as in a Zombie movie - the need to find safety, a nomadic approach becomes necessary, resources become the biggest issue and staying safe within the group whilst dealing with the tension of everyones different priorities and secrets, but not with zombies.

So that's the characters. The environment is during a riot that spreads across London and inferred to be sprouting up across Britain, Europe and then the world, mixed with the uprising of a twisted vigilante organisation that is sabotaged from within and becomes a poison contributing to the abandonment of social norms within the city.

And now I feel terrible, because on the one hand as I read all the horrible things people are saying, the shallow pointless attempts at pretending to care while actually not doing anything that really matters, just saying some vacuous comment, when I read all the jokes and smug media in jokes about Voldermort and Apes that people think shows they're so funny, and especially all the racist, bigoted hate speech from those who by and large have no idea what they are talking about I feel sick.

But on the other hand... I've written stuff like it in my script, and I find a part of my brain objectively analysing it, comparing how similar scenes were. And some are.... very similar. I meant a lot of the story as satire. Something that (once or if the film was ever made and out there for the world to see) would have people laughing or arguing about whether it was too ridiculous or maybe the opposite, too toned down compared to how people might really behave on twitter and youtube and fb, though I would forgo mentioning those in favour of some made up names so the film wouldn't age so fast. I was comfortable coming up with minor references to vigilante groups contacting each other digitally instead of through their town hall like in the olde days, and trying to come up with the most irrational and dangerous self serving calls for action and segregation because it was a mash up of all sorts of historical events, far enough back in our history or other countries to feel like a tentative commentary not a sore and nasty exploitation.

And then, on another fantom hand, I find myself bringing my own selfish concern into it - has my story been ruined now that everything I st out to include as fiction is out there really getting people killed. What I've been planning and writing about the public reaction, the perceived 'too extreme' comments on twitter and youtube and the news and radio and newspapers that people are now really saying, about mob psychology, the natural response to fear and need to establish boundaries for the familiar vs. the other, the instinct to protect oneself when boundaries are hidden, unfamiliar or unpredictable and the essence of human response when deprivation, low or non existent quality of life, exploitation  and fear come together all at once - can that still be what it is when it no longer looks like fiction but like you read the news and just left peoples' real names out.

I hate thinking that but it's true. Like any writer knows research is a big part of writing a story that feels authentic to it's audience. Of course during this period my brain couldn't help automatically realising that it's sickeningly uncanny that I need to research how rioting would be managed or mismanaged in London and instead of going to every public sector, every organisation, every civil service and asking them a bunch of hypothetical questions the news and every social networking site is flooding the world with that information. Yet I can't shake the opinion that no matter how long you're been working on such a story your brain should first be in shock, shouldn't kick into research mode straight away.

I find myself confused. Either way the important question is: Should you continue writing your story, one that was supposed to a broader comment of society, if something has triggered it in reality in the most troubling way? Or in fact, if your story is even larger and crazier than what your country is doing, is it all the more reason to finish it? How much should you keep the same because the similarities lend credibility, how much should you change so you aren't exploiting everyone involved?

And now we are right back to the beginning of the cycle with sadness and anger and shock at every new horrible thing that happens.

I'll leave it there, I'm going strange. Have any thoughts? Had the same experience in the middle of writing a script? As a film fan do you think it doesn't matter? Or do you think social commentary films aren't what audiences want and bound to fail? Or should you always abandon a bit of entertainment commentary hybrid once it starts to hit too close to home on principle without a second thought?

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Red State and Invisible Monsters - so much internet, so little time.

So much to do on the internet, never enough years. Anyone think that the concept of computer time needs to be updated to include web time? I wonder if Universities let you use it as an excuse for late work now? Can you go in with an apple and say that not only did the computer room not print your work cos the printer was backed up but on top of that but Tumbr said no?

I find I get so caught up in so many different things to research and watch and read and all that I tend to not finish most stuff, including writing for the blog, getting to know other bloggers or commenting on all the masses of good stuff out there. Spurred on my Custard's wonderfully intuitive list about being a better movie blogger over at we've decided to make an actual action plan :p

It's such a great post for people who know they've got crap habits or ignore certain blogging avenues but are not quite sure how to fix them. It reminded me we're planning on writing a post every other day, and deciding on which days to write what sort of stuff. His wisdom has also spurred me to think of moving over to Wordpress. Main reason being we're designing the sight this weekend and if I'm gonna sit down to make another blog when I don't have a designer bone in my body AND ditch my Oldboy banner for something that goes with white, I may as well try another site. Another other blogs people think are better than Wordpress?

In other news, Red State trailer looks interesting:

I like the look of the trailer, but all the fuss over Goodman losing weight kind of makes me zone out.
 And there's this event if anyone's in Los Angeles and enjoys Q&As' with Kevin Smith about the film.

And it looks like another one of Chuck Palahniuk's books might really go into production after years of people claiming they're *this close* to hiring a crew and placing pens into the hands of super famous actors as their lawyers finalise contracts. It's been a while since Ex-Drummer director Koen Mortier signed on to do Haunted, and news on Snuff and Survivor is vauge, but there's recent news on Invisible Monsters. Samir Rehem is on board to direct. If the name doesn't ring a bell, he's been hard at work on the american version of Skins, Degrassi, Made... teenage stuff like that.

My gut reaction was to hate this news. Invisible Monsters would be a hard book to get right and, whilst trying to say as little as possible that might spoilerise, it would require perfect casting of the female protagonist to be a great film. I always thought Charlize Theron, and that's all I'm saying.

The perfect director for Invisible Monsters in my mind would be someone with a dark and twisted career, not someone who does high school shows about cheerleaders and whatnot, and certainly not someone who worked on the remake of a teenage show that was then ripped apart for being rubbish compared to the original. I mean, I liked the UK Skins in the beginning, not least because (as I might have mentioned on here, ahem, once or twice) it made me a pretty big fan of Joe Dempsie who played Chris. The American version seemed to be too self conscious about whether it was the carbon copy or a unique and culturally fresh take on the same characters. These trailers aren't exactly representative of the storylines but a fun comparison:



[And for anyone else with a secret loyalty to UK Skins, another video mostly about good old Chris]

But he's not responsible for whether Skins UK is better than the US version is he? Apparently Mr Rehem is a big Palahniuk fan, and stylistically some of his work is excellent, and I'm being a total hypocrite by assuming something because of the type of stuff he directs not the quality of the directing, so I looked for some more stuff and particularly like this:

A short film produced by Robin Crumley of Capri Films. Shot on location in Toronto in December of 2006. Premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September of 2007.

And I'm an instant convert. I love the tone and cinematography, and the restraint, it made me smile. So maybe Invisible Monsters will be great.

Anyone else a fan of Invisible Monsters? Which director or cast have you always wanted for it? Or have you watched the American Skins and think it's so good Invisible Monsters is a step down?


Saturday, 9 July 2011

Heroes' Heroes. Kubrick Letter to Bergman

Was looking at Hollywood Elsewhere and found this, with original link given relating to Letter of Note website (it's literally too busy for me to give the link at the moment!) - the fanboy letter to Bergman sent during the period Kubrick was making Spartacus. How adorable. So even the Kubrick's find themselves going all gooey over someone they think is so awesome it's necessary to disclaim the letter by saying they know before they start that their hero won't give two shits about the praise they find bursting out of them. Warms the heart.

Full letter text:

Dear Mr. Bergman,
You have most certainly received enough acclaim and success throughout the world to make this note quite unnecessary. But for whatever it’s worth, I should like to add my praise and gratitude as a fellow director for the unearthly and brilliant contribution you have made to the world by your films (I have never been in Sweden and have therefore never had the pleasure of seeing your theater work). Your vision of life has moved me deeply, much more deeply than I have ever been moved by any films. I believe you are the greatest film-maker at work today. Beyond that, allow me to say you are unsurpassed by anyone in the creation of mood and atmosphere, the subtlety of performance, the avoidance of the obvious, the truthfullness and completeness of characterization. To this one must also add everything else that goes into the making of a film. I believe you are blessed with wonderfull actors. Max von Sydow and Ingrid Thulin live vividly in my memory, and there are many others in your acting company whose names escape me. I wish you and all of them the very best of luck, and I shall look forward with eagerness to each of your films.
Best Regards,
(Signed, ‘Stanley Kubrick’)
Stanley Kubrick                                                                                                                               "

Ah, how sweet. And delightfully flawed - I was momentarily shaking my head in dismay at Kubrick admitting he didn't know the names of the other actors he liked... until I remembered there was no IMDB in the '60s.

It's also uncannily appropriate - Bergman is one of those filmmakers I have somehow not gotten around to watching. I know, horrifying declaration, a confession you should only articulate to blissfully unaware sleeping children or to the body at a wake, and one that I know many people will think I should keep to myself. But there you have it - one part lack of personal excitement about any one film to 9 parts curious habit of foilment every time I have planned to sit down with Wild Strawberries or Persona or whatnot has led to a Bergman free existence. But last week I swore to watch at least two in the next fortnight. And here I am today not just reading about this letter but also now in love with this article about him:

Guardian article about Bergman week in Faro

So it's settled. But what film should I sit down with? One of the above, or the most most obvious, or something completely different? 

Friday, 8 July 2011

When your computer equipment starts owning you...

I just spent the last three days working through a bunch of external harddrives with between them about 4 terabytes of stuff and burning to disc anything I can and deleting anything we don't need as well as a mindboggling array of duplicates of stuff so that I got rid of about half of all of it. The bars on all the drives are no longer red.

Given I managed to finish regardless of my dreams of progress bars and starting out with a fresh batch of 120 discs and now only three remain unused, I felt this was an accomplishment. Until I decided to go check how the bookmarks are and realised that there's folders made by Ant for stuff I started doing on teh web but then got interrupted because we're sharing and he needed to take it off me, so he would just bookmark all the open tabs with a date name for me to check em later or the next day. And then that day I'd have a whole bunch of new things that needed researching and would start doing new things. Then get interrupted and hand it over to Ant and he would helpfully bookmark them all with that day's date as well.

And now there's a bookmark folder for practically everyday in the past two months. And in between them are bookmark names I've never seen and wouldn't have picked. Like 'Scribblescribblescribble'.

Since I'm a bookmark addict but not so organised with keywording tags, this might take some time. Where are the brain chips to hook up your thoughts to the machine so they'll organise themselves while you sleep?


Friday, 1 July 2011

First day back blogging, first day of a new year.

Finally a return to blogging. Hopefully a better, more efficient, more productive, more inspired and qualitative and creative year. Or that's my intention, and being that today is an anniversary I'm trying to start as I mean to go on.

The anniversary in question is the end of the first year of transplant. The so described crucial year, where they start to (knock on wood) let you travel outside the country, loosen up how often they see you and generally the medical people treat it as a line crossed, primarily based on the statistics that most problems (more wood knocking) happen in the first year. And I've had a pretty good year - I might complain about some of the adjustments and I might genuinely have found it really hard to get back to normal because muscle mass just isn't the same, but no huge problems. No giant shocking complications like an artery detaching from new organ and almost bleeding you out. No strokes from a sudden uncontrollable rise in blood pressure, no painful and delirium inducing organ rejection making the whole thing a waste of time.

Pretty good. Wholely different from the experience of this dude:

Pastor Marrion P'Udongo is, as the video indicates, a fixer in Congo who helps everyone he can, the video doesn't even slightly touch on how many lives he's saved directly and indirectly in his work. And now he's recovering from a kidney transplant and not having a good time (as the updates on the indiegogo fund explain). It sounds like he's probably feeling so sick he wouldn't be as chipper as he was in this video:

On the other hand, he's a pretty inspiring guy, maybe he's even more chipper. His transplant has only just started working and only barely, and the fund to pay for his medical bills is down to about $500 - if they get the kidney working properly, after that he needs to pay for the medications that'll keep it going in the future, and that stuff aint cheap.

Comparison time. To keep someone on dialysis in Britian costs about £40,000. It is more economically sound for someone to be a transplant patient. Most people who hear that would think duh, it probably doesn't cost anything - in fact it costs upwards of 20,000 mostly because of drugs. I'm on three different pills, that's pretty small and uncomplicated compared to other patients with continuing problems, mine just covers stopping my body recognising the new kidney as foreign flesh and brings down my high blood pressure. One of the pills I need, Prograf, costs over a grand each time I pick up a couple of boxes. Maybe a month's worth. The other immunosuppressant costs slightly more than that. The cocktail of drugs I had to take in the first three months probably cost a lot more. Like everyone else in Britain who doesn't get all those capsules and pressed powder pills for free, I pay my £7ish per prescription title, and that's that.

So when they say they need a lot more cash to save Pastor Marrion, I believe it. This guy saves lives, seems a shame to let him die because his hospital might stop treating him and he might not be able to get any blister packs of shiny capsules. 
Now, usually I wouldn't write something like this on the film blog. I wouldn't tell people what to do, or demand that they care about something that might be wholely unconnected to their interests. Nothing is more offputting than being told you should care about something else when everyone has difficult stuff to deal with. But the guy saves lives. In different parts of Congo. On purpose, continually, just because it's the right thing to do. And that's seems worth shouting about - if I ever even saved one life, it'll probably be by accident, and I'm sure many other people can say the same. I'm not half as good as this guy, and my transplant is going well. Doesn't seem fair.

In commemoration of the one year anniversary Ant has been linking to the fund to raise awareness. And being that he's my donor and he did save my life, and even though he could stop caring about kidney failure patients he takes the time to care about this when I am shamefully oblivious until he told me, I thought I should try to holla about it as well -

Here is a TIME article about the Pastor's work: A Fixer In Need
And the indiegogo fund page:   The-Pastor-Marrion-Fund

If you don't find this post annoyingly preachy and demanding, go take a look at his page and see if you can donate something to him! He might not have much time.

And back to our regularly scheduled programming - next week will be foreign movie week, including some actually, for real blog posts about films! :D

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Boring Blogging...

Summary: I had plans to make this blog look better (more app and gadget friendly through possible light background dark text, though I loath to give up my Oldboy dark themed banner), organise blog better with specific posts on specific days, link it to other places we're active, and appropriately become, you know... active in order to make that useful. But instead what with Ant getting the blue screen of death on his computer after a Windows update, we're sharing my laptop. He's editing a little thing called Death Carts, we're not coordinating using the one computer very well, when I get on it I'm not writing blogs. I'm prioritising the script and trying to get back to themed blog articles but I never seem to have the time after I've given in to the pull of all those cat moms hugging their kittens videos.

So for the next couple of weeks I'll probably only be writing something on this blog and checking out all the blogs I love twice a week. So, four times in the next two weeks :/  Hopefully by that time I'll have thought of a better solution. If only I could access blogger from XBOX, I could sit reading and writing it on the projector while Ant edits supermarket trolleys smashing into each other awash in the sickly yellow hue of parking lot streetlights...

Monday, 23 May 2011

Pirates of the Caribbean - stylistically bad anyway or is 3D to blame?

Ant was browsing around teh internet blah and came across this:

Tiny details make all the difference

So cinemas may show movies in 2D for those of us with no interest in getting a headache from poorly designed uber dimensional crap, but that doesn't mean they'll bother to take the 3D lense off so you can enjoy all those beautiful colours in all their fantastical glory. That explains Sooooo much. Like why the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie was so drab and profoundly drained of colour it looked like the filmmakers weren't so much enthralled with the concept of magical items that can entend life but probably instead seeing the world so terminally dull you wonder why they wouldn't have already killed themselves.

Don't get me wrong, the movie wasn't great narratively either; the characters' drawn up as main characters to replace the main characters that have gone are not as thought out and multifaceted as before, and where they have been developed it's not in an appropriately fresh enough direction to make you forgot those now gone characters. And some characters are gone and you can't think why. I can't imagine that ALL of the superb supporting cast didn't want to come back, and the film is not the better for their absense to compensate the new characters not being fresh in any good way. They missed the boat on fresh and new, they ignored the boat on old, familiar and loved. I apply that to the lead cast who are recurring. Depp and Rush do good work as always, but in a deeply unsatisfying way. There is something missing out of what is available to work with, a hole somewhere is deep and echoey, and you sense that the leads are phoning it in not because they want to but because of the cavernous hole that they can't do anything about. Personally I can't help wondering if it might have to do with the writers. Not their talent but more a curiousity about the working relationship with the director. The writers and other members of crew have been very vocal about the refreshing working relationship they had with Gore. Specifically that he doesn't shut writers out, they remain on set, working and developing, bringing new things to the shoot as and when necessary or when inspiration strikes, and you can see that in the other movies. Yes, I like them. Not every moment of every one, but I like bits of all three, bits that have a zesty energy and fun that you can go back to over and over again. I like how Knightley goes from being a normal period piece character to a chick who hides massive guns in naughty places. I like light grey rock crabs, and the bit of soundtrack that goes behind that whole scene. I like Naomie Harris and Bill Nighy being a historically tragic and spiteful couple. I like Jack Davenport having something proper to do other than be the guy getting in between the main characters who want to hook up. There's all those other characters who actually get long running jokes and agency, and dimensiality through these beautifully small but potent scenes, like Crook being the one who can free Calypso and the guest spots of the dog. The new characters could hold your attention, and they went to town making most of them delightfully excentric. And I have faith that was in a large part because the writers were heavily involved in the evolving swashbuckley nature.

And the new film is decidedly not like that. It's not a surprise that Depp doesn't want to bother with another one at the moment. Given that his voice in Gore recent animation had more charisma in it than the recent Sparrow have entirely. But when we walked out of the cinema what I was most irritated by was the colour, and darkness. It seemed unlikely any director interested in taking up the fantastical Pirates franchise would be the sort who wants duels in almost total darkness and for the mythical Fountain o Youth to look more like a set about some secreted Aztec spot that induces flesh eating disease so it's been untouched, left overgrown for centuries for fear of spreading an evil pestilence.

Now I'm thinking maybe they left this lil lense on because it's too expensive to bother taking it off, ergo giving the customer what they paid for and what was advertised. When I go see a 2D movie I expect it to look like how it was filmed not how the cinema can be bothered to show it. I'm writing a letter of complaint; just because I don't pay the additional monetary cost you do for 3D doesn't mean I should pay abstractly by having a shit time.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Cinema Day: Attack the Block and Insidious.

As with many people who love the joys of Orange Wednesdays, me and Ant went to see two films today, and we won't go to see another until next week. We have a projector at home so we'll only go to the cinema for the sheer nostalgia of the environment. Even if, personally, the environment now is nothing more than a shadow of the original style that I miss so very much. Small rooms, no vertigo inducing incline, projection mistakes and often entrance at the back instead of far off in the front, and of course the incessant adverts and radio, these things would not be in the design if I ever got enough money to own a cinema chain. And no coke. And a policy that everyone can bring their own food in if they want. And in shlocky adult films, everyone can bring booze. And in line with that policy, I can keep a picture board of everyone banned because they abused the privelege of said inebriation.

Anyhoo, back to the point. We went to see Attack the Block, which I honestly didn't fancy and went into feeling quite irritated about it. I wanted to drag Ant to Insidious, which I'd already seen and really wanted to chat to Ant about to see if he agreed with me. So I sat there huffing and puffing for the beginning.

Reasons why I didn't fancy it:

1) Nick Frost. No I don't dislike Nick Frost, I love Nick Frost. The joys of Mike leading the dance in Spaced, with some shooting yourself in the head through the mouth motifs thrown in for good measure (which can be seen here: A-Team Dance Off). Fantastic. Mike in Spaced's smile, in general, like, every scene. Mike scratching his face with the barrel of his own gun as he laughs at a joke with the security guard he's taken hostage. Anyone who saw and loved Spaced was set up to love Nick Frost in his appearances in Pegg/Wright collaborations. If Pegg was the cupcake mix and Wright was the oven, Frost would be the icing or cherry or rotating miniature firework you add at the end to make it special.

But sometimes, occasionally, now and again... Nick Frost picks some terrible projects to work on when he works with other people. And I commend that, I do. Trying out other people to work with should be a given, and working with people who are still trying to make it to the big time can be commendable. But that doesn't mean I want to spend money to watch Frost trying out a filmmaker or bunch of filmmakers who haven't found their legs yet. He picks things that end up being rubbish enough that he's sort of like an accidental omen.

Reason 2) Studio Canal, F4 and The Lottery Fund, for some reason whenever I see Lottery Fund listed with certain other companies that on their own often do excellent work, I often see the word safe flash through my mind. And safe often ends up meaning the film will be lame, not really go for it from any angle.

But then again the film is by Joe Cornish, and who is going to argue with that?

So we settled down to watch it, and of course I found Ant's instincts were correct. It is bloody fantastic. And it's one of those films I don't want... no, I don't think there's any need to say anything else about it. Certainly I wouldn't say anything more about it than is in the trailer. But I'll say a few things anyway, and then to Insidious. Obviously Spoilers...

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Blogathoning..... A Life In Movies

Hello all! Here is my (rarely long and painfully late) attempt at Fandago Groovers Movie Blog's blogathon! So I planned on spending every minute of spare time this week rewatching all the movies I hadn't seen in years to write proper reviews of everything on this list so I could put hyperlinks instead of writing a summary, but for some inexplicable reason I got distracted watching Get Him To The Greek over and over again and only managed to watch a few of the films on here. You could say my extreme fondness for Russell Brand is a secret predilection, but it's obviously not that secret because I'm saying it here. It's an affection born out of the fact I entirely not a fan before he moved into stand up; in fact when he was a presenter I thought he was outright crap' now I'm a born again hardcore fan because I love to be surprised by people.

With that in mind, the following are summaries of the movies I love and why I love them, with in depth reviews for most to follow in the next couple of weeks. I'm also starting some themed rolling articles -

Making a Statement? Interpretive Narrative, Allegory, Symbolic, Magical Realism...
The Enigma of Star Quality - Featured Actors
The Horror Movies of Wes Craven
Satire, the rarest genre.
Romantic Comedies That Don't Suck
Time Travel Movies – should you watch them in order? And what order do you pick?

Now, onto the movies, with honourable mentions of the others I love in that year cos it's just so hard to choose:

1981: Unfortunately, I missed out on being born in 1980 or 1979 or I'd be starting with The Shining or The Warriors respectively, and my birthyear I found out was a surprisingly poor year for films I really loved. I guess I'll go with Indiana Jones. Who doesn't like Indiana Jones? Strong characters (and fantastic introductions to those characters), engaging story, a cast to die for, brilliant exploitation of the Nazis fascination with the supernatural and metaphysical. A Classic. If it had Bruce Campbell in it as well it would probably be a perfect movie.

1982: First Blood. The first Rambo film is one of the best examples out there of the strength of sticking to one strong purpose of the story and making that powerhouse, and the focus on simple but effective violence makes you wince better than any slasher with 200 gallons of corn syrup blood thrown around in production. An unforgettable film, and satisfying in a way that makes me question myself.
Runners-Up: The Thing, Poltergeist.

1983: The Dead Zone. Right from the opening seconds of the beautiful score and hypnotic title design, you know you're dealing with something special, both for a Cronenberg fan and a plain old cinephile. A masterful film made after Videodrome and Scanners (and those tongue in cheek venereal disease movies), before The Fly. Like The Fly, it's biggest strength is the restraint Cronenberg employs with it, but with far more heart and sorrow to it than The Fly. Unlike some of his body horror work, here Cronenberg needed a cast that could effortlessly mesmerise you in the tense, terrifying or visually arresting scenes, but also break your heart, and in Christopher Walken he had his perfect leading man. One of the better King adaptations, even the smallest details are perfect, right down to the sweaty effect on Walken's skin during his burning house flash, his recoil when he touches someone (gained through actually firing a gun each time to genuinely shock Walken, on his suggestion) or Martin Sheen and Gexa Kovacs' performances as the pivotal characters of a future of evil.

Runner-Up: Trading Places.

1984: A good year for timeless classics, but I'm going to go with an unpopular choice.
Body Double. Very much a personal preference, to many it is a horrible insult and a bit of a shambles that De Palma has such a tendency to ape Hitchcock. In my case when he does it so unabashedly and entirely, I love it. It does help that many of the surrounding production values are excellent. The performances in Body Double might be fluffy but there's a delicate balance of hamming it up you can smile at, hamming it up that you outright pee yourself laughing at and just plain giving an enjoyable performance. I adore Gregg Henry in it, Melanie Griffith is adorable, and Craig Wasson does a great job of taking all of the silliness on his shoulders. In essence it's nothing more than a bit of Psycho and a whole lot of Vertigo and Rear Window, as well as plenty of other references that weren't a deliberate neon sign saying I Love Hitchcock. And yet there's a freshness to it. The movement of the camera, the delightful musical number in the middle, Pino Donaggio's sublime score, and the modernisation of the story so that the characters so there is less of a patriarchal feel is always fun.
Runners-Up: The Terminator, Stop Making Sense, This Is Spinal Tap, Ghostbusters.

1985: Back To The Future. Knowing me in the next couple of weeks I'll do a big piece about the whole trilogy. Suffice it to say, perfect cast chemistry, special effects perfect, score and soundtrack perfect, script perfect. Everything's perfect! Trivia – a recent study of the emotional peaks of narrative in relationship to the body's biorhythms proved that Back To The Future is the only film that almost perfectly matches the body's natural peaks and ebbs, and is therefore the most satisfying narrative to experience. And a video:

Runners-Up: Re-animator, The Purple Rose of Cairo, The Sure Thing

1986: Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Isn't Broderick just gorgeous? Well, despite how you feel about that, between Broderick, Alan Ruck and Jennifer Grey in a role that was nothing like Baby, this is a great movie to make you smile, whilst also also introducing the concept of using a winning personality, savvy use of a home computer and a hype machine that gets out of hand to get you just about anything (in this case not getting into trouble for another day off and a campaign to save his life), which at the time was not in anyone's thoughts. If the movie was made now, the ending would also include Ferris getting home to discover that not only is he not in trouble but someone started some kickstarter and Care2 accounts and in record time not only beaten the target amount needed to buy him a kidney, but a HBO deal to track his experience during the transplant.
Runners-Up: Manhunter, The Fly, Stand By Me.

1987: Full Metal Jacket. It's probably not my favourite BUT I'm a huge Kubrick fan, and you have to love the performances in this film. An oddly disjointed member of Kubrick's back catalogue but thoroughly provoking.
Runners-Up: Raising Arizona (see future blog on Satire) Radio Days, The Princess Bride,

Moonstruck, Withnail and I, The Witches of Eastwick, The Serpent and the Rainbow (see future blog on Horror Movies of Wes Craven), The Untouchables.

1988: Die Hard. Like Indiana, a classic, thoroughly enjoyable, thoroughly re-watchable, which I do practically everytime a new Bruce Willis film comes out. Will probably be doing a Bruce Willis bit re: my obsession with actors. Die Hard is one of those action films you name when you're having an argument about how action films in the past decade are not better just because they raise the stakes, you still need good actors, good dialogue, a solid story, obstacles that make sense, like walking over glass without shoes, and often the only solutions that work are so out there they implicitly teach you to sit on the edge of your seat, like throwing a dead body onto a cop car to ruin the terrorists perfect entry point camouflage.
Runners-Up: Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Hairspray, A Fish Called Wanda, School Daze

1989: Do The Right Thing. Made straight after School Daze, Do The Right Thing is an improvement on some of the same ideas and issues but more confident and less disquieting, and a powerhouse cast as a bonus. A thoroughly entertaining film you leave it with a powerful impression, largely due to the brilliant portrait of the imperfect characters in imperfect situations finding imperfect resolutions.
Runners-Up: Heathers, The Abyss, Born on the Fourth of July, Back To The Future 2, Bill and Ted.

1990: Jacob's Ladder. What can you say about Jacob's Ladder? Those faces are creepy as hell. The voice of Mirage in The Incredibles doing naughty things with a mythical creature on the dancefloor. The soothing voice of Danny Aiello hinting that maybe Tim Robbins should think about why all the weirdness is happening. Director Adrian Lyne might have done some junk before he got to this, and plenty after but this was an inspirational example of interpretive narrative, unreliable narrators, and the re-watch factor.
Runners-Up: The Grifters, Tremors, Total Recall (only for the scene with the bead o sweat scene. Oh and for this: Getting To Mars) and Back To The Future 3.

1991: JFK. One of Costner's lead parts where he
was great but had people scratching their heads at the silliness of the one before and after it. If you like conspiracy theories with no definitive direction, an overload of factual information and casting chock full of stars even for a few seconds here or there, this is the film to sit down with. Has a natural re-watch factor since for most people you wonder if you blink and missed the bit where they told you who did it.
Runners-up: The Last Boy Scout, Bill and Ted.

1992: Reservoir Dogs. For all the obvious reasons.

Runners-Up: Strictly Ballroom, Unforgiven, Bob Roberts, Hard Boiled, My Cousin Vinny, Delicatessen, Batman Returns.

1993: Naked. Mike Leigh is not typically a filmmaker I like, but the brilliant performances and uncompromising meanness, not to mention the fantastic introduction to David Thewlis as our leading man, makes Naked an exception.
Runner-Up: Cronos

1994: Shallow Grave. When I first watched Shallow Grave I thought (and continued to think until I rewatched a few months ago) that the only thing that was truly commanding about this film was Christopher Eccleston's performance as the mild mannered, repressed numbers man transitioning to an unhinged obsessive. Then I realised this year how much of an impact the design, the characters and the editing has had on me. Probably my favourite aspect is the inclusion of the malevolent scenes of the disquietingly underdeveloped criminals tracking them down, leading you down the garden path towards thinking that the suspense is directed towards what will happen when the criminals meet our protagonists. But then the sucker punch comes in.
Runners-Up: Quiz Show, Muriel's Wedding, Speed, Ed Wood, Shawshank Redemption, Swimming With Sharks, Bullets Over Broadway.

1995: Casino. Though much maligned, I enjoyed the constant narration of Casino, and one of my alltime favourite moments in cinema is when past tense turns present tense for Pesci.
Runners-Up: Seven, Murder in the First, The Doom Generation, Twelve Monkeys, Showgirls, Underground.

1996. Since this is the age when I started trying to devote a lot of time to all types of film, not just whatever came out in the cinema, I'd like to say something like Microcosmos... But I'm going with The Frighteners and Mars Attacks! Cos that's how much I love Michael J Fox.

1997: Jackie Brown. I personally find Jackie Brown slightly addictive, in no small way because of the nuanced and identifiable performance of Pam Grier, and applicably to several others alongside Grier, Tarantino's habit of casting Actors who haven't had the continual success they should have.
Runners-Up: Mad City, Boogie Nights, LA Confidential, As Good As It Gets, Wag The Dog, Titanic, Scream 2, Grosse Pointe Blanke, Private Parts, Funny Games (Original).

1998: After Life. I'm a big fan of Asian Cinema, but since I tend to like mostly horror (except for the trilogy that defies labels, Vengence) or the totally mental (Visitor Q, anyone?) I thought I'd leave that for a themed post.

But Afterlife is an exception, the little modest Japanese film standing as an example to all filmmakers out there. The production had to be cheap and resourceful, and in a stroke of genius the necessity is woken into the narrative, about the Department of Death if you will. The team that greets the newly dead who are going to Heaven and processes their Heaven. We learn that instead of being effortlessly magical and celestial etc, the processing and administration of Heaven is run down and lacking in resources; they discuss with you what moment from your life was your happiest, and that they will 'recreate' the moment for you and that will be your Heaven. Only you don't stay in it for eternity, they dress up a set and film it for you, with whatever items they can use for props. For a man who wants a moment of flying a plane to be his memory, they use cotton wool for the clouds.

But it's not the kitsch and novel approach to Heaven that grabs you. After Life is an incredible little film that can move you in many ways as the team meet different people and learn what they held dear in life, some funny, some uplifting, some heartbreaking.

Runners-Up: Bulworth, Ringu, Gods and Monsters, Run Lola Run, Buena Vista Social Club, Rushmore, Pleasantville (See in future Magical Realism), There's Something About Mary, Pi.

1999: Fight Club. One of the few films that takes what's best in a good book, changes mostly include the ending, but instead of making the ending suck by playing it safe and conventional they make it more edgy and offensive. I could write pages and pages about the socio-political subtext of this film but I'll leave that for now and just say – Helena Bonham Carter singing the tune from Valley of the Dolls = awesome.
Runners-Up: The Talented Mr Ripley, Audition, Magnolia, American Movie, Election, Galaxy Quest, The Insider.

2000: Wonderboys. Usually when I realise a story is going to be about excellent stories and wonderful, world renowned writers I get this hesitance, this dread that it's going to be so embarrassing if the writing of the writer about the best writers is really crap. Wonderboys though stays away from trying to show whether they are all great writers and instead just gives you a right good story, which you then realise would be a book good enough that you might have read it. Which, ahem, I should have...
Runners-Up: Almost Famous, Shadow of a Vampire, Ginger Snaps, Best In Show, Memento, Requiem For A Dream, Snatch, American Psycho (see future blog on Bret Easton Ellis Movies), O Brother Where Art Thou?

2001: The Royal Tenenbaums. Stella cast, one in which
mature characters are not made fun of for being kooky and not made boring to make it socially conventional, completely delightful film.
Runners-Up: Dogtown and Z-Boys, Mulholland Drive, Tape and The Believer.

2002: In lieu of the first of the Vengeance trilogy I'll say Capturing The Friedmans. If ever there was a film (documentary or otherwise) that encapsulated the complicated nature of human nature and perception it's this one. I'm sure one of the reasons I found Catfish to be weak if it's a documentary or a fictional story, is because the makers of Capturing the Friedmans got there first (on the casual footage that then becomes contextually essential and starts the ball rolling on an evaluation and study documentary) and did it better (on an everything sense, since Capturing the Friedmans is masterful in every way). It's easy to start watching the film thinking you'll get a satisfactory summary of the family dynamic, and maybe enough evidence to decide if more than a few disgusting people might have enabled the criminal acts, but you have so much to think about regarding human bias and the weakness of perception and self evaluation at the end it makes your head spin.

Runners-Up: Bus 174, 28 Days Later, Road To Perdition, Rules of Attraction, Irreversible, and Punch Drunk Love (the tone of which some people get confused about. Is it sweet? Is it worrying... you have to wonder how they would react if they left this (NSFW) scene in...)

2003: I had the strongest urge to be naughty and name my coblogger/boyfriend/kidney donor Ant's films, Things Best Left and The Most Boring Woman In The World :p One of them is award winning, but I know that's no justification.

I guess I'd say Finding Nemo, because within the first two minutes I cried. That's getting the tone right, that's what that is.
Runners-Up: Fog of War, American Splendor, A Mighty Wind, Oldboy (soon to be in Vengeance post), Big Fish.

2004: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. So many films can't even make you care about people really dying, and here Spike manages to get you to care about the death of just the memory of someone. Additionally, the movie stands as a impressive example of mastering narrative design, not just by what he chooses to show, but what he doesn't. He omits Winslet's experience during the process, which lends itself to the viewer imagining all the comparitive qualities of her struggle.
Runners-Up: Donnie Darko, Mysterious Skin, Hotel Rwanda, Hustle and Flow.

2005: Pretty Persuasion and Hard Candy. Hard to
choose, both display effortlessly commanding performances
from the leads, and the delicate nuances in both movies leave
you realising subtle details long after you've watched them,
and forgo a reliance on popular soundtrack (mostly in Hard Candy, entirely in Pretty Persuasion) prefering instead to
create the tone of a private universe. And again, both endings
are haunting, in their own special way, although as always I admire the interpretive touch to Hard Candy.
Runners-Up: Lady Vengeance, Good 
Night and Good Luck.

2006: Stranger Than Fiction. A sweet,
slightly magical vehicle for Will Farrell, or a fabulously multi-layered pondering on the story
of Jesus' sacrifice? Will probably embarrass myself with a long post on the magical realism
in this quite soon...
Runners-Up: The Departed, Children of Men, The Host, Little Miss Sunshine and When The Levees Broke.

Tough year; all the following – Hot Rod, Ratatouille, REC, Walk Hard The Dewey Cox Story, For The Bible Tells Me So, Hot Fuzz, The Mist.

In contrast, just one – WALL-E. God, I'm happy for kids today that they have Pixar, but super jealous as well. When I was a lil girl we had The Little Mermaid... the story of a bored girl so in love with some guy she agrees to no longer speak so she can fit into his social circle, great. As far as I'm concerned WALL-E is the most emotional film ever made. At least I cried for almost all of it so that must mean something right?

Another tough year, but easy to pick a winner - Moon. Easy because it's my favourite film of all time, even though it's too sad to watch much. Ant made us go see this as soon as it came out, and like so many small minded dickheads I went into with the word 'ZOWIE' bouncing around my skull, but after that we went to see it three more times. Jones' direction exceeds the word perfection, Clint Mansell's score is brilliant, and in some parts so emotional I personally think it should be legally banned from being accessible to anyone diagnosed with depression, and Sam Rockwell's performance doesn't just deserve the Oscar he didn't get, it deserves an award to be made for him that is officially recognised as one better than an Oscar.

As you can see, I might be classifiable as sycophantic about this particular film. Other films I loved this year are I Love You Philip Morris (absolute pure genius on every level, and best biopic ever made) and the coolest of cool District 9.

And back to Moon, here's a cute link for anyone as intense as me:

2010: Inception.

Runners-Up: Exit Through The Gift Shop =
proves that Banksy is inherently some sort of genius regardless of artistic approach. And Barry Munday, coming out of left field that turns into one of the loveliest romantic comedies in the world.

And finally, I know this year shouldn't count but as a Franco fan I feel I must mention Howl. As in, it's good, he's marvellous in it, people should see it.

So, now I'm sufficiently embarrassed by the length of this thing, I will say only

Hope you're not too miffed, Byee!
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