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?

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