Saturday, October 24

Wake up!

There have been a few items that I thought might be worthy of me penning a few words about but last night a topic jumped up and bit me on the nose, stole two hours from my life that I will never get back (and cost me £7 to boot).

I am talking about a film,movie if you prefer but before I tell I want to clarify a few things: I love movies, I like watching them, I like discussing them afterwards. Entire swatches of my teenage years were spent staring at the cathode ray tube until the wee hours of the morning.

Last night then we watched two films, it being the weekend and a drab rainy sort of night, it seemed the right thing to do.

The first one was 'Barton Fink' by the Cohen Brothers. This is very well directed and wonderfully shot and the script is great/dialogue and the acting is brilliant. The story leaves you feeling mildly dissatisfied because it leaves some questions unanswered and the plot is actively simple and vague. This gives the film intrigue and everything here has a lucious depth that only begs to be re-watched as is generally the case with Cohen Brothers movies.

Things could not have been more different with our second watching, 's. Darko' a sequel which made fans of the original quiver with anticipated excitement and a slight wonder as to how this might be achieved. Slight scepticism when reading the back cover failed to turn up imediately discernible pedigree but we liked the original so we gave it a chance.

'OMG!!...WTF!!' to put it in the target audience's language. This film seemed to be made from the cuttings of the editing room floor, with some rehashed Donnie Darko effects, half a lingerie advert and a borderline pedophile video. It sets a new benchmark in how not to do a sequel, one not seen since Danny Devito donned a penguin costume. Whole treatises could be written about the skillful omission of talent at every stage and how to throw away money in the most convoluted way possible.

As the film went on I imagined a Barton Fink sort of character, arriving fresh faced in Hollywood and being given the chance to write a script only to be told he had to assist the producer's nephew in writing. The studio owner's daughter got the lead role and the casting agent was the local pimp. So our Fink-alike tries to pen a story all the while having to battle with the nephew's powertrip and the daughters constant demand for more screentime while trying to keep some Darko semblance (I pity the poor editor who had to work on this and give him credit for trying to hide much of the assembled inaptitude here with seemingly interminable shots of Daveigh Chase in her nightdress and timelapse skies). In fact the motley crew of pundits here upon closer examination reveal themselves to be nothing more than the children and friends of Hollywood 'Also Rans', being pushed for or into acting roles to keep them quiet and hopeing all the while that practice will turn them into at least enough of an actor/actress to take over from their parents playing two bit TV parts. A sort of modern day equivalent of taking over the family buisness or nepotism and while 90%+ of good acting is down to talent this is not genetic and any amount of hard graft will barely keep you at the bottom of the food chain. So these hapless kids get to try their hand at everything form acting to directing.. and our poor Fink-alike writer, forced to start at the bottom of this chain, to accomodate the wishes of the parents and the whims of the kids, he might as well cut off his own head and stick it in a box for all the free reign his talent is given. The one big difference being Barton Fink is a good writer, not so Nathan Atkins.

The few characters with a hint of potential (the sheriff, the bartender and the priest's wife, the waitress) are like rats trapped on a sinking ship and while they try their best in the few scenes they are in the lack of direction kills them as it does the rest of the movie. I hope for their sakes this didn't kill their careers too, as for the rest of the people involved, I hope it does. Moviedom would benefit from it. Do go and read the reviews on Amazon and imdb though as they provide much better entertainment.

"I wish I could do the time travel thing and go back in time and NOT watch this film."

" What? Oh S Darko? I thought you said Donnie Darko. Oh...well that changes things. Um... Let me take all of that back then."

"The only good thing about this film is that it ended."

As films and production deals are increasingly signed on a one sentence pitch, the ability to tell an actual story in words or images is slowly dissapearing.

There are other areas where Hollywood has now become it's own incestious enemy. The stars and wannabes despearately trying catch someone's eye, the surgically 'enhanced', make-up perfection lurking, working everywhere, from supermarket tills to waffle waitresses, pizza delivery boys to pool cleaners, all look like (or aspire to) airbrushed models in the magazines. Hollywood reality has been freshly squeezed through a trouser press every morning, producers, casting agents and directors have lost touch with the rest of the world, the look and feel of real people. The characters in their films all seem like pastel coloured versions of real people, faded, washed out, unreal and herein lies the crux of their problem if the characters are unbelievable they will not hold audience interest and that is that.

Now if one were to say all of this to a producer the answer would most likley be 'But that is all I can get here in Hollywood' and it quite possibly is if you then ask the agents, they will tell you nobody wants to hire 'imperfect looking people' and thus the vicious circle is complete. Why do you think the characters that have to be beliveably hard/real, the vilains of so many films have been foreign, German, English...Real people make for real characters. Real characters make a story believable and a believable story has the power to move people. So Hollywood is slowly loosing it's touch, foreign movies are taking an increasingly big share of prizes and deservedly so.

Wake up!

Sunday, October 18

Love thy neighbour..

How are your neighbours? Interesting question, isn't it? One that will inspire some of us to clench our fists and grind our teeth muttering expletives under our breath. As is the case with our friends Fran and Reggie we visited today. Their neighbours of three years are enthusiastic DIYers and have been at it nearly every weekend for the past three years as they both have full time jobs. They also have two kids complete with their own quantity of associated noise.

Fact of the matter is most of us cannot and will not ever escape having neighbours. Now if you are lucky, you either have none (hurray!) or you get on with them very well. At the other end of the scale, we have the poor people that live in appartments, high rise buildings, surrounded by neighbours on all sides and those whose relationship with their neighbour could only be defined as a temporary stalemate (or more like a ceasefire in some cases..) We only have to turn to the news to find plenty of examples about how wrong it can all go but aren't we forgetting one fundamental thing here? Aren't we all human, in the same boat and trying to get on and live our lives in relative peace? 

As the World has grown faster and louder so our control over our private world inside our homes has gained importance. This is where we retreat form the hustle and bustle, where we are the masters and nobody should dare interfere. 'An Englishman's home is his castle' the saying goes. Nice and good and were it only so, as castles have seriously thick walls (think feet rather than inches) and noise then is rarely an issue. I can't really imagine any castle owner even realizing their neighbour was doing a bit of DIY in fact next door's cannon practice would most likely be identified as distant thunder. The reality however consists more often than not of badly built partition walls and un-insulated floors (not really put up with peace and quiet in mind) rather than foot thick piles of rock.

What to do about forced coexistence? Should we be tolerant or should we arm for war? The answer is not clearcut as in some cases the opposing party might simply not have the intellectual muscle or the altruism, nor the empathy required for enlightened coexistence. Best we can do is get on with it, be the neighbour we would like to have and don't rise to the challenge. Don't forget that our freedom to do whatever we want ends where our neighbours freedom begins (and vice versa)and all too often we are taking away someone else's freedom in the exercise of our own.

To make a case in point, imagine next door wakes you up with an almighty crashing and banging in the middle of the night followed by some shouting and screaming, now you can let that put your nose out and start retaliating by banging on the wall or slamming the door or turning up the music and leaving the house next Sunday and no doubt such behaviour would have an effect although it might not be the one you really want (well next door would most likely be annoyed and that might make you feel better but they might also respond in kind which might make you feel worse).

Turn the whole scenario around and presume you get up to go to the toilet in the middle of the night. On the way you trip up and fall down the stairs spraining your ankle. You can't get up and despite the noise and your swearing your partner is still fast asleep and you have to shout to wake him. Your ankle turns out to be broken and you get a couple of weeks home sick which turn out to be not very relaxing because for some reason next door has taken to slamming the doors and banging on the wall at the slightest sound... Get the point?

I suppose this is turning into quite the Christian message of 'love thy neighbour' and 'turn the other cheek' but whatever problems there are with organized religion the philosophical precepts are common sense.

As for Fran and Reggie, well they have bought a yurt which they put up on the parents' farm and where they spend their weekends away from it all, hoping that they will return one Sunday evening to find next door have moved out!

And finally I bet you want to ask me: 'How are your neighbours?' - Well, one lot has two noisy babies and they have lost the power of coherent speech, all we can hear is ooohing and cooing and when we see them out and about the town they always look a bit sleep deprived and ill and the other one has a bad habit of slamming doors and can be a bit of a dick, I can't wait for us to move!