Wednesday, 6 September 2017

The Decade Hence Observatory



Leave it to Piven.

***

(I meant to post this two months ago.)

***

(This blog is 10 years old.)

***

(+ 2 months.)



Wednesday, 17 May 2017

PLACEHOLDER

Blog Post Preliminary Plan:

Topic: Shivering

Abrupt start
Relate to current news event (Theresa May ref)?
Pompous intro
Analysis:

  • Cold
  • Fear
  • Disgust
  • Pirates (timbers)
  • bees - punchline: "S. hive ring"


Something about evolution
Undercut argument

Sudden dismount:
Out of nowhere reference to obscure culture (Flossie Teacake?)

[NOTE: do not publish until fully polished]

Monday, 24 April 2017

Through the Looping-Glass

I found a scrap of paper, wedged between two bench slats. It drew my attention because the paper was clean and starched-stiff, and sticking up like a proud feather.

I picked it up and read. In crisp, clear, hand-written text were written the words "PLEASE TURN OVER".

I turned it over, and read the other side. In crisp, clear, hand-written text were written the words "TURN OVER".

I didn't appreciate the lack of a please, so I thought "forget it" and tucked the paper back in the bench. All I want is a modicum of politeness.

Now I'll never know what was on the other side.

Good afternoon.

I've been re-reading old blog posts recently. Some of them are pretty good - even the ones I didn't like at the time. That means that in the future, I might enjoy re-reading this one.

Especially if the format is

INTERESTING.

No-one wants to re-read a wall of plain text.

I will now transcribe a conversation that took place during at least three separate Revolutionary Wars:

***

Head Revolutionary: Let's revolt.

Followers: We agree. On one condition.

Head Revolutionary: What's that?

Followers: When the existing system is overthrown, we should all get matching tattoos.

Head Revolutionary: *shrug* That's it? You don't even need my permission for that. That's totally up to you.

Followers: Yeah. No, we knew that. Of course.

Head Revolutionary: Oh, hang on. Did you want me to get one too?

Followers: Get one what?

Head Revolutionary: A tattoo.

Followers: Oh. No, we weren't thinking that.

Head Revolutionary: I will. I totally will. I'd be happy to get one.

Followers: No, it's OK.

Head Revolutionary: Right. So that was the only condition?

Followers*conferring, whispering* Actually, no. We have a new condition. The tattoo one wasn't the real one. This is the real one.

Head Revolutionary: OK - shoot.

Followers: When the existing system is overthrown, we should all get Korean food.


Head Revolutionary: Korean food.


Followers: Yes. It’s non-negotiable. We won’t revolt unless we get Korean food.


Head Revolutionary: And that’s definitely your only condition?


Followers*conferring, whispering* Yes. *conferring, whispering* Or a high-end pie.


Head Revolutionary: Fine. 100% agreed. Do you want me to pay?


Followers: No, we’ll all chip in.


Head Revolutionary: Great. So… revolution?


Followers*cheering, fist-pumping* Revolution!!


But the revolution fails because the tattoos and the Korean octopus curry contain lethally incompatible inks.


***

I can’t wait to re-read that.

In my forties.

Friday, 31 March 2017

The Worst Joke Ever Written

I think I've come up with the worst joke ever written.

I know people often use that kind of introduction when they have a joke they actually quite like, but are embarrassed about.

Lord knows I've done this in the past. I've come up with some terrible pun that I want to share, so I present it in some protective buffer by making it into media satire, or putting it into the mouth of a character with lower standards than mine.

But this isn't one of those. This is genuinely a terrible joke. It just about reaches the minimum requirements for a joke, but doesn't work for so many reasons.

Even with all this preamble, you're probably thinking that it will raise a smile anyway, perhaps in spite of my warning. It won't.

Every time I even think this joke, my only reaction is a furrowed brow. And that's what I'm expecting from you.

Why would I even think of this, let alone remember it, let alone write it down?

I don't know why or how I came up with it. I think I was tired. But I couldn't get it out of my head, like a jingle or those voices telling me to hurt people.

Here it is:

What do you call a comedian who cuts wood?
Lathe Martin

You see? Furrowed.

The punchline refers to Steve Martin. I can see why you might not have made that leap.

Let's look at the reasons why this is a terrible joke.

1

We'll start with the obvious: this "joke" is predicated on the fact that the word 'lathe' sounds like the word 'Steve'. It doesn't.

It's not just that it doesn't rhyme - it doesn't even come close to rhyming. No part of 'Steve' is like 'lathe'. The only thing it has in common is that it ends in an 'e'.

If his name was Stethe Martin, it still wouldn't work, but at least it would be one step closer.

But his name isn't Stethe Martin. It's Steve Martin.

Even a comedian called Dave would be better. Dave doesn't rhyme with lather either, but it sounds like it. This would be a better joke if it was a Dave comedian. But who's a good Dave comedian? Attell? Allen? Not well known enough.

I think the best I could do is "Lathid Baddiel". But then I'd need to spell it "Lathe-id" for it to register.

And - to emphasise my point - the "Lathe-id Baddiel" variant is much, much better than the original version.

2

The joke is a one-level pun.

By this I mean that the only connection between the two separate ideas (woodwork and comedy) is those two words sounding similar. Which, I've already established, they do not.

You get a lot of one-level puns on Twitter. It's not good enough. For a joke to be worthwhile, you need to have something else: either another 'joining' element which relates the two subjects again, or an interesting turn of phrase, or some wider context.

One word sounding similar to another is not enough to justify making a joke.

And, again, the words do not sound similar.

3

No-one knows what lathes do. Even professional lathers.

The joke says "cuts wood", but do lathes really do that? A lathe is not a jigsaw. It's a lathe. They probably don't work exclusively with wood, either. Lathes perform a huge range of functions. Reducing it to 'cutting wood' is an oversimplification, and a grave insult to the inventor of the lathe: Professor Maxwell Lathe.

It's a bad object to include in a joke.

I could have been more accurate if the set-up was:

What do you call a comedian who performs a huge range of functions?

Though it may have steered the listener even further away from the lathe, it at least would have been interesting.

4

The word 'lathe' is not a good word for a punchline. It's not... punchy enough. 'Lathe' sounds like a wet wafer sliding down someone's tongue. You're not getting a laugh with 'lathe'.

5

Steve Martin is not a contemporary figure. I'm sorry, Steve, but it's true. But if he is thought of, it's mostly as an actor. His heyday as a stand-up has long since passed.

That may be why you didn't "get" the joke when you first read it. Even if you were running your mind through comedians who might fit the punchline, he was probably quite far down the list.

I'm not too learned about the modern comedy scene to be able to suggest an up-to-date replacement. When I was part of "the scene", choosing an apposite Steve would have been child's play.

Let's check Chortle.



Are any of these in the zeitgeist? They all look pretty old.

Steve Coogan's been in the news a lot lately. would have been an improvement, and even he's more often thought of as a comedy actor than a comedian. He is twenty years younger than Steve Martin. I checked.

6.

This is closely related to 5. 'Martin' is too common a name. If 'Steve' doesn't sound like 'lathe' and (I think I mentioned it before) it doesn't, you'll be looking for clues to work out the punchline by looking at the surname.

But there are a million people with the surname Martin. It could have been a Dean Martin joke. Or a Chris Martin joke. Neither of those forenames sound like 'lathe', but neither does 'Steve'.

That's another reason why Lathe Coogan would be an improvement. There aren't too many Coogans about. So you could work backwards, and solve the mystery of the joke.

"Ah," you'd say. "Lathe Coogan. Like Steve Coogan. He must think that 'lathe' sounds like 'Steve'. It doesn't, though."

YES I KNOW.

7.

The set-up is clumsily worded. The "what do you call a [blank]?" joke format is pretty hackneyed these days. And why not tighten it up? "What do you call a carpenter comedian?" is much snappier, and takes you into the right territory. Or it would if I knew what the hell a lathe was used for. Do carpenters use lathes?

8.

No-one was asking for a joke about:
a) cutting wood and
b) Steve Martin

When coming up with this joke, even if I was wedded to the format, I could have chosen literally any combination of occupation and comedian. And any of those combinations would have been closer than 'lathe' and 'Steve.

I was working within parameters so narrow that the worst thing I could have thought of was, necessarily, also the best thing I could have thought of.

It's good to work within a framework, but not if that framework is scaffolding snug around an atom.

***

Just to conclude my argument, and to demonstrate its soundness, I will use each of these eight faults to suggest alternative versions of the Lathe Martin joke. All of these alternatives are terrible. And all of them are improvements on the original.

1.
What do you call a comedian who cuts wood?
Lathe-id Baddiel

2.
What do you call a comedian who cuts wood?
Lathe Martin. He was the best I ever SAW.

3.
What do you call a comedian who performs a huge range of functions?
Lathe Martin

4.
What do you call a comedian who cuts wood?
Michael HackIntyre

5.
What do you call a comedian who cuts wood?
Lathe Coogan

6.
What do you call a comedian who cuts wood?
Lathe Bugeja

7.
What do you call a carpenter comedian?
Lathe Martin

8.
What do you call a comedian who extracts coal from the ground?
Jerry Minefeld

***

My original joke is worse than ALL OF THOSE.

I hope Lathe Martin is in your head now, buzzing there like a insect that just won't die.

A problem shared is a problem halved. Like so much wood. Halved on a lathe. By a carpenter.

What do you call a comedian in two equal segments?
Halve Martin

I'm fine.

Good to be writing again.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Fung on Film


Preamble

At the beginning of the year, I was feeling crushed under the weight of many unwatched films.

These were a combination of birthday/Christmas presents, frivolous purchases, recordings and things on my Netflix queue.

Because I'm really indecisive, I found myself paralysed with indecision about which film to watch first, and ended up watching nothing at all. My inability to make a simple choice meant I was forced to spend my evening reading or speaking with family.

To solve this terrible situation, I decided to write a list of all of my outstanding films and to watch them in alphabetical order. That way, I didn't have to think. My decision had already been made for me, by the inventor of the alphabet: Professor Maxwell Alphabet.

So that's what I did. Mostly. A couple of these were watched out of order - but that doesn't invalidate the experiment. I don't even know why I'm mentioning it.

Some of these films I had seen before, but wanted to re-watch. Some of these I'd seen part of in the past. Some of them I'd lied about seeing in the past to seem cool.

I also decided to give them all a rating on a five star scale.

I never normally rank films that I watch, but it seemed like providing some kind of formal assessment would legitimise the whole endeavour. Also, I found that you can do a cool-looking star symbol.

Of course, the ratings are totally arbitrary. Is Barry Lyndon exactly as good as Green Room? I don't know. They're completely different and are trying to do different things. But it is a good way of noting which films I loved, which films I liked, which films I didn't like, and which films were The Lobster.

Here are my thoughts on each of them. These will inevitably get shorter and shorter as I run out of energy and enthusiasm. Unless I write this over a number of months, to keep myself from losing steam. Probably a good idea, as Thanksgiving is coming up...

*** (this is a section break, not a rating)

The Films


A Nightmare on Elm Street
★★★

I know, I know. This should alphabetically be under 'N'. But I wanted to watch this first for some reason.

I don't think I've ever seen this before. I'm not really a huge horror fan, but it seems like an 'important' film, and I can't let anything culturally significant pass me by.

Having said that, I can't name a single Ed Sheeran song. I'm not proud of it - I just haven't been exposed to him. I view modern culture through a tiny pinhole and have no friends.

Why am I talking about Ed Sheeran? I don't think he has anything to do with the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. Though he does look like he might wear stripey jumpers.

I feel like I couldn't really judge this film objectively. I've seen so many clips, parodies and references that it was hard to watch it as its own thing. There were inventive death scenes, but I didn't get much out of it. It's hard to be scared by Freddie Krueger these days. He's just a cultural reference point. It's like being scared by Mickey Mouse.

Actually, Mickey Mouse is pretty scary.

Barry Lyndon
(re-watch)
★★★★

I bought a Stanley Kubrick Blu-ray box set last year. I'd seen most of the films before, but it was cheap and I'm a straight white male in his mid-30s, so am required by law to think Kubrick is the bee's knees.

My impressions were immediately soured by the fact that the set (which includes a giant book), was going to mess with my OCD. And by OCD, I mean a mild preference for Blu-ray boxes to be the same size. That's what OCD is, right? It's not debilitating or serious or anything. It's just getting miffed when one box is taller than the other, or if a band releases two albums with the same font on the cover, and then a third in a different font.

You know: OCD.

Also, you feel compelled to wash your hands after handling excrement.

OCD.

I have that and it makes me eccentric and interesting.

Anyway, the box containing the discs is the height of a DVD box and not a Blu-ray box. That is terrible. And for it to contain the works of notorious control freak Stanley Kubrick is a double-insult: tantamount to spitting in his widow's face.

He must be turning in his grave. Albeit turning in a giant hamster-wheel that gives the impression that he's moving, when actually... he's...

That was going to be a reference to that scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey, where... This might be too specific.

Where was I?

Oh yes: Ed Sheeran.

I mean: Barry Lyndon.

I'd seen this before, but not for a while. What to say about it? It's like watching a load of beautiful paintings come to life. And I think there's a plot as well. And Leonard Rossiter.

Am I a film reviewer yet?

Birth
★★★

I love Under the Skin. I like Sexy Beast.

So I thought I'd seek out Jonathan Glazer's other film: Birth. I'd heard mixed reviews, which must have influenced me, because mine's mixed too.

The film has been criticised for being creepy. Which it is.

Nicole Kidman thinks her dead husband has been reincarnated in the body of a 10-year-old. Because the 10-year-old says that's who he is.

And things happen. No, not those things. But close enough.

It's a great-looking film and Kidman's performance is fantastic. But I don't think it ever gets past the implausibility of the plot.

I don't need my plots to always be plausible, but I need the characters to behave in a mode consistent with the tone of the film. And they don't scrutinise the whole dead husband thing enough, so it ends up being interesting, but a bit unsatisfying.

Blue Ruin
★★★1/2

Lean, violent, tense. I think I'm biased towards any film that's 90 minutes or less because I admire restraint. As you can tell by the brevity of this post, and my reluctance to get sidetracked talking about Ed Sheeran.

Commando
★★1/2

Like A Nightmare on Elm Street, I probably should have seen this when I was 13. I somehow missed it, even though I saw and liked a lot of other Schwarzenegger films at the time.

This was a pretty stupid movie. But I didn't mind because the world was stupid and everyone in it was stupid. I like consistency.

This was pretty fun.

Dekalog (and extras)
★★★★1/2

Ah, Dekalog.

Kieslowski.

Poland.

Grzegorz Rasiak.

I don't know whether to consider myself a film buff. I never go to the cinema, which suggests not. But I also use the phrase "depth of field" when discussing lenses with Marty Scorsese. It's a tricky balance.

There are still big gaps in my film knowledge (a big Goddard-shaped hole, an Italian neorealism-shaped hole, a massive Alvin and the Chipmunks Squeakquel chasm), but I try to make sure I cover the major directors, but only if they're straight, white, or Akira Kurosawa.

Over the past few years, I've got up to speed on three of the northern European giants*: Ingmar Bergman, Andrei Tarkovsky and Krzysztof Kieślowski. I usually scoff them down, several films at a time until I'm all bloated and morose.

I don't know if they should be grouped together, but they all do seem to have a fascination with dreams, death and religion. I'll talk about Bergy and Tarky later on.

Kieślowski (and yes I have been copying and pasting that weird s with the accent), I only really knew from the Three Colours trilogy, which is pretty great. But I bought this big box set because I'd heard it was very good. It is.

Dekalog is ten-part series made for Polish television - each episode relates (however loosely) to one of the Ten Commandments. There's some crossover, but they're mostly stand-alone things. A couple of them were expanded into features. They feature lots of moral dilemmas and the occasional 80s hairdo. (It was made in the 80s - it's not a stylistic choice.)

What I like about Kieślowski is that even though some of his work seems a bit high-concept (The Ten Commandments! Films based around the colours in the French flag! That one about a ghost!), it never seems excessive or artificial. It's just the exploration of a particular scenario in a subtle and interesting way.

There's also an interesting variety of characters, with different points of view. Quite a few of the episodes feature female protagonists, which is good. (I won't check the gender ratio. I'll probably discover that there are only two women in the series, and one of them is a robot.)

Dekalog is well worth a watch. You can binge it like an HBO series.

There are also lots of other things in the box set: early documentaries and features by Kieślowski (which I should really rate separately to bump up my numbers), and some good contextualising featurettes.

The Double Life of Veronique
★★★★★

I respect Krzysztof Kieślowski for placing two of his greatest works alphabetically close together. It's neat.

I loved this film. I've discovered that lots of the films I like share elements in common: beautiful imagery, a dreamlike atmosphere, an unconventional structure, and... puppets?

I feel like this film belongs to the strangely specific sub-genre of films that feature two women merging identities in some way. The others that I can think of are Bergman's Persona, Robert Altman's 3 Women and David Lynch's Mulholland Drive. I like all of these films. I don't know why.

It's reassuring to know that I'm enlightened enough to watch female-led films, as long as they're being directed by a man, often in a somewhat prurient fashion.

Enlightened, I am.

Anyway, Veronique is great, even if it slightly suffers from Return of the King-itis where I could have done with losing a couple of endings.


Dressed to Kill
★★

I don't get Brian De Palma. I like Blow Out, I guess. But I keep hearing how he's very original actually and isn't just copying better directors. I feel like the only people who like him were 14 when they got into him and thought he was a genius because they didn't recognise his faults.

He's the Tarantino of the 80s. Except I was 14 when Pulp Fiction came out, so I wrongly think Quentin is a genius.

I don't know who the 00s equivalent is. Oh, I know:

Edgar Wright.

Yeah, I said it.

Come at me!

(Not really, Edgar. I like you. I didn't mean it.)

On second thoughts, I just checked De Palma's filmography and quite like a lot of it.

Disregard.

Dressed to Kill is no good, though.


Eureka
★★★★

This film is batshit crazy.

I bought it because I like Nicholas Roeg, I like Gene Hackman, and I bloody love Greek exclamations.

I don't want to spoil it, so I'll try not to give away too many details. But it begins with a crazy gold-mining bit that's all dream-like and intense, then it turns into a weird family drama, then there's a bit that's like a gangster film (with Joe Pesci!), then it turns nuts again with an inexplicable voodoo sequence that's totally unrelated to the plot, then there's a crazy graphic death scene. (I've repeated the word 'crazy' a lot there.)

If that was it, I would be throwing five stars all over the place.

But then it turns into a courtroom drama that I kind-of lose interest in. There's a long (very well-delivered) monologue by one of the characters, that's all stagey and ridiculous. And I was like "where did all the snakes and guns and prophecies go?".

The actress delivering the speech is Theresa Russell, who was married to Roeg at the time. And it feels like he put it in with a view to getting her an Oscar nomination.

Still, it's well worth seeing.

Eyes Wide Shut
★★★

Kubrick again. About a third of the way through this film, I was really enjoying it and thinking it was an underrated gem. But then it loses momentum.

It's trying to be about three different films. One is an intense personal drama about sexual jealousy between a married couple, one is a surreal yarn, with eccentric characters and a fun, dark adventure (that was my favourite bit), and one is a conventional conspiracy thriller with no real resolution.

Kidman was great again, but it's weird watching Tom Cruise in anything.

I feel like his real-world activities have made him such an oddball that there's an interesting edge to all of his films. He's a leading man, but he's essentially become a character actor because he's just crazy. I can't work out if his presence in the film ruins it or makes it watchable.

Fanny and Alexander
(re-watch)
★★★★★

Bergman time, baby.

I watched several of his films in a binge a couple of years ago. I like him.

Fanny and Alexander is awesome. I'd previously only seen the theatrical version, but I liked it so much I bought a multi-region Blu-ray player, just so I could get the extended TV version too.

And now I face a dilemma. Is Fanny and Alexander one of the best films I've ever seen, or one of the best TV series I've ever seen? I suppose it's both.

As I watched the TV version, maybe it doesn't belong on this list. But I'm writing this now, and it would be a shame to have italicised all of those words for nothing.

This is probably one of the most accessible things he's done. It's one of those films where you appreciate the production design. The sets are amazing, the costumes are amazing, the moustaches are so real you feel like you could twizzle them.

It has some of his usual existential angst, but also lots of funny bits. The main plot involves the titular F and A moving from their opulent, loving family home to live with a new stepfather who's strict and puritanically religious. So there are bits that are like a children's story, but there's also good stuff about ageing, and theatre, and philosophy.

The fourth episode is one of the best bits of TV I've ever seen.

Also, it has dreams and puppets, so you know I'm on board.


Green Room
★★★★

See my review of Blue Ruin above (this is directed by the same guy). Even though it clocks in at an excessive 95 minutes, I enjoyed this quite a lot. It was nerve-wracking and very violent. And a bit silly. And Picard was in it.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople
★★★1/2

This was likeable. That may be damning it with faint praise, but I haven't got anything else to say about it. Was Ed Sheeran in it? Maybe he was. Maybe he was.


The Lobster
★1/2

I didn't like this film.

It's a dark indie comedy with a strange premise and a good cast.

I didn't like it.

I did like one of the director's previous films, Dogtooth. Maybe if this one had been made in Greek, I would have liked it because there would have been an extra barrier between me and the material. Weird Foreign always seems to be of a higher quality than Weird English.

I admire Colin Farrell for playing a lead role that's so dull and unappealing. It's impressive. But also dull and unappealing.

My main observation of The Lobster was that it was a lot like one of my blog posts.

Is that arrogant? Probably not if I hated the film.

Just like one of my 'amusing' posts, it has weird stilted dialogue, a bizarre premise and a couple of funny things. Then it loses momentum, fails to deliver anything satisfying and just wanders round in a circle aimlessly until the end.

But whereas this format is charming for a short blog post, it is not appropriate for a 118 minute feature.

Also, I wanted to see someone turn into an animal. They promised us people turning into animals, and it only happens off-screen. What about the people turning into animals?

McCabe and Mrs Miller
(re-watch)
★★★★★

I love this film. It's a 'revisionist' Western, which means it's boring.

You can't hear the dialogue and everyone looks cold. My favourite bit is where Julie Christie eats four fried eggs and some stew.

I never really thought of Warren Beatty as much of an actor, but he's great in this.

This is in my top twenty favourite films of all time. I haven't made such a list, but McCabe and Mrs Miller will be on it (as long as I can count the Twilight saga as just one entry).

Nostalghia
(re-watch)
★★★★1/2

Andrei Tarkovsky is the third of my giants. He's all dreams and puppets (except maybe not the puppets).

His Mirror is one of my favourite films. Tarkovsky makes, by some distance, the most beautiful films I've ever seen. Even if there was no plot (and often, there's no "if" about it), you can just revel in the visuals. I often find myself rewinding, just so I can see something again, or to work out how some magical illusion could possibly have been filmed.

There's lots of those kinds of things in Nostalghia. The final shot is nuts.

This isn't a spoiler because: a) no-one is reading this, b) no-one will watch this film, and c) it's not some key plot point - like Keyser Soze being Bruce Willis.

(I was going to describe it, but here it is. Not sure a YouTube clip is the best way to watch it, but at least this will break up my WALL OF TEXT).




The Sacrifice
★★★★

Hey, just like Kieslowksi (I can't be bothered to find that accent), he's stuck his two films on this list next to each other alphabetically!

What a man.

This is his last film, and is pretty dark. It looks amazing too. I could embed the final scene of this one too, but instead. I'll copy this amusing anecdote. I can't verify this is genuine, but I hope it is.

Tarkovsky was sitting in the corner of the screening room watching Solaris with me, but he got up as soon as the film was over and looked at me with a shy smile. I said to him, ‘It’s very good. It’s a frightening movie.’ He seemed embarrassed but smiled happily. Then the two of us went to a film union restaurant and toasted with vodka. Tarkovsky, who does not usually drink, got completely drunk and cut off the speakers at the restaurant, then began singing the theme of Seven Samurai at the top of his voice. I joined in, eager to keep up. At that moment, I was very happy to be on Earth.
— Akira Kurosawa

The Terminator
(re-watch)
★★★★★

The Terminator is awesome, right?

To Kill a Mockingbird
★★★★1/2

Racism is wrong.

Upstream Color
(re-watch)
★★★★

In a way, this has a lot of similarities to The Lobster. It's a weird indie film with a strange premise (involving animals). But I like Upstream Color a lot.

I don't know why.

Shane Carruth, the director, also made Primer, which I didn't like very much. That one is a low budget time travel film that, though technically impressive, is still composed mainly of scenes where two nasal men talk to each other for ages.

Upstream Color is much better looking and, for me, much more interesting.

It's the kind of thing that might be labelled "pretentious bollocks".

I might label it that.

It's so difficult to articulate what makes one "pretentious bollocks" film seem transcendant and mysterious and emotional, and another seem like les bollocks prétentieux.

I was reading an article about Eraserhead recently, and in the comments underneath, amidst the praise and fun anecdotes, there were several people who felt compelled to point out that it was all a load of rubbish and that we'd all been hoodwinked into thinking it was a masterpiece.

The temptation is to think "well, they don't understand it". But that's not right, is it? It's not about understanding. The fact that it's difficult to understand is what makes these kinds of films appealing in the first place.

I have no doubt that some people would see a Tarkovsky film and feel like it was some joke that everyone else was in on.

But there are good and bad experimental films, right? So how do we know which is which? Can we intellectualise it, or is it a gut reaction? Do you just know one film is a profound masterpiece and one is a load of art school wank?

One man's Terrence Malick film is another man's... recent Terrence Malick film.

I suppose just as examining too closely the meaning of Lynch or Tarkovsky or Upstream Color ruins the magic, examining our reasons for enjoying them ruins it too.

You need to open your mind to begin to explore this great mysteries, and then quickly close your mind so you don't figure out why you opened it in the first place.

Upstream Color's pretty good, anyway.

*** (this is a section break, not a rating)

Postamble

I also watched Little Big Man and Doctor Strange recently, but they weren't on the original list. I wasn't a big fan of the former and forgot the latter, even as I was watching it.

Wow. That was long.

I just spent over 3500 words basically itemising my own preferences. That's pretty self-indulgent.

I wonder if I should break this into two parts.

Nah. I think I can trust my zero readers to have a long attention span. Their lives must be pretty empty, and I'm sure they want everything in one big chunk, just in case they're run over by lightning tomorrow.

*** (this is a section break, not a rating)

Analysis

Let's run the numbers.

Twenty films on the original list. If we assume I started watching them on January 1st (which is an incorrect assumption), I think I've watched a film roughly every four and a bit days.

Wow, that's uninteresting.

Five star films

Which are the big winners? Which films get the coveted honour of five shining black stars placed next to their titles by a nobody?

The Double Life of Veronique
★★★★★
Fanny and Alexander
(re-watch)
★★★★★
McCabe and Mrs Miller
(re-watch)
★★★★★
The Terminator
(re-watch)
★★★★★

Of the films I watched for the first time, only Veronique gets top marks. Maybe I shouldn't grade films I've only seen once. A one-off viewing is liable to be influenced by mood, atmosphere and how many lines of cocaine were consumed by the critic.

But these are my four primary recommendations. See these.

Which decade is the best represented by my twenty?

60s: 1
70s: 2
80s: 9
90s: 2
00s: 1
10s: 5

Heavy 80s bias there. And nothing before 1960. I think that tells you a lot about who I am and how many friends I have.

Number of films with Michael Caine in them?

1

Number of films with prominent gunplay?

12

Number of films with prominent pigs?

2

Number of films with people being burned to death?

Tough to say. At least 3.

Number of Gregory Pecks?

1. Two if you count the parrot in Nostalghia, whose real name was Gregory Pecks. (There was no parrot in Nostalghia.)

*** (this is a section break, not a rating)

Conclusion

I have wasted my life.

Ed Sheeran.

*not literal giants
(this is an asterisk, not a rating)

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Snap

I've had the same crappy old pre-smartphone Nokia mobile for a hundred years, and finally took the plunge. I bought a 94p USB cable for it, so I could transfer all of the photos onto my computer.

Up until now they've just been sitting there: a rich mine of pre-selfie selfies, extreme thumbshots and increasingly unimpressive sunsets.

I couldn't really tell how good any of the photos were because my screen is the size of a Shreddie.

Shreddy?

Shreddie.

So I transferred them all and browsed.

It was quite moving seeing myself age, one jpeg at a time. I was a more prolific photographer in the early years, but things have tailed off... There are only about six photos from the past couple of years, and four of them are of the dog I kidnapped. Still waiting for that ransom.

There are several decent ones buried in there. I posted this one on Facebook:



I like it because I'm captivated by pepper.

It's from several years ago. I can't remember if I planned it to look like this, with the camera hidden. Also, Lucy's face is obscured by flowers, so you'd think I would have done better. But it's a real trompe l'oeil. As long as l'oiel is suffering from l'astigmatism.

Then there's this one. It is a generic sunset, but also includes raindrops:




















Most of the ones I kept were photos of Lucy. I should probably just post them all to Facebook and embarrass her. She's not reading this, so she'll never know until she's tagged. And by then it will be too late.




















Anyway, the upshot of this is: I should be an eventual photographer.

The reasons for this are many. One is that I use photographic idioms in my daily life. Like "upshot".

It's difficult to be an eventual photographer in this day and age.

It's too easy to take photos and immediately see, edit and share them.

In the past, everyone was an eventual photographer.

You'd have to take the photos, travel to a "dark room shop", leave the film, return home, worry impotently about framing, return to the "dark room shop", fumble for change (contactless card payment - or even chip and pin - was a long way off), pay the "dark room technician", and leaf through the results.

They were almost all terrible. People would look at the shoddy snaps over your shoulder and would laugh. Old-fashioned analogue laughs.

If you want to develop photos (as the old Jessop saying goes), you must first develop a thick skin.

But we liked it that way.

Eventual photography was a noble profession. Waiting and disappointment was part of the thrill. Just like a job at Bella Italia.

In today's world of Instagram filters and that thing where you swap your face with a dog's face or whatever, everyone is an immediate photographer.

Where's the fun in that?

Creativity should be slow, inefficient and impossible to share with others. Also it should mostly not end up happening.

It's taken me years to get these photos. I could easily have bought this USB cable at any time. But I didn't.

I'm clearly cut out to be an eventual photographer.

Slow and steady wins the race. The tortoise has still got a Minidisc player.

I'm glad to have discovered my vocation. I'm sure I'll get around to following up on said discovery in a couple of weeks/months.

This build-up of inaction has increased my self-confidence and made me realise that I can accomplish anything as long as I put my mind to it in 2010.

In the years to come, I'm sure I'll be equally proud to be an eventual sculptor, an eventual viewer of Channel 4's Misfits and an eventual toenail-trimmer.

Monday, 6 March 2017

What Did You Do With That Banana?

You carve the calf, but can you fold the foal?

That's my new substitute phrase for "you can talk the talk, but can you walk the walk?", which is ableist and anti-mute.

No-one can be offended by the calf/foal one. Nothing wrong with a bit of cattle-whittlin'/equine origami, no sir.

And, while we're on the subject, why isn't the past tense of peel pelt?

What did you do with that banana?
I pelt it.

Felt, not feeled. Knelt, not kneeled. Belt, not beeled.

Why's there no pelt?

But it only works with a double-e.

E-a? That dog won't hunt.

No-one has ever used the word "congealt". Have they?

I've just googled it, and essentially the answer is no.

So if it's e-a, you can't abbreviate it with l-t. That's just the hand we've been dealt.

***

I feel like I've aged a thousand years since I began writing the word "thousand" just then. But isn't exponential aging a symptom of the degeneration of the human spirit, rather than the body? The body declines at a steady rate - only the spirit can kick it down that slippery hill towards a big wet mushy pile of leaves.

Ageing is simply travelling. We can choose to travel in a dignified manner (horse-drawn horse), or in an undignified manner (crammed in a Deliveroo hotbox, smothered in ramen). When we feel ourselves moving at uncomfortable speed, we realise that we've lost control of our spirit, and our bodies will pay the price, by using its hand to fork over banknotes.

And by "spirit", I don't mean a soul or any of that mumbo-jumbo. I just mean consciousness or a ghost or something.

No, I'm not losing track of my argument.

I think I'm really onto something.

Here's an artist's rendition of a mosquito wearing a novelty foam hand: