Dangerous work, well documented

So there I am, 10ft off the ground, on my hands and knees precariously perched on a ladder across a perspex roof with aluminium frame. I was attempting to finally mend and seal-in the panels that blew out in the storm some month ago.

“Quick!” I shout to the missus. “Take some photos -if I fall through they could be great.”

Off she goes and strolls back some time later to snap snap snap.

“Make sure you zoom-out to show the context,” I said, “so you can  see the EXTREME danger I’m in!”
(I may have been slightly exaggerating in this, although only slightly.)

Snap snap snap.

“Maybe take one from over there,” I pointed, trying to ensure the best location was covered in case of an accident. Every cloud has a silver lining an’ all that -plus it’d be nice to show future generations the final images of their grandfather.

“Are you getting the perspective?”

“YES!” she snapped. It wasn’t the camera this time. She had had enough.

Finally, after spending a few hours trying to wash/ brush/ scrape Tec7 sillicone off my hands I was able to sit down to examine the results.

47 photos she took, of which this is the best one:

1-IMG_2159-1Luckily, the camera was set to take RAW images, so I was able to recover this level of detail from the almost-all-white images.
2-IMG_2161-2

Here I am squirting in the sillicone.

 

 

 

4-IMG_2171-5This is my good friend, John McSweeney (without whose assistance I’d never have managed), looking on.

3-IMG_2170-4Pardon me for posing in this one. Cheese!

 

So there you have it.

Tough work, but I’m glad we had someone on hand to document the day. :)

 

 

 

 

 

SIMPLE SOLUTION: What to do with Old Folks

THE PROBLEM: Many people end up looking at the bare walls in a nursing home (or anywhere else) for any number of years towards the end of their life. It’s a sad whimpering, prolonged farewell to an otherwise possibly somewhat-in-parts-at-least enjoyable existence.

THE SOLUTION: Play videogames.

Yes it’s true that many old people can’t function in different ways -no mobility in their legs/ fingers/ head or even lack of mental awareness itself. This, I agree, is tragic.

However, others are sadly waiting to die. Go on, ask them if you think I’m just being cruel. They have been thrown in a home or even sitting in their own house all day long, looking out the window -or worse- at the television!

It’s true and don’t blame me for saying so -a lot of older people are leading sad lives.

But why??

Think about it -there’s no need to sit there staring at walls -get in some practice now while you still can on something like

mk8Mario Kart

 

bf4or Battlefield

 

gta v flyingor Grand Theft Auto

tetris1or even plain old-fashioned Tetris.

 

Whatever you’re having yourself!

Think of your future! Don’t leave it too late!

Play videogames now and secure your happiness through the otherwise grimmest days of your life.

I hear what you’re thinking: “But I can wait until that day comes and play videogames then!”

No, that would never work. Too little too late. You’d be conditioned not to know or have any interest in it. Like everything else, the world of videogames takes time and effort to learn. It’s not something you can easily pick up in between worrying about your last bowel-movement or if you’d taken enough pills this hour.

Which type of game suits me best? Which console? How do I control that guy on the screen? What am I supposed to do here?  …There’s a whole world out there that, chances are, you never even knew existed.

Videogames exercise the brain as well as hand-to-eye coordination, etc.. They’re perfect for ancient people who otherwise sit in one place for hours on end doing nothing.

“If only I hadn’t wasted my life by not playing videogames…”

-William, aged 79.

 

But remember: Whether you are currently into videogames or not -don’t leave it too late to begin. You will regret it if so.

Do you want to be the one sitting in a home like my mate William, aged 79, with the wind rattling your nose-hair, not a soul nor a thought to keep you company other than the peeling magnolia paint and the single echoing thought hitting off the hard edges of the remnants of your brain:
“If only I hadn’t wasted my life by not playing videogames…”

But there are more advantages to older people playing videogames:
Suddenly they’re not as needy. Feel guilty for not visiting them? Great -pop online and run around shooting them and their geriatric A-Team. You can even talk with gramps while you do so over the headset -if he’s not too busy blowing you up with grenades or rocket launchers.

If you still feel the need to visit them in person though, best make an appointment -they might have a clan-session scheduled. It’s not easy being a gamer, but once you got the gaming-bug and have all the time in the world to play you have the perfect-storm for Gaming Greatness.

 

“I haven’t felt this alive in years!”

-Gramma Mavis, full-name and age withheld in case her slow-coach toy boy discovers how old she really is (90).

 

Move over kid, you are gonna eat Gramma Mavis’s dust.
 

 

 (As with all posts in this site, this is © Copyright May 2014 Stanley Rumm, unless otherwise stated)

What makes Gravity a Great Film? -The Plot.

image001

I would like to say something that I haven’t seen mentioned elsewhere about the movie GRAVITY, directed by Alfonso Cuarón.

No spoilers. Almost everything mentioned below happens in the first 15 minutes or so.

 

Apart from utmost praise of the visuals, I’ve seen a lot of bad-press and dismissive reviews of “the plot”. But (and I know I’m not alone) this is precisely what I’d like to pick-over… the plot and what it does is amazing. The rest is a distraction. A beautiful distraction, but a distraction.

First shot of the film puts us in awe. There is no doubt that all of us are minuscule ants in an amazing, wonderful, beautiful, yet daunting world.

 

Sandra Bullock (Dr. Stone) is in space with two others. She is depressed. She is anxiety-ridden. She is worn out, burnt-up and dead inside. Possibly the only thing pushing her on is her career, but her breakdown is inevitable and it’s coming up fast.
From minute-one she is not feeling well. It is clear she is already suffering:

“Dr. Stone, Houston, medical is concerned about your ECG reading.”

“I’m fine Houston.”

“Well medical doesn’t agree. Are you feeling nauseous?”

 

She then (clearly out of breath) proceeds to change the subject, talking shop. Her fear of discovery-leading-to-the-abortion-of-the-mission is stressing her out further.

…But we’ll get back to that in a little while…

 

I’ve read a lot of criticism of George Clooney in this film: “He plays George Clooney”/ “he plays Buzz Lightyear”/ “he’s a comic-book too-smooth caricature without a hair out of place in the worst situation possible, making him and the movie unbelievable”.

 

Well I disagree and here’s why –

How does one deal with anxiety / nausea/ depression/ feelings of inadequacy?
Whilst in that moment, should we

a)    Concentrate on these ‘bad thoughts’, wonder why we are having them?

b)    Try to work through the processes and steps that lead us to this nasty negative place?

c)    Panic?

d)   Try to put a plan in place that will stop this happening in future?

e)    Ignore it/ free our mind/ then when free, proceed with dealing with what’s in front of us?
 
To little-ole-me at least, the correct answer is and only ever can be (e).
Maybe there’s a little more to it than that (or not), but that’s the crux of it.

 

Enter Captain George. 
From the beginning, Clooney is clowning around, making small-talk, jokes, belittling the seriousness of the mission.

“Houston I have a bad feeling about this mission”

“Please expand.”

“OK, let me tell you a story… It was ’96 –I’d been up here for 42 days –every time I passed over Texas…”   

…And now we’re no longer worried about the mission or the million things that can (and will) go wrong, but instead listening to George’s calm voice as we (Dr. Stone) are free to mechanically work through the job without over-thinking the overwhelming
problems at hand or running through our own fears and doubts over and over.

 

Next Houston asks “Sharif” for a time estimate.

“Nearly there,” he tells Houston.

“Could you be a little bit more specific? Indeterminate
estimates make Houston anxious”.

“No no no Houston –don’t be anxious. Anxiety is not good for the heart.”

 

 

So before anything has even happened, in the first couple of minutes while the camera is still in the process of zooming in on the initial location, we’ve had talk of medical, ECG (which monitors heart, nothing to do with nausea to my knowledge), nausea, anxious, anxious, anxiety… “not good for the heart”.
 
This is a movie about Anxiety.  The Gravity of Anxiety, if you will.

 

Soon an issue arises and Houston asks Dr. Stone how long it’lll take to fix?

“One hour”, replies Dr. Stone. Clearly she doesn’t suffer
from Sharif’s Indeterminate Estimate Syndrome, nor obviously, his lack of anxiety.

The first sign of real danger comes when Houston says:

“NORAD reports a Russian sattellite has incurred a missile strike.”

Captain George’s eyes dart to Dr. Stone to check her reaction.
She takes a little longer to consider what she has heard before looking to George to gauge how to react. 

Seeing him smiling calmly back is reassurance enough to keep her working methodically.

 

Now Houston continues the sentence and Captain George immediately spots the danger.

He checks his less-experienced co-worker who is still floating merrily on his wave of calmness.

Now she pauses and asks (stutters) …
“should we should we be worried?”

His reply?

 No, let’s let the boys down there worry for us.

Isn’t this ‘Certainty’ exactly what we all crave? Dr. Stone (‘we’) is already on the verge of panic but put it down to experience or writers’ prerogative, Captain George knows nothing is achieved through panic –smile and if you can’t control it, continue doing what can be done.

It’s not that he did something to avoid catastrophe, but even if he rushed everyone back to the ship at this point it would make zero difference. In fact it would almost certainly whip everyone into so much of a frenzy they would almost certainly die during or soon after the first debris-strike.

Still, he’s concerned enough now to gently enquire, without raising suspicions, how much training she has actually had.

 

Soon the debris hits and Dr. Stone is sent reeling. She is out of control. Too much is happening for her to focus on any one thing. She is thinking of everything, unable to concentrate on anything that might possibly save her.

Kowalski’s single-minded order is all that is there to save her. “You must detach!”

“What? Are you mad!? How can I possibly detach myself!? I’ll die if I do -I can’t do it anyway!” we would all scream back.

There is just too much going on. Too much to concentrate on. Too much to worry about!

Yet that one single command is the key: Detach.

Whether it’s in space, at work, in the kitchen… when everything is too much to take in… first of all detach. Worry about all that other stuff some other time.

Detach.
 
Every fibre of your being is screaming at you “NO! DON’T LET GO!”

You find it impossible to concentrate enough to do the opposite to how you are seemingly programmed to react.

 

…Finally she detaches and is alone. Still reeling, but now like a bunny in the headlamps, fear has her frozen.


Now her body is running on instinct. It takes her a long time, but finally she is forced to breathe again.

 

 

To do nothing -but breathe…

Now, through the magic of (this new) cinema, we are taken seamlessly through her spacesuit visor to see the world from her point-of-view


to witness the world as she sees it –reeling…

Still out of control, but calm enough now to function, she gets her bearing and reaches out for the first time  as if to say OK, I’m ready now –I’m completely in your hands.

 

 

This is the point where she regains control of her senses.

She is powerless, she knows it, but she is no longer panicking.

Now the camera exits her visor again so the story can
continue…

 

…OK, I’m sure none of us wants me to continue giving a blow-by-blow account of how I see this movie, so I’ll stop that now.
On Clooney though -I’d just like to say this: his character is a caricature –he plays the perfect human being who is able to cope with this situation without once saying or doing the wrong thing. But that’s not a flaw with the actor or the plot -it is the whole point.

 

This is exactly how to handle such a situation/ such a person –in a perfect world.
Or out of it.

 

Clooney’s “caricature” is not a distracting misstep to an
otherwise impressive movie –he is there to demonstrate how to handle this situation perfectly.

 

Later in the movie he is even more perfect, but I’m sure you’ve considered for yourself why this is, if you’ve seen it –or you will come up with your own explanation when you do.

 

Another “misstep” I’ve seen levelled at this film is
complaints of “B-movie plot insertions” –trying to quickly get us to root for the protagonists by crow-barring in some hokey past trauma that serves no purpose other than to make us feel sorry for them.

Usually the guy who tells us the biggest sob story is the one who gets killed first.

 

In Gravity, Dr. Stone tells us “I had a daughter…”

In this movie, such hokey dialogue is most certainly not emotion-time-filler-in-between-disasters.

It itself is the point of the movie. …Well, yes, it is shorthand for “whatever trauma you’re having yourself”, but what do you expect from a 90-minute action movie?

Anyway… this movie is inside out.

It has also been said that the “3D and space f/x” mask a vacuous, too-simple plot. But no, I strongly disagree  -the 3D and space f/x distracts us from the real purpose of this film. It doesn’t ram it down our throats like some more-commercially-minded or sincere-yet possibly-misguided filmmakers might do.

Instead it dazzles and blind-sides and impresses us so much with its visuals that we may not take onboard –or at least don’t mind taking onboard if we do- what it is saying.

It tells us a difficult story without mentioning it at all.

After all, who would go to see GRAVITY outside the arthouse-set if this was known as “A Movie about Depression and Anxiety”?
Gravity is not a movie about Space. That’s why it’s called Gravity when there is Zero-G in it.

 

 

 

 

Wolf Of Wall Street/ Lord of the Flies

I’m glad I went to see Wolf of Wall Street at the cinema. Mainly I’m glad because if I hadn’t I’d end up owning it eventually on Blu Ray or DVD and I’d prefer not to. It’d stain the wall.

If it’s not too old-fashioned-sounding to say so, I found it a sordid film full to the brim with greedy sordid individuals I would not like to spend time with ever. I didn’t like them. I didn’t envy anything about them (although Leonardo’s wife is the hottest thing I’ve seen in a while, must be said -Margot Robbie will go far in cinema, I predictably  predict.)

For such a long film none of the characters were raised anywhere above caricature-level. Then again, I’m not sure any of them would have anything approaching a character of any kind anyway, so I suppose I can’t put that down as a bad mark against the film itself. Still it was just one truckload of drunken drug-fuelled stoopid people blowing their bonus in stoopid ways after another.

There were hints at some depth here-and-there, such as the scene where Leonardo tries to bribe the FBI guy on his yacht. Yet apart from that, what was actually on display here for three hours?? Con men blowing their bonuses, fearing getting caught, then (briefly) “getting caught”. Life’s a party, then you die.

For all that, the film was very well made. Let me say this: It is a good film. Scorcese and team does a great job (as far as I’m concerned) in portraying this debauched manic existence that the whole of “the Western World” (led, it must be said by the USA) seems to idealise as the pinnacle of existence. 

It’s a horror movie and I was suitably horrified. But what depressed me most of all was the laughter. The guy two seats away from me laughed continuously for the three hours. Someone said the most inane thing on the screen, this fella broke down laughing. Someone snorted coke from a hooker’s tits, this guy was in stitches. Someone collapsed on a glass table as he choked on a piece of ham and this guy nearly fell out of his seat.

And what’s worse is after a while the whole cinema seemed to be laughing too. I found nothing funny in the whole film. As I say, to me it’s a horror -and pretty good at it (don’t get me wrong -I won’t be seeing it again)- but how or WHY were these people laughing!?? I have no idea.

The screen was filled with ugly people doing ugly things and almost everyone in the room I was sitting in seemed to enjoy what they were seeing. Maan that depresses me.


Lord of the Flies
is the film that came to mind while I was watching it. What would happen if a lot of grown-up kids were let loose with wads of money and there was nobody around to take notice? Is this not precisely what Reagan unleashed on the world in the 80s?

In this I reckon the movie makes a good point -nobody was at the helm.

…So what was everyone laughing at!? These shysters and con-people screwed as much of the world as they could get their hands on. Their counterparts “on Wall Street proper” did likewise -and continue to do so today -business as usual even after millions of people worldwide have had their whole existence overturned by stock-market crashes.

Yet The Wolf Of Wall Street, to my eyes and ears at least, is causing people to look-on and do nothing but laugh along with these people and even, I daresay, to yet again ADMIRE them. Admire them!?

And make no bones about it -for the most part The Wolf of Wall Street is not so much a casual-observer on the fence  as it is riding the fence doggie-style along with the protagonists.

Must say, by the end I felt drunk and more than a little dirty.

Good film. Didn’t like it. Glad I saw it.

 

Cork Omniplex -Is the MAXX Worth it?

€7.20 for the “standard cinema” at 4PM on a Friday.
€9.20 for the Maxx screen.
I knew that going in, thankfully, or I might have fainted at the top of the slalom-queue.

I had already decided to try the Max, not because I think Wolf of Wall Street is a “Max screen type film”, but more to check it out.

It’s all reserved seating nowadays so you have to pick your seat from looking at a monitor at the ticket desk. These screens have big writing under each one stating this is not a touch-screen. I had already read this whilst queuing. Still when the girl said “pick a seat” I hummed and hawed and eventually pressed G17 before remembering.

I think it’s because the graphic is clearly designed to be used on a touchscreen (or mouse). I mean you have to bend down and squint sideways before you can even see that there are black letters running down the brown aisles, so how else are you gonna pick a seat if not touch it?

And how do you choose anyway? I wanted to explain I don’t know the relation between the seating and the screen… what size is it/ how high up/ how far away.. but I knew it would come to naught.

AAaanyway, I went in. The reason I chose G17 (slightly to the side-of-central) was that all the central seats had already been booked. I didn’t want to lose the MAX-effect by going too far back and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to see anything but a blur if I went any closer.

So G17 it was. Next time, given the right film I’m going to go a little closer. I mean it would be painful to watch a quick-moving film with lots happening -or forget about subtitles because you’d get tennis-neck, but the right film -for total immersion, I reckon I’d be going 3 or 4 rows closer, in dead-centre.

Seats are comfy kind-of-rubber. Red. Rockable… but the top of the screen is level with probably the back-row in the cinema, so almost everyone is looking down to the massive screen. So the red rubber rockable seats are probably mostly tilted downward most of the time.

I prefer to look up to a screen, which is another reason I’d prefer to be a bit closer in this case. Before the film there were some trailers that used sub-sounds that made my stomach rumble and blow-dried my hair. Woh! Once the film began though I didn’t notice any of that. Probably because of the type of film it was -not a whole lorra bass, although there was plenty of music and noise throughout. The big screen becomes invisible after a while (especially in a 3-hour movie) and you’re just watching a movie, but it definitely adds to the immersion even if you don’t know it -which I guess is why/ how it’s immersive.

In short, I’d happily fork-out 2-euro extra for this big screen *LOONG* before forking out 2-euro extra for 3-D. But not for every film, mind.

…One last thing… it’s freezing in there. My knees and feet especially were like ice by the end. I should’ve wrapped my coat around me legs, but I guess I was too immersed to realise until it was too late.

 

OOYAY KINDLE

OOYAY is out now on Kindle. Priced at a bargain $4.99, possibly plus taxes and currency fluctuation, depending on your area.

Author-signed tactile 3D paperback edition still available for just $12/ €10 with FREE WORLDWIDE SHIPPING if you’re a traditionalist like myself.

 

I’ll link to the amazon.co.uk site below, but you can find it in the currency that’s applicable to you on your Kindle or Kindle-app.

 

 

Allow yourself to view the world presented in the earlier section of the book as though through the eyes of a child and I promise you a unique and mesmerising ripping tale.

 

 

Digital Cinema -not all it’s cracked up to be

 

Am I the only one bothered by the look & feel of digital cinema?

I mean, Roger Deakins did quite well with what he had to work with in Skyfall, but that much-celebrated Shanghai sequence looks to me more like a sleek corporate video presentation than “a Film”. The parts set in Britain were no different in look & feel from an episode of The Apprentice (in HD).

Something is lost in the crisp, perfect cleanness of digital cinema. It’s like taking a hi-res scan of an old painting and presenting that as the thing itself. It’s not.

Film… actual celluloid has its own qualities, inconsistencies and depths that only add to a great film. They are not blemishes or mistakes, no more than a blob of paint or the weave of canvas are on the Mona Lisa.

Why should I go to the cinema to see a digital film when soon after I’ll be able get the exact same image at home on Blu Ray with no disturbances or interruptions from strangers with anti-social habits?

It seems to me, that instead of promoting 3D as the key-feature to entice people to cinemas, they should be using and promoting actual analogue FILM. You don’t get that at home.

Well, mostly.

 

 

Looper -what is that all about then?

 

I’d like to talk about the movie Looper, which I saw today -but I won’t spoil the ending.

I can’t say this movie is exactly my cup of tea, but it’s great to see a mainstream movie that is actually about something for a change other than the usual goodie Vs. baddie affair.

In this case, it’s clearly all (/mostly) about child abuse/ ending the circle of violence (whilst not doing so overtly lest it put you off)
-and it’s just how such a subject should be presented if you ask me.

After all, we learn nothing from being lectured or spoonfed hard-to-take information, but wrap it up in an interesting sci-fi tale and we can learn all about it vicariously whilst puzzling and arguing over loopholes and paradoxes to our heart’s content. It has nothing to do with any of that if you ask me. It’s another Superman’s Underpants film -we should look beyond the easy-to-pick-at frontage to see what it’s actually about.

In that, it’s old-school cinema -it’s not that it’s there to teach us all a lesson, but there’s plenty going on under the skin if you choose to look. View it as a straightforward Time Travel movie if you choose not to.

Bruce Willis is excellent, playing a complex character who does some not-so-nice things. Levitt is very good too, but I must say I was most distracted by his eyebrows throughout. Not since Julia Roberts’ lips in Oceans Twelve have physical features upstaged the person to which they were attached in a movie.

Overall, Looper is a little bit too violent/ aggressive for this sensitive little soul, but I guess that’s the point.

 

In what way is this film “about child abuse”?

 

First of all, there’s the first shot of the film (if I remember correctly, I’ve only seen it once and I can’t capture still-frames for this piece -if it’s not the first shot, then it’s the first person we see) -a close-up of a proto-typical “abused child”, forced to eke out its existence in abusive circumstances. Since this is “a time travel movie”, during this extended shot we are invited to consider this child’s past and likely future.

Secondly, consider every child we come across. One has been abandoned by his mother at an early age and is already traumatised by the experiece. Will he have a future that is free of abuse? One is the child of a stripper and is on the target list of his “surrogate father”. The only ‘possibly non-traumatised’ child is left alone just long enough to have violence come a-knocking.

Consider also the upbringing of the main character (Joe?)
To be honest I can’t remember the details, but he did not have a happy childhood and it is clear that when Jeff Daniels/ “Abe” discovered him, the work was already done that qualified him for his life as a Looper. As a result of Abe’s intervention his violent life could take on a more structured form. So you could say the abuser showed him how to abuse -and this is what he has always done.

Also think of Abe himself -a man from the future -our future-self (or the typical future-self of each character in this movie). He too is a victim, doomed to exile in this dreary “past”, reinforcing this cycle of violence, ensuring its continuance.

There is also the “Kid Blue” character to look at, who appears to love Abe as a son would a father (or an abused child toward his manipulative abuser perhaps? -Think of how Abe behaved toward Joe when he wanted something from him -”I gave you all you have” type dialogue -Kid Blue likely got the same speech regularly and has obviously taken it more to heart than Joe has.)
Either way, Abe appears to return this love enough not to kill Kid Blue, but clearly he isn’t averse to violent outbursts when he feels its called for.

 

There are many paradoxes and loopholes to Looper, but the main one that bothers me is this (and this last bit I’m afraid will be a spoiler):

 

Highlight the text between the following markers to see the ‘spoiler’:

 

- -

The premise appears to be that the main kid (Cid I think?) is given a chance to be spared the cycle of violence, whereby the victim ultimately becomes the perpetrator, by him being freed of his “abuser” to be brought up in the care of his loving mother… therefore, by the time he grows up he presumably has “learnt” not to become the “evil Rainmaker”, going on a rampage, killing all loopers. Therefore, the world of “Looping” continues. ?

- -

OK, it doesn’t ‘bother’ me. It makes me smile. This is a movie after all, not a psychology journal. There’s enough in it to consider at least. Even if most people don’t consider such things while they watch a movie, it’s the reason why fiction is so powerful -it allows us all to take on board (if only perhaps on a subconscious level) topics and truths that otherwise cannot and will not be confronted.

 

Disclaimer: I’m not suggesting for one minute that everyone who abuses becomes an abuser. It is a theory at least that “abusers” of every kind learn to be like that during childhood. Thankfully it’s not as simple as that in real life.

 

 

What’s Wrong With The Newsroom?

The Newsroom is a HBO series (still on Series 1 at time of writing) developed by Aaron Sorkin.

Have to say, I’m having a problem with it. I think there’s not enough “news”, but instead too much room is given to the annoying characters throughout. Jeff Daniels is great, but Emily Mortimer is miscast. She plays the role perfectly well, but I don’t believe her as a veteran journalist and even less as a top newsroom producer -and did you see that first episode where two characters trip over themselves to deliver the ‘excuse’ for her english accent in the most hokey expositional manner? How bad was that?

That’s not the whole problem though. I’ve heard it said they bash the Republican party too much. Not true -they only bash the Tea Party’s more ridiculous rants & claims.. and even then it shows clearly how ridiculous they are -and why- rather than just laugh at them.

No, the biggest problem is Aaron Sorkin: He’s the loudest guy in the room and I don’t think anyone has the guts to tell him be quiet some times. Just about *every* conversation is now a Sorkin formula: Two people shout at each other. One says something silly in the middle of the fast-paced argument, but it’s let slide. At the end of the scene, one of them leaves the room but is called back at the last second by the other who finally gets around to the silly bit, saying something like “did you really wear a dress to that party!?”

All the characters are too self-aware, analytical and too conscious of everyone elses’ emotions -and willing to discuss and help them with same.
I have to say I’m surprised HBO are doing this as normally they’re above those “US TV norms”. For that reason I believe the problem is with Sorkin himself -not that he can’t write excellently -just that he’s too big for an editor/ producer/ director to stand up and tell him hush down and allow the characters to speak for themselves rather than mouth his words (Tarantino has the same problem).
For all that, there’s around 35 – 40 minutes of a decent show in its 55ish minute runtime. If 15 minutes or so were cut, funnily enough it’d be down to a more-normal US tv show length. I for one propose the extraneous & tedious, pathos-filled character-development be cut.
Just get to the point, Jeff. We can handle it. The rest is filler and we all know it.

What is Art? What is Happiness?

What is Art?

Certain artists -artistes if you will- invite you into their world, to see your own world through their eyes. For many viewers/ listeners/ readers/ participants this can often come across as incomprehensible nonsense. For others more-attuned to the wavelength of the originator perhaps, it can immediately be recognised as a breakthrough, speaking directly to the heart of what they’ve always felt but could never hope to express -or if not that, immediately appreciated as an expression of truth -or even a new kind of truth.

The rest of us can wander around as if in a daze afterwards, unable to comprehend what we have witnessed, often experiencing an incomprehensible anger or contempt towards what has been put before us, such is the level of mistake or seemingly wrongness to it all.

People often attribute a certain intellegence-level to the appreciation -or lack of appreciation- of such art (and it works both ways, with cries of elitism or braindead-ism for its enjoyment or otherwise.) Perhaps it is a branch of intelligence, but to my thinking it has nothing to do with the Comprehension we usually mean by intelligence. In fact I believe it is often the opposite of this: it’s to do with the ability willingness to traverse comprehension.

 

None of this is to suggest I’m always to the fore in recognising/ enjoying/ appreciating such an ‘auteur’. There are many such ‘creators’ in different fields whom I readily admit must have something but which I can never (thus far) grasp. eg. Thomas Pynchon, Jean Renoir, Tom Waits, James Joyce, most ‘modern art’ artists, etc..

Immediately I’m a philistine to fans and officianados of these people, I know. I don’t mean to cast aspersions on such maestros’ work, but rather shine a light on their commitment to the craft -their vision -their outlook on life. I salute such singular approach to “Art” in all forms, whether I “get it” or not.

This to me is what Art is. A true artist is one who knows (no doubt) the rules and has heard all the arguments for how things are supposed to be done. He/ She is aware of every reason why something doesn’t work, but yet spots or senses something new, something unconsidered, something overlooked and brings it to the fore.

Sadly, more and more it seems, the world is full of so-called writers/ directors/ painters/ musicians who first look outwards at “what the audience/ publisher/ agent wants” rather than inwards at “What do I know? What do I feel? How do I see the world? What can I bring to the table?”

 

To my way of thinking, this is the difference between an Artiste (whether I can personally appreciate them or not) and a whore. Mostly the world of cinema/ books/ ‘art’ consists of whores.

 

What is HAPPINESS?

Happiness is a 1998 film by Todd Solondz.

 

The first time I saw it (around the time of its release on Region 1 DVD) I must confess I was appalled. The film, with its depiction of some seriously dysfunctional individuals in a seemingly-comic setting jarred me so much I felt contempt for everyone involved. “How could these people even agree to act in such a movie?” was my genuine first thought. I couldn’t believe, for one thing, someone had made a film wherein (among other things) a paedophile was portrayed sympathetically. A sickened anger arose in me long before the credits spurted onto the screen. I even felt anger towards my wife who afterwards conveyed no such contempt for what we had witnessed. How could she have so much as tolerated this travesty?

For a long time after (hours? days? weeks?) I was Alex from A Clockwork Orange following his aversion-therapy. Whenever I thought of that film I felt ill. Seriously.

 

Then a strange thing happened some six months later: I happened across a forum where people were expressing an appreciation of “that film”. As I read, I began to be reminded of scenes that “weren’t too bad”. Once or twice I tittered despite myself.

Yet it was some three months after this again when I finally found the courage -or the will- to rewatch Happiness. My reaction was a complete reversal -I laughed and loved it all the way through.

 

Since then I have watched Happiness at least seven times and each time it gets better and better. I now count it as one of my favourite movies of all time. I do find it too long but there is nothing in it I would or could think of that should be cut.

Although I sympathise with the view that it is a sick movie, I look back on the person I was when I first experienced it (in 1999 or so?) and feel nothing but an almost embarrassment for my reaction.

 

The movie was the same, so what changed?

The obvious answer is “me”, but it’s not just that. Of course on my second viewing I was forearmed with the knowledge of what was -and was not- going to happen. I was no longer viewing it, imagining where it was going, but now I could actually look at where it was going and perhaps experience that for the first time rather than watching in fear of what would come next (no pun intended).

Certainly though, the main thing to have changed in that 9-month or so period from first viewing to second was me. This movie I believe showed me how a movie should be (in my view).

 

The problem with the movie is also its strength: it has no Hero Protagonist -nobody for us to root for -nobody we can easily empathise with -nobody we want to empathise with.

It’s not the first or the last film to do such a thing of course (not even from this director) but for some reason it took me many months after viewing Happiness to realise that almost every film out there virtually insists I ‘like’ the protagonist(s) and plays to my prejudices and preferences in order to gain my affection.

Happiness almost does the opposite. It’s a film whose characters are surely disliked by everybody, yet dares the viewer to look past this to see the bigger picture.

Post-Happiness, I think perhaps I’ve learnt to be more guarded with my affections towards onscreen characters. I don’t submit to them freely -and I find myself separating emotion from the rest of the ‘package’ that makes up a film.

 

It’s likely this film wasn’t solely responsible for my ‘movie-viewing transformation’. For instance I’ve always found myself favourably disposed towards the films of Stanley Kubrick, who is often (wrongly) said to ‘lack emotion’. What Kubrick -and the movie Happiness among others- does is to lay the plans out at one’s feet and allow the audience -the viewer- to decide how to react/ how to see it.

Armed with the fruits of this ‘effort’ the viewer is better able to judge for themselves what they have seen/ how they feel towards it. The result is everybody sees it differently -as true-art is always experienced. No two people see the same Kubrick film -and nobody sees the same Kubrick film twice in the same way.

Don’t get me wrong -spending 90 minutes being spoonfed emotion-on-rails via manipulative characters/ visuals/ audio can be enjoyable too. Who’d like to live on nothing but steak after all? That can be as debilitating as the guy who spends a lifetime slurping beans with a spoon.

It’s not an either/or choice, but I would dearly love if the phrase “leave the brain at the door and enjoy” was more readily recognised for the braindead remark it truly is.

By all means enjoy the chicken nuggets and the sausages and the beans and the sugary candy, but don’t mistake it for a slap-up all-round honest-to-goodness healthy meal.

 

Anyway, after fourteen years or so I thought it important to throw a few thoughts together on the subject and to mention that I believe Happiness is a truly excellent film that deserves widescale recognition and acclaim.

 

 

 

Barry Lyndon Duel Scene Found

 

I spoke a little while back about what makes Barry Lyndon such a great film and about the (first) duel scene in particular.

Well at long last I have visited this very location in Templemichael Co. Waterford (well actually just outside Youghal Co. Cork) and returned with some interesting photographs of this still-tranquil location.

Of course without a wide angle lens it was never going to be possible to ‘recreate the scene’. And some inevitable changes have taken place/ additions made/ removals/ overgrowths, etc. in the past 25 or so years, but overall it’s still recognisably the same place.

 

Take a look.

 

Continue reading

This is not a blog. This is a NON-BLOG.