Flicks

Have been getting to the pictures quite a lot recently. Managed a staggering three trips to different cinemas last week which I don’t think I’ve managed since I was living in Brum and was known to see multiple movies in a day. Spoilers lay in wait so beware.

This time last week I took in Babel. What an absolute hoot of a movie that was. I realised I’d made a terrible mistake several minutes after the thing had started when all the performances were sickeningly noticeable because everyone was trying so hard to be understated. It was a wearisomely earnest and melodramatic affair that was so utterly devoid of humour (except in several bizarre and inexplicable moments) that I did almost burst out laughing at points because I was aware I was half expecting characters to become sudden victims of ridiculously exaggerated bursts of violence just because their impending (real or mataphysical) doom was being thrust down my throat ALL THE BLOODY TIME. The stars, all of which have given very decent performances in other things, were uniformly awful and indiscriminately wasted in what must have been literally minutes of screen time (which was probably for the best as they were the least interesting things in the movie) and the piece built to a kind of anti-climax where the director stole his main piece of score from a real movie made nearly ten years ago and whose memory sustained me to the end of this overstretched tower of nothing more than utter wank. I had been very interested to see this because I still haven’t caught Amores perros and 21 Grams but I’m suddenly not so keen now.

Wednesday saw me weave through the couples to my seat for Hot Fuzz. This wasn’t quite what I’d been expecting and did slightly smack of trying too hard but was nonetheless tremendous fun. The sheer amount of talent being displayed was almost unseen in a British comedy in years and year and years (including Shaun). The amount of original jokes and puns and affectionate references that were actually laugh-out loud funny was staggering as was the pacing of the substantial narrative which still gave time for the great performances and boat loads of cameos which added to the effect rather than stole the show. It left me feeling quite dizzy and I was still chucking for many days afterwards. I saw a trailer for Run, Fat Boy, Run also starring Pegg. The trailer makes the film look great fun so I hope it follows in the footsteps of Hot Fuzz rather than last year’s Big Nothing which I haven’t actually seen but didn’t have to to tell that it’s a bit lacking in, well, everything really…

Friday night and to Tewkesbury for Pan’s Labyrinth. You know that I really want to see something when I have to resort to travelling to the next county because nowhere near here is showing it! I’d been a fan of Hellboy and so had a vague idea of what to expect and appreciated the ingredients here but not the blend. It reminded me of The Road To Perdition and The Cell (don’t laugh). The Cell is actually not a bad film and, despite having Ms Lopez in it, is a very striking and visually stunning adventure that thrusts its use of stylized visuals to the fore to play out the battle of wills between a sort-of psychotherapist and a serial killer with the twist being that it plays out in the mind of the killer (the scene in Pan’s Labyrinth with the banquet table was particularly reminiscent of the representation of the killer’s id in The Cell). In The Road to Perdition Tom Hank’s murderous father manages to rescue his son’s soul from eternal damnation by slaying Jude Law’s assasin before the son, who is actually prepared to do it, has the chance (you can tell Law’s supposed to be evil because he has bad teeth). The similarity of the themes in Pan’s Labyrinth to those in Mende’s story are perhaps more obvious but I mention these two films because they do what they say on the tin. With Pan’s Labyrinth it’s the classic problem of using certain elements in the promotion of the movie to make it more appealing (in this case to draw in lovers of that delicious brand of dark fantasy) and although these elements are very much present, this film gets the mix wrong and the result is too much missed opportunity and left me with a very bitter taste in my mouth. Not only is it a deeply unhappy ending but there’s the feeling that the fantasy world, far from being helpful, has actually contributed to the outcome and the heroine has only been hiding from reality (or using it to cope) rather than learning and using her world to achieve anything. For me this story was how The Shining might have ended if Nicholson hadn’t perished in the blizzard and how La Vita è bella might have ended if little Giosué had been discovered by the Nazis, i.e. all that gone before had been in vain.

Kung Hey Fat Choi!

The year of the pig has arrived. Also known as the year of the boar, this year is supposed to be an especially good year to have a child as they will be blessed with good luck both in fortunes and in relationships. I do know at least one couple who are expecting their first so this bodes well for them. It’s also meant to be a good year to get married too and I know at least one couple who have recently announced that they’re tying the knot which also makes me happy.

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What makes me really chuffed though is that I can say a firm good bye to the bitch that was 2006’s year of the dog. Although the year wasn’t entirely without merit (I did get to initiate and develope a number of personal projects aswell as pack in some travelling) much of the year for me was a frustrating, sluggish, dispiriting, depressing and basically a horrid affair across all areas of my life. I’m glad to be able to draw a line under it and move on. Apparently this year is supposed to be good if you’re a sheep/ram like myself so I’m looking forward to a reversal of fortunes (or if not a reversal then an upswing). I hope it’s a good one for you too!

It’s 1973. Nearly dinner time. And I’m havin’ hoops.

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Series 2 of Life on Mars kicks off tonight and I’m actually quite looking forward to it. This is surprising because I hardly watch any TV (let alone get excited about it) and also because I said I wouldn’t bother with any more because they didn’t wrap it up at the end of the first series when they had the chance and I hate those TV shaggy dog stories that drag on and ultimately disappear up their own behinds. The first series was excellent. The scripts were mustard, the casting inspired and the performances and direction much better than anything else around. Besides this the early seventies were so well realised and the amount of nostalgia and loving in-jokes was perfectly balanced with the story and the issues raised. That and the soundtrack was awesome. This is promised to be the last series and so I’m going to absorb myself once more in the Manchester of 1973 and the masterly partnering of John Simm and an “…overweight, over-the-hill, nicotine-stained, borderline-alcoholic homophobe with a superiority complex and an unhealthy obsession with male bonding”.

Saturday’s Child Works Hard For A Living

I was born on a rainy Saturday afternoon and, as the nursery rhyme goes, I think I’ve worked hard for things generally, even if sometimes this was because I didn’t know how to work smart. Case in point is my current situation. My latest temping assignment sees me working for Aiim Europe (yes, I know they can’t spell). It’s a telemarketing data-cleaning gig that requires me to work my way through a lot of old contact information and check to see if it’s still current and goes a little something like this; “Hi. My name’s James and I’m calling from a company called Aiim Europe. We’re updating our contacts and I was hoping you might be able to tell me whether the following people are still working for you…?” [x 100 each day]. The person on the other end of the line will either respond by saying “Yes certainly, what are the names?” or (more often) “I’m afraid I can’t give you that information because of data- protection/our company’s no-name policy” or  (most frequently) “Let me put you through to someone who can help…” (you can imagine where that leads). This is only a natural response because either the person answering the phone doesn’t have access to this information or they don’t want the responsibility of leaking a colleague’s details in this age of deception and fraud.

Now it’s hard work maintaining enthusiasm and keeping going when you aren’t getting much co-operation, there’s little or no variety and the work is less well paid than anything I’ve done for years. I can’t claim it’s the worst telemarketing job I’ve had because I’m not actually selling anything, the day does actually go by quicker than you’d think and it is probably the kind of challenge I need. My boss did say that this job is a bit of a company joke as in they take bets on whether or not the temp shows up on day 2. My showing up this morning either means that I’m determined to get to the end of the job to prove to myself I can do it, I’m desperate for the cash, I’m a masochist or that I’m daft. Which one? Let me put you through to someone who can help…