Tuesday, 21 June 2011

The Difference Between This and That.

I pride myself in some of the lowbrow aspects of my sense of humour. Everyone ought to have more than one level to theirs. So Jackass has been known to reduce me to tears on occasion. Watching those lads do the daftest and stupidest things in the name of entertainment. Sometimes I have felt a little guilty at laughing at some of it but they're up for it.

Ryan Dunn was one of my favourites on Jackass. He seemed a decent bloke and I heard good things about him from a friend who met him once. A particular stunt when he went snorkeling in a waste tank was one of those ones where the real danger wasn't revealed until after the stunt was finished and his reaction proved that he wasn't as brainless about his safety as one might have thought - the bottom of the waste tank consisted of mechanical choppers that would have torn him to shreds if his feet had become entangled. This was a stunt for entertainment purposes and he wouldn't have done it had he known. Safety first in the business.

So, what's the difference between the safety aspects of that kind of thing and everyday life? None. Because when you're dead, you're dead.

Getting into a sports car when you're drunk is beyond stupid. It's reckless, thoughtless, beyond dangerous and incredibly stupid. You put more than your own life at risk. There are passengers, other road users and pedestrians to think of. And so while Dunn's death is a tragedy for his family and friends there is also the death of his passenger, Zachary Hartwell, to consider. I don't care what Roger Ebert says or how Bam Margera reacts to him, but Dunn's decision to get into that car, knowing full well how pished he was, has battered Hartwell's family also.

If he was as drunk as witnesses have suggested, Ryan Dunn was responsible for the death of Zachary Hartwell, as well as his own. Putting your own life at such huge risk is one thing, but placing a friend in that position as well? What do I know, I'm just another blogger.

I don't understand the attitude of some folks in the US towards drinking and driving. In the UK, it results in driving bans and jail terms. It's that serious. In fact there is a concerted effort by the Police over here to have an outright ban on drinking and driving. People die. Innocent people die. DON'T DO IT. Only last year in the relatively large village where I live, a cyclist was knocked down and killed by a drunk driver only a few hundred yards from our house. On Gala Day, so lots of children and families were around.

I liked Ryan Dunn and had an odd respect for him regarding what he did with the Jackass and CKY boys. I never knew the guy but all it takes is one mistake in such a serious situation. One mistake. His death is both sad and ironic on a couple of levels. But so is the death of Zachary Hartwell. You could argue that he shouldn't have got in the car either. It's academic now.

What a fucking shame.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Fake Muppets

I love the Muppets. With a passion. I've got as much of The Muppet Show in DVD as I can legally get my hands on and remember watching a fair bit of it when it was first broadcast on UK television. Sunday evenings on ITV. Loved it, even if some of it did scare me a bit (Crazy Harry in particular). In fact my wife doesn't like me having the DVD on as it still scares her a bit. There was a genuine sense of lunacy and love on display that came directly from not just Jim Henson and Frank Oz but from a unique collection of performers who seemed intent on making each other laugh. You can hear them over canned laughter sometimes. I also love the first two movies but Muppets Take Manhattan just didn't do it for me. And then Jim Henson died. That was the first time I ever actually shed a tear when someone famous died (the other time when Christopher Reeve). It really knocked me for six.

But the Muppets had to continue. And so they did. The mantle of Kermit was passed on to Steve Whitmire. But as time went on more and more performers left due to age, other commitments or death (Richard Hunt's passing was also a punch to the gut). Voices were replaced as more films and TV specials came out. And I couldn't help but think that things just weren't the same anymore. Even Gonzo (my favourite Muppet ever), still performed by his creator Dave Goelz, seemed restrained and downplayed, his screeching enthusiasm for all things deviant nothing more than a sentimental murmur. The lunacy and unpredictability of the show seemed lost.

But now we are getting a new theatrical Muppet film, taking them back to their roots, simply called The Muppets.

I really thought I'd be happy about this. Everyone I know on Facebook seems to love it. Iwant to like it.I really do. But it's just not the same. Yes, it looks a lot better than Muppets From Space - whomever came up with the idea that Gonzo is an alien needs a slap. He's a WEIRDO, not an alien! Or even a Frackle (not Fraggle) - but the changes in the performers mean more than just slightly different voices.

The original performers brought so much of themselves to it all back in the day that it would be tough for anyone to try and replace them. But the original souls of the characters just don't seem there anymore. Whitmire's Kermit and Henson's Kermit are completely different now, it seems. The more recent Kermit seems too nice and lacks Henson's sense of outright cheek and charm. Fozzie lacks his anxiety and delusion and has gained an odd overbite. And Miss Piggie? It's like someone else puppeteering Rod Hull's Emu. The threat is gone. I don't want to see Crazy Harry wearing a hard hat. I want him to blow everything up at random and terrify me again. I don;t want imitations but surely a little more of what made the originals so much fun is in order?

Fair play to the new Muppeteers. They have enormous shoes to fill. But the characters just don't seem to be there anymore for me. I'll see the new film, but I'll be walking in with a lot of baggage.

Seems I grew up.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Random Catch Up

Not much of note happening recently but I feel guilty about not blogging nowadays.

Last Monday saw another Shooters in the Pub event. A good night (even if I was a little more squiffy than I'd have liked to have been. Dinner first next time) and a few business cards were exchanged and some more good contacts made. I guess the key to networking, once the fear subsides, is just keeping it going.

I was on a team for this month's Filmhouse quiz (well, I had to leave before the final round, but I did my bit) and we came fifth which is one hell of a leap up from the past. Nice.

I also caught two Humphrey Bogart / Nicholas Ray films on the big screen that weekend, In a Lonely Place and Knock on Any Door.  The big screen is still the best place to catch old movies (any movies, actually!) Both very good if a little depressing. Knock on Any Door was basically an accusation at the US for it's attitude to youth crime (watch for Bogie's great but overblown summation speech to the entire courtroom and country) and had a hard hitting end that brought to mind the climax of Angels With Dirty Faces only without the screaming. I preferred In a Lonely Place, which also featured Gloria Graham and had a much more of a thriller spirit even if it was in danger of veering into melodrama at times.

I'll likely not get to see anything if much at all at this year's Edinburgh International Film Festival but there are some free outdoor screenings going on, including a couple of screenings of Raiders of the Lost Ark which I am going to have to get to. Indiana Jones was 30 years old a few days ago. That should make me feel old but it doesn't. That movie is still as fresh as it ever was and the action is still a great as it ever was, primarily due, I think, to that fact that it was all done onscreen with real stunts, something more movies ought to be remembering. I loved that fact that on set wire work was obviously used on X-Men: First Class for much of Banshee's action scenes at the end. Real sunlight reflecting of a real performer.

Ye cannae beat it.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Childhood Ultra Violence Remembered

This is pretty much the best thing I've seen in a long time. Created by the French video artists, Megaforce, I think this is strictly speaking a music video but it also happens to be the greatest and most authentic rendering of how we really imagined our fictitious gunplay as little boys and girls since the two finger shootout scenes in Spaced (here's scene one, which is my fave, and scene two).

Well, it is for me anyway.

Even into our early teens, if we weren't creating seriously bloody effects with Fairy Liquid bottles, tubing and a secret blood recipe when armed with video cameras, we were shooting each other off of our bikes with our water bottles, spreading H2O death around the streets, annoying certain mothers and frightening the neighbours. The bit with the old lady rings very true and was a running gag with us for a while. I also remember two of us walking along the street with a fake severed head (it was meant to be me) and convincing some younger kids that it was real and we were very sad our friend had had his head cut off in some freak accident.

Yes, this is meant to be me, circa 1989. I can grimace with the best of 'em.
The thing is, this happened again to a bunch of us about 18 months ago back in the pub when presented with red feather boas by a team selling Jaegermeister. I may have to dig out some photo's of feathery, bloody death. Our other halves possess an unreal sense of patience.

Ah, the sweetness of childhood...