Wednesday 10 December 2008

Edinburgh Christmas Fair 08

Edinburgh Christmas Fair 08. Last Saturday. Cold. Wonderful smells. Wonderful sounds. But too many people.

Thursday 20 November 2008

Short - One for the Road

As I said in my previous post, here's a short I wrote and directed a few years ago (2002) as a part of Edinburgh Mediabase's 48 Hours short film scheme.

Mediabase used to hold a monthly screening at the Cameo Cinema in Edinburgh called The Blue Room and they would hold a competition each month to see who could come up with the best idea to match their monthly 48 Hours brief. I bagged it in October 2002 and it concerned Vampires and Kung Fu. Not being a Kung Fu fan, I kept the vampires bit and had them have a drunken match of violent one-upmanship.

The conditions of the scheme were simple - 24 hours to shoot the film with Mediabase equipment and 24 hours of edit time. Everyone jumped in and this is the result. It's pretty rough around the edges and a bit rubbish in one point (for me at least) but it got the laughs on the night, which was the point. I've also got some stills of the shoot I might post later.


Not to Forget the Moggies.

Thought I should also mention our two cats. Our dogs get two massive close ups and this pair were left out. As though they'd care! It's their world; we just live in it. Indy on the left, Midge on the right.

My wife originally wanted to get a ginger tabby and call it Jones, after the cat in Alien. Seeing as I like sleeping peacefully and the scene where Harry Dean Stanton gets his skull punched in looking for said moggy still ranks as one of the scariest things I've ever seen, I said no. No way. So we got a ginger tabby and called him Indy, as a compromise (Jones...Indy...see?). Ironically, me being the Indy fanatic I am, he's turned out to be more of my cat whereas Midge is very much Gill's cat. Or I should say we are their respective humans. How foolish of me.

I'm also going to upload a short I made a few years ago. It won't be the best quality as it's ripped from a VHS version and was made in 48 hours, literally. I'm going to do some edit work on it (there are some cutting howlers in there) and then stick it online as soon as I can. After that, I've got another zero-budget short from a few years ago I've yet to actually finish to complete and put online.

I'm back to the filmmaking, I am.

Wednesday 19 November 2008

Giant Collie Schnozzes

Awww. Gotta love 'im. My pal Moss.

And not to forget my pal, Isla.

Bless those beasties, keeping me company as I try to type.

Tuesday 18 November 2008

Ticker Update

Pardon my pink purulence - necessary to show 2 two of the 5 pads I had taped to my chest last week.

So, I had the heart monitor removed; in and out in a few minutes, literally. I didn't even have time to sit down for more than 20 seconds in the waiting room before I was seen. It was a bit odd to be surrounded by loads of old ladies getting their hearts seen to. I'm only 35 for fuck's sake! Felt a bit like Rod Taylor at the end of The Birds, especially as I was the first to be seen, feeling dozens of myopic eyes kind of following me with vague menace/gossip/suspicion.

Anyway, I was told that the data will be examined by a cardiologist and I'll hear the results in about 3 weeks. That being a week ago it should be about a fortnight but we'll see. I didn't have any symptoms whilst wearing the monitor, though. Sod's Law. And I did have a some today - whilst driving, which was mildly scary. But I did have some Cola to drink before I left and have a feeling that that may be where the trouble lies. At least I hope so.

Thanks to the folks who left messages. Did a fair bit to lift me up. Thanks all.

Now Hear This

I have a cold.

That is all.

Monday 10 November 2008

The Worry

I'm having a 24 hour heart monitor fitted tomorrow. Very, very nervous. It's not an operation - I'll be in and out on the same morning - but my mortality seems very real these days, especially in the light of the awful situation a friend of mine finds himself in now. Once fitted, I'm to go about my regular business and then I'll have it removed the next morning (hence the 24 hour bit...).

I've been having palpitations for a while now. I do suffer from anxiety attacks and depression and only hope that these are a consequence of that and nothing else. There is a history of heart trouble on my mum's side of the family and I had a heart murmur as a baby. That, together a couple of stone I could do without and my constant fear of dropping dead at any given moment, add up for a very worried Squirrel Scarer.

Thursday 6 November 2008


Working on a script for months, it's easy to lose sight of what you were setting out to do in the first place. You start out with that fantastic feeling in your stomach, a combination of nerves and loving the spark that your idea is giving you. And then you get down to it. Progression. And, as with any creative exercise, problems arise. And you endeavour to fix those problems. And so it goes on. Until you reach a point where you feel that this script will sit unfinished for weeks. Maybe months. And the danger of things becoming a slog can creep in. And you trudge on until it's done.

And then you read it and all the blood drains from your face.

After some alcohol (but never immediately after - danger danger!), the rewrite begins. Irritance at problems staring you in the face. Going back to notes. Wondering if it'll ever be what you want it to be. And you finish it, to the best of your abilities at that given time.

And it's become something else. And you've lost sight of that wonderful feeling the idea gave you when you started out.

Until you let someone read it. Just for an opinion. Not a script expert, but you trust their word. Is it any good? Would it make a good movie? How shit is it? Presuming that everyone else can see all of the glaring errors and bad plasterwork over those initial cracks. The reply comes. You shut your eyes tight before you open it.

And then, for a little while at least, vindication hits you. It's worth it after all. Someone else saw what you were aiming for when you started out, and confidence returns. It's not shit. They like it. A lot.

And all is right with the world.


Time for a beer, methinks.

Another Self Portrait of a Mug: 2 of 4

Kind of foetus-like. Or not.

Gee, aren't I clever?

Monday 3 November 2008

Another Self Portrait of a Mug: 1 of 4

Another one of my strange physiog. 1 in a series of 4. Taken with a mobile phone, shaking it whilst making stupid faces. Not unlike Ronny Cox's demise as shown in previous posts.

Wednesday 29 October 2008

Self Portrait of a Mug.

Cameras in mobile phones can be great sometimes, especially if you shake 'em as you're taking the picture Pulling stupid faces helps a lot as well.

I've got a few of these and will post more soon.

Tuesday 28 October 2008

Crossed Wires

I am known for arsing things up and generally getting it wrong.

In my last post I mentioned this as being the final week for the Digicult Digital Shorts 09 scheme. Got that wrong - that would be late November for that.

Another deadline I am chasing is for the BBC Radio comedy sketch show, Recorded for Training Purposes. They are asking for up to three sketches due by the 17th November. I've got a few I might sling their way after a clean up.

Don't know where I got the 31st of October from.

Monday 27 October 2008

A week off...or not?

I finished a big bit of work I've been doing lately the other day - a revision of my first bit of paid work, a feature screenplay. Sent it off to the chap who commissioned me and waiting to hear an opinion. A good opinion means we try and take it to the next stage, so I get my last bit of pay. And boy, do I need paid right now. About 45p in my pocket and that's about it for me fiscally. Ah, so this is the life of the writer. No money. Not much change for me there then. What we do next with the script may be up to me as well, so I need to try and get this into proper development. I'll keep the blog posted as far as that goes as much as I can. There may be things I won't be able to mention but I'll have to wait and see. An opinion asking for improvement means another revision and an extended period of Emptiwalleitis.

So, while I wait I'm taking a week to myself. But am I? Now this piece of commissioned work is out of my hands for the moment, I'm still itching to get into my spec stuff. I have a couple of feature outlines I want to work on, several short outlines, a short story I'm writing for an online competition (not a big competition but one run by a forum I post on) and this week is the final week to get an entry in to this year's Digicult scheme, so I need to see what I've got and polish and prepare as need be. And there is the floor plinth in the kitchen I need to fix and have been putting off for ages now. But I also need some fecking time off!!

So, this week is kind of my own. But I'll be watching lots of films as well, both for fun and research. The two feature outlines are Horrors but both very different tonally. I got a Hammer Horror box set last Christmas and have been waiting to get stuck into it, along with a lot more horror movies on DVD.

All the while scribbling down any ideas that smash into my attention span.

Excuse me while I fetch a cup of tea, sink into the recliner and hit PLAY.

(How I stay away from the Wii is anyone's guess...)

Friday 24 October 2008

Doodle - Niven

Got bored. Did a doodle.

David Niven. Hopefully.

Here Comes the Cavalry

Charges in movies. Sometimes they can be moments of utter wonder. The attack on Aqaba in Lawrence of Arabia immediately springs to mind. The Battle of Stirling in Braveheart is another.

But one thing that particular scene has which seems to have become a requirement in modern movies is Wallace's "pep talk" to his men before they charge ( also, the real battle was over a bridge and the real Wallace drowned most of his enemy that time, but Braveheart is so full of historical liabilities it's futile to try and set it all straight). Those lines have now morphed into cliche, which is not surprising given the unsubtle nature of that script. Every time I see what looks to be a similar scene in an attempt at a modern epic, I start to hunch up, fearing the cheese approaching. I might as well stick a clothes peg on my nose. This is something I have been trying to avoid myself in my present project, which is a historical piece with battles, but no cavalry saving the day - just one desperate guy.

One moment I feared this was in The Return of the King, which features what I think is one of the best siege sequences on film. Theoden King of Rohan musters his Rohirrim riders as the city of Gondor is about to fall, overrun with orcs and genuinely brutal trolls, flinging people into walls. No nasty rhymes, turning to stone or cheesy fights - these fuckers will smash you to pieces. And there is what could be construed as Theoden's own pep talk.

But, unlike Aragorn later on at the Black Gates (where he does go a bit Wallace, but understandably as the odds are piled against them) Bernard Hill does not mess about. This is Yosser we're talking about now.

Whereas Wallace had the battle cry of "Freedom!", summing up the bleedin' obvious theme of the film, Theoden has a slightly different one. Far more to the point but screaming a bit less about any obvious theme.


And the men all shout it back. Over and over. Intent made clear - these grotty orcs are about to die en masse. And then they charge, slowly at first, the music rising as the horses gather momentum. Breaking through the front line of orcs. And the look on the face of the chief orc as he realises they're buggered.

This is how you lead a charge.

Dammit, if this just doesn't make the hairs on the back of my arm stand up. Can bring tears to my eyes as well. My favourite cavalry charge scene in any movie and probably my favourite scene in all three Lord of the Rings film (the Moria sequence comes close). Put them at their darkest hour before they are saved - good screenwriting.

This is Theoden's second time leading a charge, after heading to what he thinks is certain death in The Two Towers, before he himself is saved by the cavalry. Again, he only has one battle cry and no convoluted pep talk - "Forth Eorlingas!". It does mean something in Tolkien's lore, but what matters is the obvious sentiment, made even clearer on the Pellenor Fields in The Return of the King.

One of those moments I live for in movies.

If only Yosser had led a charge like that outside the DHSS in The Boys From the Black Stuff.

Wednesday 22 October 2008

A Bit More of a Rubbery Cox

After my Total Recall blog, I trawled around a bit for clips and I feel this would have been a far better clip to illustrate my point about Ronny Cox's wonderful demise.

Be warned this is a bit gory and rubbery and is about twice as long as it needs to be.

Some might say it's 100% longer than it needs to be.

But it's also one of the most surreal and frankly hilarious things I've seen in a long time. Yes, I could be a bit sick.

A bit.

Personal Gremlins

The little things in life. They can make-a-da world go 'round. Every day is made up of tiny little moments that move us forward. Or not, as the case may be. Sometimes we move forward despite some of the other little things. Sometimes they cause mayhem with our progress, either irritating us when we should know better and sometimes preventing us from proceeding catastrophically. As is usual with me, it's the former. One of those things I ought not to get annoyed about and keep reminding myself that a calm mind can win the day whereas shouting at inanimate objects only raises blood pressure, harms the voice, scares the dogs and bewilders the neighbours.

Like a particularly persistent little bugbear which is rearing it's head as I finish my a revision of my present writing project. I suppose you could call this a personal gremlin.

As I'm typing up my screenplay, heading towards that first finish line (for there shall be many more with this script, hopefully), every time I type the word "look" I look up and see that I have typed the word (or non-word) "lok" instead (I actually just did writing that sentence!). No matter how mindful I try to be about making sure I hit that "L" button twice, it always happens. An irritant and one that can be dealt with without getting that annoyed (I tell myself). Yes, your friendly, neighbourhood spell-checker deals with these things as swiftly as an edit in a Michael Bay film.

Yes, modern technology is wonderful, but still has to contend with the non-logistics of human nature. You see, another manifestation of this personal gremlin is the word "from". Or is that "form"? Because that's what I seem to type all of the time when I mean "from". And you friendly neighbourhood spell-checker has no trouble with this either. Which is what gives me trouble. Because this persistent irritance is not a non-word, like "lok". It is indeed a word, with it's own meanings which can change a sentence. And my script writing software has now grammar checker (that I can see anyway) Yes, I know of the value of proof reading one's own work but dammit, do I have to proof read as I type? It's just that it happens so bloody often.

Look! Lok! From! Form! Aaaaargh!!!!

So, now is the time to remind myself that this is an example of one of those little things which I ought to know better about. A personal gremlin that can be flung out into the daylight to melt in a puddle of green goo by merely calming down and dealing with the little things which constitute the day.

And that concludes our Vent for the Day.

Tuesday 21 October 2008

Get Your Ass to Mars, Get Your Ass to Mars, Get Your Ass to Mars,

Ah, Total Recall.

What can one say?

Utterly stupid. And yet so much FUN.

I just caught the last 20 minutes or so of it on TV and forgot how much I enjoyed what was my first cert 18 film in a cinema (as I’ve said before, I was a really skinny and short kid and looked younger than I was. Oh, how times change) . Odeon, Clerk Street, Edinburgh, July 1990, with my mate Stephen and my brother Sandy. Yes, my younger brother. I was that wee.

The bits I caught just now mostly constituted the end of the film and, frankly, the bits I enjoyed the most. Inflating faces, deflating faces and Ronny Cox’s most hilarious onscreen death. Rob Bottin’s work was amazing on this one – even if I did read one arsehole write on YouTube that he thought The Thing’s FX were cheesy compared to today’s CG. Someone stop that kid and show him a real horror movie. His Kuato puppet was superb, even if the little bugger did look like he should have had a cigar in his mouth, And while Arnie and Rachel Ticotin do get a couple of amazing puppet stand ins for the more obviously painful shots – bulging eyes and tongues while shaking uncontrollably – it’s Ronny Cox who provided me and my companions with the biggest laughs, writhing around for a prolonged period in the Martian atmosphere, or lack thereof, only to have his eyes and tongue stick so far out that he succumbs to extreme puppet screaming and convulsing.

Martian atmosphere notwithstanding of course, as they'd have likely frozen to death in an instant and had the moisture evaporate from their bodies pretty quickly as well. Said the boffin. I don't know, but it wouldn't have happened like that. And if it did, their swelling would have ruptured every organ and blood vessel in their bodies. Ah, shit, it's an Arnie film. I shouldn't be saying any of this.

All that and my favourite farewell to Michael Ironside, a great actor with many onscreen farewells – “See you at the party, Richter!” Potentially one of Arnie’s greatest one-liners.

I did wonder if Richter's arms caught up with his as he fell and what the look on his face would have been like had he seen a pair of leather clad forearms swish past.

Friday 10 October 2008

The Black Hole

"Something caused all of this to happen. but what caused that cause?"

- Dialogue "gold" from Maximillian Schell.

I felt the urge to revisit an old film from my childhood (What? Again, you say?) after reading Edgar Wright's blog on The Black Hole recently. And conveniently, it was on TV a few days later. I had to record it and so only managed to see it again a few hours ago.

My memories of the ending and its traumatisation of my little mind are just as intact.

I strange one, The Black Hole is. It came hot on the heels of Star Wars (yes, that film again), along with dozens of other cash in films in the late 1970's and 80's. As a result, it was sold that way. Naturally, it being a Disney film, it was aimed squarely at kids. It had the prerequisite kiddy appeal characters - the robots V.I.N.C.E.N.T. and Old B.O.B. (voiced by Roddy McDowall and Slim Pickens respectively) clearly intended to latch on to the cute robot craze revolving around R2D2 and even harked back to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, with Schell's Reinhardt as a their Captian Nemo. Lots of action Robert Forster and Joseph Bottoms as Han Solo kinda guys blasting evil robots left right and centre - easily done as the Sentry robots made Stormtroopers look like SWAT marksmen. Yes, lots of adventure in the far, distant reaches of space.

Until about 10 minutes from the end.

Often, there are things which can scare kids for the strangest reasons. Sometimes they're meant to. Sometimes they're not. The latter certainly seemed more prevalent in the 1970's - that's why we had sofas then. In the case of The Black Hole, who knows? What matters is that after the fun adventure where our heroes seem to escape from the mad scientist, the demented spirit of Hieronymus Bosch seemed to seep into things. At the end of the movie, a meteor storm causes the USS Cygnus to lose control and start to fall towards the Black Hole, falling apart in the process. The laws of physics are also torn asunder by the script as Joseph Bottoms looses his grip and starts to float off towards the Black Hole, rescued by V.I.N.C.E.N.T., whose floating function would appear to better the most powerful pull known in nature. That and the fact that floating off into a vacuum has no side effects on Bottoms' character. But, hey, it's a kids' film, these things don't' matter.

So I kept telling myself, it's a kids film, it's a kids film, as Dr Reinhardt, floating in space/the Black Hole/hell flips up into frame, hair like rope, eyebrows and beard even bigger than before, mad eyes darker. A tiny bit of pee might have come out. I'm not sure. But I'm sure about the cold shiver that went down my spine at this, as he seemed to meld with Maximilian into one being, while the humanoid robots wander about in the hellish landscape of fire which Maximilian seems destined to rule.

These images, played alongside some of the creepiest music John Barry has every composed, absolutely petrified me and yet fascinated me. That, along with the V'Ger flyover in Star Trek - The Motion Picture (with the creepiest music Jerry Goldsmith ever composed), still creeps me out to this day.

And this is a kids film?

Well, at least the good guys seem to be spared eternal damnation in the Black Hole as it appears Hell is on the way to Heaven, or so the glittering archways (reminiscent of the hallway in the Emerald City in The Wizard of Oz) and apparent angel would indicate. And then, here they are, out the other side heading towards a planet with a sun rising behind it. But, my now fractured mind thought, where the fuck are they? I had just been exposed to the creepiness of the hell landscape in the Black Hole, this planet they're heading to could be a gas giant or have an atmosphere of hot gaseous lead. But, no, it's a Disney film, I reminded myself. They're fine.

Where this came from or what it all meant is up for debate in a pub somewhere, populated by 30something geeks, like me perhaps. I did hear that the end came about because it simply hadn't been written in time for filming and the FX guys and director just went for it. It's certainly not the ending which was featured in the novelisation of the film (church jumble sales in the early 1980's were goldmines for lunatics like myself). I flipped eagerly to the end where the main characters who appear to escape in the film, are actually compressed into one single entity, retaining a joint consciousness before being spread out into the universe as billions of particles of matter, making up new stars and planets. Just as mad, but a bit more sci-fi than the film. Not as much fun either.

The thing about The Black Hole is that there are some great visual moments in it. Like the giant hot meteor rolling down towards the heroes (more physics guff), well before Harrison Ford's jaw dropped in South America. Some of the production design is impressive as well, or at least seemed so to me back then, the bridge of the USS Cygnus a huge, almost Ken Adam style set lined with hundreds of multi-coloured squares of light.

John Barry's score is also great, very haunting and at times malevolent. He would do the same thing for the appalling and therefore great fun Italian Starcrash a few years later. Strangely endemic to Disney films of that era and before, The Black Hole also seems to have that strange tinny dialogue I remember coming from the Herbie films and Jim Dale in some clip on Disney Time, some forgotten Bank Holiday. The whole film, apart from one short bit in one scene, is looped and everyone seems to sound like they're talking loudly in a tin can. Strange. Even Mary Poppins sounded like that. At least it was one way of telling my young self that it was a only Disney film.

Another fine thing The Black Hole gave us was the long overdue immortalisation of Ernest Borgnine as an action figure, both small and 12 inch.

Airwolf never managed to do that, did it?

Now, to try and get my hands on Something Wicked This Way Comes...

Wednesday 8 October 2008

Satisfy Your Taste for Adventure!

Interesting delivery in the post today. I don't get much post, unless it's a bank statement ready to depress me or the Student Loans company ready to depress me further. But a friend was asking for my address the other day and wouldn't say why.

Well, I found out why.

It's no secret I'm nuts about the Indiana Jones movies - ALL of them (yes, there were big flaws in Crystal Skull, but they were outweighed by the good). I've got the soundtracks, I'll be getting the expanded soundtracks, I've got the DVDs, even a couple of Indy figures. Temple of Doom was the movie which actually made me clearly decide that I wanted to make films.

But I never had the movie cereal.

Until now.

My friend, who sent this to me, is though. He's got an unopened box of C3PO's somewhere - hell, they're probably dangerously explosive by now - and has a knack for spotting strange collectibles sometimes. Ordinarily I wouldn't really look twice at these but he saw them and thought of me. Awww. The box is American and I don't know if these have been bought in the UK or not. If they're imported, then again, Awwwww.

They're the kind of typical marshmallow cereal I've never had and would give Jamie Oliver a sudden and fatal heart attack on sight, but I'll give 'em a try. I'm not one for hoarding things in boxes. My Star Wars collection is all opened and out the boxes. There are little Crystal Skulls, Fedora hats, torches and Temple of Akator shapes in it. Might be fun, considering my usual cereal is Bran Flakes, with the occasion bowl of Crunchy Nut Cornflakes.

As a result, I'll link to my friend's shop website. He runs a couple of video rental shops in Oxford, one of which specialises in comics and has loads of cool autographed photos on the walls, including Burt Reynolds and Sam J. Jones (Dino DeLaurentis' Flash Gordon from 1980). Go see his cool shops.

Thanks Jon!

Sunday 5 October 2008

Post from the Past - Origins of an Unapologetic Star Wars Fan

I used to post blogs on MySpace but have since abandoned it for the far less busy and non-spammed Elysium which is this place (hah! not this blog, but this blogger thing in general). But I do have a few posts from the old blog I want to include here as they may help explain me a bit better.

A few posts ago, I wrote about my disappointment in the new Clone Wars film. Some people said "it's about time!" but the fact is that the effect that Star Wars had on me as a kid will never fade away or get jaded, no matter how many Jar Jar's there may be in the world. I saw it at exactly the right age, without irony or cynicism. Yes, there are a lot of things about the new films which are rubbish but they have not ruined my memories. The only thing that could do that would be some sort of blow to the head, and even then I wouldn't know any different. My memories of those screenings are indelibly seared into my mind and have helped put me where I am, which is not exactly where I want to be but it's a start. So here is a post I made about 18 months ago during Star Wars' 30th anniversary. George Lucas didn't rape my childhood. He did something good once and it has stayed with me. This might help explain why I see the good things about the prequels, past the glaringly and obviously bad.

MySpace blog posted 25th May 2007.


30 years since Star Wars came out (in the US at least. I think it was Christmas in the UK). Where did it all go? Where's my hair going now?

Who'd have thought we'd still be talking about it. Never mind the new films, special editions, cartoons, TV, etc. This isn't about them.

It was a film. It was the film.

What was I doing back in 1977? As if anyone wants to know, but since you're nice enough to read this blog, then why not?

When it cam out in the US, I was almost 4 years old. Almost, but not for about three months. Now, I'm not sure as to what the official line is with regard to when we begin to truly form memories and I'm not about to say that my earliest memories are of Star Wars (more of that scary and fucked up poster of Tomsk from The Wombles above my bed), but I do seem to remember things from that period. A lot of it has to do with my Dad. He loves Sci-Fi and so things like Star Trek, Space 1999 and Doctor Who would be on in our house regularly, and I would regularly hide from them. So it was logical that he'd be interested in it somehow. But that wouldn't be for a couple of months, but more on that later.

Another bit of TV from back then I remember with about as clear a memory as I have from back then was a show called Clapperboard, presented by a guy called Chris Kelly, on ITV. Whereas the BBC had Barry Norman giving his opinions about films, Clapperboard actually showed some of the filmmaking process. So when Star Wars happened in the US and it began to get crazy, they pounced. For me, Clapperboard was all about Star Wars. I remember seeing quick clips of the film, particularly, bizarrely enough, Ben Kenobi's death (or it may have been some kind of sketch on one of those bad comedy shows back then, like Dick Emery or something), which would have been a bit of a spoiler back then, had the term ever been coined by that time.

I remember seeing men with beards making the most complex and real looking model spaceships and filming them. So, as someone who has been involved in filmmaking, it was my first initiation into the actual process of filmmaking - even as a four year old, I knew what a film camera was at a kind of fundamental level.

And there were these amazing characters. As I recalled them back then - Luke Skywalker, Princess Leea, Dark Vador, R2D2, C3PO, The Man, The Old Man, The Friendly Monster, Stormtroopers, the Sandymen.

Don't get technical with me - that's how I knew them when I was four.

Hype grew and somehow, even though I'd never been to a cinema before or actually knew what one was, I wanted to see this. As a 4 year old, my prime mission in life was to see Star Wars. And then I found out my Dad was going to see it - now, I don't know if this was when it screened at the Edinburgh Film Festival (as I believe it did - I could be wrong) or if it was closer to Christmas when it went on general release in the UK. And so I asked.

He said no.

"But why? Why can't I come and see Star Wars with you?"

"Because you're too young. It'll probably frighten you."

- Pauses for breath - resumes typing -

He came back and told me all about it - he loved it but thought that the creature cantina would have been too much for my four year old mind of fear. But I would see it when I was older. For a four year old, that means forever.

My resolve remained. If I couldn't see it, I'd still know more about it somehow. The fuss on TV saw to that. Images and sounds from the film were everywhere. There was nothing like it. Clapperboard and other similar TV shows would have to suffice.

I started primary school the following year in 1978. I was five years old. It was still on. And then the toys came out.


Or, to be precise, the adverts for the toys came out as I wouldn't get any for another year.


Everyone in my class, boy or girl, knew about Star Wars on some level. But it seemed I was the kid who really loved it even though I hadn't seen it yet - I don't think any of us had; most kids' first film was Bambi or Snow White back then. We all spoke about the characters and tried to play it, making the noises as best we could, with all the inaccurate names for the characters still in a slow state of evolution for us. But that didn't matter because these characters were so clear cut that to us very young and imaginative kids it was like sowing seeds in the best soil - our imaginations were as fertile as they probably ever were, unclouded by conscience or remorse or delusions of...oh wait. Wrong film.

Fact is, it practically ruled my life then (my wife would argue that point with regards to nowadays as well). I got my first action figures (Star Wars Men as we called them back then) for my 6th birthday - C3PO & R2D2 along with a Star Wars Transfer Set, followed by Darth Vader and a Sandpeople. I was getting the names right by this stage.

It set so much of my life in motion. I would write about it, or write Sci-Fi stories (it was either Star Wars or Superman for a while). I became more and more aware of the process of filmmaking (as much as a small kid with no access to a camera could back then) and began to learn about who made this film - the guy with the beard. And then about his friend, the other guy with the beard.

I loved the music, which was hard to get a hold of here back then. I had to make do with that shitty disco version by Meco or crappy inferior versions by Geoff Love, et all, until we got the original soundtrack on vinyl. I sat and listened to it with my mum, a rare thing as she had little time for my obsession back then but appreciated the music. It began to give me an appreciation of music beyond Showaddywaddy and Adam and the Ants. To this day, when I'm driving and Classic FM play an adapted version of any movie soundtrack that is not from the original recording, I start off. My wife has too much patience with me. She really does.

It would be a while before I'd actually see Star Wars. I'd read the comic and and novelisation and knew the story inside out - although I was disappointed not to see Jabba the Hutt in it as he was in the Marvel comic adaptation. In fact, Star Wars would not be the first film I'd see in a cinema. That honour was reserved for The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad (pure gold!). Nor would it even be the first Star Wars film I'd see in a cinema.

Word got around very early in the newspaper cinema listings about what was being called Star Wars 2. Clapperboard began running items on the new film. And so it began again.

"Can we go and see Star Wars 2?"

"No, it'll be too expensive."

There were three of us kids by this time and trips to the cinema were very rare.

"But, pleeeeeeeeeease?"

"Well, it is your birthday soon."

And so my Great Uncle Jimmy (or Uncle Chimney as I called him, for some obscure reason) got me tickets for The Empire Strikes Back for my 7th birthday. And I was simply not prepared for the experience I was about to have, or how it would sear itself indelibly onto my memory for the rest of my life. - so much of what I want to put into my films (short as they may be) or into the scripts I write comes from that day when I saw The Empire Strikes Back.

It was all so hyper-real. The snow, the swamp, the asteroids, Cloud City, all of the sounds, the best movie score to this day.

And I knew more than ever I wanted to be Han Solo.

I sought out everything I could about the film. I'd eventually see Star Wars in a double bill with Empire - everything I wanted it to be, but the seed for liking the darker aspects of it all had already been sown by this time. We all had such a good time as a family at the double screening that my Dad took the corners tight on the way home, making spaceship noises and claiming we were all in the Millenium Falcon.

The action figures kept coming, my parents put up with it until after Return of the Jedi and eventually, after a long time, thought that maybe I could learn to make movies at university (after movies made at school with friends. Violent films. Very violent but funny films which got banned by our teacher. Heh). My family was really proud at my graduation ceremony and at the other bits and pieces I've done. And the ambition still burns deeply.

All because of a film my Dad refused to take me to see.

Sounds a bit like I'm harping on as if it means something to others, which it really doesn't as I'm just another film student / wannabe / trying to get there persistent bugger.. but it was so important to me and still is.


We went to see The Empire Strikes Back on my birthday - me, my Dad, his pal Stewart and my little brother, Sandy, who was five at the time but has always been bigger than me, even then (I was very small and skinny).

My Dad initially refuesed to take me to see Star Wars on the grounds he thought it would scare me.

The lights go down.

The epic crawl begins.

The words "has dispatched thousands of remote probes in the far reaches of space..." fade into infinity.

Camera tilts down to reveal the massice Imperial Star Destroyer in space.

And a strange sound comes form my left.

My little brother, bigger than me and next to me, is hiding behind behind the seat, say he wants to go home. Absolutely petrified. Mt Dad calms him down.

And I sit in jubilant silence.

Saturday 4 October 2008

Absent and Heroed Out.

I've been absent. So here I am, blogging but never sure if said absence is noted. The blogsphere still remains a bit of a mystery to me (it also makes me think of the Vogon home planet in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy).

A slight catch up.

Still writing but hopefully entering my last week at my present revision. Eager to get on with my other ideas and to take this present project forward in some form or another. I have a couple of short ideas I want to write and film and two feature ideas brewing away, all horror but varying a great deal in tone.

Just spent a week in Crieff. A nice break, less deserved for me, more deserved for my wife. She has another week off while I put my nose back to the grinder and hope to shave it down to a bit of torn gristle (yep, I've got an urge to write some horror). There may be some pics about in a subsequent post (not my imaginary mauled nose, our week away). And we shot some arrows and watched all of Heroes series 2, leading into the new series. A bit Heroed out now.

But today held a nice little event when I attended a friend's birthday gathering, involving a cinema screening of Back to the Future. Absolute gold. It still holds up wonderfully, even after 23 years - yikes! The last time I saw it in the cinema was New Year's Day 1986, with my brother. In other words, a loooooooooong time ago. The print was an original from 1985, with a few bits missing; apparently, some projectionists steal frames of iconic moments, which may explain the poor state of the BFI's print of Jaws, which I've seen three times in the past 13 years and has some sweet moments ruined by some missing frames. The last time I tried to see it, the screening was cancelled as the cinema thought that the print was unshowable A shame. But Back to the Future was mostly intact save for some understandable messy segments at the start and tail of each reel and the odd few frames missing. Biiiig rounds of applause at certain moments and I was surprised at how much more detail I was able to pick out in the shots, surprising considering I've seen the film many times on VHS and DVD.

But, major thanks to Laura (who I owe for the ticket - such is the life of the writer - skint), whose birthday it was, for putting on a superb flick to celebrate her birthday. There were even a couple of Doc Browns and Laura herself was dressed as Marty's mum from the Enchantment Under the Sea dance. Amazing the love people have for films like that. As much as I adore Star Wars and Indiana Jones, I'd likely not get dressed up for a film screening.

OK, I admit it, I did get dressed up as a very cut price Indiana Jones for a fancy dress party last year.

My apologies for any distress caused. But that's the only time, ok? I said ok? Stop looking at me like that.

Why do I always have to gurn unattractively in just about every picture taken of me?

Tuesday 26 August 2008

Star Wars Has Finally Made Me Frown

I declared recently that I would never watch The Clone Wars on the big screen.

Yes, I know; I need to work on my willpower.

And you know what? After all of my apparent distaste for it and after hearing so much negativity?

I absolutely HATED IT.

This is a first time with me. I've had ongoing "debates" with a friend about the quality of the prequels, varying as they are. I saw Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure in the cinema as a kid. Rented Ewoks: The Battle for Endor. Watched the Droids and Ewoks TV shows. I've even sat through the infamous Holiday Special more than once (ironically, the animated bit in it is good fun).

But this. THIS...

Snips. Ahsoka. Padawan from hell. Worse than Jar Jar. I never want to see or hear her again. "Skyguy". It made me squirm in my seat. Seeing as she isn't in Revenge of the Sith, I expect her dispatching to be of amusement to me.

Jabba's son. Appalling. Another needless cutesy insertion and appallingly rendered - it seemed flat and featureless most of the time, like a character in a computer game 10 years ago.

Ziro the Hutt - tolerable but only barely.

General Loathsom - who the fuck names these characters? And he was Scottish?!?!?! I'm not a proponent of the "George Lucas is racist for giving villains different accents!" camp, but this just seemed plain odd and out of keeping with everything else.

Why didn't they get a NZ or Aussie to do the Clone voices instead of the Dick Van Dyke impersonator? They were awful.

Action - well done, but counts for nought if the rest of the story, you know, the important bit, isn't executed well. I remember a particular filmmaker in the 80's saying that a special effect with a proper story is a pretty boring thing. Well, particularly during the first battle on Christophsis (who the hell named that?) I was bored out of my mind. Utterly. "Get on with it!" was my prime thought. Yoda was actually irritating to me. I can't believe that. No lines he had to say were of genuine import and half of Ahsoka's lines about "stinky" (!! being ill were endlessly repetitive and redundant. And they give him a pill! A MAGIC BLOODY PILL! Big deal! "He's dying!" "Here, this convenient pill on this strange ship will completely cure him!" "Yay!" A pointless obstacle overcome too easily. Terrible, simple minded and lazy writing.

But my biggest bugbear was the simple fact that this looked and felt like a TV show. It should not have been released in the cinema. Period. All of the lines practically crashed into each other as often happens on TV when running time can be at a premium and a lot has to be explained or squeezed in. The story itself seems obviously like 3 episodes cut together - sitting in a cinema, there is a kind of subconscious need for a decent screenplay - no matter what a person's knowledge of that kind of thing; beginning, middle and end, not beginning kind of end, another beginning, middley bit where a character suddenly appears out of nowhere to save the day (Padme) before a pretty sudden end. Split the film into it's 3 parts and those parts would probably work as TV, but not as a movie. This induced real tedium in me and made the film a 2 pee movie. It felt like someone less talented had hi-jacked Star Wars, like Doctor Who in the 80's.

Sorry, rant over. But I now know how a lot of people felt when they came out of the prequels (which I mostly liked. Mostly). I left the cinema with a frown on my face, something I was completely surprised at. A Star Wars film did that to me? This is Star Wars for the High School Musical generation. It's just further removed from the original intent and feeling than ever before for me.

Star Wars has finally made me frown. I've never been so disappointed in Star Wars in my whole, long, smelly life.

Thursday 7 August 2008

Not So Stir

Well, what a grouch I can be. I decided to get on with things today and eventually give the dogs a run. I say eventually as it's still raining here but they went for it anyway. And now I'm back, they're both lying peacefully at my feet by the desk, a bit damp (towels can only do so much) and making me feel both guilty and mushy.

Faithful buggers. Love 'em.

Wednesday 6 August 2008

In Stir

I'm going stir crazy right now. Normally, what tends to annoy me during the day (and which is entirely of my own doing) is when my dogs bother me to get out to the park when I'm trying to get some work done. Or at least start working. I'm often in the middle of something when the torment begins. I can't move in my seat at the computer I'm working at without one of my dogs jumping up suddenly, assuming he's getting out for a run. As I say this is my own fault as I should run them first thing in the morning and then get on with the day. And the fact that one of my dogs never leaves my side and is always lying at my feet as I work should make me smile more often.

But today I can't even take them to the park as it has failed to stop pissing down all day. And so I sit here, not working for longer periods, irritated more by jumping dogs and cats demanding to be fed 4 hours before they're supposed to get their dinner. Grrrr. And I'm doing even less work and getting even less accomplished, stuck in this fecking house worrying about turning 35 this weekend with less to show for it than I had intended years ago.

But I have to get on with it. Whinging incessantly will change nothing but deepen depression and let the script sit longer, while cash whittles away.

Sigh. I feel a chicken Rogan Josh coming on. Maybe that will help get this bleedin' script re-written.

Sunday 27 July 2008

The Plattitude

A good friend of mine had started up a blog. There are billions of blogs out there, where we all talk about our lives to varying degrees of interest. Frankly, a lot of is is about the mundane and a lot of it is about getting things off from one's chest, in an attempt to make our lives seem that it less complicated or maybe alleviate stress. My friend's life is far from mundane and far from easy right now and is going to be getting more difficult as time goes on as he was diagnosed with Motor Neuron Disease at the beginning of this year. He got married a few years ago and he and his wife had their first child last year. And then four months later came the diagnosis. Slap in the face doesn't quite cover that one. But he always had a suspicion that it would appear one day as it claimed his dad in the past and is a genetic disease.

But the thing is, everyone is blown away by the way he is dealing with this progressive and incurable condition. A few weeks back, he held a party to celebrate his birthday. And far from being a dour or morbid affair, it was about as close as we could get to the old days of mayhem in Edinburgh. There was laughter and beer flowed. And that was what counted. He's not the kind of guy to start to feel sorry for himself and would slap someone for doing the same. Just getting on with it and having as much fun as possible with friends and family. I don't want to use the word "brave" as it can sound condescending and it would equally be something he'd slap me for as well.

The word is "Strong". MND takes away your strength and your movement, while thoughts and emotions remain intact. I like to think of that strength partly in the form of a huge middle finger, raised aloft in the face of the disease.

Put it this way, when someone gets cheeky, the response is "Don't make me get out of this chair".

He has started his own blog about his life right now, with his wife contributing, and the least I can do right now is to at least point people in that direction to show some support and maybe educate themselves a little about this incomprehensibly cruel disease. You can find out all about my mate Neil, his wife Louise and their son Oscar (possibly the happiest baby I've ever met) here at The Plattitude.

Neil takes no shit and I hope he continues to do so.

Thursday 24 July 2008

London After Midnight - Found At Last?

Could it be possible? Has it been found at last?

For the uninitiated, London After Midnight is/was/may continue to be the most celebrated and hunted lost film of all time. Made in 1927, it was directed by Todd Browning (Lugosi's Dracula) and starred the great Lon Chaney as a top-hatted vampire stalking the streets of London, wearing one of the most creepy and terrifying faces to ever be captured by a camera. Save for a re-creation made using stills and the odd clip (I believe), the film has been lost, some considering it lost forever. And now, there is a report over at Aint It Cool News that a print may indeed finally have been found, only to be placed back on a shelf and then moved by the owners. The story links to another website where the guy who says he found the film has made everything as clear as he can at his site.

Now, the most obvious thing to do is, at the very least, raise an eyebrow and call BS on the whole thing, but this seems very credible to me - perhaps the fact that I want to believe it influences my reaction, but I smell no fish here. Well, no strong, oily ones at any rate. The most immediate questions springing to mind are why this guy didn't come out and say he found the film back when he did. While he was obligated to place the film back with it's owners, he should at least have said something at the time. Consequently, the print has been moved to an unknown location, but it can't be that hard to find. I hope they find this and do it the justice it deserves.

Lon Chaney was a cracker. I've seen several of his classics; my wife an I saw The Phantom of the Opera on the big screen a few years back and when he did his big turn and revealed his disfigured face for the first time, my wife (who already knew what he looked liked) grabbed my arm and exclaimed "Fucking hell!", which is surprising as she is very definitely a lady and swears rarely. That's the power his make up had. Or not, as he did not wear make up, or prosthetics at least. He would insert metal hooks and loops to pull at his face, widening his eyes and pushing his nose to create some of the strangest and horrifying visages in film which are still as effective today. The League of Gentlemen even site Chaney as an influence, avoiding as much prosthetics as possible for their characters - Edward and Tubbs' upturned noses are done with tape! I don;t know how far Chaney went with this approach; some of his characters must have had some form of prosthetic, like morticians wax or nose putty, but the eyes and noses were all his own.

I hope this is true. I really, really do.

Wednesday 16 July 2008

London and a Note to Myself

Note to myself: try not to post in blog after consumption of alcohol. See previous, muddy post for example. Its heart was in the right place, but the text was...rubbish. This is how points can be missed. Lesson learned.

Anyway, I popped down to London for a two nights last week. The Tuesday evening was beautiful as my wife and I strolled through St James' Park after she finished work. Beautiful.

The next day, however, was a different story. A stroll along the South Bank to the new BFI resulted in a sodden fleeing to the nearest cafe, while London and the Thames stood on, grey and unmoved.

The highlight, however, was the David Lean exhibition at the BFI South Bank. While I wasn't able to see any of his films on show there, there were some fabulous storyboards and concept art from his unproduced Nostromo. I should have snuck my camera out to grab a few shots but I'm too much of a good boy sometimes. What was also worth seeing was the coat worn by Alec Guinness in Lean's Oliver Twist. Brilliant to see a piece of genuine cinema history right before my eyes. I'm not sure how long the exhibition is on for but I'll be down there again soon want to check it out again.

Also, I'm told that the hotel I was staying at, the Rathbone Hotel, was the very same place where some of Peeping Tom was shot. I should look that out. The lovely view from the window really puts you in the place.

Tuesday 15 July 2008

That Obama Cartoon and Modern Media Stupidity

So, this controversy about the Barack Obama cartoon emblazoned on the front cover of the latest New Yorker.

Some are saying that it is offensive. Offensive to the presidential candidate, his wife and their entire cause. It would be easy to say this if the New Yorker were a right wing, conservative magazine

But it’s not.

And some would say, including the editorial staff at said magazine, that it is intended as a piece of satire, aimed squarely at the right wing of US politics who have levelled said false charges at Obama. Well, this is easy to see and may well have been the original intention. After all, this was the explanation given by those who placed said image in the world view.

And here lies the real problem. It has also been said, by those who fall into the first camp as described above, that this image plays to the US voters who are, frankly, uninformed (not all of them, just a scary proportion). To me, the observing but interested non-American, this could very well come to mean not just the “uninformed” but the downright uneducated and those biased towards the US right without really knowing what goes on outside the borders of their own towns.

Now, it can be said that the New Yorker caters to a particular taste. Basically, the politically informed and those interested in US politics 365, all 4 years of the term, on the Diplomat side. But I feel that the New Yorker has missed something terribly obvious and important in this day and age (trying to avoid the clichés but…US politics…struggling…to…). This is the age of the internet (yes, another cliché, but stay with me). There is very little in terms of news and contemporary image that is not made available to anyone with a connection. Anyone. Therefore, plastering this image on their front page, in an age where any image is fair game for distribution, they are either asking for trouble or courting controversy deliberately. Personally, I’d go for the latter, but I’m shocked no one has pointed this out (unless they have…). It is perfectly apparent that any image connected to the US presidential race can and will be made available to anyone with the least but of interest. And this includes the 13% of Americans who believe that Barack Obama is in fact a Muslim. Which he is not. They might not be New Yorkers buying Americans, but they have views, however ill-informed in their genesis, which can only be bolstered by this kind of journalistic naïveté. Perhaps if this image had remained within the magazine itself, to illustrate the point they are trying to make, then perhaps this potential subtlety might make their point a little more sharper. They might be preaching to the converted, but at least they wouldn’t be writing the hymn sheet for the worst of the other side.

This just reinforces a belief of mine: many people are stupid – this is easy to forget – and it is all too easy to increase their stupidity at the cost of one’s own gain.

Tuesday 8 July 2008

Shame and Cat Drool

I'm off to London for two nights to see my wife, who works there most of the week, even though she actually lives at home with me. As a result, our two dogs are out at her parents for the next week. As another result of that, our two cats have carte blanche on the house. Which means, as I type, I am wiping chilled-out cat drool from my arm. They get so chilled out, especially when our youngest dog isn't trying to herd them (they're both Border Collies). And so he's perched on my lap and interfering with my arms as I type. But he's a cracker. Indy. Not as obvious as some would think. My wife wanted a ginger tom (which he is) called Jones, after the cat in Alien. Due to the fact I like to sleep, this would not proceed, with me. So we reached a compromise, as I love that old hat wearing archaeologist.

But the shame comes from something else. I still haven't been able to see The Mist. Which kind of pisses on my previous post, especially as I think it'll be gone in a week, which would strengthen my theory that it's being fucked in theatrical distribution in the UK. The other bit of shame is that I've only just bought Songs for the Deaf, by Queens of the Stone Age. Why? How? I've not quite finished listening to it, as I type, but it's a monster and is taking on Ten and Slave to the Grind for me. Whether it overtakes or comes close is another question. It'll likely lose, but I've not heard a better album in a long while.

But another question remains: How the fuck did I miss this?

Friday 4 July 2008

The Mist lost in a fog of number crunchers

Tonight, hopefully, I will finally get to see Frank Darabont's The Mist. And one question lurks in the equally fog bound no-mans-land of my mind: why has it taken so long for this film to be released in the UK? It came out in the US last October and, while it didn't do too well at the box office, was still able to cultivate a cult following. A lot of people who love movies (geeks like me) rave about it and monster fans like me have been waiting with baited breath / protruding anticipatory eyes to see the damn thing. So why has it taken so long for it to be released, and with relatively little fanfare? The main reason I know it's out today is because Empire published their review of it online at the beginning of this week. I've seen no adverts, no trailers. Nought. Nada.

I'm not a big reader of Stephen King but when I couldn't get to see The Mist I did something I usually never do - I read the book. Great stuff. Full of proper monsters with no explicit explanation. And even though I know what happens now (and yes, I really do know how the film ends - such is what happens when this kind of mess occurs), I still can't wait to see the film.

I just strikes me as sad and defeatist when a movie with obvious genre appeal is released in such a way that suggests that those issuing it seem to have no faith in it. Do they think that they'd rather just release it quietly and hope it goes away, as though to prove a point to those who think it might do some business? It seems odd that a film like this wouldn't be marketed at least a little better. If so, there might be a chance that it would make that little bit more money, which surely is the point from a studio's point of view.

Another consequence of this strategy - if it can be called that - is that this process does the studios absolutely no good in their fight against piracy. If folks want to see it and are denied that by a studio, then of course the thing is going to turn up online. While it will anyway, as is par for the course these days, they are almost giving it away to a portion of people who would rather see it on the big screen as opposed to a wee, grainy screen. While it's not OK to do that, it's idiocy not to realise that this is what happens anyway. Release the thing properly and reduce the need or desire of some to watch it illegally. Hell, it's out on DVD in the US, and can be bought easily and legally online.

But I'm a sucker for the big screen and am looking forward to seeing monsters up there again. I don;t think we see enough monsters on the big screen these days. Yeah, we've had quite a few this year; Cloverfield, Hellboy 2 (which isn't out here yet), Aliens Vs Predator: Requiem (Burn my eyes! Dash them out!); but there's always room for more as far as I'm concerned.

So I end with a question: where are all the British monster movies?