Thursday 31 December 2009

So, about 2009...

In the past twelve months...

I saw Paris with my wife.
I lost a friend.
My work went into the big bad world and I wasn't shooed out of the building.
I met Ray Harryhausen, one of my childhood heroes.
I broke my toe. Rage at lawnmowers does not pay.
Saw my first IMAX movie.
Saw Monty Python perform "I'm A Lumberjack" live onstage.
Made steps forward in my work.
Earned no money.
Saw Malta with my wife.
Missed my wife.
A lot.
Finally visited my sister in Cambridge.
Walked out of a film for the second time in my life.
Managed to get to one event at the Edinburgh Film Festival.
Lost any trace of respect I might have had for Michael Bay.
Saw more of my dad.
Got piddled with some of the Harry Potter Creature Shop guys.
Caught up with some old friends after too long.
Reaffirmed an old friendship after too long.
Saw Patrick Stewart corpse at McKellen in the background of Waiting for Godot.
Went to far less weddings than last year.
Realised I'll be at even more weddings next year.
Visited my old school before they knock it down and caught up with old friends from them days.
Welcomed two new additions to the extended family.
Remembered that I liked snow.
Realised how much I value friends.
Embarrassed myself in front of a friend when I saw Roger Corman walk by.
Embarrassed myself even more in front of a friend when Joe Dante walked by moments later.
Saw some amazing films.
Saw too little of some other friends who only live 40 odd miles away.
Visited Glencoe and discovered how stupid the National Trust in Scotland actually is.

There's probably more.

I don't make New Year's Resolutions. But I do intend to make next year a much better one. Plans are brewing.

Hope anyone reading this has a Happy New Year. I'm off to cuddle my wife and have a nip of whisky at the bells.

See you in 2010.

Wednesday 30 December 2009

End of the Year Stuff

I hope anyone still reading this blog has had a Happy Christmas and a pleasant few weeks, regardless of one's beliefs.

Been a while since I last posted. I spent a few days in London with my wife, so I got to see her for a whole week, which is normally unheard of due to present work circumstances. Saw Avatar, which I loved but I also seem to be very forgiving of the script, which was unoriginal and cliched, but it's a hell of a pulp sci-fi experience.

And so, to the end of the year. An awful time for a movie news junkie like myself as most of the movie world seems to be asleep right now. I actually hate the week after Christmas. I love Christmas but hate how everything seems to change after the big day. Every day between it and New Year seems to feel like a Sunday. Meh.

But Christmas was good - we actually got a proper White Christmas this year; about a foot of the stuff in places. Cue extreme madness in the dogs during their walks - they love that stuff. I've got a box set of David Lean films to work through now, all pre-Lawrence, and more Muppet Show goodness. Ahh. Shame about Doctor Who, though. I only hope part 2 makes up for it. David Tennant has been an amazingly popular Doctor and deserves to go out on a high.

It's been an interesting year with ups and downs. A very good friend (with whom I don't think I ever had a cross word throughout 14 years) died at the beginning of the year and it put a lot into focus. But, he'd kick my arse with a Yorkshire boot if I dwelt too much on it. I think my next post may be about the good things which have happened this year. It's more important to focus on the good than the bad.

The Christmas holidays have been great (and still are) but I'm now eager to get on with things again. I'm not really a big fan of New Year and I always want to just get the year started instead of pissing it away. Yes, times have changed. No more jumping about at the Tron, getting a beer shampoo for me. I have aims for the next year, including at least two spec feature scripts for the next few months and then serious attempts at getting more work and an agent. I have big plans for the coming year.

Back to it! I've a world to conquer.

Monday 7 December 2009

Progress in "Exile"

After that last sentence in my previous entry, it seems that the pub really might a tad more conducive to scribbling. Over a pleasant 3 pints, 6 pages of notes were hammered out and the emotional core of the story is being laid bare.

Not that I'll be working in the pub regularly (that necessitates money, of which I have absolutely none, and a liver to rival Keith Richards, however many he's gone through), but a little restraint and a measured pint can do wonders sometimes.

I'm now getting excited by the story and the characters. Properly excited, as in seeing this as a film now in my head as opposed to an idea. A couple of scenes took very good shape this evening. And all of this before I'm outlining. But, as with the booze, restraint with some of the ideas - this can still become a different animal.


The title's not as dramatic as it sounds, but I have imposed a kind of exile on myself, web-wise. A story I've been working on for years has recently begun to truly take shape in a more coherent fashion than before and I don't want to lose it. I say "lose it" not as in "I'll go nuts" but I've got a wee spark going on now that I don't want to slip out of my notoriously sieve-shaped mind.

So, since last Thursday, no Facebook. Shock! (Ok, I had to log in once today to send a message of apology to a school friend I'd bumped into this morning, only to mistakenly call him by his brother's name. What a knob I am). So, the Facebook addiction is getting kicked into touch, as is my presence on a message board I've been frequenting for years. But it's all just short term so I can make myself get on with writing and also prove to myself that I don't need to be logging on to the online world to feel secure. Blog notwithstanding, of course. It has been a while since I posted. But none of the usual time-wasting nonsense for the next seven days.

This is the thing about writing. It's fucking lonely. So with one click, I'm in touch with my friends. And I must stress that the vast majority of them are people I personally know, not just from online personas and daft avatars.

Speaking of which, I'm also cutting myself of from anything to do with Avatar. It's a film I'm really looking forward to and I don't know a huge amount about it. I may know more than I think if Cameron has taken the "Dances with Wolves in Space" path in terms of story, but we'll see. So, no reviews or chatter until I see the film next week. I'll be in London for most of the week so I may have to shell out a bit more for it, but I will be seeing next week, for sure. Slowly but surely, things are getting Christmassy as well. Gawd, I love this time of year. It's unfortunate it has to be followed by dark, cold and wetter January. But that's the concept of following time through a calendar for you. Some mammals have got it right by sleeping it away.

Exile. It's amazing how the web can cause over-dramatics. Nonetheless, I've stuff to do.

So, it's head in the books time. Would it be wrong to do that in the pub? Hmmm...

Wednesday 18 November 2009

Writers and The Blackness

There is a great article over at regarding depression and being a writer by Dominic Carver. If any writers visiting this blog have ever suffered from this particular brand of mind and personality rot (like myself) then I recommend reading his piece.

Registration may be required but is an invaluable resource which I recommend any writer check out, so I think registration will be worth your while.

Monday 16 November 2009

Edward Woodward

It seems the easy thing to do would be to mention The Equalizer or The Wicker Man (which I intend to watch tonight).

But, before Jack Regan and George Carter, before Gene Hunt, before Bodie & Doyle, there was Callan.

And he'd have kicked their collective arses.

RIP Edward Woodward. A true gent by all accounts.

Tuesday 10 November 2009

The Point of a Blog

What is the point of a Blog?

They exist in different forms and genres. The most common seem to be personal blogs, functioning like personal diaries. In fact, I'd say in general they either function as diaries or as columns, as in newspaper and magazine editorials. And these can be divided into genres - writing blogs, film blogs, music blogs, cultural blogs, the list goes on.

The blogs I follow tend to be film related in the main. And these blogs always have some sort of personal aspect to them, in varying degrees. Whether it's Jeffrey Wells' opinion on the past year's films (where he includes aspects of his life) or advice given by peers and colleagues or just seeing how friends are doing beyond the limitations of Twitter (I've lost interest in Twitter now). This blog itself is an amalgam of a writing/film/personal blog. Little bits of my life I feel like sharing. Not foisting it upon people, of course. I hope it's not too boring but then again I'm not the most exciting person in the world.

I have had the odd rant in my blog - it's part of the way I deal with depression, which can really fuck me up on an epic scale at times. But I'm allowed. It's my blog. And people are entitled to rant on their own blogs as well. People are also entitled to make comments if they want, good or bad. It's a free world. And I can do the same in others' blogs. If I don't like what someone says, I'll deal with it in a hopefully adult way. Or ignore it.

One thing I won't do is get personal and slag that person off in a blog headline. There is no sarcastic font to make people see what you mean. You write it in a way that you intend. And if it's not the way you intend then you ought to correct yourself. This is a common occurrence on the web these days. The dispassionate nature of plain text. Words need context. If it's lost, flame wars break out over nothing. And it descends into the moronicism of an Aint It Cool News Talkback. But, if we're adult enough, we can back away and not slag people off from behind the safety of a keyboard. People seem to suddenly develop balls of steel on the web.

It's even worse when someone you thought was a friend does it to you.

So, fuck this. I'll keep blogging about stuff. Stuff I like. Stuff which affects me. And if people think it's boring, well fuck 'em. The point is to express one's self. Hopefully without sounding like a broken record.

As the good Mr David Bishop says, Onwards.

Wednesday 4 November 2009

Meeting a Hero

The Master Ray Harryhausen, co-author Tony Dalton and this fat fool of a blogger. I take a rotten picture.

The very first film I ever saw in a cinema was The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad (not Star Wars as some folks think). It was part of a double bill (playing alongside Chuck Jones' Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Movie) my dad took me to when I was about 6 years old. I'd been wanting to go to the cinema for a few years by that point, but my disappointment as not seeing Star Wars when I was 4 is the point of an older blog post.

So, my earliest memories of the movies are of a giant Cyclops, a dragon, a tiny princess, a poisoned river and Torin Thatcher fleeing and crying for help from the outset. And it was the monsters which had the biggest effect on me. I was hooked on the buggers. This from a kid who hid at the side of the TV when Doctor Who or Space 1999 came on. Not to take anything away from its director, Nathan Juran, but it was really all about the animation master and pioneer Ray Harryhausen for me. I knew who this guy was before I knew who the Maggie Thatcher was.

I got to know his style early on and was usually disappointed when a monster movie appeared on TV that did not have his name attached. In fact, a small rage would grow in me when it became clear that I was watching iguanas and baby crocodiles with plastic frills on (The Lost World and Journey to the Center of the Earth were particular offenders to me as a kid). If it wasn't Harryhausen, my interest would wane.

And I got the chance to tell the great man about my first cinema experience face to face recently when I met him at a book signing. It was over so quickly (bloody queues) but will remain in my mind for as long as my mind works. It was good to have a chance to thank the man and shake his hand. How often do we get to meet our heroes and thank them? There is the old saying that one should never meet one's heroes as they will disappoint but sometimes the meeting is so brief that the chance for disappointment doesn't get a look in. Maybe that's the way to do it. It was likely just another fan for him but it was a big moment for me.

After my quick gush about The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, he and his co-author, Tony Dalton, also told me that they've found lost footage from Seventh Voyage and there's going to be a new book on the subject next year. Good to hear. And another heartening aspect of the event was that there were a few quite young kids there to meet him and who were into stop motion animation themselves. They knew who he was, despite so many folks my age wanting to write off the younger generation. And he seemed very pleased that they were helping to keep stop motion alive and kicking. Movies like Coraline and well known people like Nick Park and Tim Burton are a part of this also, but they all owe this man a debt. I wonder how likely it is that kids who love modern VFX can name any of the pioneers of that form. Denis Muren, maybe (Another name I knew very early on)?

Harryhausen's the first of my early childhood heroes I've met but I've seen another in action on the set; although, in hindsight, George Lucas has blotted his copy book in recent years. But not totally, mind you (that's a debate for another day). Meeting Terry Gilliam was cool when I was 18 but he was more of a late teens hero and he was great in person. Very generous considering how tired he clearly was.

But, I got the chance to meet one of the people partly responsible for forming my direction in life from a very early age. And to top it all off, his words to me were "Thanks." I left with a very big smile on my otherwise grim visage.

I think The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms is in order today. :)

Wednesday 28 October 2009

London Weekend Squirrelvision

I got back from a brilliant weekend in London a few days ago. Highlights include seeing Eric Idle's oratorio based on Life of Brian, called He's Not the Messiah and featuring the rest of the Pythons on stage (sans anglophobe Cleese), meeting Ray Harryhausen, one of my all time heroes, late nights with friends in good pubs and seeing my sister in Cambridge. All in the company of my lovely and quite brilliant wife.

I'll blog about these in a bit more detail soon but if anyone asks again who Ray Harryhausen is, I may lose it (Some people. Jeez!).

Tuesday 20 October 2009

Hellman's "The Shooting"

I said a few days ago I was going to blog about Monte Hellman's The Shooting, which I recently watched.

The semi-randomness of LoveFilm led me to this film. I've been wanting to introduce myself to the films of Monte Hellman for some time so I did the necessaries on LoveFilm and The Shooting came through the letterbox first.

I'd never heard the term Acid Western before I checked up on the film after watching it (in fact, the term wasn't coined until almost 30 years after the film was made). I was already impressed by the film but on discovering the term I re-evaluated the film in my head. It's an interesting idea, to turn the conventions of the Western around to make a counter-cultural statement without actually making the film seem to out of place within the genre (in my mind, at least).

I was aware I was watching a low budget film when watching, but this seemed beneficial onscreen. The whole thing has the feeling of a descent into hell. Almost dreamlike. The small cast and the way the landscape is shot help with this impression. The choice of location makes the characters feel more and more isolated from reality - it seems similar and yet utterly opposed to John Ford's West of Monument Valley. The heat and dryness are emphasised both narratively and visually. Warren Oates character of Gashade also becomes increasingly isolated throughout the film, as he is separated from his sidekick, the well meaning buffoon Coley, and then from his horse. The desert claims the horses, one by one, aided by Millie Perkins unnamed mystery woman as she insists on riding to death every horse she has. We don't know who she is or exactly why she wants what she wants; only that she is out for revenge and when the opportunity arises, her victim is Gashake's identical brother (it's never explicitly stated that they are twins).

This sudden ending, of course, is what really marks the film out from conventional Westerns of the time. The slow motion serves to emphasise the face both brothers share - how much of this is metaphorical? Is this just about Gashake? I'm unsure but it certainly made me question just about all that had come before. The rising hostility of the woman towards Gashake and Coley increases as they become more distant from their mine. She becomes more unpleasant, demanding and obstinate, where in the beginning she hired Gashake due to his past as a bounty hunter (something he seems keen to leave in the past). And when Jack Nicholson finally appears after trailing them for some time, they both assume the role of pure antagonists against Gashake, eager to separate him from Coley, his guns and his horse, although Nicholson loses his own horse, levelling the ground somewhat.

Warren Oates is just superb as Gashake. He knows all is not what it seems but goes along for the money. Or has he? A sense of guilt or resignation hangs around him and Oates plays it all with a genuine stoicism. I wasn't keen on Perkins at all, though. All shouty and mono-expression, she seemed more at home in a Bresson film. Nicholson was a slick and genuinely menacing bully.

One moment that lingers is when Gashake and Coley (Will Hutchins) hear the gunshot signalling the arrival of The Woman. Coley gets such a fright he runs as fast as he can to a high point, carrying an open bag of flour, spilling as he runs. Then panicking child-like man covered in a cloud of white powder.

One unresolved element involves two men, shown only by their boots, who arrive at the mine camp after the group has left, as though they are also after someone.

This is no ordinary Western and I'm eager to find some more in a similar vein. I've been tipped off about Jan Kounen's Renegade (an awesome cast list!), but there's more Hellman to get through first.

The Blue Screen of...what?

Is it the Blue Screen of "Death" or is it "Doom"?

This stems from a comment I made on Facebook about trying to fix my PC. I've been working from my laptop for some time now but I can't edit on this wee thing so if I want to get making films again, I need to get the big bugger working again. My comment about "The Blue Screen of Doom/Death" was met with typical geek derision from my friend Tim.

Doom or Death, either way, I want it fixed. Could be a RAM problem. I've already had to replace the HD so I won't be purchasing a PC from that particular establishment again.

But geek speak can be a difficult thing. Get it right, some non-geek friends will raise an eyebrow and give you a ribbing for being so geeky. Get it wrong, the geeks will descend upon you, point, stare, roll their eyes and disavow any knowledge of your geekiness and expel you from Geekdom.

All through emoticons, of course.

OK, here's proof of my geek credentials (not counting the huge Star Wars collection my wife lets me keep in the house. Lucky man) - during pre-production, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was once known as Indiana Jones and the Temple of Death. There we are - proof of my lack of social ability and obsessive tendencies combined with the very two words I that started this blog entry in the first place.

Either way, I want this fixed. Getting an itch to make a couple of shorts.

Monday 19 October 2009


I've just heard that veritable bottomless well of film knowledge and chief Shadowplayer David Cairns has been assaulted by some mindless little shits. I hear he's OK, but what a shitty thing to happen. Wishing my best to him and hope they catch the little fuckers. If there's something I hate with every fibre of my being, it's a bully.

I used to live in Leith, near to David, and heard and saw some unpleasant doings (more often heard in the middle of the night) and know how ropey Leith can be. It's still a great place but is also inhabited by the weird and sometimes downright bastardish lower forms of Scottish life. Some friends and I were once witness to some girls screaming obscenities at a couple of teenage lads as we went to the shops after a late beer. We emerged from the shop to see two of them across the road in full view of Leith Walk in a bus shelter, definitely no longer shouting at each other. She certainly couldn't shout with her mouth full, anyway.

Nice. Sunshine on Leith? I don't fucking think so.

There are things I love and miss about Leith. And then I'm reminded all too often about the things I hated about the place. It was once twinned with Rio de Janeiro, you know. There was a sign as you drove down Leith Walk. My wife and I couldn't help but wipe away tears of laughter away when we saw it. Delusion seems to be an important part of some sections of the Scottish psyche. Not to say that it's not a beautiful place, but priorities usually seem askew.

Again, good wishes to David but don't let this incident tempt you to the works of Michael Winner (unless it's a repeat viewing of his Chris Rea opus, Parting Shots).

Facebook Snuff?

What a wonderful age we live in. The web is everywhere and we have access to millions of videos on YouTube.

But I saw something today, posted on Facebook, that has completely repelled me to my core.

There are all sorts of videos taken from real life out there. A few months ago someone posted a disturbing clip of a man electrocuted on top of a train in India, apparently after a free ride on top, like the old image of hundreds of huddled passengers on top of Indian trains we're used to seeing in movies, but are now being stamped down on by the authorities. Why? Well, a crowd had gathered as the station workers tried to get him down but he wasn't having any of it, casually wandering around on top of the carriage waiting for the train to pull away. And then he leans on a power cable. It's over in a flash, literally and his smoking carcass slams down almost as casually, essentially a large piece of burned meat. Very, very dead. It's a shocking piece of footage and has purpose in showing the dangers of doing what that man did. But it finds distribution not solely in that but also in grim entertainment. But most of the chat I saw on message boards consisted of discussion of the cause of the accident and how foolish people can be. It's a dangerous pastime, don't do it.

What I saw today amounted to nothing more than snuff. Beadle does death; You've Been Killed!

A small scooter drives along a busy road in Taiwan, unaware of the huge articulated lorry looming behind. The lorry swerves and smashes into the scooter, drawing the driver under its wheels, crushing him once and then again as the rear wheels hit, dragging him. He explodes. Blood everywhere. His arm swings around on its own sinew as the truck stops.

And someone posted it on Facebook for a laugh.

Why post it on Facebook for reason other that that? There is no warning or thought on the terrible nature of the clip. No empathy. Just a smug joke in the comment line.

I hope this is not real. I hope it's one of the many fakes out there on the web. Because it's getting around. And I wonder if people watching, exclaiming, "Whoah! Wow! Gross! Eew! Hilarious!" realise this basic fact:

This is film of the end of someones life. Ended in an unbelievably undignified and excruciating way.

As a viewer, there is detachment. The footage is from a distance. We cannot see the faces of anyone involved. It's all too much like the video footage Harry Hill muggs it up over on Saturday nights as part of ITVs "entertainment" schedule. And so the fact that this is the death of a person, just as viewers themselves lose family members to accidents, disease or murder.

Death is a part of life. We need to be able to see it and accept it. But that doesn't make it funny when it happens in real life. I'm a horror fan. Some of my favourite films involve terrible ends for many characters. But, it's not real. I know when Ash loses an arm or when Kane has his final meal that this is part of how we look at death, through either humour or exaggeration of deeper fears. And I know what it's like to find a dead body in real life - utterly distanced occurrences and sensations. I'm not going to get into an analysis of real life death and movie death. I shouldn't have to. People should be able to see something like the footage described and realise that this is real. Someone died. Those pixels do not represent a staged action or stunt. That blood is real. And you're laughing at it. Yes, we should be able to look at death; it's that taboo we hide from, often by laughing at it. But to engage in the act of distributing said footage for cheap laughs is low. Fucking low. It's not dealing with it. It's the lowest form of Schadenfreude I can conceive of. Would the folks laughing at this clip make jokes about the men, women and children who died in the Omagh bombing or the Concorde disaster?

No matter the technology or the medium, people should still know the basic difference between what is, real and fiction, right and wrong.

Or, it's fake and I've ranted over nothing. Frankly, I'd rather have ranted over nothing.

Monte Hellman's Flying Circus

OK, last week was a bit shit. Well, I was a bit shit. Or, my mind was in a bit of a shit place. Apologies for the vent.

These are the things we deal with sometimes.


I watched my first Acid Western film tonight, The Shooting*. It was also my first Monte Hellman film. It's late now but I'll blog about it tomorrow.

But Warren Oates was superb.

On another more jolly note (jollier than last week's bout of shit), my wife and I are off to see Monty Python this week! Well, four of them. No, Cleese isn't dead but he's not coming. Spoilsport. But, to make it even better, I hear Neil Innes and Carol Cleveland will also be there. While I hated Spamalot, I'm looking forward to Eric Idle's He's Not the Messiah oratorio.

Yes. There is a Python oratorio.

Our seats'll be shite but we don't care!

I once walked past John Cleese across the road from Harrods, a few years ago. He glared at me and truly is freakishly tall. Met Palin and Gilliam in years previous. Nice gents.

*I've linked to the Wiki page instead of IMDB as there's more interesting information there.

Tuesday 13 October 2009

Time to Vent

Writing can be a lonely business.

Stuck in one place. Working in a vacuum. No one around. Little to no contact with the outside world or those you're supposed to be working with. And it can be awful. Bloody awful. A feeling of unbelievable remoteness and that this may all be a joke, brought on by a combination of circumstances and decisions, making you question what you're doing and who you are more than ever. Making you feel the furthest from where you want to be.

That time is now.

Thursday 8 October 2009

Back To It.

Back from our holidays (a while now, but away from the blog even longer) and getting back to it. Y'know, writing. For no money. That old chestnut.

Concentrating on one thing for a long time often makes me forget about the other stuff I have to do. Come on; I'm a man! We're only supposed to be good at doing one thing at a time.

This, of course, is a load of bollocks.

But, I find myself in limbo and realise I have to pick my arse up and get on with things. The feature script I've been working on for the past 18 months is in the hands of The Powers That Be, which means I have to bide my time. Up to a point. In the meantime, that old nemesis of mine - discipline - has reared its not-as-ugly-as-I-think head and I'm getting on with other things. This is the first time in a while I've been able to devote this much time to my own spec stuff. I'm getting my portfolio up to scratch so I'm going over an older script and revising it, choosing other ideas to turn into outlines and writing one of them into a full blown first draft. This one is an ghost story that's been floating around for nearly 10 years now so I have copious notes to get through. I expect to squirm and cringe at some of my older writing. But the idea still excites me so there must be something there amongst my aged scribblings.

I'm getting on with trying to write outlines and selling synopses again - not an easy task, but there are hints and tips out there.

And I now remember that it's enormous fun doing my own thing again - writing stuff I want to go and see myself, which is one of my most important rules. My present material consists of different genres, some same genre stuff with wildly different tones and just plain old lunacy.

So, I'm firing up the movie scores on my hard drive to aid with the old inspiration thing (a bit of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, I reckon) and getting down to it again. Time to lose myself in my head. Which is ironic considering how much I was told not to as a kid.

As fellow blogger David Bishop would put it, "Onwards!"

Saturday 12 September 2009

Kobyashi Maru and the Great Mind Fruit.

Who said Smallville was in Kansas? View from the Edinburgh to London train, south of Berwick UponTweed.

We're finally off on our hols! God knows, my wife needs and deserves it, supporting this layabout...ahem, screenwriter. On the train down on London as I type (beautiful countryside on a beautiful day)and we fly out tomorrow to sunny (hopefully) Malta. And so, in order that I might take some time off myself, I've brought my laptop and notebooks. No sooner am I away than I want to get on with things. I'm unable to switch my brain off from the whole writing thing so I'm resigned to maybe starting on some other story ideas whilst away.

Completed screenplay-wise, the waiting game is in play at the moment. It's in the hands of folks who are able to help significantly or not and so I must strike a Yoda-esque pose and remain patient. I'm told following up too early can be destructive to good will so I'll have to sit still for a wee while and get on with other ideas.

It's odd; one tries to combat the distractions of other ideas when working on one particular script but when the time comes tohand that over and work on those other ideas, that particular script starts to bark and compete for attention amongst the newer ideas. Life is not like a box of chocolates. It's more like the Kobyashi Maru at times. And that keeps it from being boring.

Anyway, looking forward to some time away and then I'll be eager to get back to it once the creatives juices are re-squeezed from the Great Mind Fruit when we return.

Monday 7 September 2009

Of Paris and Broken Toes...

I've been skiving.

For the non-Scots out there, it means playing hooky or slacking off.

Well, from the blog at any rate. As life still goes on in non-blog form. But I'm here to blog again and bore you with more film and writing meanderings.

A little bit to catch up on. There has been a welcome development with the screenplay I was commissioned to write. It has attracted some significant interest here but that's all I can say right now, out of professional courtesy and a desire not to jinx it all by blurting things out and tempting fate. But it's one of those things that reminds you that there is a point to all that slogging at the keyboard in a small room surrounded by copious notes and reference books.

Other opportunities have presented themselves, forcing me to try and get more organised in order to keep the small outboard engine which is the beginning of what I hope is a career running. Unlike the small engine in my lawnmower which kept cutting out a few weeks back, leading my frustration to kick into overdrive, resulting in a broken toe. I'm not so stupid as to kick a metal petrol engine wearing flimsy trainers. It was the hopper, which was full of damp and therefore heavy grass.

Entirely my own fault. A few weeks of limping have led to it healing quicker than expected, but I still won't be near the gym for a few weeks at least.

Also had my first experience of Paris a month ago, with a nice little weekend away with my wife. Fantastic city and the cleanest I've ever been to on mainland Europe - this is not a slur on the other beautiful European cities I've been to, although a trip down the "Beautiful Blue Danube" while in Vienna stands as one of the biggest disappointments I've ever experienced. I recommend folks avoid that when in Vienna - there are much nicer things to see and hear there. But, Paris was clean. I may post some pictures soon. A proper holiday in Malta is lined up next. Hell, my hard working, wonderful wife deserves it, putting up with and supporting this fledgling screenwriter.

In all, not a bad couple of weeks or so. I just have to keep the snowball going down the hill.

Wednesday 22 July 2009

The Tiny Bits Making the Total Bit

This might seem like a no-brainer to some, but blogging about it gets it clearer in my head, so I beg your indulgence and all that...

In my 2nd Act struggle (mine, not the characters), I'm taking a scene from a previous draft and using what some folks call "deep structure" on it. I'm now seeing its place in the story and looking at it as a sequence, giving that sequence a structure and then breaking it down into structured scenes and beats.

I structured the previous drafts around sequences but this time I'm taking those sequences and giving them a tighter structure themselves, breaking it down to make sure that everything counts and pushes the story forward. This is making it all clearer in my own mind and is veering me away from my old technique of writing reams of notes and trying to glue it all together. I'm taking those notes and trying to be more organised about it all. Otherwise, I reckon I could get lost in it all again and become mired in exposition and historical facts when I need to take every moment and see how it affects my main character.

This all comes down to being a more organised writer. Things become clearer to me when I begin to break them down and see how they are all essentially the individual bricks which make the individual walls which make the structure of each floor of the cavernous building I'm essentially writing.

Wow. That was a bit of a wanky metaphor, but even blogging about it helps me get it clearer in my mind. The other important part is maintaining my patience and not just start slapping the bricks together with too much mortar and then getting in a rage when it all falls apart (As some folks know, I'm not known for my patience).

Basically, the bleedin' obvious become more apparent to me is that Beginning, Middle and End all still matter within a sequence or a scene, as much as within the overall, conventional 3 Act Structure.

Anyway, this sequence is now beginning to excite me, both creatively and from an audience point of view. Moments are now becoming clearer and have more substance to them and I'm enjoying running it through my head.

Let's see what happens...

New Who Attire

Well, colour this Doctor Who fan very happy indeed.

I was half expecting to be horrified with some sort of yoof-oriented costume like a hoody, but this is every inch the Timelord. Young Mr Smith looks great in a kind of 50's US College professor get-up, kind of like Atticus Finch meets Dr Jones. And elbow patches and braces as well - as many folks are saying, there is a bit of the Troughton about him. I was cautious about someone as young as Matt Smith playing such a revered and wise character, but there are little to no doubts remaining in my mind now. I reckon Steven Moffat knows what he's doing.

New TARDIS as well. This looks goes further back before my time as a fan, bearing more of a resemblance to William Hartnell's old girl, what with the St. John's Ambulance emblem. But it's very clean looking, leading me to believe the rumours that something catastrophic may happen to the TARDIS when the 10th Doctor regenerates. A new interior would be nice, but I'm old and just want to see something else to remind me of a childhood spent watching a particular television programme from the side of the TV - no behind the sofa for this weirdo.

All in all, this looks good to this particular Who fan. Looking forward to seeing Steven Moffat's stories next year. Yay!

Tuesday 21 July 2009

Movie Meme

More time wasting.

Fellow writer and blogger, Miss Read, posted this movie meme question thingamabob. I've got lots to do, so why not?

1.Name a movie that you have seen more than 10 times.
Too many to mention, but the most obvious candidate for me would be The Empire Strikes Back, but mostly on DVD or VHS. Only 4 times in the cinema, though (2 original, 2 special edition).

2.Name a movie that you’ve seen multiple times in the theater.
Again, loads. I overdose on summer movies I like. I've seen Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom in a cinema at least 6 times.

3.Name an actor that would make you more inclined to see a movie.
It would have been Harrison Ford in the past (Firewall came and went without so much as a sniff from me), but none now.

4.Name an actor that would make you less likely to see a movie.
It's usually a director who'd make me less likely to see a movie. Can't think of any obvious actors right now. Owen Wilson, maybe?

5.Name a movie that you can and do quote from.

Usually Star Wars or Aliens. Depends on the company I'm in.

6.Name a movie musical that you know all of the lyrics to all of the songs.
None. But I knew The Sound of Music pretty well as a kid.

7.Name a movie that you have been known to sing along with.
Probably Monty Python's Meaning of Life. But it's not something I normally do.

8.Name a movie that you would recommend everyone see.
Hmm. Probably Sidney Lumet's The Hill or Coppola's The Conversation.

9.Name a movie that you own.
Good god. Where to start? Um, random choice (goes to DVD cabinet and picks one with his eyes shut)...Seven Samurai.

10.Name an actor that launched his/her entertainment career in another medium but who has surprised you with his/her acting chops.
None spring immediately to mind that I like. Maybe Harry Connick Jr? Sinatra was pretty good in From Here to Eternity. And I hate Sinatra and the useless cult around his name.

11.Have you ever seen a movie in a drive-in? If so, what?


12.Name a movie that you keep meaning to see but just haven’t yet gotten around to it.
Too many to mention sitting in the DVD cabinet, but I do keep meaning to sit down and watch The Apartment.

13.Ever walked out of a movie?
Yes. Prince Caspian. The first and only time so far - it takes a lot to make me want to do that.

14.Name a movie that made you cry in the theater.
E.T., Dances with Wolves, Jackson's King Kong.

15.What’s the last movie you saw in the theater?
Harry Potter & the Half Blood Prince.

16.What’s your favorite/preferred genre of movie?
Not so sure anymore. Maybe it's still Sci-Fi.

17.What’s the first movie you remember seeing in the theater?
A double bill of the Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Movie and The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad. Baptised by Harryhausen!

18.What movie do you wish you had never seen?
None. I try to get at least a little something constructive from the biggest time wasters and cinematic shit-splatters.

19.What is the weirdest movie you enjoyed?
If I enjoy it, it's not weird.

20.What is the scariest movie you’ve seen?

21.What is the funniest movie you’ve seen?

Monty Python and the Holy Grail. This is Spinal Tap and Anchorman get a sniff as well.

Sunday 12 July 2009

Filtering It Out

No, this is not a blog about keeping tropical fish.

Although the two tanks we have do provide more distraction at times (Hmm, write or clean the algae off the tank?)

I'm going over my previous draft, writing out the scene descriptions line by line with the intention of investigating what actually worked and seeing if it can be used in the new draft. But I'm questioning myself over whether this is really just another form of procrastinating or not. I'm just emerging from a rather crap period of avoiding writing and want to make sure I'm taking things in hand and not just kidding myself.

There's so much historical stuff I felt compelled to put in there as I have a real chip on my shoulder about knee-jerk Scottish Nationalist reactions to the Glencoe Massacre and feel I should try and set the story straight - I nearly got into a fight with a friend when I explained the background to the story, so ill-informed are some people. But I feel I have to strike a balance between historical accuracy and telling a cracking adventure romance.

On reflection (about a second's worth as it's bleedin' obvious), what really counts is the actual story of the main character, not splitting the point of view between the players central to the massacre itself - whom should the audience root for? The villain? The misguided Highland Chieftain? No, they should root for the bloody hero, of course! There does seem to be a slightly Hitchcockian element coming through in the new outline for the next draft (I've altered the first half of the story pretty radically, calling for a new outline or I'll trip myself up.) The thing that is emerging now and which is beginning to excite me is what I tell the audience and what I tell the main character, upping the suspense. Hopefully.

It all boils down to knowing who and what your focus is. It's too easy to get bogged down in historical details and drift from the main story, which is what an audience wants to see. Not a history lesson.

Wednesday 1 July 2009

Still Here

Contrary to reports, I am still here. Well, not reports, just my own sense of guilt at no one really reading this blog.

I have not been trapped in a well with only an aging beetle for company waiting for Andy Summers to dig me out.

I have not been abducted by aliens bearing a resemblance to Tom Petty, asking where this "wonderful Crossroads television signal has gone".

I have not secured a career in the manufacture of rubber cutlery for the fumbling gentleman.

Nor have I been held at spear-point by a disgruntled paper facsimile of Richard Digance.

But I have endured the generally risible Transformers 2, Terminator: Salvation and Wolverine, missed almost all of this year's Edinburgh Film Festival AGAIN (while catching one shorts show and catching a glimpse of one of my all time heroes, Joe Dante along with Roger Corman), spent three weeks without alcohol of any kind and tried to avoid procrastinating as much as possible.

Still, Psychoville is pretty good. Welcome back, Gents. Now, where are the other two?

Managed a trip to Glencoe to see the place I've been writing about all this time. Beautiful and intimidating part of the world and I'll post about that soon.

Will endeavour to blog again.

Tuesday 26 May 2009

Brevity, Where Art Thou?

How hard can it be to write a satisfactory development outline? Not the 10 page or more type, but the one or two page type, setting things out at an early stage? I'm buggered if I know. Got to get this thing down and I'm in danger of overwriting it.

I suppose it is harder writing that kind of document, condensing things and telling it as quickly as you can, without either resorting to an expanded logline (i.e: cheating) or subconsciously doing to much. The latter probably means I'm not confident in my descriptions and feel the reader would need to know more.

Time for a metaphorical scythe to hit the text, methinks.

Thursday 21 May 2009

Coming up for air

Crikey. I need a bit of air away from this bloody keyboard. I'm actually getting some work done.

Blog posts are a bit thin on the ground for me right now. I'm hammering out a short outline for a possible horror project - if it doesn't happen, I'll still write the beggar as a spec script as I think it's a neat idea - and then it's back to Glencoe for another draft.

I'm not watching too many films right now as a result, but that'd be a hell of a better form of procrastination that arsing around on Facebook all day. Suffice to say that I loved Star Trek (but it's not without its problems) and hated Wolverine. Summer seems to start earlier every year in cinemas now. Pretty soon, we'll be watching "blockbusters" in February at this rate. Maybe Christmas will be rescheduled to September.

I still have lots of horror films to watch - my Lovefilm queue is 90% made up of them right now and I'm making progress with my Hammer Box set - I managed to squeeze in To The Devil A Daughter last week. If you pardon the expression. Nice performance from Christopher Lee but a very stupid ending.

The disorganised ballet goes on...

Wednesday 13 May 2009

Faith in Lee

There's something quite comforting about seeing Christopher Lee as a good guy in a Hammer film. The calm authority he exudes in his more villainous roles serves to let you know that someone with real knowledge is in charge. But this also serves to let you know that the challenge about to be faced may be greater. Such is the case in Terence Fisher's The Devil Rides Out, a film I've been hearing friends rattle on about for years and finally watched last night.

It wasn't quite the masterpiece I'd been led to believe it to be, but it is certainly one of the best Hammer films I've seen so far. I think not seeing the film for such a long time after having heard about it, perhaps the title of the film gave me a grander impression of the proceedings. The only time anyone "rides out" is when the Angel of Death appears on a horse, stuck at the mercy of an editor having too much fun with the reels, winding them back and forth. Finding it relying much less on the schlockiness of some of their other films, there is a genuinely unsettling feeling to much of the proceedings, but nowhere near as much as in Night of the Demon, a film which scared the bejesees out of me as a nipper (even if the titular demon does look like it's riding a bike in its wider shots).

Distracting Patrick Mower from the Emmerdale with a haircut proved disastrous.

There are three moments where some kind of creature shows up, two of which I found particularly effective. The first is where the initial demon appears, manifested as a black man. Not very scary and a touch of the ol' Empire thinking, one might say. I may grant you the latter, in context, but what is really scary is the demon's eyes. Two unnaturally yellow orbs in an otherwise calm and normal face, altering the visage just enough to make the familiar into the horrible - a fine line which, when crossed, can result in pure comedy.

"I've got something in my teeth, haven't I?"

The other is when the Goat of Mendes shows up - a bloke in a mask, to be sure, but done just right so that the actor's eyes show through, giving the beast a real look of life. The fact that Terence Fisher doesn't dwell on showing off the mask and tends to keep the Goat in the background for several shots helps tremendously. It treads a fine line again between stupid and scary and dwelling on it would have made it as scary as grass growing. Maybe I just find odd things scary. It's an eye thing for me. One of the scariest aspects of Giger's Alien is its lack of eyes.

Ah, Charles Gray. One of the best British screen villains ever, in my humble op. His parting words to Lee's niece are wonderfully threatening - "I shall not be back. But something will." Shudder. The unseen is the best cause of fear, yet again.

One problem I had, and I may have to watch the film again, was the Deus ex Machina style ending. Yes, Christopher Lee did say that the incantation could alter time, but something felt missing in this regard. A tad convenient.

Nevertheless, a great Hammer film with a superb performance from Lee. I've seen him once only before as a good guy in a Hammer film in The Gorgon, but I found his performance, which was broader and a bit loud, to be less effective, even if it was refreshing. It's odd how unusual it seems to find him as a good guy in a Hammer film, whereas we can take Peter Cushing working for either side as read.

Tuesday 12 May 2009

Sellers Alive?

Is Peter Sellers alive and well and aiding Michael Jackson in his career revivial/farewell/last gasp before his slide into obscurity?

"I like to watch" - Being There

Well, no. But the director of the High School Musical films, Kenny Ortega, certainly bears a resemblance at this angle, even if Ortega's chin and Sellers lack of protest at Steve Martin's recent activites are a bit of a giveaway.

I thought they were a pair of lookalikes. One can never tell with Jackson these days. One day, he may very well be revealed to be the Beast, from Krull. And when that happens, only Kenneth Marshall and Alun Armstrong can save us.

Call Me , Bond.

Coke bottles find a use in Soviet Russia.

Cubby Broccoli's centenary has brought us new and beautiful digital prints of the first seven (I think) Bond films and I managed to catch a screening of From Russia, With Love last week. I'd previously seen film prints of Dr No and Goldfinger in the past and I love watching the crackle of the print up there on the screen, but age means deterioration and the print of Dr No snapped mid film (kudos to the projectionist, one Fraser MacDonald, I believe, for repairing it and allowing us to hear Big Tam's rendition of Underneath The Mango Tree...). No such problem with the new print of 'Russia.

Spoilers ahead for 'Russia and Quantum of Solace if you live under a large, irregular mound of solid mineral.

Wow. Seeing Bond on the big screen is, as usual, the only way to really see it and the opportunity to watch one of the early ones is a rare pleasure, especially as clearly as this. The amount you are able to take in visually increases exponentially and the moment where the killer Krilencu tries to escape through Anita Ekberg's embiggened mouth is even more bizarre in a crystal clear print, before the great Pedro Armendariz takes him out (having the villain escape out of Bob Hope's mouth might have worked in a Roger Moore film, but here...erm, nope).

As Ali Kerim Bay, Pedro Armendariz is wonderful in the film, reminding me of Giancarlo Gianinni's Mathis in Daniel Craig's recent outings. He really brings to life a man who clearly enjoys what he does and gives him a real feeling of warmth and friendliness, even when he evades being exploded by giving in to his randy mistress. What a life, Ali Kerim Bay had. As a result, I really felt for him after he met his unseen end on the train. Like everyone in Bond's business, Kerim Bay knew the risks, but that does not mean we should not feel a little at his demise. Once again, Mathis' sad demise in Quantum of Solace springs to mind again. What I find equally tragic is the fact that Armendariz was actually dying himself during the making of the film, something he discovered during the making of the film. He was crippled with cancer in his hips and had to be doubled for some wider walking shots - when he and Bond exit the car at the Gypsy camp, it is obviously not Armendariz. But his limp is pretty visible in the scenes on the train.
"Who is this Ricardo Montalban of whom you speak?"

There could be the usual argument that the casual racism of the time led to casting a Mexican actor as a Turkish spy ("he's foreign, he'll do") but Armendariz brought a real humanity and sense of honour and refinement to the role which could have been squandered on a lesser actor, which I believe happened many more times later in the Bond series. Tragically, he shot himself after the end of filming but not before he made sure his family received his salary for the film. A superb actor and, by accounts, a real gentleman.

The other standout role is the relentlessly intimidating Robert Shaw as Donald "Red" Grant. He doesn't utter a word onscreen until he assumes the identity of Bond's contact and meets with Bond on the train. The sheer menace he exudes is amazing, especially when he casually puts on his killing gloves in public when accompanying an unsuspecting victim. I heard a story a few years back from a Bond fanatic friend at university that the fight between Bond and Grant on the train, one of cinema's greatest brawls in my humble opinion, was actually real. They were both big guys who liked a drink and a scrap who decided to go for it and not pull their punches. Whether this is true or not, I don't know but there are some punches and kicks which certainly seem to make contact.

"Yeah, I like High School Musical. So what? Big woop. Wadda fide aboud id?"

The man did silent menace and barely contained physicality better than anyone, I think. Any moment, he could have erupted in an explosion of quick violence. The fact he didn't made him scarier and ramped up any suspense immeasurably. I'm surprised Hitchcock never took advantage of this. Frankly, I found Quint scarier than the shark in Jaws.

Even the other members of the cast are memorable. Lotte Lenya's Rosa Klebb still makes me squirm uncomfortably, her voice setting my teeth on edge and Vladek Shaybel as SPECTRE agent Kronstein is supremely memorable, introduced brilliantly at a chess tournament. His face and performance are so memorable, I have trouble believing him to be a good guy as the doctor in UFO. And even if Daniela Bianchi was dubbed, well...

It still stands up as a great and supremely confident Bond movie; in fact confident enough not have Bond appear for at least the first fifteen minutes of the film. I'm annoyed I didn't know about the other screenings until it was too late. Ah well.

Tuesday 5 May 2009


Wow. A month since I last blogged. My apologies. A combination of a heavy cold and general laziness I'm afraid. There is more to tell - it's not been an enormously eventful month but work is hopefully turning a new corner, albeit unpaid. I have a list of things in this period I'll blog about, including my Skillset interview, progress of the third draft of Glencoe, Wolverine, a night oot with Shadowplayer David Cairns and friends, excitment at Star Trek (IMAX baby!) and plans for a guerilla feature film - I've noticed an unforgivable descent into coffe shop filmmaker syndrome, somethin I despise.

There, I said it. A guerilla feature film. I'll have to do it now.

Friday 3 April 2009

Portmanteau Emptiness

A search for portmanteau horror proved fruitless today. Among the titles I was after, Dr Terror's House of Horror, The Vault of Horror, The House that Dripped Blood and Tales from the Crypt, I found absolutely no trace at the only HMV I was able to get to (i.e. park free) except for an empty place card for Vault of Horror.

Bloody hell. Must try harder (me or the retailers?). Actually, there's this thing called the internet. Might I be able to somehow purchase these There's not even a DVD rental place where I live now. Nor in the next town. What's that, I hear you say. LoveFilm? I must OWN these things, you fool!

Loads of straight to DVD US bullshit non-horror "horror" and gorno in HMV but none of what I was after. Severely disappointing. My search goes on. I also now want to get my hands on Zulu, Where Eagles Dare & Went the Day Well after recommendations from a good friend (think I've got The Eagle has Landed somewhere on VHS, Colin). I saw the first two titles as a nipper but they now bear analysis it seems. Plus, Burton and Eastwood in the same film. Genius! I always remember that cold shiver down my spine as Donald Houston fell from the cable car, straight down from camera, years before John McTeirnan had Alan Rickman grasp in futility at Bonnie Bedelia's new watch atop the Nakatomi Plaza. Brilliant.

Must think of more effective joyful adjectives.

Yippekyay, Doctor Schreck.

Thursday 2 April 2009

When I Missed Gorgo

Over at Shadowplay, David Cairns' quest to "See Reptilicus & Die!" got me thinking about a monster movie I'm keen to see again. Or actually see in its entirety this time. Must have been about 9 or 10 and we (me, bro & sis) were to go across the road to friends of our parents while they went out for a meal. Mum and Dad get ready and then BBC2 start to show Gorgo! That rare thing, a UK Man in a Suit Monster film, like Konga. I had a real thing for big monster movies at this point and so I became attached to the TV instantly. Gorgo was basically Godzilla, except he (or they, as his mum did much of the smashing) had weird webbed ears and attacked London as opposed to Tokyo. Poor Tokyo. At least they got the day off from Gorgo.

The time came to nip across the road to Mrs Burns' house. Off we went, or off I hurried to continue watching Gorgo. We didn't have a VCR at the time and my mum assured me, half-heartedly, that I could watch the rest across the road. My dad had already teased me about what happened next as he had already seen Gorgo as a kid and I was anxious to see Mummy Gorgo come back to claim her captured offspring. "Wait til you see her! She's 10 times the size he is!" he cried. My enthusiasm grew exponentially. And then we got into Mrs Burns' house where we had some juice and biscuits and I asked to see the rest of Gorgo. Could I?

Could I fuck.

I'll never know why, but old Mrs Burns' (in her 60's I think) refused, giving no real reason. A film called BMX Bandits was on the other channel. We could watch that, she said.

What? BMX BANDITS?!?!?

More suitable for children apparently.

My protestations that the central character in Gorgo was in fact a young boy fell on deaf ears. All I knew was that each second I watched these irritating Australian kids zipping around on their bikes solving some crime I didn't care about, was another second I was missing of Gorgo!

No huge loss in the grand scheme of things, but as a kid, horrendous. Until the next day, when I generally forgot about it went on to the next thing. And this is the closest I can get to it right now:

One of many films I want to see again, probably unwisely. But you can't beat a Man in a Suit Monster Movie. I love the fact that in this age of CG, they still make them like that in Japan. In fact, Man in a Suit Godzilla went up against the CG version of Roland Emmerich's Godzilla, now called Zilla in Japan.

Good ol' Gojira kicked his pixellated arse back into the ocean. This is what happens when rubber meets CG.

Wednesday 1 April 2009

Leaky Adamantium

It would appear that a workprint of 20th Century Fox studios X-Men Origins - Wolverine, has leaked onto the internet. My initial reaction was that this was an April Fool's joke. But if it is, is being played against Fox and its CEO and general object of fanboy hatred, Tom Rothman.

Internet comic and movie fanboys are an alternatively amusing and infuriating bunch, if you're foolish enough to pay attention to their infantile tantrums. A glimpse at the Talkbacks at Aint It Cool News gives an instant summation of their general idiocy, thankfully interspersed with some common sense. I love comic book movies (done well, that is) and get as upset as anyone if they're buggered up by a filmmaker with no understanding of the potential of the material or by obvious studio interference (which Fox and Rothman have been accused of repeatedly), but these clowns are in a different league. And now they might be having the last laugh as the torrents for this pirated film spread faster than the Conficker virus (although, that might not be a fast enough analogy, thankfully) across the net.

And consequently, the "reviews" start to pour forth, increasing the damage done by spreading bad word of mouth.

But whatever their opinion on the film (which I'll not go into), they seem to still be fired up with the same vitriol at a viewing experience FOR WHICH THEY HAVE NOT PAID A PENNY. Those who hate the film still complain, as though it is their God given right to do so, and that despicable "rape" analogy appears again.

I'll not watch the pirated version of a film which has a temp score, no wire removal and unfinished FX. I'll pay to see the finished film in a cinema. I might not like it, but at least I'll have contributed to the wages of the people who work their arse off to make these film. And I'm not talking about directors or producers (note I leave writers out of it. Heh.) but those who make up 95% of the crew, who work harder than any of those basement dwelling monkeys, stuffing their faces with plastic cheese and concentrated sugar, getting a free ride while normal folks to make movies. Hollywood is a business and like other businesses right now people are being laid off. While much of the money generated by a film like this does not go into their pockets, unlike the execs and above the line talent, they still need to earn a living. And ruining the chances of a film like this just to get back at the people who are safest financially is pathetic. Hollywood looks to save money - if they can lay off folks to do that while their films get a smaller return, down to piracy, then they will do that. And all the while, the complaining fanboys will find something else to be smug and selfish about.

I'll not wholly condemn all torrenting as there are many rare and unobtainable gems out there. But if you watch this film for free, see it again and pay for it instead of acting like spoilt, selfish brats.

Tuesday 31 March 2009

Digital Leone

Saw a digital screening of The Good, The Bad & The Ugly yesterday. I'd never watched the entire film before and I'm so glad I kept that experience for the big screen. Absolutely brilliant. Leone's use of close ups is just fantastic and the first 10 minutes or so of the film have no dialogue, over two scenes - Lee Van Cleef's entrance and subsequent meal with his target is gripping. Fantastic frame compositions, particularly in the first hour of the film (almost painterly, particularly when Angel Eyes interrogates Bill Carson's girl and when Tuco arrives back at his gang's subterranean hideout).

One thing which really struck me was that while Clint Eastwood is the most recognisable and commercially exploited figure in the film, this is really Eli Wallach's film. He's it's star, to me. Tuco is in the majority of the scenes and Clint's Blondie always seems to be orbiting Tuco somehow. God bless Eli Wallach. The man is in his 90's and is still acting regularly. He and Ernest Borgnine should get cast together in something.

Beautiful digital "print". The few scratches seemed to originate on the fairly clean print used for the transfer, but the graininess of the optical titles and transitions was more noticeable. But lovely, nonetheless. It's nice to see a classic movie in a cinema without the overt scratchiness associated with the change of reels. Here's hoping the Edinburgh Cineworld keeps up it's Monday Classic screenings in future, although there seems to be nothing scheduled for next week. DVD is convenient, but these films should be seen in a cinema.

Goodnight Lorne

Two obit posts in as many days. Bugger.

Some folks might not have known who Andy Hallett was, but as a fan of Angel I knew him as the demonic host Krevlornswath. Or just Lorne, the flamboyant and showbiz nightclub owner. Angel seems to have been the dominant part of his tragically short acting career and he always lit up the episodes he appeared in.

He'd had heart trouble for some time, apparently, but you'd think that we'd be medically on top of this sort of thing these days. Poor guy. I may have to watch There's No Place Like Plirtz Glirb, one of his best episodes of Angel, later today.

Monday 30 March 2009

Maurice Jarre

Sad about the death of Maurice Jarre at 84. I loved his music as a child. I found much of it eerily beautiful and still do. Lara's Theme always reminds me of a strange little clockwork ballroom dancing couple trapped in a caraf at my great Aunt's who would foxtrot to a music box version of that theme. It always seemed to be the tune played by the ice cream van as well. Such are the strange memories of childhood when considering such a great contributor to cinema as Jarre.

And then there was this...

Thank you, Monsieur Jarre.

Sunday 15 March 2009

The Perfect AD Campaign?

I found this over at CHUD this morning. It's either cinematic commercial suicide or inspired advertising.

It treads a fine line between desperation and inspiration. You won, boys. I'm intrigued.

Thursday 12 March 2009

Hitch 1 - The Pleasure Garden

The mighty and terrifyingly knowledgeable David Cairns, over at the magnificent film blog, Shadowplay, has been watching a Hitchcock film a week, starting back at the beginning of the year - 50 films over 52 weeks I believe - to kind of mark the anniversary of his blog (I think). And I said I'd try to join in, being a Hitchcock fan and wanting to know more about the man and his early films.

Well, me being me, this has not really come to pass. I wanted to keep up week for week but a combination of my usual sloth, unavoidable circumstances and the non-availability of some of the films led to my desire to join in falling by the wayside (as a schoolboy, I was usually content not to join in popular activities. Usually).

But! I have decided to renew my attempts to keep up. I managed to track down a DVD of Hitchcock's first film, The Pleasure Garden, a while back and gave it a spin. And so I going to catch up as best I can and keep up; Read-a-long-a-Hitch, as David put it.

There are those who'd argue that The Pleasure Garden was not Hitchcock's first film and they might cite Number Thirteen as his first. But that wasn't finished and I'm not sure if it still exists (someone can correct me or back me up on that), so I consider that argument a pile of old wank. There were a number of films after that which Hitchcock either co-directed or is listed as doing "Scenario" for. But The Pleasure Garden seems to be the one which he himself listed as his first feature film. And so there I have begun.

The cover of the DVD was a bit misleading, summarising the story as a scandal laden tale where a successful dancer falls to wealth and vice, endangering her life! This isn't quite the case with the film. It does involve a dancing girl, Patsy, who finds fame and forgets those who love her but the story seems to change tack halfway through, focusing more on Jill, who helped her get her break and the subsequent love triangle centre around Jill, her unfaithful and slothful husband and Patsy's fiance. I found it to be a bit of a morality tale, albeit possibly titillating for its time. Patsy doesn't seem to learn any lessons and seems to be forgotten by the end of the film. A bit like a modern Simpsons episode, where you build up one storyline only to veer off in another direction.

The opening sequence, establishing Jill and the other dancers, was interesting to me for a couple of reasons. Older men, in dickie bows, sit leering at the dancers from the stalls. Hitchcock focuses on one in particular, who takes a real shine to Jill and meets her backstage.

He leers at her through his opera glasses, mugging it up pre-Sid James, eyes bulging, lusty smile. Hitchcock cuts to his POV through the glasses and I immediately thought that this was Hitch putting his early stamp on the film, as his use of the male gaze and general voyeurism would reappear many times in his future films where he would have much more creative control. The Blond preoccupation could be seen to be appearing early on here as well, with the old chap expressing his delight at her golden locks, only to have his lust smote when she pulls a lock of ringlets out and offers it to the old chap, proving it's only a wig. The blond lock does seem a bit worm-like and his revulsion is amusing.

The other part about this which caught my attention was how much this old letch reminded me of a Ronnie Barker comedy character. Not one in particular, but The Two Ronnies would often feature period and silent sketches and Barker, all eyeliner and comedy grimaces, would stop me every time. I can't watch the opening of this film now without smiling a little more than I might have before.

Next up should be The Mountain Eagle, but I don't think any copies of that are known to exist. So it's on to YouTube for a squint at The Lodger.