Thursday, July 19, 2018

Not coming to a cinema near anybody

When people talk about the experience of going to the movies these days, it's often in fairly negative terms – about how it's a pain in the arse even getting to a theatre; and how they charge way too much for tickets and snacks; and how projection issues fuck everything up; and how other people are noisy, rude and inconsiderate; and why would you even bother when you've got a sweet home theatre set-up in your lounge?

There is a lot of merit to these complaints, and I've had my fair share of movies ruined by all these factors and more – a screening of Blue Velvet that was fatally undercut by a crowd that loudly and ironically cackled at everything, or the time someone was using an iPad to keep track of their internet auctions right through a goddamn Jim Jarmusch movie.

But I still totally believe the best place to see a new movie is at the cinema. I might not worship at the cinematic altar like I once did, but I always want to see as much as I can on the big screen.

I just really wish there was more to see.

I still try to get out to the movies as often as I can, because all the pain is worth it for the perfect screening.

It's a chance to get out of the fucking house and into the world for a while, without having to worry about the niceties of actual social interaction. Movies always look great on the massive screen, and the immersive sound that bounces around the cavernous space of a decent-sized cinema.

And the crowd is always bound to have one arsehole who can't turn off their bloody phone for five minutes, but seeing a thrilling or funny movie in a crowd can be enormously fun when you're syncing in with other peoples' reactions, and the midnight screenings they put on for the latest huge franchise are always dorky as fuck, but there is also always a glorious enthusiasm that can be infectious.

I'm such a superficial motherfucker, one of the things I like best about seeing something in the cinema is that I have to concentrate on what's happening in the story, with no distractions, and nothing to take my mind off the movie. I'm not going to miss anything because I'm eating my dinner, or petting the cat, or checking my emails. I'm only in that moment, blocked away from the rest of the world.

It's part of why people who can't get off their fucking phones are such an affront to all things cinema - all the light pollution is a terrible distraction, bringing a bit of the outside world into the sanctity of the theatre, and should be stamped out with extreme prejudice.

And yet, I'm still only going to only a couple of films a month on average. All that bold talk about the best way to see a movie, and I'm lucky if I see more than two dozen a year.

This is partly because I'm not the young dork I once was. I'm not the same the guy who would see every fucking thing I could, or would go see Twister and the first Mission Impossible film five times each, somewhere in the mid-nineties. (I regret all that Twister a bit, but not the MI. At all.)

I just don't have that appetite for soaking up everything I can, multiple times. Not anymore. There is so much else to do, and so much better things to do with my time.

But maybe I would if there was something actually worth seeing, if there was something with there was something worth the time, money and effort to get into that room.

Instead, there is nothing worthwhile showing up here in this part of the world for weeks. The stuff that actually sounds interesting doesn't come to the cinema or is pissed away on streaming services. Forget about something like Sorry To Bother You, that looks far too interesting for audiences around here.

Even 'arthouse' theatres here in the biggest fucking city in the fucking country are choked with the safest, most generic films, instead of anything that could be the tiniest bit transgressive or provocative or interesting in any way.

All I'm looking for is something that is emotionally or dramatically intense, with a bit of goddamn style. That's all.

Instead, the ones that do come to a theatre anywhere near me are of very little interest - inane blockbusters with cookie-cutter plots, braind-dead and safe comedies, endless goddamn biopics (I don't ever need to see the life story of some munter musician ever again) and a huge amount of movies about middle-aged French people fucking each other.

These films do have an audience, and I'm not demanding that all films cater to my whims, because that's fucking crazy. But it feels increasingly like there is nothing else, and anything that could be genuinely brilliant in drowned in a sea of mediocrity.

Still, it's not all grim. There is the big local film festival coming up over the next couple of weeks, which is always a fun time.

There are still a lot of movies in that line-up that are achingly earnest and worthy, but there is also some sick and strange shit that will be great to see in the theatre, with all the other depraved film fans.

And there is another Mission Impossible coming up soon, and the usual promise of some slick stuntwork. I won't be going back to see it again and again like that previous entry in the series, but you can bet your arse I'll be there opening weekend.

But the rest of the year looks pretty fucking dire, and once I overdose on festival goodness, it could be a long time before I'm back in that dark room, waiting for a decent filmmaker to paint with light.

All I want is style and thrills and tension and intensity. It's what the movies are for and when it comes to experiencing them at their best, nothing else comes close to the cinema.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Laurence v Mads: You know they can fight

One of my favourite showbiz stories of the past few years comes from the set of the gloriously gory Hannibal TV show, where after a season of mind-bending murdering, cast member Laurence Fishburne went up to the producers and said 'you guys know I can fight, right?' and Mads Mikkelsen is all like 'yeah, I can fight too', so they had a couple of scenes where the two beat the ever-lovin' shit out of each other, and it's beautiful as hell.

I could watch these two men fight over and over again, all day, every day.

Forever and ever, amen.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Nothing is perfect in this flawed world

There is a lovely grace note right at the end of Alan Moore's Miracleman comics, where the big man is looking out over the world he has changed forever - where poverty and hunger and disease have been essentially eradicated, and where anybody can become a superhuman and fly through the skies - and concedes that the society he has created isn't perfect. That there will always be something that isn't ideal, no matter how many nuclear bombs you teleport into the sun.

And the big man is chilled about this, and perfectly happy to let that imperfection stand, because there is real beauty in a diamond with the most infinitesimal flaw, or in a poem that has a misjudged word.

It doesn't mean perfection is impossible, just that the whole world is a more interesting place without it.

There is some perfection in art and culture - some sculptures can capture the truth of physical reality like nothing else, there are some small pieces of poetry that shoot right past perfection and rocket on into transcendence, and there are literally hundreds and hundreds of perfect little pop songs.

But it's much harder with longer stories. Even after thousands and thousands of years of storytelling, humans are still trying to nail the art of the long-form narrative and the stories we see in novels, movies and comic books. Sometimes we come close, most of the time we're way off, but we're still striving.

Even the best shit I've ever seen in my life isn't perfect.. None of my favourite movies and books come close to sheer bloody supreme bliss. They come nearer than anybody else ever does, for sure, but never quite get there.

They all fall short, even the things I dearly love with every fibre of my being. There will be a misjudged performance, or a clunky piece of dialogue, or a plot that doesn't quite reach what it's going for. It only takes one tiny thing to leave a mark in pristine perfection.

My favourite comics of all time are still Love ; Rockets and 2000ad, and both of them have moments and scenes and whole years of comics that are clumsy, or boring, or outright awful (especially the latter, which has its fair share of stinkers). My favourite TV show is, was and always will be Doctor Who, and there are huge sections of that series that are just unwatchable. O Lucky Man! is the best movie ever made, and I still find parts of it a bit tedious.

It doesn't matter. I don't love this things any less because they're occasionally a bit dumb. If anything, the rubbish makes the good stuff they contain just shine even brighter. It brings in the contrast.

But so what? Who wants perfection anyway? Is that what we really want?

After all, perfection is so fucking predictable- there are no surprises when everything turns out exactly the way you want it. There would be no room for nuance, or anything to compare the truly great moments against. And we all have so very different ideas of what that perfection even looks like - no story is going to blow everybody away every time. This is a fool's errand.

But this is the age of the noisy fool and we're such a fuckin' narcissistic society now, everyone wants everything their own way, and so many people are ready to throw their fucking toys out of the cot when they don't get exactly what they want.

The last Star Wars film had some dopey bits, and no Marvel film is ever great (although they're almost all some variation of pretty good). But anybody going looking for transcendent brilliance in a blockbuster is looking in the wrong place. It's a miracle these huge films make any sense at all, or even have some truly good bits, but it's so much easier to nitpick these things to death, instead of facing the fact that they aren't the Greatest Thing Ever Made.

Nothing is ever going to be good as what you can imagine. Sometimes it is a bit better, but usually there will always be some twinge of disappointment, even as the overall work shines. To focus on that disappointment, and to take it so bloody personally, isn't healthy for anybody.

We just need to grow the hell up a bit, and live with the inevitable disappointment. It's nothing worth losing your shit over. If you go into everything desperately hoping for perfect bliss, you have to live with the let-down.

We should treasure the bits we like, and learn to let everything else go. We shouldn't write off anything that doesn't met our exact standards, or scream into the void over the trivial shit that is part of the stories we tell ourselves.

There is still a place for criticism - you don't have to be totally blind to a story's fault, and can still moan about the bits that didn't impress us, but we can't take this shit personally. It's only a story. They're all just stories.

I just think things are just tastier when they're a bit messier, rather than smooth and clean and perfect.

This might be the worst metaphor I've ever used in the nine years I've been writing this goddamn blog, but I see it in my morning toast. My wife is a grade-A cook, who creates meals that are gorgeous and delightful and amazingly tasty. I am a super-privileged arsehole who gets all this wonderful food, but I still often turn out any offers of toast she wants to make, because she makes them too well.

Everything is spread smoothly and evenly on the bread, and that's fine, but there is no globs of joyous jam in one corner, or any mouthfuls of unexpected butter. It's all the same, all the way round, and the while serving has a slightly bland feel to it.

I don't know if Miracleman still likes a good piece of toast, but I think he'd appreciate the haphazard way I slap everything on the bread. That imperfection of spread makes the toast, far more than anything else, and makes the whole thing better.