Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Kevin Spacey-bot isn't evil after all

Moon is a really big small film. Duncan Jones managed to make a proper sci-fi film on an independent budget. I say 'proper' because there aren't any big space battles, and nothing explodes. A man on the moon finds himself (and I don't mean that in a soulful, emotional way) and is understandably confused about it. Sam Rockwell has no trouble playing the same character twice and it's all seamlessly stitched together in a way that I don't entirely understand. It's about ideas, exploring the sort of themes that are automatically tragic. Utter hopelessness is an ambitious thing to go for, and it doesn't usually work for me. But watching a man slowly deteriorate on the moon as he stares at the distant Earth is, I have to admit, quite sad. I would have liked half an hour more of it though. The film ends abruptly at a point where you think it's just moving into its last act. I get the feeling that with a little more money they would have made this last section. After piling all those effects into an indie film, there couldn't have been much left to spend.

But perhaps the most surprising thing about Moon is that the sinister Kevin Spacey-bot wasn't all that bad. In fact it was quite nice. Didn't try to kill anyone. Didn't shut off any oxygen supplies. And when asked it even explained the entire plot of the film, without even trying to be mysterious. Nice robot.

Sunday, 27 December 2009

More Jewish fighter than James Bond

Defiance spends a lot of time in the woods. The Bielski partisans live in the woods. They run away from and fight Nazis in the woods. They find a little Russian army in the woods. So it's a testament to the filmmaking that this never gets boring. There's a real growing sense of futility as these Jewish refugees are repeatedly discovered and attacked. Occasionally things settle down and they all get to sit around eating potatoes, but even that is a bit tense. Even though there are moments of violence, this isn't a straight revenge thriller - you'd probably have to talk to Tarantino for that. This is more about the serious questions the fighters have to ask themselves, like whether it's possible to survive with any morals, whether they have to become as bad as their enemy. All serious stuff, but ultimately not as bleak as it sounds.

Also, I've still not seen Quantum of Solace, so it doesn't bother me to see Daniel Craig 'out of character'. He's not James Bond yet.

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Murakami's clever boring bits

Will this post have anything to do with Christmas? No, of course not.

Haruki Murakami's Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World has faults, but Murakami is one of those lucky writers that make you think he's doing it on purpose. They're not faults, they're post-modern jokes, or something. When it wants to be, Hard-boiled Wonderland is a good book. Murakami does surreal very well - there's wardrobes hiding chasms that lead to rivers with silent waterfalls and unicorn skulls that hold dreams. The book is divided into two sections, one half in a modern Tokyo and the other in the fantasy End of the World town. In the 'real' world setting Murakami is determined to show how boring the character's life is. With his last day he literally just sits around thinking about trivial things. But the problem is, it's boring. I know all the mundane details are there for a point, but they'res still mundane. I notice the point he's making but I'm not enjoying it.

There are other faults that I'm not really allowed to call faults. The protagonist is constantly drinking beer. Every woman he meets is desperate to sleep with him. That sort of thing. Comments on the standard American hero, not (probably) bad writing. Most of this is guesswork though, because this is the only Murakami book I've read. He could be a bad writer, but I'm sure he's just being clever.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Indiana Jones is very old now

It's difficult to have an opinon on Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. You know what to expect, your expectations are met, and then it ends. There's the bit where Indy is cornered by baddies and is surely going to die, the bit where people punch each other on top of fast moving vehicles (probably next to cliff), and the bit where everyone's a bit perplexed by the ancient tomb. I can't complain, because all this stuff is entertaining, but it was entertaining in the last three films that I've seen many times. The old trilogy have become the sort of films that sit above anybody's critical opinion. You don't watch them and wonder about their narrative strength, you watch for the memorable bits, for the favourite lines and the nostalgia. The sort of films that you'd watch near Christmas with a packet of biscuits. Watching Indy getting through the traps to the Holy Grail is good stuff. Can't question it.

Take the exact same formula into a new film and it's lost all the magic. Now that it doesn't smell like nostalgia it can be seen for what it really is - a bit dull. Maybe this is just because I've seen it all before. But if this had been the first Indiana Jones film I'd ever seen, I still don't think I'd be impressed. Loud action set-pieces aren't that interesting anymore because they can be done by anyone that knows how to work a big computer. And the plot now looks tired because it's not twenty years ago. If it's meant to be a tribute to the old films, then it needs a lot more charm than this, and should probably do away with the silly bit at the end. George Lucas-style filmmaking just isn't that interesting anymore, because everyone can do it. And a lot of them do it better.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

I'm handing out credits and chunks of gratitude

Do people like how to be god? Yes, it seems that they do. Among the comments (of which there are literally several) are 'excellent stuff', 'i watched it with my flatmates and they reali liked it 2','most amusing' and, my personal favourite - 'lovely, kind of touching'. And that's all the comments I could find. But a lot of people are watching it, they're just not leaving opinions. In fact, I'm not really used to this many people. The Hoshuu stuff was nice, but nobody was really interested except me. Now I've decided to make something watchable, and people actually watch it. There's been a screening offer from a new Aberystwyth 'channel' and everything's looking nice.

So the YouTube page is going pretty well, but the poor neglected Blogger page is, well, looking neglected. And sad. Anyone that links to it, in any way, can have a credit at the end of the show. Along with my almost eternal gratitude.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

how to be god - episodes 1, 2 and 3

The first three episodes of how to be god have been YouTube'd and shoved onto the blog:

Or you could go to the probably-more-popular YouTube channel. Either way, it's mildly interesting.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Saturday will be mildly interesting

I'm going to upload the first three episodes of how to be god on Saturday. That's fifteen whole minutes of stuff. We'll see what happens.

Friday, 4 December 2009

The Trilogy of Hoshuu Nonsense

It's now exactly (roughly) a year since I started making my little films. And to mark this occasion I've broken the films free from their mini Blogger-video prisons and presented them in full YouTube-o-vision. Think of it as the re-release, the digitally remastered version, or something. Now you can see all that orange paper again, but bigger. It's time I explained The Trilogy of Hoshuu Nonsense. The films do link together, in my mind, so I'll have a stab at an explanation.

The Mildly Interesting Secret of Existence features a student that finds the meaning of life in the post, isn't interested, and then is taunted by Hoshuu until he pays attention. Hoshuu isn't really in it until the third film, but this was all her doing. Hoshuu 'is maintenance', she makes sure everyone is still ticking and pats them on the head. She is, however, quite sinister. She's just playing a mean game in this film - poking the student with a stick until he goes mad. She covers his room in orange paper and makes tinkly music follow him around. After the world is mirrored (3:59) she can be seen walking towards the student, who is suddenly mildly interested. Even though she doesn't say anything, her tone comes through in the orange messages.

The Front Desk features another one of these malicious mini-gods. The Secretary interviews people before they're born, giving them jobs and friends. The interview doesn't go well for this man. He's not keen on the options he's given, so he chooses the Fourth Option, the random assignment. Hoshuu explains on the voice-over that 'you'd have to be mad to take the Fourth Option', you don't know what you're getting.

Talk to Hoshuu is set around twenty five years into the man's life. He's having a bit of trouble. Clocks aren't ticking for him anymore and, because of this, he's going to jump off the end of a pier. He should have died in a plane crash, so he's technically dead in Hoshuu's books. She has to clean it up, so she buzzes him into her channel through the radio static (similar to the window being reversed). She wants to start him up again by winding his watch back up, but he's a bit reluctant about the whole thing. It turns out that this is the Fourth Option. It also turns out that Hoshuu isn't all that mean on a good day. After seeing her in the first film, and hearing her in the second, she's revealed as being just 'very English'.

If you've got a few minutes, watch them again (or probably for the first time) with all this in your head. It might be better. And all this nonsense is going to be expanded on in something else I'm writing. It's not a film. It's something you read instead. It'll all make sense one day.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

The show is, on the whole, offensive to vicars

Progress is being made with the casting of several new characters for how to be god. Or, as I like to call them, 'the ones that are going to get me in trouble'. Is satire wrong if it's really, really easy? No, I don't think so. The show is actually entirely inoffensive. There's no swearing, violence, sex. Nothing that's going to trouble anybody's grandmother. Unless the grandmother is exceptionally religious. After all, the entire concept of show is blasphemous. The idea that anybody can start a religion and be worshipped as a god seems fair enough to me ('if that lot did it why can't we?'), but I'm expecting a few enthusiastic religious-themed comments.

The thing is though, I'm not interested in starting any religious debates or challenging any institutions. I just want to make a mildly interesting little show. If people watch an episode and then they want to watch the next one, I'm happy. There were so many pokes at Jesus in the first episode (that's now been cut) it was verging on being a bit Roman. I've realised in writing further episodes that I don't really care about that. I like these characters, and when they all die in a horrible deep-sea diving accident, I'll be a bit upset. Was Jesus really the son of God? I don't care. It is funny though.

I'm saying all this, and very few people have actually seen it yet. It could be rubbish. Remember that.