Monthly Archives: October 2012

Other People Do Cool Stuff Too #1

And then you have to live up to promises you made while under the influence of optimism.

Uh oh.

So! As it’s Wednesday, I should be talking about someone who isn’t me. Who better, then, to start with than the man who spurred me onto this foolhardy quest to, uh, be more interesting – one Patrick Hadley.

Pat’s an archaeology PhD at the University of York, sort of. His work is all about audience engagement with the Mesolithic period, and to that end all he does is teach his students how to use Twitter and lend me gorgeous-looking comics about cavemen. I’m pretty sure that’s it.

[You’ll have to let me know if I’ve left anything out, Pat. Or if I’ve gotten it completely wrong. I wouldn’t be surprised.]

You should read his blog Think|Dig|Write|Share for an intriguing, entertaining and actually accurate look at Pat’s work, and he’s definitely a must-follow on Twitter. Why you aren’t following him already is beyond me.

Pat also shows me short films on Vimeo that, as a (invert commas) filmmaker I really should be finding on my own. Kind of a cheat sheet. Like this ‘un here:

More importantly, he’s a damn good drinking buddy and cooks a mean salmon. What more could you want?

[Some of you may be thinking “bromance” right about now. Go with the feeling.]

I’m hoping that we’ll be able to work together at some point in the future; the post-grad stuff means he has to think up new and exciting ways to present old stuff, and he’s made quiet noises about a ‘retreat’ with a bunch of creatives and experts in the future, which would be rather exciting. If you’re going to do a period piece, you might as well make it as ‘period’ as ancient history.

Until then, I’ll have to hope the beer, the films, the hip-hop discoveries (Pat introduced me to Blackalicious the other day) and the being shown pictures of little stone pigs will be enough. I think I’ll cope.

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Skythoughts

Skyfall killed Bond.

I mean that in the best possible way: Sam Mendes’s (almost) absolute deconstruction of a movie franchise so encumbered with cliches and unflattering baggage sheds many of the elements that had been holding back Bond movies from being actual films for a long time. Don’t get me wrong, there are a bunch of them I like, but there’s a fundamental naffness to them pre-Casino Royale. Even that didn’t last for more than one movie, and it still feels like it didn’t really acknowledge just how broken the series was.

And boy, are there acknowledgements in Skyfall. The first hour has everything an audience usually expects from Bond: thrilling chases, exotic locations and horrifically damaged but terrifically beautiful women. Once that’s out of the way, we find out what the movie is really about, and that’s 007 taking a long look at his past and blowing it sky high.

Seriously. He blows up the house he grew up in. In Scotland. And an Aston Martin DB5. I’m not saying it’s subtle about these particular moments, but I appreciate that it’s not treating its legacy as a sacred cow.

Javier Bardem’s villain Silva is a much more interesting element. As a former agent himself, he’s the mirror of what the series had become: deformed and ridiculous, living in the ruins of the past and plotting against M, the unfeeling parent who’s responsible for his sorry state. Thus it makes perfect sense that M has to die for the transition to fully take hold, although I’m not certain replacing her with Ralph Fiennes is a particularly progressive move (not to mention turning Naomie Harris’ field agent into a secretary).

And yet, tropes of the old movies still crop up now and again. The cringeworthy one-liners aren’t completely excised from the body (“Health & safety”, anyone?) and don’t hold up as well as usual in light of the taut approach to the rest of the (often very fine) script, and few tears are shed by our hero when the girl Bond’s just slept with and exploited is shot dead. Seriously, she never even gets mentioned again. I understand staying cool under pressure, but still! That shit’s ice cold.

Then again, I suppose you need to know your sins before you can repent. Trial by fire and all that. Again, not subtle. But really fucking good. And hopefully, from now on, something new.

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Here goes nothing…

What follows is a blueprint for the weekly structure of this blog. It’s here partly so that regular readers know what’s in store for them in future, but mostly as an incentive for myself to actually follow through with my bold claims.

[And it might finally force me to make some sense of my honestly baffling category system.]

Not every day is included, because there’s got to be room for things I want to write about that don’t necessarily fit into a category. Maybe I’ll occasionally dedicate an unmarked day to recording the process of a production I’m working on, but as of right now I’m between shoots with little idea of what’s going to happen after the next.

I tried to give each day an alliterative title but it’s close to 5am and I just can’t bring myself to go through the pocket thesaurus one more damn time:

Monday

I’ll write about something that rocked my world recently. This will likely usually be a book or a movie, episode of a TV show or a comic, but it could just as easily be a play, a news article, an essay on Nintendo or even just a video of a donkey playing a tuba. Who knows?

Not you.

You’ll have to read it to find out. Aha!

Worldly Wednesday

Other people’s lives are (more often than not) way more interesting than mine, so I’m going to pick someone who’s doing something I reckon’s worth yakking about and wax lyrical about said hero.

Could be someone I know, could be someone I don’t. But I’ll likely start with the ‘do knows’ first. You have been warned, everyone I idolise.

Thursday

Because I attend a screenwriting craft group in York every other Thursday, I figure I’ll use the slot to talk about what I’m currently working on or dissect someone else’s writing.

Fiction Friday

This is the scary one. I’ve admired flash fiction – which is to say, short, self-contained prose stories of fewer than 500 words – for a while now, largely because I’m normally such a slow reader that to read a complete tale in one sitting has added satisfaction for me.

So I’m going to try my hand at getting one down every week to flex my (sorely underused) short story muscles – and hopefully entertain my beautiful readers while I’m at it.

[This one’ll probably be hit-and-miss for the first few weeks.]

Sequential Art Sunday

I’m going to talk about comics, and comics-related things. ‘Nuff said.

See you on the other side!

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Purple Prose

My apologies for yesterday’s absence; if I’d written anything that day, it likely would have looked like streams of purple vomit arranged vaguely in the shape of Velvet Underground song titles, and nobody wants to see that.

So yes, I went to a party on Saturday night. Let’s not ask what I was drinking and I think we’ll all be a lot happier that way.

By way of catching up, I’ll be posting again tonight. After a conversation with a friend over the, um, purpose of this here site I’m planning on adding a little more structure to proceedings, with set categories for certain days of the week. Having the freedom to write anything is one thing, but can result in a lack of focus, so giving myself limitations will hopefully make the content a bit less improvised and a lot more interesting.

Or it could all go terribly wrong and trigger my inevitable public breakdown. But that might be fun too.

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Snowfucked

Today we shot some stuff for Nights at the Round Table. It was cold outside, but it was only interiors today. The (external) Nerfageddon shoots are tomorrow and Sunday.

And it just started fucking snowing.

We’re going to have 15+ extras in a nature reserve in the freezing cold and they’re all going to die because the weather god hates us.

My next post will probably be from a cell.

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The bad reviews are more fun than the good ones

So I reviewed this movie over on Blogomatic today:

Believe me, the poster is probably the  best thing about it. I’ve been told my review is at least passably entertaining, so it’s definitely better than the movie. Who knows, you might even get a laugh or two out of it!

I also had a lively conversation (well, on Twitter) last night with a friend who disagreed with some things I said in my last post, which is fine by me. I’d rather my writing on here engages with people (even in a negative way – it’s all part of the conversation) than just sitting there, being read and immediately forgotten.

If that’s the case then it’s just masturbation. And I do far too much of that already.

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Down with fake Jeff Bridges

I just watched The Castle of Cagliostro, Hayao Miyazaki’s first feature-length animation as director and obvious forerunner to his Studio Ghibli stuff. Here’s a scene demonstrating why it’s worth a watch:

My heart aches when I watch sequences like this (mostly in Ghibli or Pixar movies, who each seem to constantly one-up each other for ambition and emotional devastation – which is fine by me) because I’m not an animator and I doubt I ever will be – short of figuring out how to co-ordinate my hands and a pencil in a way that seems like competent drawing – but the thing I love about these films is that they’re full of joy and invention; you’re constrained to the technical ability of the people working on the film, sure, but aside from financing that’s really your only constraint.

Animation be much bolder than live-action in what it believably portrays because it’s (usually) presented in a consistent way with what else we’ve seen of the world. Dragons quite often look rubbish in movies and TV (I’m looking at you, Game of Thrones), but when I watch Spirited Away I really believe that’s a dragon being papercut to death, and I hold my breath because I need to know what’s going to happen to him.

It’s something ‘real’ movies still haven’t mastered: how to make us care for an animated character. The exception of course being Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, in which the cartoons are much more overtly unreal than in, say, Tron: Legacy. Maybe it’s because we subconsciously know Roger Rabbit isn’t trying to fool us that we accept it so easily (and why so many guys feel it’s perfectly acceptable to mention getting a stiffy over Jessica Rabbit – she’s pure fantasy). It’s the middle ground that’s tougher, because your brain doesn’t want you to be tricked, even in the cinema.

I don’t really think the ultimate goal of CGI should be verisimilitude anyway. Why would I want to see something I’ve already know but slightly wrong (*coughyoungjeffbridgescough*) when I could see something I never have before? World-building. Unique, memorable characters and storytelling. Unbelievable stunts (like the one above) made believable. Breathtaking cinema. That’s what animation – all kinds – is to me.

Come to think of it, that’s what films are to me in general. But you know what I mean.

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Passing out during bad movies is the new yawning loudly at the cinema during bad movies

I started my day watching a movie called The Day Time Ended. How could anything possibly live up to that quantum quandary, I hear you scream in anticipatory agony?

[Okay, I’ll cool it with the alliteration for a while.]

Answer: It doesn’t. By quite a long way, as a matter of fact.

I hated it so much I fell asleep and couldn’t care less that when I woke up the entire cast had travelled thousands of years into the future and landed in some wanky painted utopia (seriously, it’s just a shit painted backdrop), somehow leaving behind the epilepsy-inducing flying blobs that were standing for UFOs.

Some of that might sound vaguely interesting, but it’s all sandwiched in between horrifically acted family bonding scenes and little girls hugging pyramids.

Looks like I picked the wrong day to quit sniffing glue.

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You there! Yes, you! The one with the hair! Y’wanna be famous?

WARNING:

This blog post’s sole purpose is self-promotion, so pray do not read on if that sort of thing makes you feel a bit sick.

On Saturday (yes, this Saturday), I’m producing a shoot for a little web series project called Nights At The Round Table, the pilot for which can be seen at the bottom of this entry. (Some of the format and, er, cast have changed a little since the pilot was made, but it should give you a clear indication of the tone we’re going for.)

This shoot is a little different to most of the others we’ve done, however, as it involves copious amounts of foam violence and ludicrously-dressed extras.

Yes, we’re having a Nerf War.

And I want you in it. You’ll likely be leaping every which way and firing maniacally into crowds of screaming LARPers, so dressing for carnage is recommended.

If this sound like the kind of thing you’d enjoy wasting your weekend on (while being compensated with unlimited tea, coffee and biscuits, natch), then leave a comment on here, drop me a line on Twitter or be all old-fashioned and send one of those eel-eck-tr’on-itch mayals my way at markpeterallen90@gmail.com.

See you there.

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