"Art is not a mirror with which to reflect the world; it is a hammer with which to shape it"

Saturday, 31 October 2009

All Is Full Of Love

...and sheep may safely graze... or Cheltenham’s Ladies may safely go back to learning at any rate...

And now as SWF ’09 has already begun its pass into memory, I ought to put something down about it; just can’t think what. I managed, almost successfully, to control my crazy for nearly the whole four and a half days- the cracks did start to show on the last night- presumably due to a heady brew of zero-sleep and Strongbow. I still don’t understand or care much for networking... I find approaching anybody with my own agenda very hard.

There will now follow a couple of random opinions...

If I write nothing else about SWF there’s just one big thank you to all the good people who managed to put up with my diminishing levels of sane for the duration. The words ‘above’ and ‘beyond’ spring readily to mind. Thank you.

Here’s something you need to view, now, and throughout the next week, Girl Number 9, from the brains of Dan Turner and James Moran. It’s really rather good.

I’ve officially dumped the word ‘aspiring’ into a great big bin designed for holding ‘negative power words’*. (That should please Lord Arnopp.)

Thursday last became quite a good day- full of ups and downs, it was. Now, as I am supposed to be semi-literate I should be able to find some words to describe the feeling I’ve been left with post-Festival. Unfortunately I can’t think of any and, as I can’t share the appropriate mimes, I can only explain it with musical clips... it’s a combination of the following...

Beethoven: Symphony No. 5 Mvt. 4

(Buy this version by the way.)

Bjork: All Is Full Of Love

1998, Chris Cunningham

Final thing. Tonight is Hallowe’en. I had intended to watch some appropriate films; had decided to watch through as many Blind Dead films as possible before either a) my brain cell melts or b) I doze off. As it is, I’ve noticed they’ve got a Francis Bacon night on BBC4 instead... curse you scheduler people! Still, the documentaries finish at 11 so that gives me enough time for Tombs, Return and possibly the The Ghost Galleon

And the cat’s just got into the Hallowe’en spirit by walking past the window with a large bird obscuring his mouth. Mice, I don’t mind; birds, I do.**

*I just made that up but it’s sounds very guru-speak, don’t it?
**The cat’s started eating the bird... how can creatures so soppy be so vicious?***
***And now he’s sitting at the window looking very smug.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Jigsaw Falling Into Place

Seen Saw... and II and III... so that’s thrice I, twice II and once III...

One simple question: is Jigsaw the most annoying psycho-killer in cinema history?

The evidence...

• he’s pointlessly loquacious, he just goes on and on and on- blah, blah, blah, blah, blah- talking endlessly, you’d have thought a guy with so little time left would be more succinct but no... has he never heard that brevity is the soul of wit?
• ...and if he thinks his message so serious why does he treat it as a game?
• ...and to what end is he jabbering, it wouldn’t matter if what he was saying was interesting, but it’s so repetitive- ‘value life’, ‘this is a test’- he could be replaced by a roadie, ‘one, two, one two, testing, testing’,
• ...and what does he say, well, it’s a sort of half-baked philosophical nonsense that’s a bit too much like it was jotted down in the back of a 15-year old’s school exercise book,
• ...and in turn this moralizing seems to have very limited internal logic; the traps tests don’t seem to have properly defined moral choices or a proper way out and, more bizarrely, to get one person to value life he will happily cut great swathes through the innocent members of their close family, friends and people they just happened to meet in the pub some time... and he claims he’s not a murderer!
• ...and his traps don’t seem to fulfil the parameters he apparently envisages,
• ...and his puzzles are needlessly contrived- they have so many variables that he must be either very lucky or there are several thousand un-triggered back-up plans sitting round like so much UXO and cluster bombs, in fact, he’s like some speed-freak Bond villain-cum-Satanic Mary. Whitehouse,
• ...or maybe he’s just watched Se7en a few too many times and completely misunderstood the simplicity of John Doe’s master-plan... and they say movies don’t make you violent!

...the case for the prosecution rests.

The big surprises about Saws II and III are that they don’t suck- a technical term- (II was in fact quite enjoyable) and aren’t especially violent.

The big minus... each sequel detracts from the excellent original Saw.

The big plus... at least they’re well-made (and watchable) unlike Hostel.

PS: I loved this TV guide description of Saw II, “Think Se7en meets The Crystal Maze”. So, now you know, Jigsaw is in fact Richard O’Brien... prepare to beam back to the Planet Transsexual.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009


Recent developments....

Been a bit busy of late, gathering my thoughts for the Screenwriters’ Festival which is now looming large in something I like to call next week...

Have also managed to have another car written off- the fourth- none have been adjudged my fault. So, another write off... or is it? An air of mystery hangs over this- it initially looked as if I’d just broken a front headlight in what was a very low speed impact. I took it to my regular garage for a replacement and, having got it up on the ramps, they rang to say they spotted a chassis leg had been cracked and that this was not viably repairable. So, I had to take the thing to the insurance approved engineer and their initial assessment was it just needs a new headlight... all very odd. Now, they’ve looked at it more and concluded... it just needs a new headlight. Not sure what the outcome of this will be; would rather like it to be a straight headlight repair but fear, with my luck, it will not. But keeping my fingers crossed. I really dislike dealing with insurance claims.

Now another random conundrum. The other night I did me a pizza and settled down in front of TV (and I can’t recall whether this was during Emma [good- far lighter adaptation than most period things], the South Bank Show [interesting- about the writer of Billy Elliot] or Saw II [reasonably alright but still seems like a reductivist version of Se7en], but it was definitely Sunday night). The cat came in with a dead mouse in his mouth... he promptly proceeded to eat it in front of me.

Now, the pizza was hot, the mouse was dead... I let the cat get on with it... does that automatically make me a bad person? Or just pragmatic? The strange part was that the crunching noises from the munched mouse were rather similar to the cracking noises of the crunched crust of the pizza... makes you wonder what they put in the topping!

Anyway, I’ve had it confirmed that at SWF I have these speed-dating sessions with both agents and producers. This means I have to meet people- this is perturbing: I’m nervous enough meeting people I know; a gibbering wreck round people I don’t.

I feel comfortable enough with my anxiety to admit I’m moderately terrified.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

No Fun

A small, possibly erroneous, observation about comedy writing...

Quick story. A couple of months ago I submitted some bits and pieces for the ‘open submission’ satirical comedy Newsjack (on Radio 7). Each week, I did more than necessary and had them scrutinized by a writer friend who told me what worked, what didn’t and how to snazz up those that nearly worked... I then submitted the best. In total, over the 6 weeks, I submitted 15 sketches and 25 one-liners... and not a single solitary one made the grade! This was disappointing. I’d rather like to get on the score-board and radio is a ‘good thing’*. Personally, I prefer Radio 3 but they do very little sketch-based comedy... doesn’t work well between Stockhausen’s greatest hits and Mongolian nose-flute orchestras.

Anyway, this dismal failure got me thinking the simple question- why? Why?!?!?As in ‘why have I failed in such a pusillanimous way?’. I listened to the show each week; I have, contrary to popular rumour, a sense of humour, how could I fail? I think I have an answer- may be wrong, may be right- I think it has a ring of truth.

I listened to the show each week and, while I smirked, I didn’t find it laugh-out loud funny; certainly not as much as the studio audience. However, this is NOT the sour grapes thing of ‘they didn’t pick me therefore they and/or the programme are wrong’. I believe this is a case of I did not find it especially funny therefore I couldn’t write adequately in the idiom required. I love satire- Bremner, Bird & Fortune, Yes Minister, Brass-eye, The Day Today, etc. but Newsjack’s satire was not the type of satire to which I’m acclimatized.

There are two genres (technically three**) which are far more subjective than others presumably because they operate on a very deep primal level: comedy and horror. I find the Marx Brothers funny but can’t stand Laurel & Hardy or Chaplin (mawkish sentimental bilge); I find Mitchell & Webb, Blackadder, Black Books, The IT Crowd and Spaced hilarious while I find Little Britain, Russell Brand and The Catherine Tate Show about as funny as the average knee-capping. I love Blazing Saddles but the farting cowboy scene is the only bit I skip to the end; I know others with the complete opposite view. Could Eddie Braben write successfully for Lucas & Walliams? Could Chris Morris write successfully for Morecambe & Wise? And the same surely follows for horror: some find the supernatural terrifying and are bored by slashers; others think knife-wielding psychos scary while ghost stories leave them cold.

And so to the quite simple conclusion: if you don’t find the show funny, you probably won’t be able to do funny for the show; if you don’t find the monster scary, you probably won’t be able to do the monster scarily. It’s not the fault of the show or the poor beleaguered monster... it’s just that you’re not hard-wired that way. Find your ‘funny’ or ‘scary’ and do that instead.

Well, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it... it’s either that or I really am just a miserable old git.

*As they put it in 1066 and All That.
**The third would be Porn... the person who loves the plastic-clad dom' may not find the idea of 'plushies' too enticing... or the flying helmet and the wet celery...

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Sweet Soul Sister

To be filed under ‘shameless nepotism’...

I’ve been busy and boringly quiet so I shall just go back to something nice that happened to the sister a while back. (I can still recognise nice! Hoorah!)

Anyway, as I think I’ve mentioned before, my sister is a professional classical cellist prone to playing in orchestras. However, early this year she was approached by a band to whom she had been recommended by a third party. This, I presume, is that networking thing in action- the networking thing I can’t get a handle on. Anyway this band, Inkubus Sukkubus, a a Goth Pagan rock outfit who are better known in Europe having played some of the big alternative festivals such as Germany's M’era Luna, wanted to try some acoustic reworking, hence the desire to augment with a cellist. The sister came on board and, after some delays due to the band getting caught up in the swine flu thing while on tour in Mexico, they finally did a very low key test concert, at Lammas, to see how the sound went down with an audience and whether it generally worked. Apparently, it went rather well... bigger things may follow!

There is a strange six degrees of separation footnote to this, an ouroboros if you will... back in (probably) 1989 the band, who started locally, advertised on the local radio’s sole hard rock/HM music show (Tim Oakes, I think) for a guitarist. Having been playing a whole 6 months or so, I rang them up to offer my not inconsiderable services only to be told politely but firmly that I was neither experienced nor aged enough... they were lucky... in the intervening 20 years I have got absolutely no better! That would have been back in the days when I bought Kerrang, before they went mad and started giving 5K reviews to absolutely anything! It's inccredibly strange to suddenly remember details like that from so long ago...

...and why am I telling you all this patently irrelevant nonsense now? Because some clips from that first acoustic concert have turned up on YouTube: all your typical camera phone footage with the expected sound mix... but just this once I won’t cast my malediction on those who clutter up gigs with camera phones!


Come To Me

Gypsy Lament

Gypsy Lament (shorter but from a better angle)

...that’s all folks!