Saturday 30 June 2012

3 Cinema Issues

The phone people.

Why do they pay all that money, just to sit in a dark room surfing Facebook? They could just go into their bedrooms, turn off the lights, and the same thing would be achieved. Why do they bother venturing out to the cinema? Most of them don't even notice there's a movie on.

The whispering.

I'd rather they SHOUT! The whispering makes me want to literally rip my head off and throw it at them.

The man with the bald head.

He always sits two rows in front of you. He blocks your view (especially if you want to watch the movie). You can try move seats, but he always ends up in front of you.

And there's something about a bald head that attracts your attention. You keep glancing at it every five seconds, as if one of the film's characters will appear on it to deliver an important line of dialogue.

Care to share?

Friday 29 June 2012

EMILY BLUNT / JASON SEGEL / MARK & JAY DUPLASS / LYNN SHELTON: The Modern Formula For Making Great Movies

Mark and Jay Duplass make fantastic, extremely low-budget movies.

Mark Duplass is also a great actor.

Emily Blunt and Jason Segel are movie stars. But they don't just turn up for the pay cheque, they're committed to doing great work. They've both been known to turn down jobs that would have given them more money.

The Duplass brothers need stars like Segel and Blunt. And the stars want to work with the Duplass brothers, because they know they'll get to do their best acting. 

The first movie that the Duplass brothers made was "THE PUFFY CHAIR", which they shot for only $15,000. It was a big hit at film festivals and got everyone paying attention to them. Actually, they made another movie before that but locked it away in the vault because it was so bad. I tell you this just to remind you not to worry about your own atrocious projects, it happens to everyone. Anyway; Mark Duplass starred in  "THE PUFFY CHAIR", and he was great.

But Duplass is not a movie star. So to get funded by the studios, they need bigger names. That's how they made 'CYRUS', because Jonah Hill and John C. Reilly wanted to work with with them.

This year, the Duplass brothers released "JEFF WHO LIVES AT HOME". They got the funding because Jason Segel and Ed Helms wanted to work with them. Why? Because the quality of their work is so good. Big actors crave it.

Mark Duplass didn't act in that film but he did act in 'YOUR SISTER'S SISTER', which he also executive produced. It was written and directed by the very talented Lynn Shelton. But how did the film get in cinemas? Because Emily Blunt starred in it. That's why it's faring much better than Shelton's previous film 'HUMPDAY' (which also stars Duplass), because it has a recognisable names in it.

Emily Blunt is having a great year - and with her recent roles, you really feel like you're getting to know her. 'YOUR SISTER'S SISTER' is a wonderfully subtle and engaging film --one of my favourites of the year. Blunt also put in a great performance in 'Salmon Fishing In Yemen', alongside Ewan MacGregor (who is another actor who craves the great material rather than the fame).

'THE FIVE-YEAR ENGAGEMENT' is a film that stars Emily Blunt and Jason Segel. Is it any good? It's okay. Segel co-wrote the script (as he did on 'FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL' and 'GET HIM TO THE GREEK'). The movie is fun, and it's doing okay at the box-office. It's watchable, mostly because of the two lead actors - they're very endearing and loveable. Yet despite the big-budget and broad comedy stylings:

They do their best work elsewhere.

And their best work this year has involved the Duplasses.

Mark & Jay Duplass make movies very cheaply. They trade the bigger budgets for smaller ones where they can have more creative control. Actors want to work with them -- it's the same as how it has worked with Woody Allen all these years. The films are done so cheaply that it's almost impossible for them to fail financially. If the flicks are good, word of mouth will get people seeing them. And even if they suck, the names will carry enough star-power to bump up DVD sales.

This is how it works in the modern era. You can desperately try to get on the Hollywood ladder, but you'll probably get chewed up. And even if you make it, your films will be bland, just like all the others.

The Duplass Brothers are doing it their own way. So is Lynn Shelton. They've gotten so good at what they do, that the stars are desperate to work with them. Where else would Susan Sarandon get to do as great a role as she did in 'JEFF WHO LIVES AT HOME'? And who else would bring the subtlety out of Ed Helms that that the Duplass' bros did?

The ones who stay true to themselves and actually have something to say are succeeding. That's why 'LOUIE', created by Louis CK, is such a great show. Same goes for 'GIRLS', created by Lena Dunham. The people who stay true to themselves are creating the most interesting work. And the good part is -- this will sustain them for the rest of their careers. Because what they're creating is INTERESTING! And their fanbase is only going in one direction - up! Same goes for Segel and Blunt, we're interested! We're along for the ride, because they're all about the great work. 

Care to share?

Thursday 28 June 2012

The Song

I have a song that's in my head, but not quite. I heard it in a film a few days ago, or maybe it was on T.V. It kind of sounded like Jackson Browne or maybe Paul Simon but I'm not sure. Maybe it was a woman.

It's not a new song, it's something I've heard before. I definitely recognised the lyrics, but now I can't remember them. I can't remember the lyrics and I can't remember the voice, but I really want to hear the song again. Does anyone have any idea what it might have been?

The song was about going somewhere. Or maybe it was about coming back. Actually I think maybe it was about being in a place but wanting to leave. Or maybe he wanted to stay. Or it could be that he was going somewhere but wanted to stay at home on the sofa.

It was quite a profound song. It suited the scene it was in on T.V. It must have been a small indie film, as the character's left on a journey. Or was it a big blockbuster and they used it during a calm moment after a big explosion?

It's fun when you get a good song stuck in your head, but it's horrible when a bad song is lodged in there. So you can understand my frustration -- having a song taking over my brain which is neither good nor bad, because I can't remember what it is or what it sounds like. 

Care to share?

Tuesday 26 June 2012

RIP NORA EPHRON - You Are a True Hero Of Mine

"So I have to face the facts - I need to stand up proudly and say: I LOVE NORA EPHRON."
-KITFR, January 2010

I didn't see this one coming.

Nora Ephron has had a bigger influence on me than nearly anyone else in the industry. I grew up watching her movies. She was the first writer/director who I sought out film after film. I just loved everything she did.

I have watched 'You've Got Mail' more than any other film.

And 'Sleepless in Seattle' is responsible for what has become a lifelong love for the romantic comedy.

You see, guys aren't meant to like the rom-coms. We're meant to disregard the chick flicks. But Ephron was able to transcend that; at least for me and a lot of guys that I know.

In the modern era, films have become awfully dark and cynical. It's remarkable whenever someone can make something that blooms like a flower and makes your day a little better.

The first time I went to New York, I visited for a week. I spent the whole time at 'You've Got Mail' locations. I was staying with my friend Jenna, and I'd say "come meet me at Cafe Lalo!". I was obsessed.

'Hanging Up' is such a poignant tale about life and death. It's one of the all-time great Walter Matthau performances. He died months after filming it. Will be even more touching to watch this film now, knowing that we've lost Nora.

I can't believe it. I'm genuinely stunned. She was always the picture of health. A beautiful woman with a giant heart and a romantic soul that is so extremely rare, and completely irreplaceable.

'When Harry Met Sally' changed the rom-com forever.

And I'm glad that we have 'Julie & Julia', because it's a very sweet film, and absolutely devoid of cynicism. It has a big beating heart and makes you want to suddenly learn how to be a masterful cook. I don't think there is any other writer/director in the industry who could get me interested in cooking.

Norah's writing was magical. I have spent so much of my time reading her books, hunting down all her articles; anything I can get my hands on, because there's just something in the words, something in the rhythm, it was just a DELIGHT! It's like she painted all the words delicately with a paintbrush. But a magical paintbrush, that only she knew how to use. I can't explain. If you're a fan, you'll know what I mean.

'The screenplay is the big plain pizza, the one with tomatoes and cheese. And then the director comes in and says "you know, it's needs mushrooms." And you put mushrooms on it, and the costume designer throws peppers on. And pretty soon you have a pizza with everything. Sometimes it's the greatest pizza of your life and sometimes you think 'that was a mistake, we should have left it with only the mushrooms.'
-Nora Ephron

Nora Ephron was the mushrooms. We lost a great one. We will miss you. 

Care to share?

VUE CINEMAS: UK chain's Online Marketing Strategy Manipulates Film Bloggers

So you get an email from VUE CINEMAS, one of the biggest cinema chains in the country. And they want to publish an article on your blog. Amazing, right? Maybe you've finally made it as a blogger? 

Unfortunately, no, this isn't the case. They're using you in a rather cynical way. 

Companies used to pay for advertising. That was the old way, back when things were in print. Now they manipulate people online, for free.

What you might not realise about your blog, is how valuable it is, and how much Google likes what you're doing. The more you play by the rules, the higher up in the rankings you'll get, which means that more people will discover your writing. 

These things improve naturally based on: the amount of years you've been blogging, the quality and relevance of your content, and the amount of people who link to your website. 

Most bloggers have been approached by companies. Often they're mid-size companies that have nothing to do with your content. Like a life insurance company offering you $85 to link to their site. That's a choice you have to make -- do you need the money that badly? Is it worth compromising your site? When Google spots your film website linking to a life insurance website in every article, they know you're not playing the game right, and you'll soon find yourself disappearing from Google searches. 

Vue Cinema are playing a very clever game. They're approaching bloggers and film websites with the promise of 'good content', in exchange for you linking to their website. However; this is purely a selfish act on their part; gaining links to their product, their website.

When people link to them; two things happen. 1) They eventually climb higher in the rankings, taking over their competitors. 2) Your site sinks down the rankings, because you're diluting your site's ranking by branching out to them. 

You get nothing from this - and gets everything. Why does it matter, you ask? When enough bloggers and websites do what they want, they make hundreds of thousands in extra revenue. You get nothing, just a lousy and irrelevant article on your website. 

Maybe it is love, as much as it can be, for somebody--

Somebody who sold you to Humble Pie for fifty bucks and a case of beer! I was there! I was there!

I was just about to share the email conversation that I had with the Vue team, who tried to get me in on this scam. But I just read the privacy notice at the end of the email, apparently if I share the content, I may be breaking laws. How convenient! But in my last email back to them, I wrote; "I'm happy to interview you on the website about how you think you are contributing good content to the net and film blogosphere. Shall we do it? Will be a good platform for you to present Vue and their brand through being open about your practices." 

I got no response. 

The film blog community has a great history of supporting itself, linking to great articles and to friends we make along the way. Keep it that way. Your website is important to people and it's valuable. Don't do the corporations any favours, they're doing nothing for you. 

This article was NOT brought to you by Vue Entertainment. 

Care to share?

Sunday 24 June 2012

Are Films Still Relevant?

The Kids care about gaming. My generation hits up their blackberries before the opening credits end. My elders are watching cooking programmes. Who gives a shit anymore? We can't keep the industry going based on nostalgia, it needs to really have a reason. 

Tom Cruise and Adam Sandler used to be safe bets, but now they're flopping! Is it a wake up call? Of course not. The industry doesn't support artistic achievement. They're not looking for the next 'Annie Hall', they want the next 'Avatar.' And I'm not talking about the artistic merit of 'Avatar', I'm talking about the revenue. 

The best writers go to TV. When you ask people what movies they've seen recently, they mumble about there not being much out there at the moment. When you talk about TV, they DEMAND you buy their favourite DVD box-set immediately! 

The artists keep getting it wrong. At the top end of the industry, you're constantly made to appease studios and sponsors and lots of white men in suits. At the bottom end, everyone is busy promoting themselves on Twitter, but they forget to become GREAT, instead focusing on selling their product. And most of the time, the product sucks! 

But you can hardly blame them. It's capitalism. We make products and sell them. That's how society works, but it's not how art works. At least not at first. A great artist needs an incubation period. Unfortunately, it's 10 years, and who has time for that? 

You can hold out and be all about the integrity. About only following your muse. Problem is, your work SUCKS for years, nobody strikes greatness from the word go. Maybe you ignore the opportunity to sell out at first, because no, you're about the art. But eventually you realise; the bills won't pay themselves. You're never going to fix the leak in the kitchen if you keep making the passion projects. 

So what are your goals? You just want to earn enough to be a player in the Hollywood system? It makes sense, after all, you want to earn some money. But the product is terrible! Maybe we're wrong to bemoan how shit most movies are. After all, why should it be any different? They're products. Built on the assembly line. Is Aniston available? Good. Let's put her in a movie with that guy from that new comedy show. Perfect. Women will love that. We have an audience. It's money in the pot. 

The innovation is in technology. It's in apps and social networks and communication. And the excitement is in gaming. And the great writing is in TV. How many films have you loved in the past five years? Suddenly that two hours seems like a really long time. If the movies keep getting worse and worse, then soon there'll be no come back. 

The industry struggles on -- but where is the passion? Where is the art? 

Care to share?

Saturday 23 June 2012


Some days are diamonds,
Some days are rocks, 
Some doors are open, 
Some roads are blocked

He nails pretty much all of life in those four opening lines. Some days are unexplainable magic that has appeared from nowhere, and you're left marvelling at life. Other days, nothing works out, the road is blocked. 

Sundowns are golden, 
Then they fade away. 
And if I never do nothin' 
I'm coming back some day. 

Cause you've got a heart so big 
it could crush this town
And I can't hold out forever
Even walls fall down. 

You can put up all the walls you want, but nothing is ever permanent. And just listen to how he sings that line, "you've got a heart so big it could crush this town," he ain't kidding! You meet someone with a big heart and it crushes you, throws your world upside down. Petty thinks he's the man, thinks he's protected; but now he's vulnerable, his walls have fallen down. 

All around your island
There's a barricade
It keeps out the danger 
Holds in the pain

Sometimes you're happy
Sometimes you cry
Part of me is ocean 
Half of me is sky

You've got a heart so big
It can crush this town
I can't hold out forever
Even walls fall down

You put up a wall, and sure, you can keep the danger outside of yourself. But you hold in the pain! That's why people need therapy; they put up the big walls, but they can't get healed; because the wounds of life get trapped inside.

Some things are over
Some things go wrong 
Part of me you carry 
Part of me is gone

You've got a heart so big
It could crush this town
I can't hold out forever
Even walls fall down 

'Part of me is gone', that's so true. Life takes from you. It takes and takes. It takes the people we love, it takes your health. Everything is temporary. I remember being at a funeral, and a distant relative of mine was talking to me about my Grandmother, who died when I was a kid. She said to me, in a quiet moment, "Y'know, I never got over your Grandmother's death. Never did." And it's stuck with me ever since. Things end, things pass by, and parts of us get lost forever. 

And what happens when we lose those parts? We close off, put up barriers, try to stop it happening again. We can go YEARS without climbing over them. People try reach us, but the walls are solid. That is until someone cares enough. Until a heart comes along that can crumble you. 

Baby you got a heart so big
It could crush this town 
I can't hold out forever
Even walls fall down. 

This is a song about the tipping point, where you decide to live again. You allow yourself to be vulnerable. 

Care to share?

Friday 22 June 2012

You've Got One Fine Sleepless Decade: A Celebration of the 90's Rom-Com

1989 saw the release of 'WHEN HARRY MET SALLY', 'PRETTY WOMAN' and 'SAY ANYTHING'. It could be argued that none of the romantic comedies of the proceeding ten years bettered those. That being said, I have a huge affection for the rom-com's of the 90's. They had a huge impact on my love for cinema and storytelling. The criticism of the genre is that it's predictable and always stays the same. This is a concept which I would like to gently challenge. 

I don't rank films based on their complexity or originality. I am more interested in how much I relate to them. This is probably why I have always been interested in the romantic comedies. Within the confines of an often predictable genre, there's the opportunity for fun, randomness, and big laughs, with the occasional life-lesson thrown in. 

'NEVER BEEN KISSED' was released in 1999; and was one of the final films of its kind. The typical yet enjoyable rom-coms that had come in the previous few years, such as 'YOU'VE GOT MAIL' and 'ONE FINE DAY' were being replaced by edgier material such as 'CHASING AMY' and 'AMERICAN PIE'. While traditionalists would perhaps bemoan the different style of material, it was undoubtedly necessary. 'NEVER BEEN KISSED' aside, the other romantic offerings of that year were the likes of the weak 'FORCES OF NATURE' and the atrocious 'THE BACHELOR'. 

In the U.K, one screenwriter was becoming the definitive romantic voice of his generation. 'FOUR WEDDINGS & A FUNERAL' and 'NOTTING HILL' are two of the most watched and loved romantic comedies of all time, and with good reason. When people dislike a genre, it's usually because they know what to expect. The rom-com, at its very worst; is cliche-filled and predictable. You can't relate to the characters because you're screaming at the screen, "this is too obvious!" or "that would never happen!" That's why Richard Curtis' arrival on the scene was great. The rom-com now had something it has seldom had in modern times; a great writer. When I think of his films, I tend to remember them as being cheesy and romantic. But when you sit down and watch them, you realise the most important thing about them is that they're HILARIOUS. Hugh Grant was one of the most important things to happen to the genre in this period, because he was someone we could relate to. His fumbling nature was human, we could connect. 

If there are three films that typify the 90's rom-com, they would be 'ONE FINE DAY', 'YOU'VE GOT MAIL' and 'AS GOOD AS IT GETS'. They are not necessarily the best, and certainly not the coolest, but that's never the job of the rom-com. Films that got greater critical acclaim, such as 'JERRY MAGUIRE' and 'BEFORE SUNRISE' are deserving in their own right, but don't sit as neatly into the rom-com box as the aforementioned flicks. 

What made 'ONE FINE DAY' so appealing was the charisma of its leads. Michelle Pfeiffer and George Clooney are two of the top actors in the industry. Pfeiffer was at the peak of her career - but Clooney was still proving himself. He had the popularity from 'E.R.' but this was four years before 'O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU?' -- he was still finding his way up the ladder and the film proved a good platform for his distinct talent. Pfeiffer and Clooney were able to find that rare and elusive thing: chemistry. Remarkable, considering that most of their screen-time was apart.

A more obvious example of capitalising on star-power was Nora Ephron's two films 'SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE' and 'YOU'VE GOT MAIL'. Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, together; were box-office gold. 'SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE' resonated with audiences the world over, and still does to this day. Why? It's hard to say. That's the thing about romantic comedies, some of them just hit. It'd be naive to attribute it solely to the writing, or the strength of the actors. Romantic Comedy is about dealing with matters of the heart. Just like in life --- most of the time these matters will be struck down as being cheesy or ridiculous-- but occasionally, if we're open enough, they get through to us. 'SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE' is one of the most viewed films on television of all time. The formula was repeated again four years later with 'YOU'VE GOT MAIL', one of the first films to deal with finding love over the internet. The film is a personal favourite of mine. Is it one of the greatest films of all time? Of course not. But for many people who love rom-coms, it stands tall. 

As I'm writing about all of these films, I keep thinking about Woody Allen. It's impossible to write about this genre without referring to him. He's not often referred to as being a 'rom com' guy, but I don't think there'd be a Nora Ephron without him. It's interesting to look at what Woody Allen was doing during this time - especially as he wrote and directed one of the funniest and most underrated rom-coms of the decade, 'EVERYONE SAYS I LOVE YOU'. The film was a musical, with a fantastic cast which included Alan Alda, Goldie Hawn, Drew Barrymore and Edward Norton. It's a hilarious and very warm film; probably the sweetest motion picture that Mr Allen has ever made. If you are a fan of this genre, you have to see it. And Woody's scenes with Julia Roberts are comedic gold. 

One of the biggest challenges that constantly faces the genre, is that filmmakers and even actors rarely take it seriously. They see it as a passage they need to get through on the way to more meaningful subject matters. I always find this disappointing because these are the films that people carry with them the most. When people remember Jimmy Stewart, they don't think about the Westerns, they think about 'IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE and 'THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER'. The same for Jack Lemmon, we don't think about 'GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS', we remember 'THE APARTMENT'. That's why James L. Brooks is so refreshing. Not only is he one of the all-time great film directors, but he is a master of the rom-com genre. His influence, especially in the ten years I am focusing on, deserves much credit. Not only did he  direct 'AS GOOD AS IT GETS', he also produced 'JERRY MAGUIRE' (as well as 'SAY ANYTHING in 1989'). 'AS GOOD AS IT GETS' was able to cross over from being seen merely as a 'rom-com' to something more palatable to cinematic audiences due to the expertly written and performed character of Melvin Udall, played by Jack Nicholson in one of the best performances of his career. That was matched by Helen Hunt, who was spellbinding as the troubled waitress and mother, Carol Connelly. 

It's also worth noting the hugely watchable film 'THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT', directed by 'WHEN HARRY MET SALLY' helmer Rob Reiner. The film didn't suit everyone, but it's one of my favourite films. It was penned by the great Aaron Sorkin --- and carries all the seeds of his later TV masterpiece, 'THE WEST WING'. 

By the end of the 90's, the romantic comedy genre had gone through many highs and lows. Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan starred together in two great romantic comedies, both directed by Nora Ephron. And Richard Curtis' unique writing style gave us Hugh Grant and helped hugely reinvigorate the British film industry. It was also a great time for independent cinema. After his breakthrough movies 'CLERKS' and 'MALLRATS', 'CHASING AMY' was an iconic Kevin Smith film which completely ripped apart everything we expect from a rom-com and gave it a fresh new angle. Just a year before that, Richard Linklater released the sublime 'BEFORE SUNRISE', which stripped away all of the typical conflicts that transpire in the genre and instead had two characters walking around a city talking and falling in love. It was refreshing and heartening to see- and is one of the best films of the 90's, of any genre. 

For me, the last solid rom-com of the 90's was 'NEVER BEEN KISSED'. And I'm not saying it's necessarily a great film, but it stuck to the formula and was surprisingly well-crafted. Drew Barrymore's character, Josie Geller, is a reporter who is sent back to high school as an undercover reporter. She falls back into her old habits of being studious and a hard-worker, and therefore, a bullied geek. Her superiors demand that she become popular, so she can get a real scoop. She overcomes her own limitations and becomes exactly that, popular. But of course, that isn't what she needs --- we have to wait until the end of the movie when she finally goes back to being herself, the studious geek, but with more awareness. Now she can see the popular and good looking people for what they are. She finds herself and writes an honest and moving article in a way she has never done before. And as a result, she gets the guy. 

The film nailed the formula perfectly. But sadly, the formula was getting tired -- and the rom-com was ready for a change. 'AMERICAN PIE' took the gross-out route. And although many people just see it as the dick-in-the-pie film, it actually carries within it a lot of heartfelt, romantic moments. Meanwhile, 1999 also saw the release of the cult-hit '10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU'. Although a re-imagining of old ideas and concepts, it's surprisingly fresh, open, and honest; in a way that would come to define the comedies of the following decade. But the optimism and old-fashioned feel-good nature of 'ONE FINE DAY' and 'SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE' was on its way out. 

Care to share?



James has just started working at 'Adventureland'. This probably isn't a stand out scene for many people -- I mean, not a lot happens, it's just a bunch of young people hanging around outside after work -- but it really resonates with me. Reminds me of being younger and working shitty jobs; and the only thing that makes it bearable is hanging around outside after work and laughing and talking. It's little moments like this which make it a special movie. 

Also the subtle way that Em & James connect in this scene -- it's so real! 

7. LISA P IS BACK & "Tops".

Maybe it's the music. The Rolling Stones - Tops, one of my favourite songs. Don't you just LOVE that song!? And Lisa P comes around the corner -- that's another thing that makes the crappy job bearable, the hot girls! Without them how would you survive? And again; it's dumb-subtle things that make me love this movie. Like in this scene; there's just something pathetic and lonely about the characters. They're in their lame 'Games Games Games' t-shirts, working jobs they hate, watching their youth passing by. 


They're listening to James' 'bummer songs mix tape'; and the track is 'Pale Blue Eyes'; they look miserable as hell! But what a moment. James is looking at Em, trying to figure her out. That's all you ever do when you're that age; look at people and try figure them out. It's clear that Em is going through something. James is in love, no denying it. "Can we go somewhere?" he asks, "yeah," she responds. So they park up under the bridge and get out of the car. 

James has the tiniest moment to think about it, then bolts after her-- he's so fast off the mark that the camera struggles to keep up -- it's a wonderful moment, so real. He goes for the kiss. She's taken aback.  Great moment. 

The scene after is great, too; Joel is completely jealous -- it's not so much what he says, it's the tone of his voice and the look in his eye. Those small and quiet awkward jealousies -- you remember them? I mean, I still get them now; but when you're younger, they're so painful and shape half of your existence! 

I love how Martin Starr (who played Joel) acted those moments. I asked Greg Mottola about it recently, he said: "
That was something that I talked about with Martin Starr, but never really made explicit in the writing. That's the kind of texture of life that I remember, as opposed to turning it into melodrama."


James and Lisa P are getting high. They're having deep conversations, but they're not making much sense, because they're so HIGH! And they're sitting somewhere out in the back of the Adventureland park. The sun is disappearing as it turns into night; and it's just one of those amazing moments that you can't plan --- finding a quiet little spot, having a conversation and watching the world go by.

Again, it's just a subtle thing -- no drama, no action, no tension -- it's just a moment. How often do you get those moments in movies? How often do you get them in life? In films, you get them occasionally in 'Adventureland', or 'Before Sunrise', or maybe a Cameron Crowe movie. But when else? I crave them. As for life; these moments get harder and harder to come across - everyone is so locked in to their devices, to their schedules. Throwing away the plans and indulging in THE MOMENT is one of the best things about life --- and that is exactly----- EXACTLY what this movie is about.


James is heading to New York. He arrives on a bus, and the streets are rainswept. It would be miserable if you allowed it to be miserable, but James is FREE, and he's living LIFE! You see that subtle smile on his face? It's like 'YEAH, I'm in NEW YORK!' --- I get that EXACT look, that precise feeling -- and the funny thing is that, when I arrive in New York, there's every chance I'm listening to 'Unsatisfied' by The Replacements in my headphones, which is what makes this moment resonate with me even more. 


Joel gets hit in the face. James stands up for him and punches the guy. Then he realises, holy shit, this guy is much bigger than me! A chase pursues and James eventually makes it back to the main office -- where his bosses are doing some paperwork. Bobby (Bill Hader) knows exactly what to do. It's one of those pure movie moments, absolute magic. Highly unrealistic; but because it's a flick, you go with it. He picks up his baseball bat and heads outside to take on the thugs. "Just give me one good reason! You don't know what I'm capable of!" Then he heads back to the office, as if nothing happened. 


Bumper cars! They're smiling! They're young! The camera-work is dizzying, and The Cure's 'Just Like Heaven' sounds triumphant! This scene just takes me directly back to every single moment of my life that's ever been FUN! 


I didn't even like this song before I saw the movie, I always found it annoying! Now it's one of my favourites. How to describe why I like it? It's near impossible. Like in so much of this movie, nothing happens; it's just a feeling, a moment; a slice of life. 

James, Em & Joel are hanging out -- it's thanksgiving; and then the fireworks start just as the Crowded House song 'Don't Dream It's Over' is beginning -- and there's Joel again, looking on jealously. Ouch! I know that look, I lived that. And then there's James and Em, looking up at the sky and then, for that small moment, the whole universe makes sense. I know that feeling, too! 

Ohhhh man, I just relate to it! It resonates! Reminds me of myself, my youth, those moments that meant so much but are now consigned to history, just like the era this movie is set in. What did it all mean? How much of it do you carry with you? How likely are we to find these connections again?

It's an age thing. One day you're in the moment every single darn second, and then before you know it, you're grown up and numb. 

This scene is magic. And I'm doing a terrible job of explaining why, it's just some kind of alchemy. A director who trusted himself enough to make it about the little things; and actors who are comfortable enough to just live the moment, to make it about the tiny glances. 

Care to share?

Between What's Flesh and What's Fantasy: The Effect of Film and TV on my Relationships

I have always been inclined to watch the more down to earth, 'realistic' films. Not that such a thing exists, but that's always been where my interest lies. I'm interested in human relationships. And of course, when you love a TV show or film, you tend to say "I relate to that". You see yourself in C.C Baxter or Ross Geller or Annie Hall, and it means something to you.

The characters on the screen get resolution. They figure things out inside of two hours. You begin to get used to seeing relationships resolved in this way. And that leads us to my central problem when it comes to my relationships, especially with women.

I over-romanticise them. See them as more than they are. 

I have always seen life as being like a movie. Struggles and conflicts with an over-arching theme, where we all come together in the end. This view is often how I've conceptualised my relationships, and I'm now realising how nonsensical it is. 
It hit me a few weeks ago, on the train. I'd convinced myself that a beautiful woman on the carriage was interested in me. And then it dawned on me, that I think this nearly every day, and convince myself that these intriguing looking women on the tube are attracted to me, when in reality they haven't noticed me. I realised this is a pattern I have repeated in my head for years and years. You could say it's healthy daydreaming, or a way to pass time on the commute, but it's not. And there's always the disappointment of course when they leave the train and it dawns on you that they're completely unaware of your existence.

Then there's the women I do actually know. And I guess because most of the friends I make these days tend to be in my industry, a lot of them are beautiful actresses. I over-romanticise these relationships to hilarious effect. I like to believe I often have a 'special' relationship with people. That somehow things mean more between us than perhaps they do with other people.

In these past few weeks I have been taking myself to task on these nonsensical pathological thought processes; digging deeper into the inner workings of my mind, especially regarding relationships. It's my ego, liking to see me as special in some way, like the people in my life have some special bond to me.

I always loved 'Dawson's Creek' and 'Ally McBeal'. I still do. In the Creek, hearts would break and people would hurt, but at the end of the episode they'd walk down to the lake and share their feelings and true intentions, to the sound of lovely piano music. In McBeal, John Cage or Billy Thomas would come back to the office at night to check in on Ally, and together they'd share a profound moment, where life made total sense.

I have been chasing these moments all of my adult life, but they don't exist, because they aren't real.

And they stop me doing the work! Stop me paying attention to what's really happening in front of me with other human beings. I float along in a fantasy land believing, despite my disconnect with a person, that deep down we
get each other, or need each other.

I have been caught out numerous times when it comes to love. I add up all the numbers and see connection and meaning in places where it doesn't exist. I believe in this old world romance, which in the reality of the moment exists only in my brain. 
Rather than have true, in the moment relationships, I dream them up; fractured and lost from what's really happening in front of us, I instead live out a romanticised version that I created in my head, which is nothing more than a repeated pattern, an ingrained delusion.

Care to share?

Thursday 21 June 2012

Brain Craze

Write something!

But I have nothing to say right now. 

There must be something! Write about the film you just watched. Write about the changing face of film distribution. Write that short story about two people who meet by chance in a cinema. 

I keep trying to write them, but there's no juice right now!

A good writer writes every day. 

I need to refuel sometimes!

You are not as successful as you should be, you don't get successful unless you write the amazing material!

You also don't get successful if you burn out by constantly churning things out! 

So you want rest?

I want rest. 

But you're always resting! 

No I'm not. You're always in my head, you never let me chill!

Then go rest. Go for a walk in the field. Go do it now. Go get some nature and find it inspiring then turn it into a story and a screenplay and get a new agent and start production. 

You're not making me feel rested. 

There are great writers who never rested! There were great writers in concentration camps! People just write write write; yet you need time to rest? To think of ideas? You're pathetic.... WRITE WRITE WRITE! 

Who are you? Are you my boss? My muse? Or just a mental disorder? 

I am the you that wants you to succeed! I am what drives you. DO SOME WRITING NOW! 


So you think I'm pointless? 

No, I just think you channel your messages in the wrong way. I need an inner support system, I need to be heard! I need my inner child to come alive! I need to be able to feel my way through ideas. I need to be able to have a thought without you ripping it apart to force ideas from it. 

Care to share?

Comments from the Front Row - June 2012

A strong opinion on 'TUPAC SHAKUR's Lasting Legacy

ANONYMOUS: ""Was he a bad guy? Probably" It was a certainty!! Tupac was a criminal and a mediocre artist - in my opinion. I knew Tupac Shakur and I'm sure he would agree with me at least on how shitty of a person he was and he certainly couldn't argue the criminal aspects of his life. Still, having had known him doesn't change what he was for me. Tupac was a troubled young man with a forum to impress his views upon others and talk about the world as he saw it. He was not a forgiving person, nor did he ask for any forgiveness. A young man that knew enough about himself that he was able to see how he would die.

The problem is that no one ever comes to see the "beauty" or find the love they have for an artist till the artist is gone - as in the case of Houston, Jackson and Tupac. Before he died, I maintained this opinion about Pac and after he died, I saw no reason to change it.

The other issue I have is that people do not separate the artist from the person. Roman Polanski, brilliant filmmaker, shitty person. In Tupac's case, so-so artist, shitty person and criminal. In my opinion, Tupac failed to excel both as a person or an artist. Trust me, many artist quietly agree with me, but feel that saying so would besmirch his memory. I don't know why more people do not stand behind their opinions. It is what it is, so why not acknowledge it.

These are my opinions, and I do respect the opinions of others, so hopefully I won't get any ignorant hate responses.

By the way, I'm publishing as "anonymous" because I have only two options and the other didn't apply."

On Kristen Stewart being in my top 10 actresses list.

DAVE: " 
Man, I love this list. Kristen Stewart may be more your most daring inclusion, but I couldn't agree more."

I must say that I am a bit fed up with Stewart. Some of it has to do of course with the Pattinson-vampyre furore as well. I watched Twilight out of curiosity and against my best judgement by illegal means the week it came out. I found Pattinson's acting a disgrace and Stewart's job, mediocre at best (something like an overacted underacting) whereas the supporting cast was pretty good. However, I am ready to believe that she may be competent in other stuff. After all even misguided overacted underacting requires some skills. In addition, if Pattinson has succeeded to achieve something with Cronenberg (I am told. Not been able to check. I live in the coutryside.) I am ready to believe in Stewart's potential."

Wow, very unconventional list. I'm glad you went with your gut rather than going with the obvious critical consensus favorites."

 I enjoy all the actresses on your list, including Stewart. I don't understand the hate for her, but I am curious about the actresses who hate her, especially as many of the older actresses she's worked with, like Jodie Foster, Mellisa Leo, Catherine Keener, etc. seem to have championed her. "

Responses to my post on the BBC documentary 'Hitler's Children'.

I recently read about these descendants and it was a truly touching story. It does make you wonder about all these horrific things that have been perpetrated by humans. We like to think of them as monsters but at the end of the day we have to realise and acknowledge that they were people just like us, and that's where the true lessons lie – how is it that ordinary people could support and even participate in such horrors? And how do people like Hitler come about? How much hate needs to be built up within one person to turn him/her into such a monster?

My family was touched by WW2 as well, but since we're from Southeast Asia it wasn't about the Germans and more about the Japanese. 

When they came to Singapore there was an effort to exterminate as many Chinese as they could. They told the Chinese to report to Changi Beach. Many of my grandfather's uncles, cousins, friends and neighbours went and never came back – it was later discovered that they had been lined up on the beach and shot. My grandfather's family escaped because they were warned by their Malay friends not to go, and because they spoke Malay they were able to disguise themselves and live among the Malays.

I always loved listening to my grandfather's experiences, and the way he has processed them. Sometimes he would speak of the cruelty and you can see the anger – at those times he would always refer to the Japanese occupiers as "those bastards". 

But other times he would talk about the officers who taught him Maths, marveling at their skill and the way they held their classes. He would tell me about how he used to play the violin at the soldier's camps in exchange for food for his village. He would play their old Japanese folk songs and they would cry because at the end of the day they were just men who wanted to go home. Although he was angry at them for the horrible things that they did, he was also able to recognise that not all of the Japanese were bad people, they were just people caught up in a horrible time. And I think that has helped him to move on in a way, instead of being caught up in resentment and hate.

I remember once he told me, "I will never forget, but I can forgive.""

BUFFALO CHUCK: "It's interesting to see Japan has taken a polar-opposite approach. Cover-up, deny, lie, avoid, don't teach, don't admit and don't allow anyone with expert knowledge do it either. 

Two choices made by two protagonists. I'd always tell the Germans to consider the Japanese option, and hold your heads high because the Germans made the better choice."

HELENA HALME: "I'm fascinated by this subject too, especially as we Finns first sidled with Germans in WW 2 because we were attacked by the Russians who were on the other side. Even so, Germans did some terrible things to Finns, and many older people won't still have any German tourists in their shops etc. in the countryside. When I was younger I had a German boyfriend who talked to me about his guilt - his grandfather had been in the war but not a Nazi. Still, he felt a real responsibility for what his country had done. 

Excellent post as always."

JASON EVERSON: "I just got back home. 20+ years I've been waiting to see Tom Petty. He was part of my reckless youth and, I'm happy to say, part of my reckless no longer youth. But, his songs, they were there - good times, break-up, cock ups. A lot of them are deeply entwined in my psyche. A lot of feelings came back in that gig tonight. Things I thought I'd forgotten leapt out like it was yesterday. Yeah. I even had tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat, I admit it. Songs pin us to time. Tom Petty's songs enmesh us in it even deeper. I still feel overwhelmed. That was one of THE best performances of any artist and group that I've been to. Why it took 20+ years, I will never know. 

Aside from all that, the guy taught me to play guitar, and he doesn't even know it."

HAPPY FROG & I:  "First off I'm so glad you managed to get a ticket. When I read your previous post about Tom Petty I felt gutted for you. Your review is so full of the passion you feel for Tom's music and why you wanted to be at the gig that I read it twice. Thanks for brightening up my Thursday evening in rainy Reading."

Care to share?

Wednesday 20 June 2012

TOM PETTY live at the ROYAL ALBERT HALL - Wednesday 20th June 2012 - REVIEW

Something in the Air -11.40pm (after)

I'm on the train and looking for people who are like me, anyone who shared the same experience. I want to know if they got what I got, I need to know how it affected them.

To Find A Friend - 8.40pm (before)

I was waiting for Tom Petty to hit the stage. A guy was selling Haagan Dazs ice-cream right by the door and I couldn't resist. Problem was, I was now in my seat with Petty due on stage any second, with an inedible rock-solid-ice-cold ice cream. The plastic spoon wouldn't cut it. I wanted it eaten and gone before Petty and the Heartbreakers hit the stage.

I turned to the guy next to me. I said "That's one big drop." He understood. We're sitting in the circle section, our heads are pretty much on the roof. But we're the front row of the circle. If we lean forward, we fall into the stalls and our lives are probably over.

Me and the guy get talking. It's good to make friends; we're two loners at a rock concert. We start talking about our favourite records, about different Tom Petty thoughts. It's experiences like this when you realise you're not alone in life, you're a part of something. My new friend asks, "when did you get your ticket?"

The Waiting - 
Monday Morning 9am (two days before)

The two gigs at the Royal Albert Hall have been sold out for months. Petty never tours in the UK. But I just HAD to see him. 

I called the box office. I said I'd take any ticket, in any seat, for either the Monday or the Wednesday gig.

She said there was ONE TICKET, for Wednesday night only. Front row of the circle. I took it.

Something Good Coming - 10.30am (before)

My friend Charlotte is at mine, we have editing work to do, but all I can talk about is Tom Petty. I kept thinking in my head that she'd never understand, because how often do you meet a girl who understands Tom Petty? I made her listen to my favourite song, "It'll All Work Out". She loved it, and was open to more. I put on "Something Good Coming" and headed to the kitchen to make some tea. She stayed in the other room, taking in the song. There are few things better in life than getting a great girl into a great song. Unfortunately she's ten years too young and two hundred light years too pretty for me, but still; she loved the music!

Running Down A Dream - 11.30pm (after)

I couldn't find the tube station. I always get lost leaving the Royal Albert Hall. I decided to just RUN, I had so much energy! I was running to the sound of 'American Girl' in my head, with each lyric corresponding with a foot step----- oh-yeah-oh-right-take--it-easy-baby-make-it---last--all-night. I was like a kid, I was alive! I ran and ran and eventually found South Kensington Tube Station.

Something Good Coming/Learning To Fly - 10.30pm 

Best moment of my life right here. 'Something Good Coming' is one of my all time favourite songs. But I gotta be honest----

The couple to my right were driving me crazy. Talking throughout the gig and using their phones; and they were in their sixties! I thought my generation was the problem? I wish I had the guts of my new friend on my left, who turned to the guy next to him and told him to shut off his phone, and too right! Petty was diving in to 'You Wreck Me' and the dude was trying to load a WEBPAGE! 

But then I witnessed a miracle. 'Something Good Coming' grabbed the whole audience. It was quiet, soulful, heartbreaking. The quietest song of the night, and it worked! Everyone was mesmerised! You just couldn't escape its honesty. Even the couple on my right were caught up in it. The song quietly and vulnerably and hopefully says "there's something good coming, there has to be". You feel the desperation. You feel the hope mixed with world weariness mixed with sadness mixed with a sparkle of magic. This song just stopped everyone cold and gave them a wake up call, I've never seen anything like it.

Then came 'Learning To Fly'. Me and the new friend both let out these huge noises-- somewhere between relief, orgasm and just plain WOWNESS! This is one of those songs you just HAVE to hear when you see Tom Petty. 

'Learning To Fly' has mellowed over the years. Used to be a radio friendly rock song, now it's a beautiful vision of what life can be; it remembers the past and looks to the skies in the hopes of a better future. At the end, the crowd repeatedly sung the chorus as Petty improvised beautiful lines, "I'll fly over my worries, fly over my pain", and we were all FREED! The beauty of the moment was undeniable. Live music changes lives.

Gimme Some Lovin' - 10pm 

Petty introduced a guest. 

Steve Winwood.

He came on for two songs. The second was 'Gimme Some Lovin'" and it brought the house down. This was the present you don't expect which is hidden behind the tree. His voice SOARED!

Free Fallin' -

Tom Petty is incredible. He has a quality and a magic that is undeniable. He's a master at what he does. He's in the league of Dylan and Springsteen but doesn't always get the recognition. The Heartbreakers didn't put a foot wrong all night. These are some of the best rock musicians in the world, who have, at one time or another, played with some of the biggest acts in music history. Tonight was special. I'd like to think it was for the band, too; you could see their joy when Winwood took to the stage, and when the crowd erupted after every song.

Tom Petty's music means more to me than pretty much anyone else going. There are so many disappointments in music --- but Petty remains, as he always has done, a true leader, an inspiration. He has more integrity than anyone in music -- and after a concert like tonight's, you realise what it means. He never whored out to the corporations. He never let the record labels dictate his art. Tonight was unreal; 'Listen To Her Heart', 'You Wreck Me', 'Free Fallin'', 'American Girl'; there's no end to the incredible music. I was listening to him on the way home, amazed by how many songs he'd left out, that's how good he is! With most musicians, there are two songs you're desperate to hear. With Petty and the Heartbreakers, there are sixty! 

The band played with so much awareness, and everyone was deeply in-the-moment. It was great to see Petty and the band taking the time to connect with ALL of the audience. They continually turned to face the people behind the stage, in the restricted seats; it was a way of saying "we know you're up there, and we're here playing for you!" And it was great when Petty introduced the band. The music stopped and he just chatted; told stories of who the band were and how they came together. He probably does this night after night, but still, it was fresh and sincere. 

Sincere. There's a word. Everything about Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers is sincere. 'Here Comes My Girl' - was there ever a better explanation of the far-out joy of saying to the universe "
You know, I can tell the whole world, shove it", just because you'd rather spend the time with a great girl? And was there ever anything more defiant and strong than 'I Won't Back Down'? Tonight we got to be all the versions of ourselves. At times, I was in pure bliss. At other times, I was deeply locked into my feelings (good and bad), seeing life more clearly. And then there was 'Something Good Coming', which was transcendent. 

I guess you could say I liked it. 

"I know so well the look on your face
And there’s somethin’ lucky about this place
There’s somethin’ good comin’
Just over the hill
Somethin’ good comin’
I know it will"

-Tom Petty

Care to share?