Sunday 22 May 2011

DVD CHALLENGE: The Films We Avoid

We all have them. DVD's we buy or borrow, then take six years to watch because we're just not interested. Our reasons are usually ignorant and stupid, but they keep us away from watching.

This week I will be battling past my presumptions and watching the films I've been hiding from. I challenge you to do the same and tell us all about it.

Below are the films I've been avoiding, along with my ignorant assumptions:


Ignorant Assumptions: It's three hours long and is going to be boring and preachy!! I am going to struggle to get taken in by it.. although paradoxically I believe it may be my favourite film ever once I watch it.

The Grapes Of Wrath

Ignorant Assumptions: It's going to be old and slow and boring and simple.

Kung Fu Hustle

Ignorant Assumptions:
It's a pile of bullshit.

39th Battalion

Ignorant Assumptions: This film was recommended to me. But my assumption is its going to look cheaply made and have a terrible story.


Ignorant Assumptions: That it'll be too long and 'cool' and it won't hold my interest.


Ignorant Assumptions: Now that its been copied and inspired so many others, it'll be hard to see its magic. It'll just be twentysomething white people talking about dating and weed and I'll get so bored i'll give up film viewing forever.

Ice Cold In Alex

Ignorant Assumptions: Will be too British. Unrealistic and lame, and I'll feel guilty for thinking a supposed masterpiece is boring and silly.

So that's me... Will you be fighting the resistance and watch the films you've been resisting? What are your ignorant assumptions?

Care to share?

Friday 20 May 2011

Nothing To Live For: Say What You Need To Say

It's 2.43am, Saturday morning, and I'm listening to 'Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay' by Otis Redding. And I'm thinking - how the fuck did he do this? Why is it SO perfect? Is it his voice? Is it the guy who co-wrote the song? Is it a fluke?

Film Director's tell people the one they're currently filming will be their best ever, and they mean it. But you never know. There's a scene in one of my films that makes me cringe, because me and the actor fucked it up. But no-one notices, they love the scene. Meanwhile other scenes I think I got close to perfect, and they mean nothing to people.

When you create a body of work, you look back to some pieces with affection, and some make you cringe. But when you're creating them, you never know.

Why is the Otis Redding song so good? And why does Elton John's "Your Song" resonate with EVERYBODY? Elton wrote the music for that track in thirty minutes. People spend five years writing crap.

I guess the only thing to do is create.

The rest is out of our control.Anne Frank didn't realise the context her diary would be in. Otis didn't plan to represent an era, and Elton didn't know It'd still be a concert favourite all those years later. 

Some pieces of art are just heartbreakingly perfect. Make your best friend put down the Blackberry and watch "The Apartment", get the DJ at the party to play "Build Me Up Buttercup", and lay down in your bed when the world is sleeping and listen to "Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay".

Most of what we make is drivel. Our best attempts make everyone snore. But something else is possible.

If we just create.

Anne Frank knew her time was up. So did Warren Zevon. So did Tupac. And in a different way, so do Woody Allen and Clint Eastwood. Maybe being reminded of what lurks around the corner gives us the drive we need.

Otis died at TWENTY SIX. Fuck. Maybe he knew too.

"Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay" wasn't even released yet. Otis didn't get to see the impact he'd have on the world. I mean, some guy is writing about him at 3am on a Friday, 44 years later, that's pretty special.

Anne Frank's diary is still a big seller. The world needed it. The world needs it. And Tupac still has hit records, people need the message.

Art truly lives forever.

This stuff is so important that I want to wake everyone up and scream it at them.

Simplicity is best. Be truthful. Anne said "I'm Jewish and I'm trapped." Tupac said "I'm black and we're being mistreated and we're mistreating ourselves." Elton said "This is your song," and Otis said "This loneliness won't leave me alone."

Think about that for a minute. Saying "I'm trapped because of who I am" is hard, even in a modern, non life-threatening situation. And when you say "This song is for you," you're vulnerable like crazy. And nobody ever admits "this loneliness won't leave me alone".

They dared to make their art about who they were as human beings. The things we struggle to say.

Come to think of it, when Elton made that masterpiece, he was trapped too. Wow, that's a 3.15am revelation if ever there was one. "I'm trapped because of who I am" precisely explains a huge part of Elton John's life back then. It's not just a love song, it's him singing a song that society didn't want him singing to the person he loved.

We can't obstruct ourselves or rule anything out if we want to make great art. We have to lay it all out on the table -- show people who we really are.

It's not a masterpiece, but I'm now listening to a John Mayer song now. The lyrics are fitting:

"You'd better know that in the end,
It's better to say too much,
Than never to say what you need to say again.

Even if your hands are shaking,
And your faith is broken,
Even as the eyes are closing,
Do it with a heart wide open.
Say what you need to say."

SAY WHAT YOU NEED TO SAY. You might die at 26. Leave a legacy. Don't guess at what a legacy is, or what's cool. Just create.

Care to share?

Thursday 19 May 2011

Somewhere Over The Rainbow

I want to find an island somewhere, where the creative people can go. Where dreaming is a way of life and a writer can spend three years, if inclined, just to find the perfect word.

It's a place where no-one is interrupted. Where the lingering creative idea gets to be fully dreamed up and held onto, without being stopped by the phone ringing, or person shouting or appliance breaking.

There are no egos in this land. Nobody is marketing themselves or selling their work, they're just creating. They're turning up and working. Some people hide in the mountains for days, others pace up and down in the sand, looking for a clue that will lead to the perfect sentence or insight or twist.

And the work is enough. They can have the red carpets and press conferences back on the mainland, but here everyone is too busy working on something new.

And if you think you need a five mile walk in order to think of an idea, you can do it. If you need to sit in a group and meditate for five days in order to truly get into the head of your character, you can. No-one will judge you here, because everyone knows you're working. Working on what's really important. The dreaming life. The fantasies. The problems in your head that trouble you. On the mainland they deal with them by medicating, and sleeping with the secretary, here on the island we delve deeply into who we are as humans, and we take as long as we need to figure out whatever it is we need in order to tell our stories.

And everyone is there for you, and everyone is listening. Because they're all dreamers and writers and rock stars. And life will take on new meaning because we took the time to get down to what it's really all about.

I want to find an island somewhere.

Care to share?

Friday 13 May 2011

What I Learned From The Blogger Meltdown

1. The owner of the blog doesn't have any power. Google could shut down Blogger tomorrow if it wanted to -- and all of my content would be gone, all of you would be gone. It's the same with Facebook, and Twitter. Even our emails. We have no power. It can all be swept away, or changed.

2. There was a MAJOR security issue regarding my blog during the down time. I tried contacting Blogger about it, but can't get to a human, can't get a response. So I'm left just feeling vulnerable about it. This is how Sony Playstation 3 users feel now. These companies provide services and we come to expect something from them. But who's to say they need to be ethical? Who says they're here for us?

3. Facebook, Blogger, etc, they own us, more than we realize. They give us the privilege of their often fantastic, revolutionary services, and we come to rely on them, they become a part of our lives. But you don't own the house, you're not even renting. You're just a squatter. You have no rights.

4. This quote from 'The Social Network' is so relevant. "Okay, let me tell you the difference between Facebook and everyone else, we don't crash EVER! If those servers are down for even a day, our entire reputation is irreversibly destroyed! Users are fickle, Friendster has proved that. Even a few people leaving would reverberate through the entire userbase. The users are interconnected, that is the whole point. College kids are online because their friends are online, and if one domino goes, the other domino's go, don't you get that?"

5. This isn't just an issue of maintenance and technical issues. A lot of blogs serve very important functions in the world and how it communicates (I'm not talking about my blog here.)

6. We don't know who 'Blogger' are, or who 'Google' are, or any of the services we use and get addicted to. A friend says 'download this app for your phone' or 'Get an Itunes account!" and we do it and if we like it, we stay. But you're not dealing with someone in your neighbourhood, you're dealing with big anonymous corporations. And Facebook is spying on Google, and Sony Playstation have accidentally put people's personal details in jeopardy, and Blogger suffered 'Data Corruption.'

7. I realise I sound like an idiot for caring so much about the fact a blogging website went down for two days.

8. But I am extremely pissed about point '2', and don't know what to do about it. The only people I want to speak to about it are Blogger themselves, but they're AWOL.

9. Have you ever thought about how powerless we are? I have some great friends all around the world, and the only way we stay in touch is through social networks, emails and blogs. They could get hacked, or the companies decide to close down immediately, or they could charge money, they could do anything they want; and where would we be? How would we stay in touch? We wouldn't even know where to find each other. There are no rules when it comes to this stuff. We have no idea what happens to our data.

10. I need to back up this website immediately, does anyone have any ideas how to do it?

11. If anyone has any experience switching blogging platforms and retaining all of/the majority of their readership, please give me advice.

12. Most of this I wouldn't care about. But point '2' was a disgrace. "A small subset of Blogger users (we estimate 0.16%) may have encountered additional problems specific to their accounts.", I guess that's me. If anyone here has direct email addresses for the people at Blogger, please let me know. 

Technorati Code 3R7J52S2J79A

Care to share?

Thursday 12 May 2011

The Black Box

We were sitting on trains, walking through parks, and laying on beaches. It didn't matter where we were, we just couldn't get enough of it. Each of us obsessively eating into our data allowances as we messaged our friends and read news articles we forgot soon after.

We were in London, or Paris, or a mountain in some far away land. It didn't matter where we lived, because we lived in a box three inches from our faces that we kept glued to our hands.

And moments weren't between two people anymore. You write "I'm in a wonderful restaurant in Berlin with Sally". The world knows. Your school friend Bernard knows you're there. And @screenwriterharry22 has been informed.

You're not in a restaurant, you're in a little box of electrics. You tell a joke to your brother and its so funny that you instantly tell a version to Twitter and tag in Judd Apatow just in case he thinks you're hilarious. But the joke is no longer between you and your brother.

Because nothing is private anymore. Nothing is shared between two people. The world knows.

Never in history have we been so connected yet so isolated. We're closer to strangers across the world than people we're eating dinner with. Except we're hardly close at all. We're just people on opposite sides of the world staring at the little black boxes we keep glued to our hands. And old buildings are forgotten and old friends invited to a Facebook Fan Page. And we sit in a train or coffee house in London or Tokyo or somewhere else in the world, but nobody is there, because they're in their little black boxes doing critically important things. All except one thing: talking to the person on front of them.

Two people and a fireplace. That doesn't happen anymore. The flame is burning out, and I need a phone upgrade.

That was us in 2011.

Care to share?