Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Trees In Trafalgar Square

I never get to be a tourist in my home town. It's hard to appreciate the place you live, the place you grow up. Most of the time London just drives me insane.

Today I'm liking it. The sun is shining, and London feels good. I'm sitting in Trafalgar Square and watching life happening in front of me. There's an old man sitting on a bench who looks completely content and happy. I wonder if that's really how he feels. Teenagers are splashing each other with water from the fountain, a picture of carefree youth. This moment, the days of fountains and sunshine, maybe this very moment that I witnessed will be the very best time in their lives. Fifteen years from now, maybe they'll be longing for another trip to London, with all the freedom and possibility they felt.

I'm sitting up against a wall, somewhere behind me is a guy singing and playing guitar. He's not great, but he sounds perfect for right now. Pleasant enough to be part of the soundtrack and not in any way distracting.

I'm sitting here wondering where all these people are in their lives. Are they on holiday? Are they happy? It gets me wondering about me, as I sit here in between everyone. There's a guy to the left of me; beer, cigarette, and a frown. Maybe he's not having a great day, maybe he finds the crowds here oppressive, but decided to come anyway.

There are trees around the Square, I'd never even noticed that before. There's a lot you don't notice when you're always moving. Do I want to be living a life when I don't even notice the trees? Surely they should be a part of it.

He's singing "Can't Help Falling In Love". His voice is awful, but the song still resonates. It's days like this when you realize you're not sixteen and hanging out at tourist spots for fun anymore, It's someone else's turn now. There's a business man walking through, he looks lost. He's definitely not noticing the trees. Maybe I should point them out to him.

I met a beautiful Brazilian woman here once. She asked me to take her picture, and afterwards she kept talking, there was a connection. But I was already twenty minutes late to meet my ex-girlfriend --who I'd cancelled on four times because I didn't really want to see her-- just so she could apologise for things and take away some of the guilt. I told the Brazilian girl I had to go, and that was that. I wonder how she is. I'm not suggesting I missed out on an epic romance, but maybe we'd have had an amazing coffee. How often do you meet beautiful Brazilian's in Trafalgar Square? Almost never.

The teenagers are gone, the old guy is gone, and the guy with the beer is leaving, only the trees remain. I look at the new bunch of people passing through, they're happy. At least for now, at this hour, on this day in London.

He's singing "I don't want to wait in vain for your love".

Care to share?

Monday, 30 May 2011

The Notebook

'The Notebook' is one of those films that a lot of people call their favourite movie and a lot of other people say "uh, It's boring". That's when you know a film is really something, when it has groupies. And I don't mean the type of groupies that 'Twilight' has. That was hyped and sold by the studios & then bought by the teenagers.

But 'The Notebook' affects a certain type of person. Its following built up over the years (and it only came out 7 years ago).

The idea behind the film is that love is the guiding principle of our lives.

The reason most of our lives are a mess is that we can't figure out what it all means. A good movie gives us answers. The main concern of the characters in the movie is their relationships. The love they feel. Everything else is secondary, and for two hours It's the same for us.

The best films aren't realistic, people get that wrong. The best films present an idea, they paint a picture, and they convince us It's real. 'The Notebook' convinces us that love conquers all, that love can achieve anything. There are those of us in the world who, despite evidence to the contrary, believe that love is what matters. How we held onto this notion before cinema, I really don't know.

Care to share?

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Attack The Blog

1. The Hangover 2 - For once the critics are right. This is just the first movie all over again. The first one was hilarious, but this is just the band regrouping for a greatest hits tour. The setlist is the same and the magic is gone.

But it's beautifully shot and there are worse things than two hours with these characters.

2. Champions League Final - Barcelona are unreal. Lionel Messi makes football an art. It's hardly worth the other team showing up.

3. Frankie & Johnny - I watched it again, it's too good. You can just feel their pain. And their love. It's a great journey, and it's meaningful. You bring your own bullshit into this movie when you watch it. Michelle Pfeiffer is beautiful. And she's a great actress.

4. What Women Want & Helen Hunt - This is interesting to watch now, knowing what Mel Gibson has become.

There are so many actors in this who you'll recognize. It's a great cast, no weak links. I love Alan Alda.

But it's Helen Hunt who is special here. When I finished this film I was desperate to watch 'Cast Away', just to see Hunt in those final scenes again. I didn't have time to watch it, and still haven't, but it's on my mind.

And I guess that's why people become actors. If you're good, you reach the heart. Helen Hunt is one of those rare actors who I'd watch in anything. There's something about her that is quietly heartbreaking and endearing. There's something in the little smile she does, you know the one I mean? It's just so uniquely her personality, you feel like you know her. It's like the sarcastic raising of the eyebrows with Hanks, or the confused Downey Jr look, before a wisecrack. It's these little personality traits that you come to know. It's what turns movie stars into people who feel like us.

Helen Hunt had a great run through the nineties until some time early this millennium. Then what happened? We need her on screen more.

5. Attack The Block - Saw this in the cinema today. It was great fun! Aliens land in a South London estate, and a local gang, comprised of 15 year olds decide to deal with it.

It's crazy. But a joy to watch, because it has a realness to it. It's how the kids around here talk. The film entered their world and gave them a platform. A crazy platform, but it was a joy.
Jodie Whittaker is a huge talent.

There was no bad acting in this film.

My friend turned to me halfway through and said "you should have written this", and I wish I'd thought of it, because the concept is hilarious.

6. Genre - I think the problem with genre films is that half of your brain shuts off. At the beginning, you think you're watching the best film ever. You get hugely excited.
But when you're locked in a genre, the plot will eventually have to conform to it. Decisions aren't based on character, they're based on "how can we get the killer to find the knife without the wife seeing him."

When "Attack The Block" started today I was SO into it. The characters were hilarious, the jokes were great. But then the genre took hold-- and you find yourself losing some kind of thread.

I'll figure out what the hell I'm talking about and re-approach this topic soon.

7. London - I was standing outside Leicester Square station yesterday, waiting for the lead actor of my movie. It was to be a day of casting.

I paced up and down, by the station, feeling a bit disgruntled because our casting efforts hadn't been very productive of late. And the theme music from "The Apartment" came into my headphones. And I looked at the Theatre across the road, and wondered what wonderful actors had graced that stage, and how many stories had taken place inside there over the years.

I was overcome with good feeling. It felt as if the spirit of art had visited me. I felt good, is what I'm saying.

Casting went well.

8. I have a clean reading slate. Tomorrow I will start a new book, exciting.

9. We need to be genuinely excited when we can. It's hard, because we forget. I was telling an actor friend this at lunch the other day: so often I'm walking around with 'stressed' as my default mindset. It just happens.

There's no reason for it most of the time.

10. I wrote the other day about how Tupac and Anne Frank were great because they knew they were going to die. It was the same for Bill Hicks. After he knew he was dying he amped up his routine, his message.

And yesterday I watched a Steve Jobs commencement speech from Stanford University. He said he always lived as if he was about to die. And then he got cancer and really was about to die. This guy invented Apple and Pixar.

When you're about to die, the excuses are bullshit. Bill Hicks says "it's just a ride". Opportunities we're scared of. Women/men we never ask on that date. Phone calls we keep delaying. We die. What are we waiting for?

The thing about living like you were dying, is that you can't just throw out your responsibilities. But most of the time it isn't about that. It's just about following up on an email, or making sure you sit down and write the damn scene.

For gazillions of years you and I didn't exist. And eighty years from now, once again, we'll be hurtled into non-existence for countless millennia.

We get to stumble around this rock for 80 years, if we're lucky. What rules are worth keeping? What work is worth doing?

Care to share?

Friday, 27 May 2011

Girl From Far Away

And there she was. You have precisely one second to make a first impression when you meet a girl like her.

Twenty minutes later and we were walking along the pier about ten minutes from my hotel and four minutes before it rained.

An hour goes by and she's sitting opposite me, watching my films on my phone. She quietly sits there engaged in the film, with this little smile that I've only ever seen on her.

I got on a plane, I came back to life. The years passed by and she has a husband now.

Care to share?

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Schools & Education - Wake The Fuck Up!

I have done some talks and workshops in schools recently, and am part of an organization that works with troubled youths, trying to help them see that the world is bigger than the bully in the playground.

But the bully isn't just in the playground. He's in the staff room. He's in the system.

I met this girl today who told me her dream. To be a singer and actor. She's never told anyone that before because when you're thirteen and you tell people you want to sing and act they think you're insane.

They don't like insane in society. They don't like ideas and dreamers. They wanna teach us maths and science, even when we hate maths and science. All they teach most of us is how to add up how low our paychecks are and then how to set fire to them with a Bunsen burner.

There was this other kid who we met because he's the 'bad kid', which is code for 'black' and 'gets restless during French lessons'. We gave him a folder and said "make it your own." We thought he'd write his name and class number. Instead he designed graffiti. It was amazing, and he did it for the other student's folders too. 

But schools don't get that. They think singing and graffiti don't lead to a career but knowing 3.14 is Pi does.

I was 12 years old and I was exactly how I am now, but less tall. My English teacher told me "Writing isn't your skill, find something else". It hurt. But she was my teacher. I didn't write for fun again for five years, and school was a nightmare.

I lost five years of my growth as a writer and it's because my teacher said I can't do it, and I believed her. 

It's time to wake the fuck up. The talent of young people is getting squandered. It's hard to be an entrepreneur from a prison cell, or from behind the counter at the supermarket. By then most people are dead. Because when you have big dreams the system doesn't allow you to exist.

And the system is broken. Half the people aren't working. I know geniuses who went to university because that's what was insisted, and now they work part time doing admin in the back offices of shoe shops. Everything is fucked yet we still make them call the teachers "Sir" and we still make them read shit that has nothing to do with who they are.

It's time for the educators of our young to wake the fuck up. I don't know how we do it. But the world is changing. Our young people are Facebooking and developing iPhone apps. It's different now. But still the artists suffer. 

That girl today was so shy about wanting to sing. It doesn't HAVE to be that way. That shyness isn't nature--- its growing up and having to push your aspirations so far inwards that pretty soon you convince yourself that not only do you not want to sing, but you really want that extra shoe shop shift.

I've got nothing against the shoe shop. I just know that people have bigger dreams. It's hard enough if you know what you're doing and have resources; but when your teachers, schoolfriends and everyone around you is forced to be exactly the same as everyone else, you get oppressed. You get stuck at home.

The world is a giant place, dreams come true. But we can't keep killing it at such a young age. Because how you are at 14 is usually how you are forever. Let's make it about possibilities and uniqueness. 

It's down to us as individuals -- as teachers, parents and teenagers. But there are also larger forces. Our governments, the men in grey suits who run the schools, and God knows who else. School is a place to learn, to have your mind opened to the possibilities. It's almost never the thing I just said. We need to change that.

Wake the fuck up.

Care to share?