Silent Running [1972]

Bit of a mixed bag this one. On the one hand I liked the significance of the story which is based around human beings disregarding the Earth’s natural habitat. On the other it was so badly done I wanted to throw a shrub at the screen.

Silent Running does make you think, though. You’re the cultivator of the last remaining forest in existence. What would you do if someone told you to destroy it? Let it happen, or fight it? Freeman Lowell fights it. Admirable, yes, but the means he uses to do it are bloody ridiculous. Use force, maybe, but no-one would go so far as to commit cold-blooded murder. He’s very irritating as a lead character and wouldn’t be out of place at a Woodstock festival, drunk as a fart and shouting expletives at the authorities.

Then there’s his motives. Whereas I would see protecting trees and flora as a way of protecting ourselves as well as the world in which we live, Lowell only speaks about preserving the forest’s beauty. There’s never any mention of the trees and plants being a key part of the Earth’s ecosystem in order for us to survive, so as long as the plumage is pretty and the trees are bushy then we should be happy! The sob story of a girl not being able to hold a leaf is almost as bad as American Beauty’s trash blowing in the wind scene.

On the plus side there are three cheeky drones (Hewey, Dewey and Louie) that provide some much-needed relief to this pretentiousness. They can’t talk, they’re generally box-like, but they still put forward a sense of personality that the human characters completely lack. A smile was always on my face whenever I saw them waddling through the corridors or working on ship maintenance. If it wasn’t for some striking 70’s visuals, Hewey and Dewey would completely steal the show.

Silent Running was a disappointment for me. Maybe it’s the over-styled generation of films I’ve grown up with, but I’d say I’m pretty open-minded about eras before my time. There’s just too many holes in Silent Running for me. And don’t even get me started on the music…

4/10

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The most overrated thing in Britain…

…is TEA!

That’s right. It’s not overly fake, pointless reality TV shows. It’s not the supremely talentless and obviously mental LadyGaga. It’s not fake tan that makes people look like they should be incorporated into a traffic light. It’s the thing that us Brits are most stereotyped for other than our supposedly ‘posh’ accents (come pay a visit to South Yorkshire); Tea.

Everyone bloody loves it. My mum, my dad, my sister, my girlfriend, my brother-in-law, my best friends. The list is bloody endless. They all have it a different ‘way’. Some like it with loads of milk, some don’t. Some like spoonfuls of sugar in their’s, others don’t. I like mine like this:

No sugar. No milk. No teabag. JUST WATER PLEASE!

Y’see, I really like water. In fact, sometimes, I’ve gone as far as saying that water is my favourite drink, so much more refreshing than a Dr. Pepper or Sprite, so much less symptomless than cider and Bailey’s (awful stuff). It’s just plain, boring, as-close-to-natural-as-you-can-get water. So why poison it with what is essentially leaves that keep you awake all night and can give you many unwelcome side-effects.

People look at me like I’m crazy when I say I don’t like tea or coffee. Being a Yorkshireman it seems it’s even more of a crime. I’ve tried all the different ‘ways’ you can have it, but I just end up squirming in disgust and wishing for a pint of water. Tea just ain’t my cup o’ tea… wait…

So, all you folk outside of Britain who think us British go around pronouncing our T’s and P’s as precisely as possible, sipping tea and singing God Save Our Gracious Queen, just remember there’s me saying this:

Tea’s blood’eh ‘orrible an’t Queen can begger off!

Ya get me?

Black Swan [2010] – One of the great films of the last decade.

“The only person standing in your way is you.” – Thomas Leroy

While Black Swan revolves around the world of ballet it’s far from the thing that drives this marvellous piece of work forward. So, if ballet really isn’t for you, then you should still not overlook this film; there’s a great blend of tension, symbolism and genuine horror in Black Swan that makes it, for me, the best film of 2010.

Much praise goes out to Natalie Portman for playing Nina, a character whose personality develops so much over the 1 hour 40 minutes run-time that you need a great actress in order to pull it off. She starts as this driven and determined dancer and slowly becomes the rebellious girl that the role of the Black swan requires. Portman portrays this seamlessly. You really believe the character can change in the ways she does.

When the credits role it’s obvious that Black Swan is a tough film to figure out, but the theme of perfection being self-destruction is key. Nina has always strived to be perfect in her dancing, her technique flawless with an unmatched amount of control. Chosen as the Swan Queen in a new version of Swan Lake, Nina is ideal as the White swan, but becoming the Black swan escapes her. She struggles to break out of her skin, become the raw, imprecise dancer that the role demands.

Suddenly perfection isn’t enough. She becomes obsessed with it, ruled by it to the point of psychological destruction. Shown through some subtle but unnervingly tense scenes, the collapse of her mental state is disturbing but captivating to us. You’ll jump, you’ll shiver, you might even scream, but all the time you’ll be constantly gripped by Nina’s downfall. Aronofsy’s subtle but incredibly atmospheric sense of direction paints a picture of the dual personality that Nina is sinking in to.

There aren’t many films that have this amount of depth to them and this theme of seeking perfection leading you down a road to self-destruction really resonates with me. You could say Black Swan is about many things; sexuality, the fall of the talented and famous, a “coming of age story”. Ideas on what Black Swan is about can and will be constantly debated, making it a film that will be remembered, even if it’s only me that does! But I doubt that…

9/10

The Dark Knight [2008] – Gives comic book films a new standard.

“I believe whatever doesn’t kill you only makes you… stranger.” – Joker

A beautifully brooding action film that goes far beyond the standards of film to comic book transition. The special effects, action sequences, acting, music score and camera work melt together like ice in hot water, creating a dark film that’s jam-packed with memorable moments.

Ledger is sensational as the always-interesting Joker, pulling off the character’s grim sense of humour just as well as his love for mayhem. An incredibly simple music score proves brilliantly effective at heightening tension whenever Joker is on-screen. There aren’t many other characters in films that are as engaging and the whole 2 hour 30 minutes seemed to revolve around him.

Elsewhere the performances are solid; Bale (Batman) returning with his sore throat, Caine (Alfred) as the loyal servant, Eckhart (Dent) as the corrupted District Attorney, and Maggie Gyllenhaal (Rachel) as both Batman and Dent’s love interest.

Then there’s the action sequences, all hugely entertaining and well put together. At times it does feel like it’s straying along the Michael Bay path of explosions and gunfire, but Batman has much more depth. Scenes that thrive on dialogue are just as intense as those that thrive on special effects and it makes for a well-balanced film.

I’ve always preferred it when a comic book film tries to adapt on the concepts of the real world we all know and love (or hate as the case may be). The Dark Knight does this better than any before it. Yes, it suffers from the same corny one-liners and strangely impossible things that happen in comic book films, but it really does base itself in technology and realism, not extremely rare spiders and experiments gone wrong.

It was a shame that the ending didn’t feel as memorable to me as the rest of the film. I didn’t believe Harvey Dent would go to extreme measures as he did despite what had happened to him. Nevertheless I thoroughly enjoyed The Dark Knight and I definitely state it as one of my favourites of 2008.

8/10

Losing the will to live with Facebook

I’ve endured five years of Facebook. A lot of those five years were made up of my pointless status updates and cringe-worthy tags in pictures, most of which I’d rather people wouldn’t put up anyway. I’d write things that I thought would be funny and get a small feeling of happiness whenever that rare moment came along when someone would ‘like’ it. I’d be able to brag at the good things in life, write what I had for dinner that day and make out that I’m incredibly ‘with it’ by saying “The devil is my bitch”. Yes, I know, I was a pathetic, sorry excuse for a human being.

So thank God things have changed! Facebook timeline has just reinforced my vague view that 3-5 years ago I was a complete moron with no sense of humour, very little personality and an obsession with how I’m perceived by the rest of the world. Now I’m one of those who couldn’t give a damn, partly thanks to Fight Club for opening my eyes to what is real and important in the world, and my girlfriend who loves who I am despite all my foibles. I’m no longer trying desperately to be the person that society wants me to be. But enough of this soppy shit. None of you want to hear all that!

Right now I’m thinking I’m going to deactivate my Facebook account and never use it again. But with this thought comes many others on what the consequences might be. I’ve held off from leaving in the past because I feel it’s an extra way of keeping in contact with friends and family who are too far away to see face-to-face. Another reason is that I feel people would forget about me, not invite me to get-togethers, and I’d eventually become lonely and depressed having no contact with those who I was once friends with. What has my life come to if I feel I need to rely on some crappy website to be remembered as a human being?

Weighing up these negatives with the smaller, but more numerous, positives is a tough thing to do, but I know that in the very near future I’ll leave Facebook for good. I’ve decided to be determined to not let my friends slip away from me, to keep in contact with them no matter how far away they are. Being shy and reclusive doesn’t help but after all the crap put up on Facebook by the makers and the folks that I follow, I really can’t be arsed with it all any more.

And please, don’t ‘like’ this post:

I’d prefer to hear your words than see your clicks.

Are you there, God? It’s me, Michael

Well, aren’t I tackling the massive questions early on! They don’t get much more massive than “Is there a God?”, and like many people in the world religion and the existence of God is a subject that I can talk for England about. It’s not because I’m a particularly religious person. It’s not that I’m a hardened atheist. It’s because I find the whole idea of religion incredibly interesting. Someday, for no spiritual reason, I want to read the Bible. My name’s Michael, I’m twenty-three, and I’m an agnostic.

Yep, I’m a fence-sitter. I’m a sitter of fences. My backside has been neatly perched on the fence. It’s not one of those painful, spiky fences though. It’s actually quite comfortable. And why is it that I’m sat on the fence, other than for metaphorical effect? Well, it’s because of the alternatives.

Take atheism for example. The whole belief that you die and that’s it doesn’t swing with me too much. If I had that state of mind I’d be walking around thinking “what’s the point? It’s unlikely I’ll be remembered by anyone in the future. Existence is futile”, and be a miserable, depressed git who people would rather not speak to. Some atheists are completely ignorant of religious folk, failing to acknowledge that it relies on faith and belief not facts and figures. These people are often… nobheads.

Then there’s theism, the belief in a God, and on the outside it seems quite pleasant. When you die, so long as you’ve led a good life, you go somewhere comforting and serene for the rest of eternity. You’ll have a reunion with friends and family that you were around in your life. On the other side of the coin, though, there may be rules you must obey; you’ll have to go to church, you’ll be sent to hell if you’re a homosexual, and if you use the word “fuck” in the same sentence as “God” then you’re likely to outrage some religious folk. Sorry about that.

Instead, then, I just live my life how I think it should be lived. And if, when I die, I am brought before God in order to repent my sins then I’ll admit I was wrong not to worship Him/Her/It as my creator. But I won’t regret anything I’d done in my life. The way I see it there’s loads more to being a good person than drinking wine and eating bread, singing carols in a church and putting your hands together before a meal.

I don’t need the Bible to tell me that. I want to read it though. To me, it’s a bit like Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter:

A bloody good story!

I aBLOGagise in advance

I’ve read around and have realised that many bloggers, when first starting to create a blog, spend a lot of time trying to think of a niche that they wish to tap in to. Well, my friends, I’ve thought about it and have realised I don’t want one! There’s going to be no common audience. One post could be about something completely different to the one before it. I’m sorry about this, but I do get distracted easily and feel the need to write about something completely different quite often.

What this blog will have are the ramblings of one incredibly shy and reclusive writer. I would expect these ramblings to come in the form of reviews, magazine-style articles and the senseless typing of things that make me angry, sad or happy… but what do I know? ‘Spontaneity’ is my favourite word! Well, either that or ‘foible’… I like that one too.

So if you fancy keeping track of this unpredictable load of old toss then make sure to return. If you feel like it you could make a comment on one of the many things I’ll be writing about. It’d be nice to hear from you, just so long as you have the time. I don’t want to put you out!

Well, would you listen to me! Rambling on already when I could have basically summed up what this blog is by saying this:

I Am What I Write

It’s pretty pretentious but I couldn’t give a shit. It sounds good!