Sunday, 31 October 2010

Frustratingly Flawed: Paranormal Activity 2 Review

My concern for Paranormal Activity as a franchise was that it would fall prey to the same problems that plague the Saw series. With each passing entry to the franchise being exactly half the quality of the last until all that's left is a dried up cash cow that's nothing more than a shadow of it's former self.

And as much as I would love to tell you that this is far from the case, unfortunately Paranormal Activity 2 looks to be setting that franchise on the same path.

With that said I think I'll begin with the positive.

(Warning - Mild Spoilers Ahead.)


The Good


The Story:
The story was easily one of this films greatest strengths, which is something I never imagined I would be typing in regards to Paranormal Activity 2. The set up and development of the plot are exactly what you would expect from this franchise based on the first entry. There's a house.... some people... some cameras... and of course, paranormal activities ensue. But beyond this, the films core story did something quite remarkable which really impressed me and showed off it's true potential.

Often sequels suffer from something I call "This story didn't need to be told" syndrome. Where the first movies story was wrapped up in a way that trying to squeeze a sequel out of it is very difficult and the writers have to find convoluted excuses to drag new stories out of the concept and bring characters back, of course this isn't the case for all films (some have concepts that naturally lend to sequels) but when this is the case it can result in sequels that simply don't need to exist. Yes I'm looking at you Matrix Revolutions....

And in all honesty when I saw the first Paranormal Activity I strongly felt it would fall into this category and that its sequels were doomed to struggle in terms of story. And to my surprise despite this films other shortcomings (more on that later) it did manage to completely avoid this problem.

A good sequel usually finds a way to be it's own film and have a story worth telling while, at the same time, supplementing the story of the original and adding to the mythology. About 15 minutes into the Paranormal Activity 2 it is revealed that we are not watching a sequel as we assumed, but a prequel. We discover this when the film quite obnoxiously states in massive typeface that these events take place about 60 days before Micah's death... while Micah is on screen. Anywho, back to my point, this is actually a very clever storytelling device because it means we get a glimpse at the events leading up to the first movie, and this opens opportunities to shed more light on it's somewhat mysterious story.

As this story of demon haunting progresses we discover that these events are quite literally the cause of the unfortunate fate that befalls Katie and Micah in the original film. I'm being intentionally vague here to avoid spoilers, but the way Paranormal Activity 2's story intertwines with the original is executed perfectly and it actually manages to make the first movie stronger by flawlessly expanding it's story in a way that both fits seamlessly with the original content and doesn't hinder it's own tale.

By the end of this film I truly felt that this sequel earned it's right to exist and that's an impressive feat in itself. Especially considering how complete the story felt after the first film.

Unfortunately, this is roughly all I liked about this film... the rest left something to be desired.


The Bad

Failure to Build Tension and Frighten:
What I feel made the first films horror effective was it's method of building tension by slowly escalating the nature of the demons activities. It started small and gradually became more and more overt, which worked because it created a certain level of believability, by the time you saw Katie dragged from her bed by her ankles, the film had been building up to an event of that size, so it didn't feel out of place. This sequel absolutely throws that out the door and becomes almost farcical as a result.

There's a haunting moment where the baby is slowly lifted out of it's cot by an invisible force, it's one of the films most innovative moments but unfortunately, the effect of this scene is lost because it happens earlier in the movie, at a point where the most the demon has done is close a door. This was such a jump in the scale of it's activities that the audience in my particular screening literally laughed out loud at this moment, because it seemed ridiculous to go from moving doors to floating children. Had the movie saved this moment for later in the film when we had experienced some of the demons other abilities we might have found ourselves finding it more believable. This is one example of a problem that persists throughout this film and it highlights the films greatest failure, it's inability to build tension.

The film also fails to truly frighten it's audience. The central reason for this is the absolute lack of innovation. It does almost nothing the first film didn't already do. Opening and closing doors? Check. Loud bangs? Check. The sound of footsteps without any identifiable source? Check. A demon communicating via a Ouija board. Check. Shadows moving across people while they sleep? Check. Whispering peoples names? Check. Dragging people from bedrooms by the feet? Check. Possession resulting from a weird bite? Check.
It doesn't take a screenwriting degree to know that something would struggle to be scary if the audience have seen it before.

In fact, the closest thing this film had to an original idea in terms of it's scares was having some of it's horror moments occur in the day. Which might sound like a good idea in theory, creating a situation where the audience won't necessarily see the scares coming because they expect them at night. But in practice it creates a problem. Some of the first film's tension stems from the audience being in a position of knowing when something was going to happen, but maintaining the element of surprise because they didn't know what.
Because frightening things only happened in the evening in the original, every time they cut to night vision you could literally feel the tension build for the audience. This sequel doesn't share these core sensibilities, instead going for cheap jumps with plenty of sudden and loud noises that can happen anytime, sacrificing the tension of the night time sequences to do so.


The Characters:
There really isn't much to say here. I've always stuck by the opinion that a film is only as good as the audiences empathy for the central characters. As an audience member, if you think the character is an asshole how can you be expected to care about whatever fate awaits them? And in a horror film it's particularly important, if you don't care then all sense of jeopardy and tension is gone. With Paranormal Activity 2, I didn't really care weather these people lived or died.

In this genre, poor characters have a greater effect on the films overall quality than most because they can severely effect the films believability.
Micah and Katie from the original felt well rounded. They were believable, flawed and had a certain depth. They may not have been the most likable characters in the world but you gained empathy for them simply on the level that they felt like real people. This helped sell the reality of the film and the more real it felt the scarier the moments of horror become.
The characters of Paranormal Activity 2 are flat, two dimensional and one note, causing it to feel far more like a film the it's predecessor. And when your films core is routed in the "Found Footage" genre, the last thing you want is the illusion to tear at the seams. Believability is key.


The Pacing:
The other issue that plagued this film was it's pace. In short, it was astounding to me that a script with such obvious and crippling pacing problems could even get green lit at all. How nobody spotted these issues is absolutely beyond me. Evidently, the writer sustained a rather large blow to the head at some point and thought that it would be a good idea to try and build tension in this film by having absolutely nothing happen for the first 30 minutes, which is both a completely ineffective method of building tension and a great way to make the audience completely bored and restless.

Now, normally I wouldn't single this out as such a huge problem, you can usually argue that this time was used to introduce the characters, set up the situation and develop the story but Paranormal Activity 2 is a short film with a simple premise, you don't need 30 minutes of set up. If you combine it's rather modest length with the amount of time wasted at the beginning you find that Paranormal Activity 2 is forced to cram all it's mythology, story development and scares into the latter half of the film in a rather rushed clumsy and heavy handed manner. The frustration of this is that it's pacing problem is easily remedied, all they needed to do was cut about 10 to 15 minutes from the beginning or maybe make the film a little longer. (Preferably both)

Remember all those really strong story elements I highlighted earlier? Yeah, well surprise surprise, thanks to the poor pacing the film manages to fuck those up too. Because a great idea can sit and be as great as it wants, but if it isn't fully developed and explored its wasted. And that's really the story of this film, wasted potential. It was frustrating to watch this interesting story squandered due to poor script decisions.

I loved the first Paranormal Activity. It was tense, subtle, creepy and had a level of realism that made it's horror elements all the more effective. Summed up, Paranormal Activity 2 tries hard to satisfy my desire for more of this franchise but it is unfortunately not cut from the same cloth. And despite it's potential, it's failures are undeniable and many. To quote Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw...

"It give(s) an inscrutable feeling of unease, as if a stranger has come into your home, thinly disguised as your best friend, and you're wondering if he intends to leave soon or murder you and cannibalise your body."

Anyway, thanks for reading.
-- Dan


PS - In an effort to put an arbitrary scoring system into place I give this film five rabbits out of twenty six.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Blogging... more work than it looks.

The thing is, on one hand, I truly wish I could update this blog more frequently... or at all for that matter. But on the other hand I flat out refuse to let this blog devolve into some drivel about what I had for breakfast this morning. (Coco Pops if you must know).

But this presents a problem for me, because it turns out writing a blog that actually has some substance is a lot of work, more work by far than I initially expected, and I'm a naturally lazy person. So I either resort to writing drivel (Yesterday it was toast) because it's easy and allows me to remain lazy or I finally get off my arse and do this thing properly.

So I've decided to continue my lazy ways... so I'll update again in about three months... see you then!

Only kidding, I've decided to make a proper go of this blog, writing about things that people actually might want to read about...

So for a start I'm not going to talk about myself anymore. Because it turns out I'm not really interesting enough of a person to be the focus of a blog, the lack and quality of my posts is evidence of that.
If I'm honest I don't think many people are interesting enough to be the subject of their own blog. I'm not dismissing the blogs out there that do focus on the lives of their authors, I just feel that there are more dull stories about people's daily routines than interesting ones, and I simply don't want to fall into that trap, because only a few can really pull that off.

So, instead of talking about myself I'm going to write blogs with substance, with meaning, with some form of subtle social commentary...

OK, on second thought, not that either. Somehow I doubt I can pull that off.

That really is the dilemma here, I'm not sure what I have left to offer the world of blogging...

Wait, can I rephrase that? By using the word "Left" I made it sound as though I at one point HAD something to offer the world of blogging.
And as far as I can tell the most I've ever contributed to the world of blogging was a series of inconsistent posts with little direction, a constant stream of apologies for the lack of updates and several promises to get my act together that never actually came to fruition. (And lets be honest, this post may very well turn out to be the latter.)

So what's left? What could I possibly offer the internet?

Maybe I WILL have to resort to posting more pointless rubbish. (I'm having porridge tomorrow, yes that's right, I plan my breakfast ahead.)

Wait, no. That's what Twitter is for.

I guess it's finally time to do that thing I've threatened to do since I first started this blog and actually start talking about screenwriting, TV and film type stuff.

Yes that's right, like a parent trying to get my kids to behave I'm finally going to have to follow through on my empty threat to show I'm not to be trifled with...

So from this point on this shall no longer be a directionless blog, I'll be writing about about films and TV style things.

So watch this space...

Thanks for reading.

-- Dan


PS: And no need to worry, I'm no retiring my PS's under this new regime. They just might be about screenwrite-y stuff instead.

PPS: Who am I kidding, their probably going to be as full of nonsense as ever.

PPPS: And yes, I am aware I made this very same promise ages ago and didn't follow through... what can I say. This may be an empty threat after all.... just like with my parents. They never did actually turn the car around.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Why Ricky Gervais is my hero.

If I'm honest, there are a million reasons why Ricky Gervais is one of my heroes. You really could just take your pick.

The incredible TV Shows he has created, his utterly brilliant stand up comedy work or even his contributions to podcasting.

But no, as much as I admire him for all of that, as of right now Ricky Gervais is my hero for one reason and one reason alone.

That reason being his fantastic response to the persistent rumors that he will be taking over the lead role in "The American Office" once Steve Carell leaves.


"There are still articles appearing about me taking over from Steve Carell on the American version of The Office. Maybe I haven't made it clear enough. I suppose it doesn't matter what I say for the world of entertainment news, so let's try a new approach.

Report one of the following...

I am definitely taking over from Steve Carell on The Office. Yes, I have been asked to take over as the new boss at Dunder Mifflin. I said yes. They made me an offer I just couldn't refuse. I will once again play David Brent and I take over next season. I can't wait. Steve Merchant and I will also write and direct. I will remain Executive Producer.

or...

I'm not taking over from Steve Carell and will just continue to make millions for doing fuck all because I created the show and all the characters, and own the format and it's being syndicated now and I get paid every time any episode of any version is played anywhere in the world, and I stopped my version at its height and I don't think I can improve on that, and I don't want to go back to that and get up at 6am every day of the week for 7 years.

Only one of these is true. I don't know which one to believe. What would you do if you were me?"


I mean, the man just has this incredible ability to bring painful levels of truth to his comments while being hilarious, I challenge anyone to dislike Gervais after reading that. Not that there was much reason to dislike him before.

I know some people weren't in love with his big screen efforts, but Cemetery Junction was proof that he has a future there too.

Anywho, this was just a quick one. So thanks for reading.

-- Dan

PS: I really need to update this more often, don't I?

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Wading Through The Ocean Of Mediocrity

Who doesn't love YouTube?
An infinite store of endless entertainment.
Of course, that's not quite the case is it? Because YouTube is on the internet. And the internet, as a rule, is diametrically apposed to the notion of quality control.
So while some very talented people and quality entertainment does exist on YouTube, I think it's safe to say there is an ocean of mediocrity and garbage to wade through before you can find it. So I figured I would search through the sea of shit that is YouTube so you don't have too, here are a couple of videos I like.

First up, as a little warm up, a video that shows a douche pretty much being a douche and getting exactly what he deserves.



Now, maybe I'm just a miserable shut in/hermit but I really don't see the fascination with chat-roulette. For those of you who are blissfully unaware and have managed to take a single step into the internet recently without stumbling upon chat-roulette. It's basically a skype type chat service where you hit a button and are randomly connected with a complete stranger, who presumably just did the exact same thing.

Now forgetting the unnerving potential to connect to someone to find the screen filled with a 40 year old mans genitals, there is something about this service which is completely beyond me.
Isn't this exactly the kind of thing your parents warned you about when you first got an internet connection?

But in truth, as much as I don't particularly like or have any use for this service, millions of people do, and some people are already using it to show off their talents, or fuck with people.
This next video is an example of someone using chat-roulette to showcase their piano and impov skills.



This person on the other hand used it to fuck with people, I warn you, this video is a little harsh.



I have a friend who's first reaction to that video was "Why didn't I think of that".
Which in truth, was my second thought after "that's pretty cruel."

Now, to lighten the mood, here is a video that proves that toy companies don't really think things through.



Poor Simba, although I'm pretty sure that wasn't in the movie, unless there is an unrated version I haven't seen yet.

Anyway, now I'm going to show you some people that are incredibly talented. Six drummers to be precise. This staged film shows them breaking into a house and using it to make some amazing sounds. And let me tell you, they put stomp to shame.
It does take a sec to get going though, so the impatient amongst you should just skip to about 1 minute and ten seconds.



Another thing that has become popular on YouTube lately (Apart from the annoying trend of Emo kids filming themselves mouthing along to their favorite depressing songs.) are remixes of already existing songs made by some other very talented people. Some of these are really truly brilliant. But here is my personal favorite, it's called "Office Musik" and is a mash-up of the theme to the American Office and Lil' Wayne's "Hustler Musik"



And I want to leave you with this clip, but trust me when I say it's best I don't introduce it, just have a look. But remember, no matter what your expecting, it won't be this.



Anyway,
Thanks for reading and watching.
-- Dan

PS: If I ever do a blog like this again, I might go for a horror theme and show you some of the scariest videos on youtube. There are plenty of really well made ones.

Monday, 8 March 2010

And the winner is...

Some of you may already know how I feel about award ceremonies, firstly, quality is subjective and therefore to get a true gauge of something’s quality, you must find consensus. Everyone should be able to vote for these awards, not a panel of judges. Secondly, the Academy's own prestige, credibility and existence, makes things more than a little political. For example, the Oscars have pretty much snubbed science fiction since the dawn of man, it seems they feel giving science fiction major awards will somehow diminish their credibility. Last years snub of the Dark Knight in the best picture category was an absolute joke. I’m not saying it needed to win, but at least give the highest grossing movie of year a damn nomination.

But this year, or at least I hope. Things will be a different. Two seminal science fiction films had some major success this year, and they have already been recognised in the form nominations in several categories (Including Best Picture). Let’s see how it goes, now as I write these words I haven’t yet seen the ceremony, so I have no idea who won what, and my plan is to write down my reactions and thoughts on the show as I watch it. I won’t mention everything, but I hope to cover as much of it as possible without boring people.

So here we go.

They have opened by dragging all of the “Best Actor/Actress” nominees onto the stage, I’m absolutely behind George Clooney getting the Best Actor award this year; he was utterly brilliant in “Up In The Air”. And of the Actresses this year I’m really hoping Carey Mulligan will get it, she deserves it.

Neil Patrick Harris has just hit the stage singing the words “I know what you’re thinking, what am I doing here?”. Neil I think you’re great, but seriously… that’s exactly what I’m thinking. Isn’t it traditional to have the host do the first musical number? His song appears to be a number designed to introduce the hosts, Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin, nice idea but some of the jokes in the song are falling a little flat, not a patch on last years recession based opening with Hugh Jackman.

Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin are on now, it's a simple stand up segment making jokes at the expensive of all the nominated actors and directors. What I love about this section is how beautifully tame and polite all the jokes are, they could of done as Ricky Gervais did at the Golden Globes and make some quite harsh jokes at the expense of the people involved, but Martin and Baldwin are from a different era of comedy and have a subtle but brilliant air of respect about their jibes. No jokes about Mel Gibson’s Alcoholism in sight, and while I don’t have a problem with that type of thing, I like that older comedians have a tendency to show more respect, and it made the routine a rather pleasant experience, I hope they keep it up throughout the show as it really separates them as hosts. George Clooney didn’t seem to appreciate any of the jokes aimed at him, he looked seriously annoyed at the second one, but it's entirely possible he was either simply caught off guard or simply playing along, either way it entertained.

Best supporting actor up first, I’m really behind Christoph Waltz on this one, he was an amazing villain in Inglorious Basterds. And the winner is… Christoph Waltz. Great news, and a nice very complementary and humble acceptance speech.

Animation up next, Steve Carell and Cameron Diaz are doing quite a clever introduction to this award, if you haven't seen it, I recommend you youtube it. The animation award absolutely HAS to go to Up. That film was wonderful in a way that none of the other movies in this category were. What’s really nice is that instead of showing clips from the movies they have animated the central characters of each talking about what the Oscar means to them, it’s really quite cool. Particularly the Fantastic Mr. Fox one “Best Animation? I thought we got nominated like a real movie?”. And the winner is… predictably but deservingly… Up. Pixar’s award cabinet must be getting pretty full right now. Toy Story 3 will probably get this award next year, and "Newt" will probably get it in 2012.

Original Screenplay up next. I sort of want this to go to Inglorious Basterds for it’s dialogue, but the story of Up was just so wonderful. And both were so funny (Admittedly in very different ways). And the winner is… The Hurt Locker. Not entirely surprising considering it won the same award at the BAFTA’s. It definitely deserves the award for it’s authenticity and for the efforts the writer went through to bring that truth to his movie.

A section dedicated to John Hughes who died late last year. A great little video package dedicated to him and some very kind works spoken from some of the cast of his movies.

Ben Stiller just hit the stage in full blue makeup as a Navi and started making an absurd attempt to speak Navi. As this started I thought, the only way this will be funny is if it somehow upsets James Cameron. But he seemed to be smiling, and I really didn’t think Ben Stiller was going to do well with such a silly idea, but then he uttered the words “This seemed like a better idea in rehearsal”. I thought that was very funny, then he said he was there to present the award for best make up, which he then admitted Avatar wasn’t nominated for. And just before he announced who won (I’m routing for Star Trek on the basis it isn't likely to win much else this year, which is a shame) he said he would be sure to stand as far away from the winner as possible when they come to collect the award “so as not to demean their moment of triumph”. I also thought that was pretty damn funny. So far I genuinely think Ben Stiller has stolen the show yet again, after his brilliant Joaquin Phoenix impression last year. And the winner is… Star Trek.

Best Adapted Screenplay up next, I want either Up In The Air or District 9 to win this. District 9 because it genuinely deserves the award and also, it would be a big step in the right direction in terms of the Oscars snubbing Science Fiction. But if it doesn’t win, Up In The Air was a great movie, and is thoroughly deserving of it. I’ll be a whole less upset about District 9 not getting the award if it goes to the equally deserving Up In The Air. And the winner is… Precious. Well, it’s all obviously subjective and opinion, but I really don’t feel that was the best screenplay there. A great movie it was, and it certainly deserves several awards but I’m not entirely sure best screenplay is something it should of won, particularly over the movies I mentioned above.

Best Art Direction now… I’m barely going to discuss this award. It’s quite simply, going to Avatar. No matter what. Sigourney Weaver is presenting, and the winner is… Avatar. Of course it is. Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin are now showing a video parody they made of Paranormal Activity. It’s quite funny, hopefully this will be on youtube later on for those who missed it.

A special and well deserved nod to Horror Films this year, ironically introduced as the genre that doesn’t seem to command the respect it did 33 years ago when The Exorcist won two awards. Especially ironic considering there isn’t a single Horror film up for an award on this show. Not to mention that most of the movies in the montage are about 20+ years old. Let me just make this clear, the reason Horror films don’t get the respect they used to, is partly BECAUSE the Academy doesn’t honour them anymore, and in all honestly, this made the montage feel hollow and token. Particularly when there have been some absolutely incredible Horror movies in recent years that were completely ignored come Oscar time. The Strangers, Saw, REC, Let The Right One In, The Decent, The Hills Have Eyes, 28 Days Later and Dawn of the Dead. Just to name a few. So yeah, nice try, but pointing it out and doing a montage does nothing but bring attention to the lack of credit this genre gets and doesn’t actually do anything to fix the problem.

I barely heard a word Elizabeth Banks said when she came out, but she did look great.

Now a fantastic montage in honour of those the industry lost this year; set to a cover of the Beatles Classic “In My Life” by James Taylor.

Although on a less serious note, the audience clapped at every name that came up until “Michael Jackson” appeared on the screen. You could literally hear the audience’s applause falter while people tried to remember his contributions to the film industry, which let’s be honest, are negligible. Then you could almost feel the audience think “Yeah, alright then, I guess, he did that one thing” and some applause rose. Now, don’t get me wrong, Michael Jackson is a genius in his field and should be respected, I just found him an odd choice for recognition here in this setting.

Next up, best original score. I genuinely loved this part of the show, they went to a lot of trouble and presented each nominee with an extraordinary and very well choreographed dance routine from the Legion of Extraordinary Dancers. Who did a great job and really did justice to the music involved and brought it to life as well as being damn entertaining. And the winner is… Up. Which had an utterly brilliant soundtrack and deserved it.

Next up, outstanding visual effects... lets be honest here, is going to Avatar. Even bothering to say the nominations is a waste of our time. Not to diminish the efforts of District 9 and Star Trek, which both looked great, but we all know where this is going. And the winner is… Avatar.

Best Actor/Actress now, in my opinion they always drag this particular award out to the point of nausea. But I guess it’s nice to spend a few minute talking up each actor/actress before handing out the award, it just bores the hell out of me personally, they did it last year as well. First up are the Actors, as I stated earlier I’m hoping Clooney gets this as I really felt he has the superior performance from Up In The Air. And the winner is… Jeff Bridges. Well, not at all surprising, and certainly deserved. Not who I personally wanted to walk away with it, but no complaints from me. Next up the Actresses, I’m pulling for Carey Mulligan in this category as I mentioned near the start. And the winner is… Sandra Bullock. I have the same reaction to this as I have to Jeff Bridges, not my favorite choice for it, but no complaints here.

Best Director now, I’d really like to see Kathryn Bigelow get this award because the Hurt Locker is such a well shot and directed piece of film. But if I'm honest, also a little because she would be the first woman to ever receive this award. But the reality is, she is up against Cameron and Tarrentino, so unfortunately I can’t see that happening. And the winner is… Kathryn Bigelow. Quite happy and a little surprised with that result, definitely deserved and she seemed absolutely ecstatic about it as well.

Next up, best picture. This is a big one for me, it’s time to see if the Academy will acknowledge science fiction in this all important category or not, Avatar and District 9 both deserve this, but they are up against some stiff competition, particularly in the form of An Education, Inglorious Basterds and The Hurt Locker. So here we go, Tom Hanks is out to announce it, no bells and no whistles this time, not even a need to read out the nominees since they have been going through them one by one over the course of the entire evening with introductions from supporting actors and showing short trailers. So it's just the announcement…

And the winner is… The Hurt Locker.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t saddened by this. But at the same time The Hurt Locker was an incredibly deserving movie. So it’s hard to really be upset about the award not going to a science fiction movie when the movie that did win was just so damn good. And in all honesty I think we took a step in the right direction this year, Avatar got the Visual Effects, Art Direction and Cinematography awards and Star Trek got Make Up award; that’s four awards for Science Fiction. Double what science fiction received last year when the only wins were The Dark Knight for Sound Editing and Supporting actor. (And lets be honest for a second, as much as Heath Ledger deserved that award, he wouldn't of got it if he hadn't died.) I also want to add that it is a crime that District 9 didn’t walk away with any awards this year, it was an extraordinary film that made it's science fiction seem so real that it often didn't even feel like science fiction.

So, after all of that maybe the Academy Awards are still not entirely free of their prejudice towards Science Fiction, but we certainly took a step in the right direction this year.

Maybe next year we can take a step forward in acknowledging the Horror genre.

So, to quote Steve Martin from the end of the awards.
“This has gone on so long that Avatar now takes place in the past”

So it's time for me to sign off.
Thanks for reading
-- Dan

PS: Here are the awards I didn’t mention because I honestly had nothing particular to say about them. Either because they weren’t at all surprising or because all parties involved were equally deserving.

Best Supporting Actress: Mo'Nique
Best Song: The Weary Kind from The Crazy Heart
Short Film: The New Tenants
Short Doc: Music By Prudence
Short Animated: Logorama
Best Costume Design: Young Victoria
Best Sound Editing: The Hurt Locker
Best Sound Mixing: The Hurt Locker
Cinematography: Avatar
Best Doc Feature: The Cove
Best Film Editing: The Hurt Locker
Best Foreign Language Film: The Secret In Their Eyes (El Secreto De Sus Ojos)


PPS: Sorry if my past and present tense's got mixed up alot during this piece, I'm watching the ceremony the morning after it aired, so it's in the past, but I was writing as I watched it making my writing style sometimes use present tense. So yeah, sorry if that means this was hard to read.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Bloglettes 3: Rise of the Blogage

That's right, it's time for the third edition of Bloglettes. It's been almost exactly a year since my last one. And for the benefit of those of you reading this and wondering "What the hell is a Bloglette?". Whenever I have a few different things I want to talk about, but none of them interesting enough to sustain a whole blog on their own merit I write a post combining them all under the "Bloglettes" title. And it goes something like this...

The Mailman's Ruse.
A couple of days ago a mailman knocked on our door, as they occasionally do, with a special delivery that required someone to sign for it. I opened the door and the postman extended his clipboard and pointed at the place I should sign. As I'm signing he says...

"It's for Daniel Do...."

And proceeded to trail off in the most unnatural way you can imagine. Honestly, it made him sound as if he were mentally ill. I, without thinking, glanced at him in a way that clearly showed my confusion and concern for his sanity. He quickly explained that he couldn't pronounce the name, to which I responded... "It's Doolan."

He smiles, nods and then explains that he didn't really have trouble pronouncing it. He just wanted to make sure I was who I was supposed to be. Now, honestly, in the moment I didn't see anything wrong with that statement. In the moment it seemed to be a perfectly logical thing to do. But a little later it dawns on me... did my postman just try to trick me? He did... he tried to catch me out... what an utterly pointless ruse.

Of course the package was going where it was supposed to... he was at my door... which is conveniantly located at the address on the package. And of course it was going to the right person... I live there, I answered the door. What did he honestly think I was, the worlds most idiotic criminal? Like I've broken into someones house and thought...

"Hang on, forget the TV and the Laptop... I'm gonna wait for the postman."

I realise I have clearly over-thought this... but I really do hope that one day he does catch someone out. Just because otherwise he has wasted alot of his own, and other peoples time.

Just a Thought 1
The other day I walked past a man who looked JUST like Captain Birdseye from the old Birdseye adverts. It was actually a little scary and I did genuinely consider asking him about the suspicious nature of that island full of children he used to have. But thought better of it once I remembered Captain Birdseye is fictional, and that accusing a stranger of potentially being a pedophile probably isn't the best idea. Especially someone with such a harrowing physical appearance.

Twitter Impaired.
Just a little advice to anyone with the ability to mobile tweet, if your phone has wifi or you have set up the twitter text service... don't ever take your phone on a night out. You are pretty much just going to come out of it looking like a fool.
A couple of weeks back I went out with some friends to Orange Rooms, a bar/club here in Bournemouth. Of course the night didn't start in Orange Rooms (Far from it) so I'm sure you can imagine that by the time I reached Orange Rooms I was pretty wasted. And all I remember thinking was that the DJ was a bit shit, I was having fun, but I wasn't particularly a fan of the music choices.

The next morning I awoke to discover I had tweeted my displeasure... multiple times and in alot stronger terms than I thought I did. To the point that it looked like I was having a pretty miserable night, and had some kind of problem with Orange Rooms, which just wasn't the case. I wasn't that bothered, but you wouldn't know that from the tweets, here they are in reverse order...

Not like you needed it, but here it is, more evidence to prove that mobile phones and alcohol are not a great combination. Weather it's drunken texts accidentally insulting or annoying friends or tweeting thoughts that make you look like some particularly pathetic creature who goes to clubs and stands in the middle of the dance floor determinedly not dancing in protest of the music. Of course the fact that I made a complete tit out of myself was embarrassing enough, but the next morning I was faced with this tweet... from Orange Rooms.

I have no intention of responding but I did feel quite bad about telling the world they had the shittest music in Bournemouth. Then I remembered that I only have a hundred followers and decided I didn't care.

Just a Thought 2
I think I buy FAR too many iPod/iPhone games. I realised I'd gone too far once I downloaded a game titled "Harry Potter: Spells". Of course I felt even more pathetic once the game sorted me into Hufflepuff house.

Creativity Is A Bitch.
Not so long ago I was trying to come up with an idea for a comedy sketch. And I will be completely honest with you here... it was torture. On this particular occasion I suddenly found myself completely idea-less, I literally spent hours and hours simply staring at a blank word document.

Eventually I decided that I just needed something to provoke my mind into action, get the ideas flowing. So I decided it would be a good idea to use a random word generator to help start the thought process. So I went to google, typed in "Random Word Generator" clicked on the first page and hit "Generate".

This is what it came back with...

(Click to make this larger.)

See? Even the internet had nothing. In the end I just gave up and waited for the idea to come naturally instead of trying to force it, the very thing I should of done from the beginning.

Just a Thought 3
Is it just me, or is the fact that
some words now have two meanings becoming a problem. I was on a train the other day and I witnessed a fantastic exchange between a Chav and whoever was on the other end of his phone, presumably another Chav. He seemed to be trying to explain to the person on the other end of the phone that he wasn't feeling well. Obviously I couldn't hear the other half of the conversation but here is what I heard.

"Man, I'm well sick... No, No, No, not like that. I mean I'm proper Ill... Nah mate, not like that, I mean I'm poorly."

What I love about this is that he had to explain himself twice. It took him three goes to finally a work to describe how he felt that wasn't also a slang term. Isn't that hilarious?

Maybe you had to be there. Anywho, I think it's time I put an end to this round of Bloglettes.

Thanks for reading.
-- Dan


PS: Yeah, I know I said the blog was going to be focusing on TV and Screenwriting now, but I couldn't resist.

PPS: And don't worry, the bloglettes will return in BLOGLETTES 4!

Monday, 1 March 2010

A Facelift And The Future

No guilt ridden opening paragraph about my lack of updates this week. It's unfortunate but I'm in my third year of university and that's keeping me plenty busy thank you very much. I really don't need any excuse beyond that while I'm working on three essays and the script for a feature film.

I have managed to give the blog a small face lift today after some constructive criticism about the colour scheme. Mainly, the purple text on the black black background which has become a small trademark of sorts that I was fond of. But realistically the criticism was valid, as nice as it was to have something that was marginally unique and consistent with my old blogs and sites, it was very difficult to read the text and after a few minutes could force the reader to strain their eyes and give them a headache. So here it is, slightly more dull but at least readable, white text on a black background with purple bits here and there. I also stretched out the width of the page itself as it wasn't filling the screen and was wasting space on either side. And with climate change and all that, I really didn't want to seem wasteful of anything.

In regards to questions of why this blog is even running anymore when I haven't been updating it regularly since early 2009. Well, in truth I do have plans to use this thing alot more regularly once I finish university, but there will be a refocus in the blogs content, which will no be more geared towards Television, Movies, Screenwriting and more specifically, the projects I'm working on. There will be regular updates and post about my work, weather it be the short film I'm contemplating shooting this summer or the audio drama I'm toying with producing as a podcast in the future. So hopefully that answers the question of why this blog is still running. Although to be hones, one of the main reasons I kept it was because I quite like having a @areyoustilltalking.net email address. Make's me feel all professional.

So watch this space.
Thanks for reading.
-- Dan


PS: Everything regarding the future in the above post is highly dependent on weather I survive the process of writing my dissertation or not.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Storm

I'm don't make a habit of posting other people's work on this blog as a quick fix, or something to simply fill the pages and supply content while I waste away my days trying to acquire that damn degree instead of posting stuff on this blog.
But truth be told, I'm not sure that's the case here. Even if I had the time to write a full blog right now, I'd still probably want to post this.

It's a beat poem written by a Musician/Comedian called Tim Minchin. He's utterly fantastic and this poem is truly something to behold. It speaks to me in so many ways.

I have posted the recorded version of Tim performing it below a
nd under that I have posted the lyrics, thanks to Angry Feet Forum, kindly written out by Tim himself.



“Storm”

By

Tim Minchin


Inner North London, top floor flat
All white walls, white carpet, white cat,
Rice Paper partitions
Modern art and ambition
The host’s a physician,
Lovely bloke, has his own practice
His girlfriend’s an actress
An old mate from home
And they’re always great fun.
So to dinner we’ve come.


The 5th guest is an unknown,
The hosts have just thrown
Us together for a favour
because this girl’s just arrived from Australia
And has moved to North London
And she’s the sister of someone
Or has some connection.

As we make introductions
I’m struck by her beauty
She’s irrefutably fair
With dark eyes and dark hair
But as she sits
I admit I’m a little bit wary
because I notice the tip of the wing of a fairy
Tattooed on that popular area
Just above the derrière
And when she says “I’m Sagittarien”
I confess a pigeonhole starts to form
And is immediately filled with pigeon
When she says her name is Storm.

Chatter is initially bright and light hearted
But it’s not long before Storm gets started:
“You can’t know anything,
Knowledge is merely opinion”
She opines, over her Cabernet Sauvignon
Vis a vis
Some unhippily
Empirical comment by me

“Not a good start” I think
We’re only on pre-dinner drinks
And across the room, my wife
Widens her eyes
Silently begs me, Be Nice
A matrimonial warning
Not worth ignoring
So I resist the urge to ask Storm
Whether knowledge is so loose-weave
Of a morning
When deciding whether to leave
Her apartment by the front door
Or a window on the second floor.

The food is delicious and Storm,
Whilst avoiding all meat
Happily sits and eats
While the good doctor, slightly pissedly
Holds court on some anachronistic aspect of medical history
When Storm suddenly she insists
“But the human body is a mystery!
Science just falls in a hole
When it tries to explain the the nature of the soul.”

My hostess throws me a glance
She, like my wife, knows there’s a chance
That I’ll be off on one of my rants
But my lips are sealed.
I just want to enjoy my meal
And although Storm is starting to get my goat
I have no intention of rocking the boat,
Although it’s becoming a bit of a wrestle
Because – like her meteorological namesake -
Storm has no such concerns for our vessel:

“Pharmaceutical companies are the enemy
They promote drug dependency
At the cost of the natural remedies
That are all our bodies need
They are immoral and driven by greed.
Why take drugs
When herbs can solve it?
Why use chemicals
When homeopathic solvents
Can resolve it?
It’s time we all return-to-live
With natural medical alternatives.”

And try as hard as I like,
A small crack appears
In my diplomacy-dike.
“By definition”, I begin
“Alternative Medicine”, I continue
“Has either not been proved to work,
Or been proved not to work.
You know what they call “alternative medicine”
That’s been proved to work?
Medicine.”

“So you don’t believe
In ANY Natural remedies?”

“On the contrary actually:
Before we came to tea,
I took a natural remedy
Derived from the bark of a willow tree
A painkiller that’s virtually side-effect free
It’s got a weird name,
Darling, what was it again?
Masprin?
Basprin?
Asprin!
Which I paid about a buck for
Down at my local drugstore.

The debate briefly abates
As our hosts collects plates
but as they return with desserts
Storm pertly asserts,

“Shakespeare said it first:
There are more things in heaven and earth
Than exist in your philosophy…
Science is just how we’re trained to look at reality,
It can’t explain love or spirituality.
How does science explain psychics?
Auras; the afterlife; the power of prayer?”

I’m becoming aware
That I’m staring,
I’m like a rabbit suddenly trapped
In the blinding headlights of vacuous crap.
Maybe it’s the Hamlet she just misquothed
Or the eighth glass of wine I just quaffed
But my diplomacy dike groans
And the arsehole held back by its stones
Can be held back no more:

“Look , Storm, I don’t mean to bore you
But there’s no such thing as an aura!
Reading Auras is like reading minds
Or star-signs or tea-leaves or meridian lines
These people aren’t plying a skill,
They are either lying or mentally ill.
Same goes for those who claim to hear God’s demands
And Spiritual healers who think they have magic hands.

By the way,
Why is it OK
For people to pretend they can talk to the dead?
Is it not totally fucked in the head
Lying to some crying woman whose child has died
And telling her you’re in touch with the other side?
That’s just fundamentally sick
Do we need to clarify that there’s no such thing as a psychic?
What, are we fucking 2?
Do we actually think that Horton Heard a Who?
Do we still think that Santa brings us gifts?
That Michael Jackson hasn’t had facelifts?
Are we still so stunned by circus tricks
That we think that the dead would
Wanna talk to pricks
Like John Edwards?

Storm to her credit despite my derision
Keeps firing off clichés with startling precision
Like a sniper using bollocks for ammunition

“You’re so sure of your position
But you’re just closed-minded
I think you’ll find
Your faith in Science and Tests
Is just as blind
As the faith of any fundamentalist”

“Hm that’s a good point, let me think for a bit
Oh wait, my mistake, it’s absolute bullshit.
Science adjusts it’s beliefs based on what’s observed
Faith is the denial of observation so that Belief can be preserved.
If you show me
That, say, homeopathy works,
Then I will change my mind
I’ll spin on a fucking dime
I’ll be embarrassed as hell,
But I will run through the streets yelling
It’s a miracle! Take physics and bin it!
Water has memory!
And while it’s memory of a long lost drop of onion juice is Infinite
It somehow forgets all the poo it’s had in it!

You show me that it works and how it works
And when I’ve recovered from the shock
I will take a compass and carve Fancy That on the side of my cock.”

Everyones just staring at me now,
But I’m pretty pissed and I’ve dug this far down,
So I figure, in for penny, in for a pound:

“Life is full of mysteries, yeah
But there are answers out there
And they won’t be found
By people sitting around
Looking serious
And saying isn’t life mysterious?
Let’s sit here and hope
Let’s call up the fucking Pope
Let’s go watch Oprah
Interview Deepak Chopra

If you’re going to watch tele, you should watch Scooby Doo.
That show was so cool
because every time there’s a church with a ghoul
Or a ghost in a school
They looked beneath the mask and what was inside?
The fucking janitor or the dude who runs the waterslide.
Throughout history
Every mystery
EVER solved has turned out to be
Not Magic.

Does the idea that there might be truth
Frighten you?
Does the idea that one afternoon
On Wiki-fucking-pedia might enlighten you
Frighten you?
Does the notion that there may not be a supernatural
So blow your hippy noodle
That you would rather just stand in the fog
Of your inability to Google?

Isn’t this enough?
Just this world?
Just this beautiful, complex
Wonderfully unfathomable world?
How does it so fail to hold our attention
That we have to diminish it with the invention
Of cheap, man-made Myths and Monsters?
If you’re so into Shakespeare
Lend me your ear:
“To gild refined gold, to paint the lily,
To throw perfume on the violet… is just fucking silly”
Or something like that.
Or what about Satchmo?!
I see trees of Green,
Red roses too,
And fine, if you wish to
Glorify Krishna and Vishnu
In a post-colonial, condescending
Bottled-up and labeled kind of way
That’s ok.
But here’s what gives me a hard-on:
I am a tiny, insignificant, ignorant lump of carbon.
I have one life, and it is short
And unimportant…
But thanks to recent scientific advances
I get to live twice as long as my great great great great uncles and auntses.
Twice as long to live this life of mine
Twice as long to love this wife of mine
Twice as many years of friends and wine
Of sharing curries and getting shitty
With good-looking hippies
With fairies on their spines
And butterflies on their titties.

And if perchance I have offended
Think but this and all is mended:
We’d as well be 10 minutes back in time,
For all the chance you’ll change your mind.

------------------------------------------------------------------


And on top of that, this poem is soon to be turned into an animated film, I'm not sure how it will be distributed, but it looks great. Here's the trailer.

Hope you enjoyed that.

Thanks for reading!

-- Dan