27 November 2011

Fucking Cult

When you get obsessed with a famous person, the traditional thing to do is to follow them around for a bit, tell them you love them and then shoot them in the face. When you get obsessed with a movie, you dress up as the characters, tattoo their faces onto your body and then if you're truly dedicated, stalk and then kill the cast. It's just the done thing. However, if you're not from America, the mental capital of the West, then you'll probably just spend a shit load of money on merchandise and watch the films a lot.

Of course people can get obsessed over any film but for the most part, it seems that cult films are the ones that obtain the more dedicated following. If Crazy Bob's favourite film is The Rocky Horror Picture Show then chances are he's probably wearing a pair of knickers and thinking of putting some vagina-pink lipstick on. If he likes Star Wars then I'd suspect he dreams of changing his name to Obi Wan Kenob-head and spends his days wondering why his home-made lightsaber doesn't work and if he'll be lucky enough to get off with his sister. My favourite film is Trainspotting and so to show my appreciation, my hobbies include shagging underage girls, heroin addiction, child neglect and of course, sifting through my own shit to get that one last high.

I'm sure there are plenty of definitions of what a cult movie is, but I guess to me it would simply be a film loved by a small few and mostly forgotten or ignored by the dopey masses. Withnail and I is a cult movie as it's relatively unheard of and a favourite of those who've seen it. The same goes for others such as Rushmore, Brick, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and more or less anything by Lynch or Cronenberg.

Recently I believe there should be a new film to put in that cult film category and that is Scott Pilgrim Versus the World. On the surface, this seems like something that should have reached the mainstream. From the director of Shaun of the Dead and the star of Superbad, it is an action-comedy with great music and great jokes. Unfortunately though, when it was released into cinemas, it only made about £12.80 back. For some reason nobody went to see it, or at least not enough did.

In all honesty, I don't know why that was the case. The reviews were great, the trailers were exciting and who doesn't love Michael Cera? Therefore, I can only assume the lack of audience was due to human error. The kind of human error that allowed the planet to be populated by a bunch of tasteless retards who'd rather pay huge sums of money to see crap like Transformers 3 than anything else with even an ounce of originality and quality.

As a slight side note, I slag off Transformers 3 quite a lot. It's sort of become my shorthand for a shit film that makes a lot of money and because I was getting a little bored of referencing it, I thought I'd find myself a new example and so googled, “worlds highest grossing movies”. I checked out the list and to my horror discovered that Transformer 3 is in fact the forth most profitable film of all time. What the fuck! How is that piece of shit so high? I knew it had made a lot of money but I didn't realise our species was in that bad a state. So far it has made well over $1,000,000,000 which is so depressing that I just want to go and stick my head in the oven. It is literally one of the worst movies I have ever seen, and for so many reasons.

Seeing that figure really puts Scott Pilgrim's financial failure into perspective- if Scott Pilgrim was a singer, it would be the equivalent of watching David Bowie busking on the streets as people walk past and flick the occasional penny of pity at him. If Transformers 3 was a singer, it would be the equivalent of watching an arrogant and ugly tramp fart and shit his way through a recurring chorus of Barbie Girl to a sell out crowd at Wembley Stadium. Meanwhile, a series of trucks dump money onto the stage so he can pay for all the prostitutes and rentboys in the world to suck his warty, diseased cock. Our species is fucked, and this is the proof.

I was talking to a friend shortly after the release of Scott Pilgrim and he asked me if I'd seen it. I said I had and that I loved it. He then described it as, “one of the weirdest films of all time”. It hadn't even occurred to me that this film could be considered weird to a none-film fan. It's just a musical but with the songs replaced with fighting- what's odd about that? Beyond the funk-fu, it's a fairly straightforward story. I asked him why he thought it was so weird and he replied, “I dunno it was just weird”. With that as the greatest example of elaboration, I recommended that he watch Inland Empire, Videodrome and Ichi the Killer to see what an odd film actually was. I then promptly stopped talking to him and deleted him from my life. What a tit!

Scott Pilgrim Versus the World is a great example of a couple of things; for a start it's a romantic comedy that not only doesn't conform to any cliché, but is so original that you'd assume it was made in an alternate dimension where The Notebook didn't exist... what a wonderful world that would be. There's a line in Scott Pilgrim where Scott's new girlfriend states vulnerably that she's, “never kissed a boy before”. Scott looks at her for a second to which we assume he's going to kiss her. We think this because we've been conditioned by other (shitter) films to expect it; we've seen it all before. However that's not what he does. She say's that she's, “never kissed a boy before”, to which Scott simply replies, “me neither” and then walks off.

It's also the best videogame adaptation that I think I've ever seen. For some reason, any video game that gets turned into a film, gets turned into a shit film. Hitman, Tomb Raider and Resident Evil are all undeniable turds. However- Edgar Wright has managed to avoid this curse by sneakily adapting his videogame movie from a videogame that doesn't actually exist.

In fact, this videogame feel is possibly what turned off so much of what should have been its audience. I know I angrily compared the profits of Scott Pilgrim to that of Transformer 3, but in a way I'm glad it did shit. The best cult movies are those that feel like they were made just for you, and that's exactly how I feel about this film. I don't want other people thinking that too because it was made for me. I play too many videogames and despite a recent bumpy ride, my heart firmly belongs to Nintendo.

When I was nine years old I got my first console; the Nintendo 64. It became my childhood. When I watch Scott Pilgrim, I understand all the videogame references and languages because I've lived them. I recognise things like 'getting a life', 'K.O.' and '1UP'. I know that the band 'Sex Bob-Omb' is a Super Mario reference and to hear the Universal Studios logo theme music performed in glorious 8bit is a nostalgia trip more powerful than shoving me headfirst back into the womb.

...And that's not even mentioning Zelda. The way Mark Chapman felt about John Lennon is how I feel about that franchise. Zelda is my favourite game franchise of all time and when I say I love it more than most of my family, that's not just because I don't particularly like most of my family, which I don't. Scott Pilgrim is full of references to these games from the opening music, the soundtrack whilst he pisses, Gideon's logo looking like the Triforce and of course, the dark Scott Pilgrim at the end. It's hard for me not to like something that clearly loves and respects the very same things that I do. I spent more time in Hyrule growing up than I did in school and the only thing that I regret is allowing school to stand in the way of me spending even more time there.

It's funny as well, that on the surface, this shouldn't be a cult movie. Like I mentioned, it's two selling points are that it is from the director of Shaun of the Dead and the star of Superbad. However, look a little deeper and you'll see that those two men both have their roots in cult TV. Michael Cera starred in the little seen and prematurely cancelled Arrested Development and Edgar Wright directed the underground hit Spaced. It's obvious now as well, how this is the film to finally allow Wright to display the style that he showed in his TV show all those years ago. Many people would assume that Shaun is closest to Spaced because of it's cast and humour, however, here Wright was relatively restrained. It's only now, with Scott Pilgrim, that we see Spaced on crack- both feature plenty of split-screen, whip-pans, pop culture references and revolve around a jobless man in his early twenties with girl troubles. Scott Pilgrim is basically what happens when you give potentially one of our generations greatest directors the money to do what he wants.

I'm not saying that Scott Pilgrim Versus the World is the greatest film of all time, but it is one of my favourites, and if you play enough videogames it'll easily become one of yours too. Keep it to yourself though please, I don't want this film to get too popular. It likes what I like; it's funny, sweet, action packed and I love the characters. All that and I haven't even mentioned Ramona Flowers. All Scott has to do is fight seven people to be with her. Have you seen her? She's amazing! I'd slaughter several children and burn down a school just to kiss her on the lips... and I'd even let her choose which lips...

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21 November 2011

Solaris: A Film That Snobs Think We Should Like

2001: A Space Odyssey is overly long, pretentious, up its own arse, and just plain boring. Look- I've said it, it's out there and I refuse to take it back. It's nothing against Kubrick particularly as I love all of his other films from Dr. Strangelove to A Clockwork Orange, it's just 2001 bores the hell out of me. I want to like it (I really do!), but I've just never clicked with it. I know I'm wrong and it's a masterpiece, but I just can't get into it. However, I do think I have just discovered a new-found appreciation for it as the other day I sat through the original Solaris.

I say 'sat through' because I certainly didn't enjoy it. It was more of an endurance test than anything else. Everything about 2001: A Space Odyssey that I didn't like was here- and worse. At least 2001 has a good soundtrack and I can see effects and shots in it that I admire. Every second of Solaris made me long to be watching 2001 and I can't wait to re-watch it now, so that perhaps finally I can see what all the fuss is about.

As for Solaris; well, fuck me, it was long and dull. If I thought 2001 was up its own arse well then this one is so much further up that you can't tell what's arse and what's not. I don't mind long films but it would be nice if, in a three hour running time, something fucking happened. It's sort of like an anti-transformers movie. Transformers is crap (or at least the sequels are), the reason they're crap is that there is nothing 'to' them except explosions and loud noises. Michael Bay has spent so long trying to hold your attention by blowing shit up that he forgot to include any subtext, meaning or story. What Solaris seems to have done is cram in so much meaning, self-importance and subtext that it forgot that it also needs to be able to hold your attention with a story... or not even a story, just something happening would be nice.

The story, for what it is, is about a man who goes to a space base and meets his wife who's been dead for almost a decade... and that's about it. For the remaining time we just watch him mope about in his undercrackers trying to figure out what's going on, wondering what it is that makes us human and thinking about maybe staying on the base forever... literally nothing else happens. It's just a man with his balls out having a good hard think about things.

Inland Empire is one of my favourite of David Lynch's films. It's about the same length as Solaris and makes even less sense, however with that film I find the events enjoyably baffling, engrossing and nightmarish. Inland Empire is complete waffle but it still has subtext, interesting characters and unlike Solaris, things happen. I don't entirely know what is happening but the fact that something is happening means my attention is being held.

There is a sequence in Solaris in which we see a man driving down a road and appear shots of lots of traffic - I'm not sure how long this lasted for but it felt like fucking hours. I read afterwards that one of the reasons that this is the length that it is, is because the director had to travel from Russia to Japan to obtain the shots. As this kind of thing was quite difficult to do back in the early 70's, they made the sequence last to justify the effort that had gone into acquiring it. I appreciate the dedication involved but surely I'm not the only one who thinks a man driving his car is boring to watch. And when I say 'boring', I of course mean the 'so-mind-numbing-that-you'd-consider-finding-some-actual-traffic-just-to-throw-yourself-in-front-of' kind of boring. Couldn't he have just shortened the sequence and justified it on the grounds that getting those shots was simply necessary. To me that is just the same as Michael Bay lingering on a car chase because he's been given the money to do it; surely it's best to get the shots that are needed for a film as opposed to altering a film to accommodate the shots.

Don't get me wrong however, I would rather watch Solaris on a continual loop with my eyes pegged open like eggy-weggy Alex than sit through Transformers 3 again. There was plenty to admire about it from its use of colour, set design and even its themes and ideas, I just wish it had been a little more watchable. To me, it was a thirty minute story stretched out to three hours- it was like an overly long, pretentious episode of the Twilight Zone written by the worst dullard at the peak of his raging alcoholism.

I can see, as well, how it has influenced so many films that have come afterwards. In fact some of my favourite films such as Sunshine, Moon and The Fountain can all clearly be seen to have taken ideas from it. Moon deals with two characters secluded on a moon base; one of which can't be real. Sunshine too deals with the nature of our humanity, with Danny Boyle repeatedly claiming to have been influenced by Solaris. The Fountain, beyond anything else, seems to have borrowed the visuals- particularly those of a more surreal but organic nature. It also proposes space as a more spiritual place and even has its lead character haunted by the memory of his selfishly dead wife.

However just because something can inspire things I like doesn't mean I like it. The difference between those three films and Solaris is that they are ninety minutes long with more happening in ten minutes than the entire running time of their Russian inspiration. In just ten minutes of Sunshine, we go from the discovery of an old space craft, the decision to locate it, the attempt to locate it, a fault in their own ship and the death of a crew member. In ten minutes of Solaris we go from a man standing in the rain staring out ponderously to a man deciding to stop standing in the rain, staring out ponderously.

In fact the only exciting bit of Solaris was the three seconds in which a semi-naked dwarf appears and is promptly thrown back through a door. I've no idea what the fuck that was about, and at no point does anybody mention it. It's one-hundred-and-eighty minutes of being lectured about 'what we are' with a quick cameo from a midget with his arse out. It's like the director Tarkovskiy just threw that bit in to see if everybody was still awake.

Having said all that, part of me would still like to see it again. Like 2001, I know it must be me that's wrong; it's supposed to be a classic and I could see things I would have liked to like, it just annoys me when a film seems completely up itself. If there's one good thing I can say about this, its that it does make me want to re-watch Kubrik's supposed sci-fi classic. Then if I can acquire the taste for that, maybe I'll come back to this one too. They're both quite long so next time I have a spare week I'll give them a chance. They're like an abusive partner in that I want to like them but they're making it difficult... and they always think they know better.

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14 November 2011

It's The End Of The World!

There are lots of different types of films out there; fantasy, war, western, porn, but for some reason there is one more than any other that I enjoy the most. When sitting back to relax for a couple of hours with a movie, there is nothing I like better than watching the end of the world. I don't know what it is about seeing our species fuck everything up but I really get a kick out of it. This apocalyptic sub-genre crossbreed between sci-fi and horror fascinates me.

I don't like people, really. I like the people I know, but those I don't have simply been put on this Earth to wind me up. An example of this would be the lollipop lady at the end of my road. She crossed me over once and I said thank you. So shocked by my politeness she took it upon herself to chat to me everyday afterwards, during which she'd ask me odd questions like, “Have you ever been to Constantinople?” This went on for a few months until it came to Christmas when she had apparently bought me a card. Some people might find that a bit odd but that wasn't what bothered me. What bothered me was that it wasn't in an envelope and she pulled it straight out of her knickers. She said, "I've got you a card", put her hands down her pants, had a quick root around and then pulled it out. After receiving my festive card of fanny juice, I started to go the long way 'round to get past her. I also started having nightmares about her, watching me through my window- just staring at me with her cold dead eyes and in her bright yellow jacket. All of that trauma just because I said, “Thank you” to a stranger.

So sitting down to watch a film in which most people are dead seems like good fun to me. Films like Children of Men, The Road, 28 Days Later and Mad Max all depict a realistic living hell and it makes for great cinema. Turn the sound off whilst watching any of those films and they'll still be amazing simply due to the scenery and visuals. Shots of long deserted highways or an empty London highstreet are simply jaw dropping to me.

However, keep the sound on and you'll be exposed to the high levels of intelligence that these films contain. With Children of Men we are thrown into a story which touches upon immigration, apathy, government conspiracies and other small questions such as the meaning of life and the purpose of our existence. Compare that to something like American Pie in which the main question is 'who's jizzed up who' and you'll appreciate it even more.

The other thing I admire with these films is just how in-your-fucking-face they are. If movies were dogs then for the most part, the studios are the vets. They cut the balls off and remove the bite. The studios worry about films that might cause a little controversy and so remove any sign of trouble before some skin wasting, fucktard can get offended. The Road starts with Viggo Mortensen teaching his young son how to kill himself properly and he's a good parent for doing that. Any film that has the bollocks to contain a scene in which a lesson in suicide preparation is evidence of parental love and responsibility is going to go down well with me.

And in all honesty, lets face it, the future doesn't look bright for us. We aren't heading for some hippy-like, fuck-a-tree planet. We're heading towards a world run by corporations in which decisions are made not because of what's best for our humanity but what's best for those shit floaters at the top. It's therefore nice to watch these end of the world movies and wonder, “What would I do if I was born then?” It's basically a fun little game of seeing the horror that your grandchildren will be put through if you're stupid and selfish enough to shoot a baby out of your genitals into the world.

Despite being set in the grimmest of conditions, these movies are, at the end of the day, all about wish fulfilment. Everybody wishes that they could be invisible or see through walls to allow for maximum pervage. Well, in the same way that we dream about having superpowers we also dream about surviving the apocalypse. Lets face it, I have no idea what I'd do if there was a rapist in my house- if Zombies were to attack though I would simply initiate step one of my fifteen part survival plan. It involves hiding in the attic, shitting down the hatch and if necessary: a daring roof-top escape to the Spar.

It's always occurred to me as well, that these days we really do seem to rely quite a lot on technology. I'm not snobby about it and I think the more things that can be invented to make my life easier the better. If they could make some sort of handsfree blow-job machine that wasn't quite as strong as a hoover I would certainly consider buying it- which is why perhaps the apocalypse seems to involve too much or too little technology. Films like The Road show us what life would be like without the iPhone; films like The Terminator and The Matrix show us what will happen if our inventions decide 'enough is enough' and turn against us. It turns out that because we've made them so well, if they do attack, we're more or less fucked.

To me, these 'survival movies' are more uplifting then any “feel-good” film out there, such as The Full Monty. The grimmer the situation, the more uplifted I end up feeling. Any sign of hope or act of kindness is so very relieving that even despite my hatred of people, I can't help but be forced to appreciate them. Children of Men is pretty high on the worlds-gone-to-shitometer but the ending is so uplifting, you can't help but feel good about life- and that's despite the ending not even being completely positive. After seeing most of the cast die and society destroy itself, it simply hints that things might stop being quite as wrist-cutty as they are now. If I was to compare it again to The Full Monty then knowing our species has a chance of surviving Hell on Earth makes me feel a lot happier than seeing Robert Carlyle flash his scottish cock to a room full of working class tarts. But thats just me I guess ...

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