The Raven Volant

Three weeks today until London. Three weeks until I spend the longest time amount of time in a different country, ever. The last time I spent so long outside of Belfast was for a month in 1999 in Chicago when I was eleven and again when I was fourteen, so it's been a long time since I've done anything like this, well I've never done anything quite like this but you get what I mean. To be honest the idea of spending two months in London kind of terrifies me. Whenever you spend a few days in place like London or Paris or Chicago (or any city you care to mention) what you immediately discover is that it's next to impossible to comprehend just how big a place it really is. It's bigger than you are, much bigger, and much older too. Cities like those have their own ways of doing things, life runs differently there compared to anywhere else, and if you don't settle into it's ebbs and flows and rhythms pretty damn quickly then you're about four seconds from being swept away in the madness of it, or worse. So, as you can tell, I don't have my heart set on going to London as much as I did this time last week. In a pretty short space of time I had everything set in stone from my new employer, I booked my flights, and although I've yet to settle on a place to stay just yet I hope to have it sorted in the next day or so. Thinking about all of this two nights ago led to a very sleepless night, and my dreams were very unhappy because I'd worked myself up into knots. But what it did make me realise - and I'm glad I realised this - is that although I took a very difficult decision very lightly, I'll have to live with the consequences of not thinking everything though if/when the whole thing fucks up. But one thing I'm happy about is that even though I'm absolutely terrified that everything will fuck up, I know I've made the first step of getting to where I want to be. I've known since I was very young that wanting to be a writer wasn't going to be an easy job. I knew that the work would be irregular and that the money wouldn't be enough to support me, but I've made a decision to do something that (for better or worse) will give me the chance to do what I want to do with my life.

That's something, right?

In the wee small hours of this morning I finally finished reading the beguiling masterpiece that is Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, and what a massive undertaking it was too! I've never spent so much time reading a book as I have with JSAMR (in that it's been sitting on my shelf for about six years and was occasionally used to prop up my old computer...) and took about two months to read from start to finish. Then again I've never read a book anywhere near so long. I'm not going to review it, not because I don't want to, but to condense a phonebook sized novel like JSAMN into a review would be physically impossible. Nothing short of a thesis could do a book like JSAMN justice. The movie rights were sold to New Line a few years ago, but as much as I love the book and would love to adapt it myself (I would do a grrrreat job) a two hour thirty minute movie simply couldn't scratch the surface of the intricacies of this story. It would be beyond awesome if the BBC made a ten hour miniseries, but I guess that isn't going to happen any time soon. Or ever. Lame. The BBC do period dramas on a great scale and could probably do justice to the complicated CGI given enough time. The characters are so unbelievably fleshed out, and every voice is unique, which leaves me ripping my hair out that I couldn't even do 1/10th of that! Speaking of which, my writing is going really well lately. I need to start blogging more about my novel. I'm up to around chapter ten, with about thirty-thousand words written, and the book and it's sequels are all planned out. If I could emulate a quarter of the awesome that is JSAMN then I would be a very happy bunny.

Every so often I think readers are privileged to be invited into the kind of universe that Susanna Clarke has crafted with JSAMN. It happened with His Dark Materials (a trilogy that without a doubt changed my life utterly) and although JSAMN hasn't had quite the same impact, I am proud to say I now fly the Raven Volant, and patiently await the return of John Uskglass.

Iorek, HDM

This is why I'm happy

I've wanted to tell you guys my awesome news ever since last week, but I decided to hold back until everything was confirmed, which it finally was, today! So are you ready to hear my very fucking awesome news?

You Sure? Okay, here goes...

I've gotten myself a job. As in intern. In London. !.

I've gotten myself a job as an intern at London working for the largest gay-men's magazine in the world - GayTimes, a magazine that I adore. I am SOOO fucking excited! I worked on the application for about a week, putting my portfolio together and writing an article I'd been planning especially for it. I photoshopped the article - which you can read below - onto an actual page of the magazine, which I sent along with two previously published pieces and a very impressive sounding letter to the editor, which I guess was just what they were looking for! Pretty amazing, huh? I never expected in a million years that straight out of Queen's I would finally get to try my hand at something I've always wanted to do - 1) working at a magazine, and 2) working in London. The logistics of having to organise flights and a place to stay will doubtless be complicated and tedious, but at the moment I'm happy to let the wonderful news just sink in. My Ugly Betty dream is finally happening :)

So are you guys happy for me? The internship is only for one month, from September 14th to October 16th (which means being away over my 22nd birthday =\) but it's still pretty awesome right?

There are so many things I want to do while I'm there that I've just never had the opportunity to do before in London. I'm thinking of going over there a few days early just settle in and make sure I know exactly where I'm going (and spend a ridiculous amount of time at BFI Southbank, The National Gallery, and The House of Homosexual Culture). I know I might be getting a little overoptimistic about the whole thing but I really am hoping more than anything that this is the beginning of my professional career as a writer. If not, at least I'll have a fucking fantastic time of it, and more importantly I'll get firsthand experience of what it's like to live and work in London and see if it's something I actually want to do. I'm happy at last, that's the important thing, and it's good to feel suddenly so very grown up :)

Obscene to be Believed

Decades before the Wolfenden Report and the Sexual Offences Act decriminalised homosexuality, there was Quentin Crisp - raconteur, eccentric, ‘stately homo of England’.

Not since Saint Wilde himself had an openly gay man captured public attention in quite the same way. ‘Everything changed the moment [he] arrived’ on Christmas day 1901, and in less than twenty years Crisp would step out onto the streets of London ‘blind with mascara and dumb with lipstick’. Crowds would follow wherever he went, and both insults and punches were frequently thrown, but not once did Crisp waver from ‘making the existence of homosexuality abundantly clear’. Having been barred from national service during World War II on the grounds of ‘suffering from sexual perversion’, for Crisp the war was a happy time of parading through Soho in his trademark black fedora, and using the cover of blackouts to disguise a multitude of sins. When the war was over he worked as a model for life drawing classes, and eventually turned a neatly manicured hand to writing.

Published only a year after the repeal of the Buggery Act in 1968, The Naked Civil Servant—the memoir for which Crisp is best known—was not an instant hit. It took the groundbreaking ITV adaptation in 1975 (starring John Hurt in the lead role) that rocket Quentin Crisp to international renown. For a generation of gay men his painted toenails, hennaed hair and flamboyant dress were liberating like nothing that had come before, and with his new-found fame and the growing face of homosexuality in 1960s Britain, Crisp quipped: ‘The cry went up that England was going to the bitches’. The overnight success of The Naked Civil Servant launched his career into the bright lights of New York City. His success had come at last, even if he had to wait until the stately age of 67.

From there he made a life’s work of making himself heard. He described being gay as something to not be particularly proud of, and of gay pride he wrote: ‘I do not march [because] I represent nothing grander than my own puny self. I am first and last an individual, not a spokesman for any group. I have lived my life with my sexuality clearly apparent. I cannot do any more’. In the 1980s his New York celebrity was marred when he called the AIDS epidemic ‘a fad’ when in the space of just a few years AIDS had decimated the New York gay scene. Crisp never apologised, but his career went from strength to strength. His one man show regularly filled entire theatres, he contributed film reviews to magazines, played Elizabeth I in Sally Potter’s Orlando, and appeared in Jonathan Demme’s Philadelphia. On the night before An Evening with Quentin Crisp was due to begin its UK run, Crisp died peacefully in his sleep.

With the tenth anniversary of his death upon us the stately homo has never been more popular. In January Tim Fountain's Resident Alien (based on Crisp’s diaries) played at the New End Theatre in Camden; Richard Laxton's An Englishman in New York (in which Hurt reprised his role as Crisp) premiered at the 23rd London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival; from July he appeared alongside such other greats as Virginia Woolf and Joe Orton in the National Gallery's Gay Icons exhibition; and in November his final collection of work—Dusty Answers—was published.

Since his death comparisons with that other legendary wit Oscar Wilde have been plentiful, and Crisp is often described as Wilde’s modern-day incarnation. On his release from Reading Gaol in 1897 Wilde wrote: ‘We shall win in the end; but the road will be long and red with monstrous martyrdoms.’ Unlike many of his generation who died on shell-torn battlefields in two World Wars, Quentin Crisp martyred himself on street corners every day of his life. If it weren’t for his determination to drag homosexuality kicking and screaming into the sunlight, it is possible that in these isles one might, like Wilde, be made a criminal for the love that dare not speak its name.


I'm alive!

I knew I’d take forever to update this thing, but I wasn’t expecting it to take quite this long! Now that university is finished (for now at least) I finally have a lot of free time on my hands, which is totally inimical to me since I basically lived in the library for the whole of the last semester, so I figured ‘why not blog’. I can happily report that I graduated with my target of a 2:1, but when I saw that my GPA was 66 and the cut off point for a First was something like 68, well, you get where I’m going with this… At the moment I’m sending out applications for internships at various London-based magazines, namely GayTimes, Attitude, and Total Film. The plan is to work for the next year, see where my life is going by the end of it, and by next September I will—hopefully!—be returning to Queen’s to continue my dissertation as a post-grad. I’m not so sure if this is a good idea, what with me wanting to burn it all in a big skip towards the end, but I blame my advisor for not in any way actually providing advice. The problem was that from the very beginning I was taking on more research than it could have done in two semesters (my adviser didn’t tell me this until… oh, say, December) so my abstract saw about six different drafts and I ended up having to scrap three months of research and writing when my adviser casually told me to start from somewhere else entirely. Because of this wasted time I had to drop researching The Chronicles of Narnia and the Harry Potter series, which I was looking forward to reading again in full. But this time I’ll be better prepared – I’ll know how to better organise my junk, I’ll know which sources are useful and which aren’t, and since my dissertation ended up being worth an amazing double 75, I have a really really good base to build on. Anyway, on to movies!

This summer’s blockbusters have pretty much been a huge disappointment. I didn’t bother to catch Wolverine, I’m not a big enough fan of the X-Men series to really care about a spin-off, and when the fanboys react badly that really puts me off. Drag Me to Hell was one of the single worst movies I’ve seen in a long time, seriously what’s Sam Raimi’s appeal? Utter trash. Terminator Salvation really let me down too. I was looking forward to seeing it for a long time, so it’s a pity it turned out to be just okay (even if my future wife Helena Bonham Carter made a brief appearance). Despite the over-reliance on CGI and a weak storyline I really enjoyed Star Trek for giving a seriously uncool series a new lease of life, plus with Zachary Quinto along for the ride how could J.J. Abrams fail? I didn’t get to see Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen even though I really wanted to. I never seen the first one either, probably because I’m the only boy my age who never watched the cartoon as a kid (I didn’t see the appeal) so I’ll guess I’ll have to wait for the DVD. Brüno was really just ok too, which I was really looking forward to seeing it after holding off on seeing Borat for over a year, which I ended up loving. The problem is that Brüno is really just Borat all over again, putting hapless idiots in uncomfortable situations where they’re bound to react badly, only this time the character isn’t nearly so likeable or funny, and there isn’t even the vaguest resemblance of a story. It’s pretty funny if you like watching hardcore sex between men, women, sex toys and every combination of the three imaginable, but if not at least it’s all over pretty quickly.

My absolute stand out movie of the year so far goes to John Ajvide Lindqvist’s unbelievably incredible Låt Den Rätte Komma In (Let the Right One in), a movie that may turn out to be the most brutally honest, unbelievably engaging film I have ever seen, not to mention an incredibly brilliant vampire movie (easily on par with Nosferatu for breathing new life into the genre). When I posted the trailer for Låt Den Rätte Komma In way back when, I unfairly compared it the Twilight series on the grounds that both focus on a boy and a girl, one of whom is human and the other a vampire, but that’s where the similarity ends. I’m thankful to say I was wrong about Twilight, and both movies are just as original for bringing new aspects to classic vampire conventions. Speaking of vampires, the shuffling undead are starting to take over again too! If it’s not already blatantly obvious, I happen to be quiet a big fan of vampire movies, but the same applies to zombie movies too! So imagine my surprise when two great projects made headlines on the same day, the first being confirmation that Resident Evil: Afterlife is booting up for production this year, and the second being that World War Z (a very impressive little book detailing the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse) finally has a screenwriter! On the Resident Evil front I’m slightly conflicted. When I was younger I used to be a big RE fanboy, but I’ve never enjoyed the movies apart from the very first (the second being dire, the third being catastrophically awful without even mentioning Milla Jovovich’s bizarre photo-shopping throughout). Hopefully the move to Alaska and Tokyo in the fourth outing should refresh the franchise, but after this I seriously hope it gets a bullet to the head. Just fucking adapt the games already! Speaking of Twilight, check out a new pic of Bella and Jacob here and some casting news here. Swoon.

Three movies I’m really looking forward to seeing this year are Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds (for obvious reasons), Gake no Ue no Ponyo (because Hayao Miyazaki is the Walt Disney of this generation (which is massive praise if you didn’t know)), and Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. The promotional pics of Anne Hathaway as The White Queen, Mia Wasikowska as Alice, Johnny Depp as The Hatter (not The Mad Hatter, people!), and Helena as The Red Queen left me really wondering where this film is going. As is usual for adaptations of Carroll’s works Burton has mashed up elements from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There to make an entirely new story, which sounds a little too close to Frank Beddor’s Looking Glass Wars for my tastes but it should still end up being great. With a third of my dissertation being dedicated to the Alice stories I fancy myself a bit of an expert on Carroll’s Alice books, so I’m really hoping (the pics don’t help here…) that Burton won’t go for style over substance as he so always consistently does, and at least alludes to the sexual fantasy on which the books are both based and function as an erotic go-between between a middle aged man and his ten year old object of desire. I’m sure he won’t, but it would be good to see. It’s a shame Marilyn Manson’s Phantasmagoria never got off the ground, that would have been much closer to the source (Emma Watson has just been cast as the titular character in his version of Cinderella!).

I’ll be catching Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince on Monday! I’ll probably be the last person in the world to see it, but I’ll post a full review next week. Until then…


Shameless Plug for Twitter

So life officially sucks right now. I have three weeks of university life left, a veritible fucking mountain of work to get through (not to mention my dissertation!) and currently I'm stressed as hell. Unsurprisingly I haven't had the chance to catch any new movies since last time, apart from the movie I've reviewed below, which is the final one I've had to write for my Contemporary Cinema course. Considering going to see Wolverine this Friday but I'm supposed to be working that night. Tedious. Also, I probably won't get the chance to blog again for a little while, so enjoy!

The New Wave turns fifty this year, and to celebrate the British Film Institute have teamed up with Ciné Lumière to rerelease many classics now synonymous with the kind of Paris we all know and love: wet, cobbled streets lined with tall, elegant buildings, all shot in trademark monochrome and shrouded with cigarette smoke, like a Sylvain Chomet drawing brought to life. But while the patrons of BFI Southbank are treated to the likes of Jacques Demy’s Les Parapluies de Cherbourg and Godard’s A bout de Souffle with their two-month Nouvelle Vague retrospective, patrons of Belfast’s very own QFT are treated to arguably the most influential of them all: François Truffaut’s The 400 Blows (Les Quatre cents coups).

Fourteen year old Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Léaud) lives in a tiny bedsit with his stepfather (Albert Rémy) and glamorous but demanding mother (Claire Maurier), whose frank admission to her son that she regretted not getting an abortion makes for unpleasant, if not compelling, viewing. Bullied and humiliated by his teachers, Antoine deliberately misbehaves in school, and when he is accused of plagiarising Balzac, and after almost accidentally burning their apartment to the ground, things swiftly come to a head. Antoine and best friend René skip school, but when his excuse for missing class (claiming that, in a moment of desperation, his mother has died) snowballs out of all proportion, Antoine is expelled. Rather than face another punishment Antoine decides to strike it out for himself, and runs away, but his money making ideas go terribly wrong.

The film premiered at Cannes in May 1959 (a date now widely accepted as the day Cinéma vérité was born), and despite narrowly missing out on the Palme d’Or, the Best Director award went to Truffaut for his first—and arguably most personal—feature. More than just semi-autobiographical—like Antoine, Truffaut ran away from home at an early age—Les Quatre cents coups was also an experiment in what the French New Wave directors would embrace as the caméra-stylo style whose écriture (writing style) could express ideas as personally as a novelist’s pen, and marked the first of four Truffaut pictures in which Léaud would play Antoine throughout his life, ultimately becoming Truffaut’s most recognisable collaborator throughout his career.

Despite the story Les Quatre cents coups is full of warmth—witness Antoine and René accosting a priest and the crowd of laughing children completely enamoured with Perrault's 'Le Petite Chaparone Rouge'—and, thanks to the level of detail in the digitally remastered prints, an astounding level of texture and visual depth for a film shot on location in Paris. One drawback, however slight, was the subtitling (always a sticking point for foreign language films) which for long stretches disappears without explanation, leaving those with little or no mastery of the French language somewhat in the dark, surprising considering the renoun of the film and the recent internet meltdown for the equally well regarded and appallingly subtitled Norwegian vampire-romance Let the Right One In.

With a talent far beyond his years Jean-Pierre Léaud provides one of the best child performances yet committed to celluloid, and is undoubtedly the star of the show, carrying the kind of world weariness with a depth and honesty most grown actors would baulk. His story is not a happy one, and from the slums of post-War Paris to a night in a cell with three prostitutes and a thief, Antoine's story is heartbreaking in it's simplicity and sadness, making his reprieve all the more satisfying. Vintage Truffaut it may be, but Les Quatre cents coups is as fresh today as it was half a century ago. A classic of a bygone era.

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Who Watches the Cage?

I know this is ridiculously late going up BUT the deadline for my second review was today so I thought I'd post it. For this movie I chose Zach Snyder's Watchmen, following up from last months Lost in Translation. I have one more review to do for this course, and it had to be a foreign language movie, which is going to be tricky as I never seem to remember the names of any characters in foreign movies... So anyway, was planning on going to see Nic Cage's new action movie but I've decided to wait until Friday instead. My best friend and I have a tradition of going to see every Nic Cage movie we can expecting them to be hilariously awful, so here's hoping Friday won't be a let down!

The path from script to screen is never an easy one. Rights pass from studio to studio, directors come onboard then leave just as quickly, and inevitable rewrites can set a movie back months, even years, or in the case of Zach Snyder's Watchmen, a couple of decades and a veritable Justice League of filmmakers. Hailed by such film greats as Darren Arronofsky (Requiem for a Dream) and Terry Gilliam (of Monty Python fame) as “unfilmable”, the dense and highly nuanced source material was the only graphic novel to appear in Time Magazine’s Top 100 Novels of All Time, penned by comic book legend Alan Moore (who famously detached himself from the project early on, no great shakes considering previous movie outings of his work have included From Hell, V for Vendetta, and the painfully atrocious League of Extraordinary Gentlemen).

Set in an alternate 1985 where Cold War annihilation looms large and a group of costumed superheroes known as the Watchmen are outlawed under Nixon's historic fifth term, the opening montage – to the tune of Dylan's “The times they are a changin’” – sets the tone for Snyder's dark opus. Cut to a darkened apartment where Bing Cosby's “Unforgettable” plays over the elegantly choreographed demise (shot in trademark Snyder slow-mo) of Edward Blake aka The Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), one of the seven Watchmen, whose demise sets the plot in motion. Certain that the death of The Comedian is just the first in a plot to murder costumed vigilantes, Rorshach (Jackie Earle Haley) – the demented, ink blot-masked narrator of the piece – enlists the help of the remaining Watchmen to uncover the truth, including no less than the walking, talking atom bomb that is Dr. Manhattan (an entirely CGI’d Billy Crudup), a glowing blue demi-God created in the heat of nuclear explosion, who can manipulate matter at will, see through time, and is the only member of the Watchmen endowed with genuine super-powers (and an embarrassingly well endowed super-penis to boot).

But while the movie weighs in at a hefty 161 minutes and Snyder's directors cut tops the three hour mark, Watchmen races along at a phenomenal rate. From Bowie and Warhol at Studio 54 to the napalm vision of hell that was Vietnam, the ethereally bleak surface of Mars to Karnak reimagined in the snowy wastes of the Arctic, Watchmen provides huge payoffs to the diehard fans whilst easily catering to the uninitiated. Despite being a painstaking realisation of Moore's darkest vision (featuring an entirely new ending to the staged alien invasion of the original) and with an almost unsurpassed level of detail, Watchmen runs the gauntlet of trying to fit too much in, and ultimately fails to balance the brief action sequences with scenes of lengthy exposition, while simultaneously questioning what it means to be human, the nature of good and evil, and the cultural degradation that breeds masked vigilantism. Casual viewers may feel overwhelmed by the highly-stylised violence – a prison inmate scolded to death, a child-murderer repeatedly axed in the skull, and a handful of Vietcong blasted into red mist by the hundred-foot Dr. Manhattan – but for purists this doesn’t even come close to Moore’s vision of nuclear apocalypse. Superhero territory this may be, but Watchmen doesn’t skimp on the dark.

Although Watchmen underperformed to the tune of $65million in its opening weekend (compared with the record-breaking $155million of Chris Nolan’s Dark Knight), Synder has at long last brought to the screen a movie twenty years in the making, and is worth every second.

Doctor, Rose

Where the Awesome Things Are

Gosh, I haven’t blogged properly in quite a while! Apologies. Then again I think a grand total of two people read this so I shouldn’t be stressing too much for not sticking to deadlines. So what’s been new with me? Not a lot to be honest. I’ve managed to best my own record by not attending one of my classes for about six weeks, so I am officially awesome. I’ve got third year ennui now that time is almost up and there’s a gaping expanse of not a lot happening on the horizon. I’m trying not to think about it too much, but I do need to start job hunting a little more seriously. At the minute I’m hedging my bets on working as an intern at GayTimes, but I’m not expecting my application to be accepted even though I got in touch with the editor himself, Joseph Galliano. One application that I worked on for almost two months for another job was accepted, but I didn’t get past the first stage of the online tests, which threw a real spanner in the works, but I don’t think I was cut out for it anyway. At the moment I’m just drifting along, hoping things will sort themselves, but I’m never that lucky, and I’m actually pretty terrified. I was reading a few months ago in the Guardian that this is the most difficult graduate market since the 1950s, which didn’t exactly fill me with hope. I’ve got enough money saved to live on for a while, but the thought of having to keep working in the bar I’ve been in for almost two years fills me with cold dread. I always knew setting myself up as a writer was going to be difficult, but right now it’s beginning to look like I should have wanted to be something else. Anyway, movies!

The first one-sheet for Spike Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are appeared online just today looking suitably adorable. The trailer is set to premier this weekend with Monsters vs. Aliens, so expect to see it online in glorious Quicktime within days. Check it out, ain’t it pretty?

WB have released a slew of HP6 promo images in time with the new trailer that aired last week. But with the release date having been pushed back seven months I’ve kind of lost my buzz on this one, and nerd hate buzzing around the intertubes seem to be mostly in agreement. So with five movies under its belt and three more still to come have people finally started losing interest in the series? Well, the fanbase isn’t getting any younger. I discovered The Boy Who Lived when I was 13, and I’m 21 now, so with the series having finally come to an end I don’t think it’s likely to pick up any new fans. I’m sure that’s more than enough to keep the move afloat, but I’m just hoping the energy hasn’t faded entirely in the face of that hideous emo vampire fanwank series. Four months and counting!

Click below for the little slice of heaven that is the newest trailer for Disney-Pixar’s Up. I’ve been saying for years that Pixar has been making some of the best animated movies around, certainly on par with the earliest Disney movies, and Up looks set to keep proving me right. I should probably be ashamed for admitting that...
In the second week of release Watchmen ticket sales dropped by a whopping 67%. As much as I loved it, consider this movie a flop on all fronts. Although the DVD sales should comfortably make up for the loss - including the animated gore-fest that is Tales of the Black Freighter (a movie within the movie) and Snyder’s three-hour directors cut - we likely won’t be seeing any more movies in the style of Watchmen for a long time to come. And just to add insult to injury, it lost out to Race to Witch Mountain.

Last week I managed to catch a showing of the somewhat beguilingly titled Franklyn in the QFT, a story about four seemingly unrelated characters: a jilted husband obsessed with his childhood love (Sam Riley, of Ian Curtis biopic Control notoriety), a suicidal - and achingly irritating - art student with severe mummy-doesn’t-love-me issues (Eva Green), a father in search of his lost son (Bernard Hill), and a masked vigilante in the Rorschach mould (played by none other than, er… Ryan Phillippe). Cutting between modern day London and a Burton/Gilliam inspired dystopia known as Meanwhile City, Franklyn joins the lamentably long list of British-made sci-fi/fantasies that have fallen far short of the mark. The multiple character plots don’t come together until the final scene (or, worryingly in the case of Riley’s Milo, at all) and by that time the frustrated guessing of how everything relates and the fact you could care less about these characters means the 90 minute run time feels much longer. Granted, the Meanwhile City sections do look as rich and beautiful as the troll market sequence from del Toro’s Hellboy: The Golden Army, but every time the story nips back to good old Blighty you can’t help feeling cheated, and I could have easily watched a two-hour plus version minus London and Phillippe’s Preest. Although Franklyn lacks any kind of emotional kick, and the twists don’t quite pay off as well as they should, kudos to first time writer/director Gerard McMorrow for aiming so high, even if he doesn’t quite succeed.

For a movie pushing three hours of family backstabbing, terminal illness, mental breakdowns and death, Un Conte De Noel is undeniably a subtle, beautiful, nuanced picture with real heart. With standout performances from screen siren Catherine Deneuve (of Les Parapluies de Cherbourg fame) and Mathieu Almaric (Quantum of Solace baddie Dominic Greene), I judged this movie quite harshly first time around, and it was only on looking back that I realised this was mostly due to the fact it was billed as a comedy when what it delivered was something altogether different. Having known what I was in for I probably would have enjoyed it more, and would enjoy the chance of seeing it again.

I'll post my Watchmen review in the coming days, I haven't quite had the chance to finish it just yet, so until next time I thought I'd leave you with a something amazing from one of my favorite webcomic artists Joe Dunn at JoeLovesCrappyMovies. Check it out here.


Whisper in Tokyo

I know I haven't written in a while, but blogging has been the very last thing on my mind recently. Anyway, I wrote this for my Hollywood Cinema module and thought it was worth posting here. Today I chose Un Conte de Noel over Capote to watch at the QFT. It was a bad choice. I had planned to finally see Breakfast at Tiffany's tomorrow, but on the way out I saw a poster saying it had been sold out, which is very fucking shit as I've been waiting to see it for ever. This Thursday: Finding Neverland. Should be good. I'll try and update a little more often from now on but no promises :]

So the awards season is over for another year. Slumdog Millionaire swept the board (quelle surprise!), Milk-actor Sean Penn used his surprise acceptance speech to promote gay rights, and aging lothario Mickey Rourke presumably tried to stick his tongue down every throat on the red carpet. But while Hollywood’s A-list stumble home from the exclusive Vanity Fair after-party (papped mid wardrobe malfunction or stumbling into gutters, champagne in hand), those unlucky journos turned away at the door by fleets of burly security are left to lick their wounds, find the nearest bar, and mull over the winners and losers of the night, possibly raising a glass or two to Heath Ledger’s posthumous nod for his Clown Prince of Crime in Chris Nolan’s Dark Knight. Eat that Nicholson!

And as the sun rises over L.A. Perez Hilton goes into who-wore-what overload and some poor sod wakes up next to Sharon Stone, Belfast’s very own Queen’s Film Theatre is left to pick up the pieces after Saturday nights boozed up Oscar karaoke special and screening of Sofia Coppola’s über-trendy Lost in Translation at QFT Late.

Losing out in the 2004 Oscars to the award-eating behemoth that was Peter Jackson’s Return of the King, Lost in Translation takes centre stage in writer/director Coppola’s trilogy of painfully arty movies The Virgin Suicides and Marie Antoinette. But whereas the bold and bright Marie Antoinette mixed Siouxsie and the Banshees and The Cure with eighteenth-century Versailles, Lost in Translation slips by in the night-time neon-haze of Tokyo to the gentle sounds of My Bloody Valentine. The Best Picture gong may have slipped through Miss Coppola’s fingers, but the golden man for Most Original Screenplay is a standing tribute to the sleeper indie hit of the year and fan favourite of hopeless romantics the world over.

Bob (the endlessly talented Bill Murray) is an actor, and Charlotte (in a career defining turn by then nineteen-year-old Scarlett Johansson) doesn’t really know who she is. Both are adrift. Bob’s marriage has lost its spark, reducing him to plugging Suntory Whiskey half a world from home for $2million when he “could be doing a play somewhere”. Newly-wed Charlotte soul-searches her way through self-help tapes and the achingly pretty Buddhist temples of Kyoto (shot by veteran art director Lance Accord, whose credits include Being John Malkovich and the eagerly anticipated Spike Jonze adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are) while photographer husband John (Giovanni Ribisi, of Cold Mountain and My Name is Earl fame) hardly features.

In their jetlag induced haze the unlikely couple strike up a bond, drink sake to Fellini’s La Dolce Vita into the small hours, sing through an entire back catalogue of karaoke tracks (that most quintessential of Japanese past-times), and in one of the film’s most moving scenes, share a bed together – barely touching – finding solace in their shared sense of displacement. Rookie director Coppola doesn’t fill the endless silences with pesky words, and it works, beautifully so. At night the city is theirs, the kaleidoscope of pink-blue neon reflected in the deep blacks of cab windows, the familiar noise and bustle counterpointed to the quiet interiorisation of Bob and Charlotte simply being, moments where their sparkling chemistry defines Lost in Translation as a modern-day classic – a bittersweet paean to a city of sights, sounds and lovers.


The Moment

In honour of the huge significance of today’s events here is some advice provided by world-renowned poet Maya Angelou to the 44th President of the United States of America. Like a lot of people I feel confident Barrack Obama is a strong enough character to set the world straight again, and with the new mood of optimism throughout the world I fully expect him to perform admirably. He has a huge amount of work ahead of him, not least of all undoing all the damage of his predecessor, and I wish him a huge amount of luck!

"I am a poet. What I'm going to say to you now, however, is not a poem, it doesn't pretend to be. These are ruminations or reflections upon the advent of President Barack Obama. We needed him. We the race needed him. We the American people, we needed him. Banks, automobile companies, insurance companies needed him. The stock market in Japan and Germany, in France and Britain, in China, in New York City needed him. And out of that great need, I believe he came. Barack Obama, Senator Barack Obama came. Intelligent, facing forward, including everyone, excluding no-one. He came with some charm - not enough to make him seem glib. But what he did is he brought something we cannot live without, and that is hope. He brought the possibility that we might really see ourselves as we really are. A great country. I believe in the secret part of every heart of an American is the desire to belong to a great country. I think that President-elect Barack Obama offers us the chance to have a great president with whom we can identify. Not as a black person, not even as a male, but really as an American citizen who will speak for the voiceless, who will not forget the poor black or the poor white, who will remember the out-of-work Asian and the dislocated Spanish-speaking person. This is a man who I think I would like to hear speak to people in hospitals, he has ntelligence and compassion. Those two elements are not always to be found in the same person. It is said to whom much is given from them much will be expected. I believe we have been given a great president. I believe he needs us probably more than we even needed him. I believe that each of us, each American, has got to pay back or pay it forward. I believe each of us has got to do something to help us become more of what James Baldwin called these yet-to-be United States. I think that each of us can find a place to give some time... I think these seem to be small things but they accumulate. And I do believe that good done anywhere is good done everywhere. I think that our new president deserves all our help. I believe we Americans, we deserve the most we can get. I believe we are a great people and I believe we will have a chance to show it. When I see the cabinet President-elect Obama has chosen, I realise he's very serious. He really means to bring together a team who will match the mountain of work - we have men and women in that cabinet who match the mountains. They may not be all that cunning politically but we've had quite enough of that, I think. They may be more forthcoming, and not a minute too soon. I know what an American is. You can say it in these three words: Yes I can. I can be better than you imagine. And if you force me, I can be worse than you can imagine. Yes I can. In a climate where all men and women are known to be equals, "yes I can" speaks for the brahmin in Boston and the theologian in Nashville, Tennessee. It speaks for the rabbi at the hall of tolerance in Los Angeles and it speaks for the imam in the largest mosque in the United States. It speaks for us all."

Listen to a recording of the address here. Photograph by Shawn Thew/EPA.

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I’ve been putting off writing this entry for a long time, and I feel guilty at not having written it sooner, but it’s been difficult for me to try and put this into words.

Literally hours after I posted the previous entry I found out that a friend of mine had died suddenly. Chris was only nineteen years old, and a catalogue of errors had led to him being wrongly diagnosed for over a year, during which time he suffered hugely and eventually succumbed to non-Hodgkin lymphoma on September 20th 2008. The fact I hadn’t found out about Chris’ death for more than two months after it happened is a sad indicator of how much we lost touch, and I feel so much guilt and regret that I hadn’t even known he was ill. Chris and I were never close, we were online friends at best, brought to together by a website over which he had a huge amount of influence just by being the incredible person that he was, but his personality was such that I had a huge amount of respect for him, if not a stupid little crush. That Chris suffered more pain than I can ever imagine is something I think I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life, and I still can’t come to terms with the fact such a beautiful person - so passionate and loving and full of life - could be allowed to suffer the way Chris did. The unfairness is unbelievable, and I can’t imagine a less deserving person for that to happen to than Chris. His mum told me of the pain he went through in his last few weeks and days, which makes it all the more upsetting when I learned just how bravely he tried to carry on while deep down knowing something was terribly wrong. I don’t know how his family cope with having lost him, I know they must have been absolutely devastated, but his mum is an incredibly brave woman and I know she would have been a huge comfort to him in the hospital.

It baffles me how someone of his age could suffer for so long without it being known he was dying of cancer. I’ll never know if he could have been saved, the lymphoma was meant to be particularly aggressive, but in my heart I think Chris would still be here if it had have been caught in time, receiving treatment to ensure he lived the long healthy life he was supposed to have. I hope the inquest into his death gives his family some closure, and I hope his GP - who for so long was dismissive and at times insultingly insensitive when he could have saved Chris’ life - is struck off and never allowed to practice medicine again. Blaming someone doesn’t help, but if just one person is saved where they would have been neglected, then it will have been worth to stop another family going through what Chris had to suffer.
In my last post I said I was going to start a new feature, which I’d intended to be about brilliant people who, for one reason or another, helped advanced the cause of gay rights or been a hero for us all. The first was supposed to be Harvey Milk, but I’m going to leave that now for other bloggers. It isn’t fair that Chris never achieved his dream of being famous, but he was an incredible person nonetheless, charming, funny, caring, and a fantastic brother, nephew, cousin, son and grandson, and to me he was a great friend. I think about him constantly, and because of him I intend to sign up for organ donation so that someday I might be able to save someone like him. Chris was one of the most beautiful people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. His influence on those he met was clear from the public outpouring of grief over his death, and I know he’s going to be missed by a huge amount of people, especially by me. I know it isn't much Chris, but this is for you.

You can find a link to Chris' memorial pages here and here.

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