Archives for posts with tag: Simon Amstell

8 Minutes Idle

It’s cute, quirky and British, but there’s not much else going for this odd little rom-com.  Dan (Tom Hughes) is kicked out of his house by his mother, played by a splendid Pippa Haywood who you need to see in Green Wings and in this little clip. Home and work life fuse when Dan secretly moves into the office storeroom with his cat.  His interactions with office mates unfold in a series of subplots: a tyrant boss who essentially rapes him, a dj co-worker who is seemingly the only one to genuinely care for and help him, a shy goof who can’t talk to girls but knows how to dance, and of course the pixie love interest, Teri.  None can escape the doldrums of this office interplay of relationships and sex, until an outside force changes everything, and the concerns and established hierarchies of the job are rendered moot and so is any chance of Dan becoming a character her drives his own change rather than just being a likable character and nice guy who is pushed around.  We can now focus on the relationship – which cute as it is, doesn’t carry the film.

 

Simon Amstell: Numb

I psychoanalyze vicariously through Simon Amstell. His style of story telling and self-reflection is painfully (hilariously) honest, admitting things to himself (and an audience) that others out of embarrassment and shame would hide away. He says what we think and that adds value.

This clip from his life and mine:

Watch Simon Amstell Numb Online Free Putlocker.

I Am Number Four

This movie is bad and the creators should feel bad.

Maniac

This remake avoids the gross obvious creepiness of the original 1988 main character, by casting Elijah Wood as Frank and he is exceptional.  Wood physically comes off as demure, soft-spoken and seemingly passive, but does perfectly in building up the unseen tension until he explodes in his moments of rage.  Done entirely from the point of view of Frank, we only see glimpses of him mostly through reflections, except for in his imagination when he pictures the ideal life and romance with Anna, a beautiful French photographer.  In those scenes the camera pans around and we see both characters undistorted, together, and picture perfect.  Frank, however is terribly broken by a traumatic past which manifests in migraines and visions that torment him and drive his mania. His brutality is unique and merciless, but at the same time the viewer (at least me) comes to care for this tortured artist character, even when he’s putting a butcher knife through someone’s face, or scalping his latest victim and mother figure stand-in.  In part because he does it out of love.  That kind of love proves deadly.

One scene I particularly enjoyed takes place in a cinema where we get a glimpse of the film, a b&w silent film, where a man is waking and preparing to kill a young woman. This mise-en-abîme mirrors beautifully Frank, and foreshadows what is to come between he and Anna.  Seconds after the glimpse, he feels the onset of another attack and the screen blurs and vibrates as his head throbs in pain. Exquisite.

Carnage
“I am glad our son kicked the shit out of your son
and I wipe my ass with your human rights!”
Nancy Cowan, Carnage

Years ago on one of my first trips to New York City, my friend Maureen and I saw the theatrical version of this film, written by Yazmin Reza and titled, God of Carnage, with Jeff Daniels and Hope Davis playing Alan and Nancy Cowan, and Marcia Gay Harden and James Gandolfini playing Penelope and Michael Longstreet. It’s difficult not to make the comparisons, and I think what made the original theatrical version for me was the script and the actor’s ability to really cut loose in that claustrophobic New York apartment.
Over the course of an afternoon two couples meet to discuss an incident between their two sons, but the veneer of politeness begins to crack and chip away.  There are great moments that expose these characters for who they are, in particular one scene towards the end when Alan (played by Cristoph Waltz) who I think understands best the social breakdown, says, “Yes Doodle, we do care, in a hysterical way, not like heroic figures in a social movement.” At once exposing the hypocrisy of politeness, yuppie causes, white girls in Africa, and freaking out because boys were being boys.

While it gets the point across, the film missed the explosive energy and decent into madness and absolute nihilism  of the theatrical version I saw, and ends less with a bang and more with a whimper.

Filth

Another film with great promise but that doesn’t deliver 100% is Filth, based on the Irvine Welsh novel and starring a fantastic cast led by James McAvoy (who you should watch in Trance).  While I liked the movie for its style, grit and humor, there are plot gaps that are important to the overall story and helping us understand crazed Detective Bruce Robertson’s motivations.

POTENTIAL SPOILERS.

Robertson has these occasional visions of a boy, covered in soot and obviously dead.  Towards the end we discover that this was his younger and higher achieving brother for whose death Robertson feels responsible despite screams and protestations at an imaginary psychiatrist that it was an accident.

We assume this guilt has messed him up, but is it the sole thing that has been responsible for his fall into chaos?  We also get that his wife and daughter have left him, but when was this? What was the cause? Admittedly he doesn’t know, saying,
“I think they’ve left me. I think my family have left me. I don’t know how. I can’t remember why. You see, there’s something wrong with me. There is something seriously wrong with me.” but what is it?!

All that being said, there are some great performances by Shirley Henderson, Eddie Marsan (who’s really been coming up in the world since Happy-Go-Lucky) and others, as well as a fantastic car scene sing-along to Silver Lady. The lyrics for which say a lot,

“Tired of drifting, searching, shifting through town to town
Every time I slip and slide a little further down
I can’t blame you if you won’t take me back
After everything I put you through
But honey you’re my last hope
And who else can I turn to

Come on Silver Lady take my word
I won’t run out on you again believe me”

Reconsideration
Thinking a bit more, there are scenes that take on a film noirish style where we hear short monologues by his wife Carole, regarding their marriage. Perhaps these scenes (which we later find out are him in drag, acting out his wife to feel close to her), reflect not only his interpretation of her perspective of their relationship, but a deluded version of it that fits perfectly in his world and desires, but obviously did not match up with hers.

Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom

More than once while we watched this movie, Jen asked “Why was this made?” Disturbed acts of sadism, based on the novel 120 Days of Sodom by the Marquis de Sade takes place in fascist Italy and meant to resemble Dante’s Inferno, but reminded me also of Boccacio’s Decameron, with each day devoted to storytelling with a particular thematic (and usually sexual) nature.
All I know of the meaning and metaphor behind this film I had to glean from Wikipedia, and while the images are terrible and cruel I think it was made to depict the baseness of the fascist ideology and life under the regime.
I’m glad I was finally able to watch it and highly recommend for cinephiles. It certainly merits a viewing and further study.

Watch a REALLY toned down trailer HERE.

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We came down the monument of Shumen, still giddy from the impression of standing in the artistic presence of Bulgaria’s past but we had to hurry. The city choked in fog and chill, and thriller movie-esque night was descending.  We went to our next destination, Veliko Tarnovo – the capital of the second Bulgarian Empire and the “city of tsars”.

We barely arrived in our hostel, having gotten lost in the winding streets of the ancient city, when the reception guy herded us back out to a main plaza.  In the fog and moonlight we could see across the Yantra River, high up on the Tsarevets hill the old imperial fortress and castle. Other international and national tourist and locals milled about when the lights of local businesses and the surrounding hills cut out.  Embalmed in darkness, silence and anticipation spread when the show began.

The next day, I explored on my own and visited the Patriarchal Cathedral of the Holy Ascension of God.  According to wiki, it was the seat of Bulgarian Orthodox church during the 11th and 13th centuries until it was destroyed in 1393 by conquering Ottoman Turks.  Reconstructed in the 1970’s and 80’s it features one of the most amazing frescoes I have ever seen.

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Winding Down
“Now… there are two kinds of movies: those
with an ending, and those that don’t have an ending.
This movie needs an ending.”
Enzo, CQ (2001)

That afternoon we found ourselves back on the misty mountain roads heading towards Sofia, the culmination of our trip where Joe and I would bring in the new year in a freezing square with hundreds of delighted strangers, clutching hot greyano vino (mulled wine) and counting down the final seconds of 2013.

For the past few months since my trip back to the US I was feeling a little lost.  I had thought about extending my Peace Corps service for a third year, but recent events had left me exhausted and weary and I was ready for a change but every option looked the same with the same flat gray of the misty landscape we had only recently escaped.

3 min and 28 seconds away.  Joe and I, exhausted of conversation are entertained to look at those around us who gather tighter in the final minutes. I remember advice from multiple sources and conversations I’ve had about finding your personal passions and making the most of them.  2 min 50 seconds.  I think  that at the end of the day the thing that really gets me excited is film and storytelling and that I am known among my friends as a walking film database. 1 min 13 seconds. I think this is crazy to suddenly change directions in my life to pursue something so different from anything I’ve trained for. 56 seconds. I think I need to not be afraid and to embrace love and a new beginning …because death is coming. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.  It’s 2014. Joe and I congratulate each other on being alive as fireworks burst and circle dancing begins.  We start heading back to the hostel hours later, turned around by yet another new city and a few glasses of mulled wine.  It matters not.  I may not know where I’m going but at least I have a direction.

Last Supper (not really)

I live alone…

…and I have too much time on my hand.  Far too much time to watch way too many films and dither endlessly on how to write the perfect blog post, because sometimes the things I start writing are so banal that they stay floating in draft mode.  Also, I’ve become a cat person.

Cat

I live alone, well, with Cat, and with far too much time, but that makes it sound like I haven’t been active.  I have.   There are things I’m working on that I’m really pleased with, and more importantly so are local people. It’s not about the time spent on work, but the time after that, and if at the end of the day I still have all this time on my hands, shouldn’t I be doing more? Am I forgetting something? Isn’t this supposed to be a life changing experience?

It is one year since we moved to Albanian (or just nearly).  There’s a lot of transition as we prepare to greet the incoming group and say goodbye to the group before, and with it, a lot of introspection about what we’ve accomplished or want to accomplish and how we relate all the stories with others like friends, family, loved ones and potential employers.

Peace Corps catchphrase “everyone’s experience is different,” but listening to volunteers and reading some of the articles that have been shared around, like this one, this one, and, oh yeah, this  one, I have developed 3 main categories for what I think happens to volunteers.

 1st Category: “Strangest Things Seem Routine”

This category is more about the transformation of experience.  First everything is amazing and crazy and different and strange and one day, it’s not.  A donkey in the street, dealing with continuous power outages, pulling teeth at the office to get the simplest tasks done, drinking raki with the old men every time you hit the head, being offered sheep head at the party, and other things I can’t even think of as different, suddenly aren’t.  It’s not that there’s nothing interesting, it’s just that I don’t know what that is anymore.

2nd Category: “I’m so tired of  you, America”

These are the folks who go a bit, well, funny.  I’ve embraced my life pretty well in Albania, but there are some (from the literature) who love the life so much that they don’t really seem capable of going home.  Like this young lad, who wrote:

“Here’s the thing. I haven’t felt anything since I’ve come back to the States. A friend’s sadness has moved me deeply on a couple of occasions, and I was moved to the point of mild irritation by the need to take midterms and final exams this semester. But I haven’t emotionally connected to anything or anyone in a way that felt real to me. Things happen, and they’re sometimes things that I should feel keenly. But I don’t. I even took a volunteer job that I thought would push me emotionally. Nothing.”
(full article here)

And maybe there is some validity.  I’m not knocking it.  You are special, a unique individual in a small community (“Oh my village loved me. I did this and that. It was the best experience.”) and suddenly there is the painful transformation of becoming once again a seeming cog in the machine.  There’s a bit of ego involved too, if every sentence afterwards begins, “When I was in Peace Corps…”  Volunteers have changed a lot, but in their own way so have the people back home.

3rd Category: “It’s just a place in time and space”

For this category, being in Peace Corps is a great experience, sure, but it’s still a job.  The life has changed drastically, but not so much.  Not in the basic ways that keep one grounded.  The routine follows – wake up (at the appropriate time for your water schedule if you have one) shower, coffee (at home or the lokal) head to the office (maybe buy some byrek on the way) make the rounds and say “hi” to a few people (at this point be invited out for another coffee) do work (or at least try if your office is lacking a computer or internet) go get some lunch (pilaf and sallat greke, yum!) maybe work the rest of the day from home or out of the office, pick up some groceries (meat from one place, bread from another, the veggies from the people selling outside on your street, except for the broccoli because you feel like splurging and went to the supermarket) make dinner and watch a movie (that maybe you’re streaming from a Russian website because you don’t want to wait two years to see the Hobbit).

Pretty much a normal life, like you could have anywhere.

I’m sure there are other categories, and possibly I’ve annoyed some readers (if we shadows have offended, then think but this and all is mended – that my opinions are mine alone, are constantly changing, and do not reflect the position of the Peace Corps or the U.S. government).  Ultimately, though, an individual gives meaning to the experience, not the other way around.  The experience is just a place and stuff.

I don’t know yet which category I fall in, but recently I saw this video:

That’s not us is it, Cat?

Next week, Summer Day!