Things that Only Happen in Films

  • Puking up a mouthful of vomit.
  • People queuing up to fight the hero.
  • Very rich people who are interesting (e.g. the wealthy penetrating psychologist).
  • Single punch knock out.
  • Unprotected sex between two people who’ve just met. Neither one feels sad, used or confused.
  • Forensic lab test by the end of the day.
  • Hang up the phone. No ‘bye’, no ‘see ya’. Just hang up.
  • Everyone listens to what everyone actually says.
  • Broke? Bloody nice flat though, eh?
  • Dreams that make sense.
  • Cellar light working? No chance.
  • Bit of a cough? Dead soon.
  • Young children talking like well-connected script-writers.
  • Years alone in outer space? Deepest darkest Africa? We’ve got a lipstick and foundation that can handle that.
  • Handsome young guy moves house and a beautiful girl lives next door.
  • What’s that weird noise out in the woods at midnight? Think I’d better go out and check.
  • Wild crowds that are comprised entirely of selfish people.
  • People on acid who are less aware.

There. Now, I watch a lot of films. My habit since God knows when is half a film a day or University Challenge. I generally stop watching a film after ten minutes if I get the queasy feeling that I’m in the hands of a fool. Life’s too short. So the occasional clutch of reviews that I’m going to post this year will only be those which meet that minimum requirement. Here we go then…


Manchester by the Sea

Bleak tale of uptight guy (played by Casey Affleck) who can’t take responsibility any more. It seems to be the way with these kind of realistic films nowadays that the main character ends up changing in the tiniest, tiniest manner. The ‘snowflake orgasm’ I call it. Watchable, but nothing much really happens and then, in the end, it turns out that nothing much really happened. It puts a bit of a wet towel over the whole experience, I find, like a walk in the park with some friends, very nice, but then you come to say goodbye and you see, oh, they’ve just vanished. Right, okay. Bye then.

(Incidentally lots of stuff on the internet about Affleck being accused by two women of molesting and abusing them. Apparently he’s a sexist creep, possible closet rapist? I had a look around. Maybe he is? Could be. But most amazing, I think, is how sure people who comment on this [kind of thing] are about what happened. Positively miraculous).

I, Daniel Blake

By contrast something does actually really happen in I, Daniel Blake. Horrendously bleak story, as usual from Loach, because it’s not really a myth, as such. The main character doesn’t bring his downfall on himself, so you end up angry at them. Which, in this case, is as it should be. The UK does seem at this point to be at the cutting edge of dystopian praxis. Every time I go back I feel more and more like I’m in a virtual reality care-home designed by the prince of darkness.

As You Like It (BBC Shakespeare)

Thy gentleness shall force more than thy force move us to gentleness.

I’ve started watching the early eighties full Shakespeare cycle that the BBC put out. Hit and miss they are. This one seemed to be populated entirely with 70s glam-rockers. And Helen Mirren, who once was, I must say, a bit of a ham. I don’t rate Shakespeare’s comedies much — all those interminable pun-fests are exhausting. What astonished me about As You Like It is the ending. Basically some guy comes in at the last minute and says ‘oh, you know that problem that you’ve had the whole time that’s caused you all this hardship? Well it’s been magically solved now, so hurray!’ Clearly Shakespeare was working to some kind of deadline.

The Red Turtle

Very lovely animation from Dudok De Wit, working under the wing of the great Isao Takahata. I won’t ruin it for you; Guy gets washed up on a desert island, then a turtle turns into a woman. Okay, I have ruined it for you, that’s all that happens. They have a kid though who swims off with the turtles. I’m absolutely certain he’s working in an East London design studio even as we speak. It is good, but watching De Wit films is a bit like playing a pretty computer game; ‘killing time, but eternity feels the wound’.

Kimi no Nawa

Japanese anime about a boy and girl who swap lives every night. Massively popular it was in Japan. They didn’t like The Red Turtle, because it was ‘pretentious’, yet were quite happy to participate in the cheesiest cheese-fest of the cheese-people. It is sweet, this film — and does capture the giddy magic of teenage love — but it’s sad too, I think, this kind of mass cheese-worship. It’s a sure sign that nobody is actually in love. I think La-la-land (which absolutely did not pass the 10 minute test) is popular for the same reason. It’s what people want love and magic and romance to be, not what these things really are, which obliterates cheese.

King Lear (BBC Shakespeare)

Machinations, hollowness, treachery, and all ruinous disorders follow us disquietly to our graves!

No sweeping dollies, no special effects — no sets even, just a few black curtains — no Cucumber-patch even, yet intense dramatic glory. So many exceptional performances here. Lear (played by the great Michael Hodern) is as stupid, arrogant, furious, raging-insane, sweetly deranged, broken and ultimately beautiful as a King can be. Goneril and Regan are exquisitely conniving. Edgar (played by one of the great unsung masters of English acting, Anton Lesser) is breathtaking — his ‘Mad Tom’ flibbertigibbet’ speech is as wild as spun mustard. Even the smallest characters — the glib and oily Oswald, the croaky little old guy who helps Gloucester — are just wonderful. Such humanity — such range. Can‘t say I’m too keen on the rather aggressive fool, but you can’t have everything.

Incidentally, if you’re not used to Shakespeare and find the plays a little overwhelming, I recommend getting an Arden single-edition, reading slowly through it and working it all out, enjoying the language-puzzle — possibly reading a good bit of criticism (like A.C.Bradley: free here) then watching a great performance, like this one.

Evil Dead 1

I’m not really sure why this is so enjoyable. Terrible acting, substandard effects, silly story, not at all scary or even really disgusting. There’s just something recklessly silly about it, ‘mad, butcherously mad’. Ash is comedy gold. Great range of weapons in this one — trademark chainsaw, spade, shotgun and 10 foot wooden beam. His weak spot seems to be bookshelves.

Evil Dead 2

Much clearer why this one is worth watching. I’d forgotten what a masterpiece it is. In fact I’m going to add it right now to my hundred films to watch before the world ends. Gives me a warm feeling of trust in life that Madame Fate should have brought Bruce Campbell to Sam Raimi; and that She should enjoy this kind of thing as much as I do. I yearn of being able, one day, to say the word ‘groovy’ like this.