Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Favourite Scene #1 - Layer Cake

Layer Cake is the story of a cocaine dealer (Daniel Craig) who thinks of himself more as a businessman than a criminal and conducts himself in the same way. He's not loud or flash, doesn't want to be a 'name' (the character is never named in the film and is called 'XXXX" in the credits) or a gangster but instead plans to make a nice pile of money and then retire from crime and live off investments and the interest. This is a criminal with a 5 year plan.

But XXXX's carefully laid plan begins to unravel when his employer and supplier Jimmy Price gives him an errand. The job is to find a girl called Charlie, the daughter of Jimmy's friend and associate Eddie Temple, who's done a runner from a rehab clinic with her junkie boyfriend Kinky. XXXX protests that this isn't really his line of work but Jimmy's having none of it. Reluctantly, XXXX starts looking.

And very quickly finds himself increasingly out of depth. Stolen drugs, Serbian war criminals, loudmouth gangster types, informants, bent coppers and being dangled from the ledge of a very tall building all await XXXX and the movie is stuffed full of great scenes.

But the standout, for me, is the Ordinary World scene. In it, XXXX and his associate Morty (XXXX's link to the criminal world) are sitting in a cafe having a fairly tense discussion about the latest nightmare that's landed in their lap, when in walks Freddie Hurst.

At that point, Freddie is an unknown to us, just as he is to XXXX. He's dirty, unkempt and doesn't look like he's washed for a fortnight. The only thing that stops us thinking he's a down and out is that he buys himself breakfast and then lamps up. But he knows Morty and even though Morty is one fearsome fella, thinks nothing of being downright disrespectful. That Morty seems to let this slide is surprising enough but that he then proceeds to hand over money to the scummy git is little short of amazing.

But then things escalate. Morty throws the rest of his money at Freddie and proceeds to give him one of the most brutal beatings ever committed to film, shouting and yelling as he does so. 'Ten fucking years' and 'need a red light?' we can hear but the rest is incomprehensible. By the end, Freddie's lying close to dead and XXXX is not only further in the shit, but he's now alone, with Morty saying he has to lie low for a while. The shot where the camera spirals around XXXX is a fair sum up of how he feels; bewildered.

There are two things that elevate the scene. Firstly it's intercut with two other characters meeting their end at unknown hands, with the final zoom in and zoom out between the two different prone bodies nicely tying the scene off.

And the second thing is the song. Ordinary World by Duran Duran is, in my opinion, pretty much their best song. Soaring and yet melancholic, it's an odd choice for this kind of scene but it works, somehow making the violence seem more real and believable.

The reason the violence has such a high wince factor is because we see it solely from Freddie's perspective. This isn't a fight; it's a beating and as such only Morty has any say whatsoever in what's happening. Freddie's little more than a punchbag and the way the scene is cut, with blackouts, the sound dropping in and out and a mess of solid thumps and hits, makes the viewer uncomfortably aware of how disorientated and powerless Freddie is by the sheer brutality of Morty's attack.

So, for your viewing pleasure, here's the Ordinary World scene from Layer Cake...

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Lost - Random Thoughts

Claire's return was a surprise. She goes AWOL for an entire series and then pops up to save Jin looking like a cute and fuzzy Grizzly Adams. She also made me think of her as the 'new' Rousseau, wandering the jungle being all badass and bonkers. The last time we saw her, Claire walked off in the middle of the night with her (dead) dad Christian leaving Aaron behind, witnessed by Miles but not us and was next (and I think last) seen with him in the cabin by Locke. She seemed perfectly (oddly) happy to be there and then drops off the radar for all of season 5. What does Dogen, the Japanese guy, mean when he says that what happened to Claire is what will happen to Sayid? What happened to Claire and why did she leave Aaron behind, or perhaps the better question is why was she required to?

Thinking about Claire leads me to think about the cabin. All manner of shenanigans went on in the cabin. It's where Ben said he went to speak to Jacob even though he didn't because Jacob spoke to Ben through Richard. It's where John went with Ben and heard 'help me' before turning on a torch and causing whatever was in there to freak out. It's also where Hurley went and saw Christian and someone with a beady eye appeared at the window and (understandably) scared the shit out of him. And, as said above, it's where Locke saw Claire with Christian.

What's interesting is that the cabin is always described as Jacob's Cabin yet Jacob lives at the foot of the foot, so to speak. He was there when The Black Rock came to the island and he was there when Ben stabbed him. But he's never been seen at the cabin that I know of. I think the cabin belongs to his Nemesis, the man in black. In smoke form, he exists around the temple but to get around the island he uses Christian and 'parks' him at the cabin, so to speak. Maybe the cabin was even a prison to the MIB's non-smoke form, whatever that may be, hence his 'help me' to John. It also (kind of) explains why the cabin was burned; he got out, hence the ash circle being broken. How the circle got broken... not sure but maybe it's not there to keep MIB out, but to keep him in. As the smoke monster he's locked to the temple (Fiona thinks maybe his real body is there which is an annoying plausible reason) and as Christian he can wander the island but not leave. As Locke, he do whatever he wants.

Speaking of The Black Rock, the explanation to how a ship ended up buried in the jungle has never been given but if the island can be sunk, it can surely be raised and if it can be raised, maybe it raised up under the ship.

Dug the fact that when you see the island underwater, you go past a shark with the Dharma logo on it's tail, probably the same one that attacked Michael and Sawyer when they were on the remains of Michael's raft.

With the alternate timeline, what happened to Christian's body? Unless there was some cascade of events in the 'non-crash' world that led to the body being left off, could it be that it was 'taken' from the plane as it flew over the island, even though it was submerged? We know that folks who 'should' be on the island can be whipped out of their seat and dropped in various places (and times, for that matter) so maybe the fact that Christian is dead and thus an empty vessel explains why he can still be 'claimed' to use the translator's word.

And speaking of Christian, who controls him? Jacob or the MIB? I go with MIB. Jacob's much more of a 'nudge people to do the right thing' kind of bloke. He pops off the island to have minimal but telling interactions with the likes of Hurley, Jack, Locke etc whereas MIB is a much more 'do this, do that' type, as seen by him openly telling everyone they're going to see Jacob and then telling Ben he wants him to kill Jacob. Aside from the big slice of 'wtf' with Claire, Christian pops up mostly in terms of moving the island. It's him that tells John this is what has to happen when they meet at the cabin and it's him who talks John through doing it (though refuses to help him physically) and actually moving the island with the wheel. Again, this is much more the direct intervention style of the MIB. He also seems to have bugger all time for Ben, who's rubbish wheel pushing set the island bouncing through time in the first place.

But those time slips allow us to meet Rousseau and the French guys when they first get to the island years before Oceanic 815 crashes. One of them's standing on a beach listening to the numbers broadcast. This is the broadcast that Hurley's buddy in the asylum, Leonard, keeps repeating after hearing them whilst in the Navy at a listening station, which makes Hurley use them to win his millions. Have another listen to the broadcast the French guy gets on his radio; I reckon that's Hurley talking.

And now we come to Adam and Eve. These are the two skeletons found in the caves by Jack when he leads the survivors there for fresh water, which he found by following his dead dad. As you do. Anyway, these bodies have a pouch on them and in the pouch are two polished stones, one black the other white. The bodies aren't mentioned again but I think they're Bernard and Rose. The timeline's good enough that if they died in the 70s then they fit the bill for Jacks 40-50 years old theory for the age of the bodies. How they got left in the 70s when everyone else seems to have jumped back is a mystery but then again shitloads is on this island.

Ah, one more thing; right at the beginning, just after the crash, Locke unpacks a backgammon set and explains to Walt that the game is 'two players, two sides, one is light, one is dark' and, obviously, that goes for the whole island. In many ways, the way people are being manipulated, either gently as with Jacob or blatantly as with MIB, reminds me more of chess than backgammon, but then chess complies to Lockes explanation, too. What's interesting is what light and dark actually means and who is who. Who is good, who is bad of Jacob and the MIB? Do such rules apply to them?


Is it me or did it look like Jacob resurrected Locke rather than 'interact' with him as he did with Hurley, young Sawyer and Kate etc? I think Locke hit the deck and died. It was a long, long fall.

And maybe that's why Locke was so important, to both Jacob and MIB. Jacob marks him as his in a very deliberate way. With everyone else he just sort of nudges them along, but with Locke, by neccessity, he brings him back. Locke comes or is brought to the island, is healed and feels a kinship with the place to such an extent he is the only one who never wants to leave. He belongs there, is the new leader of the others. And it's Christian/MIB who gets him off the island so that Ben can kill him, though why he does so is unexplained. One minute he's all supportive and helpful, the next John mentions Eloise Hawking and Ben strangles him.

Regardless, when he goes back to the island it's in a coffin and, dead, MIB can claim him as he claimed Christian. Now not only does he have a physical form, but he has one that the others will welcome and follow AND one that Jacob thinks of as his own. Maybe the difference is Jacob claims those near death and saves them and MIB claims those who are dead and uses them. And maybe Sayid is the first time he's been able to claim them before death.

Young Ben is shot by Sayid. Alpert takes ben to the temple and warns that he will not be the same afterwards. Seems obvious that what happened to Ben at the temple that saved his life is what happened to Sayid to save his. Also safe to say that when Ben went under, the water would have been clear. That the water wasn't clear for Sayid can be attributed to Jacob's death, but did the clear water not infect Ben at all and he just grew up to be the twisted, Machiavellian bastard we know and love or was there something else in the water? Maybe that's how Jacob does business; doesn't so much claim them and use them as mark them as 'his'.

More to come as the season unfolds...

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Even Better Than That!

A few years back there was a program called The Fast Show, a kind of quick-fire comedy sketch show that featured dozens of characters and spawned just as many catchphrases, some of which were even funny as opposed to teeth-gnashingly irritating when repeated ad infinitum by every man and his dog.

Anyway, amongst the many characters on The Fast Show was 'Mr Even Better Than That', a man whose long-suffering wife would send him out on simple errands for some staple of modern living only to have him return with a whole host of random items.

'Did you get the eggs I needed?'
'Even better than that! I got a Victorian toilet roll holder, some brass bicycle clips and a small bottle of squid ink!'

And of the eggs there would no sign.

And this is what came to mind when I went for my regular wander round the warehouse of marvels that is Bunnings. I like Bunnings very, very much indeed.

I like the staff, who are both knowledgable and helpful, I like the layout which is logical and spacious and I like the fact that my mum got a kick out of walking round there munching on a hot dog, something which she found as absurdly satisfying as I did.

Now originally I only went into Bunnings to get some 4mm ultra-drippers and barbed tee pieces as I was running out whilst converting our existing jetspray irrigation system. And that's another thing I like about Bunnings; you come away educated, if not actually capable. But it's a start. Where we used to live, the idea of me tackling the (well screwed up) watering system was as likely as the good people of Tooradin learning how to bloody tip.

But now, in our super McMansion with it's 6 zone holyshithowmanysprinklers??? system, it's, well, no worries. She will, indeed, be apples. Thanks to Bunnings, who not only have all the thingummys and doohickeys you need but also have someone who can tell you how to use them. These people can even deal with that most dangerous of creatures, A Pom With What He Thinks Is A Good Idea using nothing more than a timely application of a little "Well, yes, you could do that. Or..." followed by introducing said Pom to the bits actually designed for the job and steering him away from the assortment of ill-suited gubbins he was planning on using.

And the most unnerving thing is that they do this even though you were going spend more doing it your way. And this is where The Fast Show comes in.

Because they lull the likes of me into a false sense of security by looking out for me, dispensing sound advice and generally seeing me walk the DIY straight and narrow. And then, when they've endowed me with a sufficient amount of shallow knowledge... they let me roam.

'Did you get the drippers and tee pieces we needed, dear?'
'Even better than that! I got a whiteboard, some superglue, a small plastic box and pencil made entirely out of pencil! Oh, and yes I got those other things, too. And I nearly brought a box set of 19 screwdrivers for good measure.'

And yes, I did buy a pencil made entirely out of pencil (7 times more pencil than other pencils!). I wanted something to just make a nice clear mark on a surface before I started drilling for live cables. Chalk? Marker pen? Liquid paint? Ooooh, what's this. Bendable! Almost unbreakable! Writes on almost every surface! Every part of it's pencil! Sold!

And now I have one of them and, truth be told, it does write on almost every surface but it doesn't do it very well.

But the screwdrivers... Now I did like the look of them. All I need is an excuse to go back and get 'em...

Hmmm... Wonder if Bunnings sell eggs?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

PES 2010 vs My Ego

PICTURED: Awesome Me pursued by rubbish Everton players.
NOT PICTURED: Useless Liverpool teammates. Yes, even Stevie G.

I'm a huge soccer fan and, like most fans, I can not only manage a team better than any coach, but I can also play the game better than any footballer. I believe this can be said of any follower of any sport. In fact, as a Liverpool supporter, I would actually have done a better job than the fekking chairman; I wouldn't have sold to those American shysters, for a start.

Anyway, in Pro Evolution Soccer games you take control of the whole team which means that not only do you get to sign the great players you also get to play as all of them, passing from you as Ronaldo to you as Gerrard to you as Torres etc etc. But PES 2010, though, goes one better with it's Become A Legend mode.

BAL mode sees you play as, well, you. And only you. You pass to team-mates controlled by the computer and they pass back to you if they want to. You can wave frantically for the ball like an Aussie in fly-season (Jan to Dec fly-fact-fans) but even then you might not get it. You can go great long stretches of the game without seeing the ball, while your teammates stuff up, lose possession and let the oppposition run past them at will.

Now this is surreal enough when you're used to controlling everyone in your team, but BAL goes one better by allowing you to name your player AND assign him a commentary name. What this means is that if you share a name with almost any professional footballer (which I do) then the voice commentary in the game has that name stored. You find the name and assign it to yourself and, lo and behold, when you do anything of significance the commentators (either the tedious Jon Champion or the ludicrous Mark Lawrenson) will mention you by name.

Add that to the fact you can create, from boots to haircut, your own, if you will, soccer avatar, it can become a heady brew for any soccer fan as knowledgable and skillful as every soccer fan is. And as a footballer, I am, it must be said, something of a veritable Adonis, tall, muscular and with a much, much nicer goatee. Put it all together, and if you're the shallow, self-righteous type this can all easily go to your head.

And so it proves with me.

Because when you're controlling the whole team, if you stuff up it's your fault. But when you're controlling just you, it seems like everyone else stuffs up. For instance, being a full England international (as I am) and having, at the tender age of 26, won both the European Championships and the World Cup with England (as I have)AND the Champions League with Liverpool (which I have) AND being the Premier League top scorer AND assist provider (which I am) you'd think that when we go 1-0 down against France in the current World Cup because David Bloody James in goal has obviously been using his gloves to spread butter (no change there) and, in the 75th minute, I equalise after a huge solo run because none of my team-mates seem able to pass more than 5 feet (which they can't), that I might get some token of appreciation from the clueless monkey in charge of the team.

Perhaps a knowing wink, telling me always had confidence in my ability to turn it round. Or maybe the bench applauding me as I run by, pursued by admiring team-mates looking to give me nice, manly hug (that happens in football alot). Hell, even a thank-you note and a book token for Borders or something would be nice.

Instead, he substitutes me. And with me gone, France score again. And again. And England buckle like a belt. And this happens when I restart the match so that me not winning against bloody France, an obvious oversight by the computer, can be corrected. I restart again. And again. It only stops when I score two goals and then basically run around hogging the ball so nobody but me can touch it because half of them are the opposition and the other half are England and I'm not sure which mob does most to make us lose.

And what all of this does is give me a genuine insight into what it is to be a world class footballer. Not because of the trophies (of which I have many) or the Footballer of the Year accolades (yup, got them too) or the many, many Man of the Match awards I have (can't move for the things), but simply because of how you feel when you're by far and away the best player on the pitch.

It gets tiring to look for a pass from a teammate with all the vision of Ray Charles. It's depressing to arrow yet another incisive ball through the oppo's defence, only to see the teammate take off after it like a particularly leaden-footed cart-horse. And most of all it's exasperating when the manager thinks he knows better than you and takes you off.

So what PES 2010 does is make you painfully aware of exactly why Ronaldo left Manchester United for Real Madrid. And why Gerrard and Torres might sod off from Liverpool, for that matter.