Hooked on the Twist

I was trying to think of where I first came across a twist in a movie.  This got me thinking about twists in general so I thought I’d write a few hundred words about them, ‘see where it took me.

Don’t worry.  Any talking about twists I do will be carefully monitored to avoid spoilers.  I don’t believe there is a ‘Statute of Limitations’ on twists as some people seem to do.  
 
Some people seem to think, “That film is over 5/10/20 years old now, I can shout the twist all over the place, who cares?”  Well, the people who haven’t seen the movie yet, they care.  So, if I go on about some film (as I will) and you haven’t seen it, I think you’ll be safe.  Try to see it soon though, you’re on dangerous ground leaving it this long, there’s a lot of feckin' eejits about.

The first time I encountered a twist in a movie, it just blew me away.

It was ‘Sleuth’. The first adaptation of Anthony Shaffer’s stage play starring Laurence Olivier, Michael Caine and Alec Cawthorne.  (I reviewed the second version here). I remember seeing a trailer for it at some kid’s matinee show back in 1972, I remember thinking it looked rubbish and I would never watch that.  Its saving grace was that turned up on TV, a few years later, as the Christmas Night Movie.  In Ireland, back then, the Christmas Night Movie had a seriously captive audience.  There were no other channels to flick to, no other place to be.  The only thing to do was to watch the movie.  I should write a separate blog post about the movies I’ve seen on Christmas Night that I would never otherwise have seen.  There was ‘Gone With the Wind’, ‘Braveheart’ and… what else… oh, yeah, there was ‘Sleuth’.

Famously, ‘Sleuth’ has a twist.

No, I won’t tell you what it is (you probably know already).  All I need to tell you is what it did to me.

Before 'Sleuth' I already knew movies could make you happy or sad, you could laugh or even cry when nobody was looking but I didn’t know they could flip you upside down like on a roller coaster, that your stomach could be felt to plummet three inches lower down into your pants, that your head could reel and your mind, momentarily, fail to grasp the beauty of what had just unfolded before your very eyes.

I saw ‘Sleuth’ and I was hooked.  Hooked on the twist.

And there have been so few, so few really good twists.  I’m pretty good at seeing things coming, at spotting the machinations of a twist-in-the-making, so I’m rarely caught out.  Perhaps that’s why, when I am, I like it so much.

Jump forward to The Sixth Sense.  I saw that one in the cinema when it came out.  Everybody and their Granny was talking about ‘The Twist’.  “It’s an Amazing Twist.”  “You’ll never see this Twist coming.” Etc etc.  I went to see it with the express intent of figuring out the Twist before it got me.  I studied the film intently as it played out.  I even got some kids thrown out of the show for talking too much (that’s another story).  Guess what?  I didn’t figure it out.  I never saw it coming.  My belly did the flip just like in the good old days.  I loved it.

I’ll grant you that The Sixth Sense is a two dimensional construct.  You have to look at it face-on, for the effect to work.  If you go around the side of it, you can see the buttresses and wedges holding it all together.  What on earth do I mean?  Well, for example, the story only works in the scenes we are allowed to see.  What is happening to the character in the moments between those scenes?  Any myriad of events would cause the house of cards to tumble but all of them are avoided until the one arrives which deliberately kicks it all down.  It’s a rather elegant thing, I think.

But the twist of all twists - oh, man, when I think of it – was The Crying Game.  This is the most difficult one to talk about without doing Spoilers so you might want to skip this paragraph (you don’t have to).  I went to see this with Trish in Kensington on the Sunday it came out.  As usual I knew a little bit about it.  I knew it was Neil Jordan, I knew the casting of the film had presented singular difficulties…  Face it, Ken, you knew nothing. 

When it happened… when ‘Thing’ happened, it was like going off the deep end.  I had been misled in the most basic of ways and I loved it.  I turned to Trish and she whispered, “I saw that coming.”  I hadn’t the energy for the obvious reply.

So that’s it.  There were others but I just wanted to mention three.

I really want to go and find ‘Sleuth’ now and show it to my kids.  I want to see if I can make their tummy flip in the way mine did, all those years ago.  Probably not, these are less innocent times.

What great movie twists am I forgetting, I wonder?  Perhaps you might remind me of a few that you have enjoyed?

No spoilers though… 

… okay?

Aisle Be Seeing You

One of the worst things that can happen to me in a supermarket is that I would meet an old friend or acquaintance down along the aisles.

The very worst thing that can happen to me in a supermarket is that I would meet an old friend or acquaintance in the very first aisle.

Don’t think me anti-social (although I am, a bit), I’m as happy to meet old friends and/or acquaintances  as the Next Man.  Hell, I’m as happy to meet the Next Man as the Next Man.  
 
Just not in the supermarket.  Please.

Picture the scene:  You’re wheeling your trolley along Aisle Number One – Fruit and Veg – when you spot somebody who you half-know frowning over the aubergines.  Could it be?  Yes it is.  It’s Martin,  Good old Martin.  You decide you will draw alongside his trolley with your own and surprise him with some carefully selected epigram along the lines of ‘Howiya, Bollix’.   You mentally rub yours hands together in juvenile glee.

Then you remember the last time, and the time before that and, thinking better of the entire proposal, you attempt to slip past Good Old Martin, Ninja-Fashion, without being seen.

“Ken, ya auld bollix!”

Too late, I’ve been spotted.

“Martin, good auld Martin, how the devil are you?”

“Grand, grand… grand…”

“…”

“…”

“So… you’re on the Aubergines then?”

Supermarket conversation may be occasionally passable but it is rarely earth-shatteringly good.

After a subconsciously-specified period of inane chit-chat, it’s time to plug the ipod buds back in and roll on toward the cleaning products aisle.  Persil and Tide wait for no man and all that hahahaha… yes, bye.  Onward hastily through the supermarket, for there are still fourteen more aisles to navigate. 

“And therein lies the rub,” as Hamlet, (our local masseur) used to say.

You know what I’m going to say. 

You know it because you’ve lived it yourself.  Yes, Martin – Good old Martin – will be in every one of those fourteen aisles, waiting for me.  He won’t want to be.  He’s not a stalker or anything.  In fact he will be trying his damnedest to not see me in the shop ever again.  But it can’t be done, we are now destined to meet in every aisle for the rest of the shopping expedition.

The first aisle after we meet will not produce an actual meeting.  We will both see each other and we will both double-back to avoid passing each other again.  That is the fatal flaw – we have both now broken our routine route around the supermarket in order to avoid each other.  Order has been abandoned and the laws of Chaos have now come into play.  The result will be that we will miss key elements from our shopping list and, of course, we will be destined to meet and meet and meet again.

It probably isn’t so bad for you guys, this repeated interpenetration of shopping routes, but I have a condition which exacerbates the problem greatly.  It's simply this; I always have to say ‘Hello’.  Yes, I know, it’s tragic, what can I tell you?  I struggle on, it’s all I can do.  The point being that, every aisle we meet in, I have to say ‘Hello’ again to Good Auld Martin (the Bollix).  You would probably carry it off with a smile or an enigmatic twitch of the right eyebrow.  Not me.  I have to speak, to come up with something different in each aisle.

“How are you now?”
“How’s the Aubergine bearing up?”
“Your hair is nice.”
“Shocking weather.”
“Small world.”
“How are you now? (Damn)”

And on and on.

Martin is one of those people, like you, who doesn’t need to speak at every encounter.  Every time I meet him and greet him with another ineptitude, his face darkens and his general demeanour becomes ever more murderous.  Whatever tenuous friendship Martin and I previously enjoyed, it has seriously withered on the vine by ‘Tea and Coffee’ and has been buried deep in the cold cold ground and stamped-upon by the time we cross paths once more in ‘Household’.

By the time the checkout is achieved, and we line up at our adjacent conveyor belts, we are sworn mortal enemies and we will never actively seek each other out socially ever again.

Plus I forgot to get the Weetabix.

Feigning Shoelace Crises

I have a couple of beliefs that I think may be peculiar to me.  They’re peculiar, obviously, but I also think I might be the only one in the world who has them.

Here’s one such belief:

If you’re walking along the street and you happen to meet up with  somebody you don’t know who is walking in the same direction and at the same pace as you then, if you do nothing about it, there is something really wrong with you.

There’s a lot in there, I know.  Allow me to break it down for you.

You’re walking to work.  It’s early and there’s not too many people around.  Suddenly, from out of a garden gate, a guy appears.  He’s got a laptop case and is wearing one of those Jamiroquai hats (this information is just for added-colour).  He falls into step with you and walks alongside.  His pace is the exact same as yours and you’re both going the same way.  
You're now walking-buddies along the misty early-morning road…

Sod that!  No, I mean it, sod that!  If this guy hasn’t the wit to know he is invading my space then there’s something wrong with him.  He’s not right.

(Let me remind you that this is a belief which is probably unique to me, I don’t expect you to share it.)

Most of you will probably be saying, “where’s the problem?  He’s walking at the same pace as you and he’s going the same way.  What do you want the poor ill-hatted bugger to do?  Do you want him to wait at his garden gate until you are gone a reasonable distance up the road?”

Well, yes, that’s exactly what I expect him to do.  It’s what I would do.  I don’t want to walk along with some person I don’t know, like we’re a dating couple who just shared a bowl of Honey Nut Cornflakes or something. 

As a matter of fact, if it were me at the gate, in the hat (unlikely), not only would I wait for the other person to go ahead, I would invent a reason for my hold up so that he wouldn’t feel too bad.

Most likely, I would feign a shoe lace crisis, get down on one knee and pretend to sort it out.  And, yes, I guess I expect others to do the same or, at least, find their own subtle way to keep out of my space.

It’s just me, I know it is.  You see I don’t really like having social interaction pressed upon me.  This manifests itself in my uneasiness with internet chat – MSN and such-like.  If somebody pops up and starts a chat, I generally wish they hadn’t.  Twitter is different because you can take time and gauge your response.  My ‘gauging’ usually only lasts about three seconds but they’re three seconds I value all the same.

I lived in a big city for many years and I realise that city centre commuters will have very little empathy with this particular belief of mine.  But it’s different there.  The morning and evening commute in the big city is an unavoidable crush of humankind.  All considerations of personal space must, necessarily, defenestrate at that point.  But, even in the big city, this belief applies in the sparsely populated suburban streets of the final leg of the way home.

I’ve studied the people (few, mercifully) who end up walking alongside me on the street and who won’t go away and, yes, I can confirm that there is indeed something wrong with them.  There is a blankness behind the eyes, a dragging of the arms, the beginnings of a string of drool, perhaps, at the corner of the mouth.  They’re never right, these unsolicited co-walkers.

“It’s easy,” you scream in undoubted frustration, “if they impose themselves on you, then do what you would do if it was you doing the imposing.”

“…eh?”

Read it again, it does make sense.  If the other person won't do it then you can do it!  You do the stopping, the shoelace fixing, the urgent texting, the ear scratching, the searching of pockets before finding the missing thing thirty seconds later.  You do it and let the drooly guy walk on.

Well, yes, I do do that, obviously, but it’s not the point is it?  I shouldn’t have to make these concessions to the world.  There should be a little give in the world for me.  Is that so very much to ask?
- Morning.

- Yes, ‘morning to you.

- Lovely day isn’t it?

 -Yes it certainly_ look, oh my, my shoelace appears to be… no, you go on, leave me, ‘save yourself' and all that, yes, hahahahaha… bye, yes, bye…  

(Phew.)

Trying to Figure Out Why I Was So Disappointed by Tintin

I think it’s fair to say that I’m a lover of movies.

I’ve never in my life started watching a film hoping not to like it. 

Often I like films even when everyone else doesn’t.  When films divide audiences right down the middle – half love it, half hate it – films like ‘Sweeney Todd’ or ‘500 Days of Summer’ - you can almost bet that I’ll be over there on the love side, waving my scarf.

So I went to see ‘Tintin’ last week, with my eleven year old son, and we were both expecting to enjoy it lots.  I think he actually did (unless he was just trying to be nice to me) but I didn’t… I didn’t enjoy it at all.  And, in truth, this surprised me a bit.

I knew very little about ‘Tintin’ going in.  I know the character, of course, and I was aware of the support characters from the comic books, but I was never a fan.  I’d leafed through a few of the books from time to time but no more than that.   I think that’s important.  It shows how I wasn’t approaching the new movie adaptation as a devout fan might, who might want to be picking holes, might want to be unhappy.  I just wanted to see a good movie, that’s all.

And, from my point of view at least, I didn’t.  ‘Tintin’ really never got going for me.  I had heard it would deliver thrills, spills and spectacle which could never have been presented without the use of motion-capture technology – I missed that part.  I came out a little more flattened than when I went in whereas, with other big blockbuster entertainment, like the older Indiana Jones ones, for all their technology constraints, I invariably came out buzzed.

The fact is that somewhere, quite early on in the narrative, Tintin lost me and it never got me back.  After that happened the action lost its buzz, the sparkle lost its sparkle and I didn’t care if the ‘mission’ succeeded or failed.  For what it’s worth, I found the nuances of the audience reaction (something I think I am quite sensitive to, as a theatre-writer) were rather dull and flat too.

Although, thinking back on the film now, I remember much to enjoy and to admire.  It was beautifully realised, there was humour and fun in the script and the voice characterisations were top notch.  But here’s an odd thing – I’ve never watched a whole movie, disliked it, and then gone back and changed my mind afterwards.  My first impressions seem to count for quite a lot… with me anyway.

The point of this post is not for me to deride or insult Spielberg’s new film.  I’m honestly a bit troubled.  I'm worried that the movie was actually fine and great and every bit as good as the ones I used to enjoy and that I’ve just got too old and jaded to enjoy this kind of thing anymore.  That’s a sad thought and I don’t want it to be right.

In truth, I don’t think I’m too old to enjoy and old fashioned rip-roaring movie.  I enjoyed ‘Super 8’ immensely and that was only a couple of months ago.

I think the problem is with ‘Heart’.  I think ‘Tintin’ lacks ‘Heart’ and, considering it’s a Spielberg movie, that is rather astonishing.  I know one owes a debt to the source material (and, on that note, did all the noses have to be like that?) but one doesn’t have to be in thrall to it to the detriment of the project.  Perhaps the ‘Tintin’ comicbooks weren't all that big on things like love and friendship, I don't know, but the movie is so devoid of ‘Heart’ that I think, subconsciously, I divorced myself emotionally from it as it progressed.  Tintin, as a character, cares for nothing but the current mission.  There’s ‘Snowy’ but he looks after himself and Tintin seems impervious to any danger the poor pooch might get himself into.  There’s nobody else.  The only woman in the film is the Opera singer… is that right?

Now I don’t need tears and true love and tragedy and little-birds and such.  I just need that drop of blood I was prattling on about here last week.  In all the technological wizardry and faithfulness and spectacle, somebody somewhere forgot to prick their finger and squeeze it into the script.

That’s what I reckon.

But I’m old…

So, which is it?  Was the movie as poor as I found it to be or should I just climb into my box, lie down and pull over the lid?

It’s probably a bit of both.

That’s usually the answer to most of these ‘either/or’ questions.

Or so I’ve found… in my time.