Just Some Movie Chat


I don’t really see movies when they come out at the cinema much anymore. I’d like to get back to that, in theory at least, but I’m lazy about going out and audiences sometimes annoy me these days. So, I tend to save my films up for when I can rent them online at home or when they come to streaming. I still watch them as if I were in a cinema, as much as possible anyway, but I don’t get to them as fast as you might.

That’s why, when I get to talking about movies I’ve recently seen, I’m often talking about stuff you’ll have seen six months or a year ago. Often, it’s even longer than that. I don’t mind if you don’t. Hell, I don’t mind even if you do.

So, for today’s post, I just thought I’d type a bit about a couple of recent movies - my recent, not yours – and see where I get to. 

So… what have I seen?

Well, last night we watched ‘Challenger,’ which sounds like it should be a space shuttle movie, but which is actually a tennis/love triangle movie. We came to this because my younger son suggested we should see it and his recommendations are always worth respecting. Strike that. Almost always. I didn’t like this one. I think Sam put us on to it because my wife Patricia is a major (major) tennis fan and a twice weekly club player, when she’s not injured (get well soon, darlin’ x). The trouble with seeing a movie about a sport you love is that it can be hyped and soundtracked as much as you want, the action will never quite convince. This movie did pretty good in convincing us that the protagonists were really good at tennis but, like I said, it never totally works when you’re super-familiar with the real thing. What else? The characters were a bit dislikable, I thought. The shifting timeline was interesting and the unusual equality of camera interest in both the male and female form was commendable. Ther was an awful lot of sweat in the final sequences and the Rocky-like levels of sporting overdrive, coupled with the comically overblown conclusion made for an un-endearing show overall. But, hey, the soundtrack was pumping and the people in it looked good and it was smart and sexy. Just not for me, alas.

More for me was ‘Poor Things.’ I had heard mixed reviews. But, really, what else would you expect from a Yorgos Lanthimos film? I set aside a solitary Saturday afternoon and enjoyed this one. A Frankenstein fable of a man who creates a daughter who finds her way remarkably through the world. The cast have such fun with all this and it’s grotesque and sumptuous is almost equal measure. People said that Mark Ruffalo overplayed his role and that kind of annoys me. It’s as if they think he turned up on set and said, “this is who I will be, take it or leave it.” When, of course, the character will have evolved from the writing and the direction, as well as the actor’s own feelings. I thought he was great. I thought they all were. I didn’t think Trish would like this one, so I went solo on it, but she caught up on it herself afterwards and apparently liked it a lot. “I like weird,” she proclaimed and, of course, I should have known this.

I want to see ‘Inside Out 2’. I really like the first one, particularly the script, which balanced everything really well and wasn’t afraid to literally kill one of its darlings. I’d nearly go and sit in an empty cinema to see this one but there might well be kids there and that would be no good.

I am also girding my loins to see ‘Zone of Interest’ which both my sons highly recommend, and which Sam has gone as far as to say that it may be the best film he has ever seen. Unusually for me, I find myself a bit afraid of it. I know it will be difficult and I find I’m trying to build myself up to that. I will report back.

Things I haven’t seen include Oppenheimer. I’m not afraid of it, like I am with Zone of Interest but I find I need to find the right time to sit with it and I don’t reckon it’s going to be a smooth sailing. I’ll get there. I always get there. Just not yet (as the guy says in Gladiator). Not yet.

The other movie that is firmly on my list is La Chimera. A good friend spoke so highly of this that I recommended it to both my sons, John, and Sam, and they both saw it (in separate countries), and both liked it a lot. It’s available for rental now and I think it will be my next one.

What else? I loved Anatomy of a Fall. The prosecutor was my favourite in it. You should see it if you haven’t. It’s on Amazon Prime now, I think.

I rewatch movies a lot. I learn things from doing that and I justify it that way. I watched Jaws again, as I do at least once a year. There’s often something new to see. Last time I thought that Hendricks behaviour after finding Chrissie’s remains on the beach were a telling echo of John Wayne’s behaviour in The Searchers, after finding Lucy’s body in the canyon. Both dig in the sand with their knife. I love Jaws, always have. The shark may be rubbery, but the beauty of its fin as it makes its way to the pond is pure cinema. I love The Searchers too. It has the most inappropriate ‘U’ certificate I’ve ever seen.

There are lots of films I haven’t seen but I’ll keep working my way through them. It’s not work, really, that’s the wrong word.

It’s a labour of love.

The Flying Tippex Incident

I was using a little Tippex at work the other day and I was being very tentative and respectful with it and for the briefest of moments I wondered why that should be. Just for the briefest of moments. Then it all came back to me in a rush. The Flying Tippex Incident. How could I have forgotten, even for the briefest time?

You all know what I’m talking about, right? Tippex. There are apparently many different words for it in different parts of the world. ‘Liquid Paper’, ‘Snopake’, ‘White-Out’. It’s correction fluid. It was invented by Mike Nesmith’s mother, he of ‘The Monkees’ fame. We all know where we are now. Yes? We’ve got the scoop? Okay.

Once upon a time… wait, wait. How could I not have written about this before? I nip off and put the word ‘Tippex’ into the blog search feature. Nope. Not a single mention. Strange. But, then again, perhaps not so strange. Some stories are hard to tell, for reasons that will never be clear to anyone but me.

I was working in an architect’s office in London. One of several where I worked in my time there. I don’t want to name names or anything, but it was a lovely place and my time there was very happy and memorable. It was all good. I was there a long time and when I left, I bought them a big dictionary and wrote inside that I didn’t have the words. I thought that was pretty cute. I hope it’s still on a shelf there somewhere, even though everyone I knew there is now retired or gone from us.

I think I was a useful part of that office and I also think I was pretty well-liked there. Who could dislike me really? Well, I was considerably younger then and I had a bit of a temper on me. I still have the potential to erupt but these days I seem to be able to manage it better or maybe there just aren’t so many triggering moments in my life. Either way, I don’t tend to go off the deep end so much anymore. Important to note that I would only ever really harm one person when I went off on one of my explosive moments and that person was, of course, me. Back in the day, if I went off on one, I could easily punch a wall or kick a chair, often severely damaging knuckles or toes in the process. But never hurting anyone else, just me.

This one day, I was tippexing something out on a document at my desk. The phone rang and I answered it. I can no longer remember who was on the other end of that line or indeed anything about the content of the conversation that ensued. All I know for sure, nigh on thirty years later, was that the call pissed me off mightily… and I mean mightily.

I hung up. No, let’s try that line again. I smashed the phone handset back into its place, cracking the entire instrument in the process and hurting my hand too – par for the course. The four partners in the office all sat at their desks which were in all a line, up the office from mine. They all looked up when the phone got smashed down. My going off on one was not unheard of but it was still a pretty rare thing. In the relative serenity of the office, nobody liked it very much.

And I wasn’t done. Not yet. The phone smashing had given vent to some of whatever long-forgotten frustration I was suffering but it wasn’t nearly enough to end the eruption. Throughout the entire phone call, I had kept the Tippex bottle in my hand, gripping it ever tighter. It was still there. I looked down at it, squeezed tight in my paw…

And then I just… threw it. I launched it up the office, along the line of all the desks where the partners sat. It was just the four partners and little old me back in those days. Had I said that? Four professional men, intelligent and reserved. And me, a belligerent Mick with a Tippex bottle.

A Tippex bottle on which the lid had not been tightened.

It was a sound throw. I haven’t usually got a very good arm for such things, but this was a once-in-a-lifetime attempt, full of force and vigour. The tiny bottle whizzed past all four of the partner desks and made landfall just short of the library wall at the end of the office space. There it pretty-much exploded, the lid/brush combo flying free and releasing the viscous white liquid in a comet-shaped spatter on the recently laid carpet.

We gathered quietly, the four of us, and we stood around and inspected the damage, which was patently irreparable. The Tippex bottle had bounced and continued its trajectory up onto the books and catalogues on the library wall. There were splats of correcting fluid everywhere. Heads were shaken gently. Wry smiles exchanged. I had behaved abominably, childishly and unprofessionally and I was instantly filled with regret and self-admonishment, which was my standard response to losing my temper. But, for the partners' part, there was no talk of reprimand or sanction. There was a gentle one-on-one with the senior partner, who hoped I might exercise a little more composure in the light of future challenges. He also had an ironic little task for me, if I wanted it, to try to make some reparation for the damage I had done. I accepted it.

So it was that, one week later, I stood over a bemused insurance man who held his clipboard and his disbelieving expression with equal weight. He listened carefully as I explained how I had ‘dropped’ the Tippex bottle accidentally and would there please be any chance of some money to replace the section of carpet? There wasn’t. Tippex spills were not covered in the small print.

And, besides, the seventy-mile-an-hour trajectory of the crime-scene spatter rather undermined my account of a low energy spill.

I’m sure the Tippex mark is long gone now, as the partners – my good friends – are gone and, indeed, as I am gone. I like to think I was a bit calmer after that. I think I learned a little something from it.

And, as with all the other mistakes I have made in my life, I only ever really forget it for the briefest of moments.

Half Time, All Done

This will be one of those posts. 

If I was to put the right key words into my blog search feature, I’m pretty sure I would find I’ve written it before, maybe even more than once. I’m not going to do that, though. I’ll just write it again. Perhaps I’ll say it better this time around.

Summer Equinox. The longest day. The shortest night. We’ve done it all now. Tonight, 23rd June, is bonfire night in our neck of the woods. It’s Saint John’s Eve. Its timing is a small notch off the mark for exact Midsummer but it’s near enough and that’s certainly a large part of why it exists and persists. It’s the final marker whereon you can stand and say you’re right in the middle of the Summer. After that, it’s downhill all the way. Or uphill, depending on how you care to look at it.

That’s what I want to type about today (and not for very long, I feel). My feeling about the passing of Midsummer and indeed the passing of the halfway point of anything at all. It makes me a bit sad. Not overwhelmingly, all-embracingly flattened or anything as dramatic as all that. More just a dull feeling that the best is now over and the remainder is just a swift run down into something less good.

That’s how I kind of feel now. Now that the Summer Equinox has been and gone. The best part of Summer is now over, as far as I am concerned.

It’s a feeling I try to quell and, to be fair, I largely succeed. There are still some days in June left to enjoy, I tell myself, and July and August will be pure Summer times, even though August is Autumn, really. There will be lots left to savour and enjoy. Why, Summer is really only beginning. I tell myself all this, and I largely believe in it, but through it all, there is a little voice in the back of my head wheedling and complaining. “You know that’s simply not true,” the voice says, “it’s more than half over now and so the best is gone and what’s left is only second rate at best.

I wish I didn’t have that voice in my head but it’s always been there, ever since I was a little boy. I subconsciously calculate the mid-point of any span of time and then I judge the first half as being the best of times and the second half as being, effectively, an over-extended and inferior end part. I do this with everything. Holidays, Christmas, bank holidays, seasons, TV series, books, you name it. Whatever it is, it’s half-over now and the best is certainly not still to come.

I’m doing it right now. It’s the weekend, a lovely time, by all accounts. But Friday evenings are always the best, because they’re furthest from the end. Saturdays are fine and Sundays are just a slow counting-down into Monday morning, when the week will kick off again.

More worryingly, I quietly do this with life too. Not in a big dramatic awful way, as I said above, rather just that quiet little illogical voice in the back of my head (61 next week, it ain’t really going to get much better from here on out, is it?). Even as I typed the word ‘illogical’ in that last sentence-but-one, the little voice is going, “What’s ‘illogical’ about it? It’s only common sense.”

As I said, it’s a feeling I don’t just simply accept. I rail against it. I battle it constantly. It’s now 10.40am, Sunday morning. I have a lovely long Summer Sunday ahead of me, to enjoy and to savour, and that’s what I’m going to do. The book I’m reading will be even better in the second half, you’ll see. This second triangle of sandwich will be even tastier than the first.

But that little voice stays and stays and we all know why it does.

Because there’s some small measure of truth to it. That’s why. The Summer Solstice is now over and the next stop is darkness.

Not it isn’t. It’s just not.

Ah, but yes, it is.