Credits Where they're Due

I miss that people don't hang around in the movies anymore until the credits finish. I always used to do it and found it to be a rewarding experience on any number of levels.

Granted, I don't remember a time when the majority of people stayed for the titles. There has always been a general rush for the door as if the outside world held some great attraction. But there used to be a tight little contingent of credit-fans who would sit them out until the 'all rights reserved' bit rolled up.

I particularly remember the James Bond movies where you could only find out the name of the next installment by waiting until the end of the end credits when it always said "James Bond will return in 'Man with the Golden Gun' or whatever.

Nowadays it seems you simply cannot stay.

The lights come up practically before the bad guy is dead. The cleaning folk wade in through the popcorn and start mopping up and the general vibe is one of "why are you still sitting there, you sad little man?"

Which is a shame.

There is much to be learned from end credits and often a few laughs too. And there is occasionally a bloody good song to hear as well.

I also think it's a nice time to reflect on the movie before you have to go out and express an opinion about it.

I think 'Spiderman 3' (which i did not think was that bad) would have been better if I had been allowed to stay and hear the Snow Patrol song play over the end credits.

But I'll never know.

"Get the DVD," you might say, "watch your bloody credits at home."

No, it's simply not the same...

Maybe if I hired a bunch of people to try to squeeze grumpily past me on the couch while I was watching the credits... maybe that would help replicate the experience?


My Dad – In His Own Words

I love where my mother came from, Castleconnor in Enniscrone.

I go up there very often, to the house that they were all born in. Their house was in Castletown in Castleconnor but the house was deserted for years and then a man bought the farm – it was a very small farm. The man who bought it has re-roofed it and he holds hay in it.

I go into the house – the keys are hanging around it and I would get the keys and go in – illegally, you know – because he didn’t know for a long time – but when I used to go in and remember how it used to be and the old fireplace – part of it is still there and the wall over it is white and I put my name on it in Irish.

And I was down the town of Sligo one day and I had to go to the Barracks to get some form signed and the girl in the Barracks got the form and she signed it for me and everything and she said, “You’re Eddie Armstrong,” and I said, “That’s right,” and she says there’s somebody looking for you here and she said hold on and this guard came out. He was in plain clothes and he said, “Oh, I was looking for you. You be up in Castleconnor,” and I said I do and he said, “Well, I’ll tell you what we’ll do now – wait for me outside the door and we’ll talk about it.”

I thought I was in trouble – didn’t know what was wrong. So I went out and I couldn’t think of his name but he says, “I’m the man who owns the house where you go in and write your name on the wall!”

He says I understand Irish and I made enquiries about your name from the traffic warden who comes from up there and he told me your life story and he says you were the rent collector for the Corporation. So he says, “You’re quite welcome to go into the house any time you’re up there.”

I often go up there and go into it then into Enniscrone. I have relations there.

(My father’s story and photograph formed part of a great exhibition called ‘From The Feet Up’ in the Hawk’s Well Theatre in Sligo. The stories were collected by Maura Gilligan and each story-teller was photographed by James Fraher.

Thanks to them for allowing me to reproduce my father’s contribution here.)

The Mist (ified)

On the rare occasion when I get the house to myself and have nothing really useful to do, I tend to spoil myself rotten.

Yesterday, this involved hiding the mobile phone, renting a movie and hitting the couch very hard indeed.

I like to watch movies that I know Trish wouldn’t be bothered with but which I will probably enjoy. So that, almost invariably, leads me straight to the horror section.

Yesterday I treated myself to ‘The Mist’ – which is one I had wanted to see for some time. I knew the Stephen King novella since it was first published and liked it a lot so that was a good start. Add to this that Frank Darabont wrote and directed this one and he had already done quite well with adapting King material such as ‘The Green Mile’ and, of course, that ‘Shawshank’ thingie. I had also heard a few dubious comments about this film which served to lower my expectations nicely.

So, as I lowered the blinds, I expected nothing more than a fun ‘creature feature’ with a few gory moments and, hopefully a couple of hours peaceful diversion.

I actually got quite a but more than I bargained for and that is the primary reason that, if you can stand a little horror, I am going to recommend this movie to you.

The story concerns a diverse group of people who become trapped in a local convenience store when a sinister mist descends upon their town after a frightening storm. It soon becomes clear that there is much more to this mist that meets – or obscures – the eye.

‘The Mist’ ticks all the boxes for an adult horror flick. There are monsters, tension, gore aplenty and there are also many of the stock characters one would expect to encounter in one of those ‘Group of people verses the creatures’ movies such as ‘Tremors’.

But, after ticking these boxes successfully, Frank Darabont then takes the material quite a bit further than one might expect. I won’t say how or what ‘cos we don’t do spoilers too much round here but suffice it to say that it is unusual and quite striking in its execution.

Very few films are perfect and this certainly is not one of them. Let me try for a few criticisms. The acting seems quite wooden at first, until the action kicks in. There is a religious side-plot which seems overwrought and unconvincing to me. One of the more interesting characters seems ultimately to be underused. Oh and there is that perennial problem that the unknown ‘horror’ out in the mist is infinitely more worrying than what finally materialises but I think, not matter how CGI evolves in the future, this will always be the case – nothing can scare us like our own imaginings can. Finally, on the criticism front, I always feel that Darabont allows several scenes too many into his movies, particularly in the final act. I think this is true of both Green Mile and Shawshank and I think it is true here too.

But, all in all, I was very impressed with the time I spent in ‘The Mist’. I found it entertaining, edgy and ultimately more than a little disturbing – which hardly ever happens to me.

I will be interested to see if the upcoming Daniel Day Lewis performance in Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Road’ sparks a revisit to this film – in several key ways, the themes are strikingly similar.

In the meantime, I commend this film unto you. Have you seen it? Do you agree or disagree with me? Let me know, eh?

I’m over here – can’t you see me?

More Retail Griping

As in most places, there’s a Recession going on around here.

You can see it very clearly in the shops. They are simply not as busy as they used to be. People are not buying so much these days. So you’d think you might get in and out of the bloody places a bit quicker, wouldn’t you?

Yeah right.

On two separate occasions, the other day, I went into a shop and queued and waited and waited and queued. In each case, the solitary person behind the only manned checkout gazed wistfully at the other dark checkouts and doubtless wished for some help.

The shops weren’t dreadfully busy – there’s a Recession on, after all – but there was more custom than one measly till could handle. So I waited.

“Deal with it!” I hear you roar. “The shops are short staffed on account of The Recession, we all have to knuckle down and suffer together.”

It’s a good argument – except it’s totally wrong – and herein lies the rub. There was loads of staff in each of these shops. Gangs of the little feckers. But they were all out doing some nameless bloody stuff on the shop floor. They were all engaged in something-or-other instead of coming in and firing up till number two and letting me be on my merry bloody way.

And what were they doing?

One of the shops was the video rental shop. The poor bugger behind the counter was sweating diamonds and the queue was like a Miley Cyrus concert ticket line. Meanwhile yonder dozy pillock is out among the DVD’s apparently doing nothing more taxing than trying to figure out what he might bring home and watch that evening after they ejected the last of the un-served customers and shuffled off home.

In the other shop, where I was desperately trying to buy an umbrella, one of the floor-people – a guy – seemed to be seriously contemplating trying on a sports bra. I kid you not. Meanwhile, I was seriously contemplating stuffing said undergarment up his arse.

I eventually let the ‘umbrella mission’ go and walked home in the rain but, in the video shop, after five minutes of needless queuing, I cracked and asked whether the mega-star down in the romance section might sidle over here and let some of us poor bastards go home sometime tonight.

And he did and we all saw that it was a better way.


Customers – Ask for another person to man a checkout… because you're worth it.

Retailer – I left your shop without purchasing anything for one reason only. Because 50% of your male sales staff were out checking out the bras. What does this tell you…?

… yeah, me too.

How It Felt To Be In My Coffin

(Some people may find this post a little disturbing, please be warned.)

Being a writer on set, you don’t have much to actually 'do', so I behaved much as I learned to do with the radio and theatre stuff – I kept my nose out of things and offered to help in any way I can.  As it turned out, being allowed along for the shooting of my short film ‘Channel 31’ yesterday allowed me to volunteer to do some quite outlandish things and left me with at least three experiences which I may never forget.

The fact that this 'day of remarkable memories' fell on my birthday only added to the special-ness of it all.

We started out filming in a real-live funeral home which, in true Irish fashion, had a pub out towards the front and a full-blown wedding going on out the back in a marquee.

We were meant to have a nice prop coffin but that fell through (no, not literally). The funeral director was most kind, though, he had a couple of real-life caskets on hand, waiting for the next customers to show up, and he was quite amenable to us using one of them.

So if you’ve got coffin to hand, all laid out nicely in the funeral home… you’re bound to want to give it a go, aren’t you? Well I certainly did and, soon enough, I was given an almost-legitimate reason for doing so. The actor who was spending time in the coffin was having a well-deserved cigarette out the back with the wedding-party and they needed a stand-in for the next set-up. Cue me to volunteer and climb into the coffin.

Can I just say again that this was the ‘Real McCoy’. The odds are good that by the end of the week somebody will be filling up that box for real. But for now it was my turn. In I climbed, the silky lining was cool and slinky but it did nothing to soften the hard wood beneath. If I were to describe the inside of my coffin in one word, I think it would be this: Snug. There’s not a while lot of room for doing stuff in there – which is probably as it should be.

I had a theatre play once where there was a real-life shotgun involved. Although it had been made-safe and certified as such by the police, there was still an aura of danger and unease about it. A character in the play had to put this gun into their mouth while another character prepared themselves to pull the trigger (are you getting a feel for my plays?). The point is that everyone joked about trying out this gun themselves but few did. It was like that with the coffin yesterday. I thought everyone would want a go – I saw it as a golden opportunity – and indeed it was. It gave me an unusual perspective on the funeral home and I fully expect it will fuel a nightmare or two somewhere down the line but that’s all to the good, right?

The second experience was funnier, well, less macabre anyway. We were just ready to shoot a short scene involving said casket when a traditional Irish quartet struck up in the garden to serenade the bride and groom. Again, being the useless writer, I volunteered to go out and try to silence them while the take was being ‘taken’ (note to self: learn more technical phrases). So off I went.

It was a tad awkward. The quartet were dressed up all nice and ‘trad’ – waistcoats and bowlers and shirt-sleeve-garters and such and they seemed most dubious when I asked them would they mind shutting up for a couple of minutes. Perhaps this was because the Bride and Groom were standing by waiting to be played-to. Still they obliged. The two minutes ran more like five but it actually felt like five hours. The 'coffin gig' was much much easier. My nightmares about holding up the wedding will be, I am sure, even more disturbing that the coffin ones.

The last five hours of the days filming ran from eleven p.m. to four a.m. and took place in a remote country graveyard which could only be reached across fields, walls, and farmyards. The sizable crew of actors, DOP, sound, lighting, makeup, costume, producer… who else, oh yes, writer, how could I forget? - we all trooped all of the equipment across this rural assault course and set up while the mid-summer sun reluctantly set and the moon enthusiastically rose. We had a few rain showers, were bombarded by enormous moths and spooked by the imposing old headstones but we got through it in the end.

My mission here was to dig some earth from outside the hallowed ground so we could emulate some digging inside without actually disturbing anyone or being in any way disrespectful. to the residents. So, midnight saw me digging hard outside the graveyard wall as the bats fluttered around and that moon glowered uncanny red through the low lying mists.

What did you get for your birthday Ken?

I got to spend it with new friends in a creative endeavour which felt like guerrilla film-making even though it was all done with permission.

I got to have some experiences which I am confident will stay with me until I once again fill up a casket.

And I got to see my beloved little film being made – and the shots, by the way, look stunning.

Beat that for your birthday, I dare you.

The A and E Song

(To the tune of Galway Bay)

If you ever go to A and E in Ireland
And get there at the closing of your day
You can sit and watch the loons row over nothing
And end up with a nice long trolley stay. 

And if they put you on an intravenous
And stick the needle in there all the way.
Be sure and tell them fill it up with Guinness 
Or else the feckers only give you tay. 

And if your leg's come over rather septic.
And they want to hack it off above the knee
Just pour a drop of Jamesons down your trouser
It'll fix you up and cure impotency.

So If you ever go to A and E in Ireland
And get there at the closing of your day
You may not get much medical attention
But the chapel's really nice for a wee pray.