Stare Into Space

Film: Tyrannosaur

Posted on | October 16, 2011 | 1 Comment

Peter Mullan in Tyrannosaur

A year or two back, I saw Paddy Considine’s short film Dog Altogether and was lucky enough to attend a Q&A with Considine afterwards. He mentioned at the time that he hoped to expand the short into a feature-length film and that we was working towards that.

Well, Dog Altogether was a brilliant piece of work (the BAFTA people agreed with me) and I’ve been looking forward to seeing what Considine would do with a full-length film.

Tyrannosaur is what he’s come up with and, Christ, he hasn’t disappointed.

If you’ve heard anything about Tyrannosaur, you’ve probably heard about the violence. There is violence. It’s real and it’s unflinching and it’s harrowing. Tyrannosaur has a huge, savage, streak all through it and it can’t fail to affect you.

What I hope you’ve also heard, though, is that it’s a brilliantly beautiful film. Ugliness and grime has never looked so beautiful.

Peter Mullan plays Joseph, a man with serious anger-management issues. It would be incredibly easy for that the slip into one-dimensional raging but Mullan’s skill as an actor—as well as Considine’s writing and directing—never allows this to happen. That Joseph is capable of extremes of violence is clear from the beginning but his regret and his desire to change is beautifully and subtly drawn too. The simmering of Joseph’s rage—the hair-trigger that could release at any point—keeps you glued to him all through the film.

Olivia Colman too, is truly excellent. In common with many, I know her mostly from Peep Show and Mitchell and Webb sketches. Her performance here couldn’t be farther from that world. Hannah, Colman’s character, has her own problems with violence. A devout Christian in an abusive marriage, the humiliation and suffering she undergoes is almost beyond belief but it’s so real, so authentic, that we’ve no choice but to believe it.

It’s hard to watch Tyrannosaur. Very hard. But you can’t take your eyes off the screen. To do that would be to let down these characters.

Considine has created something amazing here. The last time I saw the bleakness and griminess of human-nature so beautifully captured on film was probably the Red Riding films based on David Peace’s books. Tyrannosaur doesn’t have the same nihilism and darkness as those, though, and despite its seriously disturbing subject matter, actually leaves you with a little hope at the end.

Astonishingly well-written, wonderfully filmed and acted. If you haven’t seen Tyrannosaur, remedy that. I want to see it again.

 

My Brain Works Differently To Normal People’s

Posted on | October 15, 2011 | 5 Comments

Last night was one of my, all-too-rare, ‘alone in the house’ nights. Wife and children off visiting family.

Ah, bliss. Relaxing, calm, quiet—

BUMP!

What the crap? A noise, a palpable noise, from somewhere in the house. It was relatively loud; certainly the sound of something large shifting or falling.

Into the kitchen. Nothing there.

I decided, if I was to investigate this potential house-invasion of burglars, kidnappers or grey-aliens, I should not be defenceless.

Into the drawers.

Rummage, rummage.

What do I come up with? What do I wield as a weapon as I search the rest of the (hopefully) empty house?

A small LED flashlight.

I figured it could serve as a makeshift knuckle-duster should I need to punch a Grey in his stupid, big-eyed, face.

It’s worth noting that, in choosing this weapon, I looked at, considered, and ultimately eschewed a number of large and sharp kitchen knives in favour of three-and-a-half inches of flimsy, cylindrical metal.

My reason for not going with big, sharp, knives?

Too clichéd.

Stupid brain.

Never did find the source of the noise. You can be damn sure I slept with that flashlight on the bedside table, though.

The Ague

Posted on | October 10, 2011 | 4 Comments

I am unwell.

I am afflicted with Ghastly Belly Fever.

This is as bad as it sounds. Worse in fact. I am as weak as a, particularly pale and wan, Georgian fop, with barely strength to lift a lace handkerchief. Had I the energy, I would beat my sickly and frail body with fists of iron. I have no energy however, and my fists are feeble and limp. Instead, I curse the heavens between muttering incomprehensible fever babblings.

I’m going back to bed.

At The Zoo: They Forgot Hector

Posted on | August 21, 2011 | Comments Off on At The Zoo: They Forgot Hector

DO NOT PISS OFF THE ANIMALS.

2011-08-19 13054

Gerry’s Big Day Out

Posted on | July 15, 2011 | Comments Off on Gerry’s Big Day Out

Irked ThrushOddly, the sun shone.

Blue and cloudless skies and the warmest day of the year for the day I planned to spend about five hours in the cinema.

Caught Malick’s The Tree Of Life to see what all the fuss was about. And I count myself in the ‘impressed’ column. I feel the film worked on a number of levels, none of which I understood. I’m pretty sure I saw Sean Penn at one stage though so, you know… there’s that.

As you’d probably expect if you’ve seen the trailers, The Tree Of Life is visually stunning. The imagery and cinematography are among the most beautiful I’ve ever seen and, even if you don’t want to concentrate on metaphors of life and death and rebirth and denial and religion and twenty-seven other concepts, you can probably sit back and let the visuals blast over you as you bask in the glorious soundtrack. The comparisons to 2001 are a bit lazy but understandable (Malick probably owes the Hubble guys some cash for a bundle of images he’s used). It’s probably possible to accuse The Tree Of Life of being slightly self-indulgant but it’s so beautiful and moving and confusing and affecting and memorable that it gets a pass on that. From me anyway.

Go see it.

In the cinema.

Later that day, after a fish supper and a couple of pints, it was back to the Irish Film Institute for a talk by Clive Barker. Yeah, the Hellraiser bloke. He was to chat for a bit and then we’d see a couple of his short films.

To be honest, I was a little unsure before this. I worried it could go the way of the horror geek and just become a dissection of some esoteric point of Weaveworld or something. I was very wrong. Barker was inspiring. He discussed, in a pleasantly self-deprecating manner, the two short films in question—Salome and The Forbidden—and talked about how he’d made them for no money with friends and borrowed equipment when he was at school. He talked about how the current state of technology should have completely revolutionised the idea of ‘doing it yourself’—your mobile phone has better video capabilities than the equipment he used. For some reason though, we’re not all making films.

It’s odd, isn’t it?

We got to see the shorts. Neither has dialogue and, he tells us, a South Bank show episode on Barker undertook to tidy them up and add music. Salome contained some strong images. The Forbidden contained an erect penis. I mention this because Barker did (it was his, apparently), inadvertently providing a penis-spoiler as we all spent the whole time waiting for it to appear.

Penis aside, Barker was great. Really got me thinking.

Incidentally, the photo accompanying this post was taken at the Natural History Museum. Stopped by for a visit before seeing Malick. Never tire of the place. This one is called Irked Thrush.

IMG: My Local Park

Posted on | July 12, 2011 | Comments Off on IMG: My Local Park

Orwell

 

ATTENTION! ATTENTION! THE MINISTRY OF PARKS HAS DEEMED YOU GUILTY OF FACECRIME. REMAIN WHERE YOU ARE—PARK PATROL HAS BEEN DISPATCHED.

 

A Nice Cup Of Tea And A Book: Room

Posted on | July 3, 2011 | Comments Off on A Nice Cup Of Tea And A Book: Room

Room - Emma DonoghueI’m currently reading Room by Emma Donoghue. Room is the story of a five-year old boy, Jack, and his Ma. They live in a single, locked room. Jack has spent his entire life in this eleven feet square world. He was born here and has never been outside. He and his mother are prisoners.

The story is told from Jack’s point of view and is written, for the most part, in a five-year old’s voice and with a five-year old’s understanding of events. We learn about Jack and his mother’s daily routine; how they fill their days in this confined space. We have glimpses of the man keeping them captive and we find out something of Jack’s mother’s past and how she came to be trapped in Room.

It’s certainly an emotional read. It grabs you pretty hard and pulls at you, making you want to keep reading. I suppose you’d call it a page-turner (if you were a twat).

Jack’s relationship with his mother and with the objects in Room—even with Room itself—is beautifully drawn. The scene-setting at the beginning nicely conveys Jack’s unusual institutionalisation. He’s never known anything else. He’s not even sure if outside is real.

The child’s voice narration does a good job of getting you into Jack’s tiny world. I felt like it ‘slipped’ from time to time and there were a few occasions where I had a hard time reconciling what Jack understood and what he didn’t. I sometimes felt there were things he didn’t comprehend that he should have and vice-versa. Every now and then I thought “he knows that, why doesn’t he know this?” I’m nit-picking a little here to be honest and a story like Jack’s has to be granted a certain amount of leeway for suspension of disbelief. I mention it only because it pulled me out of the story a couple of times.

That said, Donoghue was more than capable of pulling me back in. The tension she wound and wound as Jack and his Ma worked on plans for escape was brilliantly communicated. That twat who said ‘page-turner’ earlier would probably say ‘edge of the seat’.

Room has accolades bursting from it. Man Booker shortlist, TV Book Club and, although I’ve peeled off the sticker informing me of the fact, the Orange Prize shortlist too. All that certainly carries a hefty clout. And it’s deserved. Room is powerful and moving without straying into sickly or depressing (which, given its subject matter it could have done). It’s also gripping enough that I’m wondering what I’m doing writing this when I still have some left to read.

Pop it on your list.

UPDATE: I should really finish a book before doing one of these posts. About two-thirds of the way through I felt Room lost focus a bit. No spoilers but the back end of the book doesn’t have the intensity of the beginning. I thought the narrator’s 5-year old voice/understanding slipped quite a bit more as things went on too. And, it may be an odd observation, but, as things moved towards their end, it seemed like pretty much every adult was a dim-witted, selfish, arsehole.

Or it might be just me.

A game of two halves, then. One great, one a bit poor by comparison.

Attention Dog-Owners

Posted on | June 25, 2011 | 2 Comments

PooI’m not sure if I’ve said this before—it’s certainly something I’ve threatened offline.

Dog-owners: I am going to start carrying a disposable rubber-glove in my pocket wherever I go. When I see you out walking your dog and pausing to let that dog shit on the footpath, I’m going to pop on the glove, pick up the shit and smear it on your shoes. At very least, I’ll chase you and throw it at you.

If you’re going to keep an animal in a town or city, YOU are responsible for it. This means its shit too. Clean it up or control where your dog craps—I’m not crazy about dog-shit on grassy patches or in corners either but at least it’s a bit easier to avoid.

I’m going to encourage everyone to carry a disposable glove.

We will become a citizen army of shit-smearers and faeces-flingers.

We will reclaim the streets.

A Nice Cup Of Tea And A Book: The City And The City

Posted on | June 21, 2011 | Comments Off on A Nice Cup Of Tea And A Book: The City And The City

PhotoI want to be careful to avoid spoilers here. Perhaps I’m just hopelessly ill-informed but I came to The City and The City without knowing what it was all about. Because of this I was able to discern the arena of the book gradually. And Miéville does draw that arena carefully and naturally. There’s no telegraphing, no clumsy exposition—I learned things as the protagonist drip-fed them spontaneously into his story. It’s entirely possible that I was the only one to do this as, subsequent to my finishing the book, I happened to spot a review (I was looking up one of the blurb-suppliers) that explains, in great detail, everything that I’d read. If I’d read that review before the book, I’d have been mightily pissed off.

So, mostly spoiler-free version:

Inspector Tyador Borlú is a senior homicide detective in Beszel, an eastern-European city-state. Beszel is pretty run-down and runs on the remnants of post-Soviet bureaucracy. Getting anything done here isn’t easy but Borlú’s good at his job. When investigating the murder of a young woman, however, he finds more and more barriers placed in his way. Someone’s doing their best to keep him from the truth.

On a basic level, The City and The City is a good, old-fashioned police-procedural-type of story. Miéville, however, adds a layer—that arena, I mentioned earlier—that brings that genre somewhere else. It’s pretty intriguing (especially if you haven’t read a review that lays it all out on a plate and shoves it into your gob on a massive spoon).

The blurb I was looking up, by the way is one stating that ‘comparisons to Kafka and Orwell are thrown around too readily these days…’ before going on to liken Miéville to Kafka and Orwell. I thought this a pretty lazy comparison and it annoyed me enough to try find the review. This annoyance is directed at the reviewer, by the way and is in no way intended to be a slight on The City and The City, which I enjoyed immensely and have no problem recommending. It’s original, intelligent and gripping.

And, if I know you’ve begun reading it, I’ll email you spoilers unless you send biscuits.

The Rest Is Silence

Posted on | April 22, 2011 | 2 Comments

Dark.

Nothing.

Not nothing. Faint and faraway, an electronic heartbeat.

Rhythmic. Even.

Then a voice, distant too, somewhere in the black. “…And then brain death will occur.” Sympathetic sounding; a nurse. I know it’s a nurse and I know I’m dying.

No idea how. Know it, just know it.

Suddenly cold. Not uncomfortable, just a tingling cold. Cold and calm.

Calm.

Until-

A burst of white starbursts, a galaxy of brilliant pinpricks in the black and my body tenses, every muscle taut. A second only. My wife calls my name as the electronic heart begins a rush of bleeps.

White stars dim.

Thought fades.

Everything fades.

Calm returns.

My last feeling in a growing vacuum is that I don’t want to go. I’m not afraid, I just don’t want to go yet.

Everything fades.

Even distance fades.

Fades to nothing-

Less than nothing-

Fades to-

I become slowly, gradually awake in my bed-

My first feeling in a growing reality: “I wasn’t expecting that.”

-o-

That was my dream of last night. I realise, if I’d told you that upfront, many of you would have moved on to a blog that wasn’t full of waffle about dreams.  The thing is, I wanted to record it when it was fresh in my mind. I wanted to get it down somewhere as it was incredibly vivid and odd and weird. The muscles in my abdomen ached a little this morning, so tightly had they tensed at the appropriate point above.

The pervading sense all through was calm acceptance; of not wanting it but knowing it couldn’t be avoided. I knew what was happening and I expected the end (I mean the end—I don’t believe in an afterlife of any kind).

This latter point may explain my surprise at dying to find myself slowly becoming conscious in my bed.

I apologise for inflicting my dreams on you. If I die later on though, it’s going to seem really eerie, isn’t it? I could be dead now for all you know. Feel that tingle on your neck? That could be me.

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Gerry Hayes

Gerry Hayes

I mostly sit around all day and drink tea. Occasionally, I write stuff and send it to strangers so they can humiliate me and deride my efforts. Other than the self-harm to dull the shame of failure, it's not a bad life. Like I say, there's tea.

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