A Filmmaker’s Kind Of Movie – Locke

I was wanting to watch the movie ‘John Wick’, as it had not got much of a theatrical release here in Blighty, so checked to see when it was coming to one of the subscription services. Netflix and all the other streaming services had a date of February third. Brilliant, I’ve got Netflix, I thought, i’ll fire up that bad boy and enjoy one hundred minutes of action! Of course it was not available – damn you Netflix! – so I ended up watching ‘Locke’.

‘Locke’, as I say in the title, is not a film for everyone. The entire film is set in a car. There are no chases, crashes, flips or de’er doing of any kind. It is just the story of a good man who makes a life changing decision as the consequences of one night’s, long since passed, poor choice. It is Ivan Locke’s life unravelling. All set in a car.

Tom Hardy, the actor playing Locke, will never be a superstar. He will never open a film, because there is no ‘Tom Hardy’ film. That’s a good thing. In this film he is Ivan Locke. One never sees him as a character from any of his previous films, you just see the story of this man, Locke, on a fateful journey.

So why is this a filmmaker’s film? Even though the entire film takes place in the car, the camera work and editing is joyful. There are things that one may have read about or heard spoken of – the quadrant system as seen here –  the lighting, the overlapping edits, fades and of course, the script. This is not necessarily a big screen film, but, given the lack of physical action, it is still more than a stagy monologue. In fact on stage I suspect it would be quite flat. The fact that he is on a journey, the suddenness with which he has taken the decision and the impact it has on his life, make this a highly watchable film.

As I have mentioned, it is not for everyone, but, if like me, you want to be a filmmaker, this is one not to miss.

You Decide.

It is the thinking that gives you pause. Absolutely. it is the same for everybody, everything begins in the brain; the mind. Without getting too spiritual, it is absolutely true that you are what you think. Perception of life, how things impact you, your reaction to them and thoughts about them all shape the direction and quality of your life.

We are all well read or moderately well read people, media savvy, watching things that are more engaging than people falling over and animals doing strange thing on YouTube. We watch TedTalks, all the how to vids, garner different points of view.

A popular video/film that has gained a following and much interest has been The Secret. If you have not seen Rhona Byrne’s documentary film from her book of the same title, it is the secret to fulfilling one’s life. Hmm. Now, I am as sceptical as the next person, after all the world is full of people trying to sell…crap. Whether it is a crappy product or a crappy idea, there are those who will happily exercise nefarious practices to make a buck, even at the expense of others.

Okay, you say, what has any of this got to do with The Secret? The Secret puts forward the notion that you can achieve or accomplish whatever you want if you think about it. What?! Sounds like utter nonsense. It says that you attract what you think about on a consistent basis. But I think about winning the lottery! Not happened. So far from a lottery win. That is a common thought; the stuff that you believe you think about, that never happen. So what is going wrong?

Thinking and dreaming are not the same. Dreams are a necessity, creating a reason, purpose, to do jobs or things that are not what you wanted to do, in the hope that you create or obtain your dream. Thinking is different, cognitive. It is the decision making process. What have you decided to do? Which path did you decide to take? It is what you do to achieve your dream. Or it should be. Most spend their time pursuing stuff, finance, covering the bills, paying a mortgage, building a nest egg, saving for the rainy day. All very laudable things. Are they the stuff of dreams? Did you dream of these things as a child, growing up to pay a mortgage or saving up for retirement?

What if…just listen a minute, what if you decided, really decided, to think about your life differently. Whoa! Think differently? Like how? Who do I listen to? How about yourself. Of course information is good for critical thinking, decision making. But it still needs to be filtered; absorb the useful and disregard the pointless.

With so much information and the human ability to be lazy and take the easiest route, it is expedient to accept the first thing you are told. After all, it is human nature to believe first and question second. We hope that our fellow man is not trying to mislead us, wanting to believe that whatever they might tell us is because they want to help. As much as life tells us otherwise, we intrinsically want to believe that others are generally good.

People are good, or at least they believe they are. In their own mind, it is rare the person who thinks they are evil, a bad person. This is not a consistent thought for anybody of a healthy mind, regardless of the proof of their actions. If they have friends, people they care about, they must believe themselves to be acceptable human beings. It is the information they gain, the reaction to incidents, events or happenings in their lives that impact their thinking. This creates the person, the information and how their interpret it.

We are not what we think. We are what we decide to think.

No

  Everyone has heard some variation of the story. An enterprising individual has an idea, something they feel will change some facet of life. All they need is the right people or person to see it or hear about it and gain some backing, some momentum.
   The story of Colonel Saunders is well known, how he approached fried chicken shops with his chicken recipe and was turned away over one thousand times before receiving a ‘yes’. Positive life coaches talk about not giving up, as the next opportunity may be the one you were waiting for. Perseverance is a lauded, recognised and an encouraged trait for a would be go getter. No is never no. It is just the first refusal; it’s a test! Do you want it or will you be easily deterred? Rousing stuff.
  Like religious text, people have a way of interpreting things in a way that benefits their thinking. The notion of ‘no’ being the starting point of a discussion, as opposed to the conclusion, is very much a generational, liberal thinking, modern phenomena.
  Anyone who works in an environment where they are required to deal with the request of others, will understand this. The present generation have a real problem with the word ‘no’.
  Whether it is something quite important, like trying to gain a place for their child in the best schools, or fill a necessary prescription or something less so; getting a table at a hip restaurant on a Saturday evening or tickets for that unmissable thing, the response in the negative will, for those entitled souls, begin a battle of attrition.
  The variety of non important things, objects, request is endless. There is just a belief that if one shouts loud enough and long enough – basically the equivalent of a small child throwing a tantrum – you’ll get what you want. This tends to actually work because most want to avoid embarrassment or confrontation. It is bullying.
  It is nice and can be fulfilling to get what one wants. But always getting your way is only possible for those blessed few. The rest of us just have to accept that sometimes no means no.

The Default Face

In the film 2009 The Invention Of Lying, Ricky Gervais puts forward a world, a society, where everybody tells the truth. In essence, everyone you encounter is exactly as they seem. Warts and all.
Obviously this notion would be an impossibility in modern society. We generally go through life as a daily lie. Not harmful, deceitful lies. Just the sort of halve truths that allow people to coexist.
You know the sort of thing; morning, how you doing? Oh, I’m fine thanks, you? I’m good, thank you. A perfectly pleasant exchange. Just how we like it. Nobody really wants to hear an uncomfortable truth; morning, how you doing? I’m shit. I hate this job, my underwear is too tight and physical violence against my fellow commuters is illegal, how you doing? If you anticipated, or even had the slightest inkling, that this would be the response you received after your polite enquiry, you would stop at ‘morning’.
We all operate, necessarily, behind mask. The way one is with one’s friends is not generally the way one is with work colleagues. Even amongst friends, even those you consider close, do not see reality. We project the happy. The confident and in control you. Yeah, you got bills and the odd irritation at work, but it’s alright. You handle it.
Maybe, just maybe, you are happy and/or content. Somebody has to be. Even as you travel on the crowded tube or bus, observing the sullen faces, glued to phone screens or Kindle screens or just staring into space, do you see a sea of chirpy, excited people, eager to get to work?
In fact, when you do see someone smiling on the tube, does it not look odd? We mostly try to affect a neutral visage; the default face.
It can be mildly sullen, non plussed, disdainful, curious, menacing, tired; so many options, only one is your default. It tells the world what sort of person you are.
Are you serious? Approachable? Fearful? Fearsome? All these are things that a person, encountering you for the first time, will subconsciously contemplate, anticipating certain expectations from the meeting.
So how do you get your default face? It is a combination of your upbringing, thinking and character. We are shaped by our experiences, these create our outlook on life; decide our approach.
It is within our control to project the image, the face, we want the world to see. This is something we do everyday, mixing in society. Our default face, the face we show when relaxed, in that mild trance that takes you to work, that takes a deeper, holistic embrace of life. For the default face you want, that relaxed, Dai Lama-esque, air of serenity, you need to appreciate and accept the life you have, that way you may find contentment.

Me My Nemesis

Those who never suffer depression think of it as some sort of affliction of the lax of mind. A lament of people who cannot be bothered to just snap out of it. The recognised depressive is that of a dour individual, emanating a permanent lethargy, unable to see the reality of their life situation. How bad can it be really? It’s not like they’re being asked to go to war!
The truth is, depression, like that other most random of diseases, cancer, can strike anyone. For some, it may never happen, others may only experience it once or twice, when some particular incident – a bereavement perhaps – causes it to engulf the mind.
Depression has been likened to a large, black dog. Heavy, weighing one down. I suppose for a lot of people it is like that. For me it is not like that. There is the weight, the dull pressure inside head that just appears from nowhere. It is a split thing. I can see it, feel it, happening; negative whispers, little things becoming reasons to flip out, every past failure replaying, reminding me of poor decision making or the inability to make good choices. This is how it manifest. Suddenly, like a punch. Not a heavy punch, more a shock; an eye waterer.
This is when I should get my guard up, move away from the attack. Sometimes I do. Usually the second punch comes quickly, following up; a combination. I am reeling, trying to fight back, but the punches I throw in defence are easily dodged. My nemesis knows every secret I have. Every move I make or am going to make. Of course he does.
I am the rubbish fat, slow kid, left almost to the last when the teams are being picked, the sweaty teenager unable to talk to the girls; the guy who never sees the opportunities. The one who always disappoints. In fact being a disappointment is so common, it is expected. The punches keep coming. They are everywhere, coming from every angle. Never enough to make you lose consciousness, but constant and painful. The fight wages on for what seems a very long time. This is where the tiredness comes from; the relentless war, fighting against the barrage of blows.
Humans are pack animals. You get the odd loner, those whose prefer the company of cats or dogs perhaps, but generally people gravitate toward people. People are affected by one another. That’s why a mob can quickly become a riot and why the euphoria of live events can be felt in the largest of crowds. It is a collective feeling. It is also the reason people fear depression.
Just like laughter, misery can be contagious. Nobody would deliberately put themselves into that potential malaise. Misery may love company, but company does not love misery.
The darkness does not want to leave, it has a life; a purpose and it likes it. It is a demon child spawned by yourself. So you love it even if it feels like it’s destroying in you. You need to kill it. Even though it is part of you, born of you, desperate to exist, feeding off of you. Still, the first rule of any species is self preservation. You have to kill it. But what kind of a parent would kill their own child?
Perhaps you could cage it. Lock it away, never to be seen or heard from again. That would work. Are you strong enough to do that? Do you want to? Of course you say yes. Why would you not want to stop the internal war, the constant struggle of maintaining the facade.
Would you be the same person without it? That is the question. Without the darkness, the temperance, would you become the idiot you fear hides behind the mask of conformity? Would you be light of heart and open and sweet? The darkness brings balance, it keeps check. As ever, it comes down to the fear, the fear of the nemesis you can never escape; you.

Ask The Right Questions

There does seem of late, or should I say, since it has been possible to let any and everybody know your every thought, via social media. Unfortunately, some have forgotten the ability to filter. David Osbourne, a barrister and, it would seem, opinionated blogger, has written an article in defence of men accused of rape due to the female victims inability to give consent reliably, because they are too drunk.
He does – in a way only a person who has no comprehension of how strongly true rape victims feel could – blunders callously into the subject, castigating women who he believes should expect no quarter in law if they go out dressed inappropriately – cover up trollops! – and get to stupefied on drink or drugs to give clear headed consent, when some young buck, scenting an opportunity, should try to make a conquest.
The question of why anyone one would want to have a sexual liaison with a highly inebriated individual is perhaps a little naive, but one that needs addressing. Unfortunately the seeming need for young people and some who should know better, to drink to the point of oblivion, whilst still with one eye on a possible hook up, means the sex-whilst-drunk debate is not likely to go away anytime soon.
One enterprising lawyer has suggested that those seeking to get lucky on a night out, should carry a consent form with them, getting signed permission before any possible hanky panky happens. Interesting concept.
I think a person who has imbibed more than their bodyweight in alcohol, should be asked a different question. If they are insisting on being amorous, giving all the signals of being not only complying to a sexual liaison, but wanting one, one should ask for their cash card and PIN number. You would reason that, having no money, you need to purchases condoms for the deed. Anyone who would voluntarily give up their PIN number is too drunk to trust with any decision.
Of course this is being a little facetious, as every case, every individual, every situation, is different. The number of post alcoholic hook ups that could – some should – have ended in a law court are probably in the thousands, if not hundreds of thousands.
The decisions that would have happened in the lead up to any number of nights that end in a strangers bed are numerous. What do you wear? You’re a young person, you have half an eye on attracting another, you dress, perhaps, with this in mind. After all, no one can tell if you have a sparkling personality through your asexual, loose fitting, body covering, prison grey, boiler suit. Probably would have a shower, shave the necessary areas, spray, splash or dab on your best scent – armpit eau de cologne will not do. As is the fashion, a little alcoholic beverage, just to relax, is enjoyed even before you have left the house. You go out.
The bar, a club; wherever it may be, is awash with hormones. Eyes roaming for an attraction, that person of interest. Maybe for just the night, maybe a bit longer. A few more drinks. Something else for a few, something with a bit of kick; a buzz. As the evening wears on, the primal urges rise. Options have been spotted. More decisions; engage now or wait until later? If you wait and mess up, you are going home alone. If you engage and it’s a mistake….!
The opposing factions that argue for or against rape accusations are very emotive. Such is the difficulty in proving rape or sexual assault after the incident, even seemingly clear cut cases, that an accusation levelled where the initial encounter was a mutual attraction, regardless of alcohols helping hand, becomes a victim creating minefield. It becomes a judgement on character and believability.
Is it reasonable to expect a young man, brazen with alcohol and wanting to perhaps impress his peers, to have the kind of presence of mind to pause before approach a woman a little worse for wear? Should the onus always be on the man to prevent a questionable situation? Shouldn’t accountability fall to both parties? After all no one crosses the road with their eyes closed just because cars have brakes.
The subject is one which will continue to create anger, disgust and frustration as long as there are those who will venture an opinion as though it were common sense. So the question is; how do you broach such a delicate subject? Carefully.

Machina On The Big Screen

Man’s obsession with the advancement of computers and the possibility or dread of machines becoming sentient, is something that has fascinated and been fodder for storytellers, writers and filmmakers even before Charles Babbage tipped the first metaphoric domino in the story of computing.
In film, the robot, cyborg or living computer has been evident as early as Fritz Lang’s 1927 Metropolis, through the 1951 version of The Day The Earth Stood Still, to modern classics such as James Cameron’s brilliant The Terminator.
With all that has gone before, 2015 brings the critically acclaimed Ex Machina. Written and directed by Alex Garland, it tells the story of a brilliant scientist who has created a female, artificially intelligent humanoid. To test her responses and gauge her level of humanity, he enlists the assistance of one of his employees to observe and interact with her for a week at his remote home compound. The experiment and interactions have fateful consequences.
A film unusual in that the lead character, Ava the humanoid, played brilliantly by Alicia Vikander, ably assisted by fabulous CGI, is not an obvious lead. Such is the strength of the other characters; Nathan, a warped genius, embodied by a superb Oscar Issac and Caleb, played by Domhnall Gleeson, who shows wonderful empathy as the real connection for the audience. This is a film that is more cerebral than visual. In fact it may have worked better as a book.
As a film, it brought to mind Caradog W James’ 2013 film, The Machine. James’ film covers a lot of the same ground that Ex Machina does, though not as well, lacking the subtlety and tension of Garland’s film. What The Machine has, that Ex Machina does not, is action. Ex Machina looks wonderful. Every shot beautifully framed, the remote, stark bunker-like home of Nathan, looking vast and modernist. But considering most of the film is about conversations – static ones – with us watching the interactions between Ava and Caleb as Nathan also does, it was difficult to appreciate it as a big screen film.
The performances are all top drawer, the actors working fantastically off of one another. The story also is clever and a little uncomfortable, asking questions of what it is to be human and what is the price of freedom. The tension created, mostly by Oscar Issac’s warped Nathan, works well, but is constant rather than building.
Ex Machina is a good film. A smart and well executed film, Garland can be happy with his directorial debut. I am not so sure it is a film that needs to be seen on the big screen.

Incarcerated By Lies

The invitations are plentiful. As are the suggestions. Invitations? That’s not right. Temptations; offers of a kind. Buy this, come here, experience this, you have to do this! Modern life.
Apparently, your peer group can pull you up or pull you down. Given the choice, you would pick a peer group that pulls you up. You pick a peer group that lifts you up.
In the city, In these modern times, these times of relentless information and social media overload, the have-everything-now, spendthrift consumerism is not something that is frowned upon. It is encouraged.
We’re all middle class now. Perhaps your parents were not. They were job for life people, the scope of their youthful ambition never known to you. When they were growing up, there was no internet. A Mercedes was not a common sight, home ownership was not the norm. It was admirable, but not striven for in the same way as it is now. People use to buy a home to live in, raise a family in. Not as a potential investment.
Not now. Not now that we’re all middle class. It is a life of reaching and thinking of not only where to live for the best possible return on your investment, but, if you have a young family, where to live so as to get into the best schools. Maybe some idyll, away from the urban sprawl. Country living appeals to a lot of aspiring middle classes; bring up the children in beautiful, rural surroundings. So they move out. Not too far, money’s in the city after all. Everybody has the same idea, moving to the outskirts, expanding the city, looking for space but too afraid to be the one to break away from the bright lights, the action. All their neighbours are from the city. The competition – and it is a competition – continues. Nice house, nice car, nice holidays. The offers are made without the expectation that it may be beyond your means. Why would it be?
Friday night out? Drop a couple hundred drinking. Dinner? Not going to go to Nandos! Someone knows a place. Only about fifty a head, that’s good isn’t it? Yes. Of course it is. Put it on a card.
But you’re an adult. You would just say if it was all getting a bit out of hand, a little expensive? Right? Just like you know to say when you’ve had enough to drink on a night out. No?
There is the fear. There always is. The platitudes on Facebook and wise words of strangers that are liked infinitum, do not matter a jot when confronted with the realities of life. No one wants to hear you cannot afford it. Of course it okay occasionally to use that excuse. Not as a standard. Not every damn time. What are you doing with your money?! The offers, the excitement, the baubles, these are the things of your peers. Your peers. Perhaps you’re in the wrong…..stratosphere? Air is a little thin up here as it is, cannot have a wannabe sucking what precious little availability of it we have up here away! Need to keep up. Keep up and shut up. No one wants to know you’re struggling. We’re all struggling! Keep fucking smiling and stop making a fool of yourself. Do you think we’re all sitting on a pot of gold out here? There are a few, yes granted, but most of us are like ducks. Calm above the waters and feet going frantically below. Is it all a lie?
A lie? Of course not. A lie is deception and you cannot really deceive yourself, can you now? Or can you?

If.

What he had never learnt, understood, was that being ordinary, getting by or coasting along, just was not going to be enough. This was not the seventies. This was no longer the era of the working classes. Even those who still claimed to be of working class stock, had embraced the ethos of mixing with and shopping like the middle classes. But he did not get it.
Being a manager use to be something. He had been a manager once. Not a very good one, but one nonetheless. It had not worked out so well, so he went back to being an assistant manager.
The move out of retail had come soon after that. Try something else; be happy. The money will come. Haha. He moved sideways. Not retail but still customer service, still mediocre. Waiting. Something will come up. Something must come up.
He did not starve. Neither a pauper or a rich man. Just constantly in limbo, below the middle. Twenties pass. Thirties pass. People die, leaving a mark; or not. Would he leave a mark? He did not think think so. Twenty plus years below the middle was too much. Embarrassing. No one asked what do you want to do. They asked what you were doing. Everybody is doing something. He could not still be looking, could he? For goodness sake! There were people his age who were thinking about retirement! In fact, some had already.
There had been such promise. Not much granted. He had been shocking at sport and fair to middling academically, but there had been a flicker; a kernel of hope. Hope that he might achieve beyond mere employment or avoidance of incarceration. Might prove better than his own doubts, his own limitations. That he might defeat the voices.
The doubters had long departed, forging lives of plenty elsewhere. The age of sport had passed and academia had become an irrelevance. The voices however remained. He could not escape them.
Logic fought to defy them, but as the years went by, the dark truths of their whispering kept coming. It was all in his head. Absolutely it was. Highlighting of life’s failings, reliving bad decisions, missed opportunities. All played and fought for supremacy, day after day, ever reminded that his life could have been so different if…