I’m watching you

See that, that’s me that is. But I don’t look like James Stewart and I don’t have a broken leg, in fact I’ve been reliably informed I look like either F1 driver Jarno Trulli or 80’s actor Andrew McCarthy and I have a bad back.

I’ve been going stir crazy as per James Stewart holed up in bed for a month with a herniated disc which is a long posh way of saying “OW!” So what have I done with my spare time? What masterpieces have I written, well…. nada. No matter my good intentions pain it seems is not indicative of good writing, neither is about 15 painkillers a day but I have been watching a huge amount of films and floating around online and getting some inspiration, especially as my wife and writing partner attended the Screenwriters Festival, which sounds like it was all sorts of awesome, not quite as awesome as hobbling around the house with a large dose of self pity and Gabopentin but pretty damn good all the same. She received lots of feedback for our sitcom from proper real writers not just that bloke Dave from the pub and we have a huge amount to do but unfortunately a little something called Christmas is approaching, which means family commitments take priority.

But that doesn’t stop me wanting to get going with a few ideas, being stuck in bed for a while with a Lovefilm streaming subcription and the internet can lead to some pretty varied viewing for inspiration, so here’s what I’ve been watching.

A low low budget movie very reminiscent of Aronofsky’s Pi, a lot of the science went over my head (I blame the painkillers not my CC in Double Science GCSE), but a very interesting movie about what happens when two friends make a truly groundbreaking invention and what do you do when you can get away with anything. Reminded me a little of the book that Limitless was based on The Dark Fields by Alan Glynn.

Pure and utter Sci-Fi nonsense. The future is a world where people live their lives vicariously through Surrogates, kind of like a really high tech version of Second Life in the Real world with you cooped up on a computer controlling everything. An interesting prospect but lots of action and Brice Willis can’t really save it from being a film that doesn’t really know if it’s Science Fiction, Crime, or Action. I think I just found the Sci-Fi aspect so intriguiing I really wanted to continue more with that aspect, but hey if it’s on TV or you can stream it, it’s a worthwhile way to pass the time.

With this film Greece well and truly puts the “Art” into “Arthouse”, what I can only describe as a very difficult film to watch, is about a family who raise their children as something of an experiment, giving different words to different objects instilling a sense of fear of the outside world. It’s a film I can’t say I enjoyed watching but definitely stayed with me. It’s a film that’s won a lot of awards on the art scene and is most definitely not for everyone, but what the hell, watch something you wouldn’t normally watch, stretch yourself, see what film is capable of doing outside of hollywood and standard narratives.

This is everything Surrogates should have been, it’s basically Heroes the movie. Super powers, conspiracies, action. A big surprise, I’d not heard of this before and thoroughly enjoyed it

The Losers
It’s the A-Team but its not the A-Team another guilty pleasure, an 80’s style action movie with explosions and men being men, and women kicking their arses. Completely forgettable but fun.

Wild Strawberries
Now this is an absolute classic, Ingmar Bergman at his very best, an elderly academic travels to an awards ceremony commemorating his life achievements. He travels with his daughter in law and meets a group of youngsters on his travels as he remembers his past, his regrets, and see’s how people percieve him, as always with Bergman it’s a film about death but a very beautiful one.

Every actor in their right mind would kill for this part and I imagine Ryan Reynolds left a trail of bodies at the audition. Buried is 110 minutes of one man buried alive in a coffin with a mobile phone. This is a truly brilliant idea, in fact its such a fantastic concept I couldn’t help but be disappointed especially as I’ve written a short amongst what I thought were similar lines but are in fact very different. For a start he knows why he is there straight away, he’s a truck driver in Iraq, this straight away turns it from what could have been an inventive horror into a thriller, which is very much against the perceptions of the film. My main problem though I believe is due to cultural differences, for the first 30 minutes of the movie he is phoning up people in the States trying to explain where he is and get help, everyone he calls is a complete idiot, a robot talking from a script, that doesn’t really exist in the UK, I know it exists in the US (try having a conversation with ANYONE that works in an airport). However from the moment he first speaks to his captor to the very end this film is completely gripping, and Reynolds is absolutely brilliant unlike…..

Green Lantern
Geek alert I am a humongous comic fan, and I’ve been slowly reading more and more DC especially Green Lantern recently in anticipation of the film. It looks stunning, everything in space is spectacular and I’m sure having read the comics I got far more from the film than if I hadn’t as there is a huge amount of exposition that made perfect sense to me but has confused countless people. Show don’t tell, that’s the rule of writing whether it’s a feature, a promo, or a novel. That is essentially where this movie falls down, it’s not as bad as the Star Wars prequels where it’s walking story scene, lots of action, walking story scene. Nowhere near as bad as I’ve heard but lets just say DC have a lot to learn from Marvel before they attempt a JLA movie.

And this is how Marvel does it, Kenneth Brannagh directing Thor, never thought I’d be writing that. Good cast, good story, all the Asgard footage looks stunning. Essentially it’s yet another prequel for the Avengers movie which now has so much hype I have no idea how it could possibly live up to it.

Uncle Boonme who can recall his past lives
Now if Dogtooth was a hard film to watch this verges on impenetrable. There’s been a lot of noise about this film, it was nominated for the World Cinema film of the year, though the critics didn’t seem that impressed, it feels quite indulgent. And how you could take my word for it when I’ve just been expelling the virtues of Marvel movies over DC. It’s essentially about a dying man who starts to see his dead relatives and one who has turned into a Monkey Ghost. It actually feels like two completely different films, one very ponderous and beautiful, up until his death and one which feel more documentary style and realistic after his death. This is not a narrative film, in any way, shape or form, you can read a lot from this film. Did I enjoy it, would I recommend it? No, does that make it bad, no. Confusing I know but this is a very different aspect of film making it’s not about good or bad it’s about what you get from it.

Now before my back completely gave up on me, I had festival tickets for the Raindance Festival, here are a couple of the highlights

Stunningly beautiful film with a gorgeous soundtrack, two Japanese teenagers head to middle America where their car breaks down and they get by on the tiny bit of English one of them knows, integrating into small town America. If you get the chance to see this I couldn’t recommend it enough, very moving.

In a similar vein to Buried this is a movie about three people trapped in a room but this time as part of a psychological experiment, low budget gritty and very worth a watch, hopefully it’ll see a release in 2012

Nothing says home and ill whilst watching Bergman followed by Bruce Willis, but it does show all the amazingly different avenues film can go down. It’s also amazing how much you can learn from bad films, why are they bad, how can you avoid making those mistakes.

On the net, a crowdunded project (which we contributed to) Comfort Food has its pilot out with an equally funny promo. It’s an amazingly sweet idea, in more than one sense of the word which I’m really looking forward to in the New Year good luck to all involved.

Other crowd funding projects that are in the process of shooting at the moment are “With a Little Help From My Friends” and “Clowning Around” Looking forward to seeing these next year too.

So no I haven’t written a masterpiece in my time off but I’ve seen a fair few and also some not so good. There’s been comedy, horror, arthouse, drama, action, reality TV and even cooking. Sometimes being unproductive can actually be pretty productive.