Wallace and Sallis – Goodbye, lad.

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Thanks to the – as of today – sadly departed Peter Sallis, what could have been portrayed as an obnoxious character – someone who gets his dog to do everything for him, before sussing that he did it all himself – was instead played with a charming and welcoming sense of naivety. Through his career-defining vocal performance, all that Wallace did never felt mean or unfriendly; just innocent and oblivious. It was the whimsical and gentle politeness of his voice that made many see the character to represent the best kind of British.

Sitcom may possibly be my favourite medium, but I’m not going to pretend I’ve ever watched Last of the Summer Wine. For me, Peter Sallis was Wallace – a character that has been part of my life since the first few years of it. I may not have watched when I was a baby, but I could hear and, by the time I was a toddler, Wallace’s voice already brought a warming sense of familiarity. Even in the pair’s feature outing – The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005) – performances from Ralph Phiennes and Helena Bonham-Carter were overshadowed by the then already 85-year-old Sallis.

In the early 80s, when student animator Nick Park first cast and paid Sallis £50 for A Grand Day Out (not finished until 1989), he unwittingly paired a cultural icon.

Hilarious to adults and friendly to children, I would like to thank the man whose voice brought a smile to all.

“Goodbye, Chuck.” Peter Sallis: 1921-2017.

Hypocrisy of Terrorism

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“If Anyone Kills A Person It Would Be As If He Killed All Mankind.”

When you exclaim “this is for Allah” and proceed to commit blasphemy against the very words of his supposed faith. A story can sound very different between individual storytellers, especially when said storyteller doesn’t read it very well. Last night, these ideological illiterates exposed their idiocy and took seven lives in the process.

La La Land – film for the fools who dream

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“I live by the belief that the ones who succeed are the ones stupid enough to try.”

It was inevitable that any attempt at an original contemporary musical was going to have a backlash of being called ‘pretentious’. Add a director and two lead actors who have flirted with the Oscar circle, it just worsens the stigma. Stylize it as a love-letter to ol’ studio-musical Hollywood? Oh no.

However, if you’re can put this context aside and just watch what’s in front of you, you’ll be able to judge La La Land for what is. All that considered, not everyone will enjoy this film. If you’re someone whose stomach twists at any abstract method of storytelling or occasional blunt song outbursts, then I’m very sorry. Personally, I enjoy these nuances and thought this film actually managed to tell a unique love story – and a love story relating to two different things at that.

As also apparent from his prior work on 2014’s Whiplash, director Damien Chazelle has a mastery of conveying creative passion on film. Not just his own expression through the beautiful set-pieces and cinematography, but also characters with a strong artistic flair and mind-set. Unsurprisingly, considering Chazelle’s music routes, La La Land continues Whiplash’s obsession with jazz – the genre best-suited to presenting musical expression and flair. This time, it is shown through Ryan Gosling’s Sebastian: a talented and passionate pianist who can’t get the good gigs. However, this merely co-stars with the struggle to maintain resilience in the acting industry – embodied by Emma Stone’s Mia: an aspiring actress who can’t get the gigs. Wonder why they get along?

Through these two characters, La La Land presents a battle between love of your craft and romantic love. Yet, not in the conventional way of one being an artist and the other being the nag who doesn’t understand. Both are in a similar situation and, more often than not, a lot of their romanticism sparks from their creative passions: hence why it makes for such a well-fitted musical. Through Gosling and Stone’s archetypal chemistry, it provides a new perspective and, whilst having someone to love should always take priority, it’s nice to see a creative’s dreams given a voice of significance, as opposed to being discounted.

“Here’s to the fools who dream,” Mia sings. As one of those fools myself, it meant a lot to see that attitude acknowledged on film and in such a caring and romanticised way. I live by the belief that the ones who succeed are the ones stupid enough to try – the reason why I think so many see this as a ‘nosey-up’ to the industry is that the business itself is made up of those same idiots.

La La Land nods to the creators of the world, whilst also reminding us of the importance of love and that there comes a time where we may need to make a choice between the two.

REVIEW: Westworld (2016)

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As online streaming continues to blur the line between film and television, so does the sophistication of how series are made. At the moment, HBO are the ones with the firmest grip on television’s withering flag, holding it up against Netflix’s growing empire and, here, they really demonstrate why. Perhaps watching the whole series in a single day assisted this sensation, but Westworld was a piece that really did flow like a ten-hour movie.

Usually, when attempting an entire series in a single sitting, there always comes a point when the attention seeps away and you are merely still watching for the sense of achievement, whilst gradually ruining the experience for yourself. Westworld doesn’t let you ruin it. How? Well, it does something that even some of the best television series fail to do – put something big in every episode that moves the story forward in a majorly important way. There is no filler in Westworld; it all flows together to form one giant narrative and, whilst it could be viewed as a giant movie, it does all the multiple-perspective plotline work that only television can accomplish.

Boasting a rich belt of characters, matched by the calibre of actors playing them (one of Anthony Hopkin’s finest), the series doesn’t just juggle all these threads at once, it sews them together seamlessly. Sometimes they can leave a couple of characters for an episode and, when they are eventually returned to, you immediately remember where they were left. That’s one thing that could have gone very wrong with such a complex story like this – the audience could have easily gotten lost. This is not to say you won’t ever get lost, but it’s clear that the show wants you to be lost in these instants. The big reveals do not disappoint, whilst not corrupting the earlier end of the season. In fact, they are hidden so well prior to their reveal that I’m sure they grant a rewarding second viewing.

Whilst I will need a long break before I ever attempt to return to it, I was enthralled by how well plotted, written, directed and performed Westworld was. High-concept science-fiction blending together far too well with classical Western conventions; the ideas of the original Westworld updated with the potential of modern technological developments like 3D printing; existential themes of God-complexes and  reincarnation – an awful lot is covered and it’s all phenomenally executed. I’m sure there are minor issues to be had but, after absorbing the whole thing at once, they really are just needles in a large and very satisfyingly stacked barn of hay.

As an escapist through and through, I’d definitely recommend this as an experience. The next morning, I genuinely woke up feeling as if I’d been somewhere else the previous day.

Alienation

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Writing this short story went south and I’ve scrapped it for now, but I was pretty happy with this passage all the same, so here ya go…

At its most piercing, alienation spawns from attention. One force causing the complete opposite. I know that sounds rather odd, considering the whole idea is to feel isolated from everyone else. Those moments stuck beside a group in an exclusive world, whilst you’re no more than a mute moon orbiting it. They happen and they hurt. Yet, what worsens these woes is when these walled-off worlds decide to look up. And catch us floating.

REVIEW: The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

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Highlighting the title’s appropriacy, this is probably the closest a musical’s been to being a show put on film. This is a piece of cabaret, and a very horny piece of cabaret at that. Shameless in its omnisexuality during a time when homosexuality had narrowly been legalised and sex itself was only just being ‘casualised’, creator Richard O’Brien took his original play and made it a stab at the growing break in prior filmmaking formality. Like Monty Python and the Holy Grail of the same year, Rocky pushed the how fluidly a film could be structured: three sections of the film spend a good ten to fifteen minutes in the same room, showing that O’Brien isn’t afraid to move away from scenes if he doesn’t need to.

Of course, I’m just prevaricating from the sheer surrealism of it. Led by the beautiful Tim Curry’s career-defining performance, you’ll either quickly settle with the film’s care-free, promiscuous tone or you never will. An absurd bombastic burlesque, whilst touching on dying ideals such as monogamy – encompassed by engaged couple Brad and Janet starting the night leaving a wedding and ending up both pleasured by Frank N. Furter.

Forty-years later, Rocky remains a statement of modern times.

Horsey

The Awkward Chronicles – Aldi

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I finish my shop at Aldi (don’t judge me). I go to the tills. There is a huge gap between one customer’s shopping and the other’s upon the conveyor belt, wasting a lot of space in the middle and leaving me no space for mine. I look to the man standing beside it. What is wrong with him? I wait for the shopping at the front to move so I finally have some space. I start to unload the groceries from my basket. I sense the man staring at me. I try to ignore him. I start to wonder if it’s because I unloaded my alcohol first; “typical bloody student,” he must think. No matter, I continue until all my shopping’s on the conveyor belt.

However, as the belt moves, the man doesn’t move with his shopping. Is he on drugs? I’m now going to have to brush passed him, accompanying my goods. I approach him. Then I see it. Low and behold, the man is holding a basket of shopping in the arm that was obscured by his mildly chubby body. It’s not his shopping on the conveyor belt. He was next in the queue, but was just standing awkwardly beside someone else’s shopping. I have pushed in. I have pushed in and now must pass the man who I have pushed out.

As I pass, I can hear his content but angry breaths. I don’t understand, whose shopping am I in front of? Wait, it’s the same guy whose shopping was at the front. He hogged the entire conveyor belt, the bastard! I mean, who the fuck leaves a huge gap between their shopping to spite everyone else, the self-absorbed cretinous snake! Oh wait, what’s that in his trolley that the Assistant is scanning? Oh no, it is two large bags of compost that he clearly was stopped from putting on the conveyor belt but, nonetheless, he’d prepared a gap for. The only one in the wrong now is me, and perhaps the man I accidentally pushed out for standing in such a fucking vague place, how was I supposed to know?

My turn has come. The Assistant slams me with “So is that your shopping there?” clearly aware of the bastard-act I had carried out. I simply reply “yes,” deliberately deploying a manner that makes me sound more innocent and stupid than I actually am (quite the impeccable feet, I know), hopefully she’ll think that I am a lost child of this world who is unaware of what they have done. I know what I’ve done.

No matter, I leave the shop and hope to never see any of these fucking people again.

– Horsey

“Smile when your heart is aching, Smile even though its breaking”

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Though these lyrics weren’t written by him, they perfectly match the story of the music’s composer, summarising Charlie Chaplin’s lifelong commitment to his art and the consequence of his suffering personal life. Obviously, Chaplin was not best known for being a composer. Yet, as his films progressed, Chaplin gradually took on the roles of composer, actor, writer, director and, most surprisingly of all, sole budget fund: The Great Dictator’s budget came totally out of his pocket. However, like all clowns, whilst work and his love life subjected him to great stress and pain, this does not mean The Tramp was a lie and Chaplin was forever an unhappy man. His famous quote reads “I like walking in the rain because nobody can see my tears,” yet here’s the truth: clowns can be happy sometimes.

When you take the position of ‘the clown’, it is often perceived that you are ‘putting on’ this persona to barricade your internal suffering: sadness is a weakness for a person who wants to make the world laugh. The ‘sad clown’ is now a cliche of contrast: the laughing man who cries at night. However, whilst this is largely true, it does not mean that the ‘clown’ is a false persona: it is a chance to express yourself in the joy of performing.

For me, it is genuine and is as much an escape for me as anyone else. In the ‘clown’ position, I genuinely enjoy it and it is not me hiding from my own emotions. In fact, to those around me in the rehearsal or performance space, it is almost as if nothing is wrong, the atmosphere is so alive and enjoyable. At this point, I should say that this also doesn’t mean I don’t care about my problems, I’m just having fun. Admittedly, this can go a very different emotional route if I realise that I have become annoying for others. This is why I am very thankful to those who make me feel comfortable enough to express myself this way, even if it can get out of hand every now and again.

Charlie Chaplin, largely on his own part, led a very difficult life and most likely more unhappy than happy, but do you really think he didn’t enjoy fooling around? Old home footage from his archives shows a man who knows how to have fun, away from the meticulous perfectionist he brought into the workplace.

There will always be ‘the tears of a clown’ but, when they are just playing around or performing in the company of others, that is their time to enjoy themselves; they’re not pretending.

It is something that means an awful lot to me.