The Prestige (2006)

The Prestige
Directed by Christopher Nolan
Written by Christopher and Jonathan Nolan, based on the novel by Christopher Priest
(number 314)

Before he made superhero movies, Nolan made weird dark twisty movies like this and Memento (which is also on the list, but higher up). I remember in 2006 this and The Illusionist were both released within a couple of weeks of each other and I think most of the people I know went to one or the other. Which is a pity because both films are fantastic and very different, for all they’re both about famous magicians and undecipherable illusions.

Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman both shine in this film, as masters of their craft. Men who used to be friends but who tragedy tore apart, pride and accidents and massive arguments. There is also excellent support from Piper Berabo, Rebecca Hall, Andy Serkis, Michael Caine, David Bowie and Scarlett Johanssen

It’s fascinating, watching the movie again and knowing what the big twists are. Seeing the hints all through and what it means for the ending… for the human cost of the things that they do. The pain of the women in Borden’s life and the things he does to them. And then the slowly escalating cycle of revenge, the things that Angier does to get Borden’s secret, when amazingly – watching it again – the secret is mentioned several times, and by Borden himself.

The design is beautifully steampunk, especially the illusion contraptions and everything Tesla. I love the costumes, the sets, the beautiful landscape of Victorian London, grimy and hard. The film’s mostly grey palette makes it all seem grimier as well.

Does it make me love the people? It does. The start of the film is full of sympathetic scenes, them trying so hard to be good magicians. I especially feel for the women, who serve mostly as beloved prizes or pawns in the two men’s nasty game. It’s hard to pick a side between Borden and Angier as they both do incredibly cold things, but ultimately Algiers doesn’t damage as many innocents as Borden does, which puts me slightly more on his side. Mostly Angier is hurting himself. Very very badly.

Bechdel test: The little girl never even talks to her mother, even though they’re in the same scenes. The conversation is always through a man. There are numerous named women, but they exist in the orbit of the two men.

Best lines:

Alfred Borden: The secret impresses no one. The trick you use it for is everything.

Alfred Borden: I love you.
Sarah: You mean it today.
Alfred Borden: Of course.
Sarah: It just makes it so much harder when you don’t.

Robert Angier: No one cares about the man in the box, the man who disappears.

State of Mind: It isn’t as dark and nasty as I remembered, or maybe I’m more desensitised now. I do love this movie, there’s so much interesting detail and watching closely to see how it’s done, much like the magic tricks the story is concerned with.

Watched movie count

Sin City (2005)

Sin City
Directed by Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller
(number 283)

By all rights I shouldn’t like this movie. I mean, it’s all testosterone boosted men, violence and because it’s Frank Miller most of the women are whores or prizes… but I can’t help myself.

This movie is freaking awesome.

I love the style of it, the beauty of the black and white, the fact of it being a series of comic books brought to life. The shock of the red of some blood, Dwight’s shoes, the blue of Becky’s eyes. I know that the comic booky nature of it was annoying for some people, but I really enjoy it as a visual style. Plus I’d read the comics not long before it initially came out and I could remember the frames that they faithfully recreated.

It’s all so very, very cool. The guys all have these hearts of gold and the things they do are so damn good – all centred around their love for women. They’re violent actions, but you’re cheering them on because the people they’re killing are such incredible monsters. And it’s for the greater good in this city which is a total shithole.

Elijah Wood’s strange turn as Kevin, a very strange character – a cannibal or a vampire, it doesn’t really matter because the stories aren’t concerned with backstory or explanations. Just about dudes being super bad ass and some women as well. The performances are all amazing; Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis and Devon Aoki and Clive Owens, Alexis Bleidel… there’s so much goodness.

Does it make me love the people? – weirdly enough yeah. The ‘good’ characters are shot so lovingly, so carefully, that you do love them. The things they do are extreme, but they’re put up against terrible villains so it’s all relative eh? Plus there’s some clever little things snuck in there.

Bechdel test: Yeah, some of the girls in old town talk to each other about handcuffs and Goldie. Some of them tell Becky not to call her mom and have a conversation about that. Yay a film that passes! It feels like it’s been a while.

Best line:

Marv: That’s the thing with dames, sometimes all they gotta do is let it out and a few buckets later there’s no way you’d know.

Gail: He’s dead, he’s just too dumb to know it.

State of Mind: Fuck yeah.

also pretty keen to see the sequel

Watched movie count

relevant comic about Frank Miller.

Things I Love Thursday

Okay so last week I was pretty sick, and some stupid decisions were made such as drinking lots and lots of disprin. But it made me really appreciate some things. My best friend Sophie for coming to pick me up and drive me to a doctor, even though my brain was fried and I had forgotten that there is a local doctor, pain killers, my new awesome doctor, electric blankets, Netflix, juice and blis tablets. I’m also pleased that I got so much craft done while sick.

On the weekend I went to stay with my folks and that was lovely too. We watched About Time and had good food and mum made chocolate drop pancakes in the morning. NOM!

Looking forward to seeing my Girl tomorrow ❤ So much.

A bit of financial freedom is a beautiful thing. I fiiiinally upgraded my phone and it’s so lovely to have a phone which reliably works and does proper smart phone things. Plus paying off debt, splurging on DVDs and blu rays, a couple of things I’d been needing and not having to worry about my credit card.

Work’s good. New office, new squad and I feel good about both changes. I think my brain suits BAU work a bit better than massive project work… well, at least at the moment while I’m still upskilling.

Honourable Mentions: Broken Arrow on blu ray for $10, dreams of my love, waking up totally warm and comfortable, Wolf Among Us, skype, chippies, getting my teeth cleaned (okay it hurt but I feel good for getting it done), laughter and being healthy!

I woke up with this Eurovision song in my head the other day, it’s all about the message and being upbeat. I love it when they all do the little synchronised dance…

No Prejudice by Pollaponk

But the song I can’t stop listening to at the moment is this one, Na Na Na by My Chemical Romance

Sunday crafting

Emo sock bunny. I started making this for a work competition and then it because abundantly clear that actually Anna needed an emo sock bunny, so I made another one for work and finished this one when I was laid up in bed sick.

WIN_20140611_163955

Turns out being laid up in bed sick is a great time to finish half completed crafts because you don’t really need to think about them, just complete the process. On Thursday I finished off a sock T rex for Blair, which came out extra specially cute I think.

WIN_20140612_162105

Then this weekend I went up to visit my folks and I wanted to keep crafting so I did another wee badge or two and then started this cross stitch pikachu, which went really quick with movie watching and then my monster of the week game today, and look how cute!!!!

WIN_20140615_200547

He’s so nearly done! Pattern is free off the internet and can be found here.

I also completed a red and grey sock monkey and a little green bunny alien sock thing, so… yay!

I was really horribly sick though, still not worth it. But these guys are the silver lining 🙂 People who are me are very tired now and should go to sleep very soon.

Blow Out (1981)

Blow Out
Directed and written by Brian De Palma
(number 367)

John Travolta’s Jack is a movie sound technician who accidentally is on the scene of a car accident, and rescues a pretty girl. Of course it’s not just a car accident and there’s a lot more to the girl being in that car in the first place.

The movie is understandably concerned with sound, and the effects. The atmosphere music is actually pretty intrusive though. Most noticeably when Jack was convincing Sally to come home with him at the start of the film and she’s so drugged up she’s slurring words and can’t walk unassisted and the music is all romantic. That was pretty uncomfortable.

There’s a neat thing about this film’s use of media, there are lots of news casts for plot updates and Jack’s incredibly into the technology – using his film making equipment to try to get to the bottom of the mystery. His apartment is all full of recording stuff and his obsession with what happened on the bridge that night fuels more and more creative uses.

John Lithgow is a creepy freaking assassin guy, who is a creeper and I don’t like him.

Ben Franklin is a recurring image along with the Liberty Bell which is pretty expected for a film set in Philadelphia, but both images just keep on coming up. It’s pretty cleverly done, not a very obvious device as it could have been. But then the end of the film is so freaking ham fisted that I’m not sure it can be forgiven. I mean, a fight to the death in front of the american flag (projected on a screen) and Jack cradling Sally with the fireworks going off over him. Urgh.

And then the creepy, nihilistic true end when he takes the actual scream of the woman he loved and put it over a movie – well, at least he has the decency to cover his ears but… urgh. Nasty stuff.

Does it make me love the people? Yeah, I was on side with Jack straight away, and Sally as well. She’s pretty sassy and not afraid to put herself into danger.

Bechdel test: It almost kinda did, because there were women at the start who spoke to each other about something other than a man. But then they weren’t named, and it was a movie within a movie situation so, I dunno. No, that’s a no.

Best line:

Jack: I’m trying to save our asses!
Sally: I’ll look after my *own* ass, thank you.

State of Mind: It was stylish, but feel like the ending let it down some. Not even because of what happened but because of how it was filmed. Maybe I need to watch it again. I do know that reading Humans of New York while I watched this counteracted the depressing overtones.

Watched movie count

LARPing safely

I’m talking LARPing with emotional safety here.

This came up because I was explaining some things about LARP to Anna, who has only participated in one roleplaying game (tabletop) in her life and it’s because I made it happen XD. I mentioned something which I’ve had trouble expressing before. The concern I have for my friends following a LARP event when I see posts for days about how hard it is to let go of the character, or how they’re still grieving for a thing that happened during the game, or how they hate the real world and want to go back to the world of the game instead.

Now, these things are of course totally normal reactions – LARPing is by nature immersive and one of the appealing things about it is that you can experience dramatic, emotional things without it ‘really’ happening to you. You can have the pain of grief or the ecstasy of love, or the difficult conversations that would be awful if it was real life but you’re playing a role so it’s okay.

But what if we’re not doing those things in a safe way. And I don’t mean physically safe here, I mean emotionally safe. The interesting thing is that when I talked to Anna about this she had a simple question ‘what do you do to get out of character?’ and I tried to think and couldn’t honestly think of anything.

Because as a teacher, Anna is super mindful of the well being of the kids in her class, and every time they do drama exercises or roleplaying (especially when it’s dramatic stuff, like about bullying) they do an exercise to get themselves consciously out of character at the end. It can be as simple as ‘walk around the chair, and when you’re done you’re yourself again’. This is especially important with children to delineate that the ‘bad’ things they may have been doing in the game shouldn’t continue to be acted on, and that those actions weren’t ‘them’.

And okay, the LARPers in Wellington/New Zealand aren’t all 8 year old kids, but the fact is that we need to be careful with ourselves and with others and maybe we’re not doing that as much as we could be. The last time I played World That Is I had a traumatic in character experience and found myself crying real, panicked tears for a couple of minutes. I remember thinking to myself ‘wait, this isn’t real. Fraser – your friend – isn’t actually dead’ and I was able to rein myself back in and play the character instead of actually freaking out. I can’t get into the heads of other players, so I don’t know if everyone has these little checks, or maybe they don’t go as far as that all the time.

What I’m suggesting is an increase in mindfulness and conciousness of the people around you, the effect you’re having on them and the effect they are having with you. I know some of my friends have come up to apologise to me in advance of a game, for what they will be acting like – and those same friends checking in with me afterwards. That is incredibly important, because it’s giving me trust in them. They’re saying ‘look, some shit might be about to happen, but I care about you and I’ll make sure you’re okay’.

This is tied also to the ability to call time out on something which is genuinely distressing you so that you can have a breather. Players can do this at any time, but to be able to do this without a measure of shame that you’re somehow breaking the scene for other players is not always easy.

Debriefs are super important, and I don’t think I’ve ever run a LARP where I’ve given them enough thought or care. Usually I’ve used it as a chance to get people to reveal their secrets, share some jokes and that’s it. I remember seeing a suggestion somewhere that you give players five minutes to go and talk to other players and just share something neat that you did, or something emotional that happened. Maybe this could be extended to ensuring you check in on the people you interacted with.

LARP emotion can be faked but it can also be indistinguishable to emotions you would have in real life. This is why it’s important to be aware of what you’re experiencing and ensuring that you’re not going to have repercussions from it as you go about your ordinary life.

Maybe it doesn’t have to be a group experience either. I’m sure not everyone is comfortable with too much talk about feelings with others, or spending too long mingling at the end of a game. In which case there’s nothing to stop you doing something inside your head, or on paper. I’ve found it helpful to do free writing in the form or a diary entry or a fic about my character. Or just sitting and reminding myself of what my real life is and letting go of the character. After the drama of the last World That Is game I got on skype and rehashed the whole thing with Anna, which as extremely cathartic for me!

LARP consists of space and time to experience things deeply and this should be followed by a time of separation: consciously taking yourself out of character, processing what you thought and felt, and letting it go. I know that the LARP community cares about each other, and that means taking care of each other out of the game as well as in it.

I found this neat article about post game debriefs and I’m sure there’s a lot more writing on similar stuff around. Feel free to link in the comments if you’ve read helpful things. I feel very strongly that this is important thing to think about.

Whatever it is you need to do, I urge you to do it ! (also this got long. Add comments, I want to know what you think. Have you got any little tricks that you do? Or methods of coping?)

Halloween (1978)

Halloween
Directed by John Carpenter
Written by John Carpenter and Debra Hill
(number 462)

Jamie Lee Curtis is the lead, a bookish, nerdy girl who gets the attention of an escaped psychopath. Mike Myers starts stalking her and her babysitting charge Tommy in a completely unsubtle but fully spooky way. I may have said ‘oh you creeper!!’ a bunch of times.

There are lots of beautiful long shots in this film, which is something I’ve loved in film since I watched all that Hitchcock years and years ago. Blair suggested it was to do with having a fast turnaround for the film and not much budget, bit of which are totally legit reasons for using the long shot.

The seventies clothes are amazing, all these huge chunky platforms, knee socks in yellows and dark colours and high waisted pants and skirts that are back in fashion now. The hair is mostly feathered, although sassy Lynda (my fave character) has a cute curly haired pigtails thing going on. The scenery is beautiful, all American suburbia with big old trees and a porch on every house.

The film riffs off, or possibly was the inspiration for, a number of urban legends my sister told me. The man on top of the car, scratching at the window, the call coming from inside the house, the babysitter in peril, an escaped psychopath on the loose, body of a boy strung up… it’s epic nightmare fuel, and despite the age of the film still intensely spooky and disturbing. Also the mask is creepy, but thankfully (to me) it’s not clowny or ghosty enough to be as terrifying as the masks in Saw or Scream. (I’m still too afraid to watch Scream.)

It’s also the earliest use of ‘Don’t fear the reaper’ by Blue Oyster Cult in a horror film.

Does it make me love the people? Yeah, you see enough at the start of the characters having their ordinary days to care about them and Donald Pleasance as Dr Sam Loomis is amazing. I was rooting for him right from his first scene.

Laurie is an exceptional heroine, resourceful and quick witted. She does everything in her power to protect the kids in her charge and refuses to give up at any time. She attacks the killer with a steel knitting needle, a coathanger and his own knife and although she’s terrified she keeps on trying to win – sending the kids to call for the police and fighting to the last possible moment.

Bechdel test: Oh yeah, pretty early on Laurie, Annie and Lynda talk about homework, what their plans for the night are and who they’re babysitting. Laura and Lynda both also talk to the little girl Lindsey and Laurie answers a question for a woman teacher, so it’s actually pretty great for this.

Best line:

Tommy Doyle: Laurie, what’s the boogeyman?
Laurie: There’s no such thing.

State of Mind: That was a solid, satisfying movie which didn’t traumatise me badly at all! I feel great! *locks all doors and never opens curtains again*

Watched movie count

A neat article on io9 about the Bechdel Test