Trainspotting (1996)

Directed by Danny Boyle
Written by John Hodge based on the novel by Irvine Welsh
(number 324)

Content warning for bad things happening to animals and babies.

I mean, I feel like the opening sequence is pretty much the zeitgeist:

“Choose Life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a fucking big television, choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players and electrical tin openers. Choose good health, low cholesterol, and dental insurance. Choose fixed interest mortgage repayments. Choose a starter home. Choose your friends. Choose leisurewear and matching luggage. Choose a three-piece suit on hire purchase in a range of fucking fabrics. Choose DIY and wondering who the fuck you are on Sunday morning. Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing, spirit-crushing game shows, stuffing fucking junk food into your mouth. Choose rotting away at the end of it all, pissing your last in a miserable home, nothing more than an embarrassment to the selfish, fucked up brats you spawned to replace yourselves. Choose your future. Choose life… But why would I want to do a thing like that? I chose not to choose life. I chose somethin’ else. And the reasons? There are no reasons. Who needs reasons when you’ve got heroin?”

I never managed to see this film before. I remember by brother bringing it home from the video shop and suggesting (having watched it himself) that Mum and I watch it. Mum watched it without me (possibly I told her to) and then it went back to the shop. I just never really felt the need to see this. Knowing what I did about it – drugs, someone dives into a toilet…and that’s sorta it? It’s one of these movies which when I tell people I haven’t seen it they look at me like WHAT? and also… it’s one of the ones on the list I figured I probably should see when I was first going through and checking things off (seen, not seen).

So, I watched it on an overly hot Wednesday early evening while Anna was out at the rehearsal dinner for her sister’s wedding. The opening and the first half hour are pretty great (gross out poo jokes aside), and poor old Renton getting taken in by a school girl who wanted him. An event happens 40 minutes in which makes everything rather more real and horrible. I saw it coming. Didn’t make it any easier when it happened.

There’s some very clever special effects in this movie. The sequence where Renton’s in his childhood bedroom detoxing is probably my favourite. The movement of the walls, the weirdness of his hallucinations. I really rated that bit.

Does it make me love the people? Yes, damnit. Ewan Macgregor is just so adorable, so charismatic that I cared about him right away. Tommy as well, they’ve got such chemistry on screen and you want to care about them. Spud, although rather gormless is generally the well meaning victim in other people’s drama and I care about him too.

Robert Carlisle does a stunning job as a totally unloveable asshole, so props but no love there.

Bechdel test: Lizzy, Gail, Diane and Allison are all named characters, but they don’t talk to each other, except once in the lady’s loos two women talk about withholding sex as a tactic learned in cosmopolitan but I don’t think they counts as it is about men explicitly.

Best line:

Tommy: Doesn’t it make you proud to be Scottish?
Mark “Rent-boy” Renton: It’s SHITE being Scottish! We’re the lowest of the low. The scum of the fucking Earth! The most wretched, miserable, servile, pathetic trash that was ever shat into civilization. Some hate the English. I don’t. They’re just wankers. We, on the other hand, are COLONIZED by wankers. Can’t even find a decent culture to be colonized BY. We’re ruled by effete arseholes. It’s a SHITE state of affairs to be in, Tommy, and ALL the fresh air in the world won’t make any fucking difference!

State of Mind: Generally I quite enjoyed that. I didn’t love the poo flying everywhere at the start but once that was done it’s a really good, solid movie. Reminded me of a couple that came later on like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels or The Angel’s Share. Cleverly written, quite beautifully shot and with a killer soundtrack. I am pleasantly surprised.

Watched movie count


28 Days Later (2002)

28 Days Later
Directed by Danny Boyle
Written by Alex Garland
(number 454)

I have seen this movie just once before and I remember two things about it primarily: It had a great sequence with Cillian Murphy wandering through deserted London and I really hated the treatment of the woman characters – being reduced to breeding wives which our hero man had to go all dark side to rescue them from.

I didn’t recognise the opening sequence a all, the explanation for the rage virus – very 12 Monkeys, where the animal rights activists accidentally release this experimental toxin into the world.

I remember reading an interview with Cillian Murphy about how hard it was to film the empty London sequence, that they had to do most of it at 4am before there were many people around and even then they were blocking off roads so that cars didn’t come down in the background. It’s very effective, brutal in its showing the ruined tourist souvenirs, the upturned red double decker bus. I noticed there are still seagulls everywhere and it’s comforting honestly because I thought of this article by a naturalist about how animals would stop the zombie plague.

There’s a not very subtle comment on how religion didn’t save anyone, when Jim goes into church and finds just dead people staring at the stained glass of Jesus and the priest has been turned into a rage zombie. The horror of the situation is undercut with Jim saying ‘shouldn’t have done that’ after knocking the priest down but it’s small respite as this action coincides with nightfall and more active rage zombies. The escalation is fast and brutal. Boyle loves brutality, emphasis on the punk aesthetic for the survivors – throwing molotov cocktails and wearing big boots.

The emotional heart of the movie is found when Jim finds his parents with their message about how they left him sleeping. After he cries his companion Mark describes the horror of how his own parents died. It’s easy to imagine, with the few words he uses, the horror of the situation. It’s easy to believe that people n a mob can turn so careless and self serving.

I was quite happy when Brendan Gleeson turned up, I love him and I didn’t know who he was last time I saw this. I’ve adored him since In Bruges. It’s hard to get too attached to him though, knowing that I can’t remember him from later in the film…sigh. The sequence in the supermarket’s really fun though, isn’t it everyone’s dream to go into a supermarket and help yourself to all the good stuff?

I hate straight horrors, I need more humour. Unless it’s a classic horror like Halloween, where I can be paying attention to the neat suspense and film making, or comedy horror where I can be laughing along with things – like Cabin in the Woods or Tucker and Dale vs the evil. I’m actually still a pretty big fan of ghost movies, but monsters like zombies are horrifying when the treatment is straight. I’m not good with that, I have so many nightmares that it’s like giving them fuel.

OH HEY NINTH DOCTOR oh no Christopher Eccleston running the military compound of horror. You should know better than this. It’s a clever bit of storytelling to introduce the soldiers as rescuers but then show slowly that there’s horrible things happening in their country manor. The extent of the inhumanity they display is supposed to be ironic I suppose, but I find it a bit hard to believe that there’d only be one dissenter in their ranks. Maybe it’s the mob mentality echoing back again. At any rate it’s deeply disturbing – an exploration of maybe men are just slaves to their hormones, and given a chance are happy to rape and use their power selfishly. It’s actually a really common message in a lot of media/internet arguments but I think it does a horrible disservice to men and humans in general. The coldness of West and his men while preparing Selena and Hannah is horrifying, and I wonder what the point of it is.

Does it make me love the people? Yeah, the point of view characters are all loveable. I mean… Brendan Gleeson for sure. But Alex and Selena and Hannah… you want them to survive and to thrive. You hate when bad things happen to them. I don’t think the movie actually says anything particularly interesting or new about the human condition though.

Bechdel test: Yes, Selena and Hannah talk to each other in the supermarket about getting chocolate bars and again in the back of the car. When Selena has convinced the men to leave the room so that they can prepare, she tells Hannah to take some pills, Hannah asks if she’s trying to kill her and Selena says ‘no, love, it’ll make you not care…’ and that’s incredibly heart breaking.

Best line:
[Hannah hits Jim over the head with a bottle]
Selena: Hannah, it’s OK. He’s not infected.
Hannah: But I thought he was biting you.
Jim: Kissing. I was kissing her. Are you stoned?
Selena: It’s a long story.

State of Mind: Is it so important to use the zombies, who are personifications of man’s savage nature to make the non infected more savagely behaved and therefore make the point that man has a savage nature? Eh, I didn’t really enjoy this film this time around. I do enjoy the ending with the implication that only Britain is infected and the rest of the world is able to rescue them. The alternate (‘true’) endings to the film would be way too depressing for me. I have never been tempted to watch the sequel…

Watched movie count
(With this one I have watched and blogged all the bottom 50 of the 500 list!)