Desert Island Flicks

Desert Island Discs is a British radio programme broadcast on BBC Radio 4. It was first broadcast in 1942. The concept is, that each week a guest; someone famous or is a person of note, called a ‘castaway’ during the programme, is asked to choose eight recordings (usually, but not always, music), a book and a luxury item that they would take if they were to be cast away on a desert island, whilst discussing their lives and the reasons for their choices.

I decided to run my own ‘Desert Island’, but with movies.

As an avid film viewer, I have found this quite a challenge. I have seen plenty of movies that I really liked, but would I want to be stranded on a Desert Island to watch them over and over again? Which films bear repeated viewing? Which films have enough content, appeal or personal resonance that one could stand to watch over and over again?

I am sure that should I return to this in, say a year, I would alter my selection somewhat, but for today, these are my eight ‘recordings’:-

  1. The Good The Bad and The Ugly
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Hey Blondie!

Stars: Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef and Eli Wallach.

Director: Sergio Leone.

Genre: Spaghetti Western (so called because this genre of Westerns was produced by Italians).

Released: 1966.

Why watch it: Fantastic film shots of landscapes and close ups; especially in the final showdown. Terrific action and storyline – 3 gunslingers are after buried gold. Fortune swings back and forth between the characters, when one has the upper hand, he makes sure he gets the most out of the other one. The soundtrack is brilliant too, I always ‘sing’ along!!

Favourite line: “Who the hell is that? One bastard goes in, and another comes out.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=09-GbpOd9T4

 

  1. Amelie (aka; The Fabulous Destiny of Amelie Poulain)
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Amelie’s discovery is a life-changing moment

Stars: Audrey Tautou, Mathieu Kassovitz,

Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Genre: Romantic Comedy

Released: 2001

Why watch it: Romance without the ‘yuck!’ factor. Whimsical, delightful, extremely touching in parts. The way Amelie takes ‘revenge’ on unpleasant people. And the music; it still stirs my emotions. Keep an eye on the garden gnome!

Favourite line: “Narrator: Amélie still seeks solitude. She amuses herself with silly questions about the world below, such as “How many people are having an orgasm right now?”[scenes of various orgasms taking place] Amélie: Fifteen.”

 

  1. The Fearless Vampire Killers (Dance of The Vampires)

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Stars: Roman Polanski, Jack MacGowran, Alfie Bass,

Director: Roman Polanski

Genre: Comedy Horror

Released: 1967

Why watch it: Definitely not your usual vampire film. A truly successful blend of horror and comedy, with beautifully shot scenes. Professor Abronsius and his young assistant, Alfred, are on the hunt for vampires, across snowy landscapes ‘deep in the heart of Transylvania’ to a remote castle. The physical moments with no dialogue are beautifully choreographed.

Favourite line: “…like a little birdy alighting on a branch…then, let an angel pass. Shall we allow an angel to pass?”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=you86-CKNtI

 

  1. Radio Days
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Joe’s new teacher is a delight!

Stars: Danny Aiello, Mia Farrow, Seth Green

Director: Woody Allen

Genre: Comedy

Released: 1987

Why watch it: Jewish screen family life at its best; a view of the world through a young boys eyes and the medium of radio; stories within stories and the effects on the listeners. The scene with the two burglars is brilliant.

Favourite line: “No. Have it your way. The Pacific is greater.”

 

  1. Pirates
desertislandflicks 5
Head or tail? Of the rat dinner…

Stars: Walter Matthau, Cris Campion

Director: Roman Polanski

Genre: Adventure Comedy

Released: 1986

Why watch it: Polanski actually had the ship built for the movie! Matthau, I think, is at his very best in this little known/shown film. Captain Reds lust for gold knows no bounds, and the whole film is a series of ploys to get particular pieces of gold – in particular, a Spanish throne. All the characters are wonderfully portrayed, pirates, naval officers, priests – the game of ‘Dead Man’s Nag’ is both hilarious and brutal.

Favourite line: “Well Padre. I once had a mind to eat the Frog.”

 

  1. Wild at Heart

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Stars: Nicholas Cage, Laura Dern, Willem Dafoe

Director: David Lynch

Genre: Thriller/Romance/Indie

Released: 1990

Why watch it: For its bizarre mixture of raging violence, dream scenes, illusions to Elvis Presley and The Wizard of Oz – true Lynchian oddness wrapped in what initially appears a ‘regular’ thriller. There are some truly disturbing characters in this film – be warned!

Favourite line: “This whole world’s wild at heart and weird on top.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nf0rKQkvh2c

 

  1. Leon
desertislandflicks 7
Just keep walking, don’t look back…

Stars: Jean Reno, Natalie Portman, Gary Oldman

Director: Luc Besson

Genre: Thriller

Released: 1994

Why watch it: For one of the most beautiful relationships shown on screen. The 12 year old Mathilda finds herself in the ‘care’ of Leon, a hitman; but who is the child? This is at times, an extremely touching film, how does a man who kills for a living take care of a child? Scenes with his little potted plant reveal that Leon is not heartless, or a cold-blooded killer, there is something else in this taciturn man. Portman is absolutely excellent as Mathilda, the orphaned girl who grows up fast.

Favourite line: “The rifle is the first weapon you learn how to use, because it lets you keep your distance from the client. The closer you get to being a pro, the closer you can get to the client. The knife, for example, is the last thing you learn.”

 

  1. Spirited Away

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Stars: Rumi Hiiragi, Miyu Irino

Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Genre: Anime fantasy

Released: 2001

Why watch it: Miyazakis’s first anime is arguably his finest. A feast for the eyes, with a beautiful plot reminiscent of a good old style fairy tale. Follow Chihiro into the magical town where spirits take baths and give gold to the greedy.

Favourite line: “There must be some mistake! None of these pigs are my parents!”

*

These are all films I own on DVD, I have watched many times and will watch again. I could have chosen pretty much any Allen or Polanski film; I have been a huge fan since early teens. Same with David Lynch although I don’t fancy being stuck for too long on a desert island with some of his characters or scenes in my head!

What would you take if you could only choose 8 movies? Have you seen any of the one’s on my list?

Who Wants To Save The World?

 

independence-day-movie-original-post-20th-century-fox

NASA is hiring a Planetary Protection Officer to protect Earth from alien harm!!

Apparently, NASA is currently looking for a Planetary Protection Officer to defend planet Earth from the threat of invading alien life!! True.

This is actually real government job! But before you get all excited, here’s what it’s really about – NASA needs a scientist to help fight alien life —but it is microscopic! The Planetary Protection Officer will be in charge of keeping our space exploration equipment free of contamination; from  earth microbes and also microscopic organisms from outer space that may be attached to returning equipment.

Oh, so a ‘cleaner’ then?

It got me thinking about what use I would be in a world that REALLY needed a Planetary Protection Officer. I have been a fan of science fiction stories for as long as I can remember.

I had comics and annuals of The Fantastic Four when I was a little kid. I grew up on a diet of Star Trek and Doctor Who. I love films like Contact (Jodie Foster) and Netflix series like The Expanse. And I suppose like many of us do, I place myself in the role of one of the characters; not always the MC, main character, when watching – it’s what makes us root for them.

I never wanted to be Captain Kirk, or Lieutenant Spock, strangely, I most aligned myself with Khan Noonien Singh.  Khan was a genetically engineered human from the late 20th century. He only wanted a place of his own – he was a major player in the Eugenics Wars, tried to take over The Enterprise – but was left, stranded on a planet that was toxic, his true love died and Khan blamed Kirk for the rest of his life. I know, I know, not entirely a nice chap, but I couldn’t help feel sorry for him.

“Ah, Kirk, my old friend, do you know the Klingon proverb that tells us revenge is a dish best served cold? Well…it is very cold in space!”

~ Khan to Captain Kirk


Later we had the redoubtable Captain Jean-Luc Picard and then Captain Kathryn Janeway. It took me a while to like Janeway, but when I did, I committed fully – but I never wanted to be her. I don’t think I am Captain material; even in my wildest fantasies. But was he, Khan, born bad or made that way?!

I think most of us fantasise the ‘if I could be…’ scenario when we watch films or read books. Super hero films being the most obvious. How many times have you had or overheard the ‘nerd’ conversation – “So, if you could have any superpower, what would it be?”

I haven’t got a clue – or didn’t have until I watched Heroes. Remember that one?

It was about ordinary people around the world discovering that they have super powers. Their lives intertwine as they work together to prevent a catastrophic future; who can forget ‘Save the Cheerleader, Save the World’? All the characters had a single superpower – except the evil guy whose ability was stealing everyone else’s – Sylar, played by Zachary Quinto, who late went on to be Spock! There was another character, Peter Petrelli who was a Paramedic, he was able to absorb other people’s abilities after touching them, albeit for a short while. So my chosen power is the ability to absorb powers from others (by Peter or Sylar’s methods! See! It’s Khan all over again!)

Among the Superhero canon, my all-time favourite was Batman. Who actually has no super powers, but was a billionaire highly trained physically and with ‘all the best toys’. Recently, my decades old devotion to the batty one has shifted – I still love him, still want to be him, but there’s a ‘new kid’ on the block for me – Deadpool. He is witty, tough, unpredictable, indestructible! Who wouldn’t want this? Oh, his face is a mess, like scary Halloween night in an abattoir mess, so he has to wear the mask. Would he ever work for NASA? I don’t think so. Would he ever fight to save the world from aliens, sure, if there was something in it for him I suppose. That something is his girlfriend, Deadpool after all, is a romantic; a scary, loopy, kick-ass romantic, but a romantic none the less. I think that’s what would drive him to save mankind.

But what about the ordinary folk, I hear you say, what about those who have no ‘special abilities’ and want to help save planet Earth from those pesky space invaders? I.E: YOU and ME? What sort of people will we need? Thinkers?  Muscle?  Builders? Carers? I know we need them all, but for the sake of my stupid argument, and in keeping with stories; there is only ever 1 hero, who will it be?

Some ideas for ‘ordinary’ people  – (other defenders of Earth are available)

Katniss Everdeen – The Hunger Games

Sherlock Holmes – Sherlock

Lyra Belacqua – His Dark Materials

Lara Croft – Tomb Raider

James Bond – James Bond

Buffy Summers – Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Rupert Giles – Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Frodo Baggins – The Lord of the Rings

Peter Quill – Guardians of the Galaxy

Rincewind the Wizaard [sic] – Terry Pratchett’s Discworld

Evelyn  ‘Evie’ Carnahan – The Mummy

I am surprised to see not one but 2 librarians in there, plus a librarians assistant (Rincewind, he never mastered wizardry and so helps out The Librarian – an orangutan)

 

‘I may not be an explorer, or an adventurer, or a treasure-seeker, or a gunfighter, Mr. O’Connell, but I am proud of what I am… I am a librarian.’

~Evie Carnahan, The Mummy

 

Forget the words of Bonnie Tyler – “I need a hero, I’m holding out for a hero ’til the end of the night” or Tina Turner – “We don’t need another hero,”

Let the ‘little people’ be the hero’s (Good grief, I sound like something from Team America!)

Ever fancied yourself as a bit of a hero? How about the protector of mankind? If you had to choose a non superhero to be our Planetary Protection Officer  who or what would you be?! And why?

unnamed
No pressure!

 

Wonder Women – thank you Patty Jenkins

 

Spoilers *** Spoilers*** Spoilers

 

If you have not yet seen this film, you may want to give this whole article a miss.

 

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“Wonder Woman” is yet another origin story, but so what? I’ve had to sit through decades of testosterone to get to this point.

I enjoyed that the movie took it’s time to introduce the warriors of Themyscira; a lush city-state and island nation (Somewhere hidden in the Aegean according to some sources). Where we learn that Diana is not unique in her abilities; we get a real sense of where she is from, that although she is semi-divine, Diana is very much an Amazonian, and those women ALL kick ass. For me, that was one of the wonderful things about the Wonder Woman movie, they were all wonder women.

I felt that the story contained a good balance of action and drama. There is nothing worse than sitting for an hour or two, being bombarded with scene after scene of fast-paced-look-we-got-multiple-cameras scenario and bellowing sound – this, I think, is the film-makers version of an extended guitar solo played by an unaware man-child. ‘Wanking off’, a muso friend of mine used to say. I think there are loads of directors who have become over excited by the CGI and ‘exciting’ bits.

Maybe it has something to do with the director of this Wonder Woman being female? Maybe she just enjoys a good story? Maybe she is just a little more grown-up in the emotional department? Whatever the reason, it works.

I have to admit, I was also rather apprehensive about going to see this film. I love the comic book/super hero genre (see my earlier post on Female Super Heroes) But I grew up with that garish 1970’s WW, and have seen  very few women lead in an action film. (Yes, I know you’re going to name a couple. People always do, but balance it out against ALL the films you’ve ever seen – then go away)

I think directors and producers have become lazy when making this genre, after all they have a ready and willing audience who will go and view it whether its shite or not. Now, thousands of women, like me, of my age, must have been waiting for this film. Where ARE all the female comic/superheroes??? So again, a ready and willing – if cautious and cynical-by-now audience was waiting for this film. Thought’s that passed through my mind in the build-up and trailer overload included – ‘I bet it’ll be overly moralistic’. ‘If she’s showing her cleavage…’. ‘It’ll be something for the boys really’. And finally, ‘I bet it’s shit.’

I went with my 19 year old daughter – so a broad age range to cater to – I’m 52. We both enjoyed it (apart from the sound of crisp/sweetie/nacho crunching dolts that surrounded us) It was not shit. It was not ‘for the boys’ and I almost wept to see women, actual women not youngsters, playing seriously physical roles. The fight scene on the beach is truly astonishing and deeply sad. For no matter how fast you run, or strong you are – bullet beats bow every time.

Antiope 2.gif

 

Let’s just take a look at those women –

Ages and Nationality

Robin Wright, plays Antiope – or should I say General Antiope! She trains and leads what could be termed, the militia of the Amazonian. She is hard as nails, can fight with fists, sword, and bow (in fact, she doesn’t even need a bow!!!)  And get this, best of all, Robin Wright is 51 years of age – I am just gonna have to say that again – FIFTY ONE people.

wonder-woman-antiope-header-997211-640x320

 

Gal Gadot, plays Diana, Princess of Themyscira, Daughter of Hippolyta. Diana wants to be a warrior from very early childhood. She does not know, and we the audience learn as she does, that she is not quite like every other Amazonian (in fact, at the end of the film, Diana still does not know the full extent of her origins and abilities) Diana works hard; she strives for perfection and to impress the General; her Aunt. Gal Gadot is 32 years of age, not a ‘slip of a girl’. And best of all, she is NOT American!! Gadot is Israeli and I thank director, Patty Jenkins for making this decision.

stop looking at me,
Not distracted by a pretty face, Diana that is.

 

Connie Nielson, plays Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons and Diana’s mother. She is regal, cool with a restrained passion. She is engaging as a loving mother and ruler, and you can feel her anger and pain as her only child makes the decision to leave their island home to head off with a man, to save the world of men.  Can you imagine the homecoming?! (I think I’m gonna cry) Two best of all’s; Connie Nielson is also 51 years old!  And she also is NOT American, she is Danish.

 

And some of the others –

Elena Anaya, plays Doctor Poison. She is Spanish and aged 41 years.

Lucy Davis, plays Etta Candy.  English and aged 44 years.

Lisa Loven Kongsli, plays Menalippe. Norwegian and is aged 37 years.

 

For me, a fantastic multi-cultural selection of women who are not girls.

 

That costume –

Some of you might remember that awful, hideous outfit that poor Linda Carter had to wear in the 1970s TV series of Wonder Woman.

Wonder Woman Linda Carter
EW! No, really, ew!

But take a look at what Queen Hippolyta originally gave her daughter to wear in the earliest comics –

Gal Gadot’s costume seems to have had the current trend for ‘dark costumes’ applied to it. The semiotics are not lost on film buffs and media students – still the red, white and blue are evident for all to see.

2017_The_Wonder_Woman_Gal_Gadot_wide

I have to be honest; I have an issue with American and how it perceives itself as the ‘policeman of the world’. It feels as though it foists its ideals on the rest of us.  Most of the superhero costumes bear the colours or imagery, or both, of the ‘good ‘ole US of A’. Except Batman (huh, never realised before, maybe THAT’S why he is my favourite) I balk at the way many costumes imply an association with a country and it’s values/governmental policies.  Captain America being most guilty of this – however, he is called Captain America.

And yes, I know other countries use red, white and blue as their flag colours – but we all know, don’t we, that ‘they’ mean America.

Another thing.  Superhero females, at least in comic art, are invariably ‘sexy’. They have the tightest fitting clothes in the history of clothes manufacturing. They have more curves than an Italian mountain road. Their breasts could act as twin dirigibles. Women have railed against this for so long, we’re hoarse.                                                                        In Wonder Woman 2017, Gadot’s costume has had the colours toned down,  and although we still see bare legs, arms and shoulder, it is not sexy (I guess some men would argue against that, but it isn’t out-and-out-here-it -is –for- the –male- viewers sexy)But that’s it. No cleavage in sight. Curves are mostly concealed. The Amazon ‘uniform’ is more reminiscent of the Spartans. Look at Hellenic period armour; the bare arms and legs, the leather ‘flaps’, the moulded breastplate. It is practical and believable, whilst remaining true to the original design.

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The physicality of this new Wonder Woman made evident in this lasso scene.

 

Sex –

There isn’t any. HALLELUJAH!

99.9999% of films have a romance. Dull, dull, dull. Men and women can and do have relationships without becoming sexually or romantically entangled. And yes, there is a suggestion of Diana and Steve being ‘interested’, but this is clearly more him fancying her. Diana is here to do a job, she is focused and love isn’t getting in the way. She may have grown up in a glorious paradise inhabited only by females, but she is not ignorant of how sex works, and even suggests that men have become irrelevant and unnecessary except for procreation.  Steve’s mental squirming is soon forgotten when they get to the nub of who is doing what in the war. Thank goodness.

 

The Men –

I suppose I should say something; I wasn’t going to write anything about the male stars at all. There’s enough information about ‘the great white male’ (as Grayson Perry puts it) without me adding.

So a quick nod to Chris Pine, Danny Huston and David Thewlis – the ‘good guy’, the ‘bad guy’ and the ‘badder guy’ in that order. Pine was great, Huston good, but, as much as I love Thewlis, he simply seemed wrong for the role of Ares.

 

Was it a great film? No, it was good; possibly in the Top 3 of this genre of films. Again down to lazy directors relying on a ready and willing audience, most of whom have become so desperate that there discerning monitor seems to have broken.

The storyline was simple, but that works as it is almost an ‘intro’ to Wonder Woman and her world. However, I did guess who was who quite easily.

It’s beautifully shot with the holiday brochure scenes of Themyscira; where you can almost smell the aroma of blossoms on the warm breeze, contrasting with the misery of brown and grey of London and the battlefront.

But I do believe this film will be talked about for years to come. When Sigourney Weaver first appeared as Ripley in Alien, a generation of women cheered and said ‘At last!”

Now I believe we are doing it again.

It is 2017 people.

50% of the world population is female.

Wonder Woman is the first female-led superhero film since 2005, when Jennifer Garner played the lead role in Elektra.

And finally. Thank you Patty Jenkins.

Writing Dialogue

*N.B: Warning, contains offensive language.

 

“Good morning readers, and welcome to another post on Flailing Through Life.”

“Hi! Another day, another post!”

“Hey! You! Yes you! Come and read this, no, don’t look over there, look here!”

 

As dialogue, which is preferable? Which grabs attention quickest? Which is most appropriate for your scene? Some of you are experienced writers, so you already have a handle on this aspect of the craft, but we can all do with a little extra topping on the ice-cream sundae of the written word – couldn’t we?

There are a few successful novels and novellas that contain no dialogue whatsoever, Shikasta by Doris Lessing being one of them; the story is presented in a series of reports from an alien who inhabits earth. Another is Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding, which is created through diary entries. However today, let’s look at how we make people talk.

Dialogue exists to bring your characters to life, it makes them appear ‘real’, it allows for interaction between characters, it reveals what sort of person he or she is. And if done well, it can make your writing come alive.

I am a massive movie fan, I watch films all of the time, I spent many hours in my childhood sitting indoors on a sunny day, with the curtains partially drawn, watching old black and white movies; mostly British or French. I am a huge fan of Quentin Tarantino films – and his dialogue is perfect.

Take a look at this section from Reservoir Dogs – Mr White does not want to tip the waitress when everyone else has done so:

                          

            NICE GUY EDDIE

                Okay, everybody cough up green for

                the little lady.

       Everybody whips out a buck, and throws it on the table.

       Everybody, that is, except Mr. White.

                              NICE GUY EDDIE

                 C’mon, throw in a buck.

                        WHITE

                 Uh-uh.  I don’t tip.

                              NICE GUY EDDIE

                 Whaddaya mean you don’t tip?

                        WHITE

                 I don’t believe in it.

                              NICE GUY EDDIE

                 You don’t believe in tipping?

                      PINK

                         (laughing)

                 I love this kid, he’s a madman,

                 this guy.

                      BLONDE

                 Do you have any idea what these

                 ladies make?  They make shit.

                     WHITE

                 Don’t give me that.  She don’t

                 make enough money, she can quit.

       Everybody laughs.

                              NICE GUY EDDIE

                 I don’t even know a Jew who’d have

                 the balls to say that.  So let’s

                 get this straight. You never ever

                 tip?

                    WHITE

                 I don’t tip because society says I

                 gotta.  I tip when somebody

                 deserves a tip.  When somebody

                 really puts forth an effort, they

                 deserve a little something extra.

                 But this tipping automatically,

                 that shit’s for the birds.  As far

                 as I’m concerned, they’re just

                 doin their job.

                           BLUE

                 Our girl was nice.

                           WHITE

                 Our girl was okay.  She didn’t do

                 anything special.

                          BLONDE

                 What’s something special, take ya

                 in the kitchen and suck your dick?

ReservoirDogsTipping

So what sort of people are they? Sure, when you watch the movie you can see them all sat around in their matching black and white, but what does this little section tell us about Mr. White? The dialogue is about a mundane subject; tipping, but it is interesting because of the people who are having the conversation as much as anything else; makes it kind of weird (and if you’re like me, then comical) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V4sbYy0WdGQ&list=RDV4sbYy0WdGQ#t=0

Tarantino does this repeatedly in his films. We get two or more characters who we know, as the audience, are awful people; killers, murderer’s, punks, criminals and so forth. Then he gives them this dialogue about everyday stuff, it is the Juxtapositioning of dialogue and character expectation that creates interest and tension.

Here’s another. In Pulp Fiction, Jules and Vincent, hit-men for Marcellus Wallace, are in the apartment of some college kids who tried to pull one over on Wallace. It’s payback time. We the audience kind of know this, but what happens is this –

 

                                    JULES

                         Good for you. Looks like me and

                         Vincent caught you at breakfast,

                         sorry ’bout that.  What’cha eatin’?

                                     BRETT

                         Hamburgers.

                                     JULES

                         Hamburgers. The cornerstone of any

                         nutritious breakfast. What kinda

                         hamburgers?

                                     BRETT

                         Cheeseburgers.

                                     JULES

                         No, I mean where did you get’em?

                         MacDonald’s, Wendy’s, Jack-in-the-

                         Box, where?

                                     BRETT

                         Big Kahuna Burger.

                                     JULES

                         Big Kahuna Burger. That’s that

                         Hawaiian burger joint. I heard they

                         got some tasty burgers. I ain’t never

                         had one myself, how are they?

                                     BRETT

                         They’re good.

                                     JULES

                         Mind if I try one of yours?

                                     BRETT

                         No.

                                     JULES

                         Yours is this one, right?

                                     BRETT

                         Yeah.

               Jules grabs the burger and take a bite of it.

                                     JULES

                         Uuummmm, that’s a tasty burger.

                              (to Vincent)

                         Vince, you ever try a Big Kahuna

                         Burger?

                                     VINCENT

                         No.

               Jules holds out the Big Kahuna.

                                     JULES

                         You wanna bite, they’re real good.

                                     VINCENT

                         I ain’t hungry.

                                     JULES

                         Well, if you like hamburgers give

                         ’em a try sometime. Me, I can’t

                         usually eat ’em ’cause my girlfriend’s

                         a vegetarian. Which more or less

                         makes me a vegetarian, but I sure

                         love the taste of a good burger.

                              (to Brett)

                         You know what they call a Quarter

                         Pounder with Cheese in France?

                                     BRETT

                         No.

                                     JULES

                         Tell ’em, Vincent.

                                     VINCENT

                         Royale with Cheese.

                                     JULES

                         Royale with Cheese, you know why

                         they call it that?

                                     BRETT

                         Because of the metric system?

                                     JULES

                         Check out the big brain on Brett.

                         You’a smart motherfucker, that’s

                         right. The metric system.

                              (he points to a fast

                              food drink cup)

                         What’s in this?

                                     BRETT

                         Sprite.

                                     JULES

                         Sprite, good, mind if I have some of

                         your tasty beverage to wash this

                         down with?

                                     BRETT

                         Sure.

               Jules grabs the cup and takes a sip.

                                     JULES

                         Uuuuummmm, hit’s the spot!

                              (to Roger)

                         You, Flock of Seagulls, you know

                         what we’re here for?

               Roger nods his head: “Yes.”

                                     JULES

                         Then why don’t you tell my boy here

                         Vince, where you got the shit hid.

                                     MARVIN

                         It’s under the be –

                                    JULES

                         – I don’t remember askin’ you a

                         goddamn thing.

                              (to Roger)

                         You were sayin’?

 

Jules is scary even on the page; he swings from calm burger gourmet to dangerous aggressor and back again in two sentences. Everyone is caught off-guard, which is great for story-telling tension. Why does Tarantino write this dialogue? Why doesn’t he just have Vincent and Jules come in, blow the boys away and search for the drugs? We all know; Vince, Jules, the unfortunate college kids, and us the audience, we all know this isn’t going to end well and the everyday subject of the dialogue draws out the moment until all hell breaks loose.

Tarantino Pulp Fiction

“Uuummmm, that’s a tasty burger.”

Looking to the dialogue of film-makers, directors and producers and analysing what they have written, why they have written it and the effect it has on the audience, can help revitalise a novelists approach.

And let’s not forget comic/graphic novel writers. They have to get that dialogue to lift off the page as much as the artwork. They often bring controversial ideas to the page, dialogue that can be poetic, or both as is the case with Alan Moore’s,  V For Vendetta.

v for vendetta

V: Voilà! In view, a humble vaudevillian veteran, cast vicariously as both victim and villain by the vicissitudes of Fate. This visage, no mere veneer of vanity, is a vestige of the vox populi, now vacant, vanished. However, this valorous visitation of a by-gone vexation, stands vivified and has vowed to vanquish these venal and virulent vermin vanguarding vice and vouchsafing the violently vicious and voracious violation of volition.

In this scene where V introduces himself to Evey, we learn a lot about V – he is poetic, an actor, misunderstood and a freedom fighter, all V’s dialogue.

The comic book writer is a subversive creature, lurking in the darkening corners of publishing houses and saying the things we wish we had said ourselves. Frank Miller takes us into the dark with the likes of Sin City and Batman: The dark Knight Returns. Other comic book writers with snappy dialogue are the ‘cast’ of 2000AD writers, including John Wagner, Pat Mills, Alan Grant, Garth Ennis; some of the writers for Judge Dredd;

Chief Judge: Sink or swim. Chuck her in the deep end.
Dredd: It’s ALL the deep end.

Even without any images, we know that Dredd is a hard-nosed, Lawful, humourless son-of-a-bitch, and he kicks criminal ass big time. Forget what you may have heard about kids and comics, if you have never read one, go and buy one or two and read them  and study that dialogue.

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Some quick tips –

  • INSTEAD OF SAID. I know, it’s a bitch isn’t it? You have a section of long-running dialogue and you get tired of writing he said, she said. Find an alternative to express their tone, emotions and attitude. A helpful site I like to use is – Over 200 Words to use Instead of Said – http://www.spwickstrom.com/said/#demurred
  • LISTEN to how people speak to each other in real life – BUT – do not copy it, because in real life, we um and ah, and er and pause and repeat and so on and so on… put yourself in the head of your character, BE the serial killer with a penchant for growing prize-winning roses, BE the put upon clerk who adores his/her boss regardless of how they’re treated.
  • “MORNING DORIS.” “Hi Doris.” “Yo bitch!” Use colloquialisms to tell the reader about the relationship between characters. After all, you do not all speak the same as each other, the way you speak to your mother is quite different from how you chat with your friends/homies/home girls/pals.
  • SPEAK UP. Read your dialogue out loud (you should do this with all your work anyway, you can hear the mistakes!) Act the parts of your protagonists; does it sound ‘real’?
  • RESEARCH – especially if your setting is alien to you, or historical. In the 17th century, Doris’ neighbour would never have said “Yo bitch!” or even “Hi, Doris.” More like, “Good morning to you Mistress Doris.” Keep it real – for the world you’re writing for.
  • KEEP A NOTEBOOK to hand, ALWAYS. Listen to people talking at bus stops, on trains, at work/school. You can pick up some juicy titbits. I once heard someone say of Alan Bennet (British playwright, screenwriter, author), that he noted down what a fellow actor said, then had her repeat it in his plays. Sounds true, possibly is, but he did not regurgitate directly what she said, he adapted it for the viewing audience so that we came to know the character.
  • KNOW YOUR CHARACTERS. Would our lovely Doris really say “I don’t give a crap about waitresses!”?  You don’t need to, but you might want to write biographies for your characters, it will help you to determine, not only where they come from and what accents they have, but also how they speak; their specific word choices such as slang, speech patterns, and rhythms.

 

Authors who I think give good dialogue!

Douglas Adams

The author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series marries the fantastical with the prosaic –

‘Drink up,’ said Ford, ‘you’ve got three pints to get through.’

‘Three pints?” said Arthur. ‘At lunchtime?’ 

The man next to Ford grinned and nodded happily. Ford ignored him. He said, ‘Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so.’

‘Very deep,’ said Arthur, ‘you should send that in to the Reader’s Digest. They’ve got a page for people like you.’

‘Drink up.’

 

Elmore Leonard

The crime novelist’s dialogue is catchy and snappy, many of his novels have been made into films – Get Shorty, Jackie Brown and  3:10 to Yuma

‘You sure have a lot of shit in here. What’s all this stuff? Handcuffs, chains…What’s this can?’

‘For your breath,’ Karen said. ‘You could use it. Squirt some in your mouth.’

‘You devil, it’s Mace, huh? What’ve you got here, a billy? Use it on poor unfortunate offenders…Where’s your gun, your pistol?’

‘In my bag, in the car.’ She felt his hand slip from her arm to her hip and rest there and she said, ‘You know you don’t have a chance of making it. Guards are out here already, they’ll stop the car.’

‘They’re off in the cane by now chasing Cubans.’

His tone quiet, unhurried, and it surprised her.

John Steinbeck

Worlds peopled with memorable characters with dialogue that a reader can hear it as if spoken aloud.

‘I forgot,’ Lennie said softly. ‘I tried not to forget. Honest to God I did, George.’

‘O.K.—O.K. I’ll tell ya again. I ain’t got nothing to do. Might jus’ as well spen’ all my time tell’n you things and then you forget ‘em, and I tell you again.’

‘Tried and tried,’ said Lennie, ‘but it didn’t do no good. I remember about the rabbits, George.’

‘The hell with the rabbits. That’s all you ever can remember is them rabbits. O.K.! Now you listen and this time you got to remember so we don’t get in no trouble. You remember settin’ in that gutter on Howard street and watchin’ that blackboard?’

Lennies’s face broke into a delighted smile. ‘Why sure, George, I remember that…but…what’d we do then? I remember some girls come by and you says…you say…’

Hope you enjoyed today’s post. Now go and write some wonderful dialogue people!

To Be (a nerd), Or Not To Be (a nerd)…

…that is the question… that I am posing today.

Way back when I was at school, nerds were the really intelligent kids (not me!), who were excellent at Maths and Science in particular. They couldn’t throw, or kick, a ball, they shied away from crowds, cool kids, hockey sticks, pubs, clubs and bars, even their own shadow at times. Nerds were, well, nerdy!

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Then along came this other word – Geek – it infiltrated to the UK from the ‘good ole US of A’. And we were confused, so this geek was like a nerd but had something to do with technology, both intelligent in academic ways, but stupid socially, neither had any dress sense (many wore spectacles) and you certainly did NOT want to get trapped with one who then regaled you with their favourite topic, no sir!

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For older readers, the difference between nerds and geeks is purely a matter of lexical semantics – they’re both weird. For younger readers, there is a whole pile of difference , and don’t you dare call me a nerd when I’m a geek!!! And then they stomp off to read their comics (because, as we all know, nerds/geeks read comics, don’t they?)

So let us have a little stroll through the history, and meaning, of the world of Nerds and Geeks. Got your notebook and mismatched attire? Then let’s go…

A nerd is a person seen as overly intellectual, obsessive, or lacking social skills. Such a person may spend inordinate amounts of time on unpopular, little known, or non-mainstream activities, which are generally either highly technical, abstract, or relating to topics of fiction or fantasy, to the exclusion of more mainstream activities. Additionally, many so-called nerds are described as being shy, quirky, pedantic, and unattractive, and may have difficulty participating in, or even following, sports.

Though originally derogatory, nerd is a stereotypical term, but as with other pejoratives, it has been reclaimed and redefined by some as a term of pride and group identity.

The first documented appearance of the word nerd is as the name of a creature in Dr. Seuss‘s book If I Ran the Zoo (1950), in which the narrator Gerald McGrew claims that he would collect “a Nerkle, a Nerd, and a Seersucker too” for his imaginary zoo.The slang meaning of the term dates to the next year, 1951, when Newsweek magazine reported on its popular use as a synonym for drip or square in Detroit, Michigan.  By the early 1960s, usage of the term had spread throughout the United States, and even as far as Scotland. At some point, the word took on connotations of bookishness and social ineptitude

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nerd

The word geek is a slang term originally used to describe eccentric or non-mainstream people; in current use, the word typically connotes an expert or enthusiast or a person obsessed with a hobby or intellectual pursuit, with a general pejorative meaning of a “peculiar person, especially one who is perceived to be overly intellectual, unfashionable, or socially awkward”.

Although often considered as a pejorative, the term is also used self-referentially without malice or as a source of pride. Its meaning has evolved to refer to “someone who is interested in a subject (usually intellectual or complex) for its own sake”.

This word comes from English dialect geek or geck (meaning a “fool” or “freak“; from Middle Low German Geck). “Geck” is a standard term in modern German and means “fool” or “fop”.The root also survives in the Dutch and Afrikaans adjective gek (“crazy”), as well as some German dialects, and in the Alsatian word Gickeleshut (“jester‘s hat”; used during carnival).[1] In 18th century Austria, Gecken were freaks on display in some circuses. In 19th century North America, the term geek referred to a performer in a geek show in a circus, traveling carnival or travelling funfair sideshows (see also freak show). The 1976 edition of the American Heritage Dictionary included only the definition regarding geek shows. This variation of the term was used to comic effect in an episode of popular 1970s TV show Sanford & Son. Professional wrestling manager “Classy” Freddie Blassie recorded a song in the 1970s called “Pencil-Necked Geek”.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geek

Hang on, let’s pause here – so nerds are shy – so fucking what!? Most shy people I know are also the most strong-minded individuals I have ever met. They read fantasy fiction? Co-o-o-l.  And geeks are enthusiasts? Where would we be without people who are enthusiastic about something, anything? Aren’t creative types enthusiastic to the point of obsession? William Turner, Auguste Rodin, Frida Kahlo, Barbara Hepworth, H P Lovecraft, Prince!? They would never have produced the paintings, sculpture, books or music that they did, without having at least a hint of geekiness/nerdiness.

So what happened?

Lets see if we can identify the ‘accusers’ and the ‘supporters’…

1974: The Fonz, a character on an American TV show; Happy Days, referred to socially awkward kids interested in science and math as nerds. The world gave him a big thumbs up and nerds a big thumbs down. NB: this was a guy in his late twenties(at least!) who seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time hanging out with teen schoolkids!!! *J’accuse The Fonz.

1978: Eugene Felsnic, a character in Grease was shrill voice, had poor social skills, thick glasses, and was generally considered embarrassing. He was the butt of a lot of jokes. poo Eugene was just overly keen. *J’accuse the T-Birds, The Pink Ladies and Producers,  Allan Carr and Robert Stigwood.

1984: The movie, Revenge of the Nerds was released, and amazingly,people delighted in a movie where the nerds get to win. The film does not actually portray nerds positively, but they were the stars! “We have news for the beautiful people. There’s a lot more of us then there are of you!” Nerd appreciation went up slightly. *Kudos to Director Jeff Kanew.

1985: Movie; Weird Science by John Hughes came out, (also Ferris Bueller’s Day Off). Hughes humanized the nerds that audiences had made fun of before. Audiences were made to understand that nerds have feelings too. They were no longer the butt of jokes. Nerd appreciation was beginning to climb. *Kudos to Director John Hughes.

1991: Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons, was a fairly accurate stereotype, and though an enjoyable character, he does not help the cause of geeks and nerds. Ever. Not sure if he was appreciated or jeered. *Nada.

1999: Star Wars: Episode I was released. And so began the biggest nerd growth in the history of mankind. Nerds were popping up all over the show; watching the films, talking about the films, buying merchandise that appeared in those comic shops that started popping up everywhere. (Being a cynic, I am apt to believe the supreme marketing of this franchise is what has created a cycle of movie-nerd-merchandise-tie ins-geek-movie-nerd ad infinitum.) However, the profile, appreciation/acceptance of nerds and geeks has risen tenfold. *Kudos  to creator George Lucas.

2007: The Big Bang Theory, American TV show arrived. It has been and continues to be, a massive hit. It portrays nerds/geeks as being not only super intelligent but, know-it-alls’ who are indeed socially adept, who are terrified of women, often pedantic and in one instance (Sheldon) possibly lean towards Asperger’s. What initially appear to be stereotypes, and to a degree they are, they also reflect what the vast majority have concerns with; friendship, work, and problems with both. The first nerds to get their very own show! Hurrah! *Kudos to writers, Chuck Lorre, Bill Prady, Maria Ferrari, Steven Molaro and the rest.

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2010: It wasn’t enough anymore, to visit comic book shops, sit on the side-line and discuss girls who would never look at you, it was time to get physical – enter Kick-Ass, the movie! This was a nerd who was mad as hell and he wasn’t going to take it anymore! This was the skinny, ‘little’ guy who no-one looked at, the guy who hung out with his two equally nerdy pals and spent too much time with comics – it is an homage to the comic superhero, stop just reading about it, and do something. Kick-Ass hailed the rise of a new nerd – Super-Hero-Nerd! *Kudos to writers/Director Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman.

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Well there you have it. Or do we?

Before you go, can you see anything missing from this picture so far?????

Notice an absence from the list???

Still not got it??

I’ll give you a clue – what is the gender of the writer of this blog?!

Where are the women?! It is an odd thing, females have been noticeably missing from the nerd/geek history. If you type female nerd into your search engine, you will more than likely get an image of a ‘sexy’ woman in tight shirt and spectacles that she probably doesn’t wear in her ‘real’ life!

1995: Hackers starred Angelina Jolie as a young hacker alongside Jonny Lee Miller. It wasn’t a terrifically good film and did little for nerds and geeks, even though their IT skills were at the cutting edge! *Nada.

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1996: Saw Matilda making a hit, (with children and some parents). Matilda was not only very well read and intelligent, she got the better of her bullying teacher; Miss Trunchbull. It was cool in the playground for a short while, then the boys came back with their footballs and sense of entitlement. *Kudos to Roald Dahl (and Director Danny De Vito for trying.)

nerd6

 

1997: J.K. Rowling brought us the best girl-nerd ever! Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone, was published. Then it was made into a film! It was a HUGE success. She wrote 6 more! We got more films! Hermione Granger was the new hero of young women and girls right across the planet, she had to fight extreme prejudice from, not only classmates, but teachers. She is from a Muggle family, she is well-read, she is intelligent(more than any of the other characters), she is brave, she is loyal – she is the driving force behind Harry and Ron and without her, I believe, Lord Voldemort would have won!!

nerd8

 

Girl nerds are just as cool as boy nerds, perhaps more so, as they have to work harder. In what way, I hear you ask? Well, if you’re a boy, and a nerd, it can still be a battle to get respect from people. If you’re a girl nerd, you not only have that battle, but another with the boy nerds, who are just like the rest of their species when it come to females!

To Be (a nerd), Or Not To Be (a nerd)…that was the question. Or are you a geek?

I have decided I am a mix of both. It needs a new word, I propose NEEK!

‘Good Mo-orning, e-ev’ryone!’

Yes, I know it’s a misquote – (my blog!)

So, I was thinking about how we misquote or remember famous lines incorrectly and decided that I would seek out the correct one’s, just for you dear readers – I spent some time rewatching old movies, sections of movies and looking up literary passages.

I suppose it depends where in the world you are, whether or not these famous lines have become part of general usage, you know when you wake and say “I love the smell of coffee in the morning.” ? Do you know who you’re mis-quoting? Ever get the urge to say, “You lookin’ at me?” ? – I do, ALL of the time, that’s just me then is it? O-Kay…

For your delectation I’ve compiled an eclectic mix of movie and book lines, said by characters, that have entered our current zeitgeist, you might be surprised how your memory played tricks…

 

“You’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!” Charlie Croker – The Italian Job.

“Play it!” Rick Blaine – Casablanca.

“You talkin’ to me?” Travis Bickle – Taxi Driver.

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“Elementary.” Sherlock Holmes – The Crooked Man.

“I love the smell of napalm in the morning.” Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore – Apocalypse Now

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“Alright, Mr. Demille, I’m ready for my close up.” – Norma Desmond – Sunset Boulevard

“I’ve always depended on the kindness of strangers.” Blanche Dubois – A Streetcar Named Desire.

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“Please sir, I want some more.” Oliver Twist – Oliver.

“Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” Rhett Butler – Gone With The Wind.

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“There is no place like home.” Dorothy Gale – The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

“Mine’s Bond- James Bond.” James Bond – Casino Royale.

“I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” Howard Beale – Network.

“Live long and prosper.” Lieutenant Spock – Star Trek.

“Call me Ishmael.” Ishmael – Moby Dick.

“You’ve got to ask yourself one question. Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?” Harry Callahan – Dirty Harry.

blog dirty harry

“He-e-e-e-re’s Johnny!” Jack Torrence – The Shining.

Stupid is as stupid does”, Forrest Gump – Forrest Gump.

“Say hello to my little friend!” Tony Montana – Scarface.

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And pretty much anything said by any character from Shakespeare’s plays!

I think I selected these because, at one time or another, I have used these lines (albeit a little crookedly and adapted to the occassion).

Feeling irked at a colleague? Put your best Rhett Butler face on and say the line! Go on I dare you! You might even want to go all Oliver on your boss!

So until next time, go and hunt out your favourite quotes, try them out on some unsuspecting sap and enjoy the results, in the words of The Terminator –

“I’ll be back!”

Surreal-is-it?

‘Good morning, good morning, good morning, it’s another lovely day in the village’

Surrealism was founded by the poet André Breton in Paris in 1924, it was an artistic and literary movement that proposed that the Enlightenment—the influential 17th and 18th century intellectual movement that championed reason and individualism—had suppressed the superior qualities of the irrational, unconscious mind. Surrealism’s goal was to liberate thought, language, and human experience from the oppressive boundaries of rationalism.

I believe that the Surrealists were the Punks of their age, they were non-conformists, experimental, breaking the boundaries of the social, political and creative order of the time, and not giving a toss what people thought in the process.

Surrealism rejected logic and reason and prized the depictive, the abstract, and the psychological with startling juxtapositions. Through the use of unconventional techniques such as automatism and frottage, Surrealist artists attempted to tap into the dream-world of the subliminal mind.

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The Mystery of The Fireplace – Andre Breton 1947 – 1948

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This is not a Pipe – Rene Magritte 1929

 

Surrealist cinema was a modernist approach to film theory, criticism, and production with origins in Paris in the 1920s. They shocked the world with their imagery, sometimes absurd, often confusing, but always fascinating. Throughout, there is an obsession with sex and death and our relationship with them.

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Une Chien Andalou. Luis Buñel. 1929

 

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L’age D’or. Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali. 1930.

 

Surrealism fell off the creative radar for some time; the Second World War (1939 – 1945) and the dreary, tight-laced, emotionally paralysed 50’s made the country an incredibly dull place. Children were seen and not heard all over again, men worked, women cooked. Nice girls did not smoke, did not have sex before marriage, did not drink, did not go to pubs, did not show their knees, they learnt to be nurses and secretaries, carers and comforters. (All rather Victorian).

Then Surrealism took an odd turn, it became comedic, or at least a kind of mushroom or LSD stoked journey through the director’s mind. TV Shows such as The Prisoner, 1967 and Monty Pythons Flying Circus 1969 (In the UK, not sure about elsewhere)

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I am not a number!

 

 

 

I absolutely loved The Prisoner and Monty Python – though I must have been watching them second time around (I was too young when they were originally released), both had an impact on my child’s mind; I think a Surrealist worm crawled in and laid an egg, and waited to be born in my adulthood.

One of my favourite contemporary surrealist directors of cinema is David Lynch. If you do not want to read reams of literature; or watch all those older films to understand Surrealism, I direct you to the world of Mr Lynch. The man is a natural; when it comes to surrealism, the man is so in touch with his own weird, that as a viewer, you are either repelled or drawn in; like one of his ants, to a severed ear!

I recommend you start with Wild At Heart, not so weird that you will be put off (if you’re one of those sensitive types), progress to Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks, then when you have the hang of it, dive into Eraserhead!! Go on, I dare you! This has to be THE weirdest, most Surreal film I have ever seen in my life.

 

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David’s hairstyle was ahead of the curve.                         Eraserhead. David Lynch. 1977

 

Apart from Mr Lynch, there was really nobody else making surreal films. Then the  1990’s saw a kind of revival of Surrealism, and those of us who went to art schools and colleges pretty much ‘got it’, straight away. The Ren and Stimpy Show, 1991 was a cartoon series following an over-friendly, stupid cat and a neurotic, very highly strung Chihuahua dog.

After Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer’s – Big Night Out and Shooting Stars 1995, which is definitely art school Dada meets Surrealism, the dark flavour began to return in the form of The League of Gentlemen, 1999. Brilliantly written, stunningly obtuse, irrational or scary characters – see Papa Lazarou or Hilary Briss and tell me that’s normal!

 

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‘You’re my wife now, Dave’
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‘They weren’t pork.’

The Mighty Boosh, 2003 was a lighter, but still very surreal series that came into our lives, and then the League of Gentlemen team returned with Psychoville, 2011 – think angry, mentally scarred clowns and you get the picture.

Personally, I like my surrealism dark and disturbing, not sure why, but it gives me the willies more than any horror film – if you like a good willie watch TLOG!

Then I began to wonder where all the surrealism was in literature. And realised; it transformed itself into Magical Realism. This can be a difficult one to define – Magical Realism is not fantasy, it is not about magic (though there may be some ‘magical’ elements), it is not escapist fiction. It portrays fantastical events in an otherwise realistic tone; so a dead grandmother is not seen as an other-worldly ghost, but is in the narrator’s here and now. It brings fables, folk tales, and myths into contemporary social relevance.

Authors of this genre include –

  1. The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. (My all-time favourite)

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  1. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami.

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  1. The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende.

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  1. Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter.

 

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So do we have any Nouveau Surrealists? Is that even a term? What would a Nouveau Surrealist look like, sound like, taste like!

It would amuse please me greatly if any of my readers watched or read anything I had mentioned here today, please, give it a go, if you haven’t already…

Go and get your weird on…

Go forth and be SURREAL people…