Some things

chaos reigns

I killed a fox a few nights ago. A little cub.

Thought I’d get it off my conscience and write down some reflections that it has forced on me.

I have only recently started driving, happily being ferried about my nearest and dearest and using public transport until moving out into the country, onto farmland without pavements or streetlights to connect me to anything. As I headed away from the city and moved into converted stables, finding a job outside of London, I felt like I was closer to nature – waking up to birdsong and finding my way home in the bright moonlight of the unpolluted sky. But it came to be impractical and I would need to learn to drive. This was the reality of my situation.

The novelty wore off pretty quickly having to drive an hour to and from work daily. I was talking to friend recently, a Kerouac-idolising romantic, about how he gave up his car in favour of cycling and he made some points that struck me. About how driving separates you from your community by making you so able to work further away from home instead of supporting local businesses. In one sense it would seem you have opened up access to the rest of the world, but in another you shield yourself from experiencing it, on the journey anyway. Constrained to your bubble you are transported place to place with only glances out of the window stolen from the road.artwork_duncan_trussell_family_hour

I’m reminded of The Duncan Trussell Family Hour Podcast, a few episodes from a few years back, in which he had just started cycling and had some personal revelation more powerful than the cumulative affect of all the acid he has taken. In these few episodes he would open the podcast with a lengthy monologue about how cycling was connecting him to the world, how he was experiencing hills. For Trussell, hills serve as a symbol – you work harder to ride up and you earn the pleasure and ease of riding back down. In a car you mow through them and experience nothing.

Okay I’m not a cycling enthusiast, and  am irked by the self-righteousness that usually accompanies the eco-warrior, even if I am sympathetic to the cause and have never done anything about it. It’s more that these ponderings were the very same that were plaguing me this past week when I travelling down one of these country roads and from nowhere a small fox ran out under my car.

I didn’t even feel any impact, it was just the timing. I had to turn the car around and patrol the road to see if I had in fact caught it. Sure enough there in the middle of the road was an adorable little cub, paws twitching an all. Fucksake. Hazards on I pulled up, angry and upset I had to work out how I was going to deal with this, how I was going to fix or finish what I had started. I knelt down in the road to pick him up, careful to hold him properly. In that moment, when I was worrying about what gore I might be uncovering, if I was doing any damage, he became extremely light and lifeless. In my hands no less. So there’s weak and weary ol’ me wandering down a country road holding a tiny cub that I’d just slain with my car. I walk in as far as I can and lay him down before going back to my car.

Since that night I’ve been stuck thinking about the entitlement of road using, of how there is a pecking order that has vehicles prioritised, bikes even. It’s strange that the onus is on the people around the roads to take care, rather than the other way around. There’s a short article well worth reading about the invention of Jaywalking that shows how this entitlement has been manufactured and the blame has shifted hands, how cars were seen as the intruders of roads meant for people up until the 1930s, but now vehicles are protected and there are laws that blame the people that aren’t in metal cage for not crossing roads properly.

I guess I’ll blame my actions on the fox not being alert enough, for not using crossings properly.

Clever Girl

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So my son has reached raptor level intelligence. Not the true-to-life chicken sized dinosaurs, I mean Jurassic Park velociraptors – in that he can open doors. He has, though, a certain courtesy, genetic or learned who can say. I was having a shower this morning and heard a sharp, deliberate knock, thinking it was a grown considerate adult until I heard the floor-high announcement ‘Knock-knock-knock’, followed by the horror-film close-up on the doorknob, as it rattled and gradually jutted around to reveal the beaming face of little Jackson, delighted with his new developments; his next stage of evolution.


 

Supercuts

While some actors are typecast or have roles written for them based on something they do well – like Sam Rockwell dancing, Al Pacino shouting or McConaughey getting his tits out – some actors have traits or quirks that seem to resurface time and again through different characters, blurring the line between the the actors themselves and the people they are pretending to be.

This becomes a strange paradox when escaping into the world of a film, like a little fourth-wall-breaking nod that clues you in, a Wilhelm scream to those in the know, but ultimately a hurdle to escapism. You are already having to forget that you are watching an actor pretend to be a character, but how can you while they remind you of the fact.

Eating is a strange one. The character is hungry, the actor is not. Or maybe they were before the first take. It’s kind of unnatural and yet it is an automatic function.

In his debut Primer, the unsettlingly brilliant Shane Carruth who wrote, directed, produced, edited, scored and starred in the film, also cast his friends. In directing non-actors he found that having them eat something during the scene prevented stilted, awkward takes. It taps into the automatic function and makes it more realistic, more human.

It’s interesting still to see characters that are defined by the manner in which the eat – take for instance Adele from Blue Is The Warmest Colour who eats like a fucking slob, but she is sexy, carefree and French so it makes her louche.

Some of these compilations are surely just based on coincidence considering the sheer amount of films they have acted in. But in other cases it’s just too perfect. Does Denzel improvise with his dialogue – bringing out the same confidence-inspiring turn of phrase in whichever film he happens to be starring in?

These reoccurring traits surely impinge on your idea of the character – and show that it’s not so simple to separate them from the actors portraying them. It’s for this reason that I find it easier to believe actors that I’ve never seen before, easier to suspend disbelief when you know less of their work or less about their own lives. I think ideally actors should work once and then be forced to live in obscurity on an island somewhere…

But then again some actors bring with them the weight of their public persona (Tom Crusie’s Frank TJ Mackey) or their previous performances, building off of them, or playing off of them.

Then there’s William H Macy.

What the fuck do I know.

Kids trying to act…

So I recently watched Mark Webber’s The End Of Love, a thoughtful independent film in which Mark Webber plays Mark, a struggling actor with a two year old son who is played by Isaac Love, his own two year old son. Nepotism at it’s purest.

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Owning a one year old person myself (or 17 month old in parentspeak) I found this film relatable: familiar whilst also providing a peak around the corner of what to expect from my boy as he grows more vocal and less chimplike (fingers crossed). I was engaged by this element of the film due to my own perspective and personal experience but also, crucially, because I usually have a hard time watching children act in films.

This has long been a problem of mine and apparently a bone of contention, for instance when I sat dry-eyed amidst a crowd of weeping girls as we watched The Boy in Striped Pajamas, I collected teary accusational glances as though I was a Nazi empathiser. Pushed to explain myself I can only say that children are lesser formed human beings. They are less practiced at living and breathing, let alone the nuances of acting. You can’t expect them to be brilliant as there is a lot to learn and unlearn, life experience plays a huge part and an understanding of cinema and the craft will effect a performance.

Okay so there are good child actors, and there have been great performances by children, but they are the exceptions and understandably so. This is what I had come to believe anyhow.

I recently reviewed Bugsy Malone, released on DVD only this year, and what struck me was how this bizarre concept, in which kids play adult gangsters of the 20s, is commenting on how the nature of acting is childish, it is just playing pretend.

Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up

– Pablo Picasso

But what is easy to discern when watching this unsettling and cringeworthy piece of cinema, is the difference between the majority of children playing pretend and a prodigy such as Jodie Foster truly acting. She is unnaturally mature, having just shot Taxi Driver with Martin Scorsese this is hardly surprising.

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(Side note: I remember speaking to someone who worked for a talent agency which had under its employ the foremost, sought after child actor for domestic abuse adverts in the UK, supposedly, they said he was quite the precocious little prick. I love the idea that this conjures. The child more effective at evoking sympathy is valued higher and therefore becomes arrogant and unlikeable in sheer juxtaposition to his character.)

Mark Cousins, the brilliantly astute and passionate film essayist, focussed one of his features A Story of Children and Film on the power that children can command in film and the universalities of behaviour that they seem to depict in cinema around the world. A fascinating collection of beautiful and obscure films peppered with performances that in some way capture the essence of childhood. I do not deny any point made in this film. I daren’t. But once again I feel these are exceptions.

There is a certain level of self-deception when watching a film – you know the events aren’t real, that the people are just characters, and yet we allow ourselves to believe in the story. The problem with bad acting is that it calls attention to the very device that you are subconsciously trying to ignore. It brings you out of the film and makes you aware of what you are watching. It force a divide between you and the story and stops you from being able to connect. Well for me anyway.

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What I found so striking about The End of Love was how the young boy was, for the most part, being himself -it gave a whole different form of naturalism to the film. It was something I hadn’t seen before. It seems that only a film like this could base itself around something so uncontrolled and become so serendipitous because of it. A perfect moment comes from a stage moment of drama in which Mark’s car is towed, he explains this downheartedly to Isaac as he sneezes, interrupting his sorrow as he offers a ‘bless you’. This is all assuming that the young boy wasn’t acting, he very well could be (it is in his blood after all), or if he was CGI, or if they were putting peanut butter on the roof of his mouth like the PG Tips monkeys.

Smiley Virus

 

There’s something about Miley Cyrus that makes her the perfect subject for strange and surreal subversion. Maybe because she was known first as a child actor playing Hannah Montana: a normal girl with an alter-ego and hidden personality. In some way this reflects her own life as the daughter of a pop icon and foretells of her future career. At a young age she was synonymous with persona, image and identity.

That was until she decided to smash the image of an angelic preacher’s daughter with a new and devilish persona. A wild and sexualised vision with undeniable talent who intentionally flirts with controversy. There’s something about the presentation of her image and persona that seems to dovetail so well with postmodern art and the type to flourish online. Maybe that’s overreaching and pretentious but I really like these videos – even if they are intended as a joke.

 

New Developments

These last two weeks have seen the advent of the shoutcry. A new level of volume, a new noise altogether, demonstrated in the early hours by Jackson as he stands in his crib. This came after a day in which Nicole had declared the baby broken. In which the thing that separated him from other babies just dissolved away and left us this red faced little shit.

She reassured me that his blackeye was not the mark of her reaching utmost frustration, but fallout from the waddling tantrums that have formed his new favourite pastime.

It’s not all bad. The shoutcry has become our morning cockerel but it isn’t real distress. A dose of breakfast soon quietens him content. That is: first breakfast at half 6. Other than the occasional wobble, he is still as happy as ever, he just gets bored a little quicker, needs to explore and be entertained a little more.

In recent days some new words have found there way into his vocabulary. ‘Book’ denotes uncontainable excitement as he stands just out of reach of his already large book collection. Arms aloft he dances on the spot, laughing and screaming as you lift him closer. The book he will hurriedly put in your hands and forcibly he will sit in your lap, turning the pages as you read through.

Unless they have sensory appeal, from the sub-genre of Playbooks known as Touch and Feel, he could just as easily lose interest in the current book and race back to the shelf for another. Nothing quite seems to match the excitement and anticipation of getting the book down and opening it’s first pages. I guess I’m the same way.

Now approaching Christmas, dearest Nico has fashioned him an advent calendar – each pocket containing a present. This in the build up to the many, many books we have ready for him come Christmas day. God forbid he learns to say Rolex.