God-like powers, High School in the 80s, alcoholics, and hardcore gay sex.
A couple of weeks ago, I noticed a job listing on Twitter for a place that shall remain anonymous. I didn’t do anything about it, similarly to pretty much every other time I have ever found a job listing for anywhere. Not out of laziness, you understand, but out of a lack of self-confidence. Every time that I read such a job listing, and see the requirements and roles and what you need to send off and such, I end up turning it down and not proceeding further because I never feel like I’m good enough, that I wouldn’t fit in. They’re somewhat big-time and so would ask for a level of rigid professionalism or brevity that I just can’t do, or some such, and that would be the end of it.
But, this time, I ended up going for it for two reasons. The first was that Lucy (who does Screen 1 with me) caught wind of it and pushed for me to at least try giving it a shot, since she seems to have misplaced a load of confidence in the quality of my work for some reason. The second came from a reacquainting of an old friend from Secondary School (the details of which are a story for another week). Hearing her go on about all the stuff that she’d done since we’d last spoke – jobs, boyfriends, trips to other continents on aid programmes – and the sheer joy in her voice as she related this stuff to me non-stop for three straight hours, quietly galvanised me to try taking a chance for once in my life. A brief second opinion from Jackson later, and then it was off to creating this very website (since being able to put “have my own website” on my CV would look mad profesh).
The site construction, with the exception of the hours and hours and hours of looking at WordPress pages whilst importing just the last 8 months’ worth of content, was incredibly easy. Where everything nearly went wrong came when it was time to do the CV. I am near incapable of selling myself, as anybody who has seen my Twitter pimping of my work can attest, because I genuinely don’t think I’m that good. Every time, and I do mean every damn time, that I do get some self-confidence and think that I’m pretty good, I’ll end up reading a great article or seven from other writers and go, “Oh, nope, I am nowhere near that good!” Which basically makes the act of writing a Covering Letter a complete lie, whilst I struggle horrendously with CVs since I have no idea what anybody wants – not helped by my university module on this subject straight up telling me (after 8 weeks) that they and employers don’t know what they want – and keep constructing CVs that are really boring and way too long. Every word looks wrong, every letter typed with another button that’s keeping me in the unemployed line.
Eventually, with the deadline looming and a lot of help from Lucy (who goes through CVs as one of her many jobs), I turned in something that I was halfway happy with. The sense of accomplishment coming less from the CV and covering letter that I turned in being any good – they weren’t, if I’m being honest – and more from the fact that I actually managed to turn in something at all. I actually took a chance, for once, even though the worst that can come from applying for a job is just not hearing back. This whole thing is almost definitely not going to go any further than this, but I still tried anyway and I have been told that trying is still something to be proud of.
Here’s what I’ve been watching this week.
Inside Out (Saturday 8th)
Directors: Pete Docter, Ronnie del Carmen (co-director)
Now that I have seen Inside Out with somewhat less-distracted eyes – although it did still hit, there’s no way for Inside Out to hit me so totally emotionally after that first time – I’m 100% confident in making it my Film of 2015 So Far above Mad Max: Fury Road. It really does work so completely on every level, even those that aren’t tied to my personal emotions. I specifically, in this entry (cos this will most likely pop up a lot whilst this feature keeps running), want to give praise to the character animations. The way that the Chuck Jones-like animation of the emotions and the world inside Riley’s head contrast perfectly with the more realistic and slightly weighty animations of the world outside Riley’s head? Genius, pure genius. So good!
Fast Times at Ridgemont High (Monday 10th)
Director: Amy Heckerling
This… did absolutely nothing for me. Like, at all. I didn’t find it funny, I didn’t find it insightful, I didn’t find it sexy – in fact, if anything, I found it a little creepy in how willing it was to display nudity for girls who in-film are underage – I just found it boring. It moves way too fast and has too many characters that we’re supposed to care about to various degrees, which means that nothing connects emotionally, and the script just isn’t funny enough to work on that level. It doesn’t commit enough to a picture of High School that’s realistic or a silly exaggeration, instead settling for some kind of awkward middle ground that never convinces. And it has Sean Penn as a stoner comic-relief. I fucking hate Sean Penn. If I were to come up with a list of actors I never want to see in any film ever, slots 1 to 10 would be filled by Sean Penn. Maybe you just had to be alive in the early 80s to get it, but it did nothing for me in 2015.
Also, and I feel like I should bring this up here because there’ll be an article next week about this topic, Fast Times’ needle-drops are really distracting and eventually just-plain aggravating. The art of the needle-drop is very particular, since a well-timed and well-chosen one can enhance a scene tenfold but get it wrong and a scene can be ruined just like that. Ridgemont High is a film that basically runs on needle-drops, using popular songs at literally every single opportunity – scene transitions, daydreams, sex-type stuff, or if there’s just been too long a stretch without one – and the film ends up drowning in really-distracting music cues. The Go-Go’s into Tom Petty into The Cars into Stevie Nicks and so on and so forth. There’s no care in most of the drops, they often just seem to be there for the sake of propping up a soundtrack album, which makes it all date horrendously and takes away from the movie itself.
That said, the Led Zeppelin fake-out is kinda funny.
Smashed (Wednesday 12th)
Director: James Ponsoldt
If people became movie stars based on how talented they are at acting, then Mary Elizabeth Winstead would be one of the biggest stars on the planet, anchoring three separate franchises, and a legitimate household name. But, then again, if she were, I guess she wouldn’t be able to star in films like Faults. Smashed, in particular, is one of her very finest performances to date as Kate, an alcoholic elementary school teacher who finally decides to sober up after a number of bad experiences. She manages to walk this incredibly fine line where she’s believably drunk but not hammily and obviously acting – which is very hard to do since drunk people themselves straddle both sides of that line – whilst her sober work has to encompass so many different levels of emotional state and likeability that almost any other actress would run the risk of turning into a one-film demo reel instead of a coherent character.
Because Winstead absolutely nails that central role, the rest of Smashed falls neatly into place. This is a film that pivots around, and relies so much on, the central performance that, if it’s good, the rest of the film’s decent-yet-unspectacular nature is elevated thanks to it. I do feel like there’s maybe an additional 30 or 40 minutes missing from the film, since there’s a giant time-skip just as the drama is hitting boiling point, but I guess filling in that blank would make the finale less quietly devastating so I’m kinda fine with it. The soundtrack is rather distracting, though, to continue the conversation from Fast Times. Light finger-plucked acoustic guitars coupled with reverb-drenched electric guitars, both of which swiped from How To Make An Indie Film 101, always feels a bit too… happily melancholy for a film like this, it never really quite fits, although the usage of Smog’s “Our Anniversary” over the credits is a great choice.
22 Jump Street (Wednesday 12th)
Directors: Phil Lord & Christopher Miller
Right, look, if 23 Jump Street doesn’t end with a full-on hardcore sex scene between Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum), then what the f*ck was even the point of this series anyway? The great thing about the Jump Street movies, and 22 in particular, is that its central gay-joke – that Schmidt and Jenko are so close that they might as well be gay lovers – is always played with genuine sincerity. Sure, they do extract a lot of jokes from it, and especially from a ridiculous amount of euphemisms, but there’s always a sincerity to their pairings and the film very much seems to find their bond genuinely sweet. There’s no “gay panic” to their interactions, so the film could just drop them both into a hardcore sex scene if it wanted to and it would feel genuinely sweet.
Because, seriously Hollywood, what is your reticence to just make one of these sorts of “bro-mantic” comedies a full-on rom-com between the male leads already? Are you worried about losing those audience members who would be freaked out by two guys engaging in a passionate relationship? Cos, if so, f*ck them. It’s 2015, if they’re still homophobic then they’re the problem and you don’t deserve their money. Besides, if you were to drop the pretence with Jump Street and go all the way, then you’d have a win-win-win situation! Those of us invested in the Schmidt/Jenko relationship would get the only payoff that makes sense, homophobic frat bros would have to witness these two guys express their love in the truest sense of the word and that might teach some of them that homosexuality is a perfectly OK and often beautiful thing, and everybody else gets to see Channing Tatum shirtless which is the only thing worth living for at this point anyway.
Yes, I have given this a worrying amount of thought. Shut up.
Absolutely Anything (Friday 14th)
Director: Terry Jones
Since I’m reviewing The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (which will be along tomorrow) and Trainwreck (which will be along on Tuesday) but not this, I thought I’d drop my thoughts here real quick since then they’re at least somewhere. I found this one to be fine. I know that everybody is trashing it, seemingly mostly because they saw the cast list and expected some kind of big all-time classic as a result, but I enjoyed it. It’s low-key stuff, in terms of both the story’s scale and the film’s own ambitions, and it mostly satisfied me.
The central conceit – a Council of Highly-Superior Beings (all voiced by the still-living members of the Monty Python troupe) discover the existence of Earth and decide to prove its worth by granting one random unassuming Earthling (Simon Pegg) unlimited power without his knowledge – allows for some fun gags, which are at their best when it uses the literalism in a rapid-fire manner, but the film ends up feeling a little too small-scale. Ramifications and effects don’t often go much further than Pegg and the usages of the power don’t go as big as they really should, ditto the jokes which are mostly just chucklers rather than gut-busters. That said, I did end up getting a good few laughs, the cast are game, and the whole film was pleasant and cheery enough that I didn’t feel like my time was being wasted. Reduced expectations probably helped me, but I had some nice disposable fun with this one.
I am curious to see that the BBFC seem to have stopped giving a crap about the word “fuck”, though, since it’s mentioned about 10 times in a 12a film that had a tonne of kids in the screening.