Friday, January 22, 2016

Friday Fiction Challenge

I've been doing a bit of writing - since having a baby in September, I've been THINKING a lot about writing, but not doing a whole lot of it. Apart from about cloth nappies on another blog of mine. I've written a LOT about cloth nappies.

Anyway. I heard about this Friday Fiction Challenge thing where you use a photo to inspire a 200 word story. I've never written short stories and I don't really read them - it just isn't a genre I feel comfortable in at all: I enjoy unspooling things over chapters (that I never actually write). But this feels doable - it's flexing my creativity and making me write. Two things I really want/need.

The baby and I go swimming on Fridays at 1pm and after that he tends to sleep his ass off so it's a good time to do a writing challenge. But we shall see how long I stick to it :)

Thursday, April 10, 2014

True McConaughey

I was watching True Detective the other night. Third episode. Maybe fourth. And I realised that:

1) I did not have a fricking clue WHAT was going on.
2) I was probably going to switch off.
3) McConaughey's done what most people say but is actually impossible: disappeared so far up inside his own arse he cannot - CANNOT - see the light.

There used to be a time when Matthew McConaughey could be relied upon to regularly serve up charming, romantically challenged losers who find redemption via a ghost/a very slim woman/to all-intents-and-purposes a hooker hired by his parents.  He woo-ed his adoring lady fanbase with his cheeky smile/bo-deeeee and turned up at premiers with his hair in all kinds of nonsense.

I'll have to admit I wasn't a fan of his romance films - he was brilliantly charming in Time To Kill - but I liked him and the little spark he bought to the screen.

What McConaughey did not do was method.

But then, someone showed a bit of interest in Mud and BANG the real McConaughey Show hit the road. Instead of a amusing charmbox, we've got a lizardy, humourless, self-lauding moron who thinks that if he says enough stuff with enough loaded pauses and a finger raised in the air, SOME of it's going to make sense.

I haven't seen Dallas Buyer's Club yet but I have seen Wolf and his cameo is great because it's funny and Matthew McConaughey keeps his top on and has mannequin hair. I have no issue with the roles he's playing or the fact that he's doing them well. I have an issue with the fact that now people are taking him seriously he has to take himself seriously.  I mean that's no fun at all. The guy made Ghosts of Girlfriends Past for God's sake: this dude is no Nobel Prize winner.

But he has won an Oscar.

And now we all have to know that McConaughey is an actor.

A sssserious actor.

His speeches throughout the Awards Season went from very sweet - his son told him he wouldn't win - to eye rolling - referencing his wife 'she told me: You get out there McConaughey. You get out there My King.' and the little nod to Jesus. To the hilarious Oscar's speech where he revealed his hero is ... him in a few years.

Which, when you think about it, isn't deep or cool. It's basically what people say after they've read a self-help book.

Which brings me back to True Detective.  Now I KNOW that McConnaughey is NOT Rusty.  He's playing a role. But the way he plays this makes me feel like he's really, fucking loving it. And that, boy, he wishes he could think half as deep as him. Rusty's scenes are so ponderous and pretentious I genuinely can't bring myself to pay any attention during them. He's self-satisfied and smug but, even worse, he's talking monkey nuts.  He's not cool. He's not smart. He's the epitome of every single basement-dwelling Internet Troll, emerging from the bottom of his mother's house to spray his contrived nonsense all over the naive, non-thinking world. It's just so fucking annoying to watch - SAYING THE WORLD IS SHIT AND EVERYONE DIES IS NOT AN INDICATION OF A DEPTH. No matter how many Camels you get through in 10 minutes or how little you care about your hair.

What Rusty's ramblings are is boring. But they're delivered in a way that we're supposed to think: wow, can that fucked-up cop think. And ever wow-er, can that boy act.

Maybe somewhere, deep down inside, McConnaughey: The Fun is still in there.  He's not morphed into this odd vainglorious dude lacking in any sense of humour. Because that drawly, cocky, charming schtick was what made him watchable, made him different, made him ... McConnaughey.  To modify, I understand, but to lose all together is a crime.

However, while we're on True Detective while I DO NOT like Rusty or his endless preaching, I DO like Woody's 1990s hair. I think he should go with it. It definitely beats his Hamish-Do.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

My Favourite Moments With Friends

Continuing on from the One Where I Talked About Things I Liked That Happened In Friends, these are my favourite moments with Friends.

Meeting Friends

At 9pm every Wednesday night in the years 1995-1996, me and Sarah J would crowd onto Graham's bed in the attic of their Wake Road student house where I spent most of my first year in Sheffield. We'd pile in with a couple of bottles of the cheapest red wine we could find, loads of fags and a pizza for, first, ER then Friends.  In the days before catch-up TV and cheap video boxsets (this was before even DVDs, man) if you wanted to see something, you either had to watch it then and there or video it. I didn't have a VCR so if I missed it, I wouldn't see it (it was repeated on Friday nights, but I was at Stardust at the Union on Friday nights (equally, not to be missed) so ...). Oh ... the count downs to our Wednesday nights on Graham's bed were electric.

And then: 'What? Oh: no, you just rolled over the juicebox'. 'Thank God!' Perfection.

Kensal Rise and Portobello Road with Friends

Lying in bed with Sarah G for hours with disgusting hangovers, choking our way through packets of 10 Silk Cut/ML, eating beans on toast and watching endless episodes of Friends, still really laughing at the jokes, even though, by then, we knew them off by heart.

Sarah's got a real belly laugh and she's not afraid to use it - so I always think of her really laughing when I see bits she particularly liked: The Routine; 'it tastes like feet', 'Pivot!' and Joey being forced to dance by Ross at his failed wedding to Emily.

Being dumped with Friends

One particular loser who I was so much better than but had managed to wheedle his way into my affections for no other reason than he said he wanted to introduce me to his mum, chucked me in our local pub after a week of radio silence.  We all know how horrendous radio silence followed by a 'we need to talk' contact followed by a 'it's not you, it's me' on a SUNDAY NIGHT can be.  I remember sobbing my way home in the rain along West Norwood High Street. Friends filled the rest of that particular Long Night Of The Dumped and kept my pitiful weeping to a more manageable level of hysteria.

Jetlagged with Friends

When Rob and I came back from our honeymoon in LA, we had to move straight into the spare room as we were having our ensuite put in (I know).  The spare bed was old and small, the mattress so sleep-worn it had a divot down the middle in which you had no choice but to both sleep.  Jetlag, coupled with the fact we were basically conjoined by sweat in that divot meant we were awake most of the night. At three am, Rob went downstairs, made a plate of Marmite on toast and two steaming mugs of tea and we watched Friends in the dark until we finally fell asleep.


Barely able to contain myself beside the effortlessly cool Rob
Crushing the pretenders with Friends

When I first started working at the Globe, I had no idea I was walking into a den of secret Friends fans. But, as my time there wore on, they slowly, but surely slunk from the woodwork. At first it was just Clare and Rathers who tentatively invited me into their Friends cave, taking care that I was no Friends fool with cryptic tests and obscure asides. Once I'd passed, I cannot tell you how AMAZING it was to have a detailed email analysis of why Emily was such an annoying character.  Or highlight a character contradiction  - ie: in Season 7 Ross is exposed for not liking ice-cream because it's too cold and it hurts his teeth but au-contraire! he does like the cream of ice in Season 2.

Then, others began to suggest that they, too, were Friends super fans. Oh, really? We suggested a Friends quiz night. The entire Education department signed up. Everyone had to come as a supporting character - there were teams of Richards, Janices, Days of Our Lives doctors and my team - Rathers, Clare and the lovely Georghia who had heard of Friends - went as Three Chicks and A Duck (a hy-larious play on The One With Five Steaks and An Eggplant and ... well, the chick and duck).

We all wrote questions so that it was fair (of course, our masterful quiz-master made sure we didn't get any of our own so there really was no cheating). Naturally, Three Chicks and A Duck won the Geller Cup and, while the bitterness was evident about some of the less sportsmanlly players, it was our gauntlet that was thrown - they were the fools who picked it up.

To this day Three Chicks and A Duck retain the Geller Cup (in a drawer upstairs, away from my husband's desperate-to-chuck-it-out hands).

The Original

The Best
What are yours?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

10 Favourite Friends Moments

A few weeks ago a lovely fellow Friend-ite of mine sent me a link to this - it's a zinging attack on the terrible legacy of Friends by someone who sees it as the root cause of all evil in our world. According to this sparky little fella, Friends is, amongst other things, the reason why people place pretentious coffee orders, why men hit on women all the time and made neurotic behaviour acceptable.

High praise indeed for a little sit-com.

Friends isn't everyone's cup of tea (or coffee which, if my memory serves me correctly, is probably about as complex an order the Friends cast ever really give. Maybe a muffin.), but it's definitely mine.  It's unfailingly upbeat, it has strong, generally believable and clearly flawed characters and it handles tough subjects - infertility and death - with a light but effective touch.

There are hundreds that I could list here, but here are my top ten moments (today's version, anyway) from Friends, in no particular order:

10: Ross & Rachel's first kiss

This was the first episode I ever watched and I really belly-laughed at this. The timing of Ross's collision with the dryer door is just perfect.

09: Ross finds out about Chandler & Monica

Again, the timing on this is brilliant.  It shunted 'My sandwich' by a nose.

08: The others find out about Chandler & Monica

But I couldn't have Ross finding out without these two:

Pheobe on perfect form:

And so's Joey:

07: Pheobe singing along to Ross's bagpipes

06: Mike's fake piano

05: Ross made out with the school librarian

There's also the amazing scene where Brad Pitt goes to high-five Ross when he tells him that he got Rachel pregnant and isn't going to marry her. GENIUS.

04: Mike & Ross's awkward night

03: You just rolled over the juicebox

02: Pivot! Pivot!

01: This is Vikram

Tied with:

01: I got off the plane

What's yours?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

What Friends Means To Me: A Mildly Embarrassing Confessional

This year, Friends is twenty whole years old.

(Which means I am old.)

Me: geeking out INTENSELY on-set
When Friends first aired, I was living in Pennsylvania working as an au-pair spending my weekends drinking can after can of Old Milwaukee, watching Anime and obscure movies on laser-discs with my very cool, Nirvana-esque boyfriend. I had no time for some vanilla sit-com.  Well. That's not strictly true. I'm casting myself a little too cool there. I vaguely remember it coming out, but because American TV baffled me so much back then with its sheer volume of content, I could never remember what was on when and what channel so, when I did have access to the remote control, I just ended up watching re-runs of I Love Lucy and The Mary Tyler Moor Show on Nick at Night.  So even if I really, really wanted to see it, the chances are I would never have found it.

So I came to Friends late, by that sense. It was introduced to me, instead, the next year when I was at university in Sheffield and Channel 4 began playing the first season on Wednesday nights - right after ER. Then, when I only had four channels to deal with, I was able to get into it.

Now, I can't imagine my life without Friends.

Oh, don't worry. I'm well aware of how tragic that sounds. I'm 38 for God's sake. And a lot of what I've written here could possibly get me sectioned, but it's hard to write about how much a TV show means to you without sounding a bit mental.

So here goes:

I was 19 when I first started watching Friends and I really haven't stopped. It's been a constant in my life for the past 19 years. At every high and low, Friends has been there.

Me: geeking out AGAIN on the
corner of Grove & Bedford, NY
I guess this should worry me but, again, I find it comforting. I reference Friends in my head without even thinking about it: I always say the word 'compooper' when I need to write the word computer. When we visited a fertility clinic, Chandler's 'there's a lot of malfunctioning wee-wees and ho-has in here' popped into my head.  When my dad died, The One Where Nana Dies Twice suddenly made sense.  Trust me, there are several scenarios that Friends goes through that don't work (rat-babies), but those that do ... do. I know how strange that sounds, but when you feel alone or out of your depth, there's solace in knowing that someone has been there before. It's embarrassing, yes, that that someone is a fabricated character, but, you know, someone wrote those words ...

Friends has had such a positive impact on my life. Contrary to what may be inferred from this post, it's not replaced real friends, but enhanced those friendships I make.  I've honestly made friends-for-life through the mutual understanding of an obscure Friends quote - 'front and back!' ... 'but you left' ... 'Cups and ice'.

It bonded me to two of my best friends - Sarah 1 at Uni who introduced me to it, and Sarah 2, my flatmate in London who I introduced it to, leaving her with my Season 5 Video Boxset on a Saturday morning and finding her in the same position that night having watched the entire season in one sitting. From then on, getting a brand-new season box-set of Friends was the absolute HIGHLIGHT of our year, man! And when we moved into a new flat, my full-season set of Friends videos filled an entire kitchen cabinet.

My beloved (at the time) boyfriend dumped me the night after the final ever episode of Friends.  It was like two eras ending and I felt as bereft of one as I did of the other.  But with Friends, I could go right back to the beginning and start again - with Joey in his leather waistcoat and Monica and Rachel's high-waisted jeans. I have split up with a lo-ooo-ot of men and Friends has held my hand through long, weeping nights. I've had some sad things happen and during the worst parts, it was the only thing I could have on the TV. The comfort is in its reliability, that I know what's coming and I know I'll enjoy it.  I've found that when I'm happy, I need Friends less - when things are tougher, I come back to it. Like crack, I suppose ...

And, I think, that's the basic fact - I enjoy Friends. I just do.  It gives me 22 minutes where I can relax, regroup and enjoy myself.

And there's so nothing wrong with that.

Friday, January 24, 2014

GQ Cool Issue - Idris Elba

Because nothing says Cool like a drunk rent boy.

Poor Idris. Someone at GQ hates you.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

FILM: The Shrew v The Goofball

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about women in film. Not film-makers and not independent film-making but women in Hollywood film – the ones that bring in the big bucks.  And I’ve been wondering a lot about why men can’t seem to make a film that shows a woman as a … well, woman. 

But perhaps I’m wrong …

Perhaps it's not that the women are being presented wrongly. Perhaps it's the notion of Who Is What in a film that we need to talk about.

During the promotion for Knocked Up – a film I liked a lot – it's lead female star, Katherine Heigl, made this comment:

"It paints the women as shrews, as humorless and uptight, and it paints the men as lovable, goofy, fun-loving guys. It exaggerated the characters, and I had a hard time with it, on some days. I'm playing such a bitch; why is she being such a killjoy? Why is this how you're portraying women? Ninety-eight percent of the time it was an amazing experience, but it was hard for me to love the movie."

The result is that neither her co-star Seth Rogan or director Judd Apatow have spoken to her since. In fact,  Rogan dismissed her comments as 'batshit crazy' when he was asked about her on the Howard Stern Show a couple of years ago.  

Which is where the problem lies.

Because it's simply ridiculous to dismiss what Heigl says just because it could be construed as a criticism of your film. It's not. It's an observation.  Heigl has a reputation of speaking her mind and it's had an impact on her career. But that doesn't mean that what she says here isn't worthy of wider consideration.

Because it's impossible to ignore that what Heigl says about the women in this film is true: Knocked Up  DOES portrays its women as 'shrews ... humorless and uptight' whilst its men are 'lovable, goofy, fun-loving'?  Her high-acheiving character's just been landed with the child of an unemployed stoner - she's not going to be playing for laughs at that point in her life.

Katherine's Alison is not the fun one. Rogan's Ben's the fun one: a loser stumbling around trying to do the right thing. Ben's the one you root for, not Alison who could - quite frankly - do it on her own anyway. 

Batshit crazy, then? Not at all.

But these two characters being so different and, in some ways, unappealing isn't wrong. It's one of the basic devices of comedy: two people who shouldn't get along trying to get along. It's not about women being one thing or men another. Putting your characters into awkward situations is how you make your audience laugh. If it were two goof-balls or two uptight shrews, it'd be whole different story. For the odd couple premise to work you need one straight guy and one funny guy. Great comedy pairings are all about this.

Conveniently enough, The Odd Couple is a great example of this.

Jack Lemmon's Felix is Heigl's uptight shrew. Constantly cleaning up and complaining about Walter Mattau's Oscar's disgusting goofball lifestyle - just as Alison is appalled by Ben's.  It's funny because Felix is Walter's friend and the friendship they have is suddenly put under strain by their living arrangements.

In Tina Fey's under-rated Baby Mama (maybe the name didn't help and the trailers ...guh) Tina's Kate is anal about her beautiful home and protective of her successful career in organic living. Amy Poehler's rough-and-ready Angie is all about junk-food, crappy computer games and general loafing.  The humour comes from them trying to live together.

Even Dumb & Dumber pitched Jeff as the straight guy to Harry.

The reason why I'm talking about this, though, isn't because it's not 'right' to have a shrew and a goofball as your main protagonists.  My problem is that, in commercial Hollywood, the shrew is persisting  That while either one in a comedy pairing can be the funny guy, the laughs are consistently going to the goofball man.  That's what Heigl was alluding to.  That's what we should all be thinking about: is the theme of men and women in comedy not updating itself to reflect more modern attitudes?

Or is it that simply no-one can quite believe that women are funny enough to carry it?