Archive for December, 2011

Christmas is a time of reflection. We all know that. Today however I am reflecting on something far from normal Christmas fodder. Instead I find myself reflecting on Football. I know already, right there from that statement that I’ve lost a lot of you. But then I may have gained a few of you too.

I love football. 

I always have. I was the son my dad never had – except I was a girl. I’ve been a blue nosed Evertonian my whole life. I’ve never known anything else. And I can tell you this – its a tough supporter to be. Some would say that we’re lucky, 100+ years in top flight football, trophies (even if they do have more cobwebs on them than a broom cupboard…), we’ve been winners and we’ve been losers. But we have a history to be proud of, we’re an extremely old club and from time to time there is sparks of brilliance.

So why am I moaning? Well because quite frankly, being an Evertonian is a bit like being an England supporter. Nothing we ever do is good enough. We always fall short. We can beat the big teams, but then we lose all the easy games. For years we’ve had finishes that echoed that we were the ‘best of the rest’, but its still not good enough. We have problems – we need investment, there is more money in the Justin Bieber’s sock drawer than we have in the whole God damn club. Which when you level that against the billionaire clubs like Man City and Chelsea, how are we ever going to be able to compete? We have a good manager, Moyes has done us proud for many years now. But even he only has so much tenacity in him to keep doing the same monotonous dance every season with the same flawed result, and the same tired conclusion – that we are not good enough.

Which brings me to my point.

Money is football. 

I hate to say it. I really do. But it is unfortunately true (Hey that rhymes…). For decades now we’ve watched footballers get paid ridiculous amounts of money for what is essentially just kicking a bloody ball round a field. Compare that to the men and women who die protecting their country who are on £17,000 a year – it puts it all into perspective when you see these men getting paid £40,000 a week. Crazy. It seems we have put a far lower price on peoples lives. But we live with that fact, and we have done for years. It has only been over the last ten years however that the whole game became just about money. Now I’m not saying if you have the backing of some Arab billionaires, or some Russian mafia types (allegedly…) that you are guaranteed to go out and win every trophy. It takes a lot more than that. But it helps. It takes a hell of a lot of work to do well in this country in football. You need a great manager, a great club, a great squad made up of some pretty special individuals, and enough capital to do all those things… That is where Everton fall short. We have a world class manager – even if at times this season he’s been challenged. We have a 133 year long history. We have real passionate members of a squad. But yet we linger in the bottom half of the table… and we went two matches without a shot on target. Now that’s just embarrassing.

Goodison is older than my Great Grandad's slipper...

I’m not asking for us to be bought by some outrageous, rather sketchy billionaire. Because honestly, I would rather be in the state we are now with no money, then with dirty money. But I am asking for the people on our illustrious board, to do something. Don’t buy that new Bentley you so desperately want this Christmas, give it to Moyes so we can actually bring a striker into the club who actually scores goals.

Remember this:

This isn’t your club.
This is our club.
We’ll still be here when your gone.
We don’t serve you, you serve us.
We haven’t spent 100+ years in the top flight for us to go down because you lot won’t get off your backside and do something.
Remember why you are sat there.

Show some respect for our club and do your job.
Or give up your seat for someone who will.  

I’m sticking to what I think would be an ideal Freudian list of movies again today. And today’s movie is a classic example of exploring the deepest darkest depths of the human psyche. Now, I’m not sure if I’ve ever revealed this to you fine handsome people – but I love Alfred Hitchcock. I’m not exactly his target audience, and trying to get any of my friends to enjoy any of his masterpieces is like being in chess club and asking the hottest guy in the school to prom. But that being said, at the tender age of 21 – there are few of his movies I haven’t seen or don’t own, and I see his ground breaking originality being cloned in practically every thriller I watch. And so, if you are a fan of thrillers, and you don’t mind a movie being older than a good bottle of Chardonnay, then I insist you check out some of his films. His most famous movie is probably ‘Psycho’ which I definitely consider to be the first psychological thriller ever made. That’s my Hitch – actually inventing a genre… But in terms of enjoyment, I would recommend any of his Jimmy Stewart or Grace Kelly partnerships – or hell the film they made together – Rear Window. Or if it’s adventure that you want, check out North by Northwest. Carry Grant climbing down Mount Rushmore… It doesn’t really get any better than that.

And so, now to the movie at hand. Introducing Marnie, a twisted psychological drama that was really the last of Hitch’s greats. Starring Tippi Hendren (of The Birds fame – check that one out, it’s brill!) and the extremely handsome Sean Connery, Marnie tells the tale of a female thief with pretty obvious deep rooted issues.  Connery plays the rather dark and sinister man who decides to take this woman on as his ‘pet project’ if you will. Trying to burrow into this woman’s mind, with the intention of trying to get her to trust him. 

Marnie is a movie for people who think they know how to interpret the workings of the inner mind, but not necessarily for ones who actually can. Those individuals may find the plot and unsubtly of Marnie’s psychological downfall to be cheesy and dated. That being said, Marnie was made in 1964 and movies of this kind were not often made and so our initial predisposition to ‘psychological thrillers’ and their associated clichés have to be set to one side. Hendren’s character Marnie begins the movie as a strong, independent and quick witted criminal. And so it is hard not to make associations to Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew when you see by the end of the movie that she is totally and utterly submissive, and above all a broken woman thanks to Mark’s (played by Connery) aggressive whittling. It would be a mistake to assume that it was the trauma she suffered as a child that broke her. Granted Marnie was disturbed, and would have eventually needed to face those demons she had hidden for so long. However Mark didn’t expose those demons with the intention of helping her – that can be said for certain. Getting to the root of Marnie’s darkest and deepest fears was all just another means to an end for Mark, who coincidently indicated – more than once – that he was someone fascinated with both behaviour, animalistic traits and trying to make animals trust him. It is this fact that totally outlines the movie. At first glance you could be fooled into believing Marnie is a love story about a strong man enabling the woman he loves to regain control of her life by facing a traumatic event from her childhood. But you would be wrong. Marnie is so much darker and twisted than that. Mark told Marnie that he had gotten a leopard called Sophie to trust him. She belittled his achievement – which in itself is a sign of her independent and strong manner. He responded by saying how great an achievement it was when the leopard is a wild animal. In this movie – Marnie is the wild animal.

You have to ask yourself, why would Mark show such a great interest in Marnie. And why would he go out of his way to protect her from her own criminal deeds. The answer is simple really – Marnie was Marks new project. He indicated that women were the biggest predators of all – again a reference back to animals, and so he was challenging himself. He reckoned if he could get her to trust him, that would be his biggest achievement. Much more so than the leopard. Some would argue that he was trying to help her. But you have to remember that he recognised her instantly when she applied for a job at his firm. He knew she was a thief and made that decision then to tame her, if you will. This occurred long before he knew how disturbed she was, nor that she had a traumatic past. When you realise that was his intent all along, it makes every action after that much more sinister. Yes he did help her bring to light a hidden traumatic event which ultimately led to her facing her demons and helping her neuroticism. But that was just a means in order to break her. Which he succeeded in doing…

Was she broken?

Ask yourself – if we all had to face our deepest, darkest insecurities and the price of that was to be wholly and totally dependent on another human being, would you want to? We all have secrets and moments from our past that we would like to forget. In Marnie’s case she had forgotten them, so that her mind could cope. She wasn’t necessarily better off not knowing, she suffered day to day with painful reminders of this unspoken event which often left her acting out of sorts. However, Mark wasn’t unburying those secrets so he could help his wife, but so that she would finally open herself up and accept him – trust him with every fibre. Had Marnie discovered her past in a doctor’s office as opposed to it being thrust upon her in an unsafe environment by a man with twisted intentions, then this would be a very different film. But she unburdens herself finally, and who does she see? Still, the loveless mother who is icy cold, and then the kind faced, strong armed handsome man who has been with her throughout this perilous journey. Marnie just wanted to be loved all along. She constantly asked her mother why she didn’t love her. So to then have this contrasted with Mark who made her feel safe and protected as he endeavoured to clean up every mess she’d ever made, blind sided Marnie and so she fell in love with him. And more than that – she trusted him. 

Dear God Sean Connery was a handsome devil! Even in this rather sinister picture...!

Still think he was just trying to help her? Well there is one last damning piece of evidence. The final nail in the coffin. The book. Throughout the movie Mark reads books about animals, behaviour, zoology – he often referred to it as his field, on top of his usual work. But the only book of real significance is totally framed by Hitchcock, entitled: Psycho-sexual Behavior in the Criminal Mind.

Pretty strange bedtime reading don’t you think? Mark admitted himself that he was interested in that field. But he was reading that book not to help Marnie, but again to gain control of her. To unroot her insecurities in order to gain her trust. And the sick thing about this movie is that it works. By the final scene, she is very much a broken woman. She tells him she wants to stay with him, and doesn’t want to go to prison. When just a few short months ago she couldn’t stand him even touching her. But like all Hitchcock films, Hitch leaves a lot to interpretation and a lot of guessing work is done throughout the movie. I can’t help thinking that Marnie would quickly become like the leopard in the picture – just a trophy of his triumphs. Meaning he’d quickly tire of her now he had fulfilled his accomplishment. Mark so coldly tells Marnie his first wife is dead. Perhaps he tired of her too… Marks desire to tame a woman was also echoed by the supporting character – Lil. She is totally infatuated with Mark, but she is also already willing to do anything Mark pleases. There is no challenge in that. And so I doubt Mark would ever have found her attractive.

Anyway, to conclude, Marnie is most definitely a puzzling, solid thriller that will see you reading into every word and every scene. I will leave you with two little gems – firstly, this picture of Hitch in Marnie – once again he inserted himself into his movie… And also this charming quote from the production of the film.

After rehearsing just a few scenes with co-star Sean Connery,  Tippi Hendren asked Alfred Hitchcock, “Marnie is supposed to be frigid – have you seen him?” referring to the young Connery. Hitchcock’s reply was reportedly, “Yes, my dear, it’s called acting.”

It's like spotting 'Where's Wally!'

Overall, a tantalizing watch and a psychologist’s wet dream… A solid 8/10.

Two posts in one day… I know, I spoil you…!

Now, to change things up a little bit – a review of a movie with a very different theme. It is the comedy/drama (although I very much dispute the comedy label here my friends…) called ‘The Dilemma’, starring Vince Vaughn, Winona Rider, Kevin James and, a personal favourite of mine, Jennifer Connelly.

...Yes it does - your movie is shit!

What’s it about?

Billed as a comedy about a man who discovers his best friend’s wife is cheating on him, The Dilemma is a lot more, and less than that. The only likeable character in the movie is played by Jennifer Connelly (and I say that without bias), as even the ‘victim’ of the piece Kevin James is shown to be far from an upstanding citizen. Our protagonist – Vaughn’s character is less than endearing and you will find yourself against him, and mostly annoyed for the majority of the film. Incidently, we are made to think – or so director Ron Howard wants – that Winona’s adulterous character is an unrelenting villain when, clearly, upon a layout of the facts – she is not.

Let’s break it down

Firstly, I laughed maybe twice in this movie. And I’m not sure about anybody else, but a comedy that makes you laugh twice in two hours is seriously not done its job. I mean, I have laughed more at an episode of Law and Order: SVU for God sake, and that has a very dark theme. That being said, as does The Dilemma. In fact, it is the theme of the movie that means it doesn’t get off the ground from the get go. Firstly, the supposed main funny bits of the movie include: Vaughn following his best friend to a massage parlour where it is implied he pays for sexual favours from a teenage prostitute (Yup – you did just read that right); Vaughn’s family and friends staging an intervention for his gambling addiction – again, not funny; Vaughn catching his best friends wife in a kiss with another man and then getting poisoned by a plant; Vaughn giving an insulting, sexist speech at Connelly’s parents anniversary dinner – I actually had to look away at that one; and to top things, Vaughn violently threatening to ‘burn [a guy’s] face off’ with a can of hairspray and a lighter. If you think any of those things are funny – then go right ahead and rent the movie. But trust me, not one scene was done in an amusing way.

But my main issue with the film, was the twisted morality. As I mentioned previously, Kevin James’ character is discovered to spend one night a week getting a ‘special massage’ off a nineteen year old Vietnamese girl. The whole movie is about how outrageous and disgraceful James’ wife is for cheating on him with the rather delic’ Channing Tatum. In fact, she is made out to be a total bitch, and is ostracised by every member of the cast – even the guy she was cheating with in the first place. Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t realise this movie was set in 1923 – what a great year for women that was! I should also add that not a single negative word nor repercussion is placed on James’ character for his indiscretions. In fact by the end of the movie he is happy as Larry (I always wondered who the Larry was in that saying… hmmmm), high fiving his ‘buddy’ and they were sufficiently rewarded with getting a million dollar contract with Dodge motors. What the fuck…?!

Now, the males among you are probably thinking I’m being a feminist, frigid bitch right now. But surely, even if you ignore the issue of sex here, James’ character was way more in the wrong than his wife. Firstly, she began an affair because he was cheating. And it is cheating by the way. In fact it is worse than cheating. It is not only illegal, but I hardly find it amusing that he is abusing – and it is abuse in my eyes, as no one wants to sell sex, and to think of how desperate that person is – what he does is unforgivable. It isn’t like we are taking Belle de Jour here – this girl works in a shoddy, back street massage parlour and probably is an illegal. What comes with that? Well there’s is a high chance she was forced into sex trafficking, and therefore any act after that where money is exchanged is against her will. I told you… this film is a fucking riot. So I can in no way understand a) why they decided people would actually find this funny?! and b) how they could ridicule Winona Ryder for playing the field when what he was doing was so much worse…!

Honestly, it was this point that The Dilemma reached the point of no return. When I think about the years that probably went by, when this went from someone’s head, to the page, to production, editing and then onto the big screen and no one thought to say anything… nor thought about how offensive that is? It drives me crazy.

But lets say for a second that I could forgive that huge, sexist oversight – there are few things right with this movie. Vaughn isn’t endearing. He rarely is in my opinion. But in this film in particular, I wanted to reach through the TV and punch him. The way he handled the ‘dilemma’ was ridiculous. And I realise that was supposed to be the whole point of the movie. But it was over the top. We are supposed to believe that he would risk sacrificing the so-called woman he loves just so he doesn’t ‘tell [her] before [he’s] told him’?! And that he’d rather jeopardise a lengthy relationship by making them think he is gambling again? Its stupid. And he’s stupid in it. And what makes it worse is he isn’t even funny or amusing on his stupid far fetched escapade.

The good

I said there was little good about this movie – and that was true. The good parts in no way save the movie, and are still not any justification for watching. But they are there if you must watch.

Firstly, like I said – Jennifer Connelly is the only convincing, likeable character in the whole film. She plays her role effortlessly and well, but the whole thing screams ‘I am better than this’. Jennifer Connelly has given us some outstanding performances in the past, my favourite being opposite Ben Kingsley in the masterpiece – House of Sand and Fog – now there’s a movie you should watch. Lately, she’s being sticking to a lot of RomCom stuff, which, while as an actress is probably much less stressful – is a waste on her part. She isn’t Jennifer Aniston, she can do the gritty roles and I’m hoping she gets back to them as soon as she can. There are a thousand RomCom actresses out there – she is most definitely not one of them.

Secondly, Channing Tatum is the only amusing character in the film. Plus he’s pretty. He does the slightly disturbed hot guy role well, and he was well cast in this instance.

But that is it really. To sum up, its a poor poor comedy. But it was destined to fail given the plot. After that, it was just how long the ship took to sink.

A very generous 4/10. 

Sometimes I think that if guys like Freud, Plato and Thomas Aquinas (take that A-Level philosophy, I still remember some shit…)  were alive today, they wouldn’t be philosophers, they’d be movie reviewers. You can interpret more about human behaviour in the two hours it takes to watch a movie than you ever could evaluating 100 patients. I also think they’d like Desperate Housewives…

Anyway, a prime example of this 2 hour pop psych eval, is the movie The Experiment. If you know anything about this movie, well then I’m already expecting your ridicule. Why? Well because this movie is a remake of a German film. I know right… Shock horror, I’ve stabbed you all in the back! I revealed that I hate remakes, in fact I despise them and suddenly I’m throwing this very notion back in your faces… Well – no. Firstly, this is a true story and it was also a book. Therefore I wouldn’t necessarily call it remade… Just reimagined. And I know that is the same lame excuse movie studios give every day when they make piece-of-crap remakes… But I’m actually being sincere here. So give me the benefit of the doubt if you please.

So to the movie…

What’s it about?
Adrien Brody finally puts in another credible performance as a pacifist member of a social experiment in which 26 men are locked up together in order to simulate life in a state penitentiary (thats prison to you and I…). The twist? Well a number of the men are chosen to be guards of the prison, and are told no violence is allowed, yet they must make sure the inmates abide by a set of rules. If these rules are broken, they can punish, but not harm… The interesting part was being told that if violence did occur, then a siren and a red light would go off, the experiment would end and no one would get paid.

What they didn’t realise was that the experiment wasn’t about simulating prison at all but rather about whether ordinary, none violent people would maintain a moral compass rather than assuming the red light would tell them when they’d gone too far. The short answer is they didn’t. Each horrific act of psychological, physical or sexual torture was justified by, “If we had gone too far, the red light would have gone off.” In just 3 days, the chilled, friendly system was broken down and people assumed their primative positions as predator, oppressor or leader. And the worst thing was, they did so willingly and with enjoyment.

Let’s break it down…
Forest Whitaker played the leader of the guards who began the movie as a smartly dressed friendly guy who had probably never even raised his voice in anger before. So why the huge change? Well it wasn’t necessarily a big jump for him. His flashbacks showed a man who spent his adult life mentally abused by his invalid mother. He didn’t know how to stand up for himself. So when he was finally given the opportunity to take back some of the control he had so desperately craved for – he took it, he enjoyed it (to the point of sexual arousal) and he quickly spiralled out of control, both physically and mentally. Climaxing with all of his counterparts, who had initially been abusers along side him, telling him he was crazy and out of control – which is ironic given that is the one thing he craved. Messed up – I know.

However, out of all the guards, the only one I’d consider to have possibly been dangerous before even entering the experiment, it would be Cam Gigadnet’s character. He was what can only be described as a sex addict long before the film introduces him. Am I saying all sex addicts are dangerous? Of course not. But the backbone of this movie is that these individuals are placed into a manufactured high pressure environment. Which brings out the worse in people. Just as Forrest’s character was pushed and spiralled into a psychopath addicted to humiliation and control – Gigadnet’s became a sexual offender. However, it was a trait high on the surface all along. This was demonstrated by him in the beginning of the experiment,when he singled out his victim and tried to get him to expose his genitals. All it took was for him to get the opportunity to act on those violent urges for them to surface. Which they did.

Another interesting concept was Adrien Brodie’s character, nicknamed (against his will) 77, also spiraling, not into abuse but into a feeling of injustice. This is a man who said he didn’t even condone violence if the rapist/murderer of someone he loved was set free. And yet, 5 days into the experiment he is viscously beating Whitaker – who was most definitely the manufacturer of his suffering, which included head shaving, having his head shoved into a toilet and being urinated on – into a bloody pulp. It is here, when both guards and prisoners are acting at their most primative, and after one prisoner has already been killed, that the red light finally flashes. And then, as the door opens allowing escape, in the cold light of day, they are all seen to be equals again. Although they are most definitely not the same men.

Brody returns to his girlfriend, also a pacifist, looking like a broken man. And the two easy weeks that he thought he’d be spending in some simple psych experiment, made him face challenges and demons that he had before criticised and ridiculed.

The film was summed up nicely in the last few lines. When asked by another ‘inmate’ whether he still thought they were not like monkeys referencing an animalistic and primative nature, Brody replied “No, as we have a choice.” The choice in this instance being to forget about what it is that makes us human.

Overall, a solid thought provoking movie.

Oh dear God. This is like trying to pick out which one of your children is your favourite. Totally the youngest. Impossible.

Thrillers to me are like chocolate to a fat kid. An exciting guilty pleasure that you just can’t switch off. My favourite movie of all time is a thriller, so understandably you’d think it would be my favourite thriller. But I’m not sure it is. I’m gonna be a big flake and choose two. Oh-em-gee. The 30 day movie challenge police are not gonna let me get away with this one… I’m surely off to movie prison! 

I know... right!?

I jest of course. No one cares if I deviate. And well, if they do, I don’t care…

So, number one – we have the genius that is ‘Rear Window’.

That scene gives me chills!

Then we have a guilty pleasure of mine. A film that would never win any awards, but Angelina Jolie is fabulous in it, and the twist at the end is just breathtaking!

So that’s it for another day week month. I realise I’ve hardly been disciplined with this 30 ‘Day’ challenge but I’m like Hitchcock… building the suspense!

I’m back… from outer space! I just walked in to find you here with that sad look upon your face… Ahem. Okay, sorry, I shall stop now. Hello! Its been too long. I’ve spent these last few weeks attempting to write my novel. And failing as I just can’t find the time. Then a friend of mine reminded me that the best way to be disciplined is to write a blog. So I’ve realised that I should try and post every day, and then my writing skills will be in overdrive and then I can try write some words for my book. …So here’s hoping this works. It is slightly infuriating however, I have the whole book in my head. Chapter to chapter. I just can’t seem to get it down… I promised myself I’d have it written in a year. So I’m going to adjust that and say a year from now. From when I’ve restored my beautiful blogging prowess. If it isn’t written from a year today – then I seriously need to consider my other options. Writing course anyone?

Okay… lets hope it doesn’t get to that!