Sunday, September 29, 2013

My daughter's (aged 7) top ten films

1. Pocahontas (Gabriel, 1995)
2. Tarzan (Buck, 1999)
3. Star Wars ('all of them')
4. Scooby Doo! in Where's my Mummy? (Sichta, 2005)
5. Grease (Kleiser, 1978)
6. Aladdin (Clements, 1992)
7. The Last Unicorn (Bass, Rankin Jr., 1982)
8. Gulliver's Travels (Letterman, 2010)
9. The Fox and the Hound (Berman, 1981)
10. A Bug's Life (Lasseter, 1998)

Though this list will change on a daily basis (as all good lists should), many of the films featured remain the same from when I compiled her last list, two years ago: Grease, Star Wars, The Fox and the Hound, Pocahontas and Aladdin. Her obsession with the Disney Pocahontas is endearing if annoying (though I guess there are worse role models). I want to show her Terrence Malick's superior and beautiful version with Colin Farrell and Q'orianka Kilcher, The New World (2005), and take her to see the statue of Pocahontas in Gravesend, Kent, where she died of unknown causes in 1617.

Previously on Barnflakes:
My daughter's (aged 5) top twenty films
My daughter's (aged 3) top ten films

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Book idea: Found Object [working title]

This is an idea for a book (followed by blockbuster film) I don't have time to write. I guess I would describe it as a time travelling Indiana Jones meets Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure meets the Antiques Roadshow.

Ned Reilly, a lonely, single, middle-aged man, runs a flailing antiques shop (sort of like the one at the start of Gremlins, though I can't decide if the shop is in Gloucestershire or San Francisco). He loves his job and shop – he loves antiques, their history and beauty, but times are hard, and eBay has almost put him out of business.

However, one day he acquires a bizarre yet fascinating artifact which he can't make head or tail of. It has unintelligible writing on it. Ned becomes infatuated with the object and spends days examining it. He realises a part may be missing. He searches days for the missing part, and eventually finds one. It suddenly becomes apparent to Ned that he has a functioning time machine!

Ned can't believe it at first. He spends hours tinkering with it, even shuts his shop, then the day comes when he's ready to try it out. Hesitant at first, but with nothing to lose, he takes the plunge and travels back to ancient China – to pick up a Ming vase (cue culture clashes with his clothes, race, language etc). Eventually, after being chased through 14th century Beijing, he manages to get hold of a priceless vase – only to find it smashed to smithereens when he travels back. Still, he eventually gets the hang of things and so begins his travels through time and space to distant lands (from Roman times to the 1960s), picking up now-rare items for peanuts in their own time to stock up his antiques shop in the present day (which does present its problems: he buys a job lot of paintings off Van Gogh only to discover in the present day they're worth nothing at all as he's flooded the market). Anyway, soon enough word gets around and Ned's antiques shop becomes very popular and he's rolling in it... then certain people begin to get suspicious...

There's also a romantic subplot involving the girl that got away, where Reilly visits his younger self to try and convince him she was the one. His younger self doesn't listen at first ("Get lost, creepy old man" – hey, I never said dialogue was my strong point), but, yep, he does eventually, à la Good Will Hunting. Er, not sure yet how this affects the space-time continuum. But it does, in a good way. Let me put it this way: there's a happy ending.

I know its corny and full of plot holes  – but hey, most blockbusters are.

Low budget gems Primer (2004) and the Spanish Timecrimes (2007) show how time travel films don't need special effects (there are absolutely none in either – but loads in mine). And going back or forewords in time just a couple of hours in the same place can disrupt the space-time continuum as much as going back hundreds of years to distant lands, maybe even more so. I like it when films make my brain ache.

Previous abandoned novels:
Life of a New Orleans waitress
The Tournament

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Top ten greatest film trilogies

1. The Dollars Trilogy (Sergio Leone, 1964-66) 
A Fistful of Dollars, For A Few Dollars More, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly 

2. The Apu Trilogy (Satyajit Ray, 1955-59) 
Pather Panchali, The Unvanquished, The World of Apu

3. The Original Star Wars Trilogy (George Lucas, 1977; Irvin Kirshner, 1980; Richard Marquand, 1983) 
Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, The Return of the Jedi

4. The Bill Douglas Trilogy (Bill Douglas, 1972-78)
My Childhood, My Ain Folk, My Way Home

5. The Before Trilogy (Richard Linklater, 1995-2013) 
Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Before Midnight

6. The Godfather Trilogy (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972-90) 
The Godfather, Part II, Part III

7. The Three Colours Trilogy (Krzysztof Kieslowski, 1993-94) 
Blue, White, Red 

8. The Andrzej Wajda War Trilogy (Andrzej Wajda, 1955-58)
A Generation, Kanal, Ashes and Diamonds

9. The Dead Trilogy (George A Romero, 1968-1985) 
Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead

10. Back to the Future Trilogy (Robert Zemeckis, 1985-1990)
Back to the Future, Part II, Part III

If you like your top ten trilogies peppered with Lord of the Rings, Batman, Spider-Man, Iron man, Jason Bourne, Toy Story and The Matrix et al, you are probably twelve years old and should look elsewhere.

Previously on Barnflakes:
Top 10 movie sequels better than originals

Friday, September 20, 2013

Public Abuse

You know, in the city I mostly keep to myself, head down, fast walk, no dawdling. I don't really like interaction with strangers. I feel my face go bright red when I get accosted in public. In the last two weeks I've had a pretty high rate of abuse; nothing serious, nothing violent, but still, enough to make me go red.

First there was when I was walking through a narrow part of a pavement which had been partially blocked by a food stall. My head was down; I hadn't noticed someone was waiting for me to pass. When I did, he shouted out (sarcastically): 'You're fucking welcome mate'. I went red and walked fast. Next was the crazy homeless man who asked me for change. I said no. He had a rant at me. 'Do you know who I am?' (No). 'If you knew who I was…' (Yes?). 'Go wank in your mother's face!' And off he went, leaving me with that image and a lot of people looking at me. Then on the tube escalators, two women felt the need to tell me (loudly) that my shirt looked like a pyjama top.

Most recently it was raining and I was in the library. It was crowded but hushed. A woman stood up, came over to me and exclaimed in a loud, clear voice, 'Has anyone ever told you you look exactly like Sven Goran Eriksson?'
'Er, no.'
'Well you do.'
'Well, thank you.' (Slightly sarcastic; I hadn't taken it as a compliment.)
'No, thank you.' (Very sincerely.)

I don't know, when I was younger I was told I looked like James Dean (fleetingly) and Bob Dylan (which I had taken as a compliment, though it was mainly to do with the hair). As I got older, it was Richard Gere and George Clooney (definitely the hair). But now Sven Goran Eriksson? Jesus.

Previously on Barnflakes:
Train tales #1: the nipple-tassled French woman
Hair tips

Friday, September 13, 2013

Bob Dylan Dream

'I was puzzled by a dream
It stayed with me all day in 1995'

Belle and Sebastian, The State I Am In

Bob Dylan's Dream is a 1963 song from Dylan's album The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan. I hardly ever remember dreams but my dream last night was vivid and started with meeting Bob Dylan and ended with filing claims against Eric B. Go figure.

It started with Dylan visiting my home, which wasn't my home but a Gothic, ramshackle, gloomy kind of place with low lighting. I was nervous meeting Dylan, not sure what to say to him. He was very short. He was just hanging out, my family offering him tea and biscuits, which he declined. I wanted desperately to take a photo of him but I couldn't work out how to use my iPhone camera. I wanted a pen and paper to get his autograph but couldn't find any. Dylan was getting impatient. I was nervous. He made some attempts at conversation, but his voice was so mumbled I couldn't understand him so I just laughed nervously and nodded. Eventually, he said he had to go, picked up his guitar and left.

Next I was in a seedy kind of harbour, sort of King's Cross by the sea. Everything was dark, rainy, red and ramshackle. Things felt unsteady, in transition. I was there to meet an ex-girlfriend, it had been ages since we'd met. I didn't know she'd turn up, but there she was, by the sea, wearing a red coat. It was windy. When she turned around she looked different. In fact, she was literally a completely different person. It wasn't her, but it was. She assured me it was her. She said she looked different as she'd been to see three different psychologists that day. She was looking more like an ex-work colleague actually.

(My dreams are always like films and this scene was appropriated from two films I'd seen this week, and a song. In the final scene of Submarine, a 2010 British film, the lead character runs towards his ex-girlfriend on a beach to try and make amends for treating her badly. Previously in the film, he'd dreamt the same scene but when the girl turned around it wasn't her. In the final scene, it is her, and they go paddling together and make up. The film was okay, quirky in a self-conscious way, but great to see Noah Taylor again (the best thing in the film, playing a depressed marine biologist), not seen him since Wes Anderson's The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, and just adored him in his debut film, The Year My Voice Broke (1987) and its follow up, Flirting (1997). I'm not sure of the connections between Nick Cave and Noah Taylor, aside from both being Aussies and having similar hair, but they've both ended up living in Brighton.

The other film was the awful but enjoyable R.I.P.D. (2013), where dead cops come back to life to work in the Rest In Peace Department to fight monsters. The film focuses around recently killed cop Nick Walker (played by Ryan Reynolds) and Roy Pulsipher (Jeff Bridges in Wild West mode). Though they return to earth as humans, they look nothing like their former selves, so Walker returns as an old Chinese man, and Bridges as a beautiful blonde. Derivative to say the least, it was nevertheless an entertaining Men in Black meets Ghostbusters meets Monsters Inc.

The dialogue in my dream scene was reminiscent of the final stanza of Dylan's 1976 song, Isis:

She said “Where ya been?” I said “No place special.”
She said “You look different” I said “Well I guess.”
She said “You been gone” I said “That's only natural.”
She said “You gonna stay?” I said “If you want me to, Yes!”

Talking of appropriation and derivativeness, I don't really have a problem with either. When Dylan's autobiography Chronicles came out, there was cries of plagiarism that he'd nicked passages from Proust. I've written previously how ideas float in the air, ready to be plucked. I think the same of pre-existing art and literature. I don't think Dylan self-consciously pinched the passages from Proust, rather he'd read them years ago, and they'd stayed in his subconscious.

Appropriation isn't new. Joyce and Dostoevsky did it. William Morris did it. Peter Saville did it. Dylan does it. I'm in good company I reckon. I mentioned Dylan's new Bootleg Series 10 a while ago, Another Self Portrait. Okay, I moaned about it. But I love it. It's been playing non-stop on my CD player and iPod since it came out. Dylan's voice sounds so rich and warm, I just lose myself in it.)

Anyway in the dream, me and the ex walked around town. It was a gusty but muggy and intense evening. It felt like we were in Havana. She told me she knew Eric B, the rapper from Eric B and Rakim. Recently he'd been sending her sexually suggestive messages, and she was upset. So we went into a rickety building, climbing up cranky flights of stairs, to file a complaint in an office. The dream sort of ended there, or I can't remember the rest.

My dreams are like my life, I have no control over either. I guess this makes them both exciting and mysterious. I read Francois Truffaut's book of interviews with Alfred Hitchcock, Hitchcock/Truffaut years ago, and always remember Truffaut asking Hitchcock, “Do you ever use material from your dreams in your films?” And Hitchcock said, “No. Never.” And Truffaut said, “Why not?” And Hitchcock said he used to keep a pen and paper behind his bed so that if he had a dream and woke up, he could write down the idea and go back to sleep. It happened one night: he had this incredible dream, he woke up, he wrote it down, and he went back to sleep. And when he woke up the next morning, he looked at the piece of paper, and it just said, “Boy meets girl.” He said that was the last time he ever considered using an idea from his dream in a film. I love the 'Boy meets girl' concept, and always thought it was the basis of all cinema and literature.

I've never had dreams like falling or drowning or anything like that (and never sexual for that matter). They've always had a strong narrative, and I often view them as a film. The lighting is always impressive. Performances, so-so.

Previous dreams here