Mr. Unemployed – Week Four, ‘Lessons from a King’

Firstly, a word on the tragic passing of Chadwick Boseman. It seems like cruel irony that I was discussing his future movie role of Yasuke the other week. We as audience members tend to be ignorant of the lives of those we worship on screen and the information we get is usually never from their mouths. The fact that Boseman continued to complete films, such as Marshall, Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War, to his stellar performance in Spike Lee’s recent Netflix hit, Da 5 Bloods and, of course, Black Panther – all whilst surviving a four-year battle with colon cancer, is many things. It is a testament to the human spirit, a king’s spirit, a superhero’s spirit. It shows our own ignorance and how we should repress our cruel and cynical thoughts towards those who harbour devastating truths. And it shows that, as he has done throughout his career, that humans are capable of extraordinary strength. His personal story only serves to embolden his role of King T’Challa in Black Panther, the most culturally important film in recent memory. The influence that Boseman has had on the black community is simultaneously an influence that is undeniable and one that I cannot fully understand. He showed black children that there are superheroes with the same skin as them, for that alone he will continue to always be celebrated.

After that, I’m becoming self-aware of the insignificance of everything else that I have to say. Nonetheless, this is a process I must force myself to be consistent with so if you continue to read with me, I thank you.

Up until a couple of days ago, I was on course for another bad week. When things aren’t going how I envisaged, I automatically get consumed with frustration and berating myself which leads me to a cycle of inactivity. My reinvigoration was a result of some words spoken by Aaron Sorkin in his Masterclass:

“When you’re writing, you need to be in a good mood.”

– Aaron Sorkin

Now, that is so simple. It is something that I knew subconsciously but always refused to accept. Sorkin went on to explain that his default position is writer’s block and that sometimes, he doesn’t actually write for months. Well, that’s alright when you’re an Academy Award winning screenwriter and I haven’t worked for that luxury of stasis. Nonetheless, just hearing him say it was liberating. It forced me to think differently. The last few days I have’t sat glaring at my laptop waiting for words to magically appear on the screen. So my approach is going to be different from now on – if it isn’t going well, don’t force it and move onto something else.

So with this all-too-late revelation, what have I achieved?

  • I wrote 30 pages of a new draft. Not bad, it’s leaning more towards the word vomit of a first draft but it is a complete overhaul so for now, it’ll do. This week, I intend to finish this draft. If I do so, I’m going to get to work on the short film idea that I spoke about last week.
  • I got a rough edit done of my Berlin video. Jesus, Mary and Joseph editing software is a brainfuck. One day, I spent four hours watching videos just so I could do the basics. Like basic basics. It’s getting there though, it’s rough, unprofessional but it’s enjoyable. Again, this week I intend to finish it. If I do, I’m going to write my script for the Shaun of the Dead video essay.
  • I joined a gym which is just as anxiety inducing as I imagined. As I type, my body aches but at least that it’s reminding me that there are some (albeit invisible) muscles still left in my body.
  • I’ve sorted out my routine finally, up at seven, out of bed pretty soon after. It’s bizarre how much it has an effect on me mentally. When I wake up late, I feel like I’ve already wasted some of the days opportunity which just puts me in a bad mood automatically, which, shock!, leads to me being even more unproductive.
  • I’ve finished Bob Saenz’s ‘That’s Not The Way It Works’ and now intend to start Robert McKee’s ‘Story’.

Basically, I feel like I’m finally getting to grips with the basics of what i wanted to do in the first place. Well, more like the first week but that crashed and burned like Manchester City’s annual Champions League hopes. But still, positive progression.

MOVIE REVIEWS OF THE WEEK

BABYTEETH – dir. by Shannon Murphy

I was one of eight people in the cinema watching this film. When the lights came on, I saw two people wiping their eyes.

Babyteeth is an unconventional Romeo and Juliet tale told in organic fashion both in the writing and the direction. The camera floats like lovers’ eyes, the performances are nuanced and powerful, all whilst the music shifts from Studio-Ghibli-esque piano to tunes to teen euphoria. Teen-like is an apt description for the emotional journey that the film takes you on. From angst, to awkwardness, to grief and to humour with a bipolar intensity, all within memorable frames often soaked in saturated colours.

I won’t deny, there were moments in which I questioned the choices made in this film, where my gut wrenched but this film made me feel – and that is what cinema of any scale should do. What also touched me was the overriding message: that nobody is perfect and we should accept that. I was ultimately won over by this film’s sensibilities.

I implore you to see this film whilst it is still in cinemas. Please, support independent filmmakers that pour their hearts into their films. They need the audience’s help to make more films and the director, Shannon Murphy (who also directed two episode of Killing Eve’s Season 3) deserves to make more films. Trust me, you’ll get more than you bargained for.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

TENET – dir. by Christopher Nolan

And now for a film that I am sure the majority of you will go and see. Remember, there was once a time when Christopher Nolan was in the same position as Babyteeth’s Shannon Murphy. A time where Nolan had only released Following, a film with a budget of £6000. Yep. Now he is one of the very few directors that production companies trust their oodles of money into for their own original stories. Nolan has now developed into mainline cinema’s most daring auteur. The man has an imagination that baffles mere mortals like myself.

Right, so when you go watch the film, here’s the Tenet rulebook:

  1. Don’t be late
  2. Don’t go for a piss
  3. Bring your hearing aids.

I say this because Tenet works on a scale and intellectual level that requires every once of your attention. Something this complex (and it is his most complex film on first viewing) requires a lot of expository dialogue and it happens fast and often and the fucking sound mixing is a pain in the arse. So, in sound mixing there are levels. The score is on one, background noise another, sound effects another and for some reason in Nolan’s films, dialogue is bottom of the pile. Sometimes I really struggled to hear what they were saying and I’m a subtitles kind of guy as it is. That is my most glaring gripe.

My other gripe is also a result of Nolan’s vision for grand, intricate stories and that is the adverse effect it can have on character. Whilst John David Washington and Robert Pattinson both deliver strong, charismatic performances, the density of the story and concept means there is very little room for character development. They are tools for the story. Elizabeth Debicki’s character is the one that holds the emotional weight of the film and whilst it works, it isn’t enough.

None-the-fucking-less, the spectacle is just…

The things that Nolan manages to get on camera; buildings blowing up at the bottom whilst simultaneously being un-blown-up at the top, a fight between someone moving forwards in time and someone backwards in time, cars moving backwards towards those moving normally; they all amazed me. And let me add that Nolan almost always uses practical effects. It’s the stuff that the big screen is made for.

Ultimately, there are so many things that this film did well. The score by Ludwig Göransson was exceptional, the story structure worked expertly, the pacing was relentless. A personal highlight was also a scene filmed on the very pier I walked on a year ago in Amalfi and that was just one example of the beauty captured in the frames of the film. BUT (big but), it is a film that requires multiple viewings. For example, at the end there is an insert shot and I remember thinking, ‘oh fuck, I remember seeing that earlier’ and then, ‘oh fuck, I can’t remember its entire significance because my eyes, ears and brains have been overrided so much in the last 150 minutes’. And unfortuntely, there are flaws, it isn’t his best film. But you’re a fool if you don’t see this on as big a screen as possible.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

MOVIE IDEA OF THE WEEK

Honestly, this week I haven’t thought of many. My original trail of thought was again inspired by Aaron Sorkin, who said that the copyright of books is open to all if the author has been dead 70 years or more. But guess what? They’ve all been done. Every single last one. Don Quixote? Tick. Frankenstein? Tick tick. Gatsby? Tick tick tick. You get the gist. Basically every gold nugget of material has been swept up and done, and studios are continuing to buy book rights and do their own adaptations all the time.

Something more unconventional like A24’s upcoming The Green Knight is a refreshing twist on an ancient text is something that appeals to me. Meanwhile, I also considered more existentialist texts I loved when I was a teenager and thought it was really cool to be a nihilist. The problem? Dostoevsky, I haven’t actually read anything front to back. Whoops. Camus? Gotta wait another ten years. Conrad (not an out and out existentilaist, I know)? Well, my favourite book, Heart of Darkness, is just pointless since topping something like Apocalypse Now just isn’t going to happen.

You’re probably just as disappointed with this section as I am this week. Hopefully, next week I’ll be more imaginative.

SCENE OF THE WEEK

And finally, my magnum opus…

Now, THAT is realistic dialogue.

All jokes and procrastination aside, here is my scene(s) of the week from Act Two of ‘The Gateway’, of which the first few scenes are available on last week’s blog.

And that just about sums up another week and for once, I am feeling a lot more positive about the week to come.

Signing off –

G.

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