So, how was the first month of the year it was all supposed to get better?
You know what, I was about to go on a crusade about all the tragic inevitability of the current climate and unflinching ineptitude of this country but nobody wants to read any more about that, do they? Well I certainly don’t so allow me to be self-indulgent. I guess that’s what a blog is at the end of the day.
Anyway, I managed to hit my YouTube target of two new videos this month. So that’s a big plus. The first one has done alright, the second one less so but I had minimal expectations.
If you need twenty minutes of your day to be filled, allow me to help you out and after that thinly veiled conceit, please help me out by watching, liking, commenting, subscribing, all the good stuff.
I’ve also written my script for my next YouTube video which is going to be titled ‘How Scorsese Directs Motion’, which will hopefully be done in the next week or so to keep up with schedule.
Screenplay wise? Started off really good before all my momentum came to a crash. The missing part of the rail road? Honestly, just a lack of motivation and inspiration. Loads of people are experiencing it so I’m trying to not be *too* harsh on myself. But yeah, I really want to get this script done soon because I am hoping to enter it into the Austin Screenplay competition (and also into their Horror competition). The deadline for the early fee is March 26th so being a tight arse, that’s the goal.
Anyway, that ties neatly into…
Script of the month
^ Bit of an upgrade from ‘scene of the week’, don’t you think? Even if it is a bit misleading.
So, I’m up to page 70, nearing the end of my second act and things are kicking into gear. My guess is that I’ll need another 25-30 pages to wrap it all up.
If you need reminding and want to be intrigued, here is my provisional logline for ‘Welcome To The Neighbourhood’:
When a crooked lawyer returns to his home town to escape his past, he discovers a cult that controls the village from the inside out. And they’re after him. But they don’t wish him harm, they want to hire him.
One of the most painful things this month has been the lack of access to new films. I don’t think I’ve managed to watch a single 2021 release so far. It’s a shame that we can’t get access to HBO Max in the UK because it’s mentioned liberally in every podcast I listen to with everyone citing it as their go-to place for all the latest releases.
Hopefully, this next month will be better with films, such as Nomadland and Minari, due to be released this month in the UK. But for now, I’ve been catching up on some TV shows…
Vikings, Season 6 02
In my mind, Vikings was a once great show. In reality, it was a once pretty-good show that I stayed loyal to due to the very thing that grabbed my intention when I first started Season 1 – the story world. I’ve always had an interest in all things swords and mythological. As I have got older, however, and begun to understand not just what makes good storytelling but also the distinctions between the facts and fiction of Viking culture and mythos, Vikings has been on a gradual decline.
For starters, the shreds of historical evidence that the show was based upon have been tossed aside so the main characters can pick up their axes once more, revisit old enemies and well… die. But this would be fine providing it builds the characters arcs to a unifying and gratifying crescendo, right? Except it doesn’t. unfortunately, a sizeable chunk of the last season is given to characters that we either feel little to no attachment for or are completely new. All done because in order to give the sons of Ragnar and co a last swansong that is more akin to a whimper. But by doing that the locations synonymous with the show, namely Kattegat, are left to be scrambled over.
I will admit, the last ten episodes had some high moments. Particularly the first episode, which in many ways was an embodiment of the Viking ethos surrounding heroism and legend. Even if I still can’t fathom why on earth the Rus were in Scandinavia in the first place. But after that high of an episode, the rest of the season followed the downwards trajectory that the show had been coasting along for a few years now. It seems, looking back upon it, that there never appeared to be a roadmap for how everything was all going to play out. Perhaps, the creators and writers tackled themselves to think like Vikings. They could not settle, always looking for the newest adventure without a thought of what they had left behind and what they will do after.
Anyway, I stuck with it. All six *coughs* eight *coughs* seasons. Pat on the back for me.
There couldn’t be a more apt title for a programme that excelled at making my skin crawl, my pulse quicken and my anxiety for travelling abroad at an all-time high.
The serpent in question is Charles Sobhraj, the French-Vietnamese serial killer who targeted young western travellers along the Hippie Trail of Southeast Asia in 1975 and 1976 with the help of his partner, Marie-Andrée Leclerc. Whilst both characters are played with a cold-blooded-ness by Tahar Rahim and Jenna Coleman respectively, the serpentine analogy can also be applied to the narrative structure that coils between multiple timelines to varying degrees of success. Whilst at times, such as Episode Three, the approach effectively ramps up the tension on-screen, during other moments it can be disorientating. In the first two episodes especially, I had a hard time grasping what was happening at all times, in fact the story never propelled at a constant pace and the main thing that kept me engaged was the atmosphere of fake smiles, telling glances and youth seconds away from being stolen.
The cast must gain praise for their ability to maintain my interest during the more stagnant moments in the series. Nobody has a bad day at the office and the dynamics within Sobhraj’s and Knippenberg’s inner circles played off wonderfully at times. Despite this, I never felt that anyone’s performance shined brighter than the others and I believe that is as a result of the writing never quite scratching underneath an inner, existential level within all the characters. If anything, this reluctance to not delve that one step further within the characters, the motivations (on all sides of these tragedies), or the implications of these horrific actions, is why the show doesn’t transcend into something brilliant.
His Dark Materials, Season 2
I must express my surprise that this show hasn’t really taken off into the mainstream consciousness. In the void left by Game of Thrones and other shows, combined with the Phillip Pullman’s strong reputation, I believed this was going to be sure fire hit. It has all the makings of one – the cast is excellent, the production design is stellar and the CGI is as good as most things in Hollywood. Perhaps, people still have underwhelming memories of 2007’s The Golden Compass and that has turned people off before they’ve switched it on.
So to you who has probably not watched it, how was Season 2? Better than the first season, in my opinion. The narrative, scale and locations all seemed more streamlined and focused, which was possibly an inevitability given the fact that The Subtle Knife is the shortest book in Pullman’s trilogy. As previously mentioned, the production is fantastic and the cast do a stellar job (brief side note: Dafne Keen is one big hit away from everyone mentioning her in the same breath as Millie Bobbie Brown, of which she is very deserving). Ruth Wilson’s Mrs Coulter deserves extra props for a complex and chilling portrayal that teeters between overwhelming villainy and redemption.
Perhaps, despite my praise, there are reasons for the show not hitting as wide an audience as it would’ve hoped for. For starters, the world and lore is so rich that the show can hand-hold and be unforgiving in equal measure. Secondly, the density of the world can at times detract from the pace of the story and when coupled with the fact that the show is consistently serious, with very little humour scattered within, that can be seen as a drag for some people. And finally, perhaps the fact that the worlds of this series interconnect with our own can detract from the escapism of the series. You don’t go to this show to submerge yourself into the Seven Kingdoms or be swept away by Hogwarts and its mysteries. It is more grounded, familiar and perhaps for some people, lacklustre.
Nevertheless, this is a show that I am excited to see the conclusion to and I hope that the final series can build upon what it has done well so far, give its characters more gravitas and weight and conclude all the relevant arcs in a fantastical manner suiting to such a story.
And finally, I’m going to leave a little eulogy here.
Literally, the first item of news that I digested in 2021 was something which shook me. It was the tragic passing of alternative hip-hop artist, MF DOOM, a.k.a. Daniel Dumile, Viktor Vaughn, , Metal Face King Geedorah, The Illest Villain, Zev Love X, Metal Fingers, or, most simply, DOOM.
Now, celebrity deaths generally don’t effect me, at all. At the time, my dad’s side of the family was mourning Manchester City’s King of the Kippax, Colin Bell. The fact that my dad cried when he found out the news was really sobering. Bell was already a certified legend by the time my dad was born and so it might be hard for some people to understand exactly why his death would have effected my him. But it was because my dad attached meaning to Colin Bell, a personal meaning, solidified by the fact so many of his family are now called Colin, after our number 8. And yet that sadness did not trickle down to me because I was experience my own personal grievance.
My experience with DOOM has always been a personal one. When I struggled during my first year in university was the time in which I first got into hip-hop. Which was a) a far cry from my earlier music taste, and b) probably a result of the fact that I finally met people that didn’t hail from Manchester and didn’t hail New Order and Oasis as the pinnacles of music. Anyway, I started off by listening to Loyle Carner, Anderson Paak, the usual soft boy stuff. And then I found DOOM.
My mind was shattered. I’d gone from experiencing the smooth jazz rhythms of these newer artists to a man, an artist, a super-villain that destroyed all conventions of rhythm. I was inducted into a world of sampled commercials in ‘Meat Grinder’, comic-book beats in ‘ALL CAPS’, every other word rhyming in ‘THAT’S THAT’, 82 instrumentals in a single joyous mix of ‘Special Herbs’, narrative arguments in ‘Can I Watch?’, the wise words of the weird yellow Quas, an honest innocence that fractures mid-verse in ‘Fancy Clown’ and the genuinely fucking funny lyricism of everything, no less so in ‘Great Day’.
And that is why DOOM always felt personal to me. I felt like I discovered him. That I was in a long standing comic comic-book world when I pressed play. I felt like I was the one to introduce him to my friends and that I had to wear my cheap brass MF ring even if it turned my finger green. And that is why, when he passed, it took a good while to settle in. His music had been such an integral part of my life in the last few years, making a mockery of everyone else in my Spotify wrapped year-on-year. And so I felt like I almost grieved alone. That his music was for me and me alone.
But I couldn’t have been more wrong. Seeing the overwhelming love from the hip-hop community on social media and beyond gave me a big smack-in-the-chops wake up call – that no one can have The Illest Villain to himself. And that if you truly love someone’s music, or art, you should be nothing but happy when more people become aware and start appreciating them. And I envy every last one of you that have discovered Doom for the first time in the last month. And his passing, if anything, has been a timely reminder that art is immortal and that is why I could never commit myself to a life in which I didn’t create. So thank you, for one last lesson, I’m sure it won’t be the last.
You either die a villain, or immortalise yourself enough to see yourself become the hero.
So, now I’m going to appropriately remix the structure of my blog…
TV IDEA OF THE MONTH
Hand on heart, this idea has been with my for 3 years now but there has never been a more appropriate time to share it.
I hope one day to help make an Adult Swim-style episodical animated series based on… you guessed it, MF DOOM.
So, the series would be based off albums. The episodes based off songs.
E.G. Season 1 – Vaudeville Villain
We see the making of Doom, what brings him to villainy. Perhaps turn ‘Can I Watch?’ into an episode of unrecognised heartbreak, that sort of thing.
And yes, he can have face offs with other characters, CZARFACE, whilst having his trusty sidekicks, Bishop Nehru and Quasimoto.
Anyway, THAT’S THAT.