The Editor [2014]

the editor people 1Months ago, J (of J and S) recommended me the Rio Theatre and ‘Manborg’. I tried them both, I loved them both. Now I’m sitting in the Rio Theatre watching Astron-6, the people behind ‘Manborg’, introduce their new film. They also announce their intention to collaborate with J and S who, sitting a few rows away, shout back their appreciation. The only thing ruining this theme of recurrence and symmetry is that J also praised this recording of Michael Fassbender reading ‘Dracula,’ but sadly neither he nor his penis are in the room this evening.

There’s some cock in the film, though. However, one of my gripes is there could have been a lot more. But I guess that’s often true in narrative cinema. Something must be done. Something must be done.

the editor posterAs the given intro speech made clear, you’re most likely to find ‘The Editor’ funny if you’ve seen some Italian giallo films, but there’ll still be some laughs if you haven’t. It’s definitely a fuckload better than Argento’s recent ‘Giallo’ itself, and also way more successful than the sort-of-interesting failure ‘Tulpa’, which tried to revive the genre either seriously or mockingly – I’m still unsure which. But as the outro speech also noted, this story of a film editor also has the problem of being overlong. That’s well ironic, innit? Also, you see that man who’s playing the editor? He also edited the film in which he’s pretending to be a film editor. What a life we’re all living right now, am I right?

So it could do with losing ten minutes, most clearly from the third quarter. But it very accurately recreates the most entertaining features of giallo cinema, with wonderfully recognizable characters, haphazard scene structuring, ludicrous dialogue, people doing outlandish and suspicious things for no clear reason, and a particular flavour of sex and violence. The cast perform it with clear love and, best of all, Udo Kier turns up. And that’s always worth celebrating.

udo kier in earlier times

udo kier in earlier times

However, all Astron-6 members deserve much appreciation for their own chucklesome acting, which they’ve combined with taking on a significant proportion of off-camera roles as well. Credit should also be given for parodying a genre known for its bullshit elements, taking the time to recreate that bullshit, and not ending up with the parody you’ve made being so much like the bullshit you’re parodying that it’s bullshit itself. There’s a fine line there, and it’s skillfully not been crossed. Maybe that’s where ‘Tulpa’ went wrong? I still have no clue.

I don’t know the exact numbers, and I’m not going to make any attempt at looking things up, but if the audience for the much cheaper ‘Manborg’ was people familiar with ‘80s direct-to-video low budget sci-fi, the considerably more expensive (but still minimally funded) ‘The Editor’ is pitched towards what surely must be an even smaller audience of those who know giallo. I just hope this pays off for them.

the editor people 2Congratulations, Astron-6. Please make more films once you’ve had a rest after this one. I’m serious about the dick thing, though.

Life After Beth (2014)

I didn’t even realize Aubrey Plaza was in ‘Life After Beth’ until I was sitting there watching it, even though this is what the poster out front looked like.

life after beth posterLike, what else haven’t I noticed lately? Am I ok? I’m glad of it, though. The first five seasons of ‘Parks and Recreation’ saw her contemptuously eyerolling so hard she must have picked up skull fractures, and I’d declare her one of the most entertaining talk show guests ever if I had much comparison to go on. And there’s also John C. Reilly in there, who’s also lovely, and I hadn’t seen since months back when ‘Carnage’ was running.

carnage posterJ C R – Oh, hey. I just got a new role. It’s going to be filmed in France!

F o J C R – That’s great! Does it make use of the beautiful scenery for which the region is so famous? The limestone cliffs of Normandy, perhaps. The Alps? Could it be the heathland in Pointe du Van? Other details lifted from Wikipedia?

J C R – Um, no. No, it doesn’t do any of that.

F o J C R – Ah, a tense city-based drama, of course. Paris? Rouen? Saint-Denis? I know there’s more, I just need to go back to Wikipedia again.

J C R – No, that’s not exactly the reason either.

F o J C R – How odd. Why can’t you just film it here in the US?

J C R – It’s a Roman Polanski film.

F o J C R – …I see. Well, you have fun. I’m going to be working right here with Woody Allen.

i'm fineAn off-screen snake bite kills Beth very early on, and then it’s the story of the sad boyfriend, wishing he could have been a better partner and moping about with a cadaverous complexion of his very own. But then he sees her walking round her parents’ house, and is eventually pleased to find she’s tunneled herself back from the grave.

Her parents would rather she didn’t leave the house, and would also rather she isn’t told she’s been dead for a while. Thanks to her unusual mood swings, new-found love of attics and fragmented memory, keeping up this deceit isn’t too hard at first. But trouble emerges, as do a number of other previously dead people.

It’s no surprise this is the director’s first feature, but it’s definitely funny enough to get past any roughness it has. And as things for the main cast get progressively worse, and the world collapses around them, this does get handled nicely, and happily escapes being shit farce, so well done there. The promise of a new relationship direction for one of the characters at the very end of the film may have been efficiently set up along the way, but I could have done without it. And an unpleasant revelation about someone else may get a laugh in itself, but sours all their earlier scenes. This ain’t Lars von Trier, mate.

It Follows [2014]

Couldn’t go to FrightFest this year, because of reasons, but none of those apply to the Vancouver International Film Festival. A good load of its offerings have a bunch of continental sorts sitting in darkened rooms while not saying anything to their families, and I’ll definitely be checking some of those out, but I need to fill the horror hole first of all.

it's followingJay discovers the evil of doing sex after a new boyfriend lets her know – as he’s sprinting his way out of her life – that there’s now this thing what’s going to follow her about, and if it catches her, she’s totally dead. And then it will go back to following the last person, which in this case would be him. If Jay wants to get rid of it, the best idea is to do someone else, then it’s their problem. Until it kills them, then it will be her problem again. This is quite a tricky circumstance to be in, and she’s not pleased.

Are the zombies that walk scarier than the zombies that run? Neither of them are, so never mind. But this has what’s probably a sexually-transmitted demon who comes to get you, but it only walks slowly. It also doesn’t speak, and keeps changing form, sometimes as someone the victim knows, sometimes as a stranger. And it’s also only visible to people in the cursed fuck-chain. I liked these rules, I thought they were good.

wez

different film, appropriate sentiment

The music helps a great deal, and some great shots are used of figures in the far background walking towards the blighted character that may or may not be the superbly strong and patient monster. Is it just a passerby? Or should they be getting up and going for a quick jog? Also good is how effectively worn down by the continual escaping Jay gets as the story goes on, clearly exhausted and wondering how long she can keep it together. The budget’s not high, but it doesn’t need it, making effective use of the cheapy convention of having a visually nasty thing happen early on, raising the tension for the rest of the film as it’s made clear how much of a body-mangling dick this thing is.

Nicely creepy, you’d probably like it if you liked ‘Fallen.’ If you haven’t seen ‘Fallen,’ I at least tried to make a comparison. I don’t get paid for this, you know.

Fading Gigolo [2013]

that subplot with vanessa paradis didn't make any sense either

When spaceships explode and they go ‘Bang’ in a vacuum, that’s really good that is. When she goes by that one tree and out of all of them, that’s where the hefty lad with the axes and stuff is hiding, that’s brilliant. Some man gets designs on some woman and he wins her over with actions that would totally constitute harassment and intimidation but it’s passed off as not only ‘comedy’, but also ‘romantic’, I’m there loving every second. Woody Allen voicing an ant, yeah mate, nice one. But Woody Allen being friends with John Turturro and then hiring him out for, like, actual money to Sharon Stone and Sofia Vergara because they want a threesome and that’s the only solution they can come up with to solve this totally unfathomable problem, it may be right to start thinking cinema’s lost its way.

Written and directed by John Turturro.

0. NOT THE COURSE – 0.4. Lesson inspections

Among the many, many changes the government are installing is the return to two-year A-level courses. Being nice for a second, one advantage is there’ll be more time to go into detailed study, as there’s several teaching weeks gained because of the reduction in exam leave. The pre-2000 arrangement was exactly this, with correspondingly more content covered over the two years.

But as (even) Cambridge University have noted, the invention of AS levels allowed for greater choice and diversity in study choices at 16-18, with a wider range of students staying on in Further Education, and more going on to Higher Education. This has been labelled as negative by some, objecting to there being ‘too many’ people going to university. This tends to be motivated by such bullshit things as (i) snobbery about newer/niche/vocational degrees tearing people away from whatever it is they consider to be a proper education, (ii) a desire for higher education to be a preserve of the rich, possibly with a sampled few of the poor picked out as being more ‘deserving’ than the rest of their class, (iii) a view that the only degrees worth doing are ones with a super-obvious career trajectory attached to them, combined with concerns that those who do courses outside of this category serve to ‘devalue’ their own qualification.

It’s been pretty commonplace for students to start with four AS subjects, leave one at the end of the first year, then drop down to continue with three A2 levels, or some other form of swapping about. The merit of this is not everyone fully knows what they want to do at 16, and the difference between A-level and GCSE study is worryingly large. AS levels have meant that students who fuck up a bit in their selection get a chance to have another go, to make things alright. But that’s going to disappear.

heathers is better than mean girls

On the one hand, teachers can sound like right cunts when they complain about their lessons being inspected. Depending on the management style [i.e. how much of a cunt these cunts are treated as being by other, hierarchically cuntier cunts] this can mean they’re complaining about the one hour a year when their boss is in the room with them while they’re working. People in many other professions experience far greater one-on-one scrutiny than this. Shut up, teachers.

However number one, this is rarely true, as there’s also the ever-popular ‘learning walks’, which means there’ll be a few weeks in the calendar when a senior person can turn up, hang around for a while, leave again, and then send you an email telling you they were there and they saw what you did. Officially, this has no implications for disciplinary procedures, but it does. There’s also peer observations, drop-ins, and whatever else excuse can be devised. More than this, many departments have big-hearted policies of openness, when anyone – bosses, for example – can come in at any time, in the spirit of sharing great practice, and definitely not micromanaging fuckers out of the profession.

However number two, a greater level of interference in other jobs doesn’t necessarily mean teachers are getting away with too much. It could just mean it’s even worse elsewhere, and even more unjustifiably. It may not be the best idea to get into a race-to-the-bottom pissing contest about who’s got it the worst, as the prize you get in winning that is being at the bottom, covered in piss.

However number three, the formal lesson inspection is in no way the only surveillance teachers receive. Rivers of data spill into and out of every valley, charting the meeting of targets, benchmarks and professional standards. Like any other job, the only thing which guarantees a lighter touch is the individual benignity of those above you. Which is no guarantee at all.

twelve monkeys is better than brazil but brazil is still great

I’ve had a few inspections now, and I’ve managed to get all the possible grades. I’ve been unsatisfactory, I’ve been outstanding, I’ve been the lot. Here’s some excellent tips:

  • Learning objectives – yeah, definitely get some of them. In as many non-observed lessons as you can, loudly draw attention to the artificiality of this essential teaching tool of writing out what students should be able to do on a small whiteboard whose only role is having learning objectives on it. When you know an inspection is on its way, remind the class that we’ll all have to go through this pantomime of learning objectives together, and then we can go back to doing things not properly once again. It’s a tax which, once paid, means you’re left in peace for a while.
  • Starters and plenaries – yeah, have these and all. A good starter activity for non-observed lessons is to ask the class why they haven’t got their books out yet, and then get on with teaching them. A good plenary in these conditions is to look up at the clock at the end of the lesson and go ‘Right, that’s it. Fuck off’. But observations deserve a bit more theatrical bullshit than this. If you’re not sure what sort of activity to do for one of these, just wave a batch of post-its around, or put up a PowerPoint slide with a single sentence on it. This will cause a placebo effect in your inspector, who’ll mark off on their sheet that your lesson had a punctual, focused start, and a time-bonded conclusory activity where all learners were assessed in accordance with the declared learning objectives.
  • Keep saying ‘And this relates to the exam because…’, ending the statement with whatever comes to mind – the details are pretty irrelevant. If you get really stuck, say ‘Assessment Objective 3’. That always goes down a treat.
  • For every six times you say ‘And this relates to the exam because…’, include one ‘And this relates to equality and diversity issues because…’, again ending with some extemporaneously assembled nonsense. Phrases like ‘accessibility’, ‘minority groups’, ‘toleration’, and ‘citizenship’ probably don’t hurt.
  • Always be on the lookout for a student saying ‘I don’t understand’ in reference to the lesson content or the instructions of whatever task they should be doing. You need to swoop down on that shit as soon as you hear it, vaulting across tables if you have to. Have a tense one-on-one with that sabotaging little prick until they realise they do actually understand, and without you they’d never have understood anything that’s happened in their lives ever. The only student declaration to be treated with even greater emergency is ‘I don’t feel safe’. But if they say that, you’re probably fucked no matter what happens, so you may as well just punch them already.

0. NOT THE COURSE – 0.3. Meeting the parents

At 14 I decided I wanted to go to university, the first person in my immediate family to feel this way. But we knew a few friends with the right connections, so they got hold of some battered prospectuses for me to have a look at. Firstly, I enjoyed the picture of the pigs on the page about Natural Sciences, and secondly, all the courses I liked the look of were labelled ‘Bachelor of Arts’. So I concluded I should take Art GCSE, and then A-level, despite not being suited to either one.

By the time I worked out that roughly half of all undergraduate courses were also called Bachelor of Arts, and studying Art as a discrete subject was nowhere near a requirement for any of the ones I was interested in, I was months into my A-levels. Had any of the project briefs been ‘Just draw a load of old shit’, maybe I could have done alright. But there was this insistence on direct observational drawing, which I lacked skill in and was bored by, and also a demand for quantity combined with quality, which I never delivered. I drew a few of the school’s cows – so Essex – and some ornate gravestones at the big church in town. For the final assignment, I twattishly picked a topic called something like ‘mythical beasts’, which immediately raised the practical problem of how I was going to find any fucking dragons to draw.

As a token gesture towards giving a shit, I arranged a trip to a nearby zoo, which had some lizards (that’s dragons covered), and some wolves (werewolves – they’re in the bag). I wanted some sketch material for vampires as well, but you just need people for those, and them’s all over the place. D and I packed a lunch and made the journey cross-country, borrowing an uncle’s Ordnance Survey maps. It would have been more time-efficient to get the bus or a lift off of a grown-up, but that would have meant more hours at the zoo, and therefore more drawing time.

Miles out of town, on one of the many winding country roads, we found a sign announcing the border of Essex. Twenty metres away there was another for Cambridgeshire. Where, then, was this space between them? Essex starts here, and Cambridgeshire starts all the way over there. It’s not Hertfordshire, and it certainly can’t be Suffolk. There’s no litter or people with webbed fingers.

actual fucking dragons i shit you not

Pausing to look down at this unexpected tarmac of the people, the spirit of our colonial ancestors suddenly pumped through our veins, and we claimed this no-man’s land as our own. Photos were taken, grand conquistador poses struck, fists clenched in symbolism of our land grab, imperialist feet planted astride the white lines etched on the smooth virgin surface. Whose street? OUR STREET!

It’s possible if we hadn’t spent so much time dicking about with our newly-taken empire, we’d have got to the zoo earlier, I’d have got more photos, gone on to do more drawings, and not utterly wanged up that extremely important assignment. But I think this is one of those cases where in every possible timeline and alternate reality, they all end up with me submitting a limp handful of sketches of poorly rendered creatures, and a papier-mâché bas-relief of a dragon on a pile of gold coins, of which passing critics would say, ‘My six-year-old could do that. Not the one that’s good at art, though. The one with no hands who I’ve kept locked in the cellar since birth. Fuck me, that kid’s a talentless loser. I might sell him for parts’.

Since Curriculum 2000, anything lower than an E grade at A-level gets a U, meaning ‘Ungraded’. For my 1997 result, I had an N, falling between a U and an E, meaning ‘No grade’. This was somehow different, in a way which was never explained to me. The countrywide curriculum changes which came with the new millennium had a number of problems, but dropping the N grade was a good move.

Because AS levels are a stand-alone course lasting only a year, it’s now just half the tragedy it used to be if someone ends up studying the wrong thing. Had I been able to drop Art, I would have done, but even though my first year wasn’t even over, I had the choice of either continuing on to the end or dropping out of school entirely. I picked the first one, the resultant N foreseeable long before it was printed on my results paper. And it’s to this level of consumer choice we’re now returning, as AS levels are facing execution in coming academic years.

exponentially better

it looked a lot like nothing like this

Parents evening is like a night of speed dating, where one side of the table doesn’t realise the other is thinking it’s like a night of speed dating, and the other side is really glad it isn’t a night of speed dating for around 98% of the people they get teamed up with.

Given the 16+ age of the students, we don’t get a high percentage of parents coming in for a chat about their tinies’ progress. And out of them, most are the keener ones who’ve made the keener children, and all I have to say is ‘Keep it up, yeah? Exams coming, bit more effort, you’ll be alright, thanks bye’. Meanwhile, I’ll be speculating on the relationship dynamics of the couples or singles who’ve turned up, and/or mentally trying to match up bits of parents’ heads to that of the children they’ve created.

There’s an institutional fear of the Aggressive Parent, and the teachers are typically placed in rooms with at least one co-worker, presumably in case things kick off. I don’t know how much good any of them would be if plastic chair legs started being pulled off for use as cudgels, so maybe it’s for future witness-for-the-prosecution eventualities rather than their streetfighting skills.

In school catchment areas with a bit more life to them, it’s possible teacher-on-parent death matches happen more frequently, but the most I’ve had to deal with over the years in my leafy cultureless backwater is some grumpy demands for an explanation as to why their child isn’t doing as well as we imagined they would. They’re very clever, you know. They did really well at GCSEs. Their art project was particularly impressive. The dragon scales were so beautifully crafted.

My advice to you, less experienced teachers, is just to remember who’s got the upper hand here. Admittedly, they may have known this student their entire lives, but you’ve read at least one book cover to cover without even checking if there was a film adaptation of it starring Adam Sandler. Use your cultural capital, teachers. All you’re dealing with here is a bunch of oafs who were so lacking in proper hobbies they thought they may as well give it a shot at creating an entire person out of tiny bits of themselves. But you probably know how to use semi-colons, or possibly even understand what quadratic equations are actually for. So stand tall and just tell them their kid’s got a stupid face, and the reason they’ve got a stupid face is because they’re stupid. If things get a bit fistpunchy after that, run behind the Classical Civilisation teacher you’re sharing the room with. They’ve got your back.

how did the dinosaurs die