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books film television women

The Value of Archetypes

(In which I rant about storytelling, immature art and editing. If this isn’t interesting, then skip it because I won’t be mad)

SPOILERS BELOW FOR LOTS OF SHOWS AND MOVIES.

Anyone else feeling vaguely dissatisfied with the state of big entertainment?

A vague sense of betrayal and frustration?

Now, this goes into the weeds a little but stick the kettle on and allow me to explain.

There are structures to stories, which have existed in particular forms for thousands of years. You recognise them, not consciously unless you happen to be someone who writes and studies them, but even then, if you’ve picked up a book, watched a film or a series then you are as much a student as I am.

But these days, there are works out now which feel immature and unsatisfactory on an intuitive level. To quote Plinkett from Red Letter Media, your brain knows something is wrong.

Take, for example, season 8 of Game of Thrones, the order of the two climatic events, the way Arya kills the Night King rather than resolve the personal tension between the King and Jon Snow and how Dany turns from well intended saviour to genocide amongst others.

Things like this don’t anger me, more a benevolent literary chauvinism. It’s bastard hard at times writing, and what’s perfect in your head seldom ends up that way. Glimpses, and of course, I’m not subject to the pressures of full time professionals.

But I’m right about wanting more work which respects the archetypal forms of the story. Not the petulant, immature kinetics or melodrama we get too often.

How do you feel?

My book Until She Sings is out now.

Ebook:

Until She Sings https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07XJRDND8/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_i_e9pLDbMJNZQ4E

Paperback: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1692105566/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_i_4akEDb3FTWNKR

My Mailing List for announcements and news with a free short story as a thank you.

https://tinyletter.com/mbblissett

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books film television

Press F – Horror and Technology

Press F To Pay Respects – Horror and Technology – https://t.co/9Ca50F7B8A

My first article for Haunt Jaunts.

Categories
television writing

Silence, I’m Watching Television

Here’s some thoughts about what I’ve been watching:

Goliath, Amazon Prime.

Two seasons with Billy Bob Thornton in a show created by David E Kelley. The latter created Ally MacBeal and Boston Legal, which were crisp, entertaining and arch legal dramas. Here the combination of the two talents has led to sixteen episodes of a man’s slow crawl from exile and the forces of antagonism he faces both within and without. The dialogue is great, and it’s all performed with genuine verve and insight. Yet for all the quality which lends itself to reserve, there’s a gleeful invention and boldness of execution which reveals some disturbing and intense scenes throughout the show. By the end of season two, you’ll never hear the H R Puffnstuff theme tune in the same way.

Thornton is one of my favourite actors. He carries a mercurial ability to inhabit space and demonstrate a consistent, wounded masculinity alongside the practiced and insightful intelligence which doesn’t shield him from his own demons.

I hope there’s a third season.

Deadpool 2.

Enjoyable but not as good as the first one. I wonder if there’s a market in making trailers for films which don’t exist. I felt I saw all the big moments in the trailer and wasn’t given anything for my tickets investment. The Domino sequences were remarkable, Final Destination style chains of coincidence which are a visual delight.

Four Lions.

A cell of jihadists bumble through training, planning and execution of an attack in the UK. It’s hilarious, warm and insightful even as it swandives into a third act of unbearable tension between comedic moments of shock and disbelief.

The Witch

It’s a harsh, raw horror movie and the internal, emotional story resonates with primal, chilling refrains as it descends into chaos and madness.

Its A Wonderful Life

Yes it’s a Christmas film but the central conceit resonates with me, and it came up as a recommendation. What a man contributes, and how it seems menial and disposable but actually the smallest gestures touch lives and matter. Some films are timeless and I think this is one of them.

Evil Genius

Tom Wolfe said non fiction is more difficult to write than fiction because fiction has to make sense. Here is a dizzying cheese dream of a crime and it’s all true. Fantastic and full of reversals yet suffused with a humane strangeness.

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blogging book reviews books creative writing film music reading social media work writing

2016: BOOKS, TV AND MOVIES

BOOK OF 2016:

I read a lot, and of the books I’ve read that have been released this year, there are two that I felt warranted particular mention.

THE FIREMAN by JOE HILL.

I have this on audiobook and on the Kindle. Joe Hill has been a writer whose work I will always gravitate towards. He has a powerful voice, manages to combine science fiction, horror and fantasy concepts aligned to strong characterisation, a lovely tone, a wry sense of humour and an earnestness that endears me to anything he puts his name to. The Fireman was not my favourite Joe Hill, that honour probably goes to NOS4R2 but of the books in 2016, this is one that I return to, and find something different each time. In it’s lead Harper, he shows that a protagonist can have doubts and flaws, and can pursue their desire without losing their humanity or morality. The central conceit of the spore that causes spontaneous human combustion is wonderfully realised and the book moves towards a clear-eyed assessment of how people behave in a crisis, and within a group. Some of them become monstrous, whilst others show courage and hope in a situation that strains the capability to raise it. I found myself relating to John Rookwood, the fireman of the title and its a book I have returned to, throughout the year, and found new insights within it.

THE GIRLS by EMMA CLINE.

This is a deceptive book, it captures the ugliness of cult-related behaviour, the rebellion of teenage girls and the cumulative damage of history on the psyche. Ostensibly a retelling of the Charles Manson story from a peripheral perspective, it is a book that took my breath away. It seethes with a clear-eyed, raw honesty and the subtlety of Cline’s prose is that she takes you by the hand into some dark places and you go willingly, before realising that it’s a deeply uncomfortable book awash with ambiguities, and all the more powerful for how spare the prose gets, only to explode into washes of exquisite prose.

GIRLS ON FIRE by ROBIN WASSERMAN.

This serves in theme as a companion piece to THE GIRLS, although more explicit and raw than the other book. It goes deep into the tormented psyches and social rivalries of a pair of teenage girls, skipping between multiple narratives without losing track of the central themes and story. It is a charged, erotic book without feeling exploitative. It has a feral heart and was all the more beautiful for not skimping on the insights. A gut punch delivered with a kiss and certainly one that stayed with me long after I finished it.

TELEVISION

WESTWORLD

I fell in love with the juxtaposition of the Wild West and its inherent savagery against the slightly decaying high tech amusement and corporate intrigue. The performances heightened the quality of the material, notably Thandie Newton and Evan Rachel Wood who essayed characters of complexity and confusion. It never quite fulfilled its promise but with subsequent seasons, I hope that it develops the narrative into something complex and robust. Certainly it is beautifully shot, edited and handles nudity, sex and violence with a mature eye and a calm hand.

NARCOS

I’ve read several books about Pablo Escobar, and this show manages to juggle the sheer comic book scale villainy of his rise and fall with capturing the humanity of the man, much like Breaking Bad managed with a fictional protagonist. It does this through the sweaters that Pablo wears, which is a lovely visual touch. Season 1 was a touch meandering and ponderous but the second season is all pay off, and intense as anything else I have seen this year.

GAME OF THRONES

Oh do I have to? OK, it’s moved on past the books and it manages to work with the constraints of television to great effect. I won’t join in on the call for GRRM to finish the books, they’re massive pieces of work and also he’s not anyone’s bitch, as Neil Gaiman said to great acclaim. Still brilliant, and event television for me. Winter Is Coming, and it’s having a fine time getting there.

MOVIES

DEADPOOL

It’s had a hard fight getting to the screen but it revelled in it’s underdog status to become the highest grossing superhero movie of all time. Well, at least until M B BLISSETT: CYNICAL ROMANTIC ENGLISHMAN makes its debut, but until then, I loved this film. Breaking the fourth wall, consistently funny and made the use of its limitations to great effect. Ryan Reynolds has been absolved of Green Lantern related sins forever.

THE HATEFUL EIGHT

It’s quintessential Tarantino. Take that as you will.

DON’T BREATHE

A simple, claustrophobic thriller that makes the best use of darkness and a limited setting. It ratchets up the tension to almost unbearable levels and essays itself in a bravura performance by Stephen Lang.

10 CLOVERFIELD LANE

I won’t spoil it for you but it was a fantastic thriller that again makes the use of a closed setting and hammers you with it.

MUSIC

CHILDISH GAMBINO – AWAKEN, MY LOVE

A late and overpowering contender in 2016, it is rooted in the socially conscious, dirty soul of the 70s with swooning vocals, sensual, heady instrumentation and a boldness that grabs you by the heart and crotch at the same time. Like being stoned on heartbreak and passion, this album has demanded repeated listening.

 

Share your highlights in the comments below.

 

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comics Uncategorized

Deadpool

deadpool-movie-colussus-negasonic-warhead

Synopsis:

Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) is a former Special Forces operative who now works as a mercenary. His world comes crashing down when the evil Ajax (Ed Skrein) tortures, disfigures and transforms him into Deadpool. The rogue experiment leaves Deadpool with accelerated healing powers and a twisted sense of humor. With help from mutant allies Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) and Colossus (Stefan Kapicic), Deadpool uses his new skills to hunt down the man who nearly destroyed his life.

At some point, the comics industry needs to come out and accept that kids aren’t reading comics in the same numbers that they did back in the golden/silver age. Especially superhero comics and what was wonderful about Deadpool is that it’s cheerfully and openly adult in it’s humour, scatological and awash with dark jokes, sight gags, continuity references and fourth wall breaking observations that had me giggling when the film did not have me open mouthed with surprise and delight.

Ryan Reynolds is a classic leading man, handsome and self aware with an independent sensibility and an awareness of the ridiculous that fits perfectly within this milieu. Even his voice performance is wry and amusing, his chemistry with Morena Baccarin is brazen and sensual whilst having an endearing sweetness that makes it palatable.

The film works so well because it understands and embraces the spectacle of the comic books, fights and gore that defy physics and biology like a live action Looney Tunes. It’s a million times better than the grim-dark earnestness of Man of Steel and the upcoming Dawn of Justice. It has Gina Carano in it, TJ Miller as a comedic sidekick is wonderful and Alex Skrein as a physically appealing and morally reprehensible antagonist.

Go see it, because I want a sequel. It’s funny and appealing in all the ways that matter.

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film Uncategorized

Alan Rickman

It’s always the ones who go quietly that you miss the most. He was memorable in everything he did.

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beauty culture emotion film grief inspiration love music poetry

The Goblin King Returns

He opened his eyes
to a ragged
Chorus of cheers
All his subjects
Looked upon him
Their ugliness alleviated
By their love for him
Still beautiful
And with each breath
Restored
‘Your highness’
‘Welcome home, we’ve
Missed you during your
Time above’
He smiles, how to explain
The mark he made
On so many mortals
Words are too inconstant
So he asks for a
Guitar
Fingers against the frets
And so he
Sings

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beauty culture film

The Hateful Eight

Tarantino is the only writer/director who would make a three hour single location western murder mystery chockful of violence,  profanity at a Shakespearean level and a cast of character actors. 

Thank god for that.

I love his movies.  He’s an auteur and even his excesses are crimes of enthusiasm rather than any lack of ability.  His missteps are, at least bold ones and that’s what I love about him.
It’s a jaw dropping movie.  Uncomfortable and leavened by bursts of coal black humour as it descends into a final act that is garotte tight in execution and still capable of genuine warmth and humanity.  It’s probably his best film.
Jennifer Jason Leigh is incredible,  playing an ugly, irredeemable woman with a low cunning and a powerful sense of herself.  She has a serpentine sensual brutality and a willingness to go for the moment that makes her riveting to watch.
Walton Goggins is superb, more than holding his own with the likes of Samuel L Jackson and Kurt Russell.
Samuel L Jackson has a monologue about halfway through that is one of the most uncomfortable and disturbing things I’ve seen and yet he still radiates an amused mastery of space and performance that makes him the de facto hero of the piece. 
Go see it. It’s important to support original film in a time of reboots and remakes because we need art that pokes us in the uncomfortable places and this film does that.

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comics creative writing film masculinity men television writing

On Joss Whedon and social media

This isn’t done to mock Joss Whedon or feminist activists who took umbrage with his latest film Age of Ultron.

This is about whether or not you should,  as a creator, separate art from politics,  especially in these times and with the increasing outrage and partisanship.

I like to keep my art and politics separate.  That doesn’t preclude me from feeling and supporting compassionate and progressive causes but like faith, it’s become a private matter. 

Refusing to bear an insult or injury is the bedrock of activism but when you look at political activism and social networking, there’s a lot of people who are so quick to dismiss or celebrate that you can get whiplash just watching. 

Such mercurial judgements and absolutism aren’t healthy for the artists who court them.  This applies whether you court any group at all.  Look at how Buffy and Firefly were heralded as progressive icons and now being lined up like cattle in a slaughterhouse. 

And for what?

Joss owes us nothing personally.  Only whatever work he does that you’re willing to pay for.  Same as with any artist.  That he’s not going to be a paragon of your perceived virtue is a given and he wasn’t especially vociferous about it. Yet he’s had threats and character assassinations, and all he did was make a fucking movie. 

If you’ve ever sent a threat online,  I pity you.  I used to troll after a fashion and it’s a short hit of adrenaline and a slow,  ugly comedown. 

Joss will be back but, like a lot of creators, probably won’t engage with his audience in the same way as before.  Perhaps that’s for the best but I think that every time someone gets the lynch mob,  that we’re throwing away something that we craved pre internet. I get it though,  focus on the work and those who love you and your work. 

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film

Didn’t go there, so I won’t be going back either

I haven’t seen any of The Hobbit films at the cinema.

I went every year with Lord of The Rings, have brought the extended editions and will upgrade to the blu ray at some point.

I feel that the Hobbit trilogy bears the same relation to LOTR that the Star Wars prequels did to the original trilogy. Overblown, stale, and magnifying the flaws of the original trilogy.

It’s a shame because I love Peter Jackson’s work. It’s strange because it’s essentially the same crew with a different cast and yet it doesn’t work for me at all. For so many reasons.

If you love it, I get why but for me, it just felt like one great film bloated into three of them, and I’ve not seen the third because I don’t want to hatewatch anything for 144 minutes.

It has it’s moments, but they have all the kineticism of a videogame, without the emotional stakes of the original. I had read LOTR several times, and yet I was invested in the characters in a way that the Hobbit doesn’t manage.

Still, age might be kinder to them than it has to the prequels.