Crying All The Time

I cry quite often. For a period in my life, for a few years around my early teens it was nearly impossible for me to shed tears, no matter what the situation was. Often I felt like I wanted to cry, that it was all there bubbled up but some kind of filter within me held it back. I have never been emotionally repressed in any way – in fact, quite the opposite – and as with most people in that disastrous period my hormones and emotions were tearing at me in every direction. Love was becoming a very real part of my life, as was unrequited love. I lost some friends while my other friends nearly lost themselves. There were reasons for crying, alright, but the tears never came. It wasn’t until I turned 17 that I can remember really losing myself and since I can’t remember what brought it on I am forced to assume that it was relatively minor in the grand scheme of things. Point is; it finally happened.

There’s an episode of Friends where the gang finds out that Chandler can’t cry and they spend most of the episode forcing it out of him. At the end they are successful and at that point he is unable to stop, to the point where the slightest thing makes him well up completely. They did the same thing in that episode with Bruce Willis. Where they the same episode, actually? Whatever, what I’m saying is that the same thing basically happened to me. Today I cry a lot. Sometimes it’s about a sad story I read online or a heartwarming Youtube video or an old music video or the last episode of Sherlock or – as is always always always the case – the ending to 25th Hour.

Last night I cried again because I watched Sea Wall, a short film monologue written by Simon Stephens and starring Andrew Scott. It’s a shaking, deeply saddening and horrifically realistic story. Describing it is entirely pointless and detrimental, but it made me cry. It made me cry not just because of the stories that the character Alex tells or Scott’s perfect performance but from the wounds it forces me to scratch at. Every human being learns the pain of loss at some point and maybe we’re not completely developed, or entirely born, until we lose something that made us whole. We are blessed and cursed by the knowledge of our own mortality but much more so by the knowledge of the mortality of the people we love and need.

I stopped crying after my grandfather died. I was 14 years old and I don’t remember more than a few brief blinks from his funeral. I remember others were crying as well. My dad didn’t cry then but I heard him cry in his bedroom a few days later. I remember sitting next to my dad in front of the coffin after everybody else had left. After that I didn’t cry for years and a friend of mine theorised that after I lost my grandfather there was no reason to cry for anything lesser. I never went to daycare when I was little and I was largely raised by my granddad since both my parents worked and if losing him in such a slow and painful way was worth crying about then surely there was no point wasting tears on something minor.

I feel the itch on that scar a lot, though. The emptiness I felt when he finally died and knowing that I will have to face it again someday both terrifies me but also pushes me. Maybe I become a bit overprotective sometimes, maybe I fear the worst way too often, but I can’t stand the thought of having to watch another person that I need disappear from me. Sea Wall moved me for this reason, the fear that it only takes a second and then it’s all gone. It made me cry but I didn’t cry very much, because unlike a sad news story or a film ending, it hit so close to home in how stark and detached it was. Maybe it’s the evil eye syndrome playing tricks with me subconsciously; if I allow myself to bawl about the genuine fear of losing somebody I love it might cause it to happen for real. And I am normally such a reasonable man.

My grandfather told my dad that men shouldn’t cry because it was a sign of weakness. My dad didn’t pass this on to me; he always told me that it’s okay to cry if I was sad and I am very grateful that he did. As a result, I cry quite often. I cry at fake things, at stupid things and then I feel a bit stupid. Thankfully I rarely have to cry at real things, about real loss and real agony. I know some people that are right now facing a reality which somebody they loved is not going to be part of anymore and I wish they didn’t have to and I wish nobody ever had to. I begin picking at my itching wound.


The Beauty Of Ugly

I’m not going to pretend like you haven’t seen it already but in case you suffer from some kind of internet move hype-induced amnesia or something; here’s the new trailer for that Prometheus film.

Pretty damn impressive, although not quite as brilliant as the last one, for my money. But there was one brief moment in this trailer that caught my eye and while it occurs for less than a second it got me thinking about something I have been meaning to address for a while now. Hop aboard the nitpick-train because it’s leaving station.

Around 1:18 in the clip we get a blink-and-miss-it POV shot from one of the crew’s mounted cameras, which is one of several nice little callbacks to the original Alien which this is totally not a prequel to.

You may notice that not-Tom Hardy up there can be viewed in absolutely crisp high-definition along with all the totally necessary UI surrounding the image. Doesn’t it look beautiful? Remember how this movie takes places decades, it not centuries, before Alien but still in the same universe? So just how will portable camera technology advance in the years after this?

That is a screenshot from the Alien Director’s Cut but you could be forgiven for mistaking it for a picture taken on a ten year old Nokia. You can sort of see a guy with his head in a fishbowl, maybe, and some other guy in a sort of shower cap behind him, or that’s a painting or something, maybe. This insinuates that within the movie’s universe we will technologically de-evolve from using portable 1080i cameras to using recording equipment that is barely higher definition than the Game Boy Camera.

57 years later we have apparently not made much progress in the field as this clip from Aliens demonstrates.

Okay, yes, I obviously understand that this is a result of real life technology advancing over the course of three decades and it is reflected in the later movie, despite that taking place before the original. In 1979 the technology to produce HD footage was barely available to filmmakers, so to create a POV effect they had no choice but to use smaller cameras which produced much grainer film. This helped create a more realistic sequence where we follow the characters through an unknown, hostile landscape while we, like them, can barely make out their surroundings. It makes for an oppressive, dark and deeply intense exploration. When the same technique was used in Aliens the jerky, barely comprehensible video feeds made the initial battle with the monsters that much more exhilarating. Most of the time we can only see the characters sweating as they stare impotently as the video feeds shake, twitch and begin going offline one by one.

That limitation does not exist in a time when we’re all effectively carrying around HD-video cameras to easily document our insanely important lives. But as a result of this I can’t help but feel that the effect achieved in the original movie will not be as replicable when the footage from the shoulder-mounted cameras will be of basically the same quality as the footage in the rest of the film. If you removed all the little graphs and text from the screen it would be nearly indistinguishable from the rest of the trailer because the quality of small handheld cameras are not that much noticeably lower than the big hunkering 3D and IMAX cameras that shot the rest of the film. The immediate closeness and realism that the POV shots in the previous movies managed to create might not be as easily achieved without all that lovely grain and gravel on the lens.

While HD is by no means a negative thing, I sometimes feel that when every film and every game is made with such lush, crisp graphics things have a tendency to becomes a bit too sterile and lifeless. There is a lot of beauty in the imperfect that you lose when you remove the limits of what you can do with an image. Take the recently released Silent Hill HD Collection as a brilliant example. I personally can’t think of anything that is less suitable for an HD remake than Silent Hill, since so much of the atmosphere and tone of the games came from how well the developers used the limitations of the hardware. The fog, the film grain, the darkness – they were all essentially parts in making the games so terrifying. What Konami of today does not seem to understand is that while these were results of limitations at the time, they were not flaws. In the HD Collections both the fog and the grain filter have been taken out entirely, which makes about as much sense as cutting the zombies out of Dawn Of The Dead.

Image from

Yeah, that’s the new, supposedly improved version on the left. Somebody at Konami looked at that and thought it was an improvement.. Notice how the graphics, now blown up to HD, look bloody terrible when there is nothing to hide all the imperfections and the horrendous draw distance. The fog hid the player’s surroundings from them so you had no way of knowing if you were standing just a few feet away from an enemy. The town itself seemed to be closing in on you as the disorientation and paranoia grew, creating a sense that the fog itself and the evils therein were smothering you. It was put there to mask a technical limitation but it absolutely served a purpose beyond just masking up the hardware limitations. It was all there for a reason, you idiots.

I guess this annoys me so much because I love both Ridley Scott’s old sci-fi movies and the Silent Hill games and it screws with my head when I realise how neither creator seems to understand what made their original works so good. Alien and Blade Runner were among the last science fiction movies ever made that features no CG but relied entirely on handmade effects. They also happen to be two of the best and most beautiful science fiction movies of all time, not despite of this but because of it.

Yes, it’s tempting to crank the framerate up to eleven and use 3D cameras and make everything crystal clear, and there is certainly a place for it, but I do wish that the beauty of the handmade, imperfect still has its place. Think of how uselessly silly Jaws would have been if Spielberg’s shark hadn’t constantly broken down so they were forced to shot most of the film without it, or how lifeless and dull all the fake environments in the Star Wars prequels look compared to the grimmy real-life locations of the originals.

While I am pretty sure that Prometheus can stand up despite this incredibly insignificant detail, I feel it might be important to recall the wisdom of Marilyn Monroe, and I sincerely hope that Konami are reading this right now.

“Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.”

Beyonce And Her Pseudo-Feminist Lies

Excellent video about how Beyonce’s latest femme-anthem (antfemme?) might be hindering more than it’s helping.

Korn And Skrillex Make Sweet Noise Together

In preparation for a new EP to be released in May, Korn and Skrillex are offering up their new single for free download and you can listen to the result above. Don’t be too surprised if this dubstep-laced metal cookie doesn’t go down too well with some puritanical fans, but it’s certainly surprising and refreshing to see the band try new things and new collaborators, especially considering how stale “Korn III: Remember Who You Are” turned out. It’s an impressive little neutron bomb with some characteristic weltschmerz for good measure and it could be an interesting new direction, if only a temporary one.

Megan Amram And The Best Glee Audition Tape Ever

Not only is she an expert on stain removal and one of the funniest people on Twitter, Megan Amram is now surely a shoe-in as the next big talent to join the cast of Glee with this spectacular audition tape. If this doesn’t do it, surely nothing will.

Kaufman would be proud.

A Podcast With Elbow/Rocky Vs Robocop

Apologies all around for the near-week of dead air but I’m afraid sickness and other unrelated stressed have rusted the cogs of the blog machinery. As I have been recovering I have been listening to my good friend Hannah Smart’s brilliant podcast The Lost Brigade. Originally started as a live radio show on Storm FM, it has now migrated to the no-studio boundaries of the internet in the form of a weekly dose of chat and music.

Last episode is themed around Elbow who just released their latest album Build A Rocket Boys! and it well worth listening to for anybody who is already a Garveyphile or anybody aspiring to be one. Earlier episodes are currently difficult to get but should be available for download soon.

Now that this bit of well-deserved nepotism is over, I leave you with the news that the brilliant Peter Serafinowicz is due to direct a music video for “Open Your Eyes” by Alex Metric & Steve Angello this Thursday and Friday and is looking for extras. Follow this PDF-link if you should be available in the London area and would like to see Rocky and Robocop battle it out. Who am I kidding – everyone wants to see that.

Those Dancing Days – Daydreams & Nightmares

You could make a fetching argument that this second album by Nacka quintet Those Dancing Days is angrier and more obstinate than their 2008 debut. First single, the excellent “Fuckarias,” would be a great Exhibit A in such a case with its scowling put-down chorus “You’re an uninvited clowed, a foolish puppy with a too long tongue” and thunderously intense tempo. If you want to, you could call it their “Brianstorm” and get away with it.

But the truth is that TDD were never ones for compromise, and Daydreams & Nightmares is not so much a darker and edgier album as it is a  natural progression of what they already set in motion three years ago. TDD makes power pop with a disarming directness to it, laden with memorable melodies and particularly catching rhythms. From opener “Reaching Forward” it’s a solid ride almost all the way to the end, catchy and accessible without sacrificing any of the substance. At times they channel The Cure in “Forest Of Love” and other times Florence + The Machine in “Keep Me In Your Pocket,” constantly to great effect.

TDD have grown into a more unyielding unit as a band and shed their twee teenage skin with grace, creating a easily lovable collection of fun pop tunes. More importantly, they are clearly having a good time doing it and that joy seeps through the headphones and will infect you and you’ll thank them for it. The bar has been set and we’ll see who manages to fly over it in the remaining 9 months, but until then this is the best 2011 has to offer so far.

Listen to Daydreams & Nightmares on Spotify.

Help Stepdad Make Their First Album

One of the finest releases of last year was Stepdad’s debut EP Ordinaire which you can still buy for the ludicrous price of $1 and it’s thoroughly worth every one of that dollar. If you’re at all partial to dancey, melody-heavy, vast hipster indie pop then you should stop reading right here and go and download the sucker. Then come back, because I know you’ll want to read the next paragraph.

So Stepdad made an EP and have since been touring like mad folk around the States while writing their first full-length album. Now comes the time to step into the studio and turn those words and ideas into tangible sound waves and to help them accomplish that goal they have managed to rope in Chris Zane to produce. Zane is probably most well-known for producing Manners for Passion Pit and his extensive work with Les Savy Fav and Mumford & Sons, so he should be well-equipped for the task.

Now they just need money and that’s where we come in. If you, like yours truly, fell in love with Ordinaire and want to help out financially for the follow-up you can do so on their newly opened Kickstarter pledge. They’re looking for a total of $4000 and you can pledge as much or little as you want and get bonuses depending on how much you contribute.

Visit Stepdad on their homepage where you can buy Ordinaire for next-to-damn-nothing.

The Death Of The Angry Video Game Nerd

Today saw the release of the 100th episode of James Rolfe’s deranged creation AVGN, or Angry Video Game Nerd for long. It’s been five years since the first episode was posted on Youtube and since then Rolfe has become one of the cornerstones of the online reviewing community and been the obvious inspiration for almost anybody who decided to combine swearing, retro games and poor camera quality into one. For better or worse, AVGN has shaped a large chunk of the gaming comedy landscape over the last half-decade and for that he deserves some kind of salute.

AVGN was always a mix of scatological comedy mixed with strange sketch bits, often very over-the-top and inspired by cartoons like old Looney Tunes shorts and Ren & Stimpy. It’s been hit and miss to say the least and the fanbase is fiercely divided on what type of episodes they prefer; some like the more informative and downplayed variant like the CD-i reviews and Castlevaniathon while others are partial to the episodes focusing more on visual comedy and guest characters, such as the Bugs Bunny reviews and his Halloween serials. Personally, I’ve often found myself best enjoying the episodes that manage to blend the two styles together to the best effect, which the 100th episode actually does rather well. Other personal favourites are Die Hard, Dragon’s Lair, Indiana Jones and the two Bible Games specials.

It’s hard not to appreciate the effort and often-decent results, though. Rolfe along with collaborator and artist Mike Matei have made some genuine internet classics, released a whole trough’s worth of DVD and been the inspiration for most of the best reviewers out there today, his theme song (written and performed by Kyle Justin) is a meme in its own right and it’ll have to be a particularly bad apocalypse to erase familiar phrases like “shitload of fuck” and “Cowa-fucking-piece-of-dog-shit!” from our collective internet vocabulary. And that is something which is not nothing, at least.

Watch all 100 AVGN videos spread out over the Youtube channel and on Gametrailers.

You can also visit James Rolfe’s website Cinemassacre where you will also find his other videos and short films.

Timing Is Not My Strong Suit

Made by ratbanjos.

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