Finding Damo

The story of a man, his job, two cats and the meaning of success.

Archive for the tag “review”

I’m your only friend…

At the end of my first year of university, I was having a bit of a rough time. I’d had very little sleep. I’d just told someone how I felt about her and been unrequited. I wasn’t sleeping (completely self-inflicted) and had fallen asleep during an exam. It was a low point.

In fact, it really wasn’t a low point. I’d had a great year. But being out of home for the first time, I’d gone a little bit mental at university. Sleep and study were secondary to booze and this wonderful new thing called “The Internet”. By the end of the year I was at the end of my tether and was completely strung out, emotionally.

The Internet was new and wild (bear with me, I’m getting back on track), mainly text-based and incredibly addictive. We were learning to program. We were discovering how to interact with other systems and other schools. We all had online personalities in an age before online personalities were mainstream. We were talking to people in other countries and other universities. The world had opened up and I wasn’t planning on missing any of it.

comprehension!Side bar: When I first found out about the Internet, our mentor Fiona took us to a computer room where dozens of students were “online”. A number of them were playing a MUD – a Multi-User Dungeon. It was called Discworld, and as I watched over one guy’s shoulder, he chatted freely with people in a number of different countries, all trying to solve a quest and making random conversation. Each sentence ended with a colon and a right-bracket.

“Is that some sort of sign-off thing?” I asked. The guy looked at it in puzzlement for a while, then laughed and told me to turn my head to the side. Thus I was introduced to the smiley. And its overuse. Oh, and incidentally, to the Discworld. It all comes together.

ytalk exampleBack to the narrative and the slow trundle towards a point. Using a tool called ytalk, I was chatting with a girl called Haggis, who went to uni down in Melbourne at La Trobe. We’d arranged to meet up during exam week. She arrived in the middle of this low point. I was lying on my bed, my friends were making commiserative noises. I really didn’t want to see anybody. And probably wasn’t in the right frame to meet this girl I’d been chatting with online.

She came in, realised I was upset, reached into her bag and stuck a cassette tape into my tape player:

And my life was changed forever.

I’ve never been so instantly cheered up as I was by that song. Lorraine’s (that’s Haggis’ real name) tape contained a number of songs from a few different albums, including Shoehorn with Teeth and of course Lighthouse in your Soul. It was a mix tape, and I still have my copy of it hiding somewhere in the house. It has been chewed up and wound back in. It has been taken apart and replaced in a different cassette tape case. And it was the beginning of an obsession that would only be rivalled by Red Dwarf and Terry Pratchett.

They Might Be Giants have been a major influence on my life. They sing in a manically cheerful fashion, even as they talk about skeletons and people’s heads falling off. They have been used in Tiny Toons animations,

wrote the theme song for Malcom in the Middle,

did the sound track for the Power Rangers movie and Coraline…

And they’re back in Australia for the first time since I came back from Japan in 2001.

When we found out that they’d be coming back to tour with Nanobots, the Facebook messages went wild. We had the option of going to see them at Groovin’ the Moo in Bendigo, or at the Corner Hotel in Richmond.

“A true fan,” you say, “would do both!” Which is true. But a true fan, with a child and a mortgage, has to choose. So we chose the Corner Hotel. One night only, when we bought the tickets. Since then, a number of new shows have popped up.

I’ll transcribe this later:
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I was introduced to the Whitlams through They Might Be Giants. They supported TMBG at one of their shows, before No Aphrodisiac shot them to stardom. They also gave me The Lucksmiths, although they didn’t ever really rocket, so much as saunter gently upwards and out of sight.

We went to the Factory Showroom tour, still raw from my breakup with Cath. As an act of revenge I picked up a girl who was only there to see the support act.

When I came back from Japan, TMBG were doing their Mink Car tour. I even left Japan a few days early so that I wouldn’t miss the concert. We rocked up to the concert with pink letters on our forehead. At the end of the show, they announced that they would be performing a rare Flood show – the entire album from start to finish – on the following night. We left the concert, jumped online and bought tickets to the following night.

The number of nights my friend Shay and I would lie under the trees outside the Kyabram Fauna park, singing Whistling in the Dark and other TMBG classics.

They Might Be Giants have been the soundtrack to my life, from the end of my first year of university until pretty much the present day. Having said that, and in all honesty, I am no longer even in the slightest bit obsessed with them. The last couple of albums have had a couple of catchy songs and a couple of very thoughtful songs. They still know how to put together an album. But they’re not going to bring me instantly out of a depressive funk as they used to do. And I didn’t go to Groovin’ the Moo as well as the Corner Hotel. I didn’t buy the new album as soon as it came out. And I don’t have a t-shirt that still fits.

My iPhone signature still says “I don’t want the world, I just want your half.” I can still sing Flood from start to finish (and sometimes this happens in Greek restaurants late at night). But I don’t have the energy to get as excited about them as I used to. Or they aren’t providing me with the songs to get excited about. I was going to end the blog saying: “Either way, it was fun, but the love affair is over.” And then I went to see them love and a little fire rekindled inside my heart. I’m still a fan.

And we’ll always have Istanbul (not Constantinople).

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Bad Hobbit

This isn’t a movie review blog. I don’t want to make a habit of this. But I really feel the need to unburden myself after living in delighted expectation of “the movie event of the year” (as if there’s ever only one) and then having to sit through three hours of absolute tripe as my hopes died, torn apart by  my ravaging frustration at a talented director getting it OH SO WRONG!

bilbo_640x960But anyway.

I’ll start with the general stuff, and then anyone who doesn’t want spoilers can depart and come back after they’ve read the book or seen the movie or both. No, actually, if you haven’t read the book, leave now. Spoilers abound. For those that have, I’ll try and avoid spoiling the movie for the first bit.

Peter Jackson has proven that he’s a good director. Heavenly Creatures  was a marvellous movie that linked fantasy and reality in a feast of visual and imaginative delight. Dead/Alive  was gory and funny and very well written. And King Kong  . . .

Ah, there’s the problem. I think Tripod  said it best when they sang “Get to the f***ing monkey!”

But even so. He has a great concept of space and the epic. He knows how to elicit emotions from his actors and the audience. His pacing is always good (except maybe for King Kong) and there is no way that he should have been able to screw up The Hobbit.

Jackson’s Hobbit, how did I hate thee? Let me count the ways.

Bringing back the old cast

I think I read an interview with Jackson, where he was overjoyed at being able to work with “all the old gang” again, and I winced. And then we saw trailers of the movie with Galadriel, and I thought “well, ok, it’s a stretch, but it might have happened”. And the cast list included Elijah Wood and I decided that a little introduction at the start might be deemed necessary for the uneducated masses who didn’t know that the movies were also books and needed some linking. Which is what they did. And it was terrible, and boring, and didn’t add anything to the movie, but there you go. As I said, maybe the studio demanded it.

And once that bit was out of the way and the story started properly, I was quite happy with Gandalf and Bilbo and a stack of dwarves. And they sang the songs, and I relaxed, because I had hoped that the songs would be a big part of the movie. And if they changed a couple of story points, then that wasn’t too bad, but I was starting to be a little nervous.

Unable to put together a realistic backdrop

Let me back up a bit, because you know that that’s what I do.

When the old Bilbo (from LOTR) is sitting there writing his little book, and Frodo wandered in and made some twee comments, all I could think was “This looks fake!” I was wondering whether it was because we were watching the movie in 48 fps, in 3D. Everything looked like it was on a sound stage. The hobbit hole was too clean and incredibly fake. Frodo looked like he was lit badly and in front of a green-screen half of the time. Any time there was footage of people talking to each other, in caves or houses or on rocky outcrops, my mind was screaming “Made-for-tv movie! Made-for-tv movie!” And so, as my first confession: it could be that the combination of a high frame rate and 3D technology killed the movie for me. And if that’s so- no, there’s no excuse. Jackson chose to use these technologies and probably saw rushes and dailies and test screenings and all sorts of other footage. There is no way he could have watched this movie and thought “yeah, that looks real.” I was never really in the action. Never allowed to let myself believe I was in Middle Earth. And that killed the movie for me.

They were filming in New Zealand for Bob’s sake! A land full of rocky landings and lovely caves. Natural backdrops and fantasy settings. Why did everything look like it was made out of Styrofoam?

Turning a PG movie into an M movie

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been reading The Hobbit to my 8yo daughter. My niece has been reading it. They’ve both loved it from start to finish. I read it myself when I was in Grade 2. These kids should be able to go and see a movie based on a book written for children.

Every sequence that I found unacceptable for younger audiences was one pasted into the storyline by Jackson and had nothing to do with the book. Which leads me to:

Making shit up

Oh, I hate swearing in a blog, but I am so angry right now! Oh, and this is where I’ll probably make some comments on stuff that happened in the movie, so if you want to remain completely spoiler free, run away now.

At some point, it came out that Jackson was making the two movies into three, using “unreleased source material and indexes” and everybody sighed. I thought it would be tacked onto the end, maybe as part of the Battle of the Five Armies (seriously, if you haven’t even read the book, you don’t want to be here right now).

Firstly, there was a massive battle between the dwarves and the orcs – again, giving the movie context in the greater world of Middle Earth. It was bloody and violent and introduced a giant white orc.

Without saying too much more, I’ll say that that orc became the bane of my existence on and off for the next three hours.

What I didn’t know and didn’t care about was that Jackson has incorporated information and story from The Rise of the Dark (the story of Sauron) as well as the backstory of the dwarves. There’s also a lot of backstory for characters from LoTR, and a good chunk of White Council as well, for good measure.

And I get it. Jackson is trying to link The Hobbit to the LoTR trilogy, making a much greater world out of a lot of different source material.

But that isn’t The Hobbit. That story is light-hearted and small. A story of friendships and adventure. A children’s story with a wider appeal.

Changes in tone

Throughout the movie, the tone changes with no apparent reason. There is an amusing run through the goblin tunnels, completely at odds with the seriousness of the situation. There is a completely ridiculous scene involving the knees of a stone giant. There is an unscripted battle scene when the wargs and goblins have the party trapped up a tree. There is not nearly enough singing. The elves are way too serious. It doesn’t look like there will be any speaking eagles. . . I need to stop now.

Seriously, screw the backstory, screw the appendices and the rise of Sauron. Let me have The Hobbit. Let me have my childhood. Peter Jackson, get your grubby fingers out of Middle Earth.

PS I liked Tintin.

Another perspective:

http://io9.com/5968455/the-hobbit-is-a-lot-better-once-you-realize-its-a-war-movie

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