Breathin’ more easily

Off this afternoon to see The Proposition with Guy Pearce, Ray Winstone and Emily Watson, with a script by noneother than Nick Cave. Although set in a raw and brutal colonial period Australia it has much of the Western genre about it, albeit the more violent, dirtier and grittier Westerns which descend from Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch on through Unforgiven. It is an interesting contrast of family values (three of the outlaws are brothers) and loyalty versus dreadful crimes such as murder and rape, the stunning sunsets over the deserts of Australia versus the filth of the frontier town (which is supposedly representing ‘civilisation’ coming to this land, although since this take the form of government forces murdering Abrogines the viewer is left wondering who, if anyone, is civilised here). Despite colours of the outback however the film I was most reminded of was another low budgt Indy Western movie, the black and white Johnny Depp movie Dead Man. Like Dead Man is has an unusual and cool soundtrack, some beautiful visuals, an unusual take on life and scenes of scenic grandeur suddenly punctuated by brutal and bloody violence.

Wandered down to my local watering hole at the Caley on the way home (got to replenish my fluids after yesterday’s blood donation you know) to enjoy a couple of nice afternoon pints and a quiet read (Adam Roberts’ new book Gradisil, quite excellent so far – you can read what Adam himself said about it over on the FPI blog). Always something nice about being off and just sitting in a pub in the middle of the day, occassionally glancing out the windows and watching the world go by. And it is so much better now there are no bloody smokers in the pub! The ban on smoking in enclosed public spaces came in to effect in Scotland on Sunday, which means I can now enjoy a drink in the pub and come home without smelling like an old bloody ashtray from second hand smoke.

Before any smokers start on about how this law is cruel to them and denies them their right to choose can I just say blow it out your bum. I’m generally all for indulging vices but smoking around other people is such a damned selfish thing to to. Some smokers I know have tried the old chestnut about personal choice, their point being if I don’t want to breathe second hand smoke and stink like an old packet of Malrboroughs then I shouldn’t go into the pub, but I chose to go there so should put up with it. Excuse me, but I chose to go to the pub to enjoy a chat with mates and a DRINK, not to be gassed to bloody death by a minority of folks who don’t care about what their habit is doing to other people. They had the choice to go to the pub or not too and they had the choice of lighting up or not, so actually smokers had two choices (until Sunday).

Now, I delight in pointing out to those same folks the exact same argument they used on me – hey, you can choose to go to the pub or not, so your choice and mine are both available. And you can still light up if you choose, you just can’t do it inside, but if you are so pathetically addicted that you would rather stand outside for ten minutes in the cold and rain having a fag than be inside a warm pub chatting to your friends then that too is your choice – get your cancer-causing breath out of my face and stop whining about it. You had decades of being able to inflict your habit on other people against their wishes, even though you know it is not only disgusting it actually physically harms people, so don’t complain about restriction of choices now.

Maybe we should just have a Smokatorium like they did in the early Judge Dredd strips – smoking is illegal everywhere (even your home) in Mega City One except the Smokatorium, a huge dome full of so many smokers that you need to wear a helmet with a special filter on it for your ciggy to go through. When Dredd catches two kids smoking on the streets rather than lock them up he sentences them to two minutes in the Smokatorium without helmets. Kids are put off for life. A good shock tactic to get folk off smoking was used by my old BB captain back in the 80s. his two boys took up smoking and he knew there was no point telling a 20-year old guy he is wrong because he won’t listen. So he calls in a favour from a police mate, who gets him and the lads into a police pathology lab where they saw a post-mortem during which the pathologist gleefully removed the lungs from the cadaver who had been a heavy smoker and showed them to the boys. Once they got through puking they found they had lost any notion of smoking.

I also recall some show which was either one of the newer Twilight Zone or Outer Limits shows or something in a similar vein which had a guy attempting to kick the habit with little success. He turns finally to some sort of therapy which turns out to be run by mobsters, who monitor him all the time. When he has a crafty drag when he thinks no-one is watching he gets kidnapped and bundled into a room with a large window through which he can see his wife who has also been snatched. She is barefoot on a wire mesh floored room which then has an electric current put through it, a new take on aversion therapy. I wish I could remember what that show was and how it ended now – anyone remember that one?


Movie fest

So far I’ve only been to see three movies on my week off (Mel and I caught Spike Lee’s new movie – joint as he calls them – Inside Man on Sunday which I thought looked awful in the trailers but was actually a brilliant heist film), although I reckon I need to see Eli Roth’s new horror flick tomorrow – his last, Cabin Fever, was terrific fun; not exactly original as such, but great to see a proper nasty horror flick again, but I have been catching up on some DVDs, enjoying some good late night film fun. I got partially into the Indy Western mood for today’s outing to The Proposition by rewatching Kathryn Bigelow’s Near Dark, one of the few combinations of the Western and the Vampire genres and one I’ve loved for years (please, Kathryn, make another movie soon), especially enjoyable as it is the special edition with a good documentary with most of the cast as well as Kat herself; Lance Henriksen’s anecdotes about the making of the movie were especially amusing.

I’ve been on a bit of a vampire-themed DVD jag actually; apart from Near Dark I had an urge to rewatch Neil Jordan’s lush adaptation of Anne Rice’s Interview With the Vampire (ah, the old days when Anne still wrote good books), then Coppola’s Dracula (Keanu’s accent is still hilarious but has Winona ever looked more gorgeously biteable than in that red, Victorian dress and long dark hair?) then the original Tod Browning 1930s Dracula, which despite its classic status is a terribly static film, largely saved by some intersting design (the Count’s castle) and, of course, Bela Lugosi’s hypnotic performance. The incredibly cool series Ultraviolet demanded to be watched once more as well too, then I think it is back to the 30s again for a double bill set I was given with Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein together this evening. When I was doing my interview for Radio Scotland about V For Vendetta the other week the interviewer commented she was very impressed by how well Hugo Weaving acted through a mask.

She was correct, but it is hardly something new – look at Karloff in Jack Pierce’s incredible make-up in the Frankensetin movies (make-up which created an iconic look everyone now recognises even if they have never viewed the films) and the sheer humanity he invests in the monster through all of those prostethics (“We belong dead.”). And even earlier than this in the 20s was Lon Chaney Senior (who would have been Dracula but he died unexpectedly and the role passed to an Eastern European actor called Bela Lugosi) – anyone who has watched his performance in the amazing silent version of Phantom of the Opera will probably agree with me (famously he created some of the make-up effects himself, including painful rings inside his nose to create the effect that his nose had rotted off).

In more recent years both Brent Spiner and Rene Auberjonois in and Star Trek the Next GenerationDeep Space Nine respectively gave wonderful performances not only through their heavy masks of make-up but often made the mask a part of the performance (something Japanese theatre actors would understand). And of course a good actor is always acting through some form of mask – even in a film where they are not in special make-up and the face looks like their own, the good actor, through a thousand tiny non-verbal signals, creates the illusion of their face being not their own but that of their character, unlike a star who is really just themselves in every film. V himself addresses the issue of the mask directly in the film, when he tells Evey that yes, of course there is a face beneath that mask, but it is not him, any more than the muscles below that skin are him or the bones are really him. We all wear masks of one sort or another although they may portray aspects of us, they are not actually us. But it does give me a good excuse to quote Tori Amos’ Happy Phantom from the Little Earthquakes album:

And if I die today I’ll be the happy phantom
And I’ll go chassin’ the nuns out in the yard
And I’ll run naked through the streets without my mask on
And I will never need umbrellas in the rain
I’ll wake up in strawberry fields every day
And the atrocities of school I can forgive
The happy phantom has no right to bitch
oo who
The time is getting closer
oo who
Time to be a ghost
oo who
Every day we’re getting closer
The sun is geting dim
Will we pay for who we been

So if I die today I’ll be the happy phantom
And I’ll go wearin’ my naughties like a jewel
They’ll be my ticket to the universal opera
There’s Judy Garland taking Budda by the hand
And then these seven little men get up to dance
They say Confucius does his crossword with a pen
I’m still the angel to a girl who hates to sin

oo who
The time is getting closer
oo who
Time to be a ghost
oo who
Every day we’re getting closer
The sun is geting dim
Will we pay for who we been

Or will I see you dear and wish I could come back
You found a firl that you could truly love again
WIll you still call for me when she falls asleep
Or do we soond forget the things we cannot see

oo who
The time is getting closer
oo who
Time to be a ghost
oo who
Every day we’re getting closer
The sun is geting dim
Will we pay for who we been