As someone who values knowing that, should they or any of his friends or family fall ill or need medical help, and as someone aware of how damaging and draconian a private, American-style healthcare system can be, I would like to wholeheartedly wish the NHS a happy seventy-second birthday. Surely now more than ever, we can all agree how precious the National Health Service is.

A Glimpse of Normality

I went to the pub this afternoon, for the first time in about six months. I was in two minds about it, not wanting to tempt fate; but having waited so long, and being rather curious, I popped a fresh straw in my bumbag (not having needed one for so long) and set off to The Tudor Barn.

When I got there it was already quite busy, with everyone outside, sat at tables on the grass. There was quite a jolly atmosphere despite the overcast skies, with staff bringing  drinks and  food out to everyone. I was given a table quite quickly. Of course the staff remembered me, and  that I liked to drink real ale. Not wanting to go overboard, I just had one, but it was  good to be back there: it has been a long few months for everyone, and  it was good to  see a  glimpse of normality.

007, cinemas and burgers

I just got wind that the new Bond film, No Time To Die, isn’t going to be released until November, obviously in order that it can get it’s usual, full cinematic release. As disappointed in the delay as I am, I think it raises one or two interesting questions: the guys at EON productions clearly think their new film should be primarily viewed in the cinema, so how integral is a cinematic viewing to the consumption of film (if I can put it like that) these days? We can now watch films almost wherever we want, streamed on computers, tablets and mobile phones; but that isn’t the same experience as watching a film in a cinema, with it’s large screen, darkened room and powerful sound system. In my Master’s, I describe how writers like Andre Bazin wrote about the cinematic aura – an experience specific to the cinema, brought about by the darkened lights and silence of the audience. It is a very immersive experience, where all our attention is focussed on the film. Outside the cinema there is no aura, which is why cinematic screenings are an integral part of cinephilia.

Watching a film at home, we might dim the lights and close the curtains, but the experience is never quite the same. And as for watching a film on a tablet or mobile phone, say, when you’re commuting to work on the bus or tube, you might as well compare eating the most succulent steak to the cheapest, shittiest McDonald’s burger: same beef, very different taste.

I think it was this quite specific, almost sacred experience that the producers of Bond are trying to preserve. Yet they have to weigh that against the thirst many people will have to see this already much delayed film: those who see film simply as a story rather than as an experience or art form presumably won’t care how or where they see it. EON risks loosing people’s interest – and therefore money – if it delays too long, so it will be under considerable pressure to cut it’s losses and release No Time To Die online. In doing so, though, it will lose something which has always been synonymous with film, and especially the 007 franchise: the glamour and prestige of premiers in central London; the excitement and anticipation of travelling to see the latest instalment of a franchise which has been a staple of popular culture for almost sixty years. Released online, 007 would become something far more casual and throw-away; just another distraction among many, watched on a mobile phone sat in McDonald’s, in between mouthfuls of burger.

Rather than see it become that, I would far rather wait. One day, perhaps in a few months, this damn virus will be gone and cinemas will be open. Perhaps charlotte will visit, and we will go, at last, to see this film together, in the cinema. There, every detail and nuance will consume our vision, rather than being lost on far smaller screens, amid a hundred other day-to-day distractions. We can allow ourselves to be absorbed into the cinematic experience, appreciating every detail and reference, like meeting an old friend again after a long separation. That surely is how films should be enjoyed, but now, with everything moving online, I fear for it’s future.

Are you threatening me?

I think this is a glimmer of the news we all need right now: Beavis and Butt-Head is to get a reboot. I remember laughing my head off when I first saw it, aged ten or so. I probably barely understood it, but it was the  first cartoon I had ever seen in which the characters swore. And when Cornholio was introduced, I was in stitches.  Mike Judge, the show’s creator, says it will be updated to reflect the contemporary world but retain the elements of  the original we loved. If you ask me, his timing couldn’t be  better: with so much misery and anger in the world, a bit of inane  stupidity is just what we need.

Gratitude mistaken for insult

Something a bit odd happened when I was out on my usual daily stroll. Just coming  out of a park the other side of Eltham High Street, three young lads were slightly in my way. I often have trouble with boys their age, but this time one quite politely told his friends to get out of my way. I felt grateful, so I said ”Thank you” with my natural voice. I thought I spoke clearly enough, but one boy then said to the others ”He just told us to fuck off” and they began walking away. Of course, I then began typing what I had intended to say into my Ipad, but it was too late – they wouldn’t listen.

Just a  small incident I know, hardly worth noting  on here; but I think it’s the type  of misunderstanding that guys like me encounter  fairly often, and as such I wanted to put it right.  It’s just funny how, even when you try to be nice to people, it doesn’t always go to plan.

PPE Litter

Serkan pointed something out to me last night and I certainly agree it is becoming a real problem: PPE  such as  face masks are being dropped everywhere as litter. I’m starting to see them cluttering up the streets,  as if people throw them onto the ground as  soon as they get off the busses.  It’s rather disgusting, really – those masks could well have the virus on them. I certainly think this is an issue which should be raised and dealt with, then. People must be more responsible with their PPE.

I miss Cricket

A bowler running up towards a wicket.
Oh how I miss watching cricket.
Sat in the park all day long,
the sun on my skin feeling so strong.
Watching batsmen make run after run.
Chasing a total, or setting one.
Yet this year the grass just grows
on fields where there were once such shows.
No bats hitting balls, no cries or cheers.
None of the joys of past years.
Yet next year cricket will be played once more.
Balls being bowled and getting knocked for four.
And I’ll go and sit there all day
Sipping beer in the sun, watching my friends play.

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga

It is hard to decide what to say about Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga. I had never heard of it until my parents recommended it to me yesterday. A netflix film, they said it might amuse me, so I gave it a watch earlier this afternoon. To be honest, what I found myself watching was appalling: it’s basically a Will Farrell vehicle for making fun of Europe and European culture. While some argue that it is a celebration of the camp kitsch synonymous with Eurovision, I detected far more disturbing undertones in the film. For one, nearly all the dialogue is American, by which I mean it sounded as if the screenplay was written by an American (which it was – Farrell himself) who made no attempt to engage with the culture of the people the film is trying to depict. As Will Gompertz says here, ”the depiction of Icelanders and their culture as an unsophisticated bunch of beer-drinking, whale-watching, knitted jumper-wearing innocents is tiresome and ignorant.” All the characters speak using American idioms but using cringeworthy, borderline offensive Icelandic accents.

This is basically an American film trying to mock an aspect of european culture. The campness of eurovision is not celebrated but amplified in order to ridicule it, like an outsider seizing upon and mocking something they do not understand. Any cultural authenticity is thrown out the window in order to give Farrell a chance to mime along to cheesy music while telling an utterly ridiculous, cliche-ridden story. This is Farrell’s attempt to mock europe by dressing up and imitating his perception of it, while acting in the same inherently American way he always does. Thus his character is shown to loathe American tourists; the very tourists who at the end of the film save the day in an utterly ridiculous car chase through Edinburgh.

You can definitely tell this is a Netfix film; it would be hard to see this kind of dross getting any kind of traditional theatrical release. That in itself raises questions about whether online film streaming sites might actually be changing not only how audiences watch films, but also what sort of films get made. Is film as an art changing to become less cinematic and more toned down and suited to smaller screens and more casual types of viewing? If lightweight, derogatory dross like Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga is anything to go by, we cinephiles have a lot to worry about.

The Bridge Across History

Not that I’m becoming a railway geek or anything, but I just got wind of a project so awesome that I just had to note it. Imagine being able to take a train from London all the way to Tokyo. That might be possible sometime soon. Nicknamed the Bridge Across History, it will  make use of the famous Trans-Siberian Express, as well as new infrastructure, such as a twenty-eight mile long bridge from the Russian island of Sikhalin into Japan. It sounds pretty cool to me, although it would take over  a week to do the entire trip, meaning a lot of thumb twiddling.

Finding Lyn’s drawings

Something incredible happened this morning which made my heart ache. I needed to trundle over to Charlton to get another pot of the vitamin tablets I prefer from the chemist there. After picking them up, I  thought I’d pop in  on Paulo. He’s still at Lyn’s, working to sort her things  out; I visit him every few days or so.  A week or two ago I mentioned he could try to find Lyn’s drawings: I remembered  that, some time ago, Lyn showed  me drawings she had done before I met her. Absolutely incredible images drawn by hand, presumably with the  paper taped down. They were clearly built up mark by mark, yet were  so vivid it was difficult to believe a person with such limited dexterity could have drawn them.  They must have taken Lyn hours.

Yet for some reason Lyn seldom spoke of them, and hid them away in a cupboard. A few weeks ago, though, I remembered about them, and asked Paulo  to try to find them. He had no luck, until this morning I had a hunch: I suggested looking in the bottom of a cupboard, and there they were. I was so relieved – the thought of such incredible images being lost was heartbreaking. At least now  they can be stored properly and celebrated. What I find painful is, though, knowing that  the person who created such remarkable images is no longer here.

lyns drawings 2