Self-Reflection on Saturdays: a Spot of FFoF Post-Game Analysis

I embarked on this yearlong endeavour hoping to learn something about myself. Rereading all the entries this week, I’m not sure I’ve had any mindblowing ephiphanies but, presented with a chunk of writing (or indeed picks) this substantial, it’d be hard not to spot a few patterns. First of all, that I’m not a very good self-proofreader. I’ve alluded a few times to the number of entries written in a panic, in those final hours before my self-imposed deadline of 23:59 on Friday – a deadline I only missed once, by about 15 minutes – and that meant I didn’t get to double-check everything as thoroughly as I might have liked. I can see at least one thing I’d change in every single post – an odd bit of phrasing mostly, a factual error, a couple of typos (or an occasional vestigial “???”, my personal notation for write more here). I won’t go back and change them all, though, not even my claim that Raiders of the Lost Ark came out in 2003. I’d claim that this about retaining the purity of the thing, but honestly it’s just that this list has already driven me mad once, and I don’t fancy getting lost in it again. Perhaps more interesting are the words, phrases, and structures I’ve repeatedly leant on. Talk of “quotables”, “charisma”, and “cool” need to exorcised from future writing, and recently, a lot of “of course”s and “after all”s have crept in too. (An attempt at keeping a conversational tone, I reckon.) Thematically and structurally, I reckon I’ve overused the gap between what I’d remembered and what I found on a rewatch as a springboard. Similarly, a tendency to focus on one element throughout the piece, and then conclude by saying but, wait, there’s more to this film! has been too common – a result, probably, of trying to find a variety of ways to gush about a film… Consider this me burning all my writerly bridges – none of these tricks are ones I’ll be able to use again. Good. The most peculiar bit is how how fond I’ve been of using permutations of “boy meets girl…” for showing how something sticks to/departs from a standard structure and cinematic traditions, but it’s something I think I’ve only ever used in FFoF posts, so as long as it stays there, that’s okay. Throughout, I’ve struggled to organically work in a synopsis of the plot – partially because it feels like it ruins the fun of watching it for yourself – but it’s something, in all the different permutations I’ve tried out, I have been working hard to fix. As I’ve pointed out in some of the posts, I’m less concerned by narrative than other elements of cinema. I’m fascinated by pacing – whether something comes over an hour in, or 20 minutes from the end – and non-traditional (i.e. non-fantasy) world-building. Also, use of music, pure emotional resonance, big Ideas, how a film fits into a director or writer’s body of work… all thoughts I’ve addressed at some point. Most of all, though, it’s been a year of trying to work out how to describe cinema, in terms of what exactly is happening on screen, and whether it’s extraneous. Most of the joy of writing about, say, music is just finding words for what’s happening; in games journalism, I’m interested in telling stories other people won’t necessarily have had. It’s much harder in film, treading a line between spoiling a key scene or boring you with something you’ve already seen. The Apocalypse Now piece’s look at the Do Lung Bridge scene is possibly the best example of this – it’s a fine piece of visual poetry which I tried to get down in suitably wide-eyed prose. I’m still not sure it’s possible. A chart showing the breakdown of my fifty favourite films, by decade As someone on the internet once told me, I need to watch some films that were made more than 10 years ago. The years 2000-2009 make up an overwhelming half of the list, with my single favourite year for films, apparently, being 2004. It’s the year Shaun of the Dead, Anchorman, The Incredibles, and my #1 favourite film ever, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, came out. It’s also the year I was 15 years old. I observed it a few times throughout, but I really have a obsession with the links between being a teenager  and cinema. Cinema burnt brightest for me when I was in my teens – almost every year between 1999 and 2009 produced three films on this list, and most of the other ones I saw in that impressionable time too. A lot of the films were included for the warping effect they had on my young brain, and what was on my mind at the time – male friendship, the relationship between individual and state, the loss of youth and innocence, etc. It also turns out that, statistically speaking, Quentin Tarantino is my favourite director, having directed four of the films on this top 50, with Brad Bird trailing just behind with three. Tarantino is even more prolific as a screenwriter, having written five films on the list. That said, if we’re being purely statistical, he would also be my favourite actor, having had substantial appearances in three films, and that is certainly not the truth. Looking back, there are films that should be higher, or lower – Airplane!, for example, was clearly cheated, while I’m not wholly sure T2 deserves its place around the halfway mark  –  and there are a couple of films I’d like to include – Social Network being the first one that comes to mind – though I have absolutely no idea which films I’d kick off the list to make room. After all, lists like these are completely arbitrary. That’s the truth we can admit now it’s all over – they’re a bit silly, really, and it’s something you can see shining through every time I jokily declare a statement to be fact!. Nevertheless, as a body of work, it’s […]

Swan Song: Hello Sadness, Goodbye Dirty Mistress

Los Campesinos! released an album just over a month ago. It was inevitable I was going to write about it, and the odds were good it would be something long and overly theatrical. And boy did I deliver on those two promises. “They were a teenage crush, the last of my actual teen years. We were into all the same stuff. I was quiet and awkward, they were noisy and joyful the way . Theirs was the name I scribbled into the margins of notebooks. When I scribbled in margins, it read AS 4 LC!, encircled in a clumsy red-pen heart. Now, we’re both a little older, both like to think we’re a little wiser. In the interim, there have been drunken passes, the occasional disagreement, and the discovery that one of us really likes football and one of us doesn’t. (“I’m not sure if it’s love anymore…” croons Gareth in my ear. Steady on, now.) Today the more refined LC! fan snorts at the mention of You! Me! Dancing!. We’ve changed. And that’s healthy.” It’s possibly the finest use of The Dirty Mistress as a discrete entity I’ve managed. Messy, long, indulgent, heart-on-emo-sleeve, playing with form and dipping into personalities I’ve written in since that first Hold On Now, Youngster review. I’m really proud of it – almost as much as I am embarrassed – and I’d like to think it might hold interest for non-LC! fans because it’s about the album discovery process in general, and about a few other things, I think. This site, at least in my head, is meant to be the respectable face of things, and if I do write about Hello Sadness for it, it will be distilled into a more digestible review. So, it’s a piece I would only have done on Tumblr. Which is why I’m slightly sad to be curtailing this particular experiment. Feeling less like I had to write vaguely publishable stuff freed me up over the summer, to play with everything from recipes . And lots and lots of pictures of cute animals. But doing anything for it – at least, anything beyond reblogging other people’s stuff – slowed down a lot recently. Given that the original idea was to have content be more regular, to encourage people to stick it in their bookmarks, having a Tumblr has become kind of pointless. So consider this a rebranding, a refocusing, and all that PR rubbish.