Tag Archives: entertainment

Terminal tinnitus

One of the many things I hoard pointlessly like a senile squirrel is ticket stubs. I was going to count them the other day, but life’s too bloody long; there’s hundreds. Sweet Jesus, the amount of booze I must have both drunk and worn in venues across the country could refloat John Darwin’s canoe.

Factor in those stubs I’ve somehow shredded, accidentally set on fire or dropped in piss, plus all the e-tickets that exist only in Sundar Pichai’s brain, and it’s fair to say I’ve done my tour of duty. I know the game.

And the game’s changing. Not for the better.

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Death and/or explosions

I’ve lately had to accept that I’m quite limited in my entertainment selections. Much as I like to think of myself as a cultured man, I admit I’m prone to skepticism if something I’m watching doesn’t involve a vast catalogue of death and/or explosions. Or, er, counters being pushed over a ledge by a large machine on ITV, but never mind that.

I don’t often branch out into foreign language historical epics or character-based family sagas so it’s fair to say there will, inevitably, be blood. Right on cue there’s a new detective show on TV, name of DI Ray. I’ve not watched it yet but I anticipate wrapping myself in it like a blanket, familiar and smelling faintly of decay. I’d be confident in the big black chair if my specialist subject was crime thrillers, murder mysteries, police procedurals. It’s not difficult to become an aficionado since they’re all the fucking same.

We’re always told robots will one day write better stories than humans, but we must have crossed that Rubicon with cop shows years ago. The writers dribbling out the latest tales of ambitious constables and grizzled inspectors are so obviously thumbing the same book of predictable dialogue and worn clichés, it might as well have been written by a Gallagher brother.

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The Golden Age of Chris

The thing everyone likes about skills is they get better over time. Refining and smoothing your talents to become a master of your craft, to put novices and the young to shame and possibly even pick up an award or two. ‘Honing’ they call it, which sounds a bit like an Australian having a wank.

But sometimes it doesn’t work out that way. Form is temporary, but even class is fickle. And as I turned over my card to reveal a three of clubs, the realisation dawned.

I’m fucking rubbish. The Golden Age of Chris is over.

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Screen 15

Westfield Shopping Centre in Shepherds Bush, on Black Friday. Whoops.

It didn’t occur to me when I booked my ticket. I had to be out west later to see a band, I had time to see a film first, there’s a cinema in this hideous place: fine, I’ll tolerate it. Little did I realise I’d encounter a battalion of rabid consumers surging towards me in waves with their unlimited boxes of trainers, always bloody trainers.

Still, not even people soon to realise that bargain Converse won’t fill the hole in their soul can ruin one of my favourite experiences – going to the pictures. That honour instead falls to the Vue cinema chain.

Continue reading Screen 15

Fireworks night

There are a few nights of the year sent to test you as a parent, and fireworks night is definitely one of them.

As a kid in the ’80s it was great – big blazing bonfires to which you could get close enough to need a completely new set of eyebrows in the morning, sparklers tracing out your name in the darkness and plenty of whizz-pops and bang-clatters to make a great evening out. Not to mention plenty of hot food and hand-warming drinks.

5th November 2019 on the other hand – not so great.

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In the light of the disco ball

“Come on, it’s fun!”

Listen, I’ll be the judge of what’s fun and what’s rigid sigmoidoscopy. And don’t think I can’t see the hidden message behind your eyes. You only want me to join in with this farce because you’re picturing me wheeling about the room like an epileptic in a ball pool.

I’m truly sorry but I’m going to have to do something I swore I’d never do. Hell has frozen over, water is running uphill and yes, that’s a flock of pigs up there. I’m going to quote Phil Collins.

I can’t dance.

Continue reading In the light of the disco ball

Magical redheads

I watched Harry Potter yesterday. I’ve had quite a lot of time on my hands over the past few weeks, for one reason or another, and it’s something I’ve known was going to happen eventually; things that are so easily achieved are rarely put off forever, I find, and I thought that ‘well over half my life’ was long enough to leave this particular activity before completion.

I got called ‘Hermione’ quite a bit at school as well, so it seemed best to find out the precise implications of that before I forgot the entirety of what being at school was like. Admittedly this name-calling was mostly contemporaneous with the early films, back when she was mainly just a smart-arsed pre-teen with massive hair (I see what they meant, the more film-savvy kids), and tailed off drastically when it emerged that she’s quite fit and physically heroic as well as the book-learned kind. I’m not going to pretend that didn’t smart a bit.

Oh, also, when I say “I watched Harry Potter recently”, I should also add the caveat that what I actually did was watch the last two, or one, depending on how you look at it. I’m fairly sure I’ve seen the first one, having been alive for a decade’s worth of Christmases since its TV debut, so that didn’t seem worth it, and having skipped that I thought I may as well cut to the ‘good stuff’, as it were.

It wasn’t an unenjoyable experience, I’ll admit that now. They’re not demanding films, even when lacking knowledge of the bulk of their backstory, and having grown up utterly irritated by the leads they didn’t grate excessively on my nerves. What really pissed me off, more than the shitty CGI acting or the word ‘Muggle’ or the sheer scale of the stupid moral showboating on display, was that bit at the end when Harry chucks that really powerful wand in the moat thing.

It’s presented as a moment of great importance. Harry’s the ultimate Goody Two-Shoes, a pacifistic non-ruffler of…bloody unicorn feathers, or whatever, and he’s just so fucking great that when presented with ‘the most powerful wand in the world’, he thinks, ‘Nah’. He’s not up for that. That’d be bad probably. So he snaps it in half, this wand that’ll only answer to him anyway, and he lobs it off a big bridge.

‘Most powerful wand in the world’. That’s a relative thing, that. That suggests a scale of power with this stick at its zenith. Harry’s just destroyed the biggest evil in the world and he’s got sole control over the thing that’s most powerful out of what’s left, and instead of looking after it with some sodding willpower he thinks, again for clarity, ‘Nah.’

Whilst I think understand that particular sentiment more than most (thinking ‘Nah’ and fucking something off because it seems like a bad plan, that is), this strikes me as somewhat problematic. Take the aforementioned Power Wand Index. Surely there’s a second most powerful wand in the world that’s just been promoted? How great a margin can there truly be between the two? And what’s going to defeat that? Harry? Not anymore, no. He’s thrown away the thing he’d need to sort that out. His stupid friends didn’t even stop him, they just stood there looking precious and a bit grubby, and then it cuts to them all rubber-faced with lots of ginger children.

I know you wear unfortunate glasses, you scabby git, but for God’s sake have a bit of foresight. That snake-nosed bloke might be gone, but are you so naive as to think that he’s the only one? Weren’t there other baddies you didn’t murder? One of them’s got the most powerful wand in the world now, and he’s going to fuck you up with it. This is how this sort of thing works, and no number of magical redheads will be able to save you this time.

Harry Potter and the Gigantic Fuck-Up. I knew there was a reason I’d avoided this shit.

The disease of modern living

Next month will commemorate my 24th revolution around the sun. Already my forehead resembles a weathered ball-bag and I find myself aimlessly sprawled in front of a screen more evenings than not. This never happened two years ago. Now, like some declawed beast sedated by glossy images rolling seamlessly over one another, I lounge and gape with numb abandon, occasionally flick through Facebook on my phone and wonder why exactly people from school feel the need to repopulate the Earth with smaller humans that look like them before McDonalds ravaged their bodies. This is adult life, so I’m told, and you too are welcome to the party, please make yourself comfortable and wait for the air to run out.

Everything you need to know about me is explained by the steaming pile of cat shit that has collected outside my bedroom window. This veritable Everest of faeces makes me feel at home, as does the decapitated pigeon with its guts strewn out like a meaty party popper that’s stuck outside my office, in a location that the cleaners can’t reach. It rots there, sun-baked and spoiled, festering in the British summer.

These features of my surroundings help me to keep my perspective, much in the way that drama teachers educate young minds on what shattered dreams look like. They symbolise perfectly how much we crave our precious distractions in order to ignore the grim brutalities of life: their continued existence is damning proof. Even as I write, the gangrenous disease of modern living cramps up my hand with premature rigor mortis and spreads through the veins, pumped ever closer to the brain by a palpitating aorta that struggles against the thickening walls of tar that I have cursed it with.

Gradually I too will be pacified by the epidemic that sweeps the nation. As the world hurtles down into the belly of the abyss, we will watch with apathetic disdain as the stomach acid swirls around our ankles, melding our shoes to our feet, kicking up a mighty stench in the process. By the time we’re half digested we might reach feebly for an app to save us, but it’ll be too late and when we reach the sphincter of the universe to get sprayed out into the cosmic toilet bowl, only then will we admit that perhaps, just maybe, mistakes were made. Such is the nature of this affliction.

The first symptom was an involuntary twitch of the hand, reaching ceaselessly for the mobile phone to save me from reality. My phone-orientated spasm is akin to a phantom limb, but the ever-loveable philanthropists of Microsoft recently conducted a social study on some screen-worshipping Canadians and established that the average human attention span has dropped from 12 seconds down to just 8, so I doubt I’m alone in the quarantine zone.

This mutated strain of the 80’s TV-borne virus could be seen as the next step towards in our evolution where we transcend our physical forms to live entirely digitally, floating around the ether poking at one another’s faces with three and half inch floppies like cognitively impaired sea-monkeys in screen-saver form. Or maybe it just marks the next step towards a society of preening, gurning blobs of self-absorbed cellulose, hopeless invertebrate wads that could grow a spine if only they found use for one.

Maybe I’m being unfair. Maybe our jobs really do have meaning in and of themselves. Maybe George Osborne isn’t fuelled by orphan tears and it’s even possible that Adrian Chiles and the rest of TV land aren’t just a collection of gelatinous guff-wagons constructed of meat. But don’t worry about it, just distract yourself with more words.

As the disease assaults your ability to think or even dribble coherently, the modern office does little to treat symptoms. Constant reminders from HR flow in via email reaffirming our enthusiasm for the casual business Friday dress-code and advising us not to jump from the east facing window because yesterday’s pile of mangled bodies hasn’t yet been cleaned up on account of the impossible-to-reach pigeon corpse. Whatever they bleat about it’s always in the distant language usually reserved for passive alarm voices who alert you to danger in an unnervingly calm tone. By specialising the function of the individual’s job we have become more and more divorced from the purpose of the work we do, so it’s no wonder we’re perpetually left unable to explain our jobs to relatives or friends.

Graduates are forced to fight to the death in gladiatorial combat for the chance to win an unpaid role as junior deputy assistant to the intern in some useless consultancy firm, or worse they become unthinking phone monkeys in firms with indoctrination programmes that would give the US Army a hard-on. Those without qualifications are converted into compost to grow, whilst those in jobs too long are quietly bumped off in the night by obtuse phrases such as “regrettably unforeseeable internal restructures” so they’re heaped on the cat-shit mountain as well. Our purpose in employment becomes harder to find, our days flow by in an uneasy wave of tedious confusion and we leave the office without a thought in our heads except for the rush of relief afforded by brief respite.

In a sleep-deprived stupor we’re driven to distraction, urgently seeking anything to ease our minds. It’s all there waiting for us, from kittens decorated by the mentally infirm to the online equivalent of the Dulux colour range told through pornography. And what’s more, the great benevolent dictator of the internet is only too willing to oblige us. With the frantic scurrying of a crack-addled banker trying to hide a hooker’s body we crave any blockade we can erect between the reality of the situation and the collective lie that we all buy into, known colloquially as ‘satisfaction’.

The disease of modern living is the catalysed onset of delusion, the belief that things actually aren’t that bad and that perhaps we ought to be thankful for what we have. This belief drags itself with us, a parasite on our bedraggled carcass shuffling from the tube to the bus to the sweat-stained pavements only to moor up in a desolate port with the TV on, our minds switched off and the glum cyclical nature of the horror pushed out of sight for another day as our eyes close and it’s all over.

In short, I’m becoming one of the idiots. Soon you’ll be like us, begging for distraction from the endless flurry of miseries and injustices that make up human existence. London has succeeded in dumbing me down with its isolating cost of living, alienating social conduct and the beckoning appeal to those who value money, prestige and job title über alles. We try to avoid how unfair it all seems with copies of Time Out and the latest in pop-up restaurants that only serve suffocated gelatine in plant pots and where all the cutlery is emblazoned with the face of Noel fucking Edmonds. Now I even have their haircut. It might get me a promotion.

At this rate I’ll max out a credit card on paper doilies this time next year, bragging to middle-management about the spacious depths of my new living room and how much light the bay window lets in whilst fiddling with a selfie-stick, all the time wondering why no-one can use a word of more than three syllables.

Unless we treat this disease swiftly, that is. Prognosis: amputate at the neck and leave my headless cadaver on the window ledge of a skyscraper where no-one can clean me up.

A bloody great vase of flowers

First there are the camera angles. Everything is taken from the neck up, limiting any possible interesting dialogue pieces with other characters. Suddenly our heroine will be sitting down a lot, behind a desk, or holding large folders for no reason at all. Sometimes they’ll put a bloody great vase of flowers in the way. Clothing will become oversized, which never hides the bump just merely shouts “Look, the actress, the real person, is up the duff! Fuck trophy alert!”

Is she or isn’t she? This has become an all-consuming pastime for me that ruins many a good film or TV series. Believe me, I am not a rabid consumer of Heat magazine, desperate for information on celebrity breeders. It’s that when a director attempts to hide that an actress is clearly pregnant, the subterfuge is so obvious it ruins every single thing I watch. It’s so fucking obvious!

The fourth wall is broken and I sit on my hands, desperate not to bow to the inevitable and search Google to see if I have correctly spotted the pregnancy. The satisfaction that I’ve spotted the truth is nothing compared to the complete ruination of the story I am watching. Every shot, I sit there pointing out when I see it – there. There. Can’t everyone see it? It’s there, look. So what if someone just died horribly, I can see that woman is clearly pregnant.

The point of an actor is to dispel belief. Once my eyes alight on a possible bump, everything is ruined. I stomp about like a disgruntled Kevin, lamenting the blatant destruction of any dramatic tension. Clearly that isn’t Johanssen kicking ass, it’s a stunt double. How can Nikki Alexander carry on her will they-wont they with Harry if she is hiding the fact she is ferrying an embryo that isn’t his? It just isn’t right. I don’t want to see your real life. I want immersion! Pop the brat out between series, don’t flaunt it at me during the limited opportunities I have to watch good drama.

I ponder whether they should write it in, just to stop my own anger. Sadly this leads to the jumping the shark moment that killed The X-Files. Anyone remember how terrible it was to discover Scully’s baby was Mulder’s? Just me? It might work for soaps, but I hate any baby storylines. It kills anything of interest happening in the future, as you are always left (literally) with the baby. Think about Ian Beale, just think. My point is made.

This obsession with directors’ attempts to hide reality has recently reached new territory with the Expendables trilogy. Every scene where Arnie or Sly jump off a building, or roll away from an explosion, I wonder how they manage it. Of course, they don’t. Younger stunt doubles come in, concrete floors are made of soft eiderdown, beer guts are hidden by lofty camera angles and giant clothes. Argh! Why? They are old, that is the entire concept of the film. Sure they have egos, but let it all hang out. You’re too old for this shit!

I have no issues with people getting older. I myself cannot hold back the tide of aches and pains; my ability to bounce after falling over has all but disappeared. I don’t expect anyone to pay to see an old me defuse a bomb whilst jumping through the air but if it was my career I’d at least show that it bloody well hurt at my age.

But if you decide to drop another unfortunate child into this world of war, then don’t bring it into my living room. Wait until the series is cancelled, plan it so it isn’t noticeable, don’t cry feminism at work and demand it is ignored. I can see it. There. Look, it’s a bump. Have some pride in your art and the deception you weave for us. I have no interest in you, or the baby – I want my stories!

True sacrifice

A holiday abroad does so much more than just give your body and mind a well-earned break. You find yourself thinking about the more important things in life, rather than fixating on how quickly people will work out it was you who fucked up their macro, or hiding in the toilets for two hours fretting about whether or not the person you sit next to saw you slagging them off on instant messenger.

You probably take yourself off to a much poorer country for a beach holiday, because you want your money to go as far as possible. You might go somewhere in Asia. Sure, the flights will cost you a pretty penny, but you’ll struggle to spend more than the cost of a Pret salad on most three-course meals, so you can square it away in your mind. And once you’re there buying cocktails for the same price as a packet of Hubba Bubba, your body starts to relax and your mind starts to find that peace and calm you’ve been searching for in the months since your last sojourn.

All the while you’re in a bubble, cut-off from reality with no idea what’s going on at home. So imagine the horrifying, falling sensation that overcomes you when you return to London and read the biggest story of the past fortnight.

All the benefits of every single four quid, hour-long relaxing massage I had undergone were reversed when I got home and read – and believe me I am still ashen-faced with shock as I write this  – about the Back to the Future Secret Cinema catastrophe.

For the blissfully ignorant, let me fill you in. The biggest immersive cinema event in the history of big, immersive cinema events was called off with – oh god I think I’m going to be sick again – merely hours’ notice. Some people were actually on their way to the event when they found out. Some people had taken time off work to attend it. Everyone had put their money and their faith into the belief that they would get to watch an 80s classic in dress-up, with some real life actors thesping about the place, whilst also being able to get bollocksed in the process.

One account I read, in amongst so many harrowing details of devastation and loss, was written by someone I consider a modern day Joan of Arc. Not only had she arrived early, but someone she was meeting there had almost boarded their train to meet her. Suffice to say she was distraught, but showed supreme strength and dignity in not allowing her companion to make a wasted journey. That’s true friendship. That’s true sacrifice.

And of course there’s a backlash.

Supposedly they’re a pampered bunch of spoilt film nerds with too much money, an unhealthy obsession with mediocre 80s cinema and an unfulfilled need to raid the dressing up box, harking back to a repressed and lonely childhood.

Or are they just serious, hard-working people, with realistic expectations that, when they’ve paid over the odds for organised fun, have meticulously selected something to wear that says “I’m wacky, but I also like to get things right *points and winks*” and have arranged their diary accordingly, they will be able to embark on their organised fun in a punctual and efficient manner?

Well you show me the father of four selling tat on an Asian beach for pennies who wouldn’t sympathise with these poor sods. Do you honestly expect me to believe that a family of six living in a shack who sell their ancient, healing and holistic massages for less than the cost of a bag of Butterkist wouldn’t break down on hearing about Secret Cinema’s recent atrocity?

Just because they don’t have money doesn’t mean they don’t have feelings.

All I can hope now is whatever has brought about this disaster is resolved by the end of August, in time for the date on my ticket. Or I’ll be shaking like Michael J Fox and weeping into my three quid, hand woven, silk pashmina.