Isolation… alienation… happiness. In America they all go hand in hand. Buy a new TV and you will be happy. Still not happy? Experience alienation. Can’t afford a new TV? Then live in isolation. “Be happy”, and if that doesn’t work, pretend to make it work. For the characters in Todd Solondz’ award winning, subversively funny film “Happiness”, the struggle to attain such a state is fraught with perils both heartbreaking and hilarious.
1998 – Certificate: 18 – American Film
Rating Details: Adult theme, strong sexual references, language and sex
8.5 out of 10
The National Lottery spoilt my day today and it was going so well too. It started off sunny. Then I drove to Berkhamsted, which included a slow selection along the M4. This provided me with a golden opportunity to open all the windows and ‘educate’ my fellow motorists in what good music sounds like, whether they wanted educating or not. It’s never too early in the day for some noisy punk rock. I then passed my MiDAS trainer/assessor reassessment. This means I can continue to train people to drive minibuses in my own, inimitable style. (e.g. “Just put your foot down.” “It’s not your vehicle, so don’t worry.” “You’re not paying for the insurance.” “You’re bigger than they are.”) I then drove home again with the windows open. This time there was no slow section, so thanks to a large articulated lorry I no longer need to tidy up the interior of my car, as all the rubbish in it suddenly got sucked out of the window as the lorry went past. Then I got home and opened a letter from the Disclosure and Barring Service, which was happy to report that I’m not a pervert or a weirdo; at least not one that’s been caught anyway. But then the Lottery spoilt my happiness by rejecting a funding application I’d made for a project. For the second time! Bloody hell! I even buy two lottery tickets every week by Direct Debit. That should guarantee success. (Then again, I don’t know why this surprises me. In the 19 years it’s been running, I’ve bought one or two tickets virtually every single week and personally never won more than £10; and that’s not happened more than a few times either. I’m relying on a Lottery jacket win to act as my pension too.) My failure was highlighted in some nonsense about insufficient evidence of need. I guess interviewing every single person on the whole planet about the project and finding that all 7,164,915,211 of them supported it and would benefit from it, wasn’t sufficient. Still, I’ve been invited to reapply if I can provide more information. It’s lucky I’ve just got my DBS Certificate, as I’m now going to need to hang about in various maternity wards and try to consult with some babies as they come out of the womb, as just about everyone else has already expressed an opinion. It’s not the rejection that hurts, (well okay it is really), but the fact that some of my colleagues north of the border seen to be able to provide enough evidence for similar applications, by simply stating that they think the project they’re apply for money for would be “nice”. This doesn’t make me very happy. It’s so easy being Scottish. We have to work hard in the South East of England for everything. I think a career as a diplomatic would suit me better. That would make me much happier too. This is a film about happiness.
This is a sick film. It’s exactly the sort of perverse movie that the DBS should ask about before issuing Certificates. It’s also very funny, in a blacker than black way. There’re loads of reviews of it on the Internet, half of which say it’s great and the other half say they walked out of it after 15 minutes because it was so “disgusting”. Despite its reputation as a bit of a dodgy film, it’s also surprisingly moving and very well acted. I think I like it as it features a load of people who think they’re happy but actually they’re not, yet they still are in a rather strange way. I like to see people bought down to my level. It’s a movie for grow-ups you should watch. You can always use a pair of sharp scissors to cut the DVD in two if you don’t like it. (But remember to take care with the scissors, especially as DVDs can suddenly shatter into sharp pieces when stressed. I’d advise you wear gloves and goggles too, just in case.)
There is a soundtrack but it’s pretty unmemorable. Music is sparsely used, although when it is it does support the action nicely. On many occasions it’s used more as an element in the scenes themselves, rather than simply as background ‘noise’ to build tension or whatever. Michael Stipe does sing the theme song though.
Recommended for weirdos. (Sorry, I can’t be arsed to write anything else.)
No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.
Top badass moment? At the start of the film, Allen strikes a blow for downtrodden men everywhere, with his “I’m Champagne” tirade. Admittedly he picks on the somewhat weedy Joy as the target for his ‘stand’, but nevertheless he knocks the ball right out of the ground. Yeah; men rise up and take back your birth right! No more will we be under the thumb of woman-kind! Reclaim the mighty sword of masculinity and trousers of relationship power! (Do I come across as sounding bitter or twisted at all?)
“The Waiting Room” is the beautiful, feature debut of Academy-Award nominated writer/director Roger Golby. The sterling cast give ‘top-notch performances’ in their portrayal of two strangers – Anna (Anne-Marie Duff) and Stephen (Ralf Little) – who are brought together by chance as they sit together in a deserted waiting room. Here they make a brief but powerful connection, forgetting their individual lives for an isolated moment in time. As Stephen and Anna’s lives move onwards, they find themselves thinking more and more of the stranger they met in the waiting room – and what would happen should they meet again. This highly acclaimed and deeply moving film presents a fresh, edgy and totally romantic view of contemporary life and love in London.
2008 – Certificate: 15 – British Film
Rating Details: One strong sex scene and strong language
8.5 out of 10
On my way home from work two days ago I did a bit of food shopping. A sudden impulse buy was a bottle of brown sauce. I can’t remember the last time I bought any, but it must have been years ago. If I’d had any sense I’d have bought some decent stuff, like HP. Instead, I bought some cheap, Happy Shopper Brown Sauce. It tasted sort of okay, but it contains about a tonne of salt per gram. (No, I don’t know how that’s possible either; I guess it’s this sort of ‘new physics’ that makes the experiments being done with the Large Hadron Collider so exciting.) Using it gave me a sore throat and I could feel my arteries bulging as if they were about to explode, thanks to my suddenly elevated blood pressure. All in all it’s pretty toxic stuff. I can only imagine that a large-scale deployment of Happy Shopper Brown Sauce would probably cross someone’s “red line” somewhere or other… I’m glad I only have the one bottle. I’ve not checked frame by frame, but I’m not aware that this film contains any brown sauce, or sauce of any colour for that matter. If anyone spots any do let me know.
I can’t understand why this film isn’t better known. It’s set in Wandsworth, south London and features a lot of Southern Trains suburban services in it; I mean seriously, how much more cool and fashionable could it possibly get? It’s a story that revolves around three couples, their relationships and a chance meeting between two people in a waiting room at Wandsworth Common Station. This is a gentle but hugely touching film about ordinary people. Like many character-driven stories, it just sort of jumps into a period in their lives and then after a while it leaves them again, giving us a glimpse into their thoughts, feeling and actions. It has a number of scenes that provide the sort of emotional impact that all good films should and characters, though flawed, it’s still easy to sympathise with. Funny in places and intensely sad in others, at times it felt a bit too close to home for my linking, which is partly why it’s such a brilliant movie.
The soundtrack is generally restrained and unmemorable, but quietly gets on with business of extending the impact of the scenes it’s used in. A job well done.
Recommended for anyone who accepts that their life is as good as it’s ever going to get.
No cat, chainsaws or decapitation.
Top badass moment? Stephen, one of the two main characters, works in a nursing home. When my mum was in a nursing home all the care staff there seemed too overworked to really spend much time with the residents. Perhaps that’s the reality of it, but if any of them did ever have a bit of time on their hands, I’d have wanted them to be like Stephen.
I was driving home tonight and turning off the M3. At the junction a car had just broken down in the middle lane of three, at a set of traffic lights. (A BMW, ha-ha-ha). The driver behind it got all inpatient and started flashing and honking the broken-down driver. Then he suddenly pulled into the inside lane right in front of me, forcing me to brake hard and throw everything off the seat next to me and onto the floor, before he drove straight through the now red light. Asshole. If my car’s lights had been lasers (the sci-fi gun version, not the CD reading version), I’d have blown him to pieces, such was my annoyance. I doubt he heard it, but my language would have embarrassed more than just a nun too. People like that should be taken outside and shot. And no, I’m not going to give him a second chance on the assumption that he’d just had a bad day. My life might not amount to much, but I’m going to waste it at my discretion, not some stupid moron behind the wheel of a car’s. And talking of nuns, I thought this film was going to be about them.
2005 – Certificate: PG – USA
Rating Details: Mild language and sex references
Anyway, there I was, on Saturday evening, ready to watch what I thought was going to be a sleazy 70s, exploitation flick about nuns and kinky underwear. So you can imagine my disappointment when, on starting to view this film, instead of seeing nuns running around losing their clothing and wearing each other’s panties, I got a chick flick about four young friends and a pair of second-hand jeans. Bloody American’s, why do they have to mess about with OUR language; pants are, well, pants, not trousers or jeans. And a sisterhood really ought to have something to do with convents. With hindsight, I suppose the PG certificate and the “Perfect film for teen girls” splash on the front cover should have warned me, but I thought they were just part of the marketing; I didn’t think they, you know, really meant what they said. Anyway, to make the best of a bad job I watched it; I guess someone has to. After the first ten minutes I was already tiring of the four-teenage-girls-all-talk-and-giggle-at-once-about-nothing narrative. Still, a film has to be pretty bad for me to totally give up on it, so I persevered; and I’m glad I did. What I ended up with was a really great movie about four friends who are separated one summer for the first time and how they keep in touch with one another, grow as individuals and ensure their friendship remains intact. (Sounds a bit bluurrgg, doesn’t it?) To be honest, some of the subtleties of this were probably lost on me; I’m an old(ish) bloke, so I’ve next to no chance of understanding teenage angst or relationships; hell, I didn’t even understand them when I was a teenager, although come to think of it, that’s maybe the point of them. Okay, so it’s all a bit dumb, the ending is a bit too upbeat for my liking and the four main characters could basically be summed up as rebel, slut, wallflower and latch-key kid. But it’s all done with such sincerity that it’s hard not to get swept along with it. Most of it’s pretty lightweight stuff as you’d expect and the plot goes everywhere and nowhere, but every now and again a scene came along that enabled the whole movie to punch above its weight. It’s been done a million times before in films, but the scene in the hospital was a genuinely great bit of acting and you’d have to be made of stone not to be affected by it. I’m not sure if it’s a perfect film for teen girls, but it worked for this cynical old guy. I didn’t even miss there being no nuns in it either; (it does have some panties though). I wonder what the follow-up is like?
Recommended for teenage girls (according to the Sunday Mirror); and old blokes who are willing to step outside their comfort zones. (But if you need an excuse lads, it has some women’s football in it too.)
No cats, decapitations or chainsaws.
Top badass moment? The subplot involving Tibby and Bailey is especially affecting; (or is it effecting, I can never remember)? This had lots of little scenes that are really quite special. Learning to care about someone is one thing; learning to show it is another. This is badass.