Attention Grammar Police!

If you should find offenses to the English language in any of my articles please leave a comment and let me know so that I can obliterate it forever! Thanks!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Little Movie I Made...

Here's a little video I made for my kids, based on my nursery rhyme - The Discontented Feijoa...

Please share!

 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Day of the Jackal - A Review

In a medium which has descended into the realm of good looks, hot stream lined youth, action packed happenings, multiple explosions and the fine line between what is real and what is virtually real it’s quite a culture shock to dive head first into the classic era of film making where the story was everything and a director had to tell it well.

By modern expectations, and at first glance Fred Zinnemann’s 1973 adaptation of The Day of the Jackal might be accused of being none of those things which bring the patrons en masse to the cinemas these days, but if you’re willing to give it a chance you just might find that it doesn’t need to be, because it is a tense tale told intensely well!

Tense. I’m going to use that word a lot throughout this review!

In brief it is the story of The Jackal, the mysterious assassin hired by the militant underground OAS of France, bent on seeing the then French president Charles de Gaulle eliminated to further their own political agenda.

The film opens like a series of News Segments, the kind I imagine my parents would have endured at the movies when they were young; a nasally English News presenter brings you up to speed with unwarranted enthusiasm as key members of the OAS are rounded up and sentenced to death due to an earlier botched assassination attempt.

The remaining leaders of the cabal realise their only hope of success is in recruiting a foreigner capable of going undetected about his business of professional murder.

The Jackal himself, apparently an unassuming Englishman (I say apparently), played convincingly by the then unknown Edward Fox, goes about plotting and pursuing his ruthless task. He is cold, calculating and undeniably resourceful, kind of like Jason Bourne, only the evil version.

It’s not surprising that this movie received a BAFTA for Best Film Editing in 1974 as it leaps masterfully from one scene to the next; the Jackal steals the identity of a deceased two year old, Paul Oliver Duggan, he has a special gun constructed for his mission, he steals another passport…

On a side note, while I was tempted to criticize how easy applying for a fake passport was back then I found out that this film, along with the book of the same name, saw the London Public Records and Passport Offices take measures against this sort of thing! The things you learn.

Meanwhile the French authorities, through means of torture have squeezed the codename “Jackal” from an OAS operative and are now aware that somewhere and somehow an attempt on their President’s life will be made, but who on earth is The Jackal?

So intriguing are the meticulous antics of this evil-Bourne that it takes approximately 48 minutes before the films leading protagonist, Deputy Claude Lebel, played by Michael Londsdale, is recruited by the French Government to catch this professional man of mystery. Partnered with his assistant Caron, a very young Derek Jacobi, and a lot of telephones, he begins the ominous task of not only finding a needle in a haystack but doing so without even knowing what a needle looks like let alone what type of needle it is.

Claude, by comparison to the brutal “Englishman”, is gruff, quiet, humble, hiding behind his onion layers and a moustache that would have made Magnum P.I. jealous. He slowly but surely catches up to the film’s antagonist until the thrilling climax… which I won’t give away of course!

What made this feature so interesting to me was that as the viewer you were treated to special information about a man so mysterious and so elusive, that for most of the film you, the viewer, are the only one who really knows anything about what is going on with this character while everyone else fumbles about in the dark.

Usually it’s the other way round, a story smothers you with the tale about the brilliant hero and his journey to the climax, while the baddie is shrouded in mystery, hiding in the shadows. Two examples of this off the top of my head are the Blair Witch Project (random I know) where throughout the entire movie you don’t see the malevolent force of the woods. Another example would be The Lord of the Rings Trilogy where the Dark Lord only ever appears as the great big burning eyeball. What I am saying is usually you don’t get intimate with the bad guy.

Somehow in The Day of the Jackal Zinnemann turns this method of storytelling on its head, the good guys are present but you don’t really get to know them, while the bad guy and his journey keeps you hanging on to the very apex, despite the fact that he’s just so darn evil.

Another thing, which I doubt was intentional given the era this film was made in, was the absence of computers and technology which added to the tension of the hunt. A great example of this is the authorities are keeping an eye on hotels throughout France for the killer’s alter ego, Paul Oliver Duggan. Unable to simply tap into a central guest registry the names of guests are written on cards and couriered to Paris where by the time the Deputy finds out where the Jackal is, he’s already gone. Then there are the clumsy rotary phones of the day, the ones that had a circle around the numbers that I only just vaguely recall from my childhood. No mobiles, no cordless communication of any kind sees one character (but I won’t say who) meet their grizzly end because they could not make it to the phone on time. The frustration of it all is brilliant!

Which brings me to the use of clocks. In fact there are 31 shots of clocks depicting the time throughout this 143 minute long suspense drama, which again ads to the tension. I felt like I was being reminded that time was running out, catch him or the President gets it! Intense.

You would think that amidst all the tense suspense would be a soundtrack to rival cats in agonizing pain but it wasn’t until the film had about 20 minutes left, that I suddenly realized the shocking truth that this movie has almost absolutely no soundtrack! Apart from the odd radio or TV playing in the background or in one scene Marching Band music in the streets of Paris. The director manages to completely pull off what until now I thought was impossible - a story that does not need to be carried by the unseen character of music!

It isn’t surprising that this film has inspired at least one remake that I know of, 1997’s The Jackal, starring none other than Bruce Willis as the villain, and while I usually have a default dislike of remaking something that does not need to be remade, because the original was already brilliant, I can appreciate the compliment of one generation of film makers wanting to pay tribute to that which preceded it – and this movie in my opinion certainly warranted tribute.

So to the late Fred Zinnemann I tip my imaginary hat to you for achieving not only a brilliant movie with no soundtrack, propelled by a then unknown star, featuring an inordinate number of clocks but also for making a brilliant adaptation of Frederick Forsyth’s book of the same name (although I should insert here that I haven’t read the book but will now that this film has inspired me to).

The movie might have looked like an episode of Get Smart at times and I might have confused Edward Fox with a younger David Bowie at points but one thing is for sure, I did not want to leave my couch until the last gun went bang.

You’ve got to go see The Day of the Jackal.




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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Too Quick to Love

Playing around with Garage Band on my wife's iPad late at night can cause problems for anyone brave enough to listen to my experiment in "manly" oohs and aahs...

WARNING: This track is, well, not very manly...

I call it:

Too Quick to Love

Because its short and might hurt your arm pits (because your ears will be hiding there),

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid - A Review

Old movies are a rather new thing for me. Sure I’ve seen a fair few in my time, and by “Old” I mean anything pre-1981 when I was only just becoming consciously aware of the strange medium of film. But now as a thirty three year old movie goer with years of experience absorbing most of what Hollywood has thrown at my generation I find myself wanting something different – something more than the magic formulas of CGI and plots that seem to have come from the multiple stomachs of a cow, regurgitated only to be eaten and regurgitated again.

Put bluntly I’m sick of the same old thing, which is ironic because the same old thing is meant to be what’s new on the big screen these days…

Which is why I’ve begun to cast my eye on the good old golden era of film when the story, the characters and the actors who played them were everything or the movie was nothing. So what better place to start than an old film about the olden days?

The 1969 Classic - Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

First things first, don’t judge a movie by its title, it has nothing to do with a bearded woman named Butch and her experiences overcoming prejudice with her dance partner on Dancing with the Stars! Nope, this is a Cowboy movie starring Paul Newman as Butch, that’s right you might remember him from shopping areas such as the Mayonnaise Lane and the Caesar Salad Shelf, but believe it or not before he was famous in the supermarket he was one of the coolest male actors to hit the screen since, well, Paul Newman! Co-starring is the pretty boy of my parent’s generation, Robert Redford, the guy who might never have made a hit in a salad bowl but boy could he act (and still can apparently).

Usually I would have avoided this sort of thing, I am after all a Doctor Who loving, light saber wielding, beam me up Scotty type and will usually only experience cinematic cathexis when the Frodo of a story sets out on the quest to end all quests or, I hate to admit it, but when the guy finally kisses the girl in a Nicholas Sparks movie – cowboys and Indians have never been my cup of tea.

Nevertheless this one sang to me from the shelf as I browsed the DVD shop’s tiny collection of so called Classics. Maybe it was because of the news that Robert Redford will be returning to the Big Screen soon in the new run of Avengers flicks? Or maybe I just love salad dressing? Either way there was something about the DVD cover, two staunch manly Cowboys looking as cool as Johnny Cash, reminded me of a time when my mother would stick plastic cowboys on my birthday cakes, which were of course lined with chocolate fingers to represent a fort, reinforcing my gender role and installing in me a desire for good old fashioned rugged living… and chocolate fingers.

But I’m digressing…

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is a character based tale of two nice guys on the wrong side of the law. They’re the kind of criminals who will stick a gun in your face, take all your money and then ask you if you’re ok before riding off into the sunset, and while you might feel down about having lost all your money you might be tempted to give them directions before they go because they’re just so neat.

Butch originally leads a gang of baddies, called the Hole in the Wall Gang, in a train robbery when the banks are beginning to prove a bit too tough for an honest crook to make a living. But after their first attempt at robbing a train goes surprisingly well their second try sees them busted by the catalyst for the film - a posse of professional lawmen determined to bring down Butch and his boys.

For me this is where the film really got interesting, as Butch and the Sundance Kid are tracked across the majestic wilderness of the Mid-West by these relentless men of Justice. For a while there I could almost imagine that Robert Patrick’s T-1000 Terminator was on their trail asking everyone he meets, “Have you seen this cowboy?”

The clever thing about this part of the movie is you never really see their pursuers, beyond their horses kicking up the dust in the distance and the tense sense of urgency as the two outlaws run for their lives through the barren lands of cowboy country makes you kind of cringe in suspense, while at the same time appreciating what an incredible feat police work must have been in the days when photography was still new and there were no police helicopters or CCTV to help you along the way. Failing all the gadgetry it came down to the basic and brutal Find’em, chase’em, kill’em mentality that in this instance has you almost on the edge of your seat.

Whether they get caught or not I’ll never tell but to lose their tracker’s trail, and after reading in the newspaper the finer details about their pursuers, the two men team up with Sundance’s 26 year old school teaching girlfriend Etta and flee to Bolivia where Butch has read somewhere that the grass is much greener for men like them.

The movie kind of cuts there into a bizarre photographic slide show of sepia stained moments as the three protagonists travel, in style no less, to their destination, waving goodbye to the land of liberty to gain liberty. For a moment there it was like the opening credits of Cheers and I was having flash backs to when, as a kid, I had to desperately fly across the living room to change the channel because I hated that show.

Once in South America they set out to establish themselves as bank robbers only to discover that the language barrier is going to be a problem, so they take some Spanish lessons.

I can’t say much more without giving too much away, but the irony is beautiful as the two even try to straighten themselves out by joining the workforce only to become the guys at the other end of another robber’s gun.

Director George Roy Hill captured the hard West in a way that resonated with me, not because I have any idea what the nineteenth century was like for Midwestern America but because as I watched this film I couldn’t help wondering where I could get a corduroy jacket as cool as the one Robert Redford was wearing.

But all that aside there were some pretty creative film techniques which made the story far less boring than it might have been, namely the sepia intro of a silent movie depicting a 1920’s style re-enactment of the Hole in the Wall Gang getting sprung while the opening credits rolled. Then the actual film begins, still in red and brown tones which remain just long enough for you to think to yourself, “Oh darn it, I’ve got out a brown and white movie!” But really it just helps to create an atmosphere which says, “Hey, this is the olden days, ok? Got that? Good, now let’s switch to colour.” And then the film opens into a vista of hues which unveil the wild rugged environment of the cowboy days.

The other thing that jumps out is the amazingly curious choice of music throughout the film, whether it be a montage establishing Butch and Etta’s sexually charged and yet apparently neutral relationship with a bicycle to B.J. Thomas singing Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head or the threesome’s spate of bank robberies to, gee I don’t know what kind of music that was but it sure blew apart my preconceptions about Western’s having a lot of harmonicas, banjos and strong whistlers. I guess the “modern” take on the music in this film made the characters somewhat relatable, you could accept that this was 150 years ago but the characters were no less flesh and blood than you or I.

And as a point of fact, this movie was loosely based on true events.

I don’t really have anything bad to say about this film, except that the story kind of lost it for me when they went to Bolivia, especially considering the tension and suspense that I was accruing during the chase sequences as they fled the mysterious dispensers of justice.  Had I been director I would have ran with that to the bitter end, but then again this film wasn’t really about that, it was about the mateship of two guys caught on the wrong side of the tracks, who stick by each other… to the bitter end.

Not having anything to compare this film to, seeing as Western’s and me are like paperclips and cheese, it’s hard to give it a rating, especially because I kept wondering when a mysterious Time Traveller was going to appear or whether they would meet Yul Brunner in Michael Crichton’s West World… but there’s always the simple question, “Did I enjoy this film?” to which I would reply, “Yes, indeed I did.”

You’ve got to go see, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.









Saturday, April 6, 2013

Pimp My Hundred Bucks - Part Twenty Three


Imagine for a moment that I’m a chubby dude running up a very long and frighteningly steep hill and I’m trying to explain my week to you between long drawn out death defying puffs of air. I’m deep breath still wheeze trying sudden burst of hyperventilation to gasp reach groan the top flatulence of huff this puff HILL!!!!
Chances are I’m about to fall over so you’d best get out of my way because death by human donut could occur any moment now.
That’s how I feel about this marathon to reach $500. Not only am I a snail trying to run a race with birds but I’m a fat snail recovering from an Easter binge.
Seriously I did some working out today with a mate who is sixth dahn in Karate. He was kind to me but within only ten minutes I was choking and spluttering on the grass and that was just from the stretching. He worked me hard until I sort of flopped on the ground like a melted ice cream!
Again that’s what turning my $100 into $500 has become, a workout that I can’t wait to rest from because I’m beat.
Never the less, my financial muscles grew by $14 this week and that’s definitely better than the last two pitiful weeks of effort.
This week past I sold 11 titles, making me $43, which puts me at $373.29 cents and only $126.71 to go until I can claim my $500 trophy!
I’m still maintaining my listings at only 300 books which has saved me some damage, it’s likely I will maintain this safe number until the end of this series.
So the fat man, me, has yet again written a tiny entry about my backbreaking, blistering and abundantly boring enterprise but stay tuned! As I’ve been alluding to for a while now I have been setting the corner stone firmly in place for my next big scheme: How to turn $500 into $1000 in which I hope, I daresay hope, to branch out from books toward something a bit more creative and currently beyond my capability – Just keep an eye on my Cleverly Devised Poetical Dictionary of Difficult Words… but no more clues.
As the going has been slow though I’m going to bid you adieu until the 20th when I will be able to boast the earnings of two whole weeks and pretend I’m doing better than I’m letting on, fingers crossed.
Cheerio!

Click Here to read Part Twenty Four in this series!

Click Here if you would like to follow my progress on Facebook!

Click Here to read this series from the beginning!

Click Here to read my awesome last series, Pimp My Twenty Bucks

Click Here to view my Trademe Listings

For some great money related articles please visit workingathomeinternet.com for some great monetary wisdom... see you there!



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Thursday, April 4, 2013

Late night creativitiy

So I should have gone to bed two hours ago but instead spent my much needed rest on this 1.5 minutes of poorly timed instrumentation...

Feel free to like it or hate it, either way I'm going to share it!

Mucking Around With String by Kerin Gedge

A Demonstration of Atmospheric Pressure

Here's one of my brother's videos which I thought I would re-post for your enjoyment... WARNING this video may contain educational content.

For more videos by Mr Gedge check out his Channel Here!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Pimp My Hundred Bucks - Part Twenty Two

Over the past few weeks my efforts to turn $100 into $500 have reminded me of my child hood, specifically the times when I played “let’s see how high I can build a tower before it falls over” with my building blocks.

Somewhere along the line you learn as a kid that no matter how careful you are, no matter how skilled you are and no matter how much you wish you were the Knight Rider, no amount of anything can make standard blocks go higher than where you got them last time because the laws of physics were against you. Time to switch to lego.

Applied to this enterprise I realize that I went overboard on the purchasing of new stock, my tower got too big and began to topple over. Last week I even lost money as the combination of purchasing new stock, success fees, relisting fees and the general overhead of it all got the better of me.

So I’ve adopted a new strategy – limit my listings to the highest number of books I can possibly list before I start to lose money and stop buying new stock!

Following this rule I’ve settled with 300 listings at any given time and so far it’s kind of worked, well at least I’ve gone forwards and not backwards this time.

The other part of the strategy is because I have more than 300 books to get rid of I rotate the stock so that each week I’m not trying to sell the same old books!

Over the past nine days I only sold nine books but the $38 they made me has put me back at $358.91 with only $141.09 to go until I can do the proverbial jump for joy.

Being the first day of the new month I checked my Bonus Bonds to see if my $20 had performed beyond my wildest dreams only to discover that it hadn’t but at least my fingers burnt the tiniest fraction of a calorie while typing in my password, as my fingers have been developing their own chubby waist lines after the chocolate binge afforded me by the Easter Break.

So that’s it, short but sweet this week. Ok, scratch the “sweet” part, we’ll stick with “short”.

Oh yeah, there was one pretty funky thing to come out of the last seven days, I had two film reviews published on a popular New Zealand Media site! I didn’t get paid but at least it made me feel good for a little while, that is until this series began to depress me again…

Finally I started a new fan page for my Cleverly Devised Poetical Dictionary of Difficult Words, which will be an important feature of my next series How to turn $500 into $1000 so feel free become a fan!

Until next time…

Click Here to read Part Twenty Three in this series!

Click Here if you would like to follow my progress on Facebook!

Click Here to read this series from the beginning!

Click Here to read my awesome last series, Pimp My Twenty Bucks

Click Here to view my Trademe Listings

For some great money related articles please visit workingathomeinternet.com for some great monetary wisdom... see you there!