13 July, 2014

Dawn of Suspense, laughter, violence, hope, heart, nudity, sex, happy endings... mainly happy endings

So here's the thing,

If you were passing by the Michael Fowler Centre Tuesday of last week at 6.00 in the morning, you'd have seen... well, I don't know what you would have seen, because I wasn't there. The film festival changed ticket providers this year, which meant I had to queue outside the Paramount. Now, I don’t know whether there were people queuing at the MFC having not noticed the change in providers, but I certainly know that there was no-one else at the Paramount. I was standing in the cold for over an hour alone – there’s usually a bunch of people queuing at that time, but for some reason none of the usual suspects turned up. (One of those usual suspects did eventually turn up after 8am, which does make me wonder he may have been waiting at the MFC until he realised he made a mistake.)

I had a real concern about the change in ticket providers. The new provider was a company I was unfamiliar with, and I was concerned that as a new entrant into the market they might not be prepared for the sheer volume of purchases when tickets went on sale. Sure enough, when tickets went on sale, the person at the ticket counter had to tell me that they couldn’t let me choose my seats, because the system was overloaded, and all they could do was give me what the computer chose as the “best available” seat. Never mind that the computer is unable to make the kind of assessment that I as a human would make. I can decide that it’s better to be one row back if your seat is perfectly centred; the computer is going to just regard the closer row as being better regardless of the other seats available. (Sigh.)

The overloading was evidently a real problem.  I know that one friend of mine took half an hour or more to get her tickets, and another took even longer. We just have to hope that they analyse the problems this year and ensure that they’re set up for next year’s festival.

Still, I got my tickets, and that's the important thing. The films I’m seeing this year are:
- The Skeleton Twins
- The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness
- Jodorowsky’s Dune
- Under the Skin
- In Order of Disappearance
- Black Coal, Thin Ice
- Locke
- The Rover
- Jimmy’s Hall
- Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter
- The Green Prince
- Diplomacy
- The Double
- The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden
- The Tale of the Princess Kaguya
- Housebound
- Boyhood
- The Wonders
- The Lady from Shanghai
- Joe
- When Animals Dream
- Force Majeure
- Enemy
- The Babadook
- Two Days, One Night
- Snowpiercer
- The Young and Prodigious T. S. Spivet
- Beauty and the Beast
- Show People
- Wild Tales


The film I’m easily most excited about is Snowpiercer. I’m a massive fan of Bong Joon-Ho’s previous films, and while the premise of the film (in which the Earth is a frozen wasteland, and the entire world’s population lives in a massive train that travels around the globe) sounds absurd, the reviews have been stellar. It’s also exciting to know that we’re seeing the complete uncut film – for a long time it looked like the Weinstein Company were going to edit the film down from the version that had already screened elsewhere, and it was a massive relief when the Weinsteins  (who had already earned much ire with their recent editing of Wong Kar Wai’s remarkable The Grandmaster) relented and allowed the film to be released in its intended form. I’ve been excited for this film for years, and am looking forward to finally seeing it.

Snowpiercer sits in the Thrill section that the festival has included this year. As a massive fan of the thriller genre, it’s exciting to me to see a block of films in the programme focused on the genre in all its variations, be it a Southern Gothic thriller from David Gordon Green (Joe), a Danish werewolf film that is compared to Let the Right One In (When Animals Dream), a post-apocalyptic road movie from the director of Animal Kingdom (The Rover), or a snow-covered Norwegian revenge saga (In Order of Disappearance). I’m also seeing Under the Skin, partly because I just want to work out what exactly that film is. As best as I can tell, it’s an erotic thriller starring Scarlett Johansson as an alien looking for men, except it’s only rated R13 which seems like a very low rating for that kind of film. And while it’s based on an existing novel, apparently much of the film is shot with a hidden camera and Johansson interacting with everyday people who don’t know they’re being filmed, which suggests something more experimental than you typically get with a film based on existing source material. So I have no idea what this film is, which is the main reason for my seeing the film.

There’s some exciting classic films. Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast is a truly remarkable take on the fairy tale that I’m excited to see on the big screen, while Orson Welles’ The Lady from Shanghai is a classic film noir that I’ve never seen. There’s also an interesting-sounding silent Hollywood-satire by King Vidor called Show People for the Live Cinema event this year – I’ve not heard of the film, but it’s always fun to see a silent film with live accompaniment.

One of my big problems this year was the sheer number of clashes I had to navigate this year, with eight different films that I just couldn’t see because of other film priorities. One of the films I was most excited to see was Frank, which has received phenomenal reviews. Unfortunately when I came to schedule it, it clashed with The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, an animated film which I’d never heard of, but which is from Takahata Isao, who directed Grave of the Fireflies, one of the most heart-breaking films I’ve ever seen. His new film is apparently designed to look like traditional Japanese paintings come to life, and if the image in the programme is any guide this should be incredible on the big screen. So I had to abandon seeing Frank, which after all will almost certainly return later in the year, in favour of seeing Kaguya, which even in the unlikely event that it does come back later will not be screening at the Embassy. (There’s a companion documentary that I’m also looking forward to, The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness, about the legendary Studio Ghibli. It was made while Isao was working on Kaguya and Hayao Miyazaki was working on his final film, the flawed-but-interesting The Wind Rises.)

Back in the 90s, there were rumours about Stanley Kubrick working on a film called AI. At the time we didn’t know anything about the project, and in that absence of information there were all sorts of rumours about the project, rumours that were proven to be untrue when we saw the film Spielberg made following Kubrick’s death. (Similarly absurd-in-hindsight rumours surrounded Eyes Wide Shut.) One of the big rumours was that he had been filming footage every year for ten years, capturing the life of a child from birth to ten years. Richard Linklater’s new film Boyhood reminds me of that rumour - he gathered his cast together to film for a few days every year for twelve years, telling the story of a boy from six years old until he turns 18. Linklater is a fascinating filmmaker, and between the Before films and Boyhood he seems to be fascinated with capturing the passage of time cinematically. The obvious point of difference between the projects is that each of the Before films capture the central relationship at a single moment in time, and the passage of time is less important to each individual film than in how they work as a series of films, reflecting how the characters and relationships have changed and progressed in the years between each film that is significant. As a contrast, in Boyhood that passage of time is intrinsic to the film as it exists onscreen.

Then there’s Jodorowsky’s Dune, which I was particularly excited to see in the programme. Movie history is filled with stories of legendary projects that people worked on for years but that never eventuated, and one of those famed projects was Alejandro Jodorowsky’s adaptation of the novel Dune from the mid-70s. (Rather famously, H R Giger worked on the project, and supposedly some of his work in Dune was carried over into his design for the movie Alien.) And now they’ve made a documentary telling the story of this famed adaptation and why it was never made. That to me sounds like a fascinating film and one I’m excited to see.

Plus there’s just a bunch of other films that sound interesting to me.
* Locke is supposed to be great, and consists entirely of Tom Hardy by himself driving his car while having a bunch of phone conversations that reveal how his life is collapsing around him. That sounds like a challenging film to make, and I’m excited to see how well it works.
* Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter is a fictional film inspired by the urban legend about the Japanese girl who died trying to find the money that was lost at the end of the movie Fargo. (Also, it turns out that in the actual case the girl, Takako Konishi, wasn’t trying to find the treasure; that was just a misunderstanding, as she actually went to Minnesota  for the purpose of committing suicide following a failed love affair with someone from the area. A sad story.)
* There’s two different films about people meeting their doppelgangers – The Double stars Jesse Eisenberg ad was directed by Richard Ayoade, while Enemy stars Jake Gyllenhaal. Should be interesting to see how these film doppelgangers are similar and differ from each other.
* And then there are the films selected by the festival for their big nights. Last year I wasn’t interested in seeing The Great Beauty, and it wasn’t until earlier this year that I saw the film and regretted not seeing it at the Embassy. I’m not making that mistake again. Which is why I’m seeing The Wonders and Wild Tales, less because I’m interested in them and more because the festival decided to give them prominent placing. (I’m not seeing The Dark Horse, which has the Opening Night, because the trailers haven't impressed me, New Zealand film premiering as the opening night have a variable success rate, and because it’s going on general release at the same time, so if it’s well-received then I should be able to catch a screening elsewhere.)

At this point we’ve got less than two weeks until the festival starts. Very excited.

02 March, 2014

1133 minutes

So here's the thing,

Tomorrow we have the 86th Academy Awards, rewarding the "best in film" for the 2013 film year. Which means that, once again and for no readily apparent reason, I have an almost-wearyingly overlong post discussing my reactions to the nine Best Picture nominees.

[Spoilers for 12 Years A Slave, Gravity, American Hustle, The Wolf of Wall Street, Nebraska, Her, Philomena, Dallas Buyers Club, and Captain Phillips coming up after the break]

08 July, 2013

Rise of Suspense, laughter, violence, hope, heart, nudity, sex, happy endings... mainly happy endings

So here's the thing.

If you were passing by the Michael Fowler Centre last Tuesday at 5.45 in the morning, you'd have seen me, a lone figure, standing, waiting in anticipation of film festival tickets going on sale. By 6am, there were three people there. By 6.30am, five people.

And then a sixth person arrived. And this person was unusual. Firstly, each year you see the same people queuing for festival tickets, but I'd never seen this person before. Plus, the film festival attracts a certain type of person, and queuing for festival tickets attracts an even more specific type of person. This guy, I'm not wanting to judge him, but he did not look like a film festival type. But that's okay.

What did bother me was that this guy, rather than waiting at the end of the queue, decided to hang around by the front the queue, over by me. I've expressed my views in the past about the importance of following proper queue etiquette, so I was very disapproving of this, although I didn’t say anything at the time. But I did count the number of people that were there, working out his place in the queue, just in case it came to be an issue.

A bit of time passed, and then a conversation started to take place between those of us at the front of the queue with this guy. At one point, he himself commented that he was number six. (I am not a number! I am a free man!) So I was pleased by that comment, since it indicated he did not intend to queue-jump, he knew his position in the queue. But shortly after, as the conversation progressed, it became clear everyone was talking at cross-purposes. Where we all assumed he was waiting for film festival tickets, he had assumed we queuing three hours in advance for rugby tickets - tickets which had apparently gone on sale the day before, and which he apparently knew had gone on sale the day before. (I don’t understand why he would think that many people would queue so early for tickets that were already available, but never mind.)

The thing is, as soon as we discovered he was there for rugby tickets, everyone was saying “come in front of me”. Including me. Because the problem with people buying film festival tickets, especially those of us that queue on opening day, is that we’re not buying tickets to one event. We’re buying tickets to 20, 30, or more individual events, each of which has to be identified, searched for, seat selections made, and so on. (This year it took 25 minutes for me to get all my tickets.) It’s a long process, so when we discovered this guy needed tickets for one event, we were fine with him going ahead of us – he’ll be gone in two minutes, and there’s no reason to make him wait for 30 minutes to get to the front of the queue.

So, 9am comes, all five ticketing stations were open, and I start to get my tickets. So this year, I’ve bought tickets for:

- Blancanieves
- Utu Redux
- Wadjda
- Like Someone In Love
- Behind the Candelabra
- Stories We Tell
- Oh Boy
- The East
- Upstream Color
- The Spectacular Now
- Frances Ha
- The Past
- In the House
- The Selfish Giant
- The Bling Ring
- Ernest and CĂ©lestine
- North by Northwest
- Mud
- 2 Autumns, 3 Winters
- The Summit
- Mood Indigo
- To the Wonder
- Much Ado About Nothing
- Dial M For Murder (3D)
- Giselle
- The Act of Killing
- The Crowd
- Museum Hours
- You're Next

Plus I’m planning to hopefully leave work early one day to see Only Lovers Left Alive at a late afternoon screening.

There's a lot of films I'm excited about this year. For a start, there's Behind the Candelabra. Normally a biopic about Liberace wouldn't hold much interest for me, but since Steven Soderbergh has announced that he is retiring as a film director and this will be his last film, it immediately becomes a significant film that should be seen.

Earlier this year I watched all four of Sofia Coppola's previous film  over a week or two, and was really blown away at just how good she really is. (Her first film, The Virgin Suicides, in particular is just remarkable.) So I'm excited to see The Bling Ring, her adaptation of this fascinating Vanity Fair article about a group of kids who commit robberies of celebrities' houses. (I also need to point to this incredibly awful clip from an E! reality TV show following one of the real thieves, where she phones the writer of the VF article to complain about key inaccuracies in the article.)

Even if I weren't a Joss Whedon fan, I think I'd be interested in his Much Ado About Nothing, just because of the story behind the film. Whedon famously holds Shakespeare parties, where he gets together with his friends, actors he's worked with, and stages Shakespeare readings. He was planning a visit to Europe for his 20th wedding anniversary, in between the finish of filming of The Avengers and the start of editing. But his wife apparently visited him on set, saw how stressed he was, and suggested they cancel the holiday so that the famously workaholic Whedon could do something to relax. Which meant grabbing all his friends and filming an entire film adaptation of Much Ado in under a fortnight at his house.That's just an amusing story. The fact that reviews indicate it's a good film is almost an bonus.

Upstream Color was one of the first festival films to be announced this year, which made me very happy. It's the second film from Shane Carruth, a director whose brilliant low-budget first film, Primer, is an attempt to make a time travel film that treats the consequences of time travel seriously. (By which I mean that it requires diagrams to even begin to figure out what was going on in that film. Even so, I don't know what was going on.) I know nothing about what happens in Upstream Color, but based on Primer, I'm thrilled to find out.

Alfred Hitchcock is my favourite film director, so I'm excited to see two of his films at the Embassy. North By Northwest is obviously one of his best movies, but I was very pleased by the announcement that they are showing Dial M For Murder in 3D. I saw the 3D version a few years ago, when the Paramount had a mini-3D-festival that consisted of Dial M and the 50s House of Wax. Dial M For Murder doesn't have a lot of showy 3D moments (certainly not when compared to House of Wax with the famous paddle-ball scene), but he does use it to create an atmosphere very well, and the one big showy 3D moment comes at the suspense high-point in the film, in a way that amplifies the effect but doesn't make it feel gratuitous. It's easily my favourite 3D moment ever, and I'm looking forward to seeing that hand reach out of the Embassy screen.

Then there are the new films from Asghar Farhadi and Brit Marling. Both directors have really blown me away over the last couple of festivals - Farhadi's A Separation was my favourite film two years ago, while writer-actor Marling gave us some great low-budget thoughtful science fiction films in Another Earth and Sound Of My Voice in 2011 and 2012. I'm excited to see both of their new works. Rather irritatingly, the titles of the films differ only one letter - Farhadi has The Past, while Marling has The East. I can just see that I'm going to be getting those two films confused for the foreseeable future.

Everyone who has seen it seems to love (if that's the right word for it) The Act Of Killing, a rather horrific-sounding documentary in which a filmmaker interview members of Indonesian death squads about the people they murdered, and even gets them to stage reenactments of their killings in a manner that is interpreted by the killers through Hollywood films. It's a fascinating concept, with the potential to explore some interesting ideas not just about these particular deaths but also possibly the impact of cinema in the real world and the way it influences perceptions. I don't know that I'm looking forward to it, but since every review praises the film unreservedly, it will be an interesting watch.

I'm also glad to see the return of the Live Cinema event for the first time in a couple of years. Watching silent films with live accompaniment is a great experience, so I'm looking forward to The Crowd.

And then there are new films from Michel Gondry (Mood Indigo), and the suddenly prolific Terence Malick (To the Wonder). And there are a few films I've heard good things about: Mud, The Spectacular NowThe Selfish Giant, or Sarah Polley's documentary Stories We Tell that explores her family history.

I had an unusual experience this year trying to book tickets for the new cut of Utu (the official opening night film). Usually I can get very very good seats, close to the best in the cinema - after all, that's why I queue up. So I was shocked when the best seats I could get for Utu were in the second-to-last row of the Embassy - I've never had that before. That was two minutes after tickets went on sale. It turns out that there was a big block booking for filmmakers that took up a huge amount of the seats in the cinema. (I assume there's a similar explanation for my almost-as-poor seats for the screening of Giselle.) And that's all very well. But if so much of the cinema is going to be booked out (and something like that they MUST have known about well in advance), they really should have a extra screening of the film - and no, the off-peak screenings don't count.

I'm also disappointed by the absence of The Grandmaster. I've just started working my way through the films of Wong Kar Wai - I'm only two films in, but so far I'm enjoying it. I'd have loved to see his new film at the Embassy - it looks like a beautiful film that would have been remarkable on that screen- but it doesn't look like that's going to happen.

But beyond that, I found it a bit of a disappointing festival, at least at first glance. A couple of years ago, just reading the programme gave me a long-list of 50 films I wanted to see, and I was disappointed to have to cut it down to the 34 I eventually saw. This year, my initial pass through the programme left me with a list numbering in the teens. After a few more passes, borrowing from the lists of other people, and so on, I'm managed to pull together a list that makes me feel like I'm sufficiently taking advantage of the opportunity the festival offers. But I'm not as excited overall by this year as I have been in the past. Hopefully my excitement will amplify as I see all these films. We'll see.

25 February, 2013

1219 minutes

So here’s the thing.

Firstly, a disclaimer: I have been busy this past couple of months. Very busy. So busy that I haven’t really had the time to work on my Oscar post that I would normally do. Instead, I found myself throwing the odd paragraph together where I could find the time. So with ten minutes here and ten minutes there I've managed to cobble together this post – which is still surprisingly long for something so hurriedly written – but I haven’t really had much time to rework my writing, in the way that I normally would. (There are also other things I wanted to say but haven’t had the time to write them.) I would just try to find the time to fix this up, but the Oscars are on tomorrow, and I want to get this posted before then. So, what you'll find here is basically a first very-rough draft. Be prepared for some pretty clumsy and inelegant writing. Apologies for that.

[Spoilers for Les Misérables, Silver Linings Playbook, Life of Pi, Argo, Zero Dark Thirty, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Amour, Lincoln, and Django Unchained, after the break.]

22 July, 2012

Attack Redux

So here's the thing,

It's been over eleven months since the end of the 2011 film festival, and for that entire time I've had a post sitting here on the festival, effectively fully written, and I never quite got around to posting it because I couldn't be bothered with the effort involved in formatting it. But, with less than a week to go until this start of this year's festival, I really should get around to posting this.

In the past, I've written full posts about certain films, but I never got around to writing about all of the films I wanted to, and the time it took me to write them stretched out so long that, at times, by the time I was writing about them the films were already on DVD. So for the last year's festival, I wrote about all of the films on Facebook as I saw them. This post is those short comments, effectively my first impression shortly after seeing the films. I've tidied a few things things up, and have tried to clarify a few points that on reflection aren't clear, but mostly this is straight from my Facebook feed.

I should emphasise that these were written in haste, usually at midnight after a long day (or, by the end, two weeks of long days). I was usually exhausted when I sat down at my laptop to put these together. These comments are therefore by no means my best writing. While I've tried to fix the worst offences against the English language, it would involve a total rewrite to actually get these into a shape I'm totally happy with. Instead, here is a record of the year I saw an average of two films a day during the festival; my initial reaction, expressed only slighty less incoherently than they were when first written.

(Comments on 34 films, plus one short film, after the jump.)

03 July, 2012

Shadow of suspense, laughter, violence, hope, heart, nudity, sex, happy endings... mainly happy endings


So here's the thing.

I went away for the weekend, rather foolishly leaving my cellphone on my desk at work. Realising my mistake about twenty minutes out of Wellington, I considered returning to get it, but decided not to. If I went back I'd hit the bad Friday traffic on my way back out; besides, I can cope without a cellphone for a few days, and I can pick it up when I get back. So, on returning to the city on Monday, I made a special trip in to work, retireved my phone, and then put my keys in the ignition, and turned.

This one action will cost me hundreds and hundreds of dollars.

You see, the key became stuck, neither fully turning to start the ignition, nor turning back to allow me to retrieve the key. I eventually had to have the car towed to my mechanic's, leaving the key in the ignition of the unlocked car, safe in the knowledge that no-one will ever be able to actually steal the vehicle, but also aware that I was now facing a repair job that in all likelihood will not be cheap. I keep thinking "I knew I should have come back to pick up my phone. If I had done that, I wouldn't have had to do so on Monday night, and then my car would be fine." Which is absurd - the damage would have just occured some other time. And really, I was lucky it happened when I was in Wellington - had it happened earlier that day, I would have been stranded hours and hours away from home, But still, you can't help thinking "it might not have happened."

The other annoying thing about this is that today tickets went on sale for the film festival. Which meant I needed my car today to drive in to queue for film festival tickets. Instead, I had to catch the train at 4.30 in the morning. After dropping my gear off at work, and grabbing some breakfast from McDonalds, I arrived at the MFC Ticketek at 6.10am, wrapped in jersey, jacket, hat, gloves, and scarf, expecting to be first or second in the queue.

I was fifth.

And it was close to an hour before the sixth person arrived. I could have slept for an extra half hour or more, and it would not have affected my position in the queue in the slightest.

All this meant that, when it reached 9am, tickets went on sale, and they opened four tills for service, I was still waiting. The thing is, waiting in line for film festival tickets is awful. If you have a long line of people queueing for the rugby, those transactions can be over very quickly, because however many tickets are being bought, they're only being bought for one event. But the film festival? People buy tickets for 20, 30, 40 or more movies, each needing to be named, searched for, and seat allocation discussed and agreed. It takes a long time. Fortunately one woman was apparently buying lots of tickets to only a few films, so she was over quickly and I was able to start buying my tickets by 9.10am. But it was astonishing how quickly tickets went in those ten minutes. By the time I came to book my tickets, the really-good seats for the most popular films were already gone, and I had to make do with just good seats. (Sigh.) My life sucks.

I'm not seeing as many films as I did last year, which is probably wise (last year was brutal). I'm aiming for 28 films, rather than 34. Today I bought tickets for:

Beasts of the Southern Wild
* The Cabin In The Woods
* Moonrise Kingdom
* The Minister
* West of Memphis
* Room 237: Being an Inquiry into The Shining in 9 Parts
* The Imposter
* Bernie
* The Taste of Money
* Rebellion
* Your Sister's Sister
* Bonjour Tristesse
* Amour
* Side By Side
* From Up On Poppy Hill
* Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
* The Angels' Share
* Lore
* The Shining
* What's In A Name
* No
* Photographic Memory
* Searching for Sugar Man
* Sound Of My Voice
* Shadow Dancer

Plus I'm planning to try and catch late-afternoon off-peak screenings of The HuntDreams of a Life, and Holy Motors.

The most exciting part of this year's programme was the screening of The Shining, and the screening of the related documentary Room 237. I'm not normally a horror film fan, but there are a small number of horror films that I love, and Kubrick's film is at the top of that list. It's probably the horror film that I return to over and over and over again. The opportunity to see that film on the big screen is therefore a real thrill. I was also intrigued by the idea of the Room 237 documentary as soon as I heard about it - the film explores various theories that certain people have about the film, from the idea that the film is about the white man subjugating the native American population (a common theory, and one that probably has some justification), to the outlandish idea that the film contains Kubrick's confession to having been involved in faking the moon landing. Apparently the film also touches on the idea that the architecture of the Overlook Hotel is impossible; an idea I've been intrigued by ever since I heard about it in these two videos. I think this sounds like a fascinating documentary, and given the amount of footage from many many movies (not just The Shining), it's probably one that will be difficult to see outside of the festival.

I've got about four or five podcasts sitting on my iPod at the moment containing spoiler-filled discussions of the deconstructed horror film The Cabin In The Woods. It had been announced that that film was going straight to DVD in NZ, which genuinely astonished me (a film written by the writer/director of The Avengers, starring one of the Avengers, and starring someone else who is apparently a popular NZ TV star - do you really think there is no interest in this film in this country?). The festival at least offers a chance to see the film in a full house. I do know opinion on the film among critics that I follow has been divided, so it will be interesting to see where my opinion lies. Plus I can finally stop avoiding spoilers and listen to those podcasts.

I've loved Wes Anderson's films ever since Rushmore, but the problem with his films is that he has such a distinctive cinematic voice that his films really can feel the same. By the time of The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou and The Darjeeling Limited, it would be fair to say he was losing some of his spark. But working in stop-motion animation for Fantastic Mr Fox was perfect for him, since he works mainly in small details, and stop-motion is ALL small details. The resulting film was both recognisably Wes Anderson, and something very different. Now he returns to live-action with Moonrise Kingdom, and is getting some of his best reviews in years, including from critics that don't really like him. So I'm excited about that.

I'd not heard about the West Memphis Three until they were released, at which point I sought out the original Paradise Lost documentaries (I've not seen the third film yet, although I want to). But even by the end of the second film, it did feel like those filmmakers had covered as much ground as they could, so it will be interesting to watch West of Memphis, and see what a new documentary filmmaker brings to this story of a miscarriage of justice.

I've heard great things about Bernie, a true story about the most popular guy in town and how, when he murdered the most unpopular person in town, the entire town rose up to support him. It's apparently played as comedy, which seems awkward for a real event that resulted in a real death, but the reviews (including this video review from the great Battleship Pretension) seem to suggest that the humour is inherent in the story and the people themselves, rather than being an artificial element introduced by the filmmakers. Also, Jack Black is apparently very good and very un-Jack-Black, which will be interesting - Black is an appealing screen presence, and I look forward to seeing him exercise his acting ability in a different direction.

I am seriously conflicted about the rise of digital projection. On the one hand, the technology has advanced to the point that it gives a very good, clean image that doesn't degrade over repeated viewings like film. I've recently enjoyed a run of classic films digitally projected at the Embassy, and at the same time there was a short run of Humphrey Bogart films at the Paramount. It was striking to leave a perfect pristine digital projection of It Happened One Night or Gone With The Wind, and walk into a musty damaged 35mm print of The Big Sleep, at times jumping a few seconds as we passed by frames that had been spliced out. So digital offers a real improvement to the cinema experience, and it's exciting. But, as I discussed when writing about the film Hugo, there are real risks around moving digitally. In 50 years time a physical piece of film will still be able to be run through a projector, but a hard drive containing a movie will have degraded, and file formats will be out of date. The only reason we cannot reconstruct the complete cut of The Magnificent Ambersons is because a deliberate decision was made to burn the negatives of the extra scenes. In the future, important films (which are often not recognised in their own times) may be lost, not be deliberate choice, but just through inactivity. All of which are issues I hope to see explored in Side By Side, a documentary about the transition of the movie industry into digital production and projection.

There are plenty of films praised by people I respect: The Angels' Share, Your Sister's Sister, The Imposter, and Searching for Sugar Man. If a critic you trust really likes a film, give it a chance.

And then there are the films by people whose work I've liked in the past.
I found last year's Another Earth to be an intriguing low-budget science-fiction film, so am interested in Brit Marling's new film Sound Of My Voice, about a cult surrounding a woman who may be from the future.
I run very hot-and-cold on Michael Haneke's films (I've discussed my intense hatred of both versions of Funny Games, and didn't care for Time Of The Wolf, but loved films like Code Unknown, Cache, and The White Ribbon), but he is a master filmmaker, and even in a film I hate like Funny Games he displays an incredible talent for compelling filmmaking, so his new film Amour was essential.
The film society several years ago showed a series of documentary films by Ross McElwee, and his films should be incredibly self-indulgent (his best-known film, Sherman's March, started out as a film about the impact of Sherman's March through the South during the Civil War, but ultimately was a film about McElwee's love life), but they still somehow work. I'm therefore curious to see his new film, Photographic Memory, in which he deals with issues around his 21 year old son by revisiting the location of a key event from his youth.
Plus there's a new Studio Ghibli film. While I didn't particularly care for Goro Miyazaki's first film (Tales from Earthsea), it was mostly because I didn't engage with that fantasy world. Perhaps the realistic setting of From Up On Poppy Hill could be different.

And then there are the films that just sound interesting. A drama about the person running the No vote in a referendum on whether Pinochet should remain as dictator of Chile (No)? A story about children heavily indoctrinated in Nazi ideology making a long journey immediately after WWII (Lore)? A dinner party that collapses into chaos after one of the guests announces his soon-to-be-born child's name (What's In A Name)? I'm curious to see these films.

Now I just have to wait a few weeks for the festival to start. And hope the car repairs don't cost too much.

26 February, 2012

64 percent

So here's the thing.

For the last few years I’ve made sure to see all of the Best Picture Oscar nominees prior to the ceremony. This year, for the first time since 2007, I failed. In the time between the nomination announcement and the ceremony, I’ve had to move house, plus I’ve had heavy work commitments, and the various time pressures involved in these made it simply impossible to find the time to see all those other films. As a result, I’ve had to focus my attention on the five nominees that also had a directing nomination, on the basis that those are the ‘real’ nominees, and abandon the notion of seeing the "also-rans".

And so, as I have the last few years, here are my thoughts on the films I've seen. A bit of a disclaimer though: this post is a bit rough - it was written in a bit of a rush, for pretty much the same reasons that I didn't manage to see all the films, and I didn't have time to rework my thoughts. But in any case, here it is.

(Comments on The Artist, Hugo, Midnight in Paris, The Tree of Life, The Descendants, plus War Horse follow after the jump.)

03 January, 2012

Willy silly nilly all stuffed with fluff

So here's the thing.

I've complained about the Stuff website in the past, criticising their awful advertising campaign about the timeliness of their news coverage, as well as pointing out when they fell short of that target by publishing an article some ten months after it was even vaguely newsworthy.

So imagine how I felt when I loaded up the website yesterday, Monday 3 January 2012, to find this on the front page...

Zooey Deschanel's Disney challenge
Zooey Deschanel has taken on the daunting task to write a song for a Winnie the Pooh movie.


...with a link through to this article.

Sigh.

So, when you talk about "a Winnie the Pooh" film, is there any possibility you could be talking about this "Winnie the Pooh" film with a song from Zooey Deschanel's musical group She and Him? Surely not. Surely this news article from a news website that prides itself on getting the story first is not going to be about a movie that was released in the UK some nine months ago and the US six months ago, right? I mean, for a start, where is the news value in a story about a nine-month old film. You know who also knows about how Zooey Deschanel has taken on the daunting task of writing a song for the film? My three-year old niece, because she's heard the song, because I bought the film for her as a Christmas present.

I mean, really, Stuff. When is the statute of limitations on front page news? What's the next front-page story? George Lucas has taken on the task of making prequels to his hit Star Wars trilogy? Pixar has taken on the task of making an animated film entirely using computer-generate animation? Al Jolson is going to be starring in a film that will miraculously have both pictures and synchronised sound?

So I open up the article, and I read the opening paragraph:

Writing a song for a Disney animated film puts a songwriter into a long and legendary line that has produced 30 nominations and 10 wins going back to When You Wish Upon a Star in 1940.

Really? 30 nominations and 10 wins? Wow... umm... errr... nominations and wins for what, exactly? I mean, I assume you're talking about the Oscars, since there is a reference in the fourth paragraph to her writing "So Long, one of the film's two Oscar entries", and When You Wish Upon A Star did win the Oscar. But you need to actually define what you're talking about. After all, there are a lot of other award shows you could be talking about: indeed, the article could be talking about the Grammys (for which the song in question has actually been nominated, which could would have been newsworthy back when it was announced a month ago). But I don't think that is what they are talking about, since the word "Grammy" is never used in the article. It could be the Golden Globes, but I doubt it since those nominations were already announced and the song wasn't nominated (plus, you know, it's the Golden Globes, and they're entirely worthless). So it must be the Oscars. So why not just say "30 Oscar nominations and 10 wins"? Does adding that one word make the paragraph too unwieldy?

Here's another bit I love:

...actress and singer-songwriter Zooey Deschanel ... couldn't exactly ignore that history when she was drafted to contribute to this year's Disney version of the A.A. Milne stories.

This year's version? Here's a suggestion, Stuff. Take down the "Cute Cats of 2011" calender you still have on your wall, and go out and buy the "Cute Cats of 2012" calender.

I just don't see what's newsworthy about this article that makes it worthy of the front page of your website. I mean, the film is nine months old right now, the article isn't timed to a local release (since the DVD has been available here for a month or two), and while that opening paragraph seems to hint at a connection to the Oscars, it's not a subject that's really revisited in the article, and besides, the actual nominations don't come out for another three weeks (24 January 2012). And who knows, the song she wrote may not even be nominated - after all, there were 39 songs able to be nominated this year. So this is an article that exists solely as a speculative thing - something that they published on the off-chance that it might become relevant at some point in the future.

(Alternatively, and frankly this is the most likely explanation, it's probably a article that Disney had written for the LA press to try and increase the likelihood of getting an Oscar nomination. But again, that makes it promotional, not news, so why is it worthy of space on the front page of your news website?)

Here's another thing. You see that line of three photos I have lining the right side of this post. That is taken exactly as it appeared on the Stuff website. Yes, the Stuff website felt the need to publish three versions of the exact same photo, one above another above another, each with different cropping, complete with captions that involve (a) a repetition of the annoying "daunting task" phrase, (b) an awful Winnie-the-Pooh/Jungle-Book crossover joke, and (c) just a identification of the photo's subject, in case you couldn't work out that it's Zooey Deschanel from the other two identical photos that also identify her. I enjoy looking at Zooey Deschanel as much as the next guy, but even a picture of Zooey gets boring after the third time I look at it. (The Stuff people clearly also realised this - they changed it this morning, so now only one photograph appears.)

Look, I love Zooey Deschanel. She always comes across as having a very winning and sweet personality, managing to somehow be a non-annoying version of a manic pixie dream girl. I own and enjoy the first two She and Him albums (although not even Zooey could get me to buy their Christmas album). And frankly, if I were to ever meet her and somehow retained the power of speech, I suspect the first thing I said to her really would be "When did you first know you were adorable?" So it's not unenjoyable reading about her.

And it's not an awful article - at least, not when compared to that incompetent Chloe Moretz article. Sure, as I have pointed out it has its flaws, but it generally stays on topic, is clear, makes good use of quotations, and is enjoyable to read as far as "vote for us" Oscar puff pieces go.

And I love the 2011 "Winnie the Pooh" film, which is sweet and funny and innocent and faithful to the books, not just in their events but in their tone. (The only thing I didn't like about the film is the character design, which deviates wildly from the idea that these are 1920s-era toys - but that's actually a problem I have with the original 60s-era Disney design decisions, not with this specific film.) I am genuinely sad that the film flopped, and am actually happy with anything that leads people to discover that there is this really good film out there.

But this isn't news. And I don't see what is so unreasonable about expecting a news website to highlight actual news on its front page. Hell, put the story about Russell Brand and Katy Perry getting divorced on the front page. That may be pure gossip, but at least it involves something that actually happened in the past week or so, and can therefore be defensibly described as "current events." But this? As far as "news" goes, this is just a waste of everyone's time.

And yes, I'm aware that as much time as I wasted reading that article looking for news, I've wasted a hundred times as much time writing this post complaining about the article. But what's the point of having an infrequently updated blog if you can't waste time writing about whatever random things I want to write about. That's the point of a blog. Just don't call your blog a news website.

16 August, 2011

Fill in the blank: All for one and one for ___

So here's the thing.

As I commented in an earlier post, I was recently in Australia, pursuing a higher educational opportunity. And I had a great time - the course was great, challenging, enjoyable. And the other participants on the course were great, even if they were all Australian.

So one night, there was a dinner scheduled for all the participants. The food was great, the company even better, and as we left the dinner venue at 9.30pm, it seemed too soon for the night to end. But it was Monday night, and the town was dead. Nowhere was open, except for this one Irish bar just down the street a little bit. The place was more or less empty - you could count the number of patrons on your fingers - but they served drinks, they had a table that could accommodate all of us, and they had a messy-haired red-headed guy in denim overalls playing "Proud Mary" and "Mrs Robinson" on the guitar. The nine of us pulled a couple of tables together, and started enjoying the evening. Drinks were drunk, songs were sung along with, we all even got up at one point and danced. And it was fun; it seemed like nothing could harm the joyful mood of that night. We were so young, so innocent, so naive. So wrong.

By this point, the night was getting on. The music had finished, the place had even fewer people around than before. And then this guy walks up to the table and starts talking to me in an American accent. "I'd like to buy you a drink because it's the 4th of July." I look at the middle-aged guy, who is wearing what looks like a naval military uniform. And he's unbelievably sweaty; you almost felt sick looking at the guy. "No thanks," I said. I was happy with my orange juice, and was certainly not interested in any drinks bought by this strange man. He then addresses the entire table. "I'd like to buy you all a drink to celebrate the 4th of July, my country's Independence Day, and it's also my independence day because after 25 years I am retiring from the navy." People looked at him, said "No thanks," and hoped he'd leave, because he seemed weird. But he didn't leave; instead, he stayed, repeated the offer, at one point even commenting "I don't know what's so difficult to understand about this. I want to buy you all a round of drinks." Eventually a few people agreed, mostly I suspect because the guy clearly wasn't going to accept any kind of "No" answer. We did send someone down to help him with the drinks/make-sure-he-doesn't-do-anything-to-them, just to be safe. So the guy comes back with a round of tequila shots for us all. I tried to insist, "No thank you, I said I'm happy with my orange juice, I said I didn't want you to buy me a drink, so I think I'll..."

And as I was speaking, I happened to glance at the guy and realised something with a shock. The guy had a sword. A real, solid, metal sword. Was it sharp? Who knows. I certainly wasn't inspecting the blade terribly closely to determine. All I knew was that this strange man had decided to come to a bar carrying a sword. This is unusual behaviour, and who knows what else a person who does that might do. It was at this point that I also developed a new rule: Never decline a tequila shot from a guy with a sword. I took it, downed it with everyone - ohmyGOSHitwasawful - thanked the guy very much, and hoped he would leave.

But he did not. He stayed around, talking to us for a few more minutes, asked us about the course that we were on, and demonstrated that he was surprisingly knowledgeable on the core subject matter. Whatever the guy's story was, he was certainly well-informed to a degree that few people would be. And he talked about his career in the navy - although we're not sure how true any of it was, because at one point he claimed to be an admiral, while another point he said he was a former spy (because if there's one thing spies are known for, it's revealing that they're spies).

But eventually he decided to leave. He saluted us, one of us saluted him back, and he left. According to one of the bar staff, he was heard to say, as he left, "I'm sick of having to entertain these communist fuckwits." Which seemed like an unusual response - I don't think anyone said anything indicating any communist tendencies (if anything he was the one taking his wealth and redistributing it to the masses, if only in the form of tequila shots), and I certainly would regard myself as being some distance from the communist end of the political sphere. So frankly, that comment offended me. Plus there was the whole calling-us-fuckwits thing, which probably wasn't a positive comment either. Still, he was gone now, and we could get back to enjoying our evening. After all, it's not like he's going to come back or anything.

Fifteen minutes pass, and all of a sudden he's by our table again. And he still has his sword. Now, can I just point out, this means the bouncers let a guy carrying sword into a bar, not once, but TWICE. That does not seem like an appropriate approach to security in a place where there is a reasonable risk that the patrons may become intoxicated. In any case, he's standing by me, still sweaty and creepy, addressing the whole group, proposing that we play a game of Twenty Questions. A couple of people agreed (I'm not sure why - curious where this was going, perhaps?), and the game started. It quickly became clear that this was not the game of Twenty Questions as you know it. This was, in fact, merely some bizarre pub quiz, where the guy would just throw out question after question. "What are the colours on the Torres Strait Island flag?" "What year was the American constitution signed?" "What is the full name of the ANZUS pact? (And a supplementary question: would America really come to Australia's aid if it were attacked? Of course they would! Why do you think I'm here?)" There were some people in the group (mostly the people on the other side of the table) that were playing along with the game. There were some people (mostly those down the far end of the table) that decided to just ignore this and carry on their own conversations. And then there was me, sitting right by the guy with the sword, desperately wanting him to please just go away. I took to having my recently-refilled glass of orange juice up to my lips the whole time but sipping it very slowly, just so that my arm would be raised to protect my throat should he swing the sword at me. Then the guy turns to me, asks me a question about Australian history. "I don't know," I say defensively. "I'm from New Zealand." "Oh," he says. "Then I've got a question for you." He then fires a question about the Treaty of Waitangi at me. I cannot remember what the question was now, but at the time my mind managed to dredge up an answer that satisfied the guy, because he announced to everyone "This guy is good, he knows his stuff, and you should all have him as a role-model." I was just relieved, since hopefully his approval meant that he wouldn't be tempted to swing his sword at me. Still, there's no way I'm lowering my drink.

But as the game carried, the guy started to get more and more aggravated. There were the people who were playing the game, but who challenged his questions. They felt the questions were unclear or imprecise, capable of several answers, but when they'd try to clarify a point, the guy would tense up. "The question was perfectly clear; it doesn't need clarification; what's your answer?" he would bark. Whenever someone challenged him, you could see how tense he was getting, if only because he started banging the sword into the ground - which was horrible, because the sword was uncomfortably close to my foot. Of even more concern to the guy was the group of people at the other end of the table - the people who were ignoring him and trying to carry on their own conversations. "I'm really sorry, I'd love to hear your answers to the question, but I can't hear you because SOME people at the table are being RUDE and are TALKING loudly." This prompted one person to confront the guy. "Who do you think you are? We didn't ask you to come and talk to us, but here you are, making demands, controlling how we enjoy our evening." By the end of her speech she was standing up and yelling at the guy, and all the while I'm sitting thinking "Please, can we not antagonise the guy with the sword?"

But it seemed to work. He clearly decided he'd had enough and left us, wandering over to talk to the woman at the bar, who at this point was pretty much the only other person in the place. There was understandably some concern about her safety - someone even went up to her and checked she knew what she was doing; she said she was fine - but when we last saw the two of them, they were walking up the street together, and she had the sword. (And there were no stories in the news the next day about anyone being slashed to death with a sword, so I assume she was fine.)

Meanwhile it was midnight at this point, so I excused myself, and returned to my hotel room - it was late, I was tired, and I needed to send a few work emails before going to bed. Another guy left - he'd apparently met a girl who invited him to a party. The rest of the group didn't want the night to end, so they all walked off to the nearby casino. I am told, however, that they never made it inside the casino, because they discovered that one of the group had had her wallet stolen while at the bar. It wasn't until the next day's class that we met up with the guy who had left for the other party, and heard that (a) there was no party, and all the bars they went to were closed, (b) the girl was insane, and (c) she kept going on about identity theft for some reason. So now we were pretty certain she is the wallet thief - unfortunately, we had no idea who she was, so I don't think it was possible to follow that up.

Arriving at class the next day, I told the story to the lecturer, who initially asked if this was some kind of joke, and who I think only believed it actually happened when the third group of people came in talking about the guy with the sword. When he heard that this all happened at this particular bar, his response was simply "That sounds right. If I'd known you were going there, I'd have advised against it. It's a bad place."

We know.

20 July, 2011

Better late than never

So here's the thing.

This is actually a post I wrote over a year ago, back in May 2010, but for some reason never actually finished. I came across it recently, and was surprised to find it was almost completed - it literally just required the final paragraph to be added - so I'm not sure why I never got around to adding that final touch. So I've added a final paragraph, and have made a couple of minor editorial changes, but otherwise this is the post as I wrote it at the time, while the incident was still fresh in my mind. Enjoy.

--------------------


So here's the thing.

I think a lot of us go through life with these self-illusions, or perhaps delusions is the proper word, about how we would respond to particular situations. We imagine ourselves responding to urgent situations with a blinding deftness and a quickness to resolve whatever problems arise. We really are the heroes of our imaginations. So, for instance, every now and then (being the paranoid person that I am) I find myself wandering through the house at 1am, checking all the doors and the windows in the house because for some reason I have a horrible feeling that tonight someone will break in. And on those occasions, I start to wonder what I would do if some intruder did break into my house, and in my mind, the answer is always the same. I have a cricket bat that a former flatmate gave me as a Christmas present, and it happens to sit by my bedroom door. (It's not there because of this whole imagined situation; that's just the most convenient place to keep it.) So, if someone were to break in, I would have a weapon easily to hand. I would sneak out, surprise the intruder, a couple of quick blows to the head, knock the guy to the ground, then if he happens to have a gun I would take that gun and shoot him in the kneecap (just to incapacitate him), and there we are. Problem solved. The problem is, that's a scenario that comes from watching too many action films, one where I'm basically imagining myself as a marginally more humane John McClane, and I'm not sure I look that good in a singlet.

So it's Sunday morning, and I'm going to church, because that's what I do on Sunday morning. Now, as I've said before, I'm not usually that good at being on time to anything really, but this week I was doing pretty well, in that I was only twenty minutes late for the service. (As a general rule, I feel I'm doing well if I'm less than half-an-hour late for most things.) So I walk into the church, which was pretty much full, very few empty seats, and those few that were empty were generally in the middle of a row. But there was this one empty seat at the end of a row, sitting next to this girl. I walk up, quick "Hello is this seat saved no may I thanks," and now I have a seat.

So the sermon starts, and this week it's all about Deborah and Jael, which is a pretty interesting story. (If you're not familiar with it, you can read it here.) Basically, the story reaches its culmination with one of the characters, a woman called Jael, offering to hide the bad guy, Sisera, in her tent while she stands guard outside. Then, while Sisera sleeps, Jael takes a big heavy wooden tent peg and a hammer, holds the tent peg above his head, and then hammers the peg through his brains. (Incidentally, there are some really interesting stories in the Bible. Also, when I read the Bible these days I'm really shocked at how young I was when I got my first proper non-kids Bible.)

So the sermon is going on, and the person preaching was reading the passage about this death, when I saw some commotion about five rows in front of me. Basically, this guy collapsed in his seat, and the people around rushed to help him. Now, I'm not proud of the fact that my first response to this event was mild amusement at the thought of this person having fainted at the graphic description of the death of Sisera. But my amusement was very quickly tempered by the realisation that this was serious. There was a circle of people surrounding the guy, shielding him from view, which is appropriate - there's something unpleasant about the idea of people sitting and watching like spectators while someone is in serious medical trouble. But despite the circle of people, I could see the guy's hand, which was as close to white as I have ever seen a person's skin. Seeing that really made me anxious for this person, and I pretty much spent the next ten minutes just sitting in my chair, more or less ignoring the rest of the sermon and just quietly praying for him, because what else am I going to do. I figured the guy is probably more or less okay, since the person preaching noted the commotion, and was given a "carry on preaching" signal. (I don't know what they would do if he had died, but it certainly wouldn't be to continue with the sermon.) After about ten minutes, the guy sat up, was helped to his feet, and then walked supported out of the auditorium. So that was a relief. I don't know what happened to him after he left, but when he left he seemed weakened but okay. In any case, the excitement of the service seemed over.

So a little time passes - it's maybe five or ten minutes later, everything seemed normal, when the girl in the seat next to me collapses onto my shoulder. Surprised, I turn to look at her. Her head was rolled back, her eyes vacantly staring, her mouth open. She was shaking, but I don't know whether I remember noticing that or whether it's something that I only think I remember because her friend mentioned it later. All I knew was that she was having a seizure ........... help. What the hell do you do with a seizure? I remember learning what to do back when I did a first aid thing at intermediate school, but that was twenty years ago. I can't remember what time my church starts, how am I supposed to remember something I learned one time when I was 12 years old? And for some reason, it never occurs to me to try and put the girl on the ground, even though that's what I watched everyone do not twenty minutes ago. Instead, for no readily apparent reason I tried to push her back into a sitting position. Meanwhile I turned and waved frantically at a nearby usher, "Get someone!" It's at this moment that events start to blur, and I have no memory of anything that happened. All I can remember is how completely pathetic and ineffectual my response was under pressure. I think I just sat there, holding her upright, thinking "What the hell do I do now?" I remember her friend calling the girl's name at her, trying to get a reaction, but even though I heard her name a good ten or twelve times, two minutes later I had no idea what her name was, and I still don't remember. At some point, I got out of my seat, but I don't know why, and I certainly cannot work out why I thought it was a good idea for me to kneel on the ground beside my seat. (Seriously, the girl is sitting in her seat; what good is kneeling on the floor going to be?) Fortunately within a minute, the paramedic arrived - he was still outside responding to the previous guy who collapsed. And by this time, the girl was starting to recover, which was a relief.

So they went outside, I stayed inside the church, because I'm not going to follow them, because she doesn't want some stranger hanging around. Anyway, she seemed fine now, which I was relieved about, and she had someone there who actually knew what they were doing, as opposed to my ineffectual waffling about. But then the paramedic wanted to talk to me, wanted some more information about what had happened, which really made me feel awkward because I couldn't answer his questions because I had no idea what happened. I remembered the initial shock I had on seeing her, and that was literally all I could recall. And then, having been completely useless at answering any questions, I was unsure what to do. I couldn't go back into the service, since it was just finishing, but it seemed callous and uncaring to just leave. So she was sitting there, talking to her friend, slowly recovering. Meanwhile I stood a distance away, just mulling around in the post-service crowd, anxiously watching her but trying not to be creepy about it (I mean I'm legitimately involved, but still), I'm worried about her, is she going to be okay, I think so, she looks fine now, all at the same time feeling incredibly guilty over my completely ineffectual response. After a couple of minutes she gets up and leaves in the ambulance, along (I assume) with the first guy that collapsed. In any case, I was glad when she left, since I no longer needed to worry about how one behaves around someone who collapsed onto you and who you were utterly useless in helping.

In any case, I now know what to do when someone has a seizure. You roll them onto their side, cushion their head, and keep their airway open. So now the action man that I am is prepared for two eventualities: house burglars or people having seizures. Now I just need to try to keep the two procedures clear in my mind. (Key thing to remember: if someone is having a seizure, do not hit them on the head with a cricket bat.)