Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Firework (Bring On The Wonder)

Hello all,
The end of the year, to me, has always been a celebration of the previous 12 months. It’s the time I bid a farewell to the events and moments that have shaped my life, consigning them to the memory box in my head. Admittedly, this is a neat idea, which doesn’t really have any true basis in reality; the events we remember most and wish to say goodbye to are the most monumental, the ones we can’t forget even if we tried. There is no way to simply consign them to memory, but I like to try.
   That’s why at the end of every year, I create my best of lists. It’s not simply to act as a list of recommendations of things which I liked and think other people would enjoy. No, it’s far more than that. It’s a way of acknowledging the importance that these pop culture artefacts have had within my life within that year. That’s why I call them my favourite shows. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re the best. For example, Grey’s Anatomy was one of my favourite shows this year, but I couldn’t say it was the best show I watched. On the opposite scale of things, True Detective was, objectively, one of the best things I watched this year, it just wasn’t my favourite. It didn’t have anywhere near the same sort of impact on my life.
   Let’s use Grey’s Anatomy as an example. It was a show I started in January because I’d heard it had good music and thought it was alright, but I kept putting the rest of the series aside. That was until July when my boyfriend, Finn, was admitted to hospital. The same week I found myself similarly sick and bedridden. Unable to help by visiting him in hospital and feeling more useless than ever, I didn’t think anything could help. And then, when I was feeling a little better, I saw the second season of Grey’s on my shelf and thought that it might help. I don’t really know why (my working theory is that it’s about doctors and the bae was in hospital) but I put it on and it made me feel better. There was still that lingering sense of uselessness but this show made me feel better because it gave me a reason to get emotional. With its deeply upsetting storylines (Denny Duquette, for example), I finally had a reason to cry. I had a time to allow myself to deal with every emotional thing that happened to me over that and the following months.
   Because in a lot of ways this year hasn’t really been easy. I began more depressed and emotional than I’d ever been before. I doubted and hated everything about myself, from the way I looked to the way I felt and the awkward way I moved. It felt like there would be no respite. Chaos in family life was represented by a chaos in my own mind. Nothing went right, but I every day I kept putting on a straight face. I kept pretending to everyone that knew me that I was okay, that I wasn’t breaking inside. Somehow, I felt that would make me a burden and I’d lose every one I’d fought to become close to. And then finally, without warning, something snapped.
   I let it go. I let the pain free. I let people know that something was wrong, that I was on the precipice of doing something horrible to myself and that I needed people to pull me back, because I was afraid of my own mind. And I know it worried the people who cared for me, but I also know that they would prefer it this way.
   I could never have imagined what happened next. When I was at my lowest point, I got drunk and told the guy I’d had a mild crush on for the past year that I liked him. Looking back on it, it’s not exactly a romantic story, not something to tell the grandkids about without plenty of eye-rolling, but it’s also weirdly fitting. Me, this awkward, broken person who refused to let anyone in, to know the real pain deep inside my soul, was finally able to let go when I was drunk as hell. It’s certainly not a cliché. Multiple Passionate Man Kisses, perfect dates and sexy shenanigans later, I ended up with a boyfriend, who made me happier than a puppy in a pit of tennis balls (never letting it go).
  I’m not going to make this a ‘boyfriend’ post. I’m not going to talk about all the perfect moments we’ve spent together or about how much I love him or how he’s made me a more confident, braver and all-round better person, because you already know that bit. I’m not even going to talk about the hard parts of love, like how he’s there for me and loves me even when my mind goes all kamikaze.
   Other things did happen apart from getting a boyfriend, a lot of other things. Dad got physically sick which caused him to end up in hospital with a mental breakdown brought on by his bipolar (his first major one since I was very young), something which he is still recovering from. I turned 20 and realised that I had no idea what I was doing with my life. I had writerly doubts so severe that I seriously considered dropping out of my Uni course, something which continues to plague me (hence, the lack of blog posts, sort of). And those doubts spread to full-on super-sadness, only alleviated when I was with Finn but made 12 times worse when he wasn’t there, which made me finally realise that I needed serious professional help.
   That last one’s probably been one of the more personally challenging. While I’ve seen a succession of counsellors over the years, each one failed to help me deal with my problems (because that ain’t a counsellor’s job and because I wasn’t mentally ready to do that), because it was far too terrifiying. I had no support system to catch me and remind me that there is more to me than being broken. But then I got a boyfriend and he told me that I was amazing, perfect and he loved me no matter what, and I suddenly had the freedom to confront years of emotional trauma. In a way, that’s what this blog has been, talking about my crazy, crazy mind in a more general sense. But with this support in place, and knowing that I had to do it in order to actually move on with my life, I began facing problems, not hiding them, not bottling them up. I began to confront the one thing I’d never wanted to confront; my diagnosis with Asperger’s. This has been the year I finally started working towards becoming a mentally healthier individual.
   So, while it hasn’t been an easy year by any measure, it has been the best one I’ve ever had. Which is a bit weird, because for most people I know 2014 has sucked. Hell, each member of my family basically wrote the same thing on one another’s Christmas cards (ie; this year has sucked, but I believe next year will be better). But for me, it’s been my most important year.
   Like I said earlier, though, this year can’t be simply folded up and put into my box of memories. There are loose ends, lingering things that are going to continue to become more and more important as next year progresses.
   It’s hard to know what 2015 will be like. It’s my last year of Uni (excluding honours if I get the opportunity to do that) and the one where I have to decide what I’m going to do with my life. That doesn’t mean that my plan won’t change, but I need to have some direction. I’d also like to work on some flaws of mine that have come out since dating Finn (judging people, being bossy as hell, being unorganised in every way, not eating enough), but that might be pushing it a bit.
   I like to think that at the end of 2015, I’ll look back on this post and realise how much I’ve changed. I’ll take a moment to linger on the past before looking forward to the future. That’s what this time of the year means to me.
   So, I’d like to take a moment to extend my personal thanks and gratitude to Feminism for making me see the world in a new light, the two laptops, phone and website that have died in service to me this year, Belle for being an awesome friend, Colin for liking me before it was cool, Simon for being the most interesting person I’ve ever met, Sabrina for being there for me and giving me so many opportunities, this blog for being a place to get my voice heard and everyone who has ever read this blog. Just knowing that there are people who like and are touched by my silly, badly worded, awkward musings on my weird and emotional life makes me so happy.

What the hell’s going on, Jim?
Well, Steve, we’re back by popular demand, that’s what!
But why, Jim?
I think it might be because I sense David G.B. Watson’s heart swelling. I can sense...
What can you sense, Steve?
Well, I could be wrong, but it feels like...
Oh no, it can’t be, Steve.
I’m afraid it is, Jim. David’s post is about to descend into SUPER, SAPPY EMOTIONAL BOYFRIEND TALK!!!!!!!!!!
NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Steve, we have to stop this!
Oh, do we really? He’s been so good. He didn’t even mention him heavily throughout the rest of the piece. Can’t we just give him this one indulgence?
No. No boyfriend talk.
Fine, then you can just skip forward a couple of paragraphs. I’ll let you know when to come back. You’re so unromantic, Jim.
You love me.
Shut up, Jim. Now, with him gone, we can descend into the tunnel of love. Oh, don’t worry about Jim. Not everything in this blog has to mean something to everyone, sometimes it’s more important to do something that means everything to just one person...

   So, Finn. I’ve said so many things to you this past year. I’ve told you I loved you and I adored you and that you’re perfect and the most truly amazingly beautiful person I’ve ever known. There’s nothing I can say here that I haven’t already said in the eight months since when we started dating (especially, considering the two short essays on the cards for your birthday and Christmas). I don’t even know what to say. When I used to I look at you, right into your eyes, I had to turn away. The honesty was too much, the beauty and the perfection was just unbearable. Now, I can’t turn away. The mere thought that someone as amazing as you could love me still seems a little odd in (what appears to be) moments of clarity (when they’re actually moments of evil mind) and I still don’t know why. But whatever is you see in me, I am so glad you do, because every time I see the way you look at me, the way you hold me, the way you kiss me, the way you love me, a little piece of my heart starts liking me a little more and loving you a ton more. Some of the most perfect moments I’ve spent with you are the quietest ones, but few of them are as awesome as making out to Slipknot’s ‘Snuff’. It was the most perfect moment I’ve ever had and the happiest I’ve ever been. But in truth, every moment I’m with you is joyous. You’re perfect and I’m crying while writing this cause happy tears. Before you, I cried tears of pain. Now, I cry with tears of true, complete freedom and happiness. You are a miracle and I love you. I love you so, so, so, so much. I can’t wait to see the new year in with you and to spend the rest of the year and beyond with you, my love, my everything. You are the best thing that’s ever been mine.

Do I notice a tear there, Jim?
Not at all. Far too romantic, silly, Steve. Silly.
Yeah, right. Anyway, for all you readers, normal service is now about to resume. Don’t you worry about us. We’ll be back very, very soon. Until then, Jim and I shall be doing unromantic things together.
Will you shut up, Steve?
Make me.

Those two are always interrupting, but they will be coming back, as they said. Next week, they’ll be hosting the second annual NSV (formerly TMT) Awards. Over five days, I’ll be talking about my favourite music, books, television shows and films I experienced in 2014. Next week will also see a couple of special announcements which I’ve been working on for a long time, but more about that soon.
   My plans for this blog moving into 2015 are slightly different than this year. While I aimed to write a blog post every week (which worked for a while), it eventually became impossible with events becoming too personal to talk about in a way that I felt would do justice to them. That’s why in 2015, I’m aiming to instead do at least one blog post a month. If that proves successful, I may write one every fortnight, but that will depend on how busy I am.
   For the moment, however, I shall wish you farewell. I hope you have a safe, happy and amazing 2015 and I hope my blog will be part of that journey.

Love and thank you all,
David Gumball-Watson

Friends’ Blogs
Lola (The Blogging Of An Aspiring Writer)
Holmes (Life, The Universe And Everything According To A Writer)

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

(This Is Me) I Am Broken

Hello all,
For better or worse, this blog has basically become me talking about my feelings and the way in which I see the world. It has helped me through some of the worst times and been a way for me to let my friends and the wider world know what the hell is going on with my crazy, crazy mind so it makes my actions somewhat more understandable. But I haven't been entirely honest with you all, because there's one big piece of the puzzle that you're missing. And it's something I've been terrified to talk about for a long time because it's the most personal thing about me. It's the thing I don't talk about, until now.
    When I was a very young boy, I was diagnosed with Aspergers syndrome after I told the school that my parents had kept me locked in the shed. They hadn't really. I remember when I found out I had it. My parents were cagey and refused to talk to me, so I knew something was wrong. I kept thinking I'd done something bad until I finally drew up enough courage to ask Mum what was wrong, I was sitting next to her on the bed and she said that I had been diagnosed with this thing called Aspergers. I was so scared and I just started crying because I didn't understand and Mum started crying with me and assured me that everything was going to be fine. Inside, I knew it wasn't going to be.
   Ever since then, I've known I had it, but it was something I refused to acknowledge about myself. It wasn't something I wanted to learn more about and it wasn't something I liked to talk about. It was the primary reason I've almost always had a counsellor, although I was really talking to them more about problems with my sexuality or my family. It wasn't about this label, this diagnosis of mine. I don't know what it was that finally changed me, but I think it might've been something to do with a school presentation I saw about it once.
   For those of you who don't know, Aspergers Syndrome is a type of high-functioning autism defined by difficulty in social interaction, understanding non-verbal communication, difficulty in empathy but with a higher level of intelligence (sort of) in certain areas which become obsessions. I find it hard to 'do' social interaction, to get why people do certain things and the slightest thing can become misinterpreted as an insult. For this reason, it's a lot more work for me than it would be for most people. I won't go up and talk to you and so I often get extremely lonely and afraid and feel stupid because I want to talk to people but I just get afraid and can't.
   This presentation said all this stuff but at the end, the two kids said and because of these reasons, people with Aspergers tend to be very lonely, have no friends and die alone. Now, imagine my pain at this. I wanted friends, I hated being alone, I hated the solitude and the sadness and then these people say that it's a permanent condition, that I was destined to feel this way forever and I couldn't deal with it. I entered this huge depressive cycle which continues to this day (that's not to say my boyfriend hasn't helped because he has, but there are moments when that loneliness comes back and stabs you in the heart like before).
   The way I've understood Asperger's is that it's like a conflict between the head and the heart. Say, for example, I wanted to speak to someone. My heart goes, "oh, speak to that person. They might have something in common with you and you'll become really good friends." And I go to walk up to them when suddenly my head will stop me and say, "but what if they hate you? What if you're actually really annoying? What if your friends only put up with you? What if you don't know when to shut up? What happens if they say something hurtful and it sends you into this depressive cycle again? What if this? What if that?" And I get stuck. I desperately want to follow my heart, but my head has such a strong influence and it sucks, it really, really sucks.
   Some of the worst things to ever happen to me have been related to this conflict. Years ago, I used to have an externalised thing called the Fear which would just say all these nasty things about me (you're stupid, you're lonely, you're annoying, you'll always be alone, you're worthless, you don't mean anything to anyone, no-one would miss you if you were gone) and I used to hate myself. I thought about suicide because no-one would miss me. That was eventually conquered by a counsellor making me realise that the Fear was wrong, that I'm not stupid, that I would be missed and that one day I would find love.
   And then there have been the times where I would finally make a friend, but then I'd lose them. I can remember so many times when I finally plucked up enough courage to talk to someone and we'd have a good connection and the next week, I'd save them a seat and they'd sit somewhere completely different. They'd see me, but not sit next to me. Those still hurt. I know they didn't mean it, I know they couldn't have possibly realised the amount of torture that my mind would torment me to, but it still hurts.
   My Asperger's has made so many aspects of my life much harder than they should've been. I believe the reason my parents didn't work out I was gay was because they attributed it all to my Asperger weirdness. I've been so lonely and I think it's made me damaged.
   But why am I talking about this now? Why am I talking about the one thing I said I never would? Well, there's a couple of reasons, but the main one is my boyfriend.
   Just the other day, we were sitting in his car and talking and he had to keep telling me that I wasn't broken, that he would still love me despite my own perceived 'damaged goods' and there have been times, so many times, that I've thought, 'well, actually, I really should end it, because I am so broken that I am a burden to him and he doesn't need that. No one needs that. He's supposed to be my boyfriend, not my counsellor.' So, I've decided I can't live like that anymore. I can't live with the constant, perpetual terror that my boyfriend is going to leave me because I am a broken soul. I am sick of not believing my boyfriend when he says he loves me no matter what. I'm sick of my fucking head refusing to listen to my heart. I just want to be able to...
   And that was as far as I got. After that, I had to stop talking about this because it's hard and it sucks and it's really painful to talk about. It's important that I talk about it, but ripping off this scab is probably going to be one of the most painful things I've ever done. There's a reason I don't talk about it. Because it's impossible. But I need to confront this or I'll never move on. I'll never be complete. I'll just be broken. So I have to do this. But to do so, there's going to be more than a few times where I can't take it and need to run out of the library like a petulant child, to calm down and allow myself to cry. It's gonna hurt like hell, but it's the most important thing I've ever done.
   It hurts because it involves talking about myself, talking about the deep dark pit of depression and bad feelings. It hurts because every time I read something about Asperger's I realise that it's not me, it's the syndrome. It hurts because I realise that I'm so much more damaged and hurt than I ever realised. And it hurts because I can feel myself changing. And change is hard. Change is really fricking hard.
   So, I'm going to start talking about this more openly because then I can deal with it. And I can tell my story and I can feel brave. And I can become a better person. That's why I have to talk about this.
Thank you all.
David Gumball-Watson

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Dial M For Movies: Always Look At Toto

Hello all,
So, here we are; the movie that started it all. On my birthday, I was given a copy of the 75th anniversary book on the making of The Wizard Of Oz. I was shocked to hear that my boyfriend couldn’t recall ever having seen the film. Shocked, I made it my mission to introduce my boyfriend to the weird and wonderful world of classic and important modern films. Never did I imagine that it would be I who would be the one most changed by this epic film marathon.
   As we began with Psycho, I was shocked to find that he didn’t like the film. His like for The Birds and Carrie softened this to a certain extent, but it was when I showed my boyfriend Halloween that I was truly tested. While I have been somewhat vocal about the effect this film has had on me (I regarded it as one of the scariest films when I reviewed it for the Halloween 13 last year), I was shocked to find that what had scared me made my boyfriend laugh. It shook me to the core and led to an important discussion with Finn about the nature of liking different things.
   As a gamer, he isn’t exactly a film geek like I am and I realised that my aim in showing films to my boyfriend (no matter how unconscious this thought process might have been) was to change his opinion of movies. I know realise this was a stupid and dangerous task for which I was setting myself up for failure and sadness. And I was very upset about the lukewarm reaction he had to Halloween.
   Usually after watching the film, we head to my bedroom and discuss his reaction and what he thinks about some of the key ideas and discussions related to critics’ examinations of the film. So, we went to my bedroom and sat down on my bed and he said, “It wasn’t too bad. To me, it wasn’t the best. I was kinda tired though.”
   But did it scare him?
   “It didn’t scare me at all. To me, Carrie was more suspenseful. It just didn’t hit it with me. Some of the acting in it was a bit off, seemed really cheesy sometimes.” And then, rather proudly, he said, “I didn’t even jump at half the jump scares.”
   And I just sat there, sort of in shock, and wrote what I was feeling (using my usual pseudonyms, of course), while Finn began to fall asleep on my pillow:

   David considered all the things he wanted to say. The words ran through his head. He played them out over and over and over again, yet his mouth remained closed. He realised that Sabrina would call him stupid; that Finn’s opinion was his own, that David was a different person, that that was what made them special. He should pit the pen down and move into Finn’s arms, but he couldn’t bring himself to do it. He knew it was stupid, but it felt like a strangely personal insult.
   “You still writing?” asks Finn.
   “Sort of,” David responds, trying to keep his voice in check.
   “You’ve been doing that for a while.”
   “Yeah,” says David. Finn doesn’t press the point.

   After about five minutes of just sitting there, not moving or doing anything, I realised that what I was doing was stupid and moved over to him and we talked. Very emotionally. Let’s just say, Finn has now seen me cry (actually, wait, he’s already seen me crying. But that was in a gutter. That’s a long story, though, for another day).
   “What if we’re too different?” I ask Finn, my voice breaking.
   He says we’re not, before holding me tight and then he said something that’s really stuck with me. “You don’t love me because I love games, do you?” I shook my head. “And I don’t love you because you love films.” It’s an exceedingly good point which calmed my brain down immensely. There’s also something else that I learned here.
   My parents are almost always frustrated with me because I don’t know Finn’s favourite colour or his favourite animal or what his favourite country is, and I feel incredibly guilty about this. But then, as someone very clever pointed out, that stuff’s not important. That’s first date stuff. What’s really important and says more about him as a person is that he will quite happily sit through a film he doesn’t enjoy simply because I like it and it means something to me. So, up yours, annoying judgy parents!
  Because of this load of feels and enlightened understanding of myself and my boyfriend’s relationship, I felt much better about showing him The Wizard Of Oz. It’s a film that I love, a film that helped me get through numerous depressing incidents in my life, a film that I could act out and yet still feel the need to watch it at least once every six months. It’s a film that I would put as one of my top five favourite movies, and would probably be closer to the top (in fact, I love this movie so much that I’ve had to enforce a sort of self-ban in that the next list I do, The Wizard Of Oz cannot be my number one film, simply because nothing could ever beat it). If I hadn’t accepted that just because he doesn’t like this movie doesn’t mean that he doesn’t love me, then this could’ve been somewhat apocalyptic. Thankfully, it was far from it.
   As usual, before I press play, I ask Finn what he knows of the film. “I know most things most people know about it, like the general plot of the movie, the story.”
   I nod and the film begins.
   “Dat sepia tone,” he remarks, before spotting some familiar faces. “He’s the one that plays the strawman. He’s the Lion. And the other guy’s the tin man.”
  “Very good,” I say, trying not to sound condescending.
   As the most famous song in the film, ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’, starts, I am shocked to find Finn singing along. Not because he’s a bad singer, but because he knows the words, obviously.
   “Toto is very distracting,” I say, as the little dog puts his paw out.
   “Yeah,” replies Finn. “I’m not looking at her. I’m looking at Toto.”
   Before long, however, Toto has gotten himself into quite a bit of trouble with a woman who Finn instantly recognises.
   “That’s the Wicked Witch! And that guy’s Oz!”
   He knows and I’m so proud, but my pride only increases when I remark upon the tornado effect in the background.
   Finn nods. “Even in the foreground, it’s really good. Like the wind effects.” Did I hear my boyfriend right? Did he just praise a classic film’s effects? So awesome.
   Later, Dorothy meets Glinda the Good Witch who has been summoned by the Munchkins as they’re not sure what kind of witch she is. All good witches are beautiful, while all the wicked witches are ugly.

   “So, they’re not sure if she’s beautiful or not?” asks Finn pointedly.
   As the film continues, I point out the various in-jokes, such as the hanging Munchkin (in the background of the tin man dance, there seems to be a blob which resembles a Munchkin hanging himself. Well, it would if the film hadn’t gone extensive restoration, revealing that the dead Munchkin is in fact a rather annoyed bird. “Crane,” Finn states) and Toto’s little paw of support (watch the bit after Dorothy slaps the Cowardly Lion. Toto’s paw is clearly seen resting on the Lion’s arm as if saying, ‘it’s okay, she didn’t mean it, although you were being a bit of an arse.’ Seriously, if you focus on Toto throughout the entire film, the experience completely changes, it’s amazing).
   It is probably excitement over Toto that leads me to misquote the Wicked Witch’s next scene; “Poppies,” which I misspoke as “Puppies. Puppies will put them to sleep.”
   “Puppies are more likely to keep them awake,” remarks Finn.
   However, it is in the scene where Toto runs away, that my boyfriend makes a truly illuminating discovery; “Toto is the embodiment of everything they’re missing. He’s got brains, heart and courage.” Genius boyfriend. I’d never thought of that before, that Toto was the example, as opposed to just Dorothy’s dog who occasionally has to run out of the way in order to avoid being trodden on.
   The Wicked Witch’s “beautiful wickedness” is eventually defeated by exceptionally poor planning, as Finn notes. Surely, the Witch whose greatest weakness is water would not just have it lying around for anyone to use. That’d be like Superman just having a lump of Kryptonite, just in case. So weird. Nope, I really don’t have an explanation for that.
   As the film concludes, I cautiously ask Finn his opinion.
   “It was good. It was a classic that I liked. I’m pretty sure that I’ve see but before.”
   “I was a bit concerned in showing you this film as, like Psycho, it has been imitated and referenced hundreds of times in pop culture. But this doesn’t seem to have happened here. Why do you think that is?”
   “It’s more story-based, more about what happens as opposed to creating suspense and shock.”
   “We usually talk about the soundtrack, what did you think of this film’s score?”
   “It was classic music. I know all the songs, not all the words like you do, but all the songs are fairly famous, so you can’t really expect anything new.”
   “And what did you think of the characters?”
   “The characters were all pretty good, nothing really annoying. You don’t really know much about them.”
   I suggest that this is possibly because they’re not really characters at all, more like archetypes.
   He nods, “You don’t really know much about them.”
  Getting to the meatier questions now, I ask him why he thinks this film has such a huge gay following, to such an extent that before gay and homosexual were common words, us gays used to call each other Friends of Dorothy.
   “I guess it’s very bright, very colourful. There’s connections with oppression [in regards to the Wicked Witch].”
   I remark that I also think it has something to do with the fact that the Lion is quite clearly gay (he self-identifies as a sissy), which leads me to a revelation. He is never forced to become stereotypical manly. By the conclusion of the film, he’s just as gay as before, just less judgemental about his own weakness.
   “Yeah, Oz seems a very freeing, accepting world, like a fantasy.”
   “But I always considered that the film’s central message, there’s no place like home, would have been something of a turn off for a gay individual, given the often difficult nature of home and family.”
   “Home is where the people you care about are and the people who care about you. Even Dorothy’s family is non-traditional, she’s worried about her aunt.”
   This idea of Dorothy’s non-traditional family is even more intriguing. It challenges notions of the importance of a mother and father and never explains where they are. Very intriguing and progressive.
   “Some people have complained that Dorothy’s decision to return to Kansas at the conclusion of the film is annoying, because who would leave the wonders of Oz behind? What do you think about this?”
   “She’s not able to stay in Oz because it’s her home.”
   Having explained a little as to why this film has such a gay following, I ask him why he thinks this film has such a global following. I struggle to think of another film that most people have seen. He suggests Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory (which is true) but apart from that there isn’t any other big ones. It’s particularly odd that Oz is so successful seeing it is a very American film.
   “It is very American,” agrees Finn. “There’s not really anything anyone could hate or dislike about it.”
   “Did you have a favourite scene?” I ask Finn, suddenly aware that I don’t have one. It’s all awesome. From a more critical perspective, this could be because there’s not actually that many scenes within the film, particularly after Dorothy lands in Oz. There’s Munchkinland, then the Scarecrow’s number, the Tin Man’s number, the Cowardly Lion’s number and the poppy fields. It’s actually very much like a play in that it has long scenes featuring only one set.
   “I don’t know if I can really pick a favourite, nothing really seems to stand out from the rest.”
   “How would you sum up your opinion of The Wizard Of Oz?”
  “I have seen it before, so nothing in it surprises me, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad because it’s not a film that relies on shock. I’d give it 4 stars, but Toto was the best.”
   This is literally awesome. Through my discussion of this classic film with my boyfriend, I gained yet more of an understanding of the film’s power and potentially intriguing easter eggs.
  So, while I may not (thankfully) be able to change my boyfriend, I can do much better, I can gain a new, fresh perspective on some of my favourite films of all time. And just because he doesn’t like it, doesn’t mean that it makes me think of it any less. I still love Halloween and I will always, always love The Wizard Of Oz. I just know which one to show my boyfriend again in the future.
   Next week's film will be another classic fantasy, but I'm tossing up between two, so watch this space!


Finn: 4/5
David: 5/5

David Gumball-Watson

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Dial M For Movies: Everything Is The Devil

Hello all,
Moving into more modern masterworks of horror cinema, this week I decided to show my boyfriend the 1976 Brian De Palma flick Carrie. This film is an intensely unsettling look at the clique-based nature of high school, bullying, religious oppression and feminism, through the horrific story of Creepy Carrie living up to her nickname. Widely regarded for its stylish yet unsettling quality, I was incredibly excited to show my boyfriend this film, especially seeing his only prior knowledge of the film was that “she’s psychic, telekinetic and evil.”
   However, in order to watch the film, I also had to watch it with parents. My house only has one (admittedly very large) television which is in the lounge, so in order to show my boyfriend films on a screen bigger than my laptop I also have to watch it with my parents.
   The reason that this was going to be awkward is ably demonstrated by the first scene of the film, which depicts a large number of naked females running around a locker room. Finn noticed that “this seems oddly sexualised.” Well, it was until Carrie starts getting her period and panics. Adorably, my boyfriend tries to comfort her through the screen; “Calm down. It’s okay, no-one saw.” It’s of no use and soon she is being viciously bullied and taken to the principal’s office who, as Finn keenly points out, “has no idea who she is.” Her friends are punished by a kindly teacher.
   Later, when Carrie arrives home, we see her mother.
   “She’s a witch!” suggests Finn excitedly.
   “She’s worse,” I say nervously, having seen this film, and been horrified by the evil mother, before.
   “She’s a bitch,” Finn says definitively. As we see the mother’s obsession with religion, he notes that she thinks “Jesus is always watching.”
   The next day, at Carrie’s school, a teacher suggests that the girl’s hair would look better up.
   “She can’t,” says Finn. “Hairspray’s the devil. Everything’s the devil.”
   One of the sympathetic girls from the school, Susan, asks her boyfriend to take Carrie to the prom. Things are looking up.
   That night, however, some of the crueller students plan their vengeance. They go to the local pig farm, with an odd painted mural next to it, upon which Finn notes a familiar name;
   “Bates motel!” he says joyously, “Like from Psycho.” I nod, pointing out that the music has at some points sounded exactly like Bernard Hermann’s famous shower scene score. Brian De Palma, you old Hitchcock fan, you.
   At the pig farm, some of the jocks violently attack one of the pigs with a hammer. “Sick bitch,” says a horrified Finn.
   Later, we arrive at the most famous sequence from the film; the prom. Finn is largely unaware of how horrific this scene will become. He guesses that “the problem is that he has a girlfriend, but likes Carrie.” For me, this scene became incredibly ridiculously tense.
   Carrie is voted prom queen and is so happy. Finn, however, isn’t so easily fooled; “Oh no. She thinks it’s real.” It was around this point that I had to put my pen down and stop taking notes or I foresaw that I was going to accidentally stab myself in anticipation. I do remember, however, that Finn felt so sorry for the teacher who accidentally gets killed and that the death of the mother was clever, as her death exactly resembles that of a Jesus statue used to torment Carrie. He also guessed the final twist, which I’m not going to spoil here (because it’s too creepy. I jump every. Single. Time. So embarrassing).
   At the conclusion of the film, I ask Finn for his opinion.
   “That was good,” he says, but when I ask why he’s lost for words. “It’s hard to analyse myself sometimes.”
   “Did you find it scary?” I ask.
   “I definitely thought it was very suspenseful and tense but not really scary. It was much more tense than The Birds.”
   “For me, I think what makes this film really effective is that, unlike most horror movies, the killer is incredibly sympathetic. Do you agree?”
   “You really did feel for Carrie. I can kind of relate to her because [in school] I was an outcast and bullied.”
   “And we also don’t seem to be positioned to like any of the other characters,” I say.
  “Well, Sue seemed regretful and the teacher did want to help her,” Finn says, accurately.
   “I particularly find the mother to be a hateful character.”
   “The mum is a crazy bitch. She takes everything way too far.”
   “Let’s talk about the prom scene. Do you think her actions justified? And why do you think there is no music in this scene?” I ask, hoping to get into the nitty-gritty.
   “There’s revenge, but that’s not killing them. She snapped. That scene is very focussed, it’s all happening in her head. She doesn’t hear anything. But I was a little confused, because [the audience] were all serious and shocked but she seems to imagine their laughter.” Finn says, making an intriguing point.
   I hadn’t noticed this but it could easily be read that Carrie imagines the prom school body laughing at her, which is even more powerful in regards to the depiction of the oppression that high school seems to promote.
   Returning to our discussion, I ask Finn what his favourite scene was.
   “I don’t really know if I have a favourite scene. The prom scene has lost some of its shock value, but unlike Psycho, it was still effective and I sympathised with Carrie. I was expecting the cliché that it was just a joke in Carrie’s face, but it was more than that.”
   “Any closing thoughts?” I ask.
   “They’re taking a while to make Carrie 2,” he says grinning.
   He gave the film 4.5 stars and says that he’ll never rate a film 5. It just became my goal to change that.
   Overall, this was a great film to watch with my boyfriend. It was admirably creepy and didn’t lose much of its unsettling nature even after over 30 years. And my parents? Well about halfway through the film, they went to bed. When I asked her why the next day, mum told me that it was too scary, it had hit too close to home. This seems incredibly impressive for a classic film. I did feel very guilty though…
   Next week, our mini horror movie marathon (like it did last year) concludes with John Carpenter’s 1976 terrifying film Halloween. How will Finn react to one of the scariest movies ever made? Join us next time on Dial M For Movies to find out!

Finn: 4.5/5
David: 5/5

David Gumball-Watson & Finn

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Dial M For Movies: Bird Bitch

Hello all,
Continuing with the Halloween Hitchcock theme, this week I decided to show my boyfriend, Finn, the 1963 creepy classic The Birds. Due to his lukewarm reaction to last week’s film, I was more than a little nervous to show him this film. There were some signs however that he would enjoy this film more. For a start, he loves animals and secondly, this film has less of a pop culture lexicon around it. For example, Finn knew only of this film that in one scene, there is a random fish instead of a bird.
   As we viewed the film, I found that Finn commented less often. Was this merely because my parents were in the room? They like to talk, by the way. So tempted at one point to just say, ‘shh I’m trying to gauge my gorgeous boyfriend’s opinion on classic cinema!’ Or was it because he was genuinely enjoying it?
   He wondered why there was no music in the film and, despite his frustration in regards to the acting abilities of the cast and the occasionally lopsided effects, he seemed to be more engaged with the film.
   For example, he whispered ‘Oh God’ as the birds start massing near a primary school and made the keen observation that “whenever kids sing in tune, something bad is gonna happen.” When we got to the scene where an ornithologist tries to dismiss what is happening, he even came up with a nickname for her; “the bird bitch.” Later, when the birds start attacking a door by pecking their way through it, he and I giggled as we imagined the bird peeking through and shouting, “Here’s birdy!” The joyousness of this cannot be overestimated.
   Hilariously, Finn couldn’t find the fish. When the film concludes, I turn to Finn and ask him his opinion.
   “I actually liked that,” he says. “Unlike Psycho, I didn’t predict what was going on because it doesn’t explain the events.”
   “That’s interesting, because I’ve viewed this film with dad and he hates that it doesn’t offer any kind of explanation or conclusive ending. But you didn’t mind that?” I ask.
   “I’m not fussed that it didn’t give all the answers. This may just be my gaming side, but it’s better to let the ‘player’ decide the story, to leave it to their own interpretation, their own imagination. This makes them more engaged with the story.”
   “Did you find the film scary?” I ask nervously. This film is one of the most unsettling things I’ve ever seen and has gifted me a strong phobia of birds.
   “I found it a little bit unsettling, but not really scary. Part of this was because of the use of the green-screen, but when real birds were used, I found that to be more effective. A CGI remake probably wouldn’t work,” he argued, “but one of the Resident Evil films had a scene with birds. But that’s regarded as one of the worse ones, because of script and acting and stuff.”
   I nodded before asking; “At the start of the film, we noted that there was no scare and I found this worrying, because one of your key highlights from Psycho was the score. Do you think The Birds works without music?”
   “It didn’t need a score, because it’s more of a documentary film. The woman, [Melanie played by ‘Tippi’ Hedren] is in every scene. It is purely her movie.”
   “So, what was your favourite scene?” I ask, telling him that mine is when the birds silently gather outside the schoolhouse just waiting to attack.
   “My favourite scene was the bird woman. Her refusal to believe what was going on around her provided a strong contrast to the rest of the film and reaffirmed that the bird’s attacking was not normal. This film was taking place in our world. It was a very tense film.”
   “Unlike Psycho, do you think the film is still effective to a modern audience?”
   The Birds has more of a relevance to a modern day audience, definitely.”
   “Any final thoughts?”
   “It wasn’t a perfect film. The era of the film and the intended effect weren’t as gripping, but the concept is solid and the techniques are good for the time. And in closing, I will find that fish!”
   And indeed he did. Midnight that night, he sent me a text message to say that “Aha!! Found the fish!! Though it wasn’t actually in The Birds, it’s in a movie called Core. A scene where tons of birds go crazy and slam into windows, some are fish… See I’m not crazy, just got the wrong movie lol.” Needless to say, my boyfriend’s persistence is perfectly adorable and I never thought he was crazy (much). Also, I now also have to see Core.
   Finn’s opinion of this film has again proved fascinating for me, as I would’ve thought his verdict would be switched. I thought The Birds’ reliance on effects would have proved to be less effective than Psycho’s use of thrilling, more realistic elements. That the film’s open-nature would’ve made it less palatable to an audience founded on films with easy answers. More questions have been raised here. Is it story itself that is more important than what we see? Is a strong concept and clear love for the crafted work enough for it to retain its relevance? Are slightly more obscure classics like The Birds more likely to live on because they haven’t been referenced in a hundred other things? These ideas have thrown my world into turmoil. I love it.
   Anyway, the next film I’m planning on showing Finn is Brian De Palma’s 1976 horror masterpiece, Carrie. How will he react to this haunting tale of high school terror? Join Finn and I next time on Dial M For Movies to find out!

Finn: 4/5
David: 5/5

David Gumball-Watson