Friday, 31 December 2010

2010: Taking Stock part 3 - The Life and Times of PJ Montgomery

2010 then. That was a year which, I think, will always be remembered as the one which came between 2009 and 2011. I truly think that. Seriously though, if I had to sum up 2010 properly, I'd say it was a mixed bag. Here's the blog where I get personal, and tell you about my year.

I started this year a wreck. There's no point pretending otherwise. Without going into too many details (largely because I already have done so, at length, elsewhere), 2009 ended with a massive break up and a pretty bad head injury. These two don't mix, as the head injury means you can't get absolutely post-break-up-shitfaced like you're supposed to. I had a miserable December, and so when New Year's Eve came along, and I was able to drink again, I did so. With gusto. I was ably assisted in this by one of my very best friends, Ian Dowling, constantly spiking my drink with more vodka whenever I turned my back. What I remember of the night is a lot of fun. But then, what I remember is very little of it, and it's fuzzy at best.

The upshot of all of this? A two day hangover. I awoke on January 1st, 2010, still a little drunk. This soon changed when I sat down for lunch with some friends at Uncle Chan's Tasty Wok (RIP), and took a couple of mouthfuls of food. Then I felt very ill and had to come home straight away. Like a fool, I'd invited some of the guys back to watch Doctor Who. They dutifully showed up on time, and we watched Doctor Who. However, throughout the entire episode, much I loved my friends, I was suffering and just wanted them to leave so I could pass out. And possibly die.

Thankfully, some of my friends are an astute bunch, and they recognised my pain, and left soon after Doctor Who finished. I went to bed, and slept a lot, waking up on the 2nd only because I had to go to work. I didn't quite feel right, but didn't think much of it. It was only after a few hours in work, when I was still feeling a bit off, that it suddenly dawned on me. I was still fucking hungover! How much had I had to drink on New Year's Eve? A bottle of wine, half a bottle of vodka, several glasses of sparkling wine and a couple of shots of Dooleys, for the record. So, that was the start of 2010 for me. The longest damn hangover I'd ever had.

The next couple of months didn't exactly go to plan either. While there were some good developments on the writing front (see my last blog for details), I'm largely going to remember the first couple of months as a time I felt betrayed like I never have before. Again, I've dealt with this at length before, but suffice to say, I lost friends over it. At the same time as I was reeling from this, my job hit me with a £4000 a year pay cut, a not insubstantial amount, I think you'll agree. The result of the events of these first few months was my transformation into a being I like to call Angry Paddy. He's a bit like the Hulk, only not the Hulk at all. Okay, he wishes he were the Hulk.

I spent a good portion of 2010 angry. At first, it was anger directed at two people in particular and my job, but it soon settled into a general feeling of rage directed at whatever happened to be in my eye line at that point. It was during this period of time, when I started threatening to set things on fire, that Drew Davies, my good friend and Stiffs co-writer, first coined the phrase "Paddy Prescription". It means... Um... Well, it's what we call it when I set something on fire.

There were a lot of vitriolic blogs and comments around this time, some of which you can still find if you look hard enough, and a number of which got me into trouble with certain people. I also, and I'll freely admit this, probably wasn't always much fun to be around during those months.

It took a while, but I'm over the anger now. I'm also over the hatred of the two people who managed to cause it. I'm not saying they're forgiven, because I'm just not that big a human being as it turns out, but I really don't care about them either way. Let them live their lives, and I'll live mine. That's all there is to it now.

Of course, there was good stuff right at the beginning of the year. January 31st, 2010, was the day a little ball of fluff named Caliban entered my life. I'd always said that once I lived alone and was able to do so, I would get a cat. The loneliness I was feeling after the break up was also a factor. So, finding a guy in work who had kittens he was giving away, I went around and picked one of the tiny, six month old kitties he was offering. It turns out, I picked an idiot. Seriously, Caliban's a moron. Almost a year now he's been living here, and he still faceplants the washing machine on a regular basis. But I do love him, and he provides hours of entertainment and, when he wants to, affection. He's a lovely kitty, though not so small any more. He's only getting bigger, and if the Maine Coon theory holds water, wil continue to do so for the next three and half years, at which point he will be large enough to take on Godzilla. That's a terrifying thought. Also, not getting any less fluffy. And he does leave it everywhere. Technically, I should probably be hoovering every hour. Don't come over if you're allergic to cat hair.

2010 was also the year when I started playing tennis again. The previous three summers, I'd managed to have one game a year. I'd always intended to play more, but it just never happened for one reason or another. However, this summer not only did Andy Grierson and I have our long awaited rematch (a close thing, but Andy bested me again. He'll get his, one of these days), but we then found more people to play with, and sudenly tennis became a semi-regular thing, with myself and Andy joined by Nicki Tudor, Abby O'Sullivan, Dan Austin and Sian Prescott. Here's hoping that continues when the warm weather comes back again!

And so to Twitter, which had to get a mention eventually. While I didn't join Twitter this year, my usage of the site really went into overdrive in 2010. I tweet quite a lot now, and through using Twitter, have not only found myself back in contact with old friends, but have gotten to know other friends better and made a lot of new ones. You're far too numerous to mention individually here, but you are all awesome, and have definitely made the second half of this year a vast improvement on the first.

That said, one of my favourite weeks of 2010 was one in the first half. My cousin, Rhys Warburton, was marrying his long-term girlfriend, Anna Davitt, and guess who got invited to the wedding? Yep, loads of their friends and their families. Oh, wait, that includes me. Whoo! Party! One small detail though. Rhys and Anna are New Yorkers. The wedding was being held in Brooklyn. So, in order to attend, I would have to have another New York holiday. What a shame.

So it was that in mid May, myself, my sister and a whole load of my cousins descended on the Big Apple, and boy did we have an awesome week. A large portion of it was spent drunk and / or hungover, but free bars will do that to you. However, some key highlights of the week include, the first evening, when myself and all my cousins, despite our jetlag, went to a bar in Manhattan and proceeded to drink and laugh the night away until we passed out. The welcome party the night before the wedding was also a lot of fun. There was a free bar. I drank a lot of Jack Daniels. Then, we went out to another bar in the East Village. I think there were shots, and if I learned anything, it's that yes, American beers may be weaker than ours, but damn, they pour a lot more in when it comes to shots.

Needless to say, the following day, the day of the wedding itself, I, my sister, Charlotte Montgomery, her fiance, Chris Knott,our cousin Ed Simpson and Ed's girlfriend, Clare Morgan, all woke up with hangovers. So we did what anyone else would do. Went for a massive breakfast and then journeyed to the bright lights and loud noises of Times Square. It was here we discovered the clothes shop American Eagle, and their rather fun offer of buy anything, we'll take your picture and put it up on a massive screen above the shop! Of course, in our hungover state, we thought that was an excellent idea. Before we had the picture taken, Ed gave us a quick team talk. "Okay, let's make sure it's not a family photo like Grandma would be proud of. Make sure we all do something stupid." Here's the resulting photo:-

Note how only one person in that picture is doing something stupid. Also note how that person is me. When that flashed up, for all of Times Square to see, I turned to the others. "Why... Why am I the only one doing something stupid? I thought we were all going to." Ed responded. "Yeah, sorry. We've kinda let you down there Patrick." I gestured around at Times Square. "No one else here knows that! They all think I'm an idiot!"

Oh, well. Then we went for ice cream, which does cure hangovers, as I've discovered this year. Seriously, next time you have a hangover, go get some ice cream from Baskin Robbins or somewhere similar. It'll do the job. The wedding itself that evening also involved a free bar, and then another bar in Brooklyn, where my cousins and I proceeded to have more drinking and laughing until the small hours of the morning. All in all, an awesome time.

One final thing I want to mention in this blog, which happened in September, is the charity party I threw. Originally designed as a renuion for people who had started at the University of Glamorgan ten years before, but it soon grew beyond that, involving anyone we had known over the decade. We hired out Callaghans in Cardiff city center, booked three bands and had a bloody good night, in which we raised a nice bit of money for Marie Curie and the British Heart Foundation. It was lovely to see friends, both new and old there, and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. I'm planning for this to be the first of several such events, and the next one is coming up fast in March for Comic Relief.

So, looking ahead to 2011... Well, it's already starting better than 2010 did. Unlike previous years, I'm not making any definite resolutions or plans, but what I'm hoping 2011 will bring is the following: My writing finally reaches the public at large, I'm able to leave a job I hate, and that the Comic Relief event goes well enough that I can continue doing such parties. Fingers crossed, eh?

Happy new year.

Thursday, 30 December 2010

2010: Taking Stock part 2 - The Writer's Year

If you read this blog, chances are you also follow me on Twitter, or have befriended me on Facebook. Or, ya know, not. You might just know me from my blog. Wherever you know me from though, you're probably aware that I'm a writer. I do tend to mention it. Anyway, I've got a number of projects brewing, at various stages of development, and I thought I'd use this blog to let you know how they're all going, what I did this year, and what you can expect next year. Let's start with the one I've been working on longest.

More Than This

My feature film script, this one's been in development for a few years. By January this year, I'd done four and a half drafts of it (half because one of them wasn't a full rewrite). I knew it wasn't ready yet, and needed, at the very least, one more draft, but before I embarked on another draft, I wanted to hear it. Read out loud. By people. Preferably people who have voices. And could read. Thankfully, I know a few such people, and so, one sunny Saturday afternoon, I gathered some wiling volunteers, fed them tea and biscuits, and listened as they read out the project above all others which I regard as my baby. More Than This is a very personal project for me, being vaguely autobiographical, and featuring a lead character who is very much in the head space I was in when I first started writing it. So, I was nervous, to say the least, and hoped to Odin that it would go well. And it did. My temporary cast all enjoyed the script, and were able to give me some very useful feedback to incorporate into the next draft. I've also sent it to another friend whose feedback I am awaiting in full. I'm hoping I can get cracking on the next (full) draft of More Than This next year, though there are a few things I have to work on first which have actual deadlines. Still, it's coming along nicely.


This is another project which has been out there for a while now. When the year began, it was called Zombie Death Squad, the name it had been going by for a couple of years at that point. Within a couple of months, it was going by the name of Dead Enders. A couple of months after that, it was changed again to Stiffs. That title's sticking. The premise hasn't changed. The comic is still about a group of bored twenty-somethings and a talking monkey who fight the undead in South Wales. However, early in the year, we (Drew Davies, the creator, plus myself and our other co-writer, Joe Glass, and artist, Gavin Mitchell) met with some people who already work in the industry. Once again, we were given feedback which we took on board, and which lead to some changes, not to the central idea or themes, but in how we were going about writing the book. ZDS was originally going to be pitched as a #0 issue, followed by an ongoing series. Stiffs is a five issue mini series, incorporating elements of what would've been issue #0 and the first six issues of the ongoing. It leaves the story open to continue, should we be fortunate enough to actually sell it, but it will also stand on its own as a self contained story should it not go any further. We writers have worked together to rewrite it, and I think we've got something pretty tight which people will enjoy. Gav's also turning in fantastic artwork, getting better with every page, and we're ably assisted by the uber-talented Adam Cadwell providing colours and letters. While we've been turned down by one publisher, we've still got plenty more to pitch to. In the mean time, there's going to be a preview book, featuring some of the first issue of Stiffs, available at the Cardiff Comic Expo in February. Come along, and tell us it's awesome. We won't be able to handle any other reaction.

Supermarket Matters

So, earlier this year I responded to a tweet posted by my friend, Mark Chatterly. He was looking for people to write episodes of a comedy podcast he'd come up with set in a supermarket. It wasn't the sort of thing I'd usually write, essentially being a radio play and involving absolutely no monsters or superheroes of any kind. Still, I thought I'd give it a crack. I pitched a couple of ideas to Mark, and he liked them enough to tell me to go away and write them. Which I dutifully did. I wrote two episodes of Supermarket Matters (though as I type, I'm yet to turn my final drafts in. They're nearly there), and these are actually going to be recorded in January, ready for a release a little later in the year. Keep an ear out for these, as Mark has assembled a great team of writers (plus one hack), and they've put together something which I think is very special. By the way, the hack is me.

The Lie At The End Of The World

Okay, so I haven't actually done any writing on this short comic story I wrote a couple of years ago, in which Death kills the other three horsemen of the Apocalypse, but has been pitched to a couple of places again, and fingers crossed, it's looking quite promising that it may finally see the light of day in 2011.

The Liars and another untitled superhero project

I can't reveal much about these, as they're only in the very early stages at the moment, but they're both ideas which I had this year which I'm very proud of indeed. They're both comic projects, again, one of which I hope to start writing soon with my Stiffs collaborator, Drew Davies, while the other I'll be continuing to write on my own. But expect to hear more about both of these over the next twelve months.

Life and Ninjas

You know nothing about this. And I'm telling you nothing about this here. But it'll be here, and soon.

There are, of course, other projects I'm working on at the moment, but these are the ones which occupied my brain and my time for the majority of the past year. Fingers crossed, they'll all continue to move forward in 2011. Things are starting to happen.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

2010: Taking Stock part 1 - At the Movies

So I thought I'd write a couple of blogs looking back at the year that was 2010, how it went, what was good, what was less good, and all that fun stuff. In this first part, I'm gonna talk about my own humble opinions on the films I saw in 2010. The next blogs will get a little more personal, as I talk about my writing and the events of the past year, but for now, let me indulge the film critic within.

If I had to use one word to sum up my general feelings on the films I saw this year, I would have to go with fun. For a number of reasons, 2010 was a year in which, more than any other I can remember, I came out of the cinema feeling like I'd had an absolute blast. A large part of this was down to cinema looking back to the heyday of balls to the wall, supremely fun action movies, the nineteen-eighties. Die Hard, Lethal Weapon, Commando, Rambo, Predator... The list goes on. These were the films which shaped a generation (and possibly inspired Michael Bay's entire canon, but we'll forgive them that) and provided endless fun for... well, not the whole family, but for quite a few of us.

While there have always been action movies, they seemed to have lost their way in the nineties and the noughties (a term I hate, but I have no better word for the decade). Yes, we had sequels to most of those films, and while I enjoyed Die Hard 4 to a degree, it wasn't the same kind of fun.

While we had one direct sequel to the films of our youth in Predators (not bad, but didn't blow me away), it was largely left to the new boys to take up the slack. First up, was The Losers. Based on the comic by Andy Diggle and Jock, The Losers took the basic concept of its source material (a group of special forces soldiers are framed for a crime they didn't commit by their own government and have to attempt to prove their innocence), but changed the tone completely. The comic is best described as a thriller, with elements of an espionage story and a shadowy villain who remains unrevealed for a good portion of time.

The film though... Well, it was all about explosions, car chases, ridiculous missions, one-liners and an over the top, slightly camp, unhinged bad guy with a ridiculous plot for world domination. And, in its own way, it was quite, quite brilliant. It wasn't a thinking mans film, by any stretch of the imagination, but when your cast includes people like Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Idris Elba and Chris Evans, men who can't help but be charismatic every moment they're on screen, you can't help but be swept up in the fun.

After the Losers came a film which was very much rooted in the eighties, being a remake of a classic TV series we all know and love. The A-Team may have shared a name and characters with it's forefather, but it was a very different beast. After all, when in the TV series did you have a tank, in free fall, taking on a fighter jet? Tank Vs Plane is really all you need to know about the A-Team. Plot? Who cares. It's not important. There's a fucking tank in the sky fighting a plane! It was ridiculous, and it was brilliant.

After the new boys, the old guard tried to come back at them in The Expendables, and they largely succeeded. Like The Losers and The A-Team, it was filled with explosions, car chases and fist fights. But it also took the violence that one step further. From the moment in the opening when Dolph Lundgren makes a bad guys head go pop with a shotgun, you knew exactly what you were getting from this film. Bone crunching fights, body parts being removed and blood everywhere. More than the previous two movies, The Expendables was a true eighties action film. But then when the cast includes Sylvester Stallone, the aforementioned Lundgren, Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis and the Governator himself, as well as Jet Li, Jason Statham and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin... Well, we all knew what we were getting into as soon as we entered the cinema. Rumours of a sequel, which will feature all those guys, plus, hopefully, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Steven Segal and Dwayne Johnson are... Well, I sincerely hope they're true.

There was one more action movie, also based on a comic, which was a return to the eighties style of film making and boasted Bruce Willis kicking bad guy ass better than anyone, but which also featured an actual plot. Based on the comic by Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner, RED (Retired, Extremely Dangerous) told the story of a group of retired secret agents who are targeted by, who else, a rogue faction within the government. But where RED wins out for me is that, as well as the excellent action scenes (Bruce Willis calmly stepping out of a moving police car and firing his gun is one of the coolest things I have seen this year), but the fact that it was also damn funny, and not just in the comic violence sense of the others. John Malkovich as a twitchy, paranoid sidekick was hilarious, as was the sight of Dame Helen Mirren packing a sniper rifle. Of the four, RED was my favourite, but all of them are perfect for a beer and pizza night in front of the TV. Get some friends in, and just enjoy.

Of course, there were other films which were a lot of fun without being eighties throwbacks. Three of them were based on comics, and two of these managed to surpass their source material.

First up, the long awaited (well, two years) Iron Man 2. Now, when I first saw Iron Man 2, I came out of the film with mixed feelings, and having watched it again since, I still have those. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love it. Robert Downey Jr is still perfect as Tony Stark, Sam Jackson gets more than a cameo as Nick Fury, the debut of the Black Widow in the shapely form of Scarlett Johanssen, Don Cheadle injecting more life into the part of James Rhodes than Terence Howard managed in the first one, plus War Machine, and Sam Rockwell clearly having a blast as Justin Hammer. I also thoroughly enjoyed seeing directo Jon Favreau get more to do this time around in his on screen role as Happy Hogan. Plus, the scene where Tony dons the briefcase armour in the middle of a motor race at Monaco, and takes on Mickey Rourke's Whiplash? A superhero fight AND motor racing? Two of my favourite things come together at last! The problem is, Iron Man 2 isn't (whisper it, wait for the backlash) that great a film. Mickey Rourke is criminally sidelined for most of it, Stark's drinking problem is really mostly glossed over and a lot of it basically feels like a rehash of the first, superior Iron Man. Looked at from a more critical perspective, it doesn't really hold up nearly as well as the first one and seems to have largely been used as a set up for the upcoming Avengers. But ya know what? I don't care. Like I said, I love Iron Man 2, and the reason is simple. I'm a massive geeky fanboy. I was in heaven! Look, it's Captain America's shield again! Oh my God, Howard Stark's in it. Hey, wait, Whiplash is named Vanko... So was the Crimson Dyanmo... Hmmm... OH MY FUCKING GOD IT'S MJOLNIR!!!!!! Yeah. Sometimes, just having a massive geekgasm and going along for the ride is way more fun.

After Iron Man 2, we were given Kick-Ass. Kick-Ass was absolutely sublime, and is a definite contender for film of the year. The comic of the same name was an excellent read, putting forward the story of what would happen if a well meaning individual in the real world actually put on a costume and attempted to fight crime. The comic was funny, poking loving fun at superhero conventions while also embracing them. The film, though, was better. It was hilarious, with some of the best lines of the year (Hit-Girl's opening line will never be topped as a character introduction), and some of the best shot action sequences to boot. Matthew Vaughan had already proven that he, with writing partner Jane Goldman, is adept at taking a popular story and making a good film out of it with Stardust, but with Kick-Ass, they excelled themselves. Throw in that rarest of beasts these days, a good performance from Nicholas Cage, who, as Big Daddy, gives a pitch perfect Adam West impersonation, and you have more fun in the cinema than you knew was possible. It also introduced the world to young Chloe Moretz, who is truly a talent to watch in the future, and for that, we must be thankful.

And so to Scott Pilgrim Vs The World. Like Kick-Ass, it was based on a popular indie comic (Kick-Ass was published my Marvel, but through their Icon imprint, so it's indie), but unlike Kick-Ass, it was a comic I really didn't like. I tried reading Scott Pilgrim, but I just didn't like any of the characters, especially not Scott himself, who I just thought was a massive dick. And if you don't like your lead characters, then you have a problem. Now, let's be honest here, Scott in the film? Still a bit of a dick. And while Ramona Flowers, the object of his affections, is very pretty to look at, she's also not exactly someone you end up liking very much. However, while Scott still very much acts like a dick, there's still something kind of likable about him, largely down to the fact that he's played by Michael Cera, who I don't think knows how to play anything else. Throw in some cracking secondary characters, some hilarious one-liners and some of the best fight scenes of the year, and you have a great film. Special mention must got to both Chris Evans and Brandon Routh, both of whom steal the film at various points, and the wonderful Vegan Police moment, featuring a Tom Jane cameo, is another highlight of the year for me.

Of course, it wasn't all fun at the cinema this year. Early on, Drew, Joe and myself did a triple bill in the cinema, and one with a theme. So was born Apocalypse Tuesday, a day when we saw three films which were all set in a post apocalyptic setting. One of them was shit, one was okay, but largely forgettable, and the other was one of the most stunning pieces of film making I've ever seen. First up, Daybreakers, which gave us a vampire society hunting the last few remaining humans, when a cure for vampirism is discovered. It was awful. It made absolutely no sense, it was shot badly, and... well, to be honest, besides featuring Willem DaFoe, who clearly knew what he was getting into and didn't give a shit, it had nothing to recommend it. The second film of the day was The Road. Based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy, it's one of the bleakest films I've ever seen. It's hard going, and sitting through it in the cinema was tough. But it's also completely worth it. The performances by Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee (another breakout child star you should definitely keep an eye on) are perfect, and the direction from John Hillcoat is absolutely wonderful. The world has become a desolate wasteland in The Road, though we're never told the cause, but there's something beautiful and ethereal about it as seen through Hillcoat's eyes. The Road is another candidate for film of the year, though I'd have a hard problem picking it as my favourite, simply because it's such hard work to sit through. The final film of Apocalypse Tuesday was The Book Of Eli. It was okay while you were watching it, and Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman and Michael Gambon are always worth watching, but to be honest, it's entirely pointless.

Shit as Daybreakers was though, it wasn't the worst film of the year. One candidate for me, was Solomon Kane. While it started out okay, as something which could've been one of those bad movies which still manages to be fun, it slowly started to take itself more seriously as it went on, which just made me lose any and all good will I'd built up towards it. Still, even that wasn't as bad as the Goddawful Legion. Paul Bettany as an angel, defending small town bumpkins from other angels 'cos God decided to wipe us out again, some crap about a messiah, shit acting, shit direction, shit effects, I don't think there was a script of any kind... Avoid it like the plague. Worst film of 2010. Definitely.

Other disappointments for me were a Single Man (Colin Firth was excellent, and there was a good film in there, but first time director Tom Ford telegraphed any surprises far too early, and shot it in a very pretty but soulless fashion, pun intended) and The American (just... really boring).

So, what was my favourite film of the year? The previously mentioned Kick-Ass and The Road are candidates, though neither quite wins out. I've already gone into why with The Road, and while I loved Kick-Ass, there were a couple of films I loved more.

First, special mention to Ponyo. I went to see this at a point when I was still reeling from some events in my personal life, and I can categorically state without any doubt, that when you're feeling shit about things, there is nothing better to cheer you up than a Hayao Miyazaki film from Studio Ghibli. Ponyo is, as expected from the worlds premier animation studio (sorry Pixar, it's true) stunning to look at, and incredibly heart warming and wonderful to watch. If you don't come away from Ponyo with a massive grin on your face, then I don't think you're someone I want to know.

But there are two films, above all the others I saw this year (and I didn't see all the films, I know) which I find myself coming back to. Toy Story 3 and Inception. Both were incredible pieces of film making, with Toy Story 3 showing that it's possible to make a trilogy which gets better and better as it goes along, and Inception proving that you can make a summer blockbuster which is both original, and makes you think.

Toy Story 3 was one of the biggest emotional investments of the year for me. The moment when our heroes are heading towards a fiery death genuinely had me worry for them, while another scene, where they get one final play time with Andy, their owner who's off to college, almost made me cry manly tears of manliness, and actually managed to make me feel bad for all the childhood toys I'd gotten rid of over the years. Pixar know how to tell a story, they know how to make you laugh (Spanish Buzz Lightyear anyone?), they know how to create memorable characters (the new characters in this film, such as Lottso and Mr Pricklepants, are every bit as wonderful as their predecessors) and they know how to creep you out (seriously, that cymbal banging monkey? Yeesh). The other thing Pixar do better than anyone is the little touches. Look out for Boo from Monsters Inc in the Daycare, or the return of Sid from the first Toy Story. It also, and this has to be mentioned, is the first film I can think of in which the 3D worked as it's supposed to. It made the film look better without you ever noticing it was there.

Inception was just damn clever film making, but then, what else would you expect from Christopher Nolan? The dreams within dreams withing dreams plot, the mechanics of how the dream worlds functioned, excellent performances from a stand out cast, not to mention the number of questions the film raised which people are still debating now, and most likely will continue to do so for a long time. A film like Inception is rare. It's gutsy film making that most people are scared to try these days, but Nolan is riding high from the success of his Bat films, making film studios more willing to take a chance on him. The fact it paid off in spades means we may get lucky and see more original summer blockbusters in the future. Of course, it also means it's going to be imitated a lot in the near future, but that's not really Inception's fault. The industry still hasn't realised it doesn't need the next Inception, it just needs the next good film.

But, which of the two wins out? Honestly, I can't say. They're definitely my films of the year, but you'll probably get a different answer as to which I prefer depending on when you ask me.

So... Um... Call it a tie?

Monday, 13 December 2010


Christmas is on its way then. Less than two weeks to go in fact. Now, historically speaking, I'd normally be starting to feel pretty darned festive by now. I'd be writing cards, decorating stuff and being just generally chirpy and annoying.

This year though? I'm not feeling it. Christmas is coming, and I'm sat here thinking "does it have to?" I'm dreading it. If anything, it seems like a bloody chore to me. The presents, the running around seeing all the various family members and friends, the delicate balancing act of getting drunk enough to not care but not so drunk that my family disown me... It all seems like so much effort to go to. I've become Ebenezer Scrooge at the age of twenty-eight.

And I find myself thinking, how did this happen? When exactly did I go from loving Christmas to wanting it to just go away? I've come up with several possible answers.

1) It's just something which happens as you get older. When you're a child, Christmas really is a magical time (or it's supposed to be). You just accept the idea that there's a magical man in the the North Pole who makes toys with the elves and flies around the world once a year in his sleigh pulled by flying reindeer. It makes perfect sense! Plus, presents! Fuck, presents are the best thing ever when you're a child. Don't get me wrong, presents stay pretty cool as an adult, but when you're a child they're something else. New stuff! Yes! I was bored of my old stuff! Whoo!

But as you get older, the magic starts to go away. You can watch Miracle On 34th Street as many times as you like, it doesn't make it real. Santa's a fiction, and a pretty ludicrous one at that. How were we ever gullible enough to fall for it? And once that part's gone, it really all starts to fade. Christmas becomes less about magic, and more about spending time with your friends and family. Which sounds nice, doesn't it?

Only it doesn't, because we've all got those family members and friends who only end up annoying us after we've spent a small amount of time with them, and that ain't changing just because it's Christmas. If anything, Christmas leads to more arguments over pointles shit and people getting your back up over nothing. And of course, you're already drunk from all the Christmas liquers you've imbibed, which just serves to make you easier to anger, but less able to argue your point with anything resembling eloquence, which only annoys you further because you're not getting your side across properly. Basically, you're fucked.

So, yeah. Christmas just gets worse as you get older.

Only it doesn't. That's total bullshit. All of it. There's this idea that we all turn into Scrooge at Christmas when we get older, but the truth of it is completely different. Christmas is actually an opportunity for all of us to feel like we are children again. The bright colours, the games, the ludicrous amounts of sugar we consume... Throw in the aforementioned liquers, and you've got yourself an awesome party. If anything, as a grown up you have the capacity to enjoy Christmas even more than you did as a child. You can still believe in the magic if you want. Hell, my mum makes us watch Miracle On 34th Street every year, and every year it gets me at the end. It's a wonderful, feel good movie. As an adult, you can enjoy the time on a lot more levels than you could as a child. And as for that annoying family member or friend? You won't give a shit, because if they do start piss you off, then you'll hopefully have no shortage of other people you can go and talk to. T'is the season of goodwill, after all.

So no. My humbug feelings aren't down to my getting older. Besides, I know people three times my age who still fucking love Christmas. Can't get enough of it. Between you and me, I think they may have a Christmas problem.

2) I'm turning into my dad. Maybe this should be point 1.5, 'cos it's basically the same as the point above, just a little more specific. As a child, I was always under the impression that Dad didn't like Christmas. I mean, he hated the Christmas tree. When he was putting it up in the living room was the only time of year I'd ever hear my father swear. Even this year, when I was on the phone to Dad a few days ago, he asked if I was feeling festive yet. "No, I'm feeling quite humbug actually." was the response. My dad called me a good boy. But ya know what? It's all a put on. My dad loves Christmas. Remember my point about Christmas being an excuse for people to act like children again? It's more true of my dad than anyone else.

So this whole "humbug" thing I've got going on can't be inherited from my dad, because with him, it's not real.

3) Ah, yes. Here we go. My last three Christmases have sucked. Like, really, really sucked. Three years ago, my godson very kindly gave me the gift of the Norovirus. It hit me on Christmas Eve. Badly. I spent a large portion of the day throwing up and lying in bed feeling utterly awful. While the worst of it passed pretty quickly, and by Christmas Day itself I was recovering, I didn't feel right for a good few weeks afterwards. My appetite was low, I couldn't really eat much in the way of sugary treats, and drinking was right out. Made for a pretty lousy new year as well, if I'm honest. Everyone was drinking, and I had to stay sober then go to bed early 'cos I had work in the morning. Amazing.

The year after that, I'll be honest, there wasn't any particular event which brought me down. I think I was just in a weird headspace, for reasons I can't remember, and I didn't particularly enjoy Christmas. New Year was also pretty lousy. Just one of those things, I guess.

But last year... Oh, boy, did that suck. Just before Christmas, I broke up with my girlfriend. Now, there's been a lot said about the events just prior to and since the break up, a lot of it by me, on the internet, while drunk. Suffice to say, I don't really feel like going into it again right now, but it left me in a bad way. Throw in having to work twelve hour night shifts on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, shifts which were busier than any night shifts I'd ever worked before, and I was pretty fed up. My good friend Tim did his best to cheer me up by coming to stay, just so I'd have some company when I wasn't in work, but I was far from my best. It wasn't helped by the fact that on Christmas morning, my sister, Charlotte, got engaged. Now, I love my sister, and I love her fiance, and I was really happy for them. But it meant that when I did finally go back to Surrey to visit the family, all everyone was talking about was weddings, marriage and happy couples. Pretty much the last things I wanted to talk about. Charlotte, and bless her for this, did try and deflect the conversation whenever she could, and even apologised to me at one point for how much engagement talk I was having to put up with, but it got to me.

New years... Actually, that was okay. I got very drunk indeed. Two day hangover drunk. My memory gets a bit fuzzy, if I'm honest, but I think I had fun...

So, there's the three options. Yeah, it's probably option three. A trilogy of disappointing Christmases has left me, at best, amibvolent towards the season, as I wait to see what horrible fate befalls me this time around. It's stupid, I know, but it's there. It's almost become routine for me that Christmas be lame. Which, I guess, is the cause of my humbug this time around.

Maybe it'll clear. You never know, Christmas morning could roll around and I'll be the most festive person this side of a visit from three ghosts. If I can have a good Christmas or two, then maybe that sense of childish excitement about the season will return as well. I kind of hope so.

But for now, let me have my humbug.