26 June, 2007

munkey's-eye view


"The thing to determine conclusively is whether you are in a comedy or a tragedy."

Reminiscent of such crowd-pleasing flights of post-modern fancy as The Truman Show and almost anything written by Charlie Kauffman, Stranger Than Fiction is the story of the exceedingly ordinary Harold Crick (Will Ferrell), who suddenly finds himself in an incomprehensible situation. After hearing the voice of a "narrator" commentating on his every move, he comes to realise that he is not, in fact, an everyday slightly compulsive tax-man, but the helpless protagonist of a half-finished novel telling the story of his life. More disturbing still, the novel he's stuck in doesn't seem destined for a happy ending.

The comparisons to Kauffman are inevitable and apt, the difference being that this screenplay by Zach Helm is not quite as bizarre or inventive, but is also a whole lot more likeable and accessible than most of Kauffman's work. While Kauffman's realities are often alienating and discomforting, Harold's dilemma is oddly involving and enjoyable to watch, especially when he enlists a crotchety Literature Professor (Dustin Hoffman, clearly having heaps of fun) to help him solve his dilemma. Emma Thompson's role as Karen Eiffel - the author who unknowingly holds Harold's fate in her words - enhances the lovely mind-tickling tone, as do delightful cameos by Tom Hulce, Linda Hunt and Kristin Chenoweth.

The film does have its flaws: a romantic sub-plot with the always-charming Maggie Gyllenhaal starts full of promise but goes nowhere. Gyllenhaal's character, disarmingly irreverent and appealing while Harold pursues her, disappears almost completely once the relationship is consummated, patronisingly rendering their romance as little more than a "goal" that is of no further interest once it's achieved.

While he occasionally appears to be trying too hard not to be funny, Ferrell creates an affably hapless character in Harold. But with perfect timing and an effortless balance of comedy and tragedy, it is Emma Thompson who is the film's true heart - and in fact its real protagonist. Meanwhile director Marc Foster gets the tone just right and knows when to give the pace a kick with perfectly-executed set-pieces. On the down-side, some quirky visual ideas, which catch the eye and give the film's world an aesthetic identity during the opening sequences, seem to be virtually forgotten by the second act.

As always with these self-reflexive narratives, many fascinating issues - free will, life versus art, the validity of creative process - are thrown into the mix. If his life is being controlled by an absent author, how can Harold be anything other than a passive protagonist in his own life? On the other hand, once she discovers that her chief character is (somehow) a real, breathing human being, how can Eiffel in good conscience write his death, even if changing the ending will mar her masterpiece? Stranger Than Fiction manages to chart a feel-good course, without undermining these complex ideas. None of the questions are answered - and the basic conundrum of how this situation has come about is never explained (or really even questioned) - but that's not the point. The film delivers just enough to leave you walking away thinking about it - and liking it.

(out of 5)


22 June, 2007

i could kill you with one peck, doo-dah! doo-dah!

Do you know what has just occurred to me?

Foghorn Leghorn is a chicken the size of a man.


the size of

a MAN.

Look how he towers over his old nemesis, the barnyard dawg!

Of course, I was always aware of this on some level, but I have just now been confronted by the enormity of it (so to speak) for the first time.

A chicken the size of a fecking man, indeed! And we show this nonsense to our children? It's the stuff nightmares are made of.

(I don't know why I felt compelled to post this. I'll be quiet now. *takes more cold-&-flu medication*)


21 June, 2007

let's hope he's a good climber


Myself, Byron, Snaz and some others are in the downstairs foyer of a High School. We are not students, but not visitors either. Possibly we are staff members.

Kevin Rudd arrives. He is the new Year 11 English teacher. His first ever class is about to begin; the students are all waiting in a classroom upstairs. Kevin wants to make a memorable entrance that will leave a lasting impression on the kids. He decides to climb the large tree that stands next to the school building, and enter through the upstairs window.

He begins to clamber up the tree, but as he nears the window he falters and falls roughly onto the ground. My friends and I look at each other. This is not an auspicious beginning for a new English teacher!

Will he fall on his arse, or will determination get him to the top in the end?

Dusting himself off, Kevin gets up and tries again. This time he takes hold of a drainpipe which runs up the building, alongside the window. Almost defying gravity, he scrambles effortlessly up the pipe, shuffles along the ledge and steps into the classroom through the window, pleased as punch. The students are suitably impressed.


feed the head

Feel like wasting ten minutes in a completely surreal fashion? Then I humbly suggest you have a play with the most delightfully bizarre Flash game I've ever seen:

There's no real object, and no way to "win". But can you get the head to breathe fire? Grow tufts of hair all over? Feed itself coloured balls with its trunk? Sprout legs and walk around the screen?

It's the kind of mad genius that makes me love the intermanet.

[via Neatorama]


20 June, 2007

dear blog,

I think it's time we confronted the stilted awkwardness that has developed between us. Let's admit it: you and I have not been getting along very well lately. You could even say we have had a falling out. There are, no doubt, numerous reasons why our once-flourishing friendship has found itself floundering. But undoubtedly part of the reason was that I had simply, literally, become sick of the sight of you. It sounds cruel to say it, and I'm sorry if it hurts your feelings, but I must be honest: I couldn't stand even to look at you.

After Byron put together a lovely new template for himself, I realised that the chasm between us was as much my fault as yours; I had neglected you. Seeing Byron's sleek & shiny new blog, I must admit I felt jealous. So I decided to take action to try and repair our shattered love. I cracked my knuckles, unlocked the vault in my brain labelled "HTML skillz", and got to work. I've given you a much more streamlined, simple look, rather than the cluttered bells-and-whistles gaudiness of the old one. It's definitely working for me, and I hope you like it too. With any luck it will help to rekindle the passion we once shared.

I'm well aware that in order for this relationship to work, I need to put in a greater effort as well. We both know that I can't always be trusted to stick to a promise of updating you regularly. We both know I'm wont to disappear into the wilderness and leave you to your own devices for weeks at a time. You must have felt so alone at those times, and I truly apologise. I can't make any guarantees, but I will promise to try harder in the future. Please be patient with me. I do love you, and I genuinely believe that if we both but in the effort, this can be a truly beautiful partnership.

Yours sincerely,