Against my will, I was up at 6am this morning (Saturday 29 Oct) and the sunrise happened to be beautiful so I took a few photos of it from the back window.
Watching Mark Cousins’s Story of Film has made me want to watch some of the very earliest films ever made out of sheer curiosity. Alice in Wonderland is a 1903 British silent film directed by Cecil Hepworth and Percy Stow. It’s only ten minutes or so long and available to watch in its entirety on YouTube (link below). Apparently the original print is badly damaged but the British Film Institute has restored it recently.
I haven’t watched many silent films in the past as I’ve tended to find them heavy going but this film is absolutely amazing. The visual effects are so inventive and ahead of their time. For me what is so fascinating is seeing people moving about on screen just as they were over a century ago! There is a baby in one scene and it’s incredible to think that since then she has grown up, grown old and died yet here she is, tiny and full of life, preserved on film forever.
I thought that the bits with the animals (the central thread of the film) were actually pretty weak; it was mostly them stood round having long, so-called funny conversations about Kevin James’s character’s love life. And that thing that animators do where they superimpose a fake mouth onto a real animal… that NEVER works. It doesn’t even work for the kids because characters standing around talking is boring to them even if those characters are cute and furry.
The good parts were when Kevin James was allowed to take centre stage. He may not exactly be cutting edge or fashionable but I just think he’s naturally funny. He makes me laugh even when he’s got weak material because he doesn’t come across as trying to be funny. Too many comic actors are basically ordinary men trying to be funny. James is a funny man trying to be ordinary, which is far funnier (did you follow that?!!).
Critics have been very sniffy about this film but I don’t think it’s that bad. You’ve seen the storyline a million times: under-confident bloke tries to be something he isn’t in order to win the girl. In other words… if you want to be liked you just have to learn to be yourself (not sure this holds true for serial killers). The film doesn’t go within a million miles of the question of whether animals should be kept locked up in zoos at all. Provided you can accept all of those imperfections and keep your expectations as low as a snake’s arse you might actually enjoy it.
I’ve been watching The Story of Film: An Odyssey on Channel 4 (not sure how available this is to people outside of the UK but I think the full 15-hour documentary is being shown at various film festivals around the world if you can get to see it) and finding it an amazing experience.
I love films but I wouldn’t particularly call myself a fanatic; I started watching this on a whim really and found it totally compelling. It’s done in a very accessible way which doesn’t make you feel like an idiot for not know absolutely everything about every film that has ever been made. It tracks the development of film from its flickering genesis in the late 19th century to the blockbusting present day but it doesn’t do this in a plodding, academically heavy way. Instead it jumps around in time and circumnavigates the globe to capture the essence of what film is all about.
The passion and perceptiveness of its creator, film-critic Mark Cousins, shines through each and every frame. I’ve only watched the first four episodes so far but I’m genuinely thrilled to think that there are another eleven yet to come!! Best of all, this amazing documentary is introducing me to loads of films that I didn’t even know existed and infecting me with a Cousins-like enthusiasm to go and watch them.
I don’t write much here about my own book Ghost Road because I personally hate reading blogs where authors continually try to flog their own stuff. A couple of people have emailed me asking questions about it though so this entry is just to enable me to answer those. Of course if anyone does feel like they fancy trying it I’m always excited to get new readers on board and you can get a copy by clicking on the image in the right hand side panel.
On the surface, it’s a ghost story but I tried to emphasise the emotional and psychological elements as much if not more than the supernatural. It’s set in a suburban street which is ordinary in every way (traffic lights, signposts, rubbish bins, phone booths…) except one… it’s haunted.
The story revolves around the street’s residents particularly Nat, a young boy who accidentally captures footage of a strange figure on his camcorder; Jake, who hears unexplained noises coming from the empty flat above his own; and Andrew, a middle aged man who fears for the safety of his young daughter when voices come from the baby monitor. It’s fast moving and scary, I hope, but I also tried to make it funny in parts so if you do decide to give it a go, I hope you enjoy.
The rest of this entry I’ll use to answer questions sent to me. Firstly they ask why the pub in the street is called the Lifeboat and has pictures of boats on the walls when it is nowhere near the coast. There is a reason for this but I didn’t have space to include it so it will be dealt with in the second part. That brings me to another question… is there a Part Two? Originally it was going to be a single story told in one novel but I found that I just couldn’t shoehorn everything in and still do justice to each element, so I basically split the story into two. Each part can be read independently of the other and Part One does have a resolution of its own but the overarching story continues over two books.
Another question was about the letters LPI that crop up a couple of times and why I didn’t reveal what they meant. Actually I did reveal it… the answer is in there but you have to look hard for it (hint – it’s near the end). LPI is mentioned again in Part Two. The question that was asked most though was; who is driving the Fiesta with the flame transfers down the side? Again, you may be able to figure that out from the story but it is explicitly answered in the second book. I don’t have a publication date for Part Two yet but I’m hoping it will be next year. I do have another book coming out before that about which I’ll give more details soon but I can tell you that it’s a psychological mystery story set in a hospital.
Thanks so much to all those who have read Ghost Road and taken the time to contact me with comments or questions. I’m really pleased with how well the book is doing and it is all down to you. Also, thanks in advance to those who decide to give it a whirl; please do write in with your opinions and I promise to respond.