‘Birdman’, Superhero Films and Spectacle

Riggan: How about Jeremy Renner?
Jake: Who?
Riggan: Jeremy Renner. He was nominated. He was the Hurt Locker guy.
Jake: Oh, okay. He’s an Avenger.
Riggan: Fuck, they put him in a cape too?

One of the best and most inspired films I’ve seen recently is Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), a fantastic multi-layered meta commentary on hollywood and the creation of art. It features Michael Keaton as an middle-aged actor struggling to make what he sees as ‘real art’, after playing a superhero called ‘Birdman’ twenty years ago. This superhero, or possibly his diseased mind, torments him throughout the film. It taunts him about his perceived lack of talent and asking why he’s bothering to attempt a serious play on Broadway. Near the film’s climax, the Birdman appears and directly taunts the audience, showing them explosions and fast action, before turning directly into the camera and saying:
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The Cement Garden by Ian McEwan- Book Review

I picked this short novella up recently and devoured it in about a day. Having previously read some of Ian McEwan’s later novels such as Saturday & On Chesil Beach, I wasn’t expecting such a violent and horrible little story. It deals with four children left abandoned in their house when both their parents die, and the unpleasantness that follows their isolation.
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The Work Never Stops

After I published my first book of short stories, Amber Stars, I took a week off writing. I enjoyed the achievement of actually finishing a project and publishing a book. So I kicked back, read some books, browsed the web a lot and created absolutely nothing.

Then after a week of slacking off, I started waking up at six again. I deleted unnecessary apps, stopped wasting time on websites and got back to work. I started writing again. Austin Kleon’s Share Your Work! helped me refocus on what I want to do. It gave me a kick up the arse to start writing again, and to share my process some more.
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Newspaper Blackout Poems

In the past month, I’ve been messing around with a strange form of ‘writing’ called blackout poems. I was inspired by Austin Kleon, who helped popularise the form. Since then, hundreds of people have ran with it, creating new and different poetry using existing texts.

It’s a really interesting format that has a lot of potential. You take a newspaper article, pick some words and scribble out the rest. Weird phrases and snippets of almost poetry emerge. It reminds me of William Burrough’s cut up technique, where he would re-arrange his sentences at random. The resulting poems are reliant on the underlying article but there are infinite combinations. It’s more visual than a poem but not quite an image either.
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Zaireeka and the live experience

The live music experience is still thriving, even as CD sales fall. For many bands, it is the primary way of making a living. It seems odd that even as we devalue recorded music, live music has stayed important. I believe it comes down to the experience.

A live performance is special partly because it is a shared experience. Even if you attend a gig by yourself, you are surrounded by like minded fans and the band. We are social creatures at heart and being physically present with others adds a power and intensity to the experience. You are forced to listen to every note. In addition, there’s always the danger at a gig that something might go wrong or the music will be played differently.
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Thoughts on ‘High Rise’

Last Saturday, somewhat spontaneously, I went to see High Rise, the newest film by Ben Wheatley. I’d previously seen Sightseers and A Field in England and enjoyed them both. The later wasn’t wholly successful, but it felt very different to any other film I’d seen before.

High Rise looks like his most conventional film yet, given its slick advertising and Hollywood stars like Tom Hiddleston and Sienna Miller. However, it manages to be much more shocking and unconventional.
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“The path itself was narrow and wound in and out among the trunks. Soon the light at the gate was like a little bright hole far behind, and the quiet was so deep that their feet seemed to thump along while all the trees leaned over them and listened.”

-J.R.R. Tolkien describing Mirkwood in The Hobbit

A few weeks ago, I went to the Forest of Dean for a weekend. It was bliss, staying in a shepherds’ hut away from the city and in the middle of nature. The isolation was relaxing and peaceful.

Whilst there, I had the pleasure of going to Puzzlewood,  a unique forest just outside Coleford. It was like walking onto a set. The whole wood, with its picturesque paths over and under the many embankments, was like a fantasy  version of a forest. It was no surprise to learn it was supposedly the inspiration for Middle Earth, as well as where Merlin and Star Wars: The Force Awakens were filmed.
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