It's no doubt that 2017 is going to be a time of great change for everyone. Spare a thought, then, for those of us graduating university this year. I have no idea where I will be living in 12 months time, no idea what shape my income will be in, no idea whether I'll drive a car, ride, a bike, commute 50 miles to work, work at home, still have time for dodgeball, anything. In turbulent times it's normal to turn to a tad of escapism- though, of course, to nothing like the extent I would have when I was younger.
This month comes Trainspotting 2. I still haven't managed to watch the first film the whole way through, though I saw the play in Edinburgh, and that was amazing. I've booked for a special screening of the original next week at Cineworld, and intend to see the sequel shortly after.
From what I know, it looks to be more light-hearted than the original- with barely any mention of drugs in the trailers, more of a focus on the madness of a cast of characters who still haven't attempted to adhere to traditional norms of a successful life. And, if you didn't hear, the Rubberbandits' Dad's Best Friend has made it to the soundtrack. I can't wait to see what scene it plays over.
The next thing I'm looking forward to is the new Zelda game, which will release in March alongside the new Nintendo console. The actual console itself, I'm not sold on- considering the flop the WiiU has been, I have now joined that group of video game fans who would prefer to see Nintendo go "third party" so that I could buy a PS4 and get all the good high tech stuff alongside the fun Nintendo stuff, without having to spend extra. We got the most news yet last night regarding the Nintendo Switch. For a conference that included footage of a high definition Mario running around a city full of normal looking people, it was surprising that the most bizarre aspects of it all were the machine's price points. For one, Nintendo want customers to pay for online play- and given their terrible track record for that, who will bother shelling out to try it? As a fan, the company constantly frustrates with ridiculous decisions like that. Looking at the rest of the lineup, the new Mario looks pretty good, but it might be a little late for me, so I might end up buying the WiiU version of Zelda if it's not inferior. That would mean the end of the line for me as a Nintendo fan, but what a way to close that chapter of my life if the game is good.
Perhaps even more exciting is what's coming in December 2018. Peter Jackson recently announced on Facebook that, having exhausted Tolkien, he's now started work on the Mortal Engines movies. That's movies, plural- the most reassuring thing about the whole post. If we get four films based on Philip Reeve's incredible trilogy it will really be a dream come true. There's a lot that could go wrong, but there's also so much that could go right. When I watched the last Hobbit film, I saw the CG battle scenes and thought, well, if they can do that they might now have the power to recreate the world of the traction cities. Combine it with some great acting and a good score and we have a new series of films to match the likes of last decade's Harry Potter.
So when things turn bad these next two years or so, as I expect they may well do, I will still be able to turn to my calendar and look forward to experiencing some seminal entertainment. It might just be enough to keep me going.
The following column was written as an attempt to become Quench columnist. I was reading quite a lot of philosophy and sociology books at the time and was getting a little light headed. Maybe that's why they didn't choose it, because it reads like a conspiracy theory? Except squashed into 800 words. Anyway, Molly Wyatt got it in the end. Not mad, because if I had got this I wouldn't have gone for cartoonist.
The TOMMENT: The bond between Artist and Art
Should we separate artists from their art? This is an issue that has pervaded human societies ever since paintings were first scrawled on cave walls.
In 2014, at the height of what seemed like endless scandals, in the UK we saw the prices of Rolf Harris’s once valuable paintings drop like a gymnast in a nightclub. In the US at the same time, Bill Cosby faced allegations of child abuse and had his new TV show cancelled.
In Harris’ case, many people bought his paintings because he was a TV celebrity- unsurprising, as in our celebrity culture people seem ecstatic just to sit on the same seat as a Big Brother finalist. Perhaps if people hadn’t been so keen to attach art to artist in the first place, the massive overestimation of fairly mediocre paintings wouldn’t have happened.
Some might argue the issue is related to the “commodification of culture”, wherein works of art become media texts and even the most provocative of works (for example, Mein Kampf) are considered worthy of sale on the market. Although this grants them access to a wider audience, it also strips them of their former countercultural context in being conducive to attacks on the status quo. This idea was propagated by sociologist Herbert Marcuse in 1964’s One Dimensional Man, writing that the effect of this would be to stifle political dissent among the young. He was happily proven wrong by the hippie movements of the late 1960s, but this line of thought lives on today in people such as Bill Watterson, the Calvin and Hobbes cartoonist, who was frustrated by the dismissive way that newspaper comics are often treated, writing in 1995 that there should be no distinction between “low” and “high” art.
There are some cases where creatives try desperately to distance themselves from their work. Also in 2014, Markus “Notch” Persson desperately tried to cut ties to Minecraft, which had become the best-selling PC game of all time, and developed a rabid (and increasingly younger) fan base. The young fans saw him as “a symbol”- a role model when the latest update was good, but a hated figure when something went wrong. In this case, Notch was more than happy to partake in the commodification of culture and sold his little Java game to Microsoft for 2.5 billion dollars, washing his hands of the increasingly hot-headed fans once and for all.
That same year, then JOMEC society president Vicky Chandler successfully banned sexist comedian Dapper Laughs (aka Daniel O’Reilly) from playing in the Students Union. O’Reilly responded to the wave of backlash all over the country by trying to show that his character was not him, that “Dapper” was designed to parody the shady ideologies of online pick up artists. Unfortunately, there’s very little evidence to support his claim- he just seems to like punching down on those who have less luck than him, including women, the homeless and a character who is 45 years old and still lives with his mum. When your work is this bad, I think you deserve to have it stapled to your head for the rest of your days.
My original idea was to then link to a page on this website where readers could find links to explore the topics discussed further. I feel like this would make for more interesting reading than a lot of feature and comment pieces in student media, which seem to be drawn from peoples' heads. Here's what readers would find on the secret page:
In this issue's column, I discussed the bond between artist and art. Where should they be separated, where should they be united? What are artists' views on this, and what have academics said on the subject?
Two great articles on the BBC from the Rolf Harris scandal: Here and Here.
The Guardian on Dapper Laughs.
Bill Watterson on High and Low art
When Notch opted for sanity and money over retaining control of his life's work
What could have been, eh?
You may have heard of the Rubberbandits: a comedy rap duo from Limerick, Ireland. They're best known for the song Horse Outside, an all-star hit produced by RTE currently sitting pretty at twelve million Youtube views and an all-Ireland Christmas number two on the charts. You might be reading this going, wait, you mean the two guys who go shirtless, wear carrier bags on their heads and speak with a ridiculously exaggerated accent? The ones from that Russell Brand thing? You'd be right: they're all of these things- and more. Recently, they've been stylizing themselves on Facebook and Twitter as, excuse the language (but get used to it): "Gascuntist Artists." They even pulled out of a poll on Joe.IE asking for the best comedian of the year, explicitly stating that they are artists. Despite all this talk, they never really help people to understand the meanings behind their hilarious, deeply bizarre comedy. In this article, we'll try and find out whether the Rubberbandits really are more than just Ireland's answer to Goldie Lookin Chain.
Gone Girl, when I saw it in the cinema last year, was a seminal experience. It was, as many great films of 2014-2015 were, a bit of a life-changer. It made me, as an impressionable, intermittently single young man, think a lot about the nature of marriage, as it should do.
I bought the DVD for my dad this Christmas, and we watched it earlier today. I'd already told my mam the whole plot, so she kind of saw everything coming. Perhaps just as well, for she's averse to violence and since I'd already warned her of the hammer-and-mirror scene and of course the film's blood-soaked twist, she persevered. Unfortunately, my dad, who I'd bought the film for, didn't enjoy it and said that he thought it was probably some kind of attack from "the gays" to destroy the sanctity of marriage. I don't know what makes him an expert- he's only been married once! All I'll say, is, if the Saw Doctors and the Simpsons didn't exist, we'd never agree on anything.
But this is all beside the point. The real theme of this film, I noticed, is the constant mediatization of society. Yes, I'm really showing off where my student loan's gone here.
This blog is an experimental project. Recently, when I've been watching films, reading books, and so on, I've been having a lot of thoughts. I've become a bit of an amateur critic. So I've decided to once again have a go at writing... well, not reviews, as such, but more like analysis/discussion of some themes and ideas I encountered whilst consuming certain media. There will of course be a comment section on every post, and you can also chat to me about it on Twitter. I may also link or copypaste a few of my theories to Reddit (/r/TrueFilm, /r/FanTheories, etc) where other film fans can see them.
This'll also be a great excuse to get me reading a bit more. I hope you enjoy.