Monday, 30 January 2012

Warped War Horse Rides The Wrong Way Round

I think it's ok to critique big Hollywood films as they deserve it simply for being big Hollywood films and for not casting me or any of my friends in them....I usually adore SS, he has a remarkable touch with films, and so I was quite looking forward to seeing how he dealt with this story, I confess to not having seen the play or read the book, so that may validate my opinion as a first time user to the War Horse World or make it irrelevant. Either way I decided in a piqué of boredom to review said film after seeing it with some of the stunt and horse master people involved. This may be my only film review, it depends, as I may never work again afterwards, but if Spielberg sees this and is less than enamoured I intend to claim ignorance, feign indifference and then blame the first person who comments on this piece for hacking into my blog with cruel professionalism......and so, my review on 'War Horse'......

I find that the best films leave me thinking about something. Anything. It doesn't have to be profound, it can be as basic and primal such as replaying the mental image of the hot leading lady dancing and figuring out how best you could get her out of that corset. Or how beautifully it was shot and how it made those squalid ghetto streets of New York, Dublin, Buenos Aires, take your pick, look like a fairytale. Or what you'd do if you were as good looking as Channing Tatum and could dance his moves, or could take a smack in the nut sack like Daniel Craig and not have been prematurely neutered. But War Horse didn't do any of that. All it did was make me wish that bad films knew they were bad films and were cut an hour shorter. That would have been the best part about this film.

I am a massive Spielberg fan. Hell, anybody who's name is autocorrected in Apple Spell Check has to be respected. But apart from that, he is simply one of the greatest film makers to have ever existed. You can't argue with his work and track record, not least because people beg to give HIM money to make their films. But every now and again even the unfallible are proved mortal. War Horse may well be a box office success, because films about horses galloping through a hail of German bullets and bringing people together with the power of love for an animal aren't very prevalent nowadays and everybody loves a good animal man mate love story. But War Horse is basically just not very good.

The story essentially revolves around this young boy, who seems a little simple and too old to not be allowed join the army -he would have fit right into Full Metal Jacket- and his bond with his horse. The horse becomes his by default after his father buys it through pride rather than any fiscal responsibility. Maybe this was to be the most salient point of the film, a pointed look at how many in modern society over stretch themselves and live beyond their means. But no, this was ignored as the horse saves the day by helping till a field that looks perfectly ploughable. It should be to the seasoned farmer anyway. The problem is that there is no real bond with the horse, in fact this horse barely requires breaking in, it's better trained than many police Alsatians after 3 years within about 11 minutes. Of real time. That's fine, it's Disney, I'll go with that. But if that wasn't difficult to achieve then where is the conflict, the part where the boy and animal bond through their mutual respect and drive the story forward. Well there isn't any. The horse gets shipped off to war where it proves to be happy with just about anybody. I don't think I've seen any creature as universally socially popular since Bambi or the guy who wins the lottery and tells the entire pub the next round is on him. People just fawn over this horse, despite the fact he pretty much looks like all the other horses and there's a life or death war going on, people seem able to take the time to spot that he's got that something special. Even non horsey people. I have spent quite an unfeasibly lengthy time recently with horses, and they still generally look the same. But even if you can distinguish them, they all misbehave, not even the best trained ones are that smart and docile with everybody, especially not when there's a war going on around their heads. Not even Big Bird could be that calmly intelligent and he's a touch on the unaware side of things. Unless the horse is actually as simple as the boy and doesn't realise he's even in a war, and so he goes around loving everybody back unconditionally even when surrounded by death and loud noises and hard labour. So the basic crux of the movie, the love between this boy and this horse is irrelevant, and instead we are meant to root for the magic horse that travels europe, survives the war, and beats off tetanus. How the horse didn't get poisoning off filthy barbed wire cutting through his entire body is amazing enough, but after Liam Cunningham gave his trusted medical opinion that the horse was screwed, and then helped buy it for £100 without any medical treatment is pushing my suspension of disbelief. But then again, this horse did get more close ups looking knowing and pensive than all the actors from a period drama combined so he can't die. He's the hero.

The cinematography next, which got Oscar nominated, and I hate criticising such a respected DOP as he is incredible and I can't do an iota of what he does, but why did everything look like it was lit like a cartoon. The whole point of lighting such a film is to make it look like it's not lit. Maybe he was bored and just decided it was easier to bang a few 5-ks in front of everything, but the effect is that it all looks like he has banged a few 5-k lights in front of everything, apart from the final scene which only needed a Terrys Chocolate Orange or Bushmills logo to finish it off. Cheesy ain't the word. I was disappointed, I expected something more epic.

There are some positive points. It was directed by Spielberg, which is always cool, and the boys parents are very well played, but apart from that a lot of the acting is quite stiff, and the foreign accents sound as if they were learned in stage school, they're even worse than mine in Small Island. I will try and think of more positives but at the time of writing I simply wish I could get the three hours of my life back. I just pray that there isn't a sequel. Spielberg I still love you, but you may need to have a sit down with Mr. Nicolas Winding Refn for some pointers as even the greatest can lose their touch sometimes. The various horses who played the horse were good though, and the stunts and cavalry charges were quite epic, although having had an insider track I know there were a lot of horse scenes cut, and stunts that never made it which is disappointing. But I wanted to end on a positive note, so what else, oh, I learned a lot about horses. Which is always nice.


I shall now drink myself into a stupor and await Mr. Winding Refns call to have me play opposite Ryan Gosling in his next film for my show of love for his talents. He is very talented. If anybody knows him they should tell him that. Also who calls their horse 'Joey', should it not be Mystique, Toscano, Diablo or something cool......

Friday, 20 January 2012

Into the Woods

This is a little retrospective blog, as I'm in a retro mood lately and frustrated trying to re-jig my website. I have quite a few older projects which I just simply feel like posting as some things I haven't put up before and it's a new year and all that jazz.....

About 18months ago I shot and directed a music video for a very talented singer, Kellie Blaise, which we did in Ireland, in the woods in Howth where I grew up, as befits the song title 'into the woods', how very arty!....

The video featured some good friends of mine, actors and actresses such as my sister Niamh, Vinny, who was in Studs with me way back when, and Natalia Kostrvewa, who features in the horror film 'The Inside', which is due it's release later this year (but more of that another time), and the adorable Kayla seen in the 'walking in the air' video.

The song is quite dark and shall we say quirky, and the idea evolved into that of a young girl following a small boy into the depths of a forest, where she gets lost and is accosted by a woodland nymph. The boy is one of her minions who has lead countless lost children/people into these woods where they are trapped in a limbo.....similar to hansel and gretal with the breadcrumbs, or the old age fairytales where the child is seduced and ends up having their soul bound for all eternity.....dark yes, but Stardust has a dark concept too where the stars get eaten, so at least in purgatory there is the possibility of escape....

As the witch/nymph leads the girl deeper into the forest she comes into contact with lost souls who have become creatures in a paralysed limbo. The witch plays with them, releasing them for a moment where they engage in a repetitive action like a cuckoo clock, and then stop again, paused in time as it were by her spell. This is the fate that will befall the little girl....

The little girl tries to fight against the evil witch but she calls all her minions to her in a reverie of worship, and, as the rules of a music video dictate, her voice over awes all those around her and she is all powerful and dominant. I did wonder about little Kayla, and the little boy Evan, who is the coolest kid, as they are young and surrounded by all these fruitcakes dressed in masks in a forest of smoke with a bizarre 'teddy bears picnic' style song going on which has 'odd' connotations if read a certain way, but kids watch a lot of disney so it was like going to the funfair for them I guess.........

The video was shot on the Sony Ex-1, which doesn't allow any interchanging of lenses unfortunately but gives a nice low light image, and the stills were shot on 800 stock, on the OM-2.

It's a very pretty video, and a gorgeous song, and I think it worked out quite well.....never quite knew what to do with it when it was finished and the stills and the video just drifted a little bit as sometimes happens with projects, but I think that the end product turned out well.

Here is the ORIGINAL version of the song/video:

I had intended on putting a photo book together telling the story through just stills but never got around to it. It was a tough little shoot, we used the Deer Park Hotel as a base, and shot in the forest behind it, but it was trek lugging a generator in and out as it got very muddy and rained, and for some reason we just attracted horse flies, which wasn't popular. The shoot took two days, cut in half for the children to get out earlier of course...

There are two versions of the song, one produced musically by Kevin Whyms, and one by Reggie Ashley, and I'm not sure which I prefer, but each give the song a completely different vibe.....

The make up was done by the incredibly talented Nadia Macari, and Eimear Ennis Graham was my gaffer that day, the wonderfully talented woman that she is. The styling was done by Kellie herself, along with the concept art...

There's a little story in the video, which I think makes it more interesting and visually I enjoyed shooting it.....

This is the alternate version of the song, same video, jazzier style, by Kevin Whyms...

Monday, 16 January 2012

A Poem For My Father

I've been asked a few times recently about this poem that I wrote for my late father James Macken SC. I hadn't ever thought about posting it, and then listening to a song written by my friends in the band 'The Evora' recently made me think about it, and so I decided I would. I was then going to wait and post it on his anniversary on the 13th of March later this year, but sometimes things just hit you and you want to put things out there I guess.

This poem was written for my dad when he died of a brain tumour almost 5 years ago, and the girls at have been, what I can only describe as incredibly sweet and insightful by raising money for my birthday for a brain cancer foundation charity.

The poem has an odd cadence, in that the lines should run into each other, and this song doesn't exactly fit the rhythm, but it's a beautiful song by some very talented musicians. I find that grief comes in different waves, and people deal with it differently, but sometimes hearing a song or reading about somebody else's experiences can help. I recently read a story, in GQ of all things, which won their non fiction award, about a woman who's husband died in Iraq and it was very moving and made me think of my own father. But the beauty of her story was that he wrote her a letter before he died, in the event that he might, and in it he told her to go and achieve and attempt all the things she should and to not wallow in sadness but to embrace life and to cherish their memories, and that's a very important message.

Here is the poem, written for my father when he died:

Verse One

His slender hands pluck the dirt with measured strength
tossing bedraggled fragments to scatter in the wind around
Streaming fore and aft his face respectful, ready to relent
its eager course that harries wide-reaching under natures bounds.
Courteously acknowledging every healthily earned crevice and crease
with barely disguised admiration eclipsed in gentle sound
aware the same that bore him oceans across, seeking release
to threaten and consume with playful violence yet halted down
to its knees, at bay, with a tactful dexterity subdued
by his knowledge of its inner secrets carefully wrought
into an aura of calmness, a confidence daily renewed
by his own self belief, a trait that cannot be taught.
Peppered by a roaring anger, with strength in itself to blow
him across the Irish Sea with its power, but carefully caught
softened and moulded by the only cherished voice that knows
how to keep, soothe, temper and tame him, that only sought
to harness his talent of abundance and shape and caress 
into a creative intelligence, of passionate defence
the map that guided him to unlimited heights of success
financial and emotional, but never at anothers expense
His lucky charm, his rock, his shelter, his soul,
the woman that kept him, for she made him whole.

Verse Two

'Red Sky in the Night'  was his ever favourite phrase
and his eyes would sparkle in delight, life always amazed
Laughter burrows his skin in humour, at his own behest
met with a ferociously witty yet carefully measured riposte
A game to play along with, to challenge but never to best
as there was never a sole winner and nobody lost(e)
for that was the beauty, this awe in his presence
at a vast riveria of information spanning ages of time
a sea of words printed and spoken, always with reverence
drama, newsworthy, novel, fable, linguistic and rhyme
moulded and fleshed by intellectual pursuit of perfection
encouraged by diligent competition and masterful memory of lines
the courtroom his playhouse, the case his canvas, subsection
stroking in patterns victorious, yet never absent nor behind
a humanist, present, unselfish and always humble
observant and confident but cased in a tight circle of friends
loyal and caring, would never let go if you stumbled
charismatically woven from pillars of steel that would bend
around a penetrable soul for protection, to ease any heartache
with voice trembling like thunder in a maelstorm to mend,
 assist and just be there, his self beyond any re-make
for he was a true shepard, and he was there to us, always to tend.

And this is the song by the Evora, on youtube, which I think helps with the tone of the poem. Or if not, is just a beautiful song in any case....

Much love to you all and to those who have lost and are hurt I hope that you have beautiful memories always......

Friday, 6 January 2012

Handcuffed for Attention

## A proviso: all my stories are written as fictional anecdotes, scenarios or observations, they are not intended to be offensive or representative of any specific view on my behalf. It's called fictional writing, but even so I have no intention of ever getting into politics. ##

I tilted my head to Mr. Burrows, cheerfully indicating him to carry on, that this situation at the pole suited me just fine. Always best to keep a strong sense of self importance no matter the scenario. My dad had told me this when the debt collector had called him up on the money they wrongly believed he owed the bank. Good advice that was hammered into me to be sure to use in every circumstance. My dad had stayed true to his convictions, both morally and physically after he went on 'a short student holiday to cell block 69'. 
How could he be blamed for making an investment based on the profit from a different investment that had yet to be completed because it was waiting for the profits to develop it from an original investment which had stalled. Should he not be praised for being an eager capitalist?
Ireland needed people like him to keep it from reverting into a backward yuppie country with just two television channels and a strange guttural language nobody spoke but made for crap road signs. His misfortune was all because of the sudden crash and recession, which was because of the 'foreigners abroad'. This was an American crisis affecting a European one, how could he have foreseen it when even the Chinese hadn't. If he had then he wouldn't have made stupid investments to lose the money in the first place, obviously. Beside weren't we neutral so we were exempt from other countries problems??
I thought his arguments were very strong even though I didnt really understand any of it. Especially not the part of the imaginary money that only exists once somebody acknowledges its existence. Or that somebody decides that something is worth something that it might not actually be but is because they've decided it. Regardless of the confusion I admired his sense of self importance even as he had his sentence laid down to him because he maintained this sense of self importance in that it was anybody else's fault except his. Morally he couldn't be faulted my dad, he stuck to his guns. But back to the situation with me handcuffed to the pole.

It was like any other pole really, innocuous in the grand scheme of things. Had the weather turned out differently and not rained so heavily that the lads had had to seek shelter in the bushes where they found the handcuffs half buried in the dirt then this pole would have remained happily irrelevant. As it was it just happened that this pole was the closest one to the nearby shops and bus stop where the vast majority of our neighbours would congregate to do their mundane things to keep on living. Certainly not as important as our gang mentality aspirations to find a slow cat that we could test the power of an old firework with through it's rectal passage. When asked afterwards by harassed local police on behalf of the local old persons community committee who's idea this was to stick the firework up the cats arse, nobody could genuinely remember. They thought we were all lying of course, and as a result we all thought we were all lying. In actuality nobody had desperately wanted to do it, and had all quite liked that old trusting cat with the slight limp. The idea had just appeared by osmosis and everybody was doing it on tv these days so it basically made sense. On the bright side it livened up the bingo night with an excuse for a funeral gathering for the cat, everybody in Ireland loves to bond over a good solid funeral. A cat isn't the same as a dead person admittedly, it doesn't have the same extended family bonds beyond the immediate locality, but you'd be surprised how worked up people can get when they put their minds to wanting to be sad and grieving. But anyway, the pole.

Well basically, handcuffs have to be used or else what is the point of their existence. They simply become a metal ring without a purpose and having seen first hand what happens when something has no purpose, like money for instance - it just stagnates if left idle and so must be constantly moved from account to account to keep it working my dad told me - well we didn't want our new toy to be like that. So we used it immediately. I say 'we' when I mean the other boys I nominally hang around with when they are kind enough to let me. Pubescent teenagers are remarkably charitable towards their peers if just given the chance. Most are judged too quickly just because they rob a few things, cause a few scuffles or impregnate a few girls, when they are nice for the most part and people shouldn't be so judgemental. The bunch I hang around with are nice anyway, I'm lucky to know them. So what that they had left me handcuffed to the pole. It was only fair really as I do have a bigger house so I have to get some flak somewhere to even it all out, I'm just glad we had to sell the car for dad's legal bills or then they might have left me completely naked and not just from the waist down. I was glad for the shirt.

So there I was, handcuffed to this unfortunate pole, naked from the waist down after a quick scuffle which I had lost half heartedly. My dad always said that one must be a good sport with other boys and not take anything too personally, so I'm okay with them removing my trousers, underwear, socks and shoes, (I was glad they took the socks and shoes or else I would have looked really ridiculous actually), and throwing them into the trees. It means that I can get them back from up there eventually and they are close by which is handy. So I was the first 'volunteer' to test out the handcuffs, it is a badge of honour to be the first in any situation, and how can I blame them for not realising what I had tried to point out, that there was no key. I really must start raising my voice because people just don't seem to hear me apparently even in normal conversations and that's not conducive to good communication, it gets you mistakenly ignored. They had in fairness looked quite guilty when they had eventually realised it, I'm pretty sure somebody had looked at his feet in remorse, and somebody else did make a half decent attempt with a stick to get my underwear off the tree. How can I blame him for not wanting to climb up as he might hurt himself if he fell and nobody wants that. It was my own fault for wearing underwear in the first place to be honest and I'd hate to feel guilty if he had fallen so I'm glad they listened when I told them it was fine I'd do it.

So it was that I nodded to Mr. Burrows to keep walking as I knew they would be back soon with a locksmith to release me. I had told them before they walked off slowly, tired as they were from their exertions with me, that the cuffs were far too tight and were cutting off the blood supply to my hands and I know that they wouldn't want that. I shouldn't have struggled half as much really then they wouldn't have been too tired to walk faster. It takes longer than an hour to order even a coffee these days I remember my dad saying so he would always have them pre-ordered the day before to make sure it was ready precisely when he wanted it. If you're going to pay for something make sure it's the best he'd say, so I'm sure the boys were just getting the very best locksmith possibly available. I said I'd pay for it in any case, only fair seeing as it is me he will have to release, they shouldn't have to take the financial burden on my behalf. I did feel a little ridiculous in just my shirt and nothing lower down I must admit, but my dad used to say that a good looking woman could pull off just wearing a potato sack to a party and still look good. I don't think thats entirely relevant here as I doubt Mr. Burrows would walk away in embarrassment if I was wearing a full potato sack and I don't have breasts to enhance the potato sack/shirt part but it's a similar concept. 

So that's how this pole became famous in my area anyway, far beyond the normal scope allocated to standard telephone poles in my locality. I still haven't grasped the full meaning of the pole oriented jokes that have gone around, this pole definitely wasn't smaller than usual as they make them all standard in the factory I assume, and why I would want to get any girl up on my pole after my experience with it is beyond me. But as my dad always said, it's better to be part of something then not involved at all and so I'm just happy to be the subject of local conversation. Even if people do look at me oddly sometimes I know they're not judging me, but are secretly jealous that so many people talk about me. I'm actually very popular if popularity is measured by how many people say things about you behind your back. Almost as popular as my dad in the newspapers these days. I'll remember to say that to him next time I see him and explain how I've followed all his great advice. I know he'll be very proud that I lasted so long without peeing publicly before the firemen rescued me later that evening, for the record it was just once and I missed that man's shoes entirely, he stood in a separate puddle. Anyhow it wasn't the lads fault that there was a repeat of 'father ted' on the television, the show is about religion and God after all and we Irish are a very religious race so they had to watch it, blasphemous not to. So I don't blame them that they forgot about me, probably my fault anyway, I should have been more memorable. 

## no animals were harmed in the creation of this story, even for the inevitable research purposes required. And Ireland is still a neutral country suffering in the hands of inept financial morons, but I would never state that out loud. Finally, the pole remains in mint condition and no damage occurred to its personage so the council have no cause for concern. ##

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

An interesting person to read....

I had meant to post this before, about two of my favourite people's blogs and writings to read....the comedian Carol Tobin, and effervescent writer of all things strange and warbling, Dylan Townsend, both very talented and slightly out there in the best possible way. I blame Carol for anything offensive that I write, meaning that you read her work if you're that way inclined. I blame Dylan for making me think more about life, the universe, how the world we live affects us and we it, and just generally making me think more......

So if you need something else to read, to unwind after something offensive, perhaps read Carol, then read Dylan, and find something in their works if you can, two very talented people who should get more exposure, and I hope that some of their brilliance rubs off on me as I follow tediously in their slipstream..

Erstwhile comedienne with a penchant for the extreme and wonderfullly offensive....never ask to hear a story about a horse.....

Fluently soaring writer about many and more wonderful things, poetry, music, economy, surfing, people and just living......don't tell him I sent you.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

A Plane of Sexuality

## This story is not meant to offend anybody, and is published in the original format. I don't want to have explain it anymore, in fact there is an interesting analysis of it from a reader at the bottom of the story. The story has already been copied and reposted so to have taken it down was clearly an exercise in futility which is why I have simply re-posted it. I was quite fascinated by the debate and discussion taking it down promoted, which simultaneously reinforced both the negative and positive aspects of twitter and social media, which i referenced in my first blog. Again it's just a story, criticise the writing if you want, and/or how perhaps the points or references I was making haven't come across, or how elements of identity have been confused, but don't accuse me of bigotry, if one can't mock or insult aspects of life then whats's the point. It's just a story. ##

## A proviso: all my stories are written as fictional anecdotes, scenarios or observations, they are not intended to be offensive or representative of any specific view on my behalf. It's called fictional writing, but even so I have no intention of ever getting into politics. ##

LIKE ALL POSITIVE MINDED OPTIMISTS, I approach life with a glass pretty much full mentality. I console myself in all negative situations with the caveat that at least I'm not dead. I always think the worst thing would be to simply no longer exist. No more. Gone. I don't see how that can be beaten. Except perhaps when it comes to airports, and traveling on dodgy airlines. Then I can almost see the basic appeal of non existence. These places hurt me emotionally.

(This story has been removed because I am tired, and bored, of the emails and questions about it. It was an early piece of writing, and I'm not in any way attached to it, so it is easier to take it down at this stage).