Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Me and Orson Welles - Richard Linklater - 2009

- All posts may contain spoilers -


I have to start by declaring that I know very little of Orson Welles. Yes I have heard War of the Worlds, seen Citizen Kane and The Third Man, but I know very little about much else he has been involved in his – what I have been told is a – great career. In all honesty, when growing up, I was only aware of him as voicing the character of Unicron in Transformers: The Movie from 1986. Obviously, although I know very little about him this does not mean I do not recognise that his name carries a great deal of weight; just his name seems to demand attention. I feel that this sense of presence and of the importance of charisma is captured perfectly throughout Me and Orson Welles.

Director: Richard Linklater (A Scanner Darkly and School of Rock)
Cast: Zak Efron (High School Musicals), Claire Danes (Romeo and Juliet and My So Called Life). Christian McKay, who I have not seen in anything before. As I explained above I do not know much about Welles, so I cannot say he was portrayed ‘accurately’, but I was certainly convinced that the man on screen was Orson Welles. These along with many other brilliant performances.


The film oozes ‘greatness’, not only in its captivating performances, slick direction and high production value, but in its themes and its characterisation of the film’s big personalities. There is no gritty realism here, no awkward silences; everything about this film is fabricated and based on spectacle, but I mean this in the most complimentary and positive way. It is about the importance of showmanship, of passion, of art, of commanding attention and then delivering something excellent – just as Welles does in the radio-drama scene. The film shows how this can only be executed if you believe in yourself and what you are doing; it is a truly artistic gift. This level of ‘greatness’ invariably surrounds Welles and Richard in both characters and the actors that play them. Due to the emphasis on ‘the show’ of the whole film it is easy to see that the actors playing these characters are so important to its meaning. McKay has huge boots to fill due to the mythology that comes along with playing Welles and it really is testament to his acting that he conveyed both his own greatness, along with Welles’ dramatic and imposing aura. Obviously there is credit due here to both the scripting and the direction and therefore I believe that Richard Linklater has (consciously or not) put himself in the category he is showing us onscreen: those who strive to be great at what they do. Or maybe they don’t have to strive for this at all, maybe it is just the way they are. This brings us nicely to Richard, who is very rarely seen to be practising, rehearsing or doing anything to prepare himself. He is, as Welles calls him: “A God created actor”. Although there is an element of doubt around whether Welles really meant this as he was saying it, I believe that he did, and I will come to that a little later. Richard as a character isn’t the only level at work here as it is pivotally important that he is played by the meteoric rising star that is Zak Efron. Again I know very little about this individual - I haven’t seen the High School Musicals et al - but I am conscious of the myth being created around him.

Passing the mantle and a disregard for recognised tradition.

It is this ‘Zak Efron Factor’ that embodies the point that the film was making. It is ironic that a film largely based around an individual with such an epic myth built around him shows absolutely no regard for tradition or conformity. This – as far as I understand – seems to be a lot about the way Welles was: rebelling against the Hollywood system in his own way. Well this message is hammered home in this film through Welles’ absolute disregard for Shakespeare’s original text or the established theatre productions that he is in competition with. In a similar way to how Welles may have carried this view in his life, it is again testament to McKay’s acting that the Welles of this film passes this message to the young Richard (and by extension to the Efron’s of the new century). Welles sees himself in Richard, this much is clear and although it is implied that Richard was dismissed because Welles cannot be questioned, contested or upstaged in any way, I believe that Welles was freeing Richard; he knows that Richard must find his own path in order to truly be great, just as he did. He cannot rise to fame under the wing of the great Orson Welles, as this will then be all he will ever be: Welles’ understudy. The film shows a number of characters that can contest Welles, namely his manager who constantly argues with him (played by Eddie Marsan, who I am mainly familiar with from him playing a brilliant, but tragic driving instructor in Mike Leigh’s Happy Go Lucky). These characters are not dismissed the way Richard is. I guess a talking point must be whether Welles keeps these around because he know their arguments ere rhetoric whereas Richard’s passion was real and did this threaten Welles’ dominance of the centre ground. Or alternatively as I hypothesise did Welles not see the same potential in the others and therefore does not see it fit to set them free. The freedom of Richard and his generation is displayed at the end with the bird flying free; this is accompanied by Greta (his generational peer and fellow artist) declaring that “it is all ours”, when referring to the world. This continues the rhetoric of the importance of youth freeing itself; that you don’t follow the path set out by those before you, you create your own, albeit based loosely on their direction. Take their influence then make something new, i.e. Welles' interpretation of Caesar. Richard almost falls too far into this trap; idolising Welles, dressing like him, or even literally dressing in his robe and staying in his bed. This is until he realises that he has the self belief and presence of mind to make and follow his own path, he subsequently loses the Welles inspired suit attire in favour of his own trainers and colourful-coat look. The film openly displays ‘that to be great you must attain it for yourself’ is Welles’ belief. A key example would be when he tells Richard (and us) that he lost his mother and father at a young age. In balance then by then end of the film, Richard has taken the positive influence from Welles yet found himself as well.

In Summary

Fanboy, elitist knowledge of Welles is not important for the enjoyment of this film. It embodies what I have been led to believe is something that Welles stood for: that you create your own greatness by believing in it and in yourself. You do not blindly follow the dictation from previous generations, you seize the light yourself and in doing so you can make your impact on the world. This message is passed to the future generations through the character of Richard and is further articulated through the inspired casting of Zak Efron who embodies youth in popular culture as we enter the second decade of the 21st Century. You must define your own path but you cannot make that path unless you absolutely demand, with all the self belief you can muster that it be laid out in front of you.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Aliens in the Attic: Gamers aren't the delinquents that Hollywood would often have you believe


This was a Saturday morning trip with my three year old son to the pound-a-film kids screening. I am a massive NO TALKING in the cinema kind of fascist but one of the things I love the most about going to these kids screenings is that the setting is right to jabber away all the way through, answering my son’s plentiful and plenty-amusing questions. I went in with low expectations, thinking that it would be based too strongly at the eightish plus year old demographic for my kid to like it and too annoying American kid-like for me. I was wrong on both accounts.

Director / writer / cast – anything to note

Director has nothing to note. One of the writers on the other hand: Mark Burton, has some interesting credits to his name, including Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Ware-rabbit and Madagascar, two films that my son loves. In addition, he has writing credits on British comedy shows such as Room 101 and Never Mind the Buzzcocks. This may help to explain why there were some moments in the film where I literally laughed out loud and why the film had a quick, concise – family film – flow to it.

Gut instinct / immediate impressions.

As is outlined above, I went into this film with low expectations, but it wasn’t only that the expectations were low, they were specific. I thought that the young characters would be intolerable and incredibly set-in-stone stereotypes. On the surface, this may still appear so, but there are certain things that led me to believe that this was not quite the case; I shall outline the two main reasons I think this. The first is that when the second family arrived, they seemed as though they were certain to be held up against the protagonist’s family as the more flawed and less of an idealised nuclear family. Along with this I expected these children to be portrayed as spoilt, stupid, mean or just pointless. In the first scene they are in the older one is a little arrogant and the two younger twins are shown as soulless creatures completely consumed by their Nintendo DSs. I thought ‘oh here we go, typical Hollywood: broken family equals rubbish dad and therefore horrible children, and obviously they are delinquents as they are playing videogames’. These initial impressions don’t last long as the older boy proves to be just as useful, kind and caring as the protagonist (part of the ‘perfect’ suburban family) and it’s not like he goes through the entire film as a spoilt brat and changes his ways at the end; he is pretty consistently just an ‘ok’ if not a little mischievous kind of kid. Further to this and in complete contradiction to what I thought the film was going to say about videogames rotting the minds of the youth, the two twins’ knowledge and ability with computer games practically saves the world as they are able to use the aliens’ mind control device like a typical videogame console controller, leading to one of the highlights of the film: A fight between the family’s Nan and the older sister’s boyfriend. One controlled by one of the aliens and one controlled by the two boys. The fight captures a Hong-Kong action sequence feel and is much more impressive than the poor attempts at hand to hand combat that often appear in some big budget Hollywood blockbusters. The fight even gave a self-conscious nod to the greatest fighting game franchise of all time, as the Nan replicated the dragon-punch uppercut special move of Street Fighter’s Ryu and Ken. This progressive use of videogame references mirrors what is spells out throughout and is a common trope of children’s films: The adults just won’t get it; “they’re wired differently” says one of the boys.

Viewing this film in the context of a day out with my son probably made me appreciate this approach even more. Though it did contain many of the expected American-family film genre elements, there was enough here that left numerous points/characters for children to identify with and didn’t cast down any of the younger characters as having less importance, nor did it preach about the need for a perfect nuclear family. Finally it had a certain charm as it really seemed to be made with its target market of children/young people in mind and close to heart rather than trying – and failing – to cater to everyone.

In Summary

More going on that I thought there was going to be, it fast and fluent in its children/family film execution but at the end of the day if you don’t have a child or you aren’t a child between 3 and 13 then there really is no good reason to see this.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 game diary of sorts - pre-game expectations

As it is now, not only the highest selling game on record, but the highest selling entertainment product, it is clear that Infinity Ward’s Modern Warfare 2 - the sixth game in the Call of Duty Franchise - is of great cultural significance.

I feel then, an obligation to track my experience and impressions of the game as I experience it now in the game’s early existence. Rather than any kind of generic review, of which there will already be hundreds if not thousands; I would like to make a game diary drawing on what I have learnt in the field of film studies. Although this is sure to generate a narrative heavy approach, the importance of the gameplay cannot be understated. My particular focus will be on where the two meet; that is where the gameplay enhances the way the story is told (or the world is experienced would be a more appropriate description).

Having played the original Modern warfare, I am aware of the game’s intentions to stay as close to realism as possible. This does not simply refer to the photorealistic graphics but more importantly to the immersion brought about by the gameplay, the physics that are present and the narrative tools implemented to suspend the viewer/player’s disbelief in a way that has them enchanted by the gameworld. The first Modern Warfare had a very linear story, which to describe as original would be far-fetched to say the least. Where it excelled was its techniques in telling the story. For those who played it think of the way you experienced the Nuke scene. This could have been shown as a beautiful full motion video cut-scene; it would have looked fantastic and exhilarating. But the choice to have you still playing the game, dragging your body to the opening of the helicopter having been blown out the sky, seeing from your first person point of view the devastation caused - being free to look at where you want - then dropping dead. That was new, immersive storytelling that cannot be experienced in other mediums.

I have to say of my pre-game expectations that I already have an impression – generated by media and fan community coverage - of a controversial mission involving the massacre of Russian civilians. The first time you turn on the game there is a disclaimer warning of one mission that players could find very offensive and consequently gives you an option to completely remove this mission from the story. Yeah I’d love to have less content for my money thank you and miss out on the videogame event and media spectacle of the year (apart form maybe GTA’s full frontal male nudity). Clearly I am not convinced that Infinity Ward are concerned for my psychological well being, but I understand that they need to cover their backs from their own (legal) massacre. Not knowing the full details and not having experienced this apparent controversy yet, this is all I will mention for now, I just thought it necessary to point out that the spectacle of this event has already been heightened.

The bad side to having played (and loved) the first instalment of Modern Warfare is the same problem faced by any sequel: when a franchise is so groundbreaking in its first installment it is natural to expect more than ‘more of the same’ from the sequel. Think of how Terminator 2 raised its game after Terminator for instance, in comparison to the disappointment of the Matrix sequels after we experienced its initial genius. In their own right very good (ok satisfactory at best) films, but following something so groundbreaking, they were – frankly speaking – a disappointment.

These are my initial impressions and new posts will go up either per mission or per every few missions.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Das Weiβe Band (The White Ribbon)- Michael Haneke 2009

Here are a few paragraphs on my immediate impressions of the film. By no means do I incorporate everything that can be said as it has great depth and substance. I simply want to highlight the overarching themes that I felt were important. My views are pointless in isolation, I openly welcome anyone who has seen the film to complete the dialogue: fill in any gaps, strengthen some of my flimsily thrown out ideas or to tear it to pieces, completely disagreeing with what I write.


I always thought I was dead against voice overs; that they are a lazy way of storytelling, spoon feeding you the narrative rather than letting the film speak for itself. Well this film made me realise that I am only dead against anonymous, omnipresent voiceovers. The one in this film is so personal and direct as it comes from one of the only sympathetic characters in the whole film. It is one of the tools used to reinforce the fact that the story is being told from an objective point of view. Another element supporting this is that right from the very beginning – through said voice over narration – it is declared that memories are funny things. A brilliant way of making it explicit early on that this is an objective point of view, a story but one which it declares will “hopefully explain what happened to this country”. This gives you the bigger picture from the start. You are instructed - in a non-forceful way - to see this village as a microcosm representing the whole country; that the young characters represent the youth of the nation. The film takes us to the start of the First World War, but more importantly - as the film critic Mark Kermode rightly points out - it is the children here who will reach adulthood during - and therefore be mostly responsible for - the rise of the third Reich.

Terrifying Kids (especially Klara – who is one eerie but immensely powerful and articulate figure)

The youth are completely fed up with the treatment they receive from the older generations. The film shows a variety of family/community settings and how the children are undervalued, unappreciated, sexually abused or repressed to a point of insanity. And my goodness are they plentiful; there are numerous shots families where the children swamp the screen, vastly outnumbering their elders, which really puts an exclamation mark on the fact that the old generation (along with all their values) are going to be viciously overthrown. The only middle ground / glimmer of hope is the relationship between the teacher and Eva. These are very important characters that differ from almost everyone else in the village, mainly that they both seem to have healthy relationships with their parents. Eva’s dad embarrasses her but at least he speaks plainly, doesn’t repress what he feels and expresses his disdain for ridiculous formality. More importantly is that both their parents do not live with them within this damned village (a representation of the whole nation – see below) and they are not products of the society within. This is possibly most important when he attempts to explain the situation as he sees it to the Pastor, who is so enmeshed with a culture of repression that he casts the teacher out. The teacher was so alien to this culture he could not even grasp why this was, anticipate that this would be the outcome of this conversation or even recognise that this repression existed, therefore he let it go on. This could be a comment on those who were not enthusiastically pro-Nazi but just did not do enough to stop them.


Whether the film justifies this youth-led rebellion is left for the viewer to decide. It shows their reasons for it, i.e. the captivity they were being held in; a captivity that is clearly symbolised by the Pastor’s caged bird. The fact that Klara kills the bird and leaves it as a symbol for her father to find shows the youths intention to fight this incarceration. To further accentuate the injustice of his contradictions, the Pastor keeps in that cage, the healed bird; the bird he told his son he must release back into the wild.

I really could go on, but it really would be... well ‘going on’. I have tried to make this concise and focused and in case I didn’t make the point clearly I think it is a tremendous film.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

BAF 09 official selection of professional animated shorts

These are my musings on the nine films from the official selection of professional animations for BAF 09 (Bradford Animation Festival). They are not particularly well thought out: I wanted to just get my initial impressions strait down onto paper. Most of what I thought literally came out as I was typing. I have intentionally not read anything about the films or the filmmakers so not to skew my initial impresseions and reactions to what I saw. I liked some much more than others but have still tried to find positive things about the ones I didn’t like and tried to pick holes in ones that I really liked. I don’t mind saying here at the beginning that my favourite (being the one that I simply enjoyed the most, rather than what I may consider subjectively to be technically the best) was The Cat Piano.

These reviews (more like reactions) lose so much value if they are left solitary and lonely with nobody else adding to the debate, so it is essential that anyone who has an opinion shares that opinion. Whether this opinion is a huge ramble, a concise and brutal destruction of my opinion or a one liner: “yeah I agree” or “shut up you’re an idiot”. I want to hear good things and bad things.

I understand that the whole thing goes on a little, you may just want to jump around from one film to another. They are all appropriately headed

Prayer in the Night (Inma Carpe 2009 Denmark)
Unfortunately the grammar just threw me off of it. When 80s Japanese games have been ported badly in the past and resulted in lines like “all your bases are belong to us” then there is a certain quirky, cute charm to them, not to mention there is an insane amount of dialogue in such large JRPGs (Japanese Role Play Games). When a professional animation short does the same and has badly translated English captions, it just leaves me confused and unfortunately my simple brain cannot get past that in order to give the animation a fair go. I recall that the artistic style was very good, but the way this was brought to life through the animation just didn’t complement it and although the music should have suited the visuals the two seemed a little removed from one another.

Letting Go (Malika Whitaker 2008 France)
Nice – I know that is often seen as a bland word but I think it describes this film very well, there are probably much more adequate and emotive words but I think “nice” does the trick. The female protagonist seemed so cool, sexy and thoughtful by the way she was illustrated and animated. The small additions like the slightly pinked cheeks made her seem full of life, not to mention her big beautiful eyes which conveyed a plethora of emotion whilst somehow conversely managing to look suitably vacant and numb due to the grievance she is coming to terms with. The recreated image of her loved one was both charming - allowing her to be able to spend one last moment with him - yet also fittingly supernatural and not quite right. Again this was down to the eyes; the windows to the soul. Her large eyes – full of soul – are juxtaposed with the opaque nature of the sea shells used for his. She did take care in finding the right ones but this illusion could not last, it only bought her an extra moment before he was lost again. The way she seems completely lost in this world, conveyed in the moments of emptiness and despair in her eyes leave you fully convinced of her attempt to follow her loved one to the afterlife, but you are still relieved that either she decided not to go through with it or she was otherwise convinced by him that she had to live her life but not to forget him; he will always be there with her.

Liver Good Life (Chris Hemming 2009 UK)
Far too preachy and long. The animation was not engaging enough hold your attention. Parts of the animation were good enough, so it was even more frustrating that the animation couldn’t just extend that little bit further to completely draw you in. Without this engagement it kind of renders its message useless.

The Carnivorous Flower (Maria Lorenzo 2009 Spain)
The animation style (though not exactly to my taste) really complements the kind of Fraudian/Lacanian cultural other and mirror motifs; the uncanny etc. I am not confident enough in my psychoanalytic theory to apply it fully here, but it resonated clearly with that line of thinking and if anyone reads this, has seen the animation and is better educated on these matters, I will love to hear what you think. I couldn’t quite grasp if the blonde man was someone she had lost (dead or left) and was trying – to no avail – to replace. Alternatively, he is merely somebody (who actually exists, or some kind of ideal) that she desires but cannot have. Hmmmm, unless the blood at the beginning was actually his and not hers, as she picked up the ball from the bed which fell off as it did during her sexual endeavours with the dark haired man. That ball on the floor seemed to signify what had happened. i.e. the sex followed by the execution. Is it possible that this is what happened to him? That she killed him or blames herself for his death and for some reason feels compelled to recreate this scene with others. The blood, more likely signified the loss of a child, which makes me think possibly the loss of a child pushed the Blonde man away and she has to constantly try to fill this void – again to no avail. It is a real shame that I am enjoying this discussion about it in my head as I write this much more than I enjoyed the actual animation. Well whatever happened it is interesting that this film joins Letting Go as a story of a grieving woman.

De Si Pres (Remi Durin 2009 France)
In terms of the aesthetic feel and visual impact, in my opinion this or the Cat Piano (see below) were the pick of the bunch. The animation was the absolute right balance between being free yet still seeming to have weight to it. It had a tremendously light flow whilst still really conveying how difficult it was for the old man to walk; he appeared to really struggle. When one of the transitions into his memory occurred this weight and difficulty of movement flowed strait into the youthful pace of the man in his younger years amidst bomb blasts and gunfire. The weight is significant to show the weight that is put upon him from his time at war. We only see a snippet of his life: one morning in which he goes to the park with his granddaughter. Within this time he has at least three flashbacks; reality and his memories almost constantly enmeshed. We can only imagine how much this can weigh the mind down throughout the course of his whole life. Despite this grim feeling of a tortured life there are some glimmers of hope. During his flashbacks, we see the camaraderie that he shares with his compatriots (albeit they are blown up in the subsequent scene). It also shows him meeting his loved one and although we see the stylised representation of him remembering how he lost her I could not help but think that we do not know how much of a life he was able to have with her; we see that he has a granddaughter and therefore was fortunate enough to start a family with his loved one and the animation of her demise would lead you to believe that she died of natural causes. This film does show a man who is weighed down by his past and has been particularly traumatised by the war. It is this traumatisation which triggers him to think back to his wife’s death when he is reminded of her by the lady in the park, rather than remembering fond memories he may have had with her.

Alma (Rodrigo Blaas 2009 Spain)
This was a very creepy short film. Anything with dolls is going to be scary and the editing, lighting, pacing and every facet of filmmaking was utilised in a way to create a suspenseful horror scene. I can’t say too much more about it really; it was not as complex as some of the others, it was just a really tightly created set piece and very enjoyable.

The Cat Piano (Eddie White 2009 Australian)
The animation beautifully captured the smooth noiresque feel of the narrative and the jazz backdrop. The fact that it was a well written and entertaining poem shows exactly how an animation that complements an already well thought out story works so much better than something that simply looks great but lacks in character. If I have one tiny problem with it, I think this could have done with being a little longer. The film draws on genre expectations; it uses noir/detective motifs, along with the boy saves girl and lives happily ever after Hollywood trope. The slight problem with this is that it lacked the kind of suspense that genre such conventions would lead one to expect. A bit more of a struggle as the protagonist attempts to save the imprisoned musician cats would have satisfied the genre expectations that the rest of the film had created.
Art was truly championed in this film, both by the distinctly stylised illustrations and the emphasis on standing up and fighting for art (music). Having said that, the antagonist was not silencing the cats of the city through a dislike of music but through a need to imprison others in order to improve his own music. This improvement to his music must be fabricated din his mind as a common term for music not sounding very good is that it sounds like a load of screaming cats. This would lead one to believe that the Organ grinding villain was not in fact interested in the passion and art of the music but the power that comes with owning talented individuals. Much like a fat cat (no pun intended) record producer that would whip up some of the greatest talent around only to take all the passion out of their work in order to sell to a wider market and increase his powerbase. The fact that this villain was distinctly highlighted as human was a comment on the way humanity is so drawn to this consumerist obsession with power and success being directly linked to the possession of objects and other living things.

Wings and Oars (Vladimir Leschiov 2009 Latvia)
There was a little too much going on in this one for me to comment without a second viewing (I was still a little bewitched by The Cat Piano to be honest). I’m sure it meant a great deal but it didn’t do anything for me. If I went for my gut instinct, it seemed to have a little to do with youth culture stealing from established and traditional culture. I.e. the young woman taking the man from the older woman. The man who was desperate to get away but a little too inept to actually do it. Could this film again fit this emerging pattern of grieving women as noted above?

French Roast (Fabric O Joubert 2008 France) – contains spoiler for Sam Raimi’s Drag Me to Hell (yes that may seem obscure, but it does and it is my duty not to ruin this film for anyone who may not have seen it)
This film is well timed in light of the current public attitude towards the financial sector and anyone perceived to be involved with it. In a strangely similar way to Sam Raimi’s Drag Me to Hell released earlier this year. It may seem like an unlikely comparison but it too shows an individual’s refusal to help someone less fortunate than themselves, only to have karma teach them their lesson. There are major holes in this comparison, such as the protagonist of Drag Me to Hell having a fully fleshed out character and the viewer can sympathise with her plight, whereas the man French Roast was entirely unlikeable. This makes the injustice of life more prevalent as the man is completely let off of the hook, whereas the poor girl in Drag Me to Hell does indeed get dragged to hell. I suppose he is not completely let off the hook as the pride that he so obviously possesses - as you can tell from his reluctance in the first place to own up to not having the money to pay for the coffee - would be dealt a severe blow by having to accept something from the man who he deemed unworthy of his money in the first place. This possibly makes the film an even more poignant similarity with what has transpired over the last year or so. The financial sector gets itself in a complete muddle by being narrow minded, obnoxious and pig-headed and has to be bailed out by someone less fortunate than them (in their terms, i.e. financially less fortunate as this is all that is important in their world). The homeless man here represents the tax payer getting this obnoxious waste of space out of trouble. The film shows the man being confused as a thief, bearing in mind that he never left without paying and therefore technically was not a thief with regards to the coffee. This mistaken identity could be the filmmaker’s way of implying that people should lay off these financial types; that not all of them are as thieving as Bernie Madoff. This let off on accounts of him not actually having done anything wrong by the letter of the law resonates with the case of Fred (note there is no sir before his name) Goodwin; that “hey I haven’t actually done anything illegal here, so I won’t feel or show any remorse”. As you may be able to tell, this is my problem with this film; though it was well animated, funny and well paced I can’t forgive its willingness to forgive.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Sporting Events: Passion and the masses go hand in hand in the arena of organised sporting events.

I was inspired to write this after a weekend away in Manchester watching the Super League grand final. As I am neither a Rhino nor a Saint I was free to simply experience the joy and heartache on display and feel comfortable in my passion for the game of Rugby League.

If apathy is the loss of feeling and emotion then apathy is absent in this arena (no pun intended). This for the moment does not consider the possibility that the people that love sporting events so much repress all the feelings they could be exercising through the week and instead keep it pent up for those two hours a week.

The immense sense of belonging must be considered when understanding the popularity of sporting events. A myth that accompanies that of people being naturally apathetic is that contemporary people do not want to speak to each other. For the duration of the game, however many thousands of people that are watching the game simultaneously act and feel almost as one. They go through the same ups and downs, scream and shout at the same referee. After the match they will share comments and theories with complete strangers of what went right or wrong– including fans of the opposition (this exists before and after rugby league games, football fans may not be able to fathom this).

It must be noted that the absence of apathy on the terraces does not always infect the pitch or more appropriately, the locker room. A case must certainly be made for footballers more often than not being far more motivated by their pay packet than by the love and passion for the game.

In comparison to this (admittedly shallow) generalisation of footballers, the game of Rugby League oozes the passion and emotion from the terraces onto the pitch. This was blatantly displayed by the amount of 18 stone men weeping their eyes out at Old Trafford after the game last weekend (on both the winning and losing sides). Kevin Sinfield (captain of the Leeds Rhinos who won the game and therefore the Super League) embodied this in his post match interview after being named man of the match. Whilst struggling to get his words through the lump in his throat he gave special mention to the players that have stayed at Leeds despite the salary cap system (see below) not allowing them Leeds to pay what these players could potentially be worth. This shows that many of these players have turned down the opportunity to go to other clubs who would be able to pay them more money in order for them to stay at a club where they can play the sport that they love at the very top of the game. This flaunts in the faces of those who imagine that money talks and that it is infallible when compared to dreams and passion.

An explanation must be made of this salary cap system for those unfamiliar. A rugby league team is only allowed to spend a certain amount of money on its players, so that a situation cannot arise where one team can buy the league year after year i.e. Wigan in the 1990s (prior to the salary cap) or what is clearly visible in Premiership football. I do not know the exact science of the calculation but the salary cap is based on factors such as attendance, so clubs are rewarded for the way they promote rugby league in their town/city. I have been informed that the American NFL also has a very fair and uncharacteristically socialist system, considering it is in the free market capitalism capital of the world.

The same goes for those rugby league players that surrendered generous offers to switch codes to the richer, snootier rugby union.

Rugby League also has a progressive status of fighting against the outdated notion that sporting events are a safe haven for men to be free of their nagging wives. This understanding that has existed throughout and prior to the 20th century is being broken down; with rugby league leading the way in its invitation for women to join in this outpour of emotion passion and experience. As noted in this Australian article by Amy Lawson from 2005.
“Research reveals an equal number of women and men attend games. Leading the way were young women, with 17 per cent of females in the 16- to 29-year-old age group attending games last year, compared with 13 per cent of males.” (see

Ok so this rant went from the passion of sporting events, to the passion in rugby league. This prejudice was due to my passion for that sport; my knowledge of the social and cultural aspects of other sport fandom is very limited and I invite anyone reading this to challenge my sweeping statements about spoilt footballers and haughty rugby union players or alternatively comment on illogical and irrational actions you have committed or feelings you have felt whilst at sporting events.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

The beginning

The world of the blogosphere awaits my arrival with anticipation; I can feel it. The creation of this blogspot is merely the beginning of the end for the apathetic slug through life which people often believe we are in.
I believe this to be a myth and that people are actually full of passion, anger, joy, etc but often feel that it is not the done thing to make this passion visible. Like all myths, the longer this apathetic belief perpetuates, the more it will force itself to be a reality.
This must be halted at all costs. The best way to do this is to confront the banal, repetitive, seemingly meaningless elements of your life and demand to see the meaning and significance hidden behind them.
I open this space to be an arena of free speech and debate on any topic you like, yet find that focusing energy on particular media would be the most productive way to channel this discussion. This is important as certain recognisable items - Film, TV, music, videogames, comic books, and the rest of popular culture that restlessly bangs at our senses - are presented in such a way to provoke passive consumption; this does not have to be the case. They all make you think something; regardless of what some Guardian critic says, Transformers 2 is as culturally significant as is a new Ken Loach, Almodovar or Von Trier film, as it reaches the masses and imparts its message upon them (note: I take nothing away from the excellence of these filmmakers or the shitness of The Rise of the Fallen, I merely make the point that their influence is restricted to a limited social sphere).

This blog is for all those who wish to speak their opinion with a passion, with no regard for people's feelings. Though this common courtesy is an essential part of interacting in the "real" (problematic term used in this context to mean "not on the Internet") public sphere, it often serves as a barrier to truth; a barrier that will not be present here.