19/01/10

Tilda Swinton – the adorable Tilda Swinton who is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy, Tilda Swinton who looks like Joan of Arc genetically spliced with a giraffe, Tilda Swinton who is made of moonlight and elastic – is playing a lot of unpleasant roles these days. Michael Clayton, The Lion The Witch And The Wardrobe, Burn After Reading. There’s only her sympathetic cameo in the over-maligned Benjamin Button that does anything to redress the balance in her recent oeuvre.

Erick Zonca’s 2008 movie Julia is another case in point.

Her character Julia Harris is a full-blown all-singing, all-dancing, all-massively-disappointing alcoholic, and Tilda gets this bang on the button with the help of some sensitive direction. The film practically shimmers as she enters the bar for the first drink of the day and then it jump cuts lurchingly to her waking up the next day, half naked in a car with a man she doesn’t know or in bed with a recovering alcoholic friend. Desperate for water. Desperate for coffee. Desperate for a cigarette. This is informed film-making, Swinton completely sells it, and it is by far the best thing about the movie.

The bones of the story concern her complex plan to kidnap a neighbour’s young son for ransom money (I’ve elided quite a lot here), how the plot falls apart and how her relationship with the child changes as their ordeal escalates out of control. She may even learn a bit about herself. The film is unclear on this. Given her character’s general trajectory I wouldn’t put money on it.

The film is far too long for its material, histrionic when it should be quiet and a bit of a job to sit through, but Swinton is superb. She completely gets the ignorant powerlessness, self-importance, grandiosity, glamour and bastardliness of the drinking alcoholic. It’s a hell of a thing to watch.

Stick it on a double bill with Arthur.

***

 

Overwrought movie aside it has been a tremendous day, and there’s me using an adjective with all the sloppiness of a Marks & Spencer food advert copywriter. Tremendous means huge in amount or intensity and has its roots in the Latin verb tremere – to tremble. It has only informally come to mean very good through persistent misuse. Awesome. Fabulous. The same is true of those words too I think.

Maybe I’ll just start calling everything good or bad, cut out the complexity.

Bloody adjectives. They just cause trouble. If I had my way it would be nouns (including pronouns) and verbs and nothing else. We could all go round talking like a James Ellroy audio book. In fact, now that I think about it, we can pretty much do without prepositions and definitely conjunctions.

Coming up: the war on semi-colons.

Now, what was I saying? Oh yes, a tremendous day. Breakfast at Girvan’s for the second day running, though I changed my order this time and sat in a different seat with different company. Today it was the omni-competent, often-punctual Kay who sat with me and made the universe seem good.

Kay is like oxygen or insects in that, whilst you may not be aware of her minute to minute, if she were to suddenly disappear the world would be broken beyond repair in six hours flat.

What can I say about Kay that hasn’t been said before? “She’s not remotely competitive.” How about that? I’m pretty certain that’s not been said before. She has literally murdered all the people in the world who are more competitive than she is. That’s how competitive she is.

(And here I use the word literally in its new sense of “not literally”.)

I can’t remember what we talked about. I hope it was me.

A lot of the rest of the day was work, whilst trying to ignore the gleaming new PS3 looking over my shoulder. To conclude unfinished business from yesterday the games I got with it, but have not yet played to any significant degree, are Bayonetta, Little Big Planet and Batman: Arkham Asylum.

Bayonetta is already starting to look like a mistake. A beautiful thing to be sure, but maybe a game that requires younger thumbs than I have at my disposal. There’s a speed, vividness and chaos about it that reminds me of the long seventies Saturdays of my childhood where I sat in front of cartoons stuffing my face with Spangles.

Little Big Planet seems more my cup of tea, with Stephen Fry’s plummy didactic tone controlling the tutorial levels and a loosely hinged sanity that reminds me a little bit of the peerless Super Mario Galaxy on the Wii.

Batman though looks like the pick of the bunch with its cinematic styling, retina-jabbing graphics and the added thrill that, hey, it’s Batman.

I was aware of Marvel comics as a kid and was reasonably fond of the old X-Men, you know, when they wore blue and yellow spandex and before Beast went furry like Sulley in Monsters Inc. Slightly cool, but nowhere near as icy cool, I thought and continue to think, as DC with its ace roster of superheroes (my perennial favourite being the Martian Manhunter). Aquaman, the Flash, Wonder Woman, all astounding but all secondary to the twin Manichaean apexes of comic book characterisation: Superman and Batman.

Whilst I love Superman’s alien integrity and uncompromising morality I prefer Batman’s shadowy psyche, absence of superpowers and reliance on his human strengths. I’m not alone either as the success of Christopher Nolan’s two Dark Knight films and the failure of Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns have convincingly shown. This penumbral Batman, troubled and perverse, is a comparatively recent interpretation of the character though, not dating back much further than Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns comic series.

I remember writer Grant Morrison reflecting fondly on a sixties Batman comic he had once read in which the last frame was a full page picture of Batman and Robin walking down a sunny street in their costumes remarking on how “groovy” everything was.

Peace and love to you all.

4 comments on “19/01/10

    • OK I take it back about adjectives. I’m just living in a hyperbolic country where advertisers in particular fail to see that less is more.

      I’m not backing down on semi-colons though. I like colons. Colons are fine. I just never met a semi-colon whose job couldn’t be done better by a full stop.

      • Semi-colons: if you like run-on sentences they are very useful! As you may have noticed, I’m also extremely fond of commas. It’s a good place to stop and take a breath. The nuns, bless their hard-hearted tiny souls, taught us to use the Harvard comma liberally. (I think translated into your language that would be the Oxford comma.) It’s a hard habit to break – so to speak.

  1. I don’t like Tilda Swinton, she never sits right with me and doesn’t appear to be acting half the time. Might just be that I haven’t seen her in the right thing yet though. And that she reminds me a bit of my stuck up cousin.

    And Make Mine Marvel! Batman’s okay though, but the Boy Scout can go cry in a corner about his blown up planet for all I care…

    EXCELSIOR!

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