Friday, 24 April 2009
Saturday, 18 April 2009
Sunday, 12 April 2009
Even when you get your head around the are-they-aren't-they quasi-queerness of the show, seeing heterosexual men in dating scenarios is just plain weird. Granted, riding tiny pink BMXs over obstacle courses and modeling super-skinny jeans aren't typical dates, but they serve the same old purpose: getting to know the other person well enough to decide whether or not to "take things further". Women do this all the time - they go on "lunch dates" with their "girlfriends", and talk candidly and affectionately... and all in pure and simple enjoyment of one another's company. The closest we men get to this is when we tag along on one of our other half's lunch dates, and have to entertain someone else's bored boyfriend/husband.
Of course, this isn't a problem if you know the fellow, but a first - or worst, a blind - platonic same-sex date can be just as awkward as the regular kind. So best to avoid anything too intimate, and follow our top tips for great "mandates":
\m/ Pub - Alcohol's a great lubricant, even if the only thing you're slipping into is easy conversation. And if the chat doesn't flow, there are plenty of distractions - pool tables and dart boards (if you're into the old "sports"), TV, juke box, other people... In fact, you can set up a "meeting your mates here" arrangement just in case things get real bad.
\m/ Gig - If you and your "date" have music taste in common, exploit it. A concert is a great way to avoid conservation for an evening, and allows you to tap into your fanboy teen-self - that guy who could get on with anyone who can tell their hardcore metal from their metalcore.
\m/ Cinema - Works in much the same way as a gig - no talking needed - but with the added advantage that film is a medium in which almost anything can be tolerated. A movie will eat up a good three hours, morning noon or night, and - good or bad - will give you something to talk about afterwards.
\m/ Shopping - But shopping with a purpose. Aimlessly wandering around town is just like being with the missus, but without being able to whinge, because it was your idea. However, give a man a clear, time-bound task - "we need to find a cheap new iPod within the hour, before I reach my boredom threshold" - and he'll be happy.
Years ago I decided that none of this was my fault. Either my mother or my father or society had failed me. No one had instilled in me a readiness for Manhood or even a real tangible idea of what a MAN is. I don't even know when I'm supposed to become a man, when 'to put away childish things' – and this is the crux of the problem.
Coming of ages rituals and rites of passage have existed for millennia. From the Bar Mitzvah (when a Jewish child reads from the Torah to symbolise their ability to govern their own faith) to the Gempuku (in which a samurai boy is given adult clothes, an adult haircut and even an adult name), these initiations provide a signpost to life, a definitive leap into adult/Manhood – something which seemed to be missing from my own largely secular upbringing.
And so I have been left to wander the wastelands of boyishness, not blokey enough for the men down the pub and far too tall to still be in the comic shop. I have no legacy, no legend, and no Manhood. I have vowed that this ends here – that any son of mine will be prepared, will be ready and waiting for Manhood. I will train him and make him Man!
I have updated one of the most basic rituals, in order to prepare my own flesh and blood for Manhood: The act of dominating another species by bringing about its death. I could never actually kill something myself and, although it’s probably the fastest route to Manhood, I could never make my child do it.
Instead: from an early age, my son shall be taught the intricacies of frozen meat. He will learn the exact defrosting time of pork in comparison to its own weight. Via a series of picture cards and unannounced quizzes, he will learn a variety of techniques for separating 200g of frozen mince from a 400g packet. And on the day of his 16th birthday, I will unplug the microwave, arm him with a knife, present him with a whole frozen chicken and tell him; “mother will be cooking fajitas, if he can provide the chicken pieces.” He will sweat and he will fight and he may want to give in but, like Luke entering the mysterious tree in Star Wars, he will emerge a Man!
And so my son will not fall foul to the same fate that felled me. But what of my own misplaced Manhood? Well, I have decided to take action. I have procured a bearskin from eBay and will not return from the wilderness of Camberwell Green until I have killed (or at least harmed) one pigeon…
Wednesday, 8 April 2009
Call me contrary, but I really enjoyed ‘Watchmen’ and found ‘Batman: The Dark Knight’ a bit on the dull side. Having browsed blogs and forums across the web I know that there are a few people out there who agree with me on this one, but usually The Dark Knight is held up as a master piece of super hero cinema and Watchmen as either unfathomable or unfaithful. My problem with this view is that The Dark Knight is not a super hero film. Sure it has a guy in a bat suit in it, but he doesn’t really do anything a super hero should do. And by that I mean he absolutely sucks at fighting. Isn’t Batman supposed to be one of the best hand to hand fighters in the DC comic universe or something? Watchmen, on the other hand, was a big surprise in the action department. The action in the Watchmen comics was never really that great, so seeing them kickass in a genuinely superheroic manner in the film made it for me.
Now I know what the pro-Dark Knighters are saying: that the Dark Knight’s fight scenes were ‘realistic’ and that action doesn’t make a film great etc. I’ll answer the second point first. No, action scenes don’t make a film great and yes, too much time and energy spent on them will probably damage a film, however the Watchmen film also had a great storyline (I know I’ll get shit for this, but I actually preferred the film’s ending to the comic’s ending) and amazing action. Whereas The Dark Knight did have a good storyline (I’m not too bothered by the plot holes etc.) but the action was woefully bad. Leading me back to the first point, Batman is a superhero. True, he has no superhuman powers, but we’re talking about the super hero genre here. I’m not sure what the latest theories on the idea of the ‘super hero’ are, but one thing’s certain, super heroes are supposed to be able to do things that we as mere mortals cannot do, or at least things we can't do very well. Some of these things are obvious, like flying, being invulnerable, being a god etc. others are less fantastical, like being super smart, having cool gadgets and being able to perform incredibly skilled physical actions.
Much is made of Batman’s role as a ‘symbol’ of salvation for Gotham’s citizens, but he never at any point really embodies any of this in action. Yes, he drives really fast and does the cool flying bit, but these sequences feel almost shoehorned in. Given that the director felt the need to explain the flexible neck on Batman’s costume, we don’t really get to see him take genuine advantage of it. Watchmen on the other hand shows super heroes, regardless of their social status, as highly capable and efficient at their job, far more efficient than genuinely super powered individuals like Superman and Spiderman have been portrayed in the past. Silk Spectre and Nite Owl’s scene in the alleyway and the prison break, not to mention the opening scene of the film, demonstrate realism as it should be in a super hero film. That is, if a regular guy takes a punch from a super hero they should damn well feel it, not in the form of a split lip or a bruised eye, but in the form of crushed faces and snapped limbs. It’s brutal, but surely so is the realistic take on the super hero world which is what pro-Dark Knighters got so excited about in the first place, right?
Getting back to the main point of this piece, The Dark Knight diluted its super hero elements so much that it stopped being a super hero film and became a thriller with a guy dressed as a bat as the hero. Watchmen managed a really good balance between characterisation, story and action, in many ways it delivered the perfect adult super hero movie. Geeks, however, are very sensitive about their status in society. Certainly they have greater status than 20 years ago, thanks in part to comics (I refuse to call them ‘graphic novels’) like Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns, but status is a precarious thing, look what happened to the Star Wars films. So the Dark Knight hits all the right ‘geek cred’ buttons, it’s ostensibly a super hero film, but eschews anything which visibly references super hero comics apart from the costume (maybe they’ll have ditched that too by the time the next Batman film comes out). Whereas Watchmen’s use of extended action scenes fits the super hero stereotype far too comfortably for geeks. So, future directors of super hero films, if you want to make a film that keeps the geeks happy just leave out as many of the super hero bits as you can, they won’t appreciate them anyway.