Archive | November, 2010

Mapping a wild soul.

20 Nov

Before he made the basquillion earning E.T, Steven Spielberg long expressed a desire to make a film that captured the magic of those few hours between primary school finishing and your mum calling you in for tea. A time of BMXs, loyalties, dirt fights, betrayals, exploring drains and just the vaguest hint that there was something cruel and wonderful about girls. He wanted to make it in real-time, perhaps to attempt a literal grab at the strange slowing down and acceleration of time that occurs in those long passed Friday afternoons.

He never made this film, though clumsy thematic facsimiles often clambered their way into subsequent releases; usually accompanied by a John Williams score that employed every instrument on the planet.

This is not to rag on S.S or J.W. Jaws is my favourite film. Spielberg knows his game and plays it well. John Williams has a canon of iconic scores that readily obscure the dozen or so that go flute-mental….

…..this is to say Spielberg cannot make this film, because it has been done. Sublimely, savagely…done.

Where the Wild Things Are received oddly mixed reviews upon its 2010 release. Many a critic lamented both the lack of classic narrative and the sinister edge to Spike Jonze’s and Dave Eggers’s vision of Maurice Sendak’s fantastical children’s book. Terminal nostalgia* elevated the book’s narrative  and condemned the film’s. There is a certain irony to the coupling, for Where the Wild Things Are as a film surpasses the book by exposing that very nostalgia in all its messy guises. It is, for all the fur and phantoms on display, a brutally humane film.

When a movie maps your soul, it’s difficult to defend it rationally. So, let’s just say these critics – every last slippery-lipped, snarky, post modern, quip-master one of them, missed the point entirely. Where the Wild Things Are is not about narrative. Not the classic linear one anyway,with its call to adventure and reversal of fortune yada yada. It is about rage. Not the adorable cherubic rage of shit like..oh, I dunno, every other film, but rage a child actually feels. Confused. Frightened. Dangerous.


Most powerfully, it is about the ferocity of imagination that this rage can produce and this is the stupefying point that is missed for mine. Art by its nature is born from extreme emotion. Where The Wild Things Are is not only a story about the confusion of being a boy on the edge of mortal self-awareness, it is about art itself and the comfort and delusion it brings to us in those long cold nights when the universe appears godless and doubts circle like wolves. It tells us, shows us,  we are our own storytellers. How we conduct and fool our own free-flowing narratives, improvising to survive and hopefully, thrive. To steal a line from Next to Normal, “Improvisation. Otherwise known as the act of creation.”

Max says goodbye to KW

And with creation must come destruction. Of all the poetry of this film, and there is much, the  killer couplet comes at its conclusion, as Max, realising this world he inhabits cannot sustain him, sails away, howling in farewell to the sky as his wild things stand forlorn on his beach, each and all knowing that ultimately, we will all farewell each other,  and the best we can do, in fact the only thing we can do, is create something to warm ourselves against that one  brutal fact. Like those mythical afternoons after school; we can slow down time…we can touch the face of….something.

So, if you don’t like this film, most likely you are a horrible human being. Or, at best, you were  born thirty-four years old, thrust screaming into this world already defeated and cynical.

The critics that lamented the lack of narrative?  I ask, were you not once young? Do you not recall those  hours  when the world was bright and full of story and the promise, always the promise, of something both furious and delicate watching over you?

Like I said. It’s hard to defend rationally.

*                                            *                                              *

* A term coined by Matty Ballgame Robinson from Filmspotting;  a crackingly good film review podcast.


Some other things about New York…

9 Nov

Where are all the shy people?

Everywhere you go in Manhattan, people engage with you directly. There are no embarrassed mutterings or halfway greetings. It’s all a very direct, “Can I help you?”,”Yes sir, this way,” and my fave, a heartily clipped, “You’re welcome!”

If you pause on the street or  even look vaguely unsure of yourself for more than a moment, someone will approach and speak with you. This is not always welcome attention, granted, but it is always full of intent. You will be helped or you will be shaken. Voices will be quite loud regardless.

But where , I ask you, are all the shy people? The shuffling mumblers who smile and nod and move through their day with invisible economy. Many a time I’ve clocked the body language of a native I am about to engage, checked in with my own to make sure I don’t appear a maniac, only to have the confidence in their voice blow me back on my heels. The boundaries of  no-threat-body-language here is a squillion times more assertive than back home my relatively sleepy home town. Ultimately, with my mumbly Melbourne accent and looping gait,  I look like a victim waiting to happen. It’s hard for a bloke to swallow, but to appear otherwise  takes some serious macho schmacting. Better to look harmelss than insane.

It’s hard to see how this city’s social eco system can function when everybody is talking like they’re No.1. A world of alphas, silverbacks and pointy headed eastside out patients. But  it functions.  With a constant subtext of aggression yes, but it functions.



Pre-packaged joy.

There’s a Starbucks like, every fifty feet in this city. This is magnificent.

Yes, the entire chain is decked out in carefully positioned fetish regalia, a Willy Wonka for coffee drinkers, but it’s one of the few places you can sit without being turned and burned. That is, having your check slapped on the table and a none too subtle okay-fuck-off-now glance from the waiter the moment that last piece of apple pie has passed your lips.

Sure, it’s all *see caption*, but if you can scare up a couch by a window, it’s one of the best places for some lazy people watching. Venti Il grande venti venti per favore …etc…

To slag or not to slag.

Up in The Heights, men love to spit. Not just a discrete flint into an abandoned corner of dirt, but a full throated goober conjure and 3D snot missile at your feet. Back in winter, it all kind of dissolved into the snow, but here in Fall, it glistens on the sidewalk like a game of twister.

I think about those odd signs at Flinders St, as I remove my left hand from someone else’s lung load. “Do not Spit!” they proclaim…and the temptation is of course, to spit only on the sign. Prize winning maverick irony.

But here, it’s wall to wall.  If there ever were signs, they’d be long buried in piles of up-cough. I’m not judging…I’m not…I’m just saying it’s an exhibition of blanket masculine ignorance…

…is all.

Some Things about New York

7 Nov


G.K Chesterton wrote, “The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” And all in all, that’s a pretty sweet quote cribbed by me from the Barnes and Noble Cafe wall.

This is my fifth time in NYC. I’m kind of used to it, but there are still things I’m reminded of each time I wander down a street or watch people blithely walk by just-the-cutest-squirrel-in-the-world-with-his-dancing-furry-tail-and-scaredy-cat-face. You want to spot a tourist in NYC? They’ll be standing next to me applauding a rodent.

Some things about New York…

One of us

In NYC, people scream at each other as a way of saying I love you. This takes some time to get used to. In many a Dunkin Donut, my fight or flight genes (well, flight or flight faster genes) have been ignited by some guy wandering in and barking a stream of seeming hostility at the poor counter dude. My ears hear, fuck you puerto rican scumbag,  they apparently hear, one donut please good sir. I edge towards the exit, but cash and food is cleanly exchanged and happy customers wander out on to the upper west side to scream on their phones and honk their horns.


Not the sandwich shop, the transit system, though the sandwiches are pretty sweet too. The subway is….awesomest. Gone is the Melbourne bred timetable obsession. No fear that if you miss that 10.23 to Parliament you won’t snare another train until, I dunno, Tuesday.  Here, you stroll onto whatever platform and some train comes along and takes you to some other platform lickety split.

Best of all about the subway is New Yorkers know how to do the kinetic dance of mass migration. Having some dude’s crotch in your Best Short Stories of 2009 Anthology is just the way it is and everyone adjusts with assertive courtesy – most sublime of all is the way all passengers are allowed to alight before anyone makes a mad dash for a seat. To do otherwise is to risk a carriage full of judgment. The only exception to this is mid-town.


Roughly talking, it’s 35th to 55th streets. The theatre district. Broadway.*

This is where all the stupid people on Earth  gather to point at buildings and stare at  lights. It’s horrible.

*Some theatre performed here.

Snow makes everything okay

To an aussie, snow on a city is..well..magical. There hasn’t been snow this time and I’ve missed it. Too early in the season, but still… Last time I was here, there was a light snow fall that was just about the prettiest thing I’ve ever seen. Everything slows down and even the ugliest borough has  a good hair day.

It was one of the few times I sensed what it must be like to see something like the ocean for the first time. New Yorkers don’t seem to get all gooey about snow. It’s just cold stuff that will eventually turn into brown liquid – the same way oceans have rips and big ass sharks.

Yellow Food

The reason I’m not sleeping. After hooking in to another pile of deep-fried midnight breakfast joy, subsequent belly rumblings have me witnessing the first hour of the Dunkin Donuts day just across 148th. It opens at 5am and shuts at 11pm. At some point on this trip I realized I was eating to the point of nausea…and then pushing through it. Steamed vegetables are considered highly optional here.


Some other things around New York….

* The up above mid-town pic as a screen cap from a new U.S TV mini-series “The Walking Dead.” It follows a band of survivors as they struggle to stay safe amidst a *zombie apocalypse* Jizz.