Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Seasalter in Kent; May 2014





Seasalter is a village in Kent located between Faversham and Whitstable. It came to prominence in the Iron Age for salt production; its marshes were drained for salt production in the 18th Century.

These photos of the beach overlooking the Isle of Sheppey were taken on a blustery afternoon and then inverted at the website www.ribett.com

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

40's and Mr Spielberg



I have hit forty (although in my head I am still 23, not sure why 23, it wasn't a stand-out year particularly...1995...), well I hit forty about eighteen months ago and slowly the sun has risen on my adulthood and the dawning made me realise

                            Bugger. I'M GETTING OLD.

I panicked, as you do; I looked at my life so far, in a kind of never-ending re-run of episodes most of which I would like to forget (apart from the good ones obviously, trouble with flashbacks they tend to be bad!). I spent an awful long time staring at my enlarging belly and wondering what it was all for. 

In short: I stopped.

Then at the turn of this year I started again. 2013 went with a whimper, it sort of disappeared into a black hold of nothingness; 2014 began and the older wiser me thought:

                     BUGGER THIS, LET'S GET STARTED.

Started with what though? I stare at a screen and pretend to be a writer; I work for an organisation that couldn't organise a...well you must know the phrase; I love doing things creative but seem to start projects and never see them through. So what did I want to start?

So I wrote a letter to Steven Spielberg saying thank you for my childhood memories, and guess what...
since then I have written a play about World War One; a play about modern love that I may turn into a monologue; a short story for children that will include the space for their own illustrations; an idea that I want to take to the Brighton Fringe Festival next year; a collection of short stories based around a ring and I have a business idea that I want...nay need...to take further so that I can leave the infernal burdensome job that I really cry inside about every time I walk into the office. 

Just that one simple letter got me started again. I think I may write another letter to someone else and see how that inspires.

No reply from Mr Spielberg as yet, but who knows.

Zac Thraves. Currently reading Mark Kermode; currently watching House of Cards; currently cooking tuna pasta bake; currently wearing a scarf for a tie. 

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

The Business of Creativity

I have just finished  reading The Business of Creativity by Michael Jacobsen, who is one of the founding co-producers of the stage version of Dirty Dancing; if you are like me and wish to start a business in the creative sector, yet are not particularly business-minded, then I highly recommend that you read this book. It spoke to me in a language that was professional but not patronising, something that I have found in other business books. What I like about his style is that he tells you when something is important, almost as if you are in a classroom and he is speaking to you. Creative people are known for rushing into things and then losing interest halfway, something for which I am guilty of too; this book has enabled me to look at my business idea from a different point of view without losing my sense of creativity, which is something that I fear. Indeed, the tagline and thought for this book is how to succeed without losing your creative streak. It is a very practical guide, using success stories along the way and listing very useful websites to help you with things like tax (ugh!) and marketing (oh!). It also gives you an insight into finding a mentor and an investor, as well as a good guide to start-up sites.
If you are thinking of selling your works of art, your crafts, putting on a show or something similar, then you can learn a lot from this Michael Jacobsen.

The Business of Creativity by Michael Jacobsen. Published by Brightword Harriman House. 2013.

On another note, I have noticed that Kevin Spacey is moving rep theatre into television. I have recently been watching season one of House of Cards on Netflix and was amazed, heartended, gladdened, surprised, to see so many names involved with the project. Mr Spacey has called upon David Fincher to co-produce and direct (who cast him in Se7en); Joel Schumacher to direct some episodes (who directed Mr Spacey in A Time To Kill); Jodie Foster and his very own co-star Robin Wright to direct an episode each. This is a great series and I am quickly catching on to the next stage of entertainment that would be streaming of episodes or movies. I feel it won't be long until we will be losing DVD in much the same way as we lost VHS. Still, people of my age will long to see a clunky VHS player again.

Zac Thraves; currently reading: The Goldfinch by Donna Tarte; currently watching House of Cards on Netflix; currently drinking: coffee; currently writing: a play about love.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

80’s afternoon: 30th March 2014. Written in real-time to the movies.

Gutted to find out that Netflix have lost the rights to Weird Science, which was to open my 80’s afternoon of movies; instead, it was a decision to make between Top Gun, Fletch, Ghostbusters, Summer Rental (typical-John Cusack-slacker-comedy) and The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai. After a little soul-searching, I opted for the movie that had a big impact on my teens and one that I have not seen for decades: TOP GUN.

TOP GUN (1986) RUNNING SCARED (1986) FERRIS BEULLER’S DAY OFF (1987)

Made in 1986 starring an up and coming movie star, this was a hit as soon as it came out and laid out the template for action movies, romance movies and any movie for years to come. Top Gun has a truly inconic, brilliant, gushingly 80’s opening; a beautiful score by Harold Faltermeyer eases up the tension and adds to the wonderful imagery of Tony Scott. Then there is the cast list, what a treat: Tom Cruise; Val Kilmer; Anthony Edwards; Tim Robbins; Michael Ironside; Meg Ryan; James Tolkan; Tom Skerritt, as well as the beautiful Kelly McGillis. I really forgot what a great film this was. I remember watching it and thinking, there’s no war on, why are we fighting in the skies. Now, that question seems irrelevant, just a wishful thought from a na├»ve young man (I was 14 when Top Gun came out, about the right age to be fuelled by lustful testosterone).

It really is briiliantly shot, with quick edits to heighten up the tension as Maverick and co perform their exercises. It is picture postcard stuff and easy to forget this is the film that started the whole look. Then there is the soundtrack, epic!
Tom Cruise, Maverick, is sent to Top Gun along with his partner Goose, played by Anthony Edwards. There they will train with the best, including Val Kilmer. And they get to be taught by Kelly McGillis.

Cue Kenny Loggins singing and Tom Cruise on a motorbike, without a helmet of course, and we are at the sacred turf of the best of the best.

First words uttered during the first lecture at Top Gun itself “This gives me a hard-on.” “Don’t tease me.” I don’t know where these people get the homosexual references from!

At forty minutes in, and having been met with yet another of those enormous grins of Tom Cruise, I wonder, how many times has he done that so far? It seems that every scene ends with a huge grin. This is where it started folks!

It really does look great and who could forget some of those sequences; the singing in the bar; the MIG chase and then the flight-tower fly-by; THAT volleyball match accompanied with ‘Playing with the Boys’, sung by, yes, Kenny Loggins. Straight after that we are into Berlin taking their breath away and Tom having something purring between his legs, from his bike and then off to Kelly’s for a spot of wine. The sex scene is actually very nicely done, and it stands out now with the fact that we don’t get scenes like that at all in mainstream movies. Now we have superheroes who don’t think of sex at all, let alone do it. Kind of makes things a little abnormal nowadays.

Ah no! I forgot that Goose dies. Noooo!

It’s the hero’s story; his mission is to make it in Top Gun, become a fighter pilot like his father. Damaged by the ghost of his father he pushes it, kills his best friend and mentor, hits rock bottom and then returns triumphantly to gain the prize. The template works for this as much as it did for Star Wars and Lord of the Rings. What I like about this is that Maverick does not win the material prize, which is the Top Gun trophy, he wins what he has sought, respect from his peers and from himself. That is the biggest prize and it is what makes this film stand the test of time. It may be a pivotal movie from the 80’s and epitomises the look of that decade, but its core is eternal, and it feels just as relevant today.

Now, would Running Scared give the same feeling?

An MGM presentation and directed by Peter Hyams, he of Timecop, Capricorn One and 2010. It starts with a typical 80’s cheesy them tune and shots of Chicago on a cold, winters day. Stars Gregory Hines and Billy Crystal, I think this was meant to be a Beverly Hills Cop type of movie, only with snow. So far: so Eighties. Ha! Billy Crystal has been punched in the face within the first five minutes, was that written in especially because it was Billy Crystal! Now we’re into a chase with a punk who is Joe Pantonliano, type-cast again! 

This already feels so formulaic, even for that decade. It wasn’t a big movie on release and I can see why. This is reminiscent of an episode of Starsky and Hutch, it has the same buddy-cop relationship going on and a grungy feel to it. Here are two cops who do it their way, another maverick, what it is about the Eighties? Hines and Crystal are always being chased by lawyers and have failed marriages. They act like criminals to catch criminals. They have no respect, let me guess, by the end they do.

And there is the surprise villain: Jimmy Smits! I have absolutely no idea what the plot is so far and we’re thirty minutes in. This is like pilot for a TV movie, a terrible soundtrack that gives it that cheaper feel. For a movie starring a comedian there is very little comedy, it needs an injection of Eddie Murphy’s Axel Foley. 
I think the story is coming together; the two cops get it wrong on a drugs raid and are then (surprise surprise) sent off duty by their gruff captain (Dan Hedaya). They go on ‘vacation’ and then return to reap the rewards and get…respect from their peers! Here comes the tune that everyone will know as our two misfits are sunning it in the Keys: Sweet Freedom by Michael McDonald, it’s on Spotify!

The movie is a slow start, and perhaps that is why it has not held up so well, but now that the cops have a purpose and wish to retire alive to the Keys, the fun begins. We are getting comedy as well as sympathy for their plight. The story should have started at the wrong job and the Keys, not the half an hour of pointless build up.

Now we’re back in Chicago and the boys are hunting Jimmy Smits for something it has again lost its edge. Still, Jimmy Smits is a good bad guy, rather skinny and young, but sort of Bond-villainish. I guess after this he went on to uphold the law and then become the Senator for Alderaan, not a bad career trajectory for a guy peddling dope.

1 hour and 24 minutes in, and the second movie in to my trilogy, I have just seen the first ENORMOUS brick of a mobile phone, not touch screen, no 4G; just a massive battery!

We’re nearly at the end and I know how this is going to go; the bad guys have taken Billy Crystal’s ex-wife, who are still in love with each other but won’t admit it; he’ll rescue her, get her respect, retire to the Keys…maybe. Massive gunfight in a shopping mall, we’ve had a Die Hard moment (although this was a year earlier), Gregory Hines suspended from the ceiling, machine-gunning his way through a window. Looks great. Then it ends: Jimmy Smits dies and falls down an escalator; Gregory Hines is shot in the leg; Billy Crystal stops his ex from marrying and gets a snog; movies were so much more optimistic in the Eighties. Cigars a lit, the good guys walk away, but hey, decide to stay on the beat and not retire. Who could have guessed that!

John Hughes made a massive contribution to the Eighties, with movies like The Breakfast Club; Planes, Trains and Automobiles; Pretty in Pink and the next, final movie of our trilogy: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off; arguably his best.

Matthew Broderick, together with his friends Alan Ruck and Mia Sara, feigns sickness and all go on the best day off any school kid could ever want; a true boyhood fantasy. It also has Jennifer Grey and Jeffery Jones as the hapless school supervisor.

Classic beginning: Ferris turning to the camera just as his parents leave for work and he is ill in bed; he says deadpan “They bought it.”

Six minutes and we get the immortal from the Eco Teacher, the beautifully bored Ben Stein: Beuller; Beuller; Beuller; Beuller. Love it! Followed immediately by Alan Ruck lying in bed contemplating his own fate. This movie is truly great from the very beginning.

Ferris convinces his class that he may be dying, leading to this wonderful quote: “If Ferris dies he’s giving his eyes to Stevie Wonder.” Then there is a chat to a college freshman over the phone who looks EXACTLY like Ed Milliband…in fact I think it is.

This has to be one of Alan Ruck’s and Jeffrey Jones’ best movies, both put in brilliantly manic performances. The part where Mia Sara is contrived to leave school because her grandmother is dead is a perfect scene of comedy. Full of farce, great play between the characters.

Another classic scene: the 1961 Ferrari. A beautiful car; it is a dream, it is a passion; it is his father’s fault he left it in the garage! The licence plate says NRVOUS, very appropriate for Alan Ruck’s character.

Off the three of them go into the city and I think we’re back in Chicago, this time in the sunshine; it looks very different. There are some great tricks in this movie, not least the entry into the fancy restaurant. Who wouldn’t want to try it themselves? There are also some lovely moments, and the piece in the art museum is touching. There is also the famous scene in the parade and Matthew Broderick doing his best rock n’ roll, Twist and Shout.

Then the Ferrari is killed, while they try to take the mileage used by putting it in reverse, Cameron (Ruck) has had enough of his father loving the car more than his family and kicks it into submission, the car zooms backwards out of the garage window and into the woods; the car is dead. But perhaps Cameron is alive for the first time. Alan Ruck’s big moment; he has been such an underused actor. To finish we have cheesy good bye set-ups followed by snogging and a bit of music, probably Simple Minds. This is John Hughes; before Tarantino, music played an important part for another director.

This is a film about freedom of spirit, something we should all have when we are young. The adults in the movie are the stiffs, the kids are the ones who just want to live life. It is a real load of fun, it may send the wrong message to those stiffs out there depicted by Jeffrey Jones, but it isn’t saying that the youth don’t care, it is saying that the youth want to find out rather than be told. It stood for my youth, and I think it stands for now.


Three very different movies and in my opinion, two of them have aged well. 

Zac Thraves
currently reading: A French Novel by Frederic Beigbeder; currently watching: Fringe, via Netflix; last movie watched: The Life of Pi (deluded); currently drinking: Holsten Pils, I like Jeff Goldblum. 

Friday, 28 March 2014

What I am doing on Mother's Day

Mother’s Day is fast approaching a UK audience; the television screens are inundated with adverts of flowers, cakes, chocolates, cards, and music from the kind of groups a mother now would have been listening to in her teens. Of course, some teens are listening to music now and being a mother, which can only be a confusion of the senses.

So while many of you will be attending some kind of family ritual celebrating the fact that a woman gave birth to you and offered to rear you into the adult world, I will not be. Instead I will be trying to forget that I no longer have a mother by immersing myself into my world.

I have been giving this some thought over the last couple of hours and decided to celebrate my mother’s lost life by going back to the 80’s, a truly great time of my life, in movies.

Netflix has a beautiful array of movies from the Eighties; Top Gun is on there; The Color of Money (that little recognised Scorsese/Cruise team up); Short Circuit 2 is there; and then there are the three that will make up my Channel 5 inspired movie feast.

Weird Science
Running Scared
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off 

These are my chosen delicacies for Sunday, together with a hot dog and a couple of beers. I will devour them while wearing leg-warmers and then act like the coolest geek in the world watching Ferris perform the kind of ilder-day that I have always dreamed of. It will be a treat, and I will raise a glass to my mum as I remember her.

So to all of you out there who do not or cannot join in with Mothering Sunday, do something that you like to do and celebrate yourself.

Zac Thraves

currently reading: A French Novel by Frederic Beigbeder; just finished Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (dismal); currently watching: Fringe, via Netflix; last movie watched: The Life of Pi (deluded); currently drinking: Lucozade as feeling like crap. 

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

A new start and a new idea. It has been a while since my last blog, but now I feel that I have stuff to share again.


I want to be in the movie business; having said that, I don’t want to make movies (a childhood dream that will come to nought I am afraid), I want to show movies to an audience of people and do it for a living. Yes, I want to work in a cinema.

When I was younger I attended an interview with Odeon to work at the new multiplex in Tunbridge Wells; I chose not to take the job. This has proved to be one of my more successful decisions as I have come to dislike everything that an Odeon is about. Almost singlehandedly, they have progressively removed the magic that surrounds movies. They have made going to the movies a lifeless, characterless, dull experience that only succeeds in emptying your wallet. Each Odeon multiplex is exactly the same and each one has the feeling of a cardboard box that happens to be showing the latest movie on three screens seven times a day. Not only that, it will only cater for the mind-numbingly boring movies that are nothing more than preludes to the inevitable toy collection. (The Lego Movie, for me, was one overlong advert for the product.)

So I propose a return to the old feeling of a cinema, which is also known as a movie theatre, yes, that’s right, a theatre; a place of imagination, wonder, splendour and excitement.

I have read that in Newcastle there is a project that fills empty spaces, such as shops with creative arts events. I would like to use this idea in the South East and start to show movies that you cannot see at the Odeon. Latest movies like The Grand Budapest Hotel; older movies, or events, such as Back to the Future or E.T. for a new audience to discover on the big screen.

Here is my first thought for a double bill.
I want the whole thing to be an experience, and try to reflect the same feeling I had as a child going to the Classic in Tunbridge Wells to watch The Empire Strikes Back. There was excitement in the building, there was wonder. Posters gave you a hint of the movie you were about to see; magazines and comic book adaptations were available to buy; in the foyer you could look at promotional photos of the movie, all in black and white even though the movie was in colour, and for me this heightened the sense of expectation (as if it made the experience in the actual cinema even better).

The Southwark Playhouse create a similar effect with their theatre. They take a space that has not been used and transform it completely, to great effect. Even though you are in an empty shop or warehouse, there is drama and magic from what they have done; it is a creative space.

In Maidstone, where I am now, there are numerous empty spaces that cry out to be used. The local council must be able to allow their use for a limited price. For me, as a taxpayer, I would rather have a thriving town than an empty one, and take the lead of Brighton, where it seems most shops that lie empty are used to sell bric-a-brac, odd stuff. That makes Brighton what it is, a place for the quirky.

I will attempt to get this project off the ground, and here, at my blog, I will post updates on the process. If anyone has any advice, please, I would be very grateful to you.

 

Zac Thraves

currently reading: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn; currently watching: Fringe and Breaking Bad, via Netflix; last movie watched: The Lego Movie (crap); currently drinking: coffee, from Kenco Millicano;