The Myth of the Artist

I am, like most people who write or struggle to write, one of life’s great procrastinators. Like all of life’s great procrastinators, certain conditions and circumstances need to be met just for me to get things done. Suffice to say that these conditions and circumstances are not the sort of things that procrastinators are good at imposing. Continue reading “The Myth of the Artist”

Eventually Your Eyes Go Square: On Binge-Watching and Shame

It would be of no surprise to anybody if I said that binge-watching has become a byword for the way current generations watch (more importantly interact) with TV. The word itself is so ubiquitous it appeared in no less an eminence than the OED’s 2013 word of the year list (last year Collins went one further and crowned it word of the year, but I’m an OED man). Continue reading “Eventually Your Eyes Go Square: On Binge-Watching and Shame”

Horror Monsters: Jeepers Creepers (2001)

It’s a well-established fact that Jeepers Creepers is a film of two halves, one which is totally effective and creepy (pun not intended; the perfect word for Jeepers Creepers’ opening act really is: creepy) and one which is totally derivative and hokey. There’s a simple reason: Jeepers Creepers is not just a film of two halves but of two competing and diametric impulses: one is concerned with human psychology (because its purpose is to creep insidiously into audience imaginations); the other is concerned with horror monster mythology and with physical and literal horror monster details. It turns out that these impulses are not compatible.

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Horror Monsters: It Follows (2015)

Warning: contains extensive spoilers.

Last year director David Robert Mitchell offered It Follows as a counterpoint to horror films in which the horror monster’s identity or motive or relationship to the protagonist is the film’s point and soul. To put it another way, the appeal of many horror films is calibrated towards that one moment in which the killer pulls off his mask or the protagonist discovers the truth of what she’s fighting.

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Chris Rock and the Oscars

Using comedic racial stereotypes to highlight racial inequality is always fraught and problematic. The success of the joke comes down to whether your audience gets the irony. But when it comes to racial stereotypes, there’s often too much emotion involved; and when there’s too much emotion involved, people don’t tend to be at their clearest or most reasoned.

Continue reading “Chris Rock and the Oscars”

The Stormtrooper in Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

There is a scene in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery in which the titular character steamrolls a slow-witted henchman to death. We’re supposed to think that the joke is the henchman’s screams, which become more protracted as the steamroller moves very slowly towards him; but then the image of the steamroller crushing the henchman cuts to that of a rolling pin rolling dough in a suburban family home. We discover the real joke: this is the henchman’s home. His wife is about to get a call telling her that her husband is dead and then she’s going to have to explain her husband’s death to her son. What we’re really laughing at, of course, is the fact that we never think of the henchman as anything other than depersonalised cannon fodder (the joke is cemented by the portrait on the wall of the proud henchman in uniform and the reveal that his name is Steve). The scene’s closing line, uttered by the henchman’s wife, is “People never think how things affect the family of a henchman”. Continue reading “The Stormtrooper in Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)”

Problems Defining the Number of English Speakers in the World

Depending on who you speak to, there are currently anywhere between 1500 and 2000 million English speakers in the world. That’s a discrepancy of 500 million people. The obvious question is: Why does such a discrepancy even exist? There are a couple of big reasons and many smaller ones. For now I’ll stick to the big ones. Continue reading “Problems Defining the Number of English Speakers in the World”