Teaser trailer for Little Grimton, upcoming comedy podcast

Keep your eyes and mouths open for an upcoming podcast called Little Grimton featuring characters in a rural community. Remember The Archers on a Sunday? It’s not like that. Here’s a little taster and more info will be added soon.

Jason: Ian Willingham

Queen of Hollywood/Lydia: Madeleine Swann (me!)

7 films about relationships that I actually like

Even if you hate unrealistic romantic comedies and ‘family movies,’ relationships intrigue us all because, for some reason, we keep choosing to go through them, and most people have some semblence of family even if they aquire them later.

Perhaps because the subject is so vital to our existence I not only class the following films as ones I love, but films that are amongst my favourites. Despite the surreal settings or situations in most of them, I feel they portray relationships of all kinds in a way that’s more honest than most.

Maybe surrealism allows the director to take a step back and look at things objectively. How do they differ from the ‘realistic’ films in the list? I don’t know, what do you think?

There are plenty of good ‘relationship’ films out there (such as Harold and Maude) but these are the ones I’ve chosen. Interestingly, most feature comedians and an eccentrically attired woman.

1. Annie Hall

Woody Allen has done many films that are not good, but the ones that are count as some of my favourites. Annie Hall is a truthful, funny look at all stages of a specific relationship which leaves us with the same bittersweet nostalgia from thinking on our own experiences:

2. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Another film where a particular relationship is broken down and studied by the director, this has so many moments where I think ‘Oh God, I do that’ that it’s quite painful at times. It’s genuine and heartfelt. Jim Carey is having ex girlfriend Kate Winslet erased from his memory, which allows him to wander through his thoughts as an outsider:

3. Stranger Than Fiction

This one’s about deconstructing storytelling itself rather than studying the relationship between Will Ferrell and Maggie Gyllenhaal, but I love her character and their interaction.

There’s something very old film, Jimmy Stewart in ‘It’s a Wonderful Life‘ about it that warms the cockles, it’s sweet and inventive in a way that’s rarely seen these days in a mainstream film and I urge all who haven’t seen it to do so. Will Ferrell is a character in Emma Thompson’s book, and has to stop her from killing him:

4. Love Me If You Dare

The game of dare between childhood friends, a boy and a girl, increasingly escalate along with their feelings for each other. This is a lovely, dark little story which is, for lack of a better description, very French:

5. Faces

I can see why some people might find this film relentlessly bleak, but I think it’s also oddly refreshing. The nosy side of me gets to watch the intimate problems between these people as well as watching how they live, it reminds me quite a lot of a stage performance. The scenes where drunken nights quickly turn unpleasant are very truthful, and I love the films of John Cassavetes in general.

6. Shortbus

Featuring real sex this is an entertaining journey through the sexual/relationship troubles of a dominatrix, a gay couple and a woman who’s never had an orgasm. Somewhere the answer lies in a late night club:

7. Pieces of April

I was quite pleasantly surprised by this one, especially since it contains Tom Cruise’s wife Katie Holmes. It’s a very simple story of a girl whose terminally ill mother is coming to visit her in New York for Thanksgiving. Her oven breaks and she has to knock on all the other apartment doors in the building.

However the mum is…kind of a bitch (well, I suppose she is dying), and April is the family black sheep. Her relationship with boyfriend Bobby appears to be central to her newfound stability. It’s just very sweet but not sickly, and sometimes you need that. Please ignore the cheesy trailer music, it is very misplaced:

Robin Cooper and David Firth, the sweet and dark side of surreal comedy

Two surreal creative forces are popular amongst the groovy kids on the internet (Dig what I’m saying, daddio?). I think they’re both brilliant but be the judges for yourself.

Robert Popper is a writer and producer for TV. On particularly silly days he evokes the character Robin Cooper and writes letters to companies (read book The Timewaster Letters) or makes daft phone calls. What I love about him is his flights of fancy without being mean. If Robin Cooper existed, you’d want to give him a big cuddle and a cup of tea.

Below is one of my favourite clips from his youtube channel (I urge you to visit). Even though Robert Popper has been in the writer’s room for South Park in the past, he still thought it was worth Robin giving them a call:

The flip side of this is David Firth. Not all of his occasionally disturbing animations are strictly comedy, but often surrealness and down-to-earth Northerness collide to make us chuckle. Have a look at episode 2 of one of my favourite characters from his website (and probably the silliest), superhero Burnt Face Man:

*warning, it’s a bit sweary and stuff

Songstresses and burlesque queens: Five unusual ladies

I’ve had to interview various unusual and creative ladies for magazines and it got me thinking about a few that people may not have heard of, but would like to.

I’m on some pretty heavy painkillers (have a read of my post on endometriosis) so forgive me if I don’t make much sense…

The first two are musical. I like ethereal music ladies such as Bat For Lashes and CocoRosie, and two singers/musicians I came across in the last few years have caught my interest.

Anneka Snip lives in Brighton and has collaborated with electronica artists like Milanese, Blue Daisy and Ital Tek.

Kid A (or Annie T) is an American lady who is currently on tour with Scroobius Pip. Have a listen:

Next up is a cabaret artist known as Missy Macabre. A one woman vintage burlesque freak show, I interviewed her about a short comedy/horror film she appeared in called Annabelle’s Tea Party. Have a look at her in action:

Next we have comedy burlesque performer Fancy Chance. I was sent to review The Fire Tusk Pain Proof Circus and she was very entertaining:

In the same show was Lucifire, the lead stunt woman. Amongst other things she ate glass, walked on it and made me chuckle (the gentleman onstage is her husband and fellow performer Professor Tusk):

Just as an added bonus here’s Bat for Lashes doing Horse and I at Shepherd’s Bush, London:

A sideshow, a conceptual dinner, Edgar Allen Poe in circus and magic psychology

A few days ago myself and two friends got back from the Edinburgh Fringe. I’ll be using photos I found online because, rather than reflecting the beautiful Georgian buildings or lively street performers, most of our holiday pictures look like these two below:

Steve’s arm performs an optical illusion

For further details of streets and shops have a look at this previous post). For now here is a list of my favourite shows this year:

Rachel (right) and I show how we’d dance in an Amsterdam brothel

1. The Curious Couple from Coney Island. Set to a background of 30s jazz and covered with a sprinkling of sideshow history, this engaging couple swallowed swords in ever more dangerous ways, pulled condoms through noses and made me laugh lots. By the end I wanted to run off with them to form an alternative lifestyle couple.

2. Backhand Theatre and Circus Performs Edgar Allen Poe. Using poems and snippets of story from the gothic horror scribe, The Backhand Theatre company have formed a very visual and very intriguing play. I was amazed by the constantly moving sets and spooky story of a mental asylum owner willing to do whatever it took to keep the hospital running his way.

You’re being watched

3. Richard Wiseman. Psychologist, magician, author and supernatural debunker Richard Wiseman led us on a very funny journey of video clips and magic tricks. He reminded us how fascinating the brain really is by explaining our need to see faces in everything in case we miss the one hunting us in the trees, thus creating ‘ghosts’ in the darkness. He illustrated his point by showing us pictures of sneaky roofs and happy light switches.

The Curious Couple from Coney Island

4. Simon Munnery. My favourite I’ve saved to the end. Simon Munnery is one of my favourite comedians ever. Partly inspired by Andy Kaufman, he’s a delightful bag of surreal silliness. We went to both his shows this year, I Am A Fylm Makker (in which he performed the entire show off to the side, projecting his face via camera onto a big screen in front of us) and La Concepta.

Whilst I loved the songs and silly cardboard figures he’d made for Fylm Makker, nothing can compare to 8 of us sitting around a table in a windowless artist’s warehouse being served bizarre and silly concepts for dinner.

Because they only sold 8 tickets at a time, the amount of chairs available in the ‘restaurant,’ it was an intense experience and felt a bit like we’d all swallowed an untested drug, especially his final entrance wearing an enormous chef’s hat pumped up by pneumatics attached to his feet. The video I’ve added below won’t capture that experience, but here are a couple of the things we witnessed at La Concepta restaurant:

Ooh, it’s the Jeckyll and Hyde

But wait…there’s more! Along the way we visited a hippie chocolate and milkshake place with surrealist cups hanging from the ceiling called The Chocolate Tree, wandered around the book fair (missed getting tickets for Neil Gaiman though) and sat in the spooky Jeckyll and Hyde pub, as featured on eeriepubs.co.uk.

So that’s it from me. Below I’ve included the best picture of the three of us, just to prove that we are indeed human beings like anyone else.

Us at the Book Fair

Stephenage’s artistics

I must share with you my friend Steve’s (or Stephenage or Weeven) art blog.

He sells his proper art along with t-shirts etc from his website, but his blog is purely for entertainment.

Have a look and witness such delights as a picture and poem about Wayne Rooney (apparently his favourite dinner is something with mash). Also there is this picture of Charlize Theron:

Writery type questions (and Chris Morris)

There are a number of questions bothering me at this time.If anyone else has questions bothering them in the same areas, or even different areas (except privates related), feel free to share.

1. What’s a good price to pay an editor once your book is finished?

2. Do you just hand them the whole thing in one go when you’ve done all your own editing?

3. How many pages is a graphic novel meant to have?

4. How many panels to a page?

5. Can you just send scripts to agents/publishers?

6. Where is my lip balm?

7. Why did Chris Morris phone the police when he found me waiting in his room? All I said was, ‘your brain is sexy, can I lick it?’

Putting off work (again)

The other day I again found myself in the situation of avoiding work. It happens when I have more to do than usual. At a point in the afternoon I suddenly think, ‘maybe looking through twitter isn’t the thing I ought to be doing right now,’ and then I hopefully get on with things. Most of the time.

Sometimes doing a bit of excercise helps, sometimes telling yourself off helps, and sometimes doing it all tomorrow works just as well.

Everyone who does arty things involving self-discipline, whether they work freelance or do it on their own time, recognises this feeling.

This animation by Levni Yilmaz, from his ‘Tales of Mere Existence’ series, outlines the whole thing perfectly:

Other writers will certainly recognise this situation: