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:

Rather Useful Writer Links

Recently I sent a short story to a magazine, and it was rejected. So? I hear you cry, this happens all the time. Do not sully our eyes with such pointless jibber jabber. Get thee forthwith into a nunnery, or at least next door.

What made this rejection interesting, my little slices of pepperoni, was the list of links they sent me. Websites with a range of publications that take short stories! They were: New Pages, Poets and Writers website, a list of Poetry Publishers who accept Electronic Submissions, a list of Online Literary Journals and a list of Literary magazines.

As well as that I discovered a benefit from following Neil Gaiman on Twitter other than being able to ask him directly if I can lick his face (I don’t really do that. Or do I?). The other day he posted this link, which appears to be a site called LitReactor, ‘a compendium of top advice from Contemporary Authors.’ Apparently it’s from the team that brought you ChuckPalahniuk.net, the site full of advice and workshops for cult writers, Chuck being the author of such cult classics as Fight Club.

Go on, you know you want to…

Writer’s Groups, Online Workshops and Self-Editing Part 2

A short while ago I mentioned I had joined a local writer’s group. This was really enjoyable as the stories and poems were surprisingly (how much of a snob am I?) good. However while I found reading my story aloud helped me to locate things that needed changing, what I really missed was feedback.

I began thinking about joining an online workshop. A couple of friends I went to uni with suggested Chuck Palahniuk’s (author of Fight Club and Choke) online workshop for cult writers which looks pretty good, plus there’s the writer’s workshop and the SFF online writing workshop (Science Fiction, fantasy and horror). I was only interested in the free ones though, so I joined Critique Circle. Honestly just look in google, there’s loads.

I was nervous at first, and unsure whether anyone would get around to looking at my story or if people were just posting theirs. However you can’t upload a story until you’ve gained enough credits by critiquing someone else’s. I chose a template for my comments to ensure I did it thoroughly, and picked a story from the ‘newbie list.’ The one I chose was over 4,000 words which apparently gives you double credits, so I uploaded my story. I also noticed that the homepage features a different writing excercise every day and encourages activity from members via polls and competitions.

I waited over a week but, as there are quite a few options going down the left side, I was unsure what to do next. I kept checking my message inbox thinking the critiques would appear on there. However today, after clicking on ‘my story’ (should have been obvious I suppose), I found there had been 8 critiques. I read through them, some being more detailed than others of course, but the different templates the site offers for critiquing allows most people to be quite in-depth about their suggestions. The process highlighted areas I hadn’t realised needed work and, despite the occasional differences of culture between UK and America (a letterbox is something we have on our doors, not the thing on a stick) it was very good.

Quite intimidatingly you grade them on the helpfulness of their critiques via multiple choice, but this is also probably good otherwise you’d just get hundreds of “I liked it it was nise.”

I’m always self-editing but it can only get you so far. You do need to be quite ruthless with your work which I’m sure you already know; if you have to read a sentence more than once it probably needs changing. It can’t beat having other people look at it though. We have such a clear idea of how things are in our minds that we sometimes don’t realise other people can’t quite see it.

So there we are, free doesn’t necessarily mean bad.  I hope it was useful. Au revoir!

Writer’s Groups, Online Workshops and Self-Editing

I don’t know about you but one of the biggest problems I find with editing is getting somebody to read the damn thing, so the other night I went along to my local writer’s group to see if it was the answer to my dreams. A couple of friends I went to uni with had suggested Chuck Palahniuk’s (author of Fight Club and Choke) online workshop for cult writers which looks pretty good, plus there’s the writer’s workshop and the SFF online writing workshop (Science Fiction, fantasy and horror). There are also free ones, which I’ll be having a look at, such as Critique Circle. Honestly, there’s loads, just google it. At this stage in my career, if I can get advice for free, that’s what I’ll be doing.

I brought along a story I desperately want to get published. It seems if I can do a story in little over a day it gets somewhere, but the things I really love and work hard at I have trouble with. So I went along to the meeting place, a local pub, and joined the others.

Through the shouting of the locals at the bar I learned I would have to read my story aloud. Now, I had to do this during my creative writing course but it’s been a good few years, so as the reading circle drew ever closer I began to feel the palpitations reminiscent of the dreaded ‘your turn to hit the ball’ in P.E.

I began to forget myself, though, as I listened to other’s stories and poems. I get the same feeling when I’m painted in my job as a life model; however hippie this may sound I just like being in a creative environment, and the stories were good.

My palms were sweating when all eyes turned to me. I could hear the sound of my own voice rattling gratingly in my head but, as I continued, I grew in confidence and people began to laugh. It’s a comedy, so that was a good sign.

My only wish is that people gave more helpful comments, I’ve never liked it when people just say “that’s good” if it needs editing. However, on the walk home, I knew from hearing it aloud a few things that could be changed. Although having others read the thing on paper and make comments is invaluable, I think you also need to become ruthless. If you have to read a sentence twice, it needs changing. If you feel maybe there are too many words in a sentence, there probably are.

So, these are my thoughts on the matter, I hope they’re a tiny bit helpful. Good luck!