Sunday 30 June 2019

The breadth in our hearts

(For Gela and Frances, on their wedding, 29/6/19)

The thing that is most magical of all
Is that after having spent so long
In worlds of the heart
Where everything is narrow –
Where our horizons are constrained –
Where all the spaces that we had to live in
Are defined by other people's boundaries –
The thing that is most magical of all
Is that within you, within me, within us
There is a breadth of love that covers everything,
A space to be ourselves;
A space to take each other on.
In you and I, there is a breadth in our hearts
Enough to make a hope, a life, a family
In a shape that we have chosen,
A space for us to be only, forever ourselves.

Tuesday 25 June 2019

Why I Have Not Been Seen Upstairs Recently

Since you broke your leg, they said,
We became aware of the missing stair
And it is important to make sure you know
That from now on everyone will remember
To take care to step over the missing stair.
Obviously, it would be too expensive to fix,
And we do not want anyone to think that
We think any less of them because
They have let their house go to ruin
From lack of care because of one missing stair.
By the way, they said,
We haven't seen you upstairs recently.
Is everything OK?

Monday 24 June 2019

On a Thousand Walls #20: The Third Part of the Night (Trzecia czesc nocy) (1971)

Andrzej Zuławski's Possession is, as you probably know if you've read this blog a bit, my favourite horror film. It's the film that keeps on giving, a stack of metaphors for trauma, and disintegration, and the occupation of physical places and human hearts. Inevitably I was going to get to more of Zuławski's films: Possession is a gateway drug for a lot of people, especially since the restored blu-ray came out a few years ago, and a lot has been written about it. Obviously genre fans stop with Possession, since it's Zuławski's only horror film (and similarly, the not-quite-but-sort-of-finished On the Silver Globe his only sci-fi film) and that's sort of missing the point, because Zuławski, although a filmmaker with some serious problems, is always quite directly honest in the films. I don't think I would have liked him personally one bit, but I have a fierce admiration for the way he discloses himself in his films, and the way he returns to them.

A case in point is his first film, The Third Part of the Night. The more you see of Zuławski's films, the more it feels like they're a set of interlocking puzzle boxes, each of which contains the means to unlock another, and when you watch this fiercely personal film, you can see how Possession is a comment on it, an expansion, even in some ways a rebuke.

Tuesday 18 June 2019

Capitulate to All Monsters!

Gojira (AKA Godzilla) (1954);
Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019);
Shin Godzilla (2016)

If anything demonstrates how much I hate the pathological insistence on not spoiling the plot of a film, it's how little has been said of any substance about Godzilla: King of the Monsters, and about why it's so bad, why it's so toxic, so radioactive if you like. No, since you asked, no, I did not like it. It enraged me in fact, made me losing-sleep-over-this angry more than any film in the last couple years

But here we are. I'm going to write about Godzilla: King of the Monsters. It will give away plot twists. It is full of spoilers, but nothing here will ruin things for you as much as actually watching the film. Because, as my pal Eve Moriarty recently observed, it is on brand for me to respond to getting upset about a film by watching two more films* in the series and writing 5000 words, I have also made this about that original 1954 Godzilla, and about Shin Godzilla, both of which are films I rate and liked a lot, but I give away the endings and plot twists of them too, but then I have to.

(*OK, actually five, but the three Netflix movies are another thing entirely)

So. Let's go back and start with first principles.

Tuesday 4 June 2019

OatW #19; TQiB #23: A Conversation that’s all about Us

Us (2019)

It’s what they call a Very Special Episode today. So over the space of a couple of weeks, my old pal and contributor to We Don’t Go Back, the luminous and epic Monique Lacoste, engaged in a conversation about Jordan Peele’s recent film Us. Us, you may know, stars Lupita Nyong’o as Adelaide, who in returning to a place of childhood trauma finds her family under threat. To say any more at all is of course a spoiler, and as usual, we’re going to have all the spoilers in this post.Seriously, the whole plot. Laid bare.

The one thing I’m going to say before we start that is not a spoiler is this: we both think Us is brilliant. Neither Monique nor I had a bad thing to say about it. In my opinion it’s better than Get Out (and I loved Get Out). I think everything about it, its pacing, plotting, performances, images, ideas, is absolutely spot on. It works on every possible level, and our conversation about the film is essentially predicated on the simple fact that we don’t have a bad word to say about it, so there’s that.

It seemed right somehow, for a film about duality, for two of us to do it. 

Here we go, then. This is what we had to say about Us.

Monday 3 June 2019

Tabletop games as fanworks

(This piece was written for the compilation In Other Words, a collection of essays on fanfiction compiled by my friend Eve Moriarty) 

Torvald the Contradictory of the Nihilists Militant.

I have an ambivalent relationship with role-playing games. There's something disreputable about them, and certainly having written for them cannot be said to have been beneficial to my career. But nonetheless I cannot leave them behind.

The act of playing a role is revolutionary in a lot of ways, and for me it can be dangerous, even self-revelatory. Pretend games and role-playing are an important part of child development, one of the ways that children work out who they are, who they want to be. Role-playing games (and for the sake of this piece, I'm writing about the tabletop variety, although entire books could be written about venerable online games like Second Life, World of Warcraft, EVE Online and so on) extend that in a controlled, directed way, often with complex and ever expanding rulesets. They allow us to continue to explore these things into adulthood. I know I'm not alone in having in the past tentatively explored my queerness and my gender identity through role-playing.