Archive for the Mythology Category

Blue Marble

Posted in FILM, Mythology, Science with tags , on April 21, 2015 by dcairns

P L A N E T A R Y – Trailer from Planetary Collective on Vimeo.

PLANETARY is a new documentary screening at the Glasgow Film Theatre on Earth Day, April 22nd (tomorrow) and in selected venues thereafter. I was lucky enough to be offered a sneak peak, but I wish I could make it over to the west coast because it’s a stunning thing, well deserving of viewing on the big screen.

I see how clichés like the term “a meditation on” come into being, because while INTERPLANETARY could be described in a more down-to-earth way as simply a discussion about human existence on planet Earth, the use of stunning NASA footage, stunning nature footage and atmospheric music makes it a sensuous experience as well as an intellectual one. So, fuck it, it is, in a sense, a meditation on human existence on planet Earth — our place in the ecosystem, our catastrophic failure to reach a rational understanding of what that place should be, the fragility of the bright globe supporting all the life we know of in the universe. The film may give you a feeling of vertigo relating not just to space but to time and thought also. Ultimately, the piece is an argument for mindfulness, in which it locates mankind’s best hope for adapting to the planet. The cast list of  mindful talking heads includes astronauts Ron Garan and Mae Jemison, environmentalist Bill McKibben, anthropologist Wade Davis, and Head of the Tibetan Buddhist Kagyu school, the 17th Karmapa.

The only imagery that seemed over-familiar was the KOYAANISQATSI-type cityscapes, usually New York and sometimes in time-lapse. Too aesthticized to work as a strong symbol of urban blight or life out of balance — the film would benefit from showing us a few ugly things to contrast with the genuinely staggering beauties. I would have thought space would have lost its power to be amazing after all these decades of manned orbital flight, but I defy you to hang onto your breath as that big blue marble rolls by, only two hundred and fifty miles down.

If you can’t make it to Glasgow, you will be able to pre-order the film soon at this link.

Blood and Thunder

Posted in Comics, FILM, Mythology with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 15, 2015 by dcairns


To my surprise, Edinburgh University Library turned out to possess copies of Marvel’s THOR and its sequel, which I discovered while unsuccessfully trying to get something on Joseph Mankiewicz (but I won’t tell you why, just yet). A certain dumb curiosity made me want to check out the “Film by Kenneth Branagh” — rarely has a possessory credit (on a film Mr. Branagh did not write) seemed so fatuous. Maybe I just wanted to see if he’d gotten any better at directing films.

When Branagh first burst upon the scene, I didn’t admire his films but I could see where he was stealing from, and at least the source of his theft — mostly Welles — showed ambition. It wasn’t an ambition — becoming Orson Welles, only more commercially successful — that he was ever likely to succeed at, but it seemed possible that he might get good.

I have enjoyed some of the Marvel superhero things (Ben Kingsley is so wonderful in IRON MAN III I can’t describe it) up to a point, so it didn’t seem totally pointless looking at this thing, but I should admit it was pretty pointless after ten minutes. Fiona was enjoying Tom Hiddleston’s facial expressions, but there wasn’t much else to appreciate. I thought it was strikingly poorly edited, and Branagh’s big Wellesian idea this time seemed to be Dutch tilts. I imagine the meeting thus —

“I think we’ll have Dutch tilts in this one. Comic book vibrancy and all that.”

“When shall we use them?”

“Oh, I don’t think that matters.”


Thor (Chris Helmsworth) was my least favourite character in AVENGERS ASSEMBLE so I admit I wasn’t expecting to love this. He has an OK character arc, I guess, and Natalie Portman is appealing. I don’t quite believe she’s a brilliant scientist but I don’t quite believe Stellan Skasgaard is either. Nor do I believe that when the Norse god is banished to earth and crash-lands in New Mexico (I knew he should have made that left turn at Albuquerque), he’s slammed into by a kind of Mystery Mobile in which three scientists are cooking meth doing physics, and one of them happens to be Scandinavian. But one shouldn’t really get upset about probability in a thing like this. I’m more upset about the meaningless camera angles.


I rented DREDD because I’d heard good things, and I’m a child of 2000AD comic, and I slightly regretted missing this one on the big screen in 3D. And indeed, there are some pretty visual effects I bet looked spiffing in depth. Films made by Andrew MacDonald’s DNA tend to go for unsympathetic characters and unpleasant story worlds — odd, since he seems such a nice middle-class chap (and grandson of Emeric Pressburger). This makes him ideal for Judge Dredd, created by Spanish artist Carlos Ezquerra and Scottish writer John Wagner, who conceived him as a futuristic Dirty Harry, only more fascistic if you can imagine such a thing. The trouble with the 1995 JUDGE DREDD was that they neutered the character, turning him into an honorable action hero and removing his helmet (the comic book character has never been seen unmasked — he’s basically an impersonal functionary/killing machine).

Alex Garland’s script has a few good ideas and is part of his general redemption these days — I thought EX MACHINA was quite fine, despite hating his writing on 28 DAYS LATER, so I guess the dumbness was coming from Danny Boyle. This Dredd is meaner — Karl Urban basically just has to huskily whisper like Clint Eastwood, but with excellent timing. The comic WAS/IS comic, a jet-black, nihilistic blast of punk nihilism, dark chuckles amid Leonesque mayhem. I think the current movie is a little lacking in laughs, though there are some good ones, mainly to do with the sheer excessiveness of the bloodbathery — but you might not be amused by a man being made to blow off the top of his head with his own assault rifle, which makes you a better person than me.

I liked the acidic colours and Carpenteresque score. Director Pete Travis marshalled his resources well — a UK-shot, US-set dystopian thriller could all too easily resemble DEATH WISH III.


There’s only a microscopic amount of character change in this one, mostly around Dredd’s rookie partner, Olivia Thirlby (unconventional and interesting) — weirdly, this actually makes it MORE pleasing than THOR, because less familiar. I challenge the screenwriting gurus to figure that one out.


I finished my comic book weekend by actually reading a comic book, Domu by Katsushiro Otomo, creator of AKIRA. This was something I bought dirt cheap in a charity shop and it had been lying unread by my bedside for literally YEARS (along with heaps of other impulse-buy literature — it’s a real mess). Having finally picked it up, I consumed it avidly between the hours of midnight and one. Otomo has the ability to intrigue — his plots don’t resolve very neatly, but there’s so much damned apocalypse going on it’s hard to notice. The psychic kid stuff in this one is familiar, but this time the narrative is basically a police investigation crossed with a ghost story, set around a housing estate plagued by mystery suicides. The loose ends and unexplained elements are pretty evocative, suggesting an intriguing direction Hollywood movies could go in if they continue to de-emphasize plot at the expense of massive action set-pieces. Bring on the negative capability!



Posted in FILM, Mythology with tags , , , on April 2, 2015 by dcairns


Three spooky tales from Prague in a wraparound narrative in the best Amicus tradition — that’s PRAGUE NIGHTS (1969), this fortnight’s edition of The Forgotten, at the Notebook, here.


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