Friday, September 30, 2005

A Metaphor Too Far

I'm coming back for just this one post. This will not be like Sugar Ray Leonard, who came out of retirement in 1987 to (sort of) beat Hagler, then went on to sully his record for another 10 years, getting beat by the likes of Hector Camacho. My ring career is over. This is just a one-off. Honest.

I've just seen George Romero's LAND OF THE DEAD. Er... I mean LAND OF THE DEAD. This baby has been hyped and hyped for years. Not in a concerted way by the studios, but by the fans - speculating on what will be the nature of this epilogue to the "Dead" trilogy. For a long time word was that it was going to be called TWILIGHT OF THE DEAD, which I think would have been better. Not because it sounds better, but because it signals an end. "LAND OF THE DEAD" just doesn't sound right to me. But so much for the title. On to the movie...

What the hell went on here? Is Romero too old? Was his vision diluted by meddling studio execs? Did he just take too long to make it? I don't know, but the film is just not good enough. As a decent B-movie about zombies running around, it's OK. But for something that is being heralded as the return of a great genre master, it lets you down like a flat-chested stripper. The narrative is weak, the boat isn't pushed out far enough (except for gory set-pieces), and the overall feel is hero vs villain. That, and the performances are crap. (Someone should come out and admit that Dennis Hopper's last dance with greatness was BLUE VELVET.)

A lot has been made of Romero's political and social issues in the other DEAD films, particularly racism in NIGHT, and consumerism (yawn) in DAWN. It's a long time since 1985's DAY OF THE DEAD (my personal favourite), and since then he has become a kind of exiled king of political horror. So it's no surpise that he comes out in this one with all metaphors blazing, hoping to show the world how it really is, illustrating his point with, well, zombies. He's talked in recent interviews about this being a post-9/11 movie, and the "I don't negotiate with terrorists" Dennis Hopper quote has been much bandied around, as if to prove that credential.

And, boy, is this ever a post-9/11 movie.

A bunch of rich bastards are holed up in Hopper's state-of-art secure skyscraper, literally buying into the illusion that everything is OK in the world. Meanwhile less fortunate survivors fend for themselves on the ground, and the zombies are kept out of the city by sentries, electric fences, and a river. So rather than them and us, it's them and them and us. Keep the trash and the zombies out, by whatever means necessary.

The rich bastards don't get to learn much about the zombies (ie: bother reading the Koran), but they don't have to worry about them either, them being over there. Then a renagade prole (white convert to Islam?) goes out there and points missiles at the sacred skyscraper, glorious symbol of prosperity (um, could that be a subtle reference to something or other?)... and the zombies flood across the barriers.

To make things worse for Hopper & co, the muslims (did I say muslims? I meant, of course, ZOMBIES) are not dumb any more. No more the shambling, innocent flesh-eaters (ie: servile Eastern countries) of yore. They are learning about our culture, working out ways to get around it (flying lessons, anyone?). And what's more they are led by a rage-fueled king zombie known (in the credits) as Big Daddy, who periodically looks up at the beautiful skyscraper in the distance and roars a battle-cry. (A coincidence that Big Daddy and Bin Laden contain the exact same number of letters? Of course!)

Sounds pretty overt so far, right? Romero's stance is clear - the rich humans (ie: polital classes) are the villains, the ground-level humans (ie: apolitical working Schmoes) are the innocent victims, and the zombies (ie: al Quaida) are kind of incidental catalysts, who are simply following their flesh-rending natures and giving us what we've got coming. This is all fine and dandy, if you like your politics dripping with blood and rammed down your lacerated throat. But then what does Romero go and do at the end?

*** SPOILER ***
The zombies walk off into the distance, and our hero (who is so bland I haven't even mentioned him yet) says to his female sidekick, raising her machine gun at them... "Leave them. They're just like us, just looking for a place to go."

Beautiful sentiment, but... Can we drop the politics for a moment? These are fucking ZOMBIES. They will eat your fucking children! George, zombies can be great symbols for some things, but ... towel-heads. You're on shaky ground, man!

Last year's DAWN OF THE DEAD remake by Zack Snyder, and the earlier 28 DAYS LATER by Danny Boyle show that you can still make a great zombie movie. But neither of these guys attempted to eviscerate the audience with sixth-form politics. They made turbo charged horror suspense movies, having their fun with the format but still paying their dues to the genre. This is what Romero fails to do in LAND OF THE DEAD. At some point during his long exile, he has fallen for the myth that he is a political filmmaker, and the result is like an Australian soap star trying to make it in the RSC.

And George, I don't care what your age is, but your material is old. Horror has moved on, and dragging your tired shit around don't cut it no more. Like the 41-year-old Sugar Ray, you're going to get your old ass whupped by an unworthy opponent.

That aside, great film!

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Blogg Off

This blog is rubbish. I'm closing it down.

Actually I have specific reasons for doing this. I'm not sure what blogs are supposed to be, but I'm sure they're not what I'm doing. Blogs should be about more day-to-day things, thoughts about stuff going on in the world, cultural or otherwise. I should maybe share a bit more of myself. But I don't. This is because:

a. I don't have time. I've got two kids, a wife, a full-time job 80 miles away, two dogs, 85 fish (don't ask), and a cat. Somewhere in there I want to read and write books. That's OK, but the blog suffers (and the fish).

b. It's against my nature to share too much of myself. Maybe in a book I can do it. In a book you can obscure the truth, and there is a healthy distance between author and reader. But here, it's a bit dodgy. Hey, nothing personal - if I met you in a pub, I'd tell you everything. But this ain't a pub. (And if it was, it would be like the one at the top of this page, third from left).

c. Is there really anything new to say about David Hasselhoff and Mr T?

So, my apologies if you have become chemically addicted to this blog. As a substitute, I recommend Marmite, Consulates, ketamine, or any of the blogs on the right. From now on, anything I really need to announce, I'll do it on


Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Bring Back BIFF

Dear Sir,

Please, please bring BIFF back to the Review. BIFF was the reason I started buying the Guardian, many years ago, and has remained the undisputed highlight of my Saturdays ever since... even in my days of drunken debauchery. Just bring back BIFF. Garratt and Kidd have created an enduring cultural icon, and it needs the outlet you give it. In fact, you should do a feature on them.

No one sees the world (particularly our corner of it) the way BIFF does. Doonesbury may be more famous, but BIFF is cleverer, funnier, and BRITISH.


Charlie Williams.

I sent the above to Please do the same. We need BIFF in our lives.

(Unsure what BIFF is? See here.)

Monday, September 19, 2005

Charlie Williams, RIP

When the google referrals on my site suddenly go through the roof, you can be sure something has happened to another Charlie Williams. It happened this weekend, with a shedload of first time visitors hitting the main page, maybe checking the bio page, then taking the hunt elsewhere (probably thinking "Who is THAT weirdo? Man, I really didn't want to go there...")

So I did some searching and found out that this guy died. It took me a while to work out what "First black ump to work plate in World Series dies" means, but I think it's to do with baseball, or something.

Anyway, here's to Charlie Williams.

More Keyword Kraziness

Only one search string this time (that has led someone, via goodle or whatever, to my website), but it's just about the best keyword search I've ever seen:

charlie williams funny smell
Other news... Walking the dogs late one evening last week I got attacked by a badger. To be accurate he didn't techinically attack me, but he came charging at me through the long grass, looking pretty mean. When he saw the hounds he stopped, looked like a demoralised badger, and ran off.

Do you think he was attracted by the funny smell?

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Sacré Flamin' Bleu!

Gallimard have bought the French rights to FAGS AND LAGER. (They already have DEADFOLK, which will no doubt come out over there some time.) The French, as we all know, have a great love for fags and lager (you don't know what a fag is until you've had a Gitane), so I hope my humble offering will not disappoint.

My books will be swimming in Williams-infested waters at Gallimard, which already include the likes of Charles Williams, Tennessee Williams, and William Carlos Williams among others.

I'm off to celebrate with some lager!

In my excitement I forget to mention... Many thanks to Malcolm Imrie of Imrie and Dervis for brokering this deal (and all the other foreign deals).

Monday, September 12, 2005

...and him

Ashley Giles

It's all about him

Kevin Pietersen

Twisted Tinkers

Major congrats go to Messrs Starr and Bruen for burdening their mantelpieces with more silverware. Bruen gets a Macavity for THE KILLING OF THE TINKERS, and Starr receives an Anthony for TWISTED CITY. Normally I don't give a shit about awards because they seem to go to the same boring old farts year after year, but these two wins give them new credibility.

Make a note in your diaries for May next year, when this baby comes out.

In other news, COME ON ENGLAND.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

My name is Hasselhoff, King of Kings. Look upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair

As predicted by Mr Banks and myself many, many decades ago:

Hodder & Stoughton is delighted to announce the acquisition of World Rights for the autobiography of 'The Most Watched Star in The World', David Hasselhoff Described as a "living legend" and a "counterculture icon", with "super-human allure" David Hasselhoff has been named one of "TV's Ten Most Powerful Stars." The Hoff holds the official Guinness Book of World Records Award for 'The Most Watched TV Star in the World', with an estimated weekly audience of more than 76.1 billion in 6,348 countries. His Baywatch series has been seen by a combined audience of 275.7 trillion people - just short of the population of the entire universe.

But really, nearly all of that passage is extraneous. It could be reduced to just one simple word, as could any other piece of writing (including the Bible). The word?


Thanks to Sarah W for this world-changing news.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Less Than Reality

From an interview with Brett Easton Ellis:

As for research--whenever I start researching something I stop because I'm
writing fiction and the reality never adds up to what I want to do in a novel.
Research is basically paying attention to the world and if you're a writer you
can pretty much pull stuff from your relationship to the world and what you've
witnessed and use it in your fiction no matter what the subject matter is...
I agree. (If I'm understanding him right. Not very clear, is it?) I hate research. When you're writing fiction, you're creating a world in your head and putting it down on the page. Once you've taken the first step into fiction (ie: writing down stuff that is not actually true), you're stepping outside the real world. You're past with reality is broken, so there's no requirement to make things authentic. I realise this does not work for all types of fiction, but it works for me. And it works for Mr Ellis.

Plus I'm lazy, and research means work.