Family – Weekly Photo Challenge

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For todays Zero To Hero task we had to take part in an event or challenge. I decided to enter this into the Weekly Photo Challenge. Unfortunately I can’t remember what these are. Knew I should have taken a picture of the sign! Any ideas?

Edit:now pretty certain it’s a family of Marmot’s.

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Just One Person – A review of “Jim Henson: The Biography”

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If you enjoy biographies and you love The Muppets then you can’t go wrong with this. I still can’t believe I only found it by accident when wandering aimlessly round Waterstones one Sunday afternoon.

As a big fan of the work of Jim Henson I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It covers his entire career telling you everything you need to know about his hits and his rare misses (although even these would find a loyal fanbase). With contributions from all of his family and many of his closest collaborators and co-workers this is an affectionate look at a man who was endlessly driven and tirelessly creative. That he died aged only 54 makes you wonder what he may have gone on to do had he lived. Such is the heart that both he and his most famous creations have that I defy you to read both the opening and closing chapters without a lump in your throat. 5/5

Reputation

To earn a good reputation

Depends on a good education

We need to teach others how we tick

By using every known little trick

To express ourselves in a way

So that nobody else can say

We are not being who we are

By pretending we’re not on a par

So here ends my demonstration

Of how to earn a good reputation.

*Written for Zero To Hero: Day 16 and prompted by Daily Prompt 17/01/2014

The Eyes Have It – (Zero To Hero: Day 12)

It’s Day 12 of the Zero To Hero challenge and I’m linking back to two blogs I have left comments on. Both blogs are related to a topic that is close to my heart and both in their own way make the same link to their subject matter. The eyes of an Orang-utan. This has given me the inspiration to write this post.

On the blog Things You Should Care About I particularly related to what LM wrote in her post Inspiring Moments about a female orang-utan she had been watching who “not only acknowledged I was there, but stared right into my eyes as if she was reading me as much I was trying to read her.”

I’ve had an affinity for Orang-utans since the mid-1980’s when I was at school and given the task of doing a write-up on any animal of my choice. I remember having no idea which animal I would choose. My mind was completely blank. To find my inspiration I went flicking through a zoo guide book. Something had to be in there to inspire me. Page by page I worked my way through animal after animal. Many would be passed over with barely a second glance, but some would invoke thoughts ranging from possibly to maybe, to might be, to could be. I suppose I could quite easily have chosen Koala’s, or maybe Elephants, possibly Penguins, but then my eyes fell upon the Orang-utan. Straight away I was struck by the colour of their hair. Like me they were ginger – although I was, and still am, significantly less hairy – I was immediately on their side. But what sealed the deal was something even closer to me. At the time my father was living and working in Brunei on the island of Borneo. I rarely saw him as a result, so writing and thinking about the Orang-utans gave me a link to him. My connection to orang-utans had begun.

The first time I properly connected with an Orang-utan would be on a visit to Monkey World in Dorset, UK. It may have been the first visit, or possibly the second, I can’t recall but I do remember on one occasion standing near one of their enclosures when one of them came close to the fence. Close enough for me to look him* in the eye. More importantly for me, I was close enough for the Orang to look me in the eye. And that was the connection.

I had heard about ‘making a connection’ before but never truly understood it. Now I did. I have no way of knowing what he was thinking. Watching him he seemed calm, benign, at peace. I hoped he was thinking the same thing about me. I could easily have watched him and the rest of his friends for hours.

With the eyes being the key to that connection, I feel the picture Orang-utan on  Alan Jones Art has captured that idea beautifully and it conveys, to me at least, the feeling of the orang-utan looking into you.

It’s always been my dream to take my camera and to travel to Borneo and see these wonderful creatures in their own habitat before it’s too late. Whilst they still have a habitat to live in and before they are driven to extinction. It’s no use saying “to the edge of extinction” as they are already there. An unforgiveable plight caused by our own greed as a species. They are the casualties of a war that is not even being fought. I hope something can be done to save them.

 

*or her. Again I can’t recall. For ease and consistency I’m saying him.

Spielberg Revisited no1 – The War Of The Worlds (2005)

BEWARE: It you have not seen this film there are SPOILERS! ahead.

Spielberg’s War Of The Worlds is a 21st century re-telling of the classic novel by H.G. Wells, relocating the core of the story from Victorian England to present-day east coast U.S.A. On re-watching the film I realised I had forgotten how tense the film became and how quickly. We’ve barely got our bearings with regard to location and characters when events start taking a turn for the worse.

Morgan Freeman provides the opening narration and I’m sure I’m not alone in having to suppress thoughts of Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of the story as Freeman came to the end of the line “…slowly and surely, they drew their plans against us.”

Those plans were to have vehicles already buried underground on Earth – presumably an extremely long time ago before either man existed or occupied quite so much of the planet, which actually begs the question as to why they didn’t take over the world then – ready for such a time where they can ride lightning into said vehicles and dominate the world. This is probably one of the films few weaknesses, but as it’s a major plot point setting up the rest of the story, it could be considered major one. However if you can see past this and accept the invasion is happening then the rest of film is more than worth it.

We have barely been introduced to Ray (Tom Cruise almost playing against type) , a dysfunctional divorcee and estranged from his kids Robbie (Justin Long) and Rachel (Dakota Fanning) when almost immediately they are thrust into the perils of an alien invasion. Dysfunctional families are nothing new for Spielberg, being a common theme throughout his career, but previously this theme has tended to sit in the background as part of the fabric of the story. Here it almost takes centre-stage as he explores the developing relationship between the three as they deal with the most extreme of situations.

From the initial escape from New Jersey all the way through the film, Spielberg lays on set-piece after set-piece, never letting up for a moment for well over an hour into the film. The moment the lightning strikes begin to occur he ratchets up the tension and doesn’t let go. From the fighting machine coming up from underground, to the plane crash (actually unseen) to the ferry sequence, to the army being wiped out (seemingly taking Robbie with it) it’s a roller-coaster ride almost akin to Temple Of Doom yet Spielberg eventually allows the film and the audience to draw breath when Ray and Rachel find themselves in the cellar of Ogilvy (played by Tim Robbins).

Just when you think you can begin to relax with what is the quietest sequence of the film, Spielberg gives us a master-class in movie making. After a brief exchange of dialogue between Ray and Ogilvy – where it becomes clear Ogilvy may not be the full shilling – the scene plays out almost silently as a martian probe searches the cellar and the three characters struggle to stay out of its way. But Spielberg then saves the best until last as just when you think you can begin to breathe again, a group of actual aliens descend into view and you can’t help but make an involuntary gasp as the tension begins anew. Then to top this off Ray has to do a father’s duty and kill Ogilvy to ensure both his and Rachel’s survival.

We then enter the final major set-piece of the film, via a rather dark and rather twisted nod to The Wizard Of Oz, as Ray and Rachel leave the house they’ve been staying in and discover the red weed. Not long afterwards they are then discovered by a martian machine which scoops them up and puts them into a basket hanging from the machine. This is the closest encounter with the aliens yet. Ray is sucked up into the machine but thanks to some conveniently found grenades, and help from other people trapped with him, he is able to destroy the machine from the inside and ensure the survival of both himself and Rachel.

From there we arrive at Boston and the beginning of the end for the martians as they fall prey to our smallest allies: bacteria. This seems to have been one of the key aspects of the film that has been latched onto as a weakness. Maybe it’s because it lacks the sort of big finale that many modern day blockbusters seem to aspire to. This is the polar opposite. In keeping with the book, it is abrupt and sudden, it comes out of nowhere and without warning. Yet, in the real world wars don’t tend to end with a big bang, but a whimper. The losing side simply does not have the resources to carry on and this is very much what we have here. The aliens succumb to the bacteria and cannot continue the fight. There is more a feeling of relief than euphoria.

The ultimate ending of the film – that of the family re-union – is probably the area of the film I personally thought was the weakest. The neighbourhood looks like it has been totally untroubled by the events of the previous two hours, yet various mentions are made through-out the film of other parts of the world being affected. But more than that, I always had a problem with the revelation that Robbie had survived. My feeling was that the ending would have been stronger had he not been there. Had he not been allowed to survive. I felt that a bittersweet ending would have been interesting following the abrupt end to the war. However on re-watching the film now and expecting to feel the same, I was surprised to find my opinion may have changed. I felt that Ray deserved that ending, he had not only saved his daughter but had also saved the relationship with his son.

I feel that this a forgotten 21st century Spielberg gem and as such would rate it 4/5.

 

Right About Now

Although I’ve been following Zero To Hero from the start, I’ve begun to fall behind with my blogs. As part of Day 8 we had to revamp our About pages. I was happy enough with mine that I thought it made a good post in its own right, so I’ve reproduced below:

“I’m an F1 loving, TV/Film liking, Orangutan supporting, Ford Focus driving, occasional photograph taking, Wolverhampton Wanderers fan.”

That sentence pretty much sums me up yet at the same time does not seem to say very much. Maybe the following will provide some illumination.

I am a former media student but have long since left that world behind professionally after only making the briefest of splashes in it. This blog is one of several ways I’m trying to flex my creative mojo again. It’s not for money or to prove a point, it’s merely to satisfy my own desire to express myself in my own time and my own way. I have nobody to please but myself. If somebody else likes what I’m writing, that’s a bonus!

When I was younger my original dream (or maybe fantasy?) was to write and direct films. Even now I can remember putting my eye at head height of my Star Wars toys envisioning how the scene I had constructed would look on a screen. At the same time I seemed to spend a lot of time writing – mostly, if not all, very short stories – something that as I got older seemed to take more and more of a back seat. I think mainly due to becoming increasingly self conscious.

As I continued my studies I found my goals subtly and almost imperceptibly changing. From a technical stand point I seemed to narrow in on editing as my key area of interest – and professionally only worked in what was effectively news/current affairs/documentary – whereas I pulled away from writing completely. Only once during my career, such as it was, did I pull on whatever writing skills I had. But there has always been something inside me that has wanted to put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard) and tell stories, both real and fictional. This blog – and also my F1 blog  – is a way for me to do this.

The Circle Is Now Complete

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If, like me, you love all things “Making Of”, then J. W. Rinzlers “The Making Of Return Of The Jedi” is for you.

And when I say “Making Of” I mean true “Making Of” books that tell everything about a films production warts and all, rather than just pure promotional guff that tells you how great everyone was. It’s the honesty of the people featured in the book (and it features A LOT of people) that makes this a truly engrossing read. For example, even during pre-production some members of the crew weren’t sold on the Ewoks; during the writing stage the co-screenwriter didn’t totally believe the story he was telling; through to a key person in the sound department who admitted he had burnt out on Star Wars.

Like it’s predecessors it’s a big book, but is lavishly illustrated with many unseen images from the Lucasfilm archives. It also reproduces sections of previous drafts of the script giving the reader a glimpse at how the story transformed over time in the journey from page to screen. For example we find out how Leia became “the other” that was first mentioned in The Empire Strikes Back in order to resolve one of many dangling plot threads.

Reading through this book you begin to get a sense of just how big an undertaking the making of the movie was whilst getting a feeling for just why the film may seem slightly less than the sum of its parts. All in all it rounds off the “Making Of” trilogy in much the same way as the film it covers. It picks up all threads from the previous two films and brings them together to create a rousing conclusion.