ask me, answer me

It’s innocence,

it’s purity,

it’s light.

It pierces,

it watches.

It’s a sanctuary,

it’s​ an oasis,

it’s a retreat from the dark.

 

Like a pause-inducing déjà vu

or striking premonition,

it’s unexplainable.

Somewhere in the brain,

or the heart,

or the soul,

there’s a reason.

 

For me

it’s what you look like

when you smile,

it’s the way your eyes shine

at small pleasures.

 

What do you all love?

Why do you care for it?

What is attraction, desire?

What does it mean to be mature?

How do I get everything right?

What are the consequences of my decisions?

 

There are so many secrets

I don’t know.

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Tangible, Invisible

I wish our lives had a soundtrack,

a song for those important moments.

I know what I would pick

for a lingering stare

or a heart attack.

 

That girl there,

she needs noise above her head.

It would be good if you understood

the euphoria, the dread

when I look upon your face

in a place

where there are only instrumentals.

 

We would all see

what happens on the inside.

Don’t get scared of me

if you see something stick, or grind

in the machinations of my mind.

And don’t trust someone

just because they seem well oiled.

If they appear level be careful

of what they’ve got coiled up

deep down,

waiting to unbalance them.

 

Most of all

love who you love.

Make choices automatic,

instinctual not manual,

and think about who you think about

when you listen to music.

Film Review: Nocturnal Animals

A shocking, beautiful, and constantly engaging tale of heartbreak and revenge.

nocturnal-animals-banner-poster

‘Nocturnal Animals’ is directed by Tom Ford, starring Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon, Aron Taylor-Johnson, Isla Fisher, and Armie Hammer. It’s a film that takes an exquisite look at betrayal, revenge, and the impact of our decisions on others; and our own happiness.

With a narrative style that is decidedly unconventional, the storytelling faced some potential pitfalls but, with just his second film, writer and director Tom Ford has established himself as a master of balance, pacing, and affectation.

The basic plot sees Susan (Amy Adams) running an art gallery and living in an unhappy marriage with Hutton (Armie Hammer). She’s taken aback when her ex-husband Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal) sends her a manuscript of a novel he has written and dedicated to her. She begins to read and soon, we see the fictional world and real world start to intertwine.

The first thing to say about ‘Nocturnal Animals’ is how stunning it is to feast your eyes on and meticulously it is designed and shot. It’s no surprise, considering Ford is also a fashion designer who has worked for Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent, but every shot is perfectly composed and infinitely interesting to look at, just like a good piece of art. No prop, costume, angle, colour, or slice of light is wasted here. This is explicitly established in the opening title sequence, which is perhaps best left undescribed.

A beautiful-looking film only goes so far on aesthetics though. Ultimately it needs to engage the viewer on another level. The narrative was where people might believe Ford would suffer but it seems he’s also an incredible writer. The delicate nature in which he was required to balance this kind of storytelling would have brought many undone, yet he was almost faultless. As stated, the pacing of the film is perfect. Every cut is made precisely when it needs to be, allowing the viewer just enough to digest without having anything shoved down their throat. Understanding the film comes gradually and naturally, and Ford never has to perform an expose for the audience. Rather he uses effective visual cues and the expertise of his actors. It’s the tone of the film that is so surprisingly well done. This is a brutal and intense drama that boils certain characters down to their base emotions, and us with them. However, it’s also a scathingly clever and at times funny movie. Somehow, these two opposing moods don’t block or intrude upon each other; yet another tick for Ford’s ability.

As for the actors, the film is led superbly by Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal with a fantastic turn by Michael Shannon. Amy Adams continues to sign onto great films and give suitably great performances. Her performance is magnificently understated and emotive at the same time. Jake Gyllenhaal is the perennial professional who never puts a foot wrong. Here he’s particularly good for a very important reason I won’t spoil but it’s with him we ride the biggest waves of shock, despair, and pain. Michael Shannon is just badass as a hard-as-nails country detective.

Underpinning, and tying together, all of this is a haunting and mournful score put together by Abel Korzeniowski. Often, you almost don’t notice it because it fits so well with what is happening on screen that it seems an organic piece of the drama.

All in all, ‘Nocturnal Animals’ can only be described as being crafted by someone with immense attention to detail and passion for their work. Tom Ford and co. have delivered one of the year’s best films and I would urgently encourage people to go see it.

to the betrothed

The sweet chirp of a parrot at the feeder

seems as innocent as your love.

When it breathes,

exhales pure oxygen.

When it clicks,

It doesn’t scrape.

There is no friction.

In this fusion

I see no confusion,

it pairs better than lemonade.

 

So much trust,

any storm that tried to rust it

would be exhausted.

You never have to force it.

A smooth union

I can base all my hope on.

A hand in the dark,

glowing like a flare.

 

A dam of love retention

swells with my attention.

The adoration emanating from your skin

and the gaze of child to idol,

are akin.

Makes me wonder

how I can rid all the tension

from within.

 

Open faces

hide nothing.

I’ve looked a thousand places,

not many will share that look.

An open book,

a pleasure to read.

You turn the pages

from one joy to another.

Delights that last

for ages.

Like an open window,

I see the spots I would go

if I could understand how you got there.

 

Each moment only takes it higher

for me to admire.

So much better

than me.

I doubt my mind will ever be that clear,

but for my heart

I will never say never.

 

It keeps me going

through the times I sit crying

about; all the things in the world dying,

all the people who are lying,

all the ones who struggle so hard

are barely just surviving,

all the values that need reviving

but everyone’s stopped trying.

 

The density and magic of hurtloam,

the intensity and comfort of feeling at home,

the guarantee of not being alone.

The golden taste of the season’s first fruit

reminds me of the smiles I see shared

between you.

I smile too.

I know,

in your hands

the world will be safe.

I Am Termites, I Am Wood

There is no sleeping now.

There is a thing

called a self-destructor.

I am one.

I am a big one.

I will spend all night

in the sand,

looking at my hands.

Thinking

I should have put them

on my mouth

before my voice

sent things

heading south.

Freud

and death-drives,

have they chased me

my entire life?

I want…

I want…

I want…

but I stop myself

and I kill my health.

And I don’t want wealth.

I wish I was kelp.

I could drift,

I could drink,

I would not sink.

Self-sabotage

is my skill.

It stands large.

If you tell me to fold,

I will.

I know

where peace is,

peace just doesn’t want

any of my business.

 

I am sorry for me.

I am sorry to you.

 

as long as the earth lasts

a retired mother vacuums an empty house, implores the quiet spaces for response

and feels an overflow threaten her eyes when she understands

 

the sand blasted beach cottage where family mosquito-plagued board games

inevitably descended into

 

memories of a chance encounter. A night when soft lips held a smile at rest,

begging to be joined by his coarser embrace and to remind him

 

silent Christmas mornings, when no one else is awake apart from a parrot at the

feeder, feel like

 

the sorrowful waiting room dictating one visitor at a time transforms the vending

machine into a monster and only serves to accentuate

 

the gravity of a child’s giggling first step across unforgiving linoleum floor is as pure as

 

a fifteen kilometre walk to the family’s water source allows the necessary time to
think about

 

one gull in flight, so unmistakably wise and independent riding the updraft, can

see even better than

 

the most astute commentator may unmask government failings but will never

remove their own façade to comprehend the

 

sound of waves, ten feet above tingling skin, in an ocean without fear is the closest

one can come to

 

the feeling of a wedding day, when the flowers are fresh, lasts as long as

 

the time it takes to cross a loud, disconnected stranger-infested intersection is

enough to realise

 

we will never know enough about each other’s insides to uncover why

 

so many lost people are misunderstood and dismissed by those who are as ignorant as

 

a film star is everything you want to be, then in any interview is never the human you
want them to be but

 

music is always best experienced alone at night amongst slices of moonlight

while you imagine

 

the things you write under the sun but would never utter aloud except to

 

a pet is the kindest listener because they rarely pass judgement and you believe

they can’t translate

 

your emotions catch you napping in the merciless afternoons and none are as
complex as

 

the idea of love seems both tangible and foreign when you gaze upon

 

a sharp petite face you’ve just whispered a secret to, trusting them to keep it in
confidence so no one ever knows

 

a tiny green caterpillar arches its face skyward through the long grass, completely
unaware

 

that a baby is cradled by an arm of the church, gently wet and forced to follow

Jesus without a voice to speak while

 

the last bus recedes before she could reach it, and as the rain explodes on the
footpath, a hooded girl is waiting

 

for a young man who takes pale steps through a crowded room full of old people,
one woman repeating ‘nice to meet you’ to her daughter, to where his
grandfather is

 

listening intently before being questioned, the light in a politician’s eyes shifts in
shade and he spreads his hands; about to elucidate

 

all is not lost but we are always alone. That’s why misty-faced soldiers

 

never stay for long even though the beautiful bodies of blonde, mid-twenties, skinny
dippers at midnight speak of hope

 

when her lips meet his eyes he’s never seen such a complicated twist and neither can

say what they want because

 

friendship can seem so much easier when a smooth brown horse sharing straw and
sawdust in silent companionship with a farm dog explains

 

that even the weakest solitary iceberg, accosted from every angle, never becomes soft

but that doesn’t stop it

 

— disappearing

Chappie – Not what the critics wanted but ‘Zef so fresh’*

*Warning: Review contains minor spoilers*

Chappie is director Neil Blomkamps’ third offering and it has come under some heavy criticism from critics who are angry it wasn’t the movie they wanted it to be. Well tough luck, it’s better than the movie you wanted it to be. The majority of reviewers seemed to want Chappie to delve into the arguments surrounding artificial intelligence. Is it wrong for scientists and engineers to play God? Or should it be pushed to its limits in the aid of creation and progress? Chappie certainly hints at these arguments throughout but it isn’t really what the movie is about. Thank goodness, we’ve seen enough of those moral balancing acts. Time for something different.

The basic outline of the plot is as follows: Johannesburg is a crime epicentre which is now being policed by AI robots, known as Scouts. They’re doing quite well in reducing crime but Vincent Moore, played by Hugh Jackman, is unhappy his human controlled behemoth The Moose isn’t being utilised ahead of these ‘Godless’ creatures. The creator of the droids Deon, played by Dev Patel, wants to push his work further and create a sentient robot that can think and feel like a human. Meanwhile Die Antwoord, basically playing themselves, have Deon in their sights as someone who can help them get free of a particularly nasty gangster who will kill them if they fail to pay his debt. Enter Chappie, a scout commissioned for destruction that Deon steals and makes conscious, but not before being kidnapped by Ninja, Yolandi, and Amerika. Unpredictable events ensue.

Chappie also doesn’t really qualify as a science fiction film either, although of course it will fall in this genre. Chappie, the main character, is portrayed as a human rather than the physical robot he actually is. Chappie is about a boy being pulled in three different directions. His ‘mummy’ (Yolandi) just wants to love him like any mother loves their child. The creator (Deon) wants Chappie to maximise his potential and his ‘daddy’ (Ninja) wants him to assist in a heist. Being only days old, this is all very complicated for Chappie, as smart as he is. He makes promises he doesn’t fully understand and tries his best to please everyone. All the while he is discovering the joyous highs of what life has to offer (painting, literature, dogs), as well as the horrifying lows (violence, dishonesty, death). Eventually he must learn for himself what is right and what he should do.

Only the heartless will fail to be moved by Chappie’s struggles, or amused by his transition into a streetwise gangsta. “Chappie has bling.” There are some truly heart touching moments, such as when Chappie is attacked by a gang of youths despite his confused pleas for them to stop and when Yolandi is reading him Black Sheep (perhaps a metaphor for the movie as a whole in addition to Chappie).

The casting of the film is interesting to say the least and there are some definite flaws here. Sigourney Weaver’s character is so boring and pointless she may as well not exist. There’s really nothing to say about her. Hugh Jackman’s villain is more of a shell than a fully fleshed out character. His extreme rage or psychopathic nature is not explained and his Australian idiosyncrasies are a little overdone. He doesn’t fit quite right and this lets the film down. What’s surprising is that Die Antwoord aren’t horrible as actors or characters. At times they are shaky but for the most part they’re enjoyable viewing, especially Yolandi who is so taken by Chappie she becomes more conflicted than we might have expected. Ninja is not particularly likeable for most of the movie but we learn to understand him and he does redeem himself in the latter stages. One scene specifically showcases his humane qualities. Chappie is inspecting a dog that has been killed in a gambling ring. Ninja looks upon the animal with what seems like regret and sympathy despite his previously violent tempers and dismissive attitude. He remarks; ‘It’s dead Chappie. Life is hard; you have to be tough to survive.’ He points to a dog still living. ‘Do you want to be this dog or that dog?’ We see here Ninja is not inherently evil but he does what he needs to do to survive. Later we see how deeply he cares for Chappie and Yolandi. He even aids Deon, who he openly showed derision towards earlier. Sharlto Copley does a great job as Chappie, aided of course by a fantastic effects team. Dev Patel is acceptably earnest and ambitious as a man who truly cares about his creation.

Die Antwoord get plenty of free publicity and perhaps they should. They’re a major reason this film looks so good, with their colourful self-styled outfits and weapons along with their graffiti riddled place of residence. Their music makes up probably half the score and adds to the film’s offbeat tone. Chappie is amazing to watch, especially after he has been remodelled by his new family.

All in all the film takes an unexpected approach which generally works. The comic relief throughout the middle act is welcome and not too over the top. The plight of Chappie struggling to cope with life is engaging and touching. The action sequences are well executed and entertaining. Jackman and Weaver are weak links through no fault of their own and some elements are not afforded the effort and explanation they need. Chappie isn’t a masterpiece but it’s nowhere near as bad as the critics want you to think it is.

Recommendation: See it before it leaves theatres.

*Enter The Ninja – Die Antwoord