Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
ListsAn error has ocurred. Please try again
A study of happiness and human values
Philosophers are very familiar with the idea of the 'hedonism paradox' - the idea that, ironically, if you go out looking for happiness then you are unlikely to find it. The happiest among us are often those who just take life as it comes, those who are 'happy go lucky'. Not all of us have this skill, but this film is an uplifting look at someone who does.
Happy Go Lucky is essentially a tale of two teachers. Poppy is the perfect primary school teacher, she exudes warmth, love and compassion. What child could take exception to that? Adults, on the other hand, especially those with troubled souls, most certainly can. They see it as an affront to their view that life is a battle which has to be fought bitterly each and every day. This seems to be the view of our second teacher, Scott, a cantankerous fellow who teaches adults how to drive.
When Scott takes on Poppy as a pupil, the result is fascinating. Both are educators. Scott thinks he knows how to teach people. Poppy knows that he has no idea. She know that, if anything, it is he who needs educating. What the relationship shows us is the security and equanimity of those who are truly happy, versus the insecurity and bitterness of those who are not. Poppy watches Scott with a cool detachment, taking some pity on him, and finding it all rather amusing. Scott meanwhile may think he is above Poppy but deep down knows that he is not. As a result, all of Poppy's actions touch a delicate nerve - "All I ask is that you behave like an adult", Scott asks, "What, like you Scott?", is the reply. Both know Poppy has won the argument.
The tension builds and builds to an exhilarating climax, making this easily one of the best British films I have seen.
Watch this film and if you don't find Poppy endearing, as Scott doesn't, I think you need to ask yourself why.
Forget the debate about the ethics of this show, the bottom line is this: the sketches in Tramadol Nights are embarrassingly poor. I won't therefore try and defend the morality of them as frankly they aren't worth defending.
As for the stand-up, I do enjoy Boyle if I'm honest. Watching this show reminds me of watching Stewart Lee's Comedy Vehicle in that you wish it were just all stand-up as the stand-up is so much better than the sketches. Still, I think Boyle has gone too far with the shock factor. In any field, the more shock tactics are used the less effective they become. Boyle already seems to find himself with no more taboos to break and hence no where else to go.
This will serve as an interesting test case in the limits of TV comedy. Boyle tells what are essentially the most offensive jokes conceivable and, if Ofcom let this pass (although I have a feeling they won't), then from this point on anything goes.
I'm not quite sure whether that's a good thing or not.
Somers Town (2008)
A Shane Meadows 'comedy'? I wasn't laughing.
Being from Nottingham myself, I sort of feel duty-bound to watch Shane Meadows' films. Usually they don't disappoint. Usually.
The reason I see this film as an attempt at comedy is that I can't really see what else it could be. I can't see any kind of message contained in this film, and the premise of the film frankly borders on the preposterous. Too little about the protagonist's background is divulged for the audience to take him seriously. He is essentially a homeless child on the loose in London, though a seemingly compassionate women he meets with on a train and then later in a café feels no need to report this fact to anyone. What drives the film then is the comic spectacle of the unlikely relationship that develops between young Tomo and a Polish immigrant he meets. Sure, this has its moments, but I don't really think that comedy is Meadows' forte.
The black and white photography is equally irritating. Meadows could have saved himself bother by just popping up at the start of the film and announcing "this is more 'indie' than This is England, you know...". Once he'd got that off his chest then maybe we could have enjoyed the film in colour...
I'm looking for positives here, I really am, but this film is really lacking. It lacks plausibility. It lacks originality (it's relatively similar to This is England). And it lacks run-time: 70 minutes and no discernible 'ending' - you may well feel like heading back to the ticket booth and asking for a refund afterwards.
Not an unmitigated disaster, but watch Shane's other films first.
A breath of fresh air...
When trying to think of successful 'teen' drama series, all that really springs to my mind are the likes of 'The OC' or 'Dawson's Creek'. Isn't it about time that us Brits made some kind of contribution to this genre? Step forward 'Skins', a gritty UK drama about a gang of teenage Bristolians.
The show is instantly refreshing for two reasons. Unlike the aforementioned American shows, the show's sixteen and seventeen year old characters actually look that age and lack that 'surprisingly-mature-looking' quality of the stars of the US teen shows. Secondly, the show is less 'aspirational' than its US counterparts. All the characters are flawed, and we meet real people with real problems as opposed to spoilt brats trying to live millionaire lifestyles. We watch as the teenagers try to get on at college, pursue relationships and try to make their future that little bit less uncertain.
The flaws in the characters are what make the show so interesting, as each member of the group tries to make their own way in the world. Each will succeed only to a certain extent. Although all different, the group are united in their pursuit of a decadent, hedonistic lifestyle. This is where the show becomes controversial. Clearly targeted at teenagers, the show runs the risk of promoting this kind of lifestyle. Having said this, the audience is made sympathetic to the characters' antics by placing them in the context of the anguish which they all experience to some extent. What's more, the liberal approach to life exhibited is rarely without consequence.
Skins is compelling viewing. The soundtrack is excellent and the acting, for the most part, shows a lot of promise. Although the show is morally questionable at times, it confirms to me the fact that Channel 4 is the UK's most exciting broadcaster, which should be commended in at least some senses for having the audacity to do things that the BBC never would. Being innovative almost always requires the raising of a few eyebrows.
Young people in Britain are getting a bad press at the moment, and Skins is successful in showcasing the more human side of today's teens and also in reminding older folks that even they were young once. I just hope that the show doesn't go too far in promoting the kind of lifestyle which may be the reason why young people are finding themselves ostracized in the first place.
The Elephant Man (1980)
Very difficult viewing
This was a film I decided to watch due to a desire of mine to start watching a few more 'serious' films, being sick with all the dross that is routinely churned out these days. It's fair to say that the film delivered in this respect! I can honestly say that this is the most harrowing film I have ever seen, and at points I found it almost unbearable (the BBFC's PG certificate for this film is frankly mind-boggling). The fact that this film is more unsettling than some of the most violent horror films is testament to the power of the story and directing, but in a way this is where I would criticise the film; I can't help but think that Lynch pushes his audience a little too far.
Whilst many will describe this film as 'sad yet uplifting', I simply found it sad yet.....well, sad. The film conveyed to me mainly that a man such as Merrick could never live a normal life because society will never really change in its attitude towards such people, and, perhaps worse than this, conveyed the idea that even compassion can be a strange new brand of exploitation in its own right.
This is an interesting film, and one which will get a debate going - something I always love in a film, but if you already know that every human deserves to be treated with dignity and respect, and already know not to judge a person on appearance, you may not find that you learn all that much from this film.
And if you don't know this then you won't even bother watching. Will you?