Films

Here's everything I watched in May, on small screen and large. For further discussion, all links lead to the corresponding bit of my Letterboxd profile. And yes, I did pinch this monthly movie missive idea from Khoi Vinh.

  • The Silence of the Lambs. Still incredible. If you can't afford film school, just buy this and watch it every day for a month. You will learn a LOT
  • Prometheus. Thought it might be a good idea to watch this again before seeing Alien: Covenant. It wasn't.
  • The Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Lots of good stuff, lots of bloat. I never thought I'd say this about anything, but Michael Rooker is the star here. 
  • Moana. So many times. Is it as good as Tangled? Quite possibly.
  • Margin Call. I'd heard good things about this for a while, but never quite found myself in the "ooh, I'll watch a low budget banking drama" state of mind. And then it appeared on iPlayer and I gave it a shot – and oh boy, it's good. Highly recommended. 
  • Alien: Covenant. Such high hopes, but despite the title, this is more of a Prometheus film than an Alien one. And it weirdly has the same boring core as Guardians
  • Coherence. Made for approximately five quid, and all the better for it. 
  • I Origins. Really wasn't sure about this one right up until the last scene, and then it completely broke me (partly because of a beautiful bit of Radiohead). Raises some big questions about science and faith – it's a great late night discussion-starter. 
  • The One I Love. A three minute short film dragged all the way out to a feature. Shot at Ted Danson's house apparently, so maybe worth watching if you like a spot of Through the Keyhole. Rooney Mara is credited as costume designer, which is utterly preposterous for a film that features a frock and a couple of shirts. 
  • Wild at Heart. Back when Cage was Good Weird rather than Bad Weird, and Dern was approximately 8 feet tall and had to hold her hair in place for entire movies. Vastly superior in every way to the embarrassingly poor new season of Twin Peaks.
  • WALL-E. Brilliant, obviously. Not sure why exactly, but I have a feeling that this would make a cracking double bill with La La Land.
  • Rogue One. Second time around and … nope, still doesn't work for me. Mostly down to the unlikeable characters, the unnecessarily convoluted plot and the weird no-loose-ends third act. 
  • Tangled. Love it love it love it. Straddles so many genres, and wins them all. Those celebrating the fact that Wonder Woman is the first successful female-led superhero movie clearly haven't seen this. Or Moana. Or Frozen.
  • Nightcrawler. Dr B didn't like this at all, but I rather liked the cynical, sleazy, Taxi Driver-ish feel to it – but you do need to have a shower or two afterwards.
  • La La Land. Still utterly adorable, but it loses a lot on the small screen. As with any film about films, this demands to be seen on the biggest, brightest screen possible.
  • Solace. A fine, forgettable little thriller. Notable for apparently being written as a sequel to Seven
  • Hop. Surprisingly inoffensive, and stands up to repeat viewings with the boy. Basically the Easter equivalent of Arthur Christmas. Russell Brand is really rather good – and surprisingly tolerable – as a voiceover actor, and James Mars den continues to be one of Hollywood's most underrated talents. 

Alien, etc.

Ridley Scott's Alien: Covenant is almost upon us. My response to Prometheus was tepid to say the least, but the presence of the A-word in the title offers a glimmer of hope for this prequel-sequel. And this got me thinking: the titles in this series don't make a whole lick of sense any more. Alien and Aliens worked when it was just those two films, but the series has grown forwards and backwards and now it's a bit all over the place.

Prometheus and Alien: Covenant suggest a new pattern though: both take their names from the ships in the films. Why not apply that logic to the whole series? So:

Alien: Prometheus
Alien: Covenant
Alien: Nostromo
Alien: Sulaco
Alien: Fury
Alien: Auriga

Renaming the films themselves may be considered sacrilege (a possible title for the next film/ship?), but what about the books? So I took it upon myself to retitle and redesign the films' novelisations. They're all great one-word titles, so I had a bit of fun with the type and steered the design away from the usual "let's just squeeze the poster on there somehow" approach. Books based on films rarely get published with any great fanfare or acclaim (not sure why – adapt in the other direction and you end up being showered with Oscars); I thought it'd be interesting to present these as respectable works of literature in their own right. 

Just to clarify, these aren't official covers for the books (published by Titan), simply a little personal project. Oh, and a note for the pedants: as is its nature, Alien³ proved to be problematic, given that it doesn't actually feature a ship. Still, Fury – the nickname of prison planet Fiorina 161 – was too good a title to pass up though, so that's what I went with.

Anyway, here they are. 

UPDATE: I've seen Covenant now – a few thoughts here.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Alan Dean Foster has seen these, and approves – "Nice! Also, I remember there being a pretty good Chinese buffet in York."

Adventures

"Some adventures are so small, you hardly know they’ve happened. Like the adventure of sharpening your pencil to a perfect point, just before it breaks and that little bit gets stuck in the sharpener. That, I think we will all agree, is a very small adventure. Other adventures are so big and last so long, you might forget they are adventures at all – like growing up."

Anne Michaels, The Adventures of Miss Petitfour 

London no longer exists

“For Londoners, London is obscured. Too thinly spread, too private for anyone to know. Its social life invisible, its government abolished, its institutions at the discretion of either monarchy or state or the City, where at the historic centre there nothing but a civic void, which fills and empties daily with armies of clerks and dealers, mostly citizens of other towns. The true identity of London is in its absence. As a city it no longer exists. In this alone it is truly modern. London was the first metropolis to disappear."

Patrick Keiller, London

Alien: Covenant poster

Good crikey, just look at this poster for Alien: Covenant. I've actually been working on a little Alien-related personal project of my own recently, and just when I think I'm halfway happy with it … this appears. How am I supposed to compete with this? It's as if Rodin took the afternoon off and asked HR Giger to finish off The Gates of Hell in his absence. Stunning/infuriating.

Safe

"If you feel safe in the area you’re working in, you’re not working in the right area. Always go a little further into the water than you feel you’re capable of being in. Go a little bit out of your depth. And when you don’t feel that your feet are quite touching the bottom, you’re just about in the right place to do something exciting."

—David Bowie

Tula Lotay

Tula Lotay's poster for Olivier Assayas’ Personal Shopper is rather lovely, isn't it? Love that lettering. As if being a bit good with a pen wasn't enough, it turns out that Lotay is also the brains behind Thought Bubble (Leeds' excellent annual comic art festival) and creative director of splendid comic shop Travelling Man. Lord only knows when she finds time to sleep. Check out her shop for more of this sort of thing. 

Jack Coggins

Jack Coggins' space-age illustrations – particularly these from Rockets, Jets, Guided Missiles and Spaceships (1951) and By Spaceship to the Moon (1952) – depict the future from a very particular period, when the idea of manned space exploration was transitioning from pure fantasy to exciting possibility. And they're beautiful. Rather than fretting about pathetic little borders down here on Earth, maybe we should be embracing more of this kind of species-wide optimism and sense of adventure. Check out jackcoggins.info for more of Coggins' work.

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Make good art

 Portrait by Allan Amato

Portrait by Allan Amato

"When things get tough, this is what you should do: Make good art. I’m serious. Husband runs off with a politician — make good art. Leg crushed and then eaten by a mutated boa constrictor — make good art. IRS on your trail — make good art. Cat exploded — make good art. Someone on the Internet thinks what you’re doing is stupid or evil or it’s all been done before — make good art. Probably things will work out somehow, eventually time will take the sting away, and that doesn’t even matter. Do what only you can do best: Make good art. Make it on the bad days, make it on the good days, too."

—Neil Gaiman, Make Good Art