That was my Christmas. Or at least my Christmas viewing experience. If I tell you it featured the biggest movies of 2008, and that they were The Dark Knight, Wall-e and Jill & Jodie Do DANNY, reckon you can work out which adjective fits which movie?
The first one I saw was Wall-e, on Christmas day. It was great. what else can I say? Funny, sad and perfectly rounded. He was cute, the story was funny and involving, and the satire on the (American?) way of life was spot on, giving more than enough bite – a thing that is all too rare in ‘kids’ movies and altogether absent from animation. In fact, for the first part, when it is just the robots on a rubbish heap Earth, you forget that it is animated. Very enjoyable and heartily recommended, except for the fact I kept tearing-up during it. Every time he ran over the damn cockroach (cricket? Cockroaches are not common in the UK, okay?) I cried. I cried when he ‘lost’ Eve. I cried when he found Eve. When he floated away. And so it went on. Personally, I reckon I was just over-excited from it being Christmas, with no orange colourings involved. Wall-e is sad, okay? But in the nicest possible way. Watch it and marvel.
After that it was the turn of The Dark Knight. I actually bought this film at FULL price. Well, as cheap full price as I could find it (£10 in Morrison’s). I never buy films full price and sometimes wait around two years to see something just to save money, so this was a big sacrifice, in the spirit of Christmas – or at least commerce.
It sat on my shelf for about two weeks beforehand, tempting me with its delicious shiny newness, its glossy sleeve, its shiny foil printing, its dark and mysterious use of the bat logo. I had quite enjoyed Batman Begins even although it was a little po-faced, but everyone was saying this was hugely better and “very dark” and, of course, it had the added benefit of Heath Ledger in his “darkest” (again) role as the Joker. And certainly it looked like a whole lot “darker” (once more with feeling) Joker than Nicholson’s camp one. In short, I was looking forward to it.
Now, while I was perfectly aware of the inherent sexism in my film mags’ coverage of The Dark Knight, I really expected the film to be good. I even believed that, like they said, it was probably better than Twilight, that other hyped-to-overkill extravaganza. I’ve long since trained myself to pick out the measly truths embedded in journalists masturbating over flavour of the month. And if I’ve learned one thing, it’s that when it comes to masturbation over love objects a fanboy in full hard-on mode proves the “thinking with their dicks” saying to the inch. There is no-one – I will repeat that – no-one as unbalanced as a fanboy drooling over that which he loves. Compared to fanboy passion, fangirls’ obsessions look like tame stuff. Maybe its because the fanboys don’t hop ship as much as the girls, who are far more easily bored and constantly seeking the next big thing.
In short, despite being as wary of the hype as ever, I was beguiled. Beguiled, I tell you. Well, I was about to be rudely awakened.
I can’t be clever here and tell you when I first realised all was not rosy in the garden of “darkness” but I do know that the first time Batman came in and did his funny voice – I am dark and troubled. I reveal my dark and troubledness by speaking two, or maybe three, octaves lower. – I thought, what? But it passed, a minor irritation. Not my creative choice, but what the hell. Then I became aware of gadgets. Altogether too many gadgets. Indeed, the James Bond of gadgets – complete with an M character. And, as soon as I thought that, I thought, Hell, yeah, I’m watching James Bond in his dressing-up clothes – oh, and without any of that series’ irony or sardonic ‘wit’ or self-deprecating humour. And I can’t stand James Bond – another fanboy film mag wank buddy – even with those save-alls. This was not good.
Then DAD snuck in, along with some ‘gangsters’ who were wheeled in and out like cakes on a trolley as soon as we needed a MacGuffin. Now a MacGuffin is usually an object, something incidental, like the glowing briefcase in Pulp Fiction – it’s not usually a whole fucking panoply of ‘characters’ with an albeit minor sub-plot. And, oh look, Morgan Freeman’s wandered in again. Who the hell is he? I’ve forgotten. And what the hell is Gary Oldman playing in that dull, mumbly way – a character out The Bill? Or maybe Casualty. He was rather like fifth stretcher bearer, or maybe young, idealistic paramedic. Wander in, wander out.
There was so much wandering.
By the time we reached the videogame sequence – slotted in when Batman saw a whole chase sequence done like neon X-rays which were meant to be sonar microwaves from his oscillating radar-infused specially-modified mobile phones, handily created by Morgan during one of his wanders, and paraded briefly on approximately 3,000 TV monitors that probably cost more than the budget of some Indies, and which was wholly pointless, since they didn’t use them, they never showed us anything on them, and they had no actual relevance to the plot – I realised the Deadly DAD had struck. Yes, you all remember DAD – Dashing About Disease, an affliction most usually exhibited by blockbusters, but not exclusively. Right now I’m watching the TV series Jekyll and it’s got DAD in spades. And it’s only six episodes long – three episodes too many.
The Dark Knight had DAD. I couldn’t believe it. Worse, it didn’t even have any good bits to counteract the flaw. At least Pirates at World’s End had the ship in the desert and groovy crabs, and Johnny Depp. The Golden Compass even had a damn fine bear, and Nicole Kidman is always a delight, even in a boring film. Like Johnny you can just watch her for sheer aesthetic pleasure. But Batman had nothing. Nothing, I tell you. How in the name of all that’s holy did they do that? You’ve got a man in black leather/rubber, jumping off tall buildings and beating up felons. You’ve got an excellent villain plus another villain-in-the-making with only half a face (great special effects there, by the way) – how do you make that boring?
But boring it was. No matter how much I wanted Heath’s (second) last role to be his best (he was very good) he simply isn’t in it enough. When he is, he very nearly lights up the screen. But not quite. The weight of stodge around him is too heavy even for him to leaven.
I read so often in the months after his death (I’m still reading it now) the wilful pretend ruminations of “Why was The Dark Knight such a huge success?” The mouth-open, we’re-so-naïve-we-just-pissed-our-pants-and-thought-it-was-raining, disingenuous, somehow hypocritical cupidity of this makes me want to bitch-slap the perpetrators up and down the room. He DIED. He died (after) playing a “dark” (how many times is that now?) character. Instant drama, pathos, tragedy, life mirroring art, tragic loss of a (beautiful) talent = many, many, MANY bums on seats of wholly not Oscar-worthy film. God, that really is not rocket science, even for dumb fanboy bitches.
The sheer doughy ineptitude of The Dark Knight has now made this Gosh-but-we’re-cute-in-blinkers pondering of the bleedin’ obvious so much more offensive. Now I want to scream from the rooftops and herd them all up with an electric cow prod and make them admit that they know damn fine why the film was such a success, and it was nothing to do with the bleeding movie, I can tell you.
The Dark Knight was boring. I still can’t believe it, and I’m going to be sorely disappointed for a long time to come. This is not something I often say; I disapprove of the misanthrope sentiment – but beware the hype. Any glamour or greatness the film has is solely due to the circumstances surrounding the death of Heath Ledger, and his corresponding sainthood. The film itself is a plodding, po-faced, grim and uninteresting wade through ‘grown-upness’ of the worst sort, with no screen character given any time to develop warmth let alone empathy, and with poor old Batman sidelined – in his own movie – to a mere wandering emblem of something “dark”, which he gets to convey by talking in a black minstrel voice. Dark indeed. You have been warned…
Which brings us finally to that last great blockbuster of 2008, the Collected Thoughts of Chairmen Jill-Jodie.
Yes, I laughed. I also cried. And beat my head on the desk.
Along with a few other fans, Jill and Jodie have recorded their thoughts on The Danny Experience (I’m thinking a theme park) on film. Jill and Jodie interviewed each other and themselves and even Jill’s small and innocent children (Jill’s tiny infant recognising DANNY is both funny and alarming). The most startling thing to come out of the movie/s though was not insights into DANNY, but watching Jill & Jodie’s dynamic. Of course, other people might not be quite as riveted by this as me. I just can’t help myself.
Jill is articulate, but doesn’t think she is. What’s more, Jill is incredibly shrewd at times. In fact, she’s the only person to spot a very crucial point about Ian in all the time the book has been out. I found myself saying proudly “Good girl” in sheer gratitude. Not many of those moments to the pound. Unfortunately and hysterically, in equal measure, she seldom gets a chance to be articulate, because every time she pauses to think Jodie is answering for her. At length. Cue a Jodie diatribe/lecture – funny, enlightening and strangely compelling. Jill, to her credit, never once loses her temper at this constant ‘shouting down’. Indeed, Jill seems to look up to her little sister’s brightness. Which at times is very bright. But she completely overlooks her own more thoughtful astuteness. She does undo this sterling trait, of course, by her discussion on the difference between fiction and non-fiction – that was the head-banging and laughing simultaneously moment. I’m not going to spoil it for you, you can see it in the finished film, sometime next year.
Jodie, of course, is, as always, delightfully Jodie, a spectacular original, holding forth with breathtaking scope – and speed. You have never seen someone drink so much orange juice – I suspect laced with vodka – and still remain upright. And talking. Quite coherently too.
Then there’s the dog fighting the teddy, and Jill & Jodie fighting over what comes next, or how high the camera is, or indeed about nothing much at all, or Karl wandering in and spoiling the ‘moment’ – such as it is.
That would be the Karl who says, quite audibly, just out of shot, “DANNY is crap”. Oh dear, just a tad threatened there, Karl. Don’t worry, Jill still loves you. And she doesn’t measure you against John and find you wanting. Honest. Six inches is perfectly respectable.
You can see a little snippet of the dynamic duo’s joy factor up above in the banner there, giving you all a taste of the pleasure to come.
So that was it, my sad, my boring and my head-bangingly funny.
Jill & Jodie the Movie – be afraid, be very afraid…
P.S. Keep forgetting to tell you, you will remember a year (or more) ago that I said we were putting up the price of DANNY V1? Well, I’ve put it off and put it off, but that time is come. DANNY V1 is going up to £16.99 at all outlets except Poison Pixie’s, where it will remain £12.99-ish. So… if you want it, or know anyone who wants it, it will be increased very shortly. I’ve subsidised Amazon’s profits by making a loss on every book sold quite long enough. Right, warned ya, I’m done.