Joker (2019)

Starring Joaquin Phoenix in the titular role, Joker, which was released in cinemas last week, takes a look at how the popular DC comic character becomes the villain; an origin story of sorts that takes place in Gotham long before the rise of Batman. This isn’t the glorified (and poorly portrayed) madness of Jared Leto’s Joker, nor the insane and yet somehow charming Joker portrayed by Heath Ledger. This is Phoenix like we have never seen him, in a grim look at the true darkness of mental illness, and the effects of poverty and ignorance on the city’s most underprivileged residents .

I’m honestly still not sure how I feel about the film. I think part of this comes down to the direction. Joker was directed by Todd Phillips, who is responsible for movies such as Road Trip, The Hangover trilogy and Due Date. As such, I felt he was put of his depth here, with a film that is not only considerably darker than his previous films, but also a completely different genre. Despite the title, this is no comedy. Whilst there were admittedly some funny moments, it was a kind of bleak humour, and far removed from any of the director’s previous works. The film as a whole is more of a psychological thriller, and I feel like this film would have benefitted from someone more used to this dark, gritty style of direction. Perhaps Fincher, or even Christopher Nolan (who, as we all know, directed the Dark Knight franchise, with much success.)

Director aside, Joaquin Phoenix does the best he can with what he’s got to work with, and to his credit, gives quite a brilliant and impressive performance. His portrayal of Arthur Fleck is truly something to see, and makes for somewhat uncomfortable viewing. He is a clown for hire with aspirations to become a comedian, who looks after his ailing mother (Played brilliantly by Frances Conroy), and he does the best he can despite the hand he’s been dealt. But this film is not your typical underdog story. It is a visceral and compelling look at the effects of ignorance and insensitivity, and paints a picture of a society that could quite conceivably drive a person over the edge. The main character is mentally unstable and in some ways quite childlike, and as the film progresses, the scales of feeling are evenly weighted between sympathy and revulsion. His slow descent further into madness, as he evolves into the villain he will inevitably become, is actually quite confronting to watch. In addition to this, Arthur’s penchant for bursting into uncontrollable, unsettling laughter – which happens consistently throughout the film – made me vaguely uneasy. His unkempt hair and sickly physique were in keeping with the overall grimy feel of the film, but it’s not until his emergence as the Joker, that he finally looks like he belongs. The costume and facepaint he wears as his Joker persona suddenly reflect the madness he’s had within him the whole time, and once he makes his new identity known, there’s no coming back from it.

There are no rose coloured gasses here. The world Arthur lives in is one of systemic oppression, and the significant gap between the rich and the poor. These are desperate people; underprivileged and angry at the system that is determined to keep them down. Whatever the spark that ignites the fire, revolution is inevitable. In some ways, Joker was a difficult movie to watch, because there was a heavy focus on how mental illness is perceived by society, and the tendency of people to make it into a joke, either out of cruelty, or simple lack of understanding. In the journal he carries with him – a physical manifestation of his innermost thoughts – Arthur writes “The worst part about having a mental illness is people expect you to behave as if you don’t“. It is a painfully accurate statement, and one that brings with it a floodgate of emotions. And yet, despite revelations that come to light regarding the origins of his psychological issues, it is hard to feel full sympathy for Arthur. He is a character ruled by delusions and guided by his absolute certainty that he is somehow special. It is a difficult protagonist to empathise with.

It did have some really great moments, and was thought provoking in a lot of ways. Amongst others, the movie touches on things like mob mentality, influence of the media, and how easily things can turn from love to hate or vice versa. There was some unexpected violence, which was utilised to great effect and surprisingly not overdone. That being said, there was a lot about the movie that didn’t quite work. There is one relationship in particular that just feels wrong and even though it is later explained, it left a bitter taste in my mouth. Whilst Joker managed to tackle some pretty big themes and really captured the darkness of a city on the brink of chaos, for me, this movie felt like a long lead up to a not especially satisfactory conclusion.

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Unhappy, Chubby Girl

I hate looking at myself in the mirror lately. Everywhere I look, I see flaws. Thighs that wobble and rub together when I walk, a formerly taut tummy that now more closely resembles bread dough, little rolls at my side. I’m floating somewhere between a size 12 and a size 14, when once I was a size 6. Admittedly, looking back at those days, I was almost too thin, and yet I would comfortably settle for a happy medium. A nice size 10, when I didn’t feel conspicuous and heavy, and generally all over disgusting. Feeling like this is a relatively new experience for me, because I never used to hate the way I looked. But these days, I avoid the mirror unless I have to, and I hate photos of myself like I never did before.

All of this is a combination of a lot of things. In small part, genetics, and age. In large part, my own laziness. See, I used to walk everywhere. I was fit as hell, and it was never a bother to walk for an hour or more to get to my destination. Then I bought a car, and things have gone steadily downhill from there ever since, as I have slowly gained more and more weight. Recently I started walking again, but almost crippling pain in my calves made me stop, and I’ve once more lapsed into a largely sedentary lifestyle.

I want to be active, and eat well, and be one of those super fit people I see getting out there and active every morning. But I find myself consistently making excuses. I need an overhaul, something to motivate me and keep me motivated. Because I miss looking in the mirror and thinking “shit, girl. You look good” instead of “well fuck, this dress makes me look like I’m six months pregnant”.

Something needs to change. I need to set some goals, and make some serious lifestyle changes I think. With the change in weather, and having just earned Sundays off after months of working seven days a week, I think now is the best time to kick my own ass into gear. Let’s get it, girl.

Morning Walk, and Revelations

The morning air is crisp against my cheeks, painting them a fiery shade of pink. Nostalgia plays out scenes in my mind, as songs from my youth play accompaniment. There is a burn in my calves, always expected but not yet pleasant. Give it time.

As blood circulates and my heart rate increases, my hands are finally warm. They’re cold as ice so often lately. I pick up the pace as I pass a fluorescent shirt-clad road crew, as much uncomfortable at being seen as I am anxious about unsolicited comments. I’m sure they’re actually nice guys, but experience does make one wary.

Morning dew from the grass soaks the mesh of my shoes, and then my socks. I step over a used condom on the ground, and a pothole in the dirt that I almost tripped in two days ago. I walk into the familiar car lined street that I call home.

I’ve been starting my days with a walk lately. I regret every moment of the half hour that I push myself, after months of almost no exercise at all. But I forget how much better I feel when I start my days this way. Even if nothing else, I can at least say I’ve accomplished one thing. So, I have decided that today is going to be a good day. And it’s time to drag out the badass, punk rock babe that has been in hibernation for far too long. You’ll forgive me for posting twice in 12 hours, but goddamn am I ready to change my mindset, and tackle this new day with a whole new perspective. Here goes nothing.

Being is Hard

It is not an easy thing, to be alive. You’ve got to worry about breathing, and speaking, and managing the ins and outs of living every day. You have to deal with your emotions, and make sure you’re expressing the right ones at the right times. You have to find a job, and pay your bills, and remember to eat, and watch your weight, and try to carve out some semblance of a life within your existence. I mean, it’s an exhausting thing, being.

Maybe it’s just me. After 55 days without a proper day off (but who’s counting?), I think exhaustion is my new normal. My permanent state of being, I guess you might say. It’s hard to imagine a life where things aren’t complicated and just a little bit shit. But there is light at the end of the tunnel; I have a weekend off. I have plans already, because I don’t know how to have a day off without filling it with things, but the point is that there will be two consecutive days where I don’t have to go to work, or think about work, or deal with anything work related. As you can imagine, I am thrilled.

I’ve been having a bit of a bad time of it lately. Staving off impending blackness by throwing myself into my endless days of monotonous work which, paradoxically only add to the negative swirl of emotions circling me like ravenous vultures. It’s a vicious cycle, y’all. What I would really like is to win the lottery, move to Tasmania and sleep for a year, uninterrupted. It’s a record breaking lottery this week so you never know, maybe I’ll get lucky. Then again, knowing my luck – not to mention the statistical improbability of actually winning the lottery – I’ll probably win nothing.

Maybe I’ll feel better after I cry. Maybe all this exhaustion is getting to me, and my poor little broken heart will be able to start healing herself after I’ve let go of the negative energy I seem to have been unconsciously holding on to. Maybe being won’t seem so hard afterwards. Who knows, I might even start to feel normal again afterwards. I’ll let you know.

Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood (2019)

Chances are, you know of Quentin Tarantino. Bit of an oddball, painful to listen to, but he’s made some of the most iconic films…probably ever. Notable for his unique direction style, haphazard narratives and gratuitous violence, his films have made waves in the industry every time. His most recent film is no different. With a stellar cast, nearly three hours of screen time and a nostalgic look at Los Angeles in 1969, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood pays homage to the Golden Age of Hollywood, and one of the most profitable industries in the world.

Leonardo DiCaprio is Rick Dalton, the former lead actor of a popular TV western, now resigned to taking supporting roles in TV pilots. He is the embodiment of a fading star, clinging desperately to some semblance of his former fame and trying to carve out a career in film before it’s “too late”. At his side through it all is Brad Pitt as Dalton’s stunt double and friend, Cliff Booth. Casually, contentedly in the background of the film industry – with a somewhat unsavoury reputation – Cliff is cool as a cucumber from start to finish, and the antidote to Rick’s somewhat tumultuous, and often alcohol fuelled moods. The chemistry between the two is palpable, and there is a true sense of brotherhood that flows through the film as we follow the lives of these two showbusiness veterans, tetering on the edge of irrelevance.

Margot Robbie plays Sharon Tate, young and idealistic, and just breaking into the film industry as Rick Dalton (who, in this version of events, happens to be her next door neighbour) seems to be on his inevitable way out of it. This raised a few eyebrows in the lead up to the film’s release, as people were quick to jump to conclusions about how Tarantino may have handled that particularly sensitive issue. Anyone familiar with the Manson Family will understand the controversy, but the truth is that Robbie’s Sharon Tate is almost like a background character, more or less there for the purpose of juxtaposition between the old and the new.

Tarantino tackles a lot of really excellent themes in this film, particularly the bonds of friendship, and the effects of change. But with a run time of 161 minutes, the film itself is a bit meandering. Whilst the main story is that of Dalton and Booth, the film gets caught up in the Manson Family subplot which, for the most part, feels a little…lacklustre and at times, even pointless. The scenes involving the infamous cult have a tendency to drag, and not even the increasing undercurrent of tension, as the film builds to it’s inevitable conclusion, is quite enough to propel the scenes forward. Certainly, the movie would have benefited from losing at least a half hour of screen time. It feels like we’re being taken on a slow amble through the film, until the third act kind of explodes onto the screen with a pace and energy that the rest of the movie doesn’t quite manage to achieve.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed being taken on the nostalgic, and occasionally self indulgent ride back to the late 60’s. The era has been recreated with minute detail, and the movie is both stylistically and visually pleasing. With some familiar cameos (heyyyy Zoe Bell) and a supporting cast including Al Pacino, Timothy Olyphant and Emile Hirsch, it is the characters more so than the actual plot, who truly drive this film. Despite a few flaws with the film’s pace, it is worth watching for the explosive final act alone (if nothing else). In typical Tarantino style, is has some great dialogue, some funny moments interjected with the sincere, and truly unforgettable characters. The quirky director can be a little hit and miss for me, but in this case he scored a hit.

Overworked

So, I just worked 14 days straight, and before my last day off – which wasn’t a day off because I still had to go to work anyway – I worked 13 days straight, and I had to go into work today on my “day off” and at this rate it seems as though I’m not getting a proper actual day away from work in the foreseeable future. I am back working for the company I spent 3.5 years with before things like this (see above re working every single day ever) sent me into an exhaustion fuelled, very nearly suicidal depression, and I quit. So why did I return, you ask? Well, desperation mainly. Unfortunately I have yet to win the lottery and so I have to work for a living, and since I never had any luck finding work with anyone else after my job at the ambulance call centre fell through, returning to my old/current job was the last resort.

I have been forced to neglect the things I love, because I am either too tired, too exhausted, or I simply don’t have the time. I have only sewn three garments this year. Three. For the entire year. One of them was a costume for a play so I don’t know that it really counts. And I’ve had a partially completed dress hanging on my mannequin, untouched for over a month. I haven’t written so much as a creative sentence in weeks, blogging notwithstanding. My paintbrushes have been left to collect dust and I have about 15 shows I need to catch up on, and a stack of books I haven’t even looked at for months. Today, all I wanted to do was make a blueberry pie and I couldn’t even find time in my day to manage that. I am in equal measures frustrated and exhausted, and I really just want to sleep for a week.

I can see myself heading for a crash. Like the Titanic barreling headlong into that iceberg, my path towards destruction seems imminent at this point. I feel like I’m drowning in mud and the more I struggle, the more bogged down I get. If I seem grumpy, don’t be offended. I am just physically and mentally worn down and, regrettably, cannot stop the verbal manifestation of that exhaustion from spilling out of my mouth.

Cross your fingers for that winning lottery ticket, y’all. Because if something doesn’t change soon, I’m afraid I’m going to literally get worked to death. I am creative dude, and when we creative dudes can’t vent out the problems of the world artistically, things can get pretty tense. Like a ticking time bomb, I might explode at any minute.

Yes, I’m a Cynic. No, I Don’t Believe in Love.

If I had a dollar for every time I went to begin a blog post with “I’m not a positive person” or some such variation, I’d have a heckin’ lot of dollars. But that gets boring after a while, and incredibly depressing, when you think about it. It is, nevertheless, kind of true. I mean, I don’t sit around all day every day, staring at the wall with a glum expression, and thinking about all the bad things in the world. I do however, have a tendency to be incredibly cynical (or realistic, depending on your view, but I for my part, am very realistic about my cynicism), and often that comes across as the same thing.

I’ve been single for a very long time, and have never had what you would call a long romantic relationship. The reactions I get from people when they learn this, is generally one of shock and/or incredulity, expressed in some kind of over the top reaction that would be better suited to stage than real life. Yes, there are single people in the world and yes, when you get all dramatic about our lack of love life, we do kind of want to punch you a little bit. We don’t need to be pitied, and we’re not (necessarily) miserable. To be honest, I think single people are simply not the norm. Particularly single people in their mid 20’s; the time when many other twenty-somethings are married/having babies. There’s almost this unspoken expectation that if you’re not in a relationship (for a long period of time) then there must be something inherently wrong with you. We single people are not a different species, I promise you.

I may be single because I haven’t yet met the person I want to spend any significant amount of time with. And also because, well…I like being on my own, and people actually suck. But here’s where it gets into the heart of the matter; I simply do not believe in the adulated concept of love. I understand, of course, that love exists. There are probably millions of songs and poems and plays and movies dedicated to it, after all. So perhaps it is not that I don’t believe in love, but more that I don’t believe it’s sustainable in the long term. By this, I am of course only refering to love of the romantical* kind, not love of the platonical** kind; that’s a whole different beast. You often hear it said that “the honeymoon period is over”, but it seems that once this supposedly magical, yet apparently measurable period of time ends, so too does the effort it takes to maintain a relationship. I have lost track of the amount of people I know (or follow on social media) who have made grand announcements about engagements and marriages, only then to be separated months after their nuptials. Or people who have actually said “now I’m married so I don’t have to try anymore”. It’s like they care more about appearances and having the party than actually continuing to love their partner after the last guest has left.

I’m not bitter because I’m single, and these words don’t come from a place of malice or jealousy. I actually think not being in a relationship allows me to look at them with a clear head, and without the tint of rose coloured glasses clouding my judgement. Anyone who knows me, will have heard me say that I think marriage is a pointless institution, and archaic to boot. Look, maybe I’m wired wrong, but I don’t see the point in spending a billion dollars on a single day, when there’s a significant possibility that the marriage will end. Will I celebrate my friends getting married, and be happy for them? Absolutely. I don’t begrudge them a thing, truly. But I also won’t be surprised if they come to me in 12 months time and tell me they’re getting a divorce. Love can be a beautiful illusion, but I am fully aware of how quickly that illusion can be shattered.

You’ve all heard the saying “all good things must come to an end” and I can’t help but believe that this is particularly true about love. I realise that, in much the same way you don’t buy a car to crash it, you don’t get into a relationship with someone expecting to break up. But you can’t deny the possibility that you will. Think of all the partners you’ve had in your life, and how many relationships you had before you met “the one”. How do you know that this one won’t be like the rest of them? How do you know that when you say you want to spend your life with someone, that they will feel the same way? It’s true that, like anything, there are exceptions. I’ve seen plenty of cute hand holding little old couples that kinda make my heart warm. But in this day and age, they’re the minority.

The truth is, I never go into anything without considering every possibility, positive or negative. And the fact that I expect the worst outcome means that I am indeed a cynic. But the plus side is, when things do turn out well, at least it’s a pleasant surprise. At least that’s something!

*rarely used, but it is actually a word.

**not actually a word, but it I’m all about that continuity, don’t you know.