Limitless: A Year On

My Limitless card is up for renewal in a few weeks and I was curious about whether it was a worthwhile investment (it was).

I wanted to document what movies I saw though this is hardly a model of the scientific method (I’m happily retired, ergo I have more time than most, and I also have access to what I’m affectionately calling the ‘CEA loophole’ where I can take in a plus one at no extra cost, again for free).

Also I’ve turned movie-going into a habit and finally gotten over my anxiety about crowded spaces. Repeat viewings are either due to boredom, someone/me wanting to go or a genuine love of the movie (Arrival, I’m looking at you because you emotionally broke me but I heart you). There were also a slew of good movies out during 2016-17 and I travelled a bit (which allowed me to see movies elsewhere, like during my trip to Bath with Shannon).

 So what did I see?

  • Doctor Strange: twice (+1 person at each showing)
  • Storks: once (+1 person)
  • Inferno: once (+1 person)
  • Nocturnal Animals: once (+1 person)
  • Arrival: twice (+1 person at each viewing)
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: three times (+1 person at two of the three)
  • Allied: once
  • Moana: five times (!!!! also +1 person at two showings)
  • Rogue One: twice
  • Passengers: once
  • Assassin’s Creed: once (+1 person)
  • Sing: once (+1 person)
  • The Lego Batman Movie: once (+1 person and a student)
  • Logan: once (+ 1 person)
  • Beauty and the Beast: twice (+1 each time)
  • Life: once (+1 person)
  • Ghost in the Shell: once (+1 person)
  • Fast and the Furious 8: once (+1 person)
  • Hidden Figures: once (+1 person)
  • The Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2: twice (+1 person at one showing)
  • Alien: Covenant: twice (+1 person per screening)
  • La La Land: once (+1)
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales: once (+1 person)
  • Wonder Woman: twice (+2 person at each showing)
  • Despicable Me 3: once (+1)
  • The Fate of the Furious: once (+1)
  • Atomic Blonde: once (+1)
  • IT: once (+1)

That’s 40 movies … wow. That’s around £800 worth of screenings for £205, definitely the gift which kept on giving.

renews for 2018

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Secret Cinema X: The Handmaiden (아가씨)

I’m trying to focus on filling life with experiences as opposed to things and when Shannon asked if anyone wanted to go to Secret Cinema X with her for her birthday, I stuck up my hand and went ‘what the hell, yes!’ in a very enthusiastic manner. Suddenly we have tickets (technically I have a ticket and Shannon is my +1. Disabled privilege FTW!) and I’m booking train tickets and trying to figure out what we’ll be seeing.

You see, Secret Cinema X is like the adult cousin of a mystery tour. Rather than going with the themed movie (like the widely touted Moulin Rouge experience currently running), you really have no idea what you’re going to see until you turn up. I’ve wanted to do Secret Cinema, a friend went to Back to the Future, but I really like this idea of not knowing, of avoiding spoilers and literally ‘tell(ing) no one’.

So we get this mysterious hint and we wagered. Shannon wanted to do it because she was convinced it was a very explicit, Korean movie (coincidentally out this week) called The Handmaiden (아가씨). I’d not heard of it but she won me over by going ‘there’s lot of sex and plenty of Japanese dialogue’. I do actually really enjoy Korean movies too, if that helps. Her argument was the style was Japanese and that the snake and the very vaginal looking cherry tree are big motifs in the movie.

So Tuesday night comes around and we’ve received this cryptic message (the meeting point was in an older part of London, hinted at by the limes) and had dressed accordingly. Yes, I own an evening dress. Shush. Getting gloves was another matter but achievable. My only complaint, noted here just to get it out of the way, was there was no cloakroom at this event which irked me as I was carrying a backpack and felt really uncomfortable (I’d come straight from Norfolk and hadn’t had the time to go back to Shannon’s to dump it). Fortunately, as there was table seating, it was an easy enough thing to deal with, just annoying.

So, we turn up at this meeting point, coincidentally right outside an old art deco picture house and I see people dressed in very Korean garb. Shannon won and I was so, so happy. I don’t like surprises, it’s a part of autistic me and I’d been really hoping she was right. We were ushered in (blindness +1) through the front door and into the main auditorium.

It smelled of hanging smoke and incense. The main mezzanine contained a bar and the middle-level tickets (which we’d paid for). Extra bonuses go to us for being early as we were able to snag the best seat in the house and get to the bar in short order. Servants wandered around, guiding people to tables, holding lit paper lanterns, the soundtrack (which is beautiful) was playing over the speakers and, once seated, I went and bought us a £30 bottle of Prosecco to celebrate my loss.

All the ordering was done in silence, pointing and gesticulating. Not a word was uttered.

Ordering is hard when you can’t talk.

The venue offered food for a price; obento boxes which looked delicious but were essentially epically-oversized polystyrene containers. The bar was well stocked and offered plenty of lovely things. Each table also came with a mysterious card reminding guests of the rules of the House, as well as sheets of card for writing on, origami paper and instructions and a lollypop (which plays a roll in the plot).

Once we sat down, it was actually incredibly atmospheric. The Library seating, below us and right by the screen, was focused on a stage and, periodically, a servant would walk across, acting out pastiches from the film. Then a specially-constructed shoji screen would open and a woman in full kimono and wig (supposed to be either Hideko or her Aunt) would appear and read passages (from what I caught of them in VERY NSFW Japanese) from the movie. Think pornography as literature focusing on the careful, doubtless very carefully researched, description of female genitalia.

I got a little hot under the collar, I confess, and that was just from the use of very particular onomatopoeia.

During the movie, the screens were also used to add extra dimensions to certain scenes and it was timed beautifully, the costumes identical and it really made this more than just your average screening. I mean, the film was amazing but this really made it stratospherically beautiful. Smoke hung in the air and sakura blossoms rained down on us, maids moved with lanterns and figures hurried up steps between the three tiers.

It made an otherwise two-dimensional experience much more real, much more immersive.

Eventually the movie itself started and I was spellbound. Honestly, wine and cider helps (of which there was copious amounts) but we were close enough that I could catch some of the subtitles and all of the Japanese. The movie is Korean, as are the actors, and favours the language but there was more than enough Japanese for me to follow.

Visually it’s stunning and is an adaption of Sarah Waters’ The Fingersmith (which sums up everything, IMHO). Except, rather than Victorian London, the movie is set in Japanese-occupied Korea and focuses on a long con involving Sook-hee becoming a lady’s maid (the Handmaiden of the title) to Lady Hideko, a wealthy Japanese aristocrat enslaved by her uncle-by-marriage. She’s there to help her arrogant employer, the self-proclaimed ‘Count Fujiwari’ steal Hideko’s heart then wed and bed her, so the money will follow. However Hideko’s uncle also wants to marry her for money (and is also Korean) just happens to be a connoisseur of pornographic books, as well as a sadist and the film reveals, over three acts, not only how Hideko and Sook-hee fall in love but also how others are fighting for mastery of Hideko’s fate as well as her fortune.

Shannon tells me this is the cut version but that doesn’t make this movie any less explicit. The scenes are gorgeous, the sex … well … I’m very attracted to women so, yeah, wow. Oh and bonus points to go managing to teach the audience a few choice Japanese words (including how to say ‘vagina’ and ‘penis’) as well as throwing in a couple of nods to Tako to Ama (that link is NSFW BTW), one of Hokusai’s most infamous creations better known in the west as The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife. The final reference was much more subtle and turned my stomach.

The whole movie has a very surreal feel to it and sometimes it’s hard to figure out what is reality, or whose version of events we’re seeing. The soundtrack is really quite beautiful and the cherry tree is true to its connection with death, though there was some humour in there that sent the audience laughing. Actually, most people really seemed to take the movie well and it’s very surreal watching an 18, very deserving of it’s rating, in a hall with a hundred other people, most of whom seemed to be couples.

Did I mention I got flustered? Good. Because, damn, this movie is gorgeous in so many ways.

The ending is an odd one but perfectly placed. It’s not a romance, but it’s romantic. There’s pornography but the love scenes aren’t pornographic. The acts merge into each other, though the first one feels longer and better paced, than parts two and three.

My only other complaint comes with the end of the movie. After one small hiccup with the print stalling, the movie ended … and they destroyed the mood by promising a dance floor and going straight into playing 1940’s music. Specifically In The Mood. You could hear that beautifully crafted ambiance shatter like a dropped glass. This was only made worse by the sudden talking as the lights came up and the noise level rose.

Damn, guys, damn.

But props for everything else. The care, the attention to detail, the costuming and the servants (who even scribbled in-character replies). The effert put into the staging was brilliant and I loved the shoji screens and the extra on-stage shadowing that popped up at important parts while the movie was playing, including during the sex scenes. It didn’t drag your eye from the screen but just enhanced the movie to a new level of wow.

I absolutely loved it, every aspect of it from the secrecy (kept as far as I can tell). No cameras were allowed inside the venue (the vow of silence mentioned in the image above), hence why I’ve had to be really descriptive. i’m actually glad of that because it allowed us to totally focus on the experience, on being there, and getting very merry.

A totally awesome night and something I’d love to do again.

Edit: Secret Cinema X posted an image from one of the showings, it’s explicit but is also a perfect example of the event and the immersion they were trying to aim for. Enjoy!

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Alien: Covenant and the Art of the Iconic Poster

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This poster is, in my humble opinon, a thing of beauty.

I’m a huge fan of the Alien movies (Aliens is my favourite, Alien however is a seminal classic). Family lore says on of my relatives on my paternal grandmother’s-side was involved in the production of the original movie (specifically the effects on the chestburster scene). I don’t know how much credence to give to this (my father’s claim to fame is that he was invited to be a member of Pink Floyd and while he did go to school with Dave Gilmour, was never known for playing instruments. He was, however a big Pink Floyd fan and quite rightly so).

Anyway I grew up with the Alien movies, even though I didn’t see the first one until I was probably thirteen or so. My Dad, well he was a stickler for the classification system when it came to his daughter). He didn’t give a crap what my brother watched but I wasn’t allowed to watch anything interesting (it took me about three months to convince him, at 11, to let me watch Ghost, a 12). So I did what any smart kid with her own VCR and TV does; I went through his collection of movies.

I take more after my father in that I love technology and books. He had an expansive library of music, books and VHS tapes (all neatly labeled, so perhaps he was a little on the spectrum too?) in his living room that I went through over the course of a year or so. He was out of the house from 6am to 6pm (the Parental Unit worked nights; leaving at 8pm and returning as we left for school the following morning) so it was easy to nip in, pilfer a video tape and see it returned before he got home. I watched everything from Total Recall to T2.

I suppose, in the pre-internet age, it was my version of binge-watching.

Alien creeped me out long before I saw it and this is when I learned a key point of any medium is that the scariest stuff is what you don’t see, not what you do. My cousin told me about the movie and his description of it—never the titualar Xenomorph—disturbed the crap out of me. The idea of being stalked by a creature which implanted eggs in your stomach and then burst through your stomach … it was horrifying. Of course, later, I looked into the creation of the movie (again thanks to my father, who had a couple of books on the making of the movie as well as the novelisations of both Alien and Aliens) and realised it was basically designed to scare the crap out of men because the Alien was essentially raping and impregnating the poor souls aboard the Nostromo. Pregnancy is a beautiful thing, as is birth, just not when it happens to a gender who haven’t been doing it since time immemorial.

It really is the perfect horror movie if you’re male. In fact, he told me a story (again; pinch of salt) about taking the Parental Unit to see the movie in 1979. This kind of film had never struck me as her type but I know he did, in fact, take her. As he told it to me, there was a long queue to get in and everyone was expecting a sci fi movie. Everything’s fine, the audience laughing and joking, until that scene and, as he told it, you could hear a pin drop along with retching and people running out of the cinema.

No film could ever be that scary.

Anyway, I stole the tape, along with Aliens, and watched them. Alien was beautifully filmed and the Nostomo had that perfect aura of claustrophobia. Yet it was the poster which stuck with me, that single egg hanging in a voice and the tagline: In space no one can hear you scream. It was iconic.

alien-movie-poster-1979-1Now, post-Prometheus (beautiful cinematography, shitty plot, nice cameos and easte eggs), it’s time to have a new Alien movie. Granted, I loved Alien: Isolation (which makes it the first good franchise game in forever) for its atmosphere, the creepy AI and the movie-based DLC but movie is where the Xenomorph belongs.

Alien: Covenant‘s poster is abosolutely gorgeous; plain and direct, menacing and artistic. The single word tagline, the Xenomorph, which I prefer to the various Latin names, even though it’s a generic term meaning ‘alien/other (life) form’, is remiscent of the original egg and oh-so-Giger. Giger’s Alien, the original, was a beautiful creature and Prometheus at least tried with the Deacon, even if the logic of its creation made zero-sense. But this isn’t just a movie ‘loosely’ tied to the mythos, this is an actual movie with Alien in the title. Until the new one with Ripley comes out, I’m praying this is going to be good.

Because we need something terrifying.

I’m all for the Engineers, for the lore to be expanded. I loved AvP because it was a Versus movie, you knew what to expect and on that front alone it delivered. But it wasn’t scary; we need something unsettling, just as the original was nearly 40 years ago.

I am so hoping Alien: Covenant delivers.

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Limitless: Yeah, Odeon Were Serious

limitless

For the Day of Which We Do Not Speak (aka my birthday), I got a Limitless Card. Odeon introduced the scheme earlier this year and I’ve always loved movies. There was a period where I didn’t go in cinemas due to an anxiety trigger relating to a specific person and how they treated Uni (Guide Dogs do not, for some reason, include ‘how to take dogs into the cinema’ as part of advanced training). But, thanks to various friends over the years, as well as Bramble and Gismo, Uni got to the point where she just saw the place as a chance for a two hour nap.

I officially registered for the card just so I could see Doctor Strange on the day of release (28/10/16) and the rules say I can see any 2D movie, regardless of day and time, for free at any Odeon in the country (excluding the inner London ones). I can go into the Gallery as it costs extra and, frankly, most of those movies are too late for me to get home. Since signing up for the card I’ve seen

  • Doctor Strange (x2 with at least another viewing coming. Iron Man reskinned but OMG the graphics and the Inceptionness!)
  • Storks (Amazon pastiche that completely ignores sex. Also animated.)
  • Inferno (I wouldn’t have paid to see it, frankly. But I know BFF did and it wasn’t that bad.)
  • Nocturnal Animals (Freaky and weird but also compelling and will appeal to authors on a narrative bent. Should have been an 18)
  • Arrival (x2. Gorgeous.)
  • Next week I’ll be seeing Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them at least twice.

Oh and that’s not even going into the long list of films which are coming out in December: Moana. Rogue One. Passengers. Next year has Assassin’s Creed, Rings, Ghost in the Shell, at least three Marvel movies and some DC ones … you get the point.

I paid upfront and, assuming I pay £9.75 for a movie this means I need to see 22 movies to cover the cost. Assuming the cost is higher, for newer films (£12.95): it’s 15 movies. Assuming I go with someone else and use my CEA card to get them in, well I’ve basically justified the card now. In less than two weeks.

The weird part is I find it calming. I can book for myself via the app, on the way to the cinema. I can book for me plus someone else on the website. I can sit in the Costa AT the cinema and book tickets. It’s remarkably freeing, especially when you add in my obvious autistic traits of liking dark large spaces that are quiet and my love of repetition. If I’m with another friend, we’ll use Audio Description and sit up the back at the cinema but, usually on a second screening, I like to sit in the disabled seats right at the front (with bonus bag and dog room). I like to feel like I’m in the movie and being so close, it means I can compensate for my crap vision. I can actually see what’s going on.

The best part is, being chronically ill and disabled actually plays in my favour, I can see movies when I want to. In cinemas with perhaps five other people. I can see what I want when I want, especially on Saturdays when it’s possible to get in early and watch several movies. I miss doing that and it wasn’t something I could afford. Also I’m seeing movies that, if I was paying, I’d never normally consider which is introducing me to some really interesting movies.

There is a line through and that is Trolls. And the Smurfs.

In this case though, it’s not about the money (though the monthly DD option was a nice addition). It’s about the freedom and frankly the timing was perfect: what else am I going to do during a long, cold winter without a dog? I don’t have to worry about anyone but me and I need to be selfish in some ways, it’s part of the interim phrase before New Dog coms along, especially with the name change and whatnot. Plus it’s a gift I can share as I have a bunch of friends who love movies as much as I do and, while I do prefer the watch at home with a pause button option, nothing beats the big screen.

The best thing it’s nice to have gift I can use and (hell) abuse. Most people work, I don’t and the cinema is an hour away with a bus which deposits me a few minutes away. Bonus points go to Morrisions being just around the corner for on the way home shopping and a choice of places to eat. Riverside is also the ‘quieter’ part of Norwich, at least on every day when Norwich isn’t playing at home.

Yes, I think, I chose wisely.

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Westworld: Opening Thoughts

westworld

I’ve managed to get totally hooked on HBO’s new series Westworld. I didn’t mean to; I hate westerns, they bore me. But this, this is something different, something else. This is an exploration of awareness and life, whether it’s biological or mechanical. The whole thing smacks of layered, non-linear narrative. This is a different kind of storytelling and now, nearly half way into Season One, I’m looking forward to each episode and seeing more on each rewatch.

This is deep stuff. On multiple levels. This isn’t just a western, this is more, much more.

The cinematography is gorgeous, the line up of actors superb. Hell, even the tiniest details like the choice of clothing, the transition from super-modern world to the Park itself and the white/black and good/evil dichotomy. I’m loving the Man in Black as well, off on his quest to find a maze, one of the park’s biggest mysteries. Indeed, while we can assume the Park is on another planet, it’s not clear where or even which century this is set in. Delos, the corporation from the original movie, has been mentioned but it’s not clear (aside from ‘an incident’ thirty years ago) if this series is even set in the same universe as said movie.

I’m really looking forward to how this is going to pan out. Especially as, even though a second series has yet to be green lit, it’s practically guaranteed to happen.

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Sometimes Money Doesn’t Solve the Problem

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Last week I took a bit of a swan dive (I’ve not been talking about it because I’ve been too busy recovering/living life as best you can with a massive hole in your lip and nose). It was an accident but it also wouldn’t have occurred had the road I been walking had been paved properly. My foot caught in the bad paving and down I went like a sack of bricks. The physical scars are healing but the psychological ones are still there and have reopened my personal issue with depth perception and falling over.

Upon telling people about the whole incident, I got two distinct suggestions from a variety of friend-level sources. Can you guess which one was from the disabled folk and which from the non-disabled?

“You need to contact the council, explain what happened and tell them they need to pave the road properly.”

“You should retain a lawyer!” (Pause for, from me: “With what?” and “Hahahahahah”) “And sue the bastards!”

Technically both these statements are correct: I was severely injured, my glasses have been damaged to the point where I’d like to replace them and my headphones too, because there’s now a massive keyed indentation in the back of the volume controls. I’m sure this means said headphones will last much shorter a life than they usually do.

Oh and I could actually sue them … Could being the operative word.

Perhaps it’s my world view, or my knowledge of how broke our councils are, but I won’t and never intended too.

I just intended to raise the issue and ask for the road to be re-paved properly, with asphalt, not concrete.

Now everyone who said these statements, or variations thereupon, did so because they care and were mortified by the image I posted of me, post-accident, bleeding on a bus.

This one:

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I took this mainly so I could see how badly I’d been damaged (there are no mirrors on buses). I was also in shock at the time, hence the glazed eyes, and had a whopping concussion. Also some small part of me knows when you have an accident this bad, you document it.

On Monday I did what I’d always intended to do and rang the council, within a few minutes of using the ‘blind woman with a guide dog’ card and explaining the depth of the damage to my nose, my lip, my pride and other parts of me which are now healing nicely. I got the City Council (who maintain the particular road which tried to kill me) to start an insurance claim (which will be handled by the Council Council). I explained, knowing how broke our councils are, that money wasn’t my ultimate goal, other than to replace what was damaged/cover the cost of the extra medication and emergency supplies I had to buy in order to keep on healing nicely.

All I really wanted was for them to pave the road so this doesn’t happen to other people.

Ironically, I know from experience, that sometimes a pay off is much, much easier.

So why, you ask, is this post headed by shiny Odeon guest passes?

A few months ago, Marie plus kids and Mhairi and I, plus dogs, went to see Ice Age: Collision Cause. We all like animated films and Marie had a groupon for five people. It was a free-ish trip out to watch a kid’s movie and (as a film) it was a fun couple of hours. Not the best movie but the Neil deGrasse Tyson cameo made it for me. Totally worth it.

Anyway, we experienced one major problem: the sound.

Both Mhairi and I are stupidly sensitive. I know it’s technically a myth that your senses compensate when you lose one. Except it’s not that: we pay more attention and, when you’ve had eye conditions for your entire life you get pretty good at hearing specifics like a bad baseline or something which is just too loud. I have autism so prefer to artificially blunt my hearing, most of the time, with music and earbuds. It allows me to distract myself enough to be able to focus on functioning and using my remaining sight, as well as ignoring crowds of people.

Mhairi can’t do that and she, and Bramble, were in physical pain for most of the film. Even Marie, who was for the purposes of this argument, our control group, agreed it was too loud. We assumed it was down to the work being done on the cinema over the summer but resolved to bring it up, because the cinema staff are probably, by this point pretty desensitised. So, afterwards, we hailed a manager and explained there was a problem with the volume in that particular screening room. We’ve seen perhaps a dozen movies in other ones with no issue but that one is just set to VERY loud.

We were instantly given passes and gently fobbed off. So we left, have been spending the passes very economically, to see a lot of films (including Finding Dory in the same screen and, not realising it, we both questioned if it was too loud). Yesterday we used our last one to see Kubo and the Two Strings . It was only when we got into the movie that we realised it was still loud, though this time both of us had audio description headsets the volume was still far too high.

The movie was awesome and I loved it, used to the sound and able to cope with it probably because I love shamisen music and a good movie soundtrack makes everything a little easier to deal with. Mhairi had to nearly deafen herself in order to hear the audio description track so afterward, we conferred, I realised it was the same screen, and so we went to Deal With This.

Dealing with something is when disabled people finally lose their rag, politely, and decide, something needs to be done and ‘no’ or being fobbed off is not going to happen. I let Mhairi take this one because she’s good at being politely annoyed and is the one which the much more sensitive hearing. We explained the problems had and while passes were appreciated, we weren’t actually doing it for free movie tickets. There’s a problem and I’m dying to get a Limitless card, explained I, so I want to give you my custom but we, because there’s always two of us, don’t want to have to worry about being forced to use one screening room out of perhaps 20 which is going to make us ill because of the sound.

This is the thing: most people who have a disability don’t want money or empty promises (though with Mhairi on the case Odeon is going to fix this, I’m certain of it).

We just want to get the problem solved as soon as possible.

Yes the passes are nice but they’re like a band aid for my nose, just a temporary patch and not a fix for the problem. A fix is all we want, especially as me and my companions have become regular and enthusiastic movie goers.

Here’s hoping, then, on both fronts, that the actual issue is addressed and sorted.

Because that would be nice.

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