Brace yourself, this is probably going to be a long one.
I’m not a big believer in therapy. Or rather, therapy for myself. I don’t doubt that there’s a chance I’d come out the other side a more well-rounded individual, but I begrudge paying money for something I think I can work out on my own. A friend of mine goes once a month, and they think I should go, but money and time prevent it, as does my personal misgivings. I think I know what most of my problems are, and most of them are fine, I just need to stop beating myself up about them, and I’ve decided to use this week’s column as a little personal therapy. Read it, don’t read it, that’s fine. I just want to write this shit down.
I don’t take compliments well. It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, in terms or pressure. Watching The Breakfast Club recently for the latest Lambcast on the films on John Hughes has made me contemplative about some things. I’ve discussed before, and mentioned on both that Lambcast and an upcoming episode of the Mad, Bad and Downright Strange Showcase that I deeply empathise with the character of Brian in The Breakfast Club, as played by Anthony Michael Hall. He is in the Saturday detention for taking a gun to school, with the intention of killing himself because he got an F in Shop class, and that’s a grade he can’t live with. I won’t go into too many details, but that’s something I can relate to. At school I got good grades pretty much across the board. I don’t count nonsense like P.E., because that’s not really a subject as much as it is ritual humiliation, but everything that could be considered academic was something I did well in. This wasn’t through luck, I wasn’t a gifted kid, I worked hard at my studies, spent most every evening up in my room doing homework, and I was even the kid who asked for more or voluntarily did extra, for reasons I’m not even sure existed. One English class required a few bullet points on a topic of some kind, and I remember writing a 6-page essay. And my lunch breaks weren’t spent outside playing, I was a pupil librarian, and when I wasn’t alphabetising or logging lendings, I was sat in the library, doing even more homework, because all that mattered was the grades. Good grades meant college. Good grades in college meant university. Good grades at university meant a good job, and a good job meant success. This was the route laid out in front of me, and there were no other paths available. Not getting good grades wasn’t an option. All those other kids around me who weren’t working every hour available knew some kind of secret I didn’t, something about some other way to progress in life regardless of these grades, but this was the only route I knew. So I studied. And I got the grades. I even won some awards, but nothing special. The problem was, the more good grades I got, the more good grades people expected me to get. I was always top of the class, especially in English and Maths, but now and then someone else would pip me to it, and there’d me a murmur around the room. People would look at me, some might even laugh. Whether this actually happened or not I can’t say. It’s likely it was all in my head, but even still I felt this pressure. This constant pressure that I wasn’t good enough. I’d got good grades before, so I must surely be capable of them again. By not maintaining a pole position I saw myself as letting people down, Disappointing my teachers, setting myself up for degradation and ridicule from my fellow students, and worst of all letting my parents down; there’s nothing worse than that.
Since school I’ve gradually settled into a life of mediocrity. There are few things I do that I even close to excel at, and that seems to be the key to not beating myself up. I’m at best satisfactory at my job. I’m at times above par as a boyfriend, but very much below par as a dog owner. I’ve recently taken up badminton, at which I’m enthusiastically crap, but I’m good at cycling and can sprint far faster than most people my size. I’m maybe in the top 10 refrigerator optimisers of all time, but my DIY skills are laughable. All in all, it runs to an average. I won’t appear in any history books for setting the world on fire, but I’m also unlikely to be executed for crimes against the royal family. On the theme park rides of life, I’m settled on the merry-go-round. With little achievement comes little expectation, and with little expectation comes little pressure.
So what does this have to do with my blog? I clearly don’t have any kind of prowess when it comes to writing reviews. My opinions on films tend to revolve around personal almost-anecdotes, snide remarks and discussions on what woodland creature an actor’s haircut makes them look like. I’m not trying to be a great writer, I no longer harbour the dreams of taking this to the big leagues and maybe one day earn a living writing about movies (truth be told, I have no aspirations whatsoever, which people close to me find infuriating, but I find refreshing and liberating). Granted, my lack of desire to make this a career stems from my certainty that I’m nowhere near good enough at it, and will never have the drive to become so. The problem comes when other people – that’d be you fine folk who, if you had any sense, would have stopped reading this long ago – leave me comments. I can’t remember the last time I wrote a review I was truly happy with, one that I’d be proud to have printed on that old papery stuff from the olden days, with my name at the bottom and a garish photo of me at the top, or at least some male model I’d paid to pretend to be me, because no-one wants to see my face anywhere. Yet sometimes people leave comments with the phrase “Nice review!” in them, or some such sentiment, and part of me, a very small part I try to hush, says “See, they liked it, you can write good stuff!” That’s a dangerous thought track to go down, and it’s never ended well. If I’m capable of writing good reviews, then every review can be good, so every review should be good, and I shouldn’t post a review until it’s as good as I can make it. This ends with me throwing my laptop at a closed window in frustration when I stare at a blacnk screen for four hours straight, unable to begin my next masterpiece.
Case in point, a few weeks Wendell, the glorious chap that he is, commented on one of these regular weekly posts saying it was his favourite so far. I was grateful for the sentiment, especially as it came from one of the more introspective of these posts – up until this one, that is. However, one week later I was staring at my screen wondering how to repeat the quality of the former week’s post. I had nothing. No ideas. No jumping off points. Nothing to do but post a photo of my velociraptor birthday cake and move on to prattle about sleep. The next week suffered the same fate, but found me making a contrary point to the previous week. I found myself buckling under the pressure to write something worthy of being read, and by an arbitrary midnight-on-Monday deadline. And then it hit me. Who cares? If a week goes by with nothing to say, maybe I should just say nothing? Get into the mini weekly film reviews and get out. Why am I stressing over something that by my own admission doesn’t matter? If my blog disappeared from the internet, the world would keep a-turning and you’d all use the time to find something better to read, I don’t doubt it at all. Hence why this didn’t get written in the dead of night yesterday. I had other stuff to do, some of which was sleep (I had an early start this morning and an expiring episode of True Detective to catch up on, expect my thoughts on series 2 once I’ve watched the remaining two episodes in the coming weeks) and when I went to bed I slept soundly, knowing nothing bad had happened due to my lack of posting a weekly post that doesn’t even go towards my blogging goals. Similarly, I remembered this morning that I hadn’t written my Blind Spot review for The Matinee’s monthly post, which goes out on the last Tuesday of every month, which just so happened to be today. I got something written, on JFK, but I missed the deadline by a few hours, and no giant anvil fell from the heavens to crush me. My keyboard did not explode. Ryan just added me to the list a little later, and my day carried on going.
That’s what I’ve come to realise – for me at least, this doesn’t matter. My blog is my hobby. I write film reviews because I want to. I want to get to the end of the 1001 List, and I want to review all the films on it, mainly so I’ve got a reference point for the future for all the films I’ve forgotten, which will be many, and already is lots. This isn’t about anybody reading my writing, although I’m grateful for those of you who do, I enjoy interacting with you all, and I can only apologise for the little I comment on your own sites, which also stems partially from my feelings of “Well that’s my opinion, but they won’t want to hear it.” I’m not going to stress over meeting my blogging goals. They’re an aim, and I’ll be a little disappointed if I don’t accomplish them all by the end of the year, but in the grand scheme of things, what does it matter anyway? Here’s what I watched this week:
She’s Having A Baby (1988)
Continuing the John Hughes mission found me hitting arguable his worst film (I’ve still not seen Curly Sue, and am OK with that). Telling the story of a young couple from the day of their wedding to the birth of their first child, this sees Kevin Bacon playing every sitcom husband or father-to-be ever, hitting every tired near-joke and embracing each cliché like a long lost love. It’s entirely possible that this is where all those clichés began, but it doesn’t make them good. There’s one great moment involving Bacon’s character imagining all his lawn-mowing neighbours dancing together, but everything else is tremendously uninspired and dull. Also, the eponymous baby doesn’t come into things until 20 minutes before the end. As in, that’s when Bacon’s wife, played by Elizabeth McGovern, gets pregnant. Before anything else, this needs to have a title change to something more like Newlyweds or The Trouble with Spouses or Doesn’t Young Alec Baldwin Look Weird?
Choose Life 4/10
Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987)
I’d underestimated this film. It’s been a long time since I’d last seen it, and I remembered enjoying it but couldn’t remember why, but holy heck this film is almost damn perfect. Steve Martin and John Candy play off one another beautifully as an odd couple stuck together travelling the longest journey from New York to Chicago imaginable. There’s hilarious scenes, such as the iconic pillows moment, or Martin’s fuck-filled tirade against the car rental woman, played by Hughes regular Edie McClurg, as well as a surprisingly all-star cast of cameos and character actors including Larry Hankin, Dylan Baker, Michael McKean, Martin Ferrero and Kevin Bacon, but the fact that an odd couple road trip comedy can pull a gut punch at the end that always makes me cry is nothing short of astounding. Shame about the record-scratch-heavy score, as other than that this film is a must see. Why it’s not on any of my lists I’ll never know.
Choose Film 9/10
Uncle Buck (1989)
This was a first time watch for me and, other than John Candy’s performance, I can’t say I’d been missing much. The story is as predictable as they come – a couple must leave their kids at home for a few days, so recruit the husband’s boisterous, alcoholic, gambling brother to look after them and, despite their initial concerns, he turns out to be much better at it than anyone but the viewers could have predicted. There are some fun moments with Buck dealing with the eldest daughter’s new boyfriend in unconventional means, but most scenes felt like they were cut short and didn;t fulfil their true potential. Disappointing. Still, John Candy was great.
Choose Life 5/10
My pick for Georgia for my USA Road Trip.
Lists: 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, Empire’s 5-Star 500, FTS USA Road Trip
Full review here.
I’d heard a lot of great things, and they were all pretty much correct. David Oyelowo is great as Martin Luther King Jr., though I can understand him missing out on the Oscar nomination as others were better than him. He should have easily been nominated over Cumberbatch though, and Carell was definitely in the wrong category, so the nominees should have been Redmayne, Keaton, Cooper, Oyelowo and Gyllenhaal, for either Nightcrawler or Enemy, if not both. Selma took the correct approach to a biopic, focussing on one significant event rather than trying to encompass an entire life in 120 minutes, and as such this plays out beautifully, and educated me on an event I wasn’t very familiar with. Some of the racist portrayals were sickening, made all the more so by the real archive footage played during the credits. If this makes the 1001 List in a few months, you won’t find me arguing.
Lists: 2015 Movies
Choose Film 9/10
The Incredibles (2004)
I’d always considered this a lesser entry in Pixar’s canon (but still a great film) but the more I re-watch it, the more I love it. Old review here.
Lists: None (Already crossed off: Empire’s Top 500, Empire’s Top 301, Total Film’s Top 100)
Choose Film 9/10
Vivre sa Vie (1962)
Reviewed for Blueprint: Review. When I review screeners, I always try to find something more positive to saya about the films because I know the distribution companies will probably read the review and I don’t like being mean. That being said, with was pretentious, unsatisfying bullcrap.
Lists: 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, Empire’s 5-Star 500
Full review here.
Piranha 3DD (2012)
If I were to die right now, the last film I’d have seen would be Piranha 3DD, and that is not a good thing. It’s so bad I’m resisting logging it onto my new Letterboxd account (letterbox.com/jaycluitt). I kind of enjoyed Piranha 3D (though I hate writing that name, because when it comes to films I only acknowledge two dimensions), but this is one of the worst films I’ve seen in a while. It’s just an excuse for nudity, wrapped in half a first draft for a movie. There’s no third act! The climax just kind of happens, and then it’s finished. There’s a scene several minutes long that sees two scantily clad girls trying to evacuate a relatively short dock, but one of them (30 Rock‘s Katrina Bowden, who is better than this) is incapable of walking two steps without falling through a board or off the dock entirely. At one point the film-makers clearly realised an evil character hadn’t died yet, so they have him be decapitated by driving slowly through some low hanging, lightly strung bunting. The two points this film achieves are for Christopher Lloyd and Ving Rhames, both of whom reprise their roles in cameo form, and again should be working elsewhere. IMDb may say the film is 83 minutes long, but the narrative stops around the 70 minute mark, if that, with the rest of the run-time being made up of out-takes that aren’t played out over the credits, as you’d find in the likes of Jackie Chan’s films or reputable comedies, but which require the credits to stop to drag the film out to a length over the 80 minute mark, so the Screen Actors Guild will acknowledge its existence as a feature-length movie. And the out-takes are just as un-funny as the rest of the film. We neither want nor need to see a giant fake piranha being thrown at someone multiple times. I need to watch another film now, any other film, to make sure this isn’t my last. I’ll be careful from now on until I see literally anything else.
Lists: TiVo Movies
Choose Life 2/10
Posts you may have missed:
USA Road Trip: Georgia: Deliverance
Get to Know the FTS Crew: Meet Jay: Every month a different FTS writer gets highlighted, and this month it was my turn. If my opening monologue didn’t provide more than enough information on me, you can find out what else makes me tick over there.
Vivre sa Vie
Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!
Lambcast #283 The Lamby-Weds Game: We’ve got a new rip-off game on the Lambcast, based on the Newlyweds game. I took three podcasting couples – Jess & Lindsay from French Toast Sunday, Pete & Justin from Man I Love Film and Todd & Kristen from Walt Sent Me – and they played to see who knew the most about their partners. I had my doubts about how well the game would work, but I’m really happy with the results.
Aim: Watch all 61 saved TiVo films
To go: 21
Should be on: 40
On Track: Yes!
Aim: Watch 59 movies released in the UK in 2015
To go: 26
Should be on: 29
On Track: Yes!
Aim: Review Kate Winslet’s remaining films
To go: 0
Should be on: 2
On Track: COMPLETED!
Aim: Watch 12 “bad” films from the 1001 List
To go: 4
Should be on: 8
On Track: Yes!
Aim: Watch 1 nominated film a week from the 1001 List
To go: 19
Should be on: 34
On Track: No!
Aim: Cross off 75 films from the 1001 List
To go: 18
Should be on: 49
On Track: Yes!
Aim: Finish French Toast Sunday Road Trip series
To go: 11
Should be on: 5
On Track: Yes!
It’s alright Jay, everyone is fucked up.
I’m glad you made a little peace with not always meeting blogging goals. I struggle constantly and as you already know I fail miserably at keeping up with things all of the time. Perhaps, I’ll also learn to stress less about it soon?
Also, I just want to say (and I know you’re not fishing for it) that writing, in this case reviews, are subjectively effective or “good.” I happen to LOVE reading what you write, especially your reviews as I always get a different perspective with some humor along the way. And clearly my opinion is the end all be all of opinions so I don’t know…take that as you will.
Argh! More expectations to live up to!
Ahem. Thanks for compliments Linds, much appreciated. Good to know. I enjoy your reviews too.
I would say that I completely disagree with this statement: “I clearly don’t have any kind of prowess when it comes to writing reviews”, but instead I will just say – Jay you just keep writing what you write as long as you’re feeling some personal enjoyment and satisfaction. Just think of this venture as a personal movie journal, and if the rest of us get to reap the benefits of your humor and observations, that’s our prerogative.
That’s exactly my plan. Even if I stop getting any blog views at all, I’m still going to finish the mission just for myself. I’ll just proof-read them less (not that I do at the moment).
Wow. Almost afraid to comment for fear putting any added pressure on you. I get where you’re coming from. If I had to guess, I’d say most bloggers who post on a regular basis and are aware of their audience feel the same sort of anxiety from time to time. Most of us say we write for ourselves, and to an extent we do, but we all want to put our best foot forward if we know someone is actually reading. Take comfort in the fact that I and others enjoy your blog we like the way you come across. Even what you would consider your worst posts are good with us. Otherwise, we wouldn’t bother coming here.
As for the movies you discussed, I’m glad you love The Incredibles and Selma. I think Deliverance is way overrated by everyone because of ONE SCENE. And I need to finally watch Planes, Trains, and Automobiles from end to end. I’ve seen it in bits and pieces over the years, but never gave it a proper viewing.
Ha, yeah I thought after posting “I wonder if anyone will actually comment on this post?” and almost expected to lose a few followers, but fortunately not. Thanks for the kind words.
I love Deliverance not just because of that one scene. I think it’s a really great story of the city men’s pride and hubris being beaten down by a land and a people they dismiss at their peril. That one scene (I assume you mean the “Squeal like a pig!” scene) is the most iconic (along with Duelling Banjos) and the most memorable because it’s so jarring and shocking, but the rest of it is great too. The performances are mostly terrific, Boorman’s direction is strong and the script is tight.
And yes, get onto Planes, Trains & Automobiles. I loved it. On the John Hughes podcast discussion two of us utterly adored it, the other three were at least positive, so I may have oversold it, I just think it’s terrific.