Tag Archives: Michael Jackson

Woody Allen and Art’s exposing risk

The apple of art doesn’t fall too far from the tree.

Ideas may be universal but squeeze them through the sausage-making machine of the artist and they take on a unique shape. That’s the whole point.

This doesn’t mean that the writer has to hold the same views as his/her creations but, when all’s said and done, a sensibility shines through their representation.

It may not be obvious to start with but if you know what you’re looking for, you’ll pick up a trail.

Like trying to pen a Valentine’s card in a stranger’s handwriting, or forging the numerical receipts of cab drivers as realistically as possible*, the ‘you’ (or that part of ‘you’ being put to that use) is the common denominator: it can be found. (*I never do this)

When beautiful things come from people with un-beautiful histories, we are posed with a problem. From Wagner to Michael Jackson, we get all morally twisty-pants.

Is it right to hum along in your leisure time to the music created by a Nazi sympathizer? Does it endorse him, or encourage his views by complicity?

More, how COULD something so transcendent come from such a character in the first place? (Fine, maybe not Heal the World; Liberian Girl‘s bloody genius.)

I bet a good consideration of that subject could yield interesting insight, alongside the more obvious stuff about the drive to escape from personal demons, or the demons spawning that very escape, maybe in a redemptive bid.

For now, suffice to say we are no one definition. We are ‘good’ and ‘bad’, or actually neither. We like ice-cream and playing the guitar and making chutney.

Sometimes we need to be judged. But, for me, it must be in relation to that specific charge- otherwise we’d all be in for the chop.

So, Woody Allen.

Woody roused me 5 years ago, with Vicky Cristina Barcelona: http://wp.me/pfnZ7-iO

I love his films because they are about dialogue, relationships, social interaction, trad jazz, intimate restaurants, frolics, humour, apartments with thin corridors, large beds, large lamps, tall book walls, and literary agents.

They’re also about permissiveness, which is why they often lack high drama and have puffy endings. Everything’s OK if you spill it on your therapist: affairs, divorce, cancer. It’s all part of life’s farce- let’s just talk it out and move on to a new marriage.

It’s probably what happens when comedians write feature films without Owen Wilson and a boisterous dog: even if some pretty heavy life shit’s been going on between the opening and closing credits, all’s well that end’s well.

Woody married his ex-wife’s teenage step-daughter. You don’t have to be Columbo to deduce he’s not a granny grabber. It doesn’t mean he’s a paedophile either, though the allegations are there.

When I watched Manhattan again recently, some elements popped up- the interpretation of some elements popped up, it’s fairer to say.

So we’ve got four characters. Woody is Isaac (although really he’s Woody) and he’s in a jumble because he’s dating a 17 year old ‘kid’, Tracy.

Isaac spends the entire film telling his friend Yale, Yale’s wife, his soon-to-be replacement lover Mary and Tracy herself, that the relationship isn’t right because she’s just a child.

He is reassured by them all that it’s OK; she’s a legitimate date, there-there, don’t worry, you’re not doing anything wrong.

Tracy is played by gentle Mariel Hemingway but a broom might have filled the role satisfactorily.

She has no opinions, apart from to say that she’s old enough to have opinions. She has no wit, no voice, no discernible personality. She’s a stooge for his self-revelatory stand-up. She is talked at by Isaac, who tells her on a loop that she shouldn’t really be sleeping with him.

Meanwhile Yale, his friend, is the handsome man Woody would like to be deep-down (Isaac’s his best shot at being who he is). Yale introduces Isaac to his mistress Mary, Diane Keaton.

Now, Mary is a real woman. She has outspoken views and says funny stuff and, at first, Isaac’s not at all sure about this 3-D female proposition that’s going on.

However, she’s attractive and tells Yale she finds Isaac attractive. Plus she slips past the post because she’s also emotionally screwy so Woody- sorry Isaac- can relate.

Isaac leaves the ‘kid’ Tracy. He breaks up with her like you’d break up with a broom: ‘I’m breaking up with you, Broom. Don’t be sad.’

He says she needs to go to London to Drama School because she’s wasting her time on a 42 year-old man like him and should see life. Tracy is heartbroken and later we learn Isaac ignores her phone-calls. He’s got a new gal; it becomes Tracy Who?

So Isaac and Mary have a crack at a grown-up relationship. They go to galleries and on walks and discuss things, like people born within a quarter of a century of each other might.

Mary talks incessantly about her incredible former husband, Jeremiah, and Isaac is disconcerted until they bump into him and he’s a runt who makes Isaac look like Brad Pitt.

There’s hope for Isaac, it seems. Allure comes in all shapes and sizes. You don’t have to be a Yale to hook a Mary.

Only, do you?

Isaac’s happy. Yes, his beautiful ex-wife Jill (Meryl Streep, or Meryl Streep’s long blond hair with Meryl attached) has left him for another woman but that’s OK because it suggests that sexuality has a spectrum and is fluid (contentious this, but who knows where else this sort of acceptable fluidity might trickle into?)

He’s got a smart, successful journalist who’s crazy about him and all’s good.

Turns out the smart journalist is still in love with handsome Yale. He’s going to ride the alimony pony and shack up with Mary.

So where does this leave Isaac? Will he be devastated? Will he have a breakdown and take time to recover until one day down the line, mature love finds him again?

Or, will he lie on the sofa thinking about his book and suddenly be caught in the grip of Tracy’s ‘pretty face’?

Will he jump up and run all the way to the girl he hasn’t thought twice about since he sent her back to the broom cupboard in order to have a go at being an adult, and interrupt her on the very day of her departure for London, asking her not to go?

Tracy (now 18, thus MORE than respectable) tells him he’s being unreasonable. She extracts from him an empty declaration of love and reminds him he left her in the lurch and subsequently ignored her, then points out that everything is set up for her new adventure and her parents are awaiting her arrival. And that if their love is true, 6 months is not so long to hold out for her and allow her this freedom.

Isaac’s response?

He wants her. He needs her. He doesn’t want that thing he likes about her to change (her innocence). Don’t go. Mememememememememememememe. Quiet, stompy feet. Puppy face.

Isaac, the child. Woody, the child. Throwing himself at the mercy of the child.

So I’ve built a sort of case but I’m going to stop short of a conclusion; one plus one equals two but it can also make eleven.

Art may expose but what exactly? What exactly?

Manhattan ends with Isaac mid-plea and we don’t know if Tracy will stay or go.

As with most Allen films, the journey- not the destination- is the point. I’ll do the same here.

If you believe one’s duty is to take a moral stance, it’s a cop-out.

If you’re happy to muse, you’ll accept the open ending.

 

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Liberian Girl

sunset-beach-serene

It’s 1987.

I’m 14 and and at boarding school in the Lake District.

After lights out- Walkman smuggled under duvet- Michael Jackson is my escape route…

Here we go, lots of dreamy G notes and exotic birdy sounds.

‘Naku penda piya-naku taka piya- mpenziwe’

Does that mean something? Sounds a bit silly.

Ooh, I know, maybe it’s Liberian. Where’s Liberia? I hate Geography.

Definitely hot; you can’t wear leather there. Or white gloves.

‘Liberian girl…

You came and you changed my world’

Here’s the slow beat, here’s Michael. He’s smitten. She’s done lots of changing, this girl. Maybe she gave him Bubbles. And coconut hair oil.

Now the second verse and – what a treat!- a key change so soon. Normally you have to wait until the end of a song for that.

Plus- Double Fantastic!- Michael’s splitting himself into two, high and low.

She can’t doubt his feelings now, with the oral pincer bonanza.

‘More precious than any pearl’

Gosh, I’d love to be more precious than that. Will I be one day? Not to any of the boys at the school dances; they wouldn’t understand.

Now she’s asking if he loves her and he says it out loud: ‘Endlessly’.

ENDLESSLY.

Oh, Michael, I think I love you like that. Your voice isn’t very masculine but that’s O.K., that’s Motown.

‘You kiss me then,

Ooh, the world,

You do this to me’

Michael, I’m here! On the top bunk in Kirkby Lonsdale.

I’m wearing my froggy nightie but I’ll be a woman soon.

I’ve already been sick on alcohol!

And she’s still changing his world and now he’s changing hers back and when he tells her he loves her this time the notes aren’t descending, they’re rising, and he can’t suppress it! Out to the hot night sky! He’s mad for the girl!

‘All the time!’

And now multiple Michaels. All over the place. You can’t stop them.

Singing ‘Girl’ and ‘I want you baby’ and all the loving stuff.

She must be thrilled. I am and he’s not even talking to me…

Press rewind. All over again. Maybe 3 more times.

I’m there, I’m there.

Batteries sound drunk. Press pause.

Listen to see if my sexually-precocious room-mates have finished talking about doing unspeakable things to boys.

Yes, they have. Walkman away. Time to dream.

On a beach in paradise with Michael Jackson moonwalking back to me.

‘Just like in the movies’…

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Long-haul flight schedule

12.10: Stuff stuff in overhead lockers, trying not to expose midriff.

12.12: Limbo into seat and appraise allocation in terms of proximity to: the seat in front; the toilet; the children; the likelihood of the chicken preference running out.

12.15: Suspiciously monitor people getting on board. Jump to wild conclusions about their lifestyle; lineage; unfeasible tan; ability to cope in confined quarters.

12.20: Take stuff down from overhead lockers.

12.25: Familiarise with plane seat landscape: positioning of substance-less pillow; storage of blanket; shoe situation (on/off/socks).

12.30: Test facilities: chair recline; food table axis; screen tilt; remote control functioning.

12.35: Arrival of passenger in adjacent seat. Quick Terminator assessment scan: weight; odour; personality type. Give economical smile. By the end of this journey you will know more about me than my gynaecologist. But embark on a conversation and I will assume the brace position.

12.40: Feel bored. Wonder how long is left of the flight. Realise it hasn’t taken off yet.

12.41: Liberate Inflight magazine. Flick through. Study world map with route arrows connecting capitals without knowing why. Read an article about week-ends in Barcelona. Replace magazine.

12.42: Accept cleansing tissue. Watch how many people use it to clean crevices only usually reached by hot towels in Indian restaurants.

12.43: Liberate Duty Free brochure. Question how popular the ‘his and hers’ matching sets are. Of anything. Question if you are bored enough to purchase a pendant for the birthday of an elderly relative. Decide you are not.

12.44: Elect to sleep before take-off. Close eyes.

12.44 and 3 seconds: Open eyes.

12.45: Look at film options. Get excited you can watch a recent release. Manage disappointment when you realise you are not flying to Buenos Aires.

12.50: Eat Bombay Mix, despite swearing you wouldn’t before you got on the plane. Dread the rest of the food resolutions you know you are about to break.

12.55: Listen to the Captain speaking, on the look-out for signs that he is pissed/hungover/ playing a pre-recorded message. Wonder why he sounds so goddam relaxed.

1.00: Rummage around for cosmetics bag, knocking over bottle of water by feet.

1.05: Apply face cream to already freeze-dried skin. Look in small mirror at bloodshot eyes and desperate hair. Know it’s only downhill from here.

1.10: Feel grateful for the distraction of the emergency landing instructions. Appreciate the hostesses also find them deeply ironic. Consider how attractive hostesses are. Wonder if you would like to be/nail one. Take no notice of nearest exit.

1.15: Examine emergency landing card without registering a single piece of information.

1.20: Pointlessly adjust seatbelt. Take off. Feel nostalgic.

1.25: De-click ears by swallowing 10 times.

1.30: Sigh and prepare for the onset of terror-suspect sleep-deprivation.

1.40: Rummage in bag for book, knocking water over again.

1.45: Read 2 pages of book. Feel bored. Stow in magazine pocket, stretching it to capacity.

1.50: Moniter progress of hostess with drinks, with mounting fear she may miss you out. Consider spirit/wine/ sensible water options. Pluck up courage to ask for more than one. With ice. And lemon. And saucy bits, if it’s a Bloody Mary. Manoevre unwieldy limbs to safely transfer beverages to table. Just miss hostess trying to hand her back the spent refresher towel and empty Bombay Mix packet. Shove down the side of the book in overstretched front pocket instead.

2.00: Drink drinks. This is great. This is like being in a bar. I’m almost enjoying myself.

2.10: Finish drinks. Feel cold, dehydrated, nihilistic.

2.15: Adjust air flume above head, which is pointing the wrong way. Play with light on/light off. Accidentally press hostess button. Sorry. Sorry. No, sorry, it was a mistake.

2.20: Play a computer game. Try to get to grips with how to hold the remote control to move the caveman around the maze. Derive inordinate satisfaction from zapping pursuant elephants after ingesting power-enhancing carrots.

2.30: Study menu card. Try to deduce meal least likely to mortally offend palate. Wish you had pretended to be a vegetarian. See vegetarian option make a funeral march past. Feel relieved you didn’t pretend to be a vegetarian.

2.45: Receive meal and contemplate dolefully. Then set to work making the necessary adjustments: transference of less weary salad items to main tray; swapping round of sauces/vinaigrettes; roll placed to one side- no, sod it, roll reinstated and lavishly buttered. Crackers and cheese placed in reserve. Dayglo pudding laughed out of court.

3.00: Start to eat meal. Believe it to be so packed with lard it could walk off the plate singing a lardy song.

3.05: Start to love meal. Experience lard endorphin rush. Proffer little glass for wine. This is great. This is like dining out. I’m almost enjoying myself.

3.10: Finish acceptable parts of meal.

3.11: Start on unacceptable parts of meal. Re-introduce the Dayglo pudding. Resolve to try just one bite. Eat the whole thing, followed by the mini Dairy Milk. Panic you’re taking too long and there will soon be tea and coffee and you won’t have finished.

3.20: Balance hexagonal cup on tray for hot drink. Spray little milks over neighbour. Try not to feel like a giant.

3.30: Hand back empty tray, wearing the pleading eyes of a seal-clubber negotiating with Jesus at the gates of Heaven. If I could turn back time. If I could find a way.

3.40: Carry on with Caveman Crunch filled with self-hatred. Commit suicide by deliberately walking into elephants.

3.50: Watch a film. Laugh manically at anything remotely funny. Weep inconsolably at anything remotely sad. Make thumbs up/thumbs down gestures at traveling companion. Wonder if you also look like someone whose mind is on the turn and is obliviously sitting in their own shit. Wearing headphones.

5.20: Finish film. Look at watch. Look at passengers slumbering under their blankets. Want to kill them or wake them up by doing loud elephant noises in their ear.

5.25: Hear girl chatting vigorously. Locate her kneeling back-to-front in her perky seat. Want to clamp her mouth shut using any left-over pudding as glue.

5.30: Need toilet. Consider escape. Execute it. Stretch in aisle. See other scared eyes peeping out of hollow faces, looking to you for answers.

5.40: Eek into toilet, side-stepping wet bits. They’re just water. They’re just water. Flush toilet and think about large woman who got her bits sucked into the vaccuum and had to be removed by paramedics at the other end. Look in mirror under the cruel orange glow. Feel empathy for Michael Jackson. Feel kinship to a maltreated animal. Avoid squeezing actions AT ALL COSTS.

5.50: Return clumsily to seat trying to wake up traveling companion to ensure you are not the only person who has not slept for 72 hours straight.

6.00: Start new film. Weep all the way through. Even through comedy. Especially through comedy.

7.40: Accept glass of apple juice from hostess with the grateful wince of a galleon rower being spared the lash.

7.50: Try to sleep. Recline chair all 2 1/2 inches. Inflate neck pillow. Settle down to dreamland.

7.52: Admit you have never been so angrily, preposterously uncomfortable ever. Drift into a delirious state of half-existence, praying for unconsciousness or death.

9.00: Give up trying to sleep. Wonder why ruminating on the gaping flaws in your life surrounded by the husk of humanity in a pressurized capsule didn’t take you there. Look at watch. Try to cry but fail to do so due to dehydration.

9.10: Watch Friends. The One Where Rachel and Ross Get Together. The One You’ve Seen Five Effing Million Times. The One In Front Of Which You May Actually Evaporate If The Plane Doesn’t Land Soon.

9.40: Switch to radio. Anything. Claire Sweeney. Michael Bolton. Whatever. Take me Lord. Take me now.

10.50: Nod off for 5 minutes.

10.55: Awake refreshed. Renewed. Take out mirror and try to stick on pieces of face falling off, in case you frighten other passengers on disembarkation.

11.00: Enter The Twilight Zone. Play solitaire. Order a gin and tonic.

12.00: Watch a film. Laugh all the way through. Even through tragedy. Especially through tragedy.

2.00: Accept meal without prejudice. Eat the whole thing immediately. Eat the cake. Eat neighbour’s cake. Ask hostess if there is any spare cake you can eat. This is great. This is like being ever so slightly insane. I’m almost enjoying myself.

3.00: Get violently hauled into reality by the cabin lights. Examine surrounding wreckage. Wonder if you crashed and didn’t realise. Wonder if you will ever walk again.

3.40: Gather personal belongings worth salvaging, like a tramp being asked to move on.

3.50: Touch-down to collective whinnying of cabin inmates. Exchange the grimaces of a shared ordeal with those brave enough to make eye contact.

3.40: Exit plane planning motoring holiday in Wales for the next 10 years.

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Worry

If time is money, worrying is like paying yourself for a session of macabre fortune-telling.

It is without hope, sense and purpose.

It is uncreative, uninteresting and energy inefficient- a Hummer doing the school run.

Moreover, it is 100% unproductive, making absolutely nothing happen.

If a worry is realised, the time wasted on it only serves to compound the catastrophe.

If the worry never happens, the time that was wasted on it is gone forever, wafting around the solar system of Crap Things along with Should Haves and What Ifs.

No-one ever goes to their death-bed wishing they had worried more but worrying often sends worriers to theirs quicker.

Worrier Type 1

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