Netflix and the dulling of basic human function (via the joy of Portland, Oregon)

Good evening world. I hope all is well wherever you may be. I hope you’ve been able to put aside, even just for a moment, your fears about chemical warfare, the shutdown of America by a cabal of right-wing fuckwits, the ongoing horror that is the editorship and indeed readership of the Daily Mail or your lingering disgust at that moment yesterday when two, count them, two separate people barged in front of you in the queue for the talking till computer things (I remember when you were served by a human being; call me a daft, middle-aged nostalgia-twat but I found that experience just a little bit more pleasant) in Marks and Spencer, and have had a lovely day doing something at least fairly agreeable. I ate a sandwich, fell asleep beneath a yellowing autumn tree and then looked at some pumpkins (not a euphemism). All in all, something of a triumph as far as Sundays go.

pumpkinsPumpkins: a range of varieties from around the world and already condemned by the Daily Mail as “Marxist” and “Britain-hating” and therefore should be stripped of all benefits and sent back to the Americas post-haste.

I am also somewhat chipper to be to bring you a few nuggets of Long Arm news; none of which are particularly life-altering in their magnitude but should reassure the many of you that gave us some money that we have not just spent it on pants and then hoped that you’d forget about the film if we didn’t talk about it for long enough.

So here goes:

1 – Jimmy represented Long Arm Films at the Welsh BAFTAS on the arm of television’s Melanie Walters. He had a good time but sadly did not make it into the official photographs of the evening that you can find on BAFTA’s website. This may be due to the fact that he went all “Emperor’s New Clothes” in his wardrobe choice. However, he did drink a lot but not enough to keep up with Mel who abandoned him at 3am and then branded him a lightweight on Twitter the following day. A good night for LAF.

2 – The edit of High Tide (starring of course the aforementioned Ms. Walters) continues in the very safe hands of Dan the editor. He seems still to be happy in his work and he is making some very positive noises (just like the one you make when you’ve taken a first bite of a dish that you’d assumed would be no more than mediocre but actually turns out to be lip-smackingly lovely, that kind of noise) about how it is looking. This of course means he is yet to tackle the hours and hours of footage that we shot with two cameras during the party scene. At this point in the editing process, Dan will turn from affable gentleman to crimson-eyed demon and curse the name of Long Arm films in a series of imaginative and deeply offensive constructions, his diabolic voice rattling the slates and Vietnamese noodles across the Uplands with a good chance of being heard in Mumbles if the wind is blowing favourably.

Enough Swansea references.

3 – We have gone into pre-production on two NEW short films that will be shot early next year and then released in the run-up to the premiere of High Tide. The first will be a new short by Jimmy and me but the second will be written and directed by High Tide DOP and all-round good egg Mr Christopher Lang. This will be the first Long Arm production written by someone else. We are very excited about both films; it will be good to be making something again and we’re delighted that the first Long Arm non-Gillingham / Hay film will be in the safe and steady hands of our pal Chris. I will reveal a bit more about each of the two short films as we get closer to the shoot, including casting and a few hints about the plots of each.

4 – We had a something of a breakthrough on our second feature film script this week. And, in a first for Long Arm, we weren’t engaged in a round of pitch and put when the breakthrough happened. I must be coy (and sensible) and not reveal the plot of our as-yet-unwritten second feature-length screenplay on my blog but I can say that it is interesting, provocative and unexpected. And the Daily Mail will HATE it. Which can only be a good thing.

Away from Long Arm and back in the domestic realm, this week I’ve realised (the grammar of which suggests that I have, like baths, weekly revelations; this is very far from the truth) that sleek modern technology may look sexy, shiny and Helvetica Extra-Fine but frequently it does not solve many of humanity’s fundamental problems, and god knows we have a few of these, but just shifts them to new contexts. Take for example, the utterly anodyne ritual of choosing a film to watch on a Friday night. You’ve had a long week, a couple of drinks after work and you’re in the mood for a decent film. In the VHS days, you’d have to traipse to your local rental shop and stand beneath near hospital-level intensity white light and scan the plastic racks for a copy of Heathers or Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves or Short Circuit. And this was fine, if a little hard on the eyes. At least it got you out and maybe you could pop into Spar on your way back for some Bombay mix, a bottle of cheap red and a packet of durex.

Now things are different. Things are EASIER, he writes in ironic capitals. Now with on-demand services streamed to your television the trip to the VHS rental shop has gone the way of socialism and milkmen. Now you can sit on your sofa and choose from a near-infinite selection of films and television programmes from around the world. But such infinity serves only to nudge you towards madness as you are terrorised by overwhelming choice; it is an endless box of chocolates stretching out past familiar stars and out towards deep space; it is a bar stocked with all of your favourite ales that breaks through the side wall of the pub and continues for miles along the A303 towards Honiton. And faced with such unquenchable supply of product your ability to be decisive goes the same way as socialism and milkmen. You have infinite choice. But you can’t choose. This is the torture of the digital age; the dulling of those instinctive faculties that kept our ancient ancestors alive and, cruelly, prepared the stage for our eventual, inevitable and ignominious exit.

ANCIENT GILLINGHAM 4500BC – Shit! There’s a mammoth. Wow. It’s really big. Despite our dearth of basic refrigeration facilities that could keep the family going for like ages. What shall I do? I shall HUNT IT. NOW! COME ON! Eat spear my hirsute, elephantine adversary!

MODERN GILLINGHAM 2013AD – Shit! There’s a mammoth. Wow! It’s really big. Although you know what, I’ve seen bigger. And it’s not like there’s a shortage of mammoths. And I’m a bit tired. What shall I do? Well, I QUITE want to chuck my spear at it, but I don’t know if I can be bothered. I mean, I want to chuck my spear at it AT SOME POINT. But maybe not now. Maybe I’ll wait and see what else comes along. I’ve always wanted to hunt mammoth but I just wanted something, I don’t know, a bit funnier on a Friday night  . . . .  .

Thank goodness, Neolithic tribes didn’t have Netflix otherwise NONE OF US WOULD NOW EXIST.

However, despite all that bluster I am very grateful to Netflix for introducing me to Portlandia which has made me very happy indeed this weekend. It is a sketch show set in Portland, Oregon (which seems to be like a large-scale, American version of Totnes, a reference which although limited in its accessibility is nevertheless pin-sharp accurate) and, at a time when nothing on television makes me laugh anymore, it is very, very funny. I love everything about it. This is the opening of the first episode:

And if you don’t love that then we can no longer be friends. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Portlandia features regular guest appearances from Kyle MacLachlan who I first encountered in late-night Twin Peaks sessions (ON VHS!) with Mark, Bob and Rupert in Shepherd’s Bush. But that is another story. However, let’s end with a bit of David Lynch genius and dig up from the digital top-soil MacLachlan’s first appearance in the aforementioned Twin Peaks in what must be one of the greatest introductions to a character ever. And I mean that. Take it away Agent Cooper:


3 thoughts on “Netflix and the dulling of basic human function (via the joy of Portland, Oregon)

  1. My husband and I are obsessed with Portlandia – worth the price of Netflix, in itself! I love the first season episode in which they go to an all-natural restaurant and ask all about the life of the chicken they are going to eat.
    Also, I got into a fight with an automated checkout machine today. I actually declared, “I HATE YOU!” and then, “I GIVE UP,” and huffed over to the line for an actual cashier, where my son then burned his hand on a rotisserie chicken warmer.
    One last thing: I am very surprised that any British people could stand to watch Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, given Kevin Costner’s horrible, almost non-existent accent! That is one of those movies I loved as a pre-teen, but in adulthood it has revealed itself to be sort of ridiculous, except of course for any scene starring the hilarious Alan Rickman. Also watched Short Circuit a thousand times as a child – wonder how that one has held up? I have a feeling Heathers is still good, though.

    • I am delighted that you too love Portlandia Julia; My wife and I are utterly converted. – I love the first episode of the second series and have been shouting “We can pickle that!” at bemused colleagues all day.

      I hope your son’s hand was not too badly hurt.

      Ah yes, dear Kevin. I remember seeing Robin Hood in the cinema and when Costner exclaimed “It’s so great to be back in Eng-er-laaand!” as he landed on the coast of Kent there was a very loud laugh from the audience. Believe me, Kent accents are a bit funny but they don’t sound like that.

      And you are right, Rickman aside, it is a terrible film.

      Thanks as ever for reading and taking the time to comment. It is always good to hear from you.

      • Jack’s hand is fine – I realize that may have sounded over dramatic! It did add to the general horror of that grocery store experience, though, for which I still blame those dang machines. I’d like to pickle them until the voice that repeats, “Please remove all items from the belt. Please remove all items from the belt,” is silenced forever!

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