PONTYPOOL: WORDS LOST ON SOME

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IMDB: A psychological thriller in which a deadly virus infects a small Ontario town
TAG: Shut up or die.

Director: Bruce McDonald
Writers: Tony Burgess (novel), Tony Burgess
Stars: Stephen McHattie, Lisa Houle, Georgina Reilly

REVIEW – BY STEPHEN RAFORD – 24th May 2014

Pontypool is a film set in a radio broadcast studio situated in the basement of a local church. The basement is decked out with its very own sound proof booth where our main character, shock jock Grant Mazzy broadcasts his now regular morning show. The show itself is all that he can do since being given the chop from some of the more major radio shows that, at a guess, couldn’t contain or control his larger than life personality. He is a hupontynter of event analysis with a slant for more aggressive explanations with a very discordant political viewpoint. He’s a rogue and he knows it, but at least he has a chance to be on the air, he realises soon enough that what is expected of him is simple day to day house cleaning tasks such as weather reports, school bus info and local news updates. He works with a producer Sydney, a middle aged woman who seems hell bent in trying to tame him, whereas the young and savvy assistant seems desensitised to his rants. The story begins as our shock jock drives into work; he encounters what appears to be an crazed, irate woman roaming about on the snow ridden road. Moving past this he arrives at the radio studio and immediately starts to try and work through what he’d experienced with his small team.
Now already if we’ve started watching this movie, we’re wondering – is this a zombie film, are we going to see zombies… what is the trigger for this whole event? Well, the news comes in and soon enough the three characters are embroiled in a “War of the Worlds” style setup with broadcasts of the chaos building around them in the form of hostage situations and random acts of violence out in the streets. As Pontypool is experiencing pretty bad blizzards, the whole town seems to be going into the chaos without really knowing what’s going on. This puts the characters in the radio studio in a space where they are unwilling to leave because of the severe weather, but most importantly for their dedication and social responsibility for ensuring the broadcasts for the situation are put out for all to hear.
The craziness becomes epidemic, and soon they realise that there really is nowhere else to be that is safe. They are soon joined by a Doctor who finds his way into the studio through a window, allowing him to bring exposition and new dynamic to the situation as it spirals out of their control.
Oh and there is ofcourse one more thing to mention here. The reason for the epidemic craziness, and the cause of the threat?
The English Language.
That’s right, you heard me. This is a unique take on the virus versus humanity story trope. Certain words become a trigger for the virus. Which words specifically, we can’t really clarify whether what these characters assumed were true. The story’s conclusion to this problem which is resolved within two hours is that these buzz words are activated when people start to repeat them. This turns into hysteria and soon people are able to mimic other people’s voices, phrases, expressions and sentiments almost involuntarily. This comes across within the accompanying expression of insanity that drives them to the sound of words being spoken like live meat would be for a flesh eating zombie. That is indeed the last stage of this virus: where people go so mad that they try to “consume” humans by feasting on their mouths.

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This is one of those movies that you end up talking about to folks, urging them to go see it. The strange thing is that midway through explaining why people should watch, you find yourself wondering “why do I want you to watch this again?”
The film is one of those low budget independent movies that works under the premise that everything that could be inherently costly to film won’t be seen here – much like in Orsen Welle’s “War of the World” radio broadcast where sound beating through the radio, the scanners, television and telephone calls.
That in itself is a challenge within a movie going era where the audience is more vocal and sometimes irreverent to details within movies that don’t hit the exact chord as their highly tuned expectations – or so they would have you believe. Sometimes, I don’t think audiences really know what they want and so create their own dramas believing that these movies are meant to be made for them and them only.
The poster here depicts blood splatters which therefore demand all of that and more, but we only really see this happen to one person whereas for another, we see only being severely boot kicked to death because she had gone crazy. The promise of gore and a bloodbath to feast upon – so-to-speak – is forgiven because the fear flies past your eyes and it is your imagination and the uniqueness of the premise that are the fright makers in this instance.
The idea of words being the trigger and ultimately the descent into cannibalistic madness is a mind bender that must have already struck conversations well into the night. To me, it forms an allegory for the degradation of language over the recent decade, where words are no longer there to be discovered, but what exists in our vocabulary is manipulated, messed around with to a degree that sooner or later, cracks will show and language will crumble into the abyss. That’s rather a more dramatic viewpoint but transpose the idea of language into the metaphor of playing god with the ideas of inferior genes, genetic mutations and cloning. If we put that in the context of linguistic deformation and you have yourself an opening for something to get in that could tear through the fabric of the human race.
The amuzing thing is that this movie pulls no punches alluding to the idea that where the English language is no longer safe to use, French or any other language appear to be uninfected – although I’m sure that natural / native / learned uses of other languages can confirm to the idea that their language is also changing, and that the width and breadth of its useage is slowly but surely falling into itself.
If the above were true than we could assume that a wide vocabulary and extensive involvement with a language is the equivalent of a healthy body with an indestructible immune system. The thing is that out of the two ways to get through it:
• A: the infected has to be convinced, and the point was pushed here that they have to be really convinced, that their “infected word” that they repeat doesn’t mean what it really means. Talk about rewriting years of a strictly established, cognitive integration of a linguistic lexicon.
By the way, do you think I have a strong immune system? Well I have to admit that I use to be able to throw a great amount of words into my vocabulary but in turn was chastised for not using certain words that were in mass circulation. So this “infection” film is in a way praising the intellect and putting down those who have a limited vocabulary. A part of me thinks that the virus is simply an allegory for the bastardisation of language. To say something is an unmitigated contemporaneity is no longer cool street talk, but then it’s laymen counterpart “sheer coincidence” doesn’t carry any street cred either. Now, language is getting to be even lazier and I do think that this movie instigates discussion on such matters…
Sorry, I mean “it will make ya wanna talk about stuff. Ya dig?”
This doesn’t include the infection from the American English which to be honest I was brought up with. I happen to prefer many words used in the US against our own: pacifier beats out on “dummy” any day… and sidewalk sounds far more exciting than “pavement”.
Must have been those Sesame Street injections I had when I was very young.
The idea that language is deteriorating because of online interaction, texting, and social network means that this movie is rare. It actually labels a specific cause to the outbreak. Usually we assume there are massive influences as a reason for all those other zombie movies, such as genetic mutations, playing god and ofcourse global warming, but this is a man-made and very specific outbreak. That the only frontier that we have left to share is taking up international languages instead.
• B: Speak another language. In Pontypool, it is only the English language that is a threat. Convenient that this is a Canadian made film so they do have French to fall back on. I can see this as being a concept that could be adapted and reused in future films, amassing a great many different spins to the idea that one specific language could be a global killer.
In this film they use French as their fall-back language but not for long. They soon get bored, or perhaps the filmmakers got scared that the existence of subtitles for the remainder of the movie would not go down well. I’m all for it, in fact I have always loved foreign language movies and I do have aspirations to find a way to include a foreign language as a trope in a short film in the near future.

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So back to the movie, and we’re now fully immersed in the theory and philosophy of the films message – or at the very least, we’ve come up with our own ideas as to what point the filmmakers might have been making. We have to remember that it is still a horror film, and even though the general components of a horror movie are not here, the effects of them are. We are surprised by the way the film delivers itself: putting the four characters in the very foreground of the story leaving the rest of the story far enough away that it feels like a realistic survivor story. There are no chance moments, really, and perhaps that is one of the potential flaws of the film, depending on how you look at it. The characters are never really at threat. The other thing I noticed was that even though they reacted to the events as you would do – with a huge amount of confusion and disbelief – when faced with hoards, they seem to be up for the challenge and relatively calm. It’s hard to say if this is a flaw in the fabric of the acting or if it was an intentional trait for the characters. There are no mad-cat screaming, faces of terror, but there is despair and there is bewilderment, but they seem to get into the mode of accepting the situation mighty fast after the revelation came about.

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Final thoughts: This is a low budget, smartly executed, tightly edited, well produced film that never gets boring. You are with it the whole way. To film in the one location, create and build the tension while keeping it from becoming stale is a challenge, and for all intent and purpose, it delivers. It could be produced as a play. The audience would certainly get a kick out of having wandering hoards around and about the stage and perhaps even emerging from the audience as infected “zombies”. Leave that thought in the back of your head, but if you haven’t seen this, go find it on Amazon Prime or Netflix – enjoy this for there are very few movies like it.

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The Shining: How did they miss that?

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So a review on Amazon claims that the Overlook overlooked the winter opportunities that were, “The skiing industry.” That might be true, but what if the slopes and peaks of nearby mountains were not safe and therefore no skiing business could be had. Perhaps in the other side of the mountains, there were seven hotels catering for the only skiing resorts available. Put simply, the Overlook was not in the right place. It’s like the shop at the end of a busy shopping mall, tucked too far away that nobody ever sees it.

I can make excuses, and this guy may be right. It does make an interesting quandary. Should it have been open for business?

You can also argue that the Overlook had other forces behind it that made it not for tourists out of the warmer seasons. Never be around haunted snow, right?

While we’re on the topic: in the spirit of “prove me right, prove me wrong,” I found out this year that:

1: I’m no flower expert but I have spoken to several people, showing images with them to confirm that… are you ready for this? Those weren’t geraniums in ET: The Extra Terrestrial. They were “chrysanthemums”. (Geraniums are many little flowers bunched together. What we saw in ET were singular flowers per stem.) – trust me. I was gutted, but let’s say that there are many species in the geranium family and one of those look like chrysanthemums? Okay… maybe not.

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2: In Home Alone, the aftershave wouldn’t sting Kevin’s face unless he had already started shaving. Something to do with the pours already being open when you start shaving. Andy (of Frame By Frame fame) supposes that maybe a little aftershave went into his eye instead. More than once. Because Kevin is THAT consistent.

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3: Dinosaurs apparently had feathers. All of them? even the reptiles? So there goes Jurassic Park. I checked the bible, and there were no mentions of feathers… (okay, that was a creationist joke.)

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I hope that doesn’t ruin everything for you.

-Stephen

Frame By Frame EXTRA – Episode 24 – The Amityville Horror, The Innocents & Borderlands

FRAMEBLOG_sr6 This was the first time we spoke way back in 2011, and we ended up collaborating together on writing projects in 2012. In this interview, I talked to Andy – then one of the co creators of Manchester Haunted – about his encounters and the state as it was for paranormal investigations, scientific and otherwise.

It is hard to believe that at this time, we would not have written a feature screenplay together, let alone broken into a dozen chicken hutches and stolen shit loads of eggs…

Oh wait, I meant broken a dozen internet short series, sitcoms, stage pieces in support for the interpretive surrealist movement and after several attempts at video, got it together to write, create, film and edit a short film.

And then there was Frame By Frame… but before that, I was interviewing people for a short lived podcast not known as Over&Out.

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FRAME BY FRAME: EPISODE 24

Three ghostly devil related psychological horror films from three completely different eras. Chronologically, The Innocents came out in 1961, the Amityville Horror in 1979 and Borderlands (international title, Final Prayer), 2013.
We aimed to do something a little different, looking at the angle of Amityville from a perspective of whether or not the actual house is the only attraction there is to find in Amityvlle. We found other things to do. The Innocents proved to be a film that set the bench mark in creepy kid cinema, but is not spoken of in any sense of the word, classic or otherwise. The Borderlands is one of those more recent happenings that also deserves attention, albeit not for the usual tear and share comments we would have for “found footage movies” but on merit that keeps things relative and realistic to the end. So sit tight, keep the light on and enjoy.

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Stand up or (The unexpected virtue of ignorance).

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What makes a person funny? This, as it turns out, is an incredibly divisive question. I have (some might say) an unhealthy obsession with Stewart Lee. His penchant for subverting his audience expectations, for me, is addictive. But, by his own admission, this can be tedious for some people. As comedians tend to do, they put reviews on their posters. Here are the reviews on Stew’s recent tour publicity poster:

“Those who give up an evening to see him deserve his thanks. Not his toxic scorn.” The Telegraph.

“Totally evil propaganda. Offensive, biased, untrue and unfunny.” Patricia Culligan. UKIP

Now, it may be argued that to have a bad review from a member of UKIP is a good thing and if there’s one thing Stew has proven in his stand up, it’s that his politics don’t necessarily align with anything UKIP stand for. As he has said  “Voting for UKIP as a protest vote is like shitting your hotel bed as a protest against bad service, then realising you’ve now got to sleep in a shitted bed.”

I’m obviously paraphrasing here.

You may ask yourself then, how does he get away with putting these reviews on his poster? Would Michael McIntyre do this? It works in two ways. It’s sort of like having your cake and eating it. 1: It’s saying that despite the (Mostly) right-wing acrimony towards Stew he still has a massive audience and is growing in popularity and 2: You may not enjoy this.  That’s nice of him. The fact that a comedian is aware that certain members of his audience may have been ‘brought by their friends,’ and not enjoy it means that they can no longer complain because he said on his poster that it may not be for you. If you don’t enjoy it, it’s your own fault.

I recently had a conversation with some friends about Lee Evans, I don’t get it, one friend did and the other was scared of him. The latter I don’t quite get because I think I could easily take Lee Evans in a fight. Maybe even with one hand tied behind my back, stood in a bucket of slowly setting concrete while an ill-tempered moose licks my face. One friend in this holy trinity of comedy confab was set in his love for Lee Evans, “You two can fuck off,” he delicately said and then it hit me. Like most things, comedy and more importantly stand up comedy is, ‘like beauty and terrorism,’ relative. To take it one step further, I think it can be a direct result of your upbringing and social status. Certain people get a kick out of Roy ‘Chubby’ Brown waxing lyrical about lady’s parts, certain people get a kick out of watching a sweaty man in a suit and tie contort his way around material and certain people get a kick out of watching Bernard Manning say incredibly ignorant things even though he was a massive cunt may he Rest in Peace.

Stewart Lee (like Dylan Moran, Marc Maron, Bill Hicks etc.) for me, is the epitome of what a stand up should be: brave, intelligent, not afraid to broach issues and go where other people may fear to tread and he is obviously hilarious.  I don’t need a comedian to tell me what we have in common or where he keeps his keys. I need a comedian to challenge me, to make me think.

Stand up in its truer form is a skill very few people have, and as me and Stephen try to refine our material for our first foray into this field will we sink or swim? We’re yet to find out. Who knows, maybe it’s easy.

Ignorance is indeed bliss.

P.S. In the up-coming podcasts about comedy (possibly one a month) we will be discussing American comedians, funny chat show hosts, sketch shows and as we are absolute in our hatred towards ignorance we will be doing a podcast about women stand ups and women in comedy. Well, we’ll talk about the fit ones at least.

Peace out bitches!


EPISODE 22 of FRAME BY FRAME

and youtube…


 

20 EPISODES IN AND WE REALIZE “MONEY ISN’T EVERYTHING”

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It can take a lot of podcasting before things start falling into place. For lifetime film enthusiasts such as ourselves, we carry our own subjective thoughts about what it is we like and don’t like. Reviewing a film with the intent to learn something without throwing heavy handed opinion can be tough at times but there are four things that we should consider:

A: everybody’s tastes are different.

B: the film was written and made by people who wanted it to be made. They didn’t given up until it was complete, regardless of whether it became the film that they at first intended to have.

C: After the film was completed, it was picked up by somebody (a distributor, a studio, a producer etc) and they saw enough to want to invest in that work. They chose to use their money to release it to the world.

D: we all want to have a piece of B and C and our connection with A is no different, nor are we better or worse than anybody involved in said movie.

For small independent films such as Honeymoon and Starry Eyes, the C can be the break or no break in getting their projects not only off the ground but actually completed. Some indie films have to find more creative ways to gain the monies to get made. You can tell with many low budget films that compromise and sacrifice can play a huge part in what can often become a “movie for credit sake” production. The chance to have a place on the ladder. To build that CV with completed project material that can make or break your future. Indie film is the most fragile yet exciting area of the film-making market. To say that they work with fear is an understatement.

For the educational parts at we always hoped to find, the certain tropes, idioms and self created observational rules, we have been fortunate in finding avenues that teach us more about how we could improve our own film-making skills. It is said that the best way to learn film is to watch film. The best way to learn about film-making is to make films. For that side of things, we recognize production value. We notice where the money goes in and how we should appreciate it when films don’t have the dollars you’d expect to think beyond restrictions.

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BUDGET / GROSS TAKINGS

We don’t usually look at the statistics of a film. If you look above you can see why. It really doesn’t matter what happens in the cinema when it comes to reviewing and analyzing film. Whether people go and see a movie doesn’t make it a good or a bad film. How a film is distributed, advertised is nothing to do with quality of the film. It is all to do with how filmmakers sell their product. Budget is however a curious thing, and in the eyes of our recent viewings, we are definitely taken by independent films that have a below average to nothing budget. We want to see how art thrives, not how money makes everything run smoothly. Low budget film-making contributes to the notion that the best work you can watch is made with a tremendous sense of fear. I’d rather see how somebody uses $50.000 and succeeds rather than see how somebody wastes $210.000.000 and rakes in profit just because their film’s only intention is to make money.

To know that Starry Eyes was made for $50.000 was a massive surprise to me, and to realize there were no statistics for takings was another. Did it do well? Did it even break even?

We could say that it really doesn’t matter what the film made, money wise – to us anyway. To the filmmakers it means the difference between locking in the next future passion project. If I had gone into Starry Eyes beforehand knowing that it was made for so little money would have had my mind switched into a different mode. Starry Eyes felt no different than a regular budgeted horror film – in terms of film production – but it struck a chord. It stood out from any other film that came out this year. The structure, the pacing, the journey that you take as a viewer is valuable.

Honeymoon had a million to play with – a small sum in today’s standards, but I don’t see the one million dollars value in a film that limits itself to a cabin in the woods type of story-line. If it had the budget that Starry Eyes had, I would have given the film a break and focused on the art that lay within such an arena of restriction. Honeymoon didn’t have many levels, however, it kept a hold of a sense of coherence that recent Michael Bay movies lacked. Characters were able to own the frame and let their talents show as performers. Honeymoon isn’t by any means a bad film, but it does play it safe. To see a film like Starry Eyes take such risks with such a little budget is mind-blowing.

Why can’t we see more of this? Why can’t films be made with the idea that art does thrive and enrich our lives… without breaking the bank.

Dark Skies looks and feels like a movie that was just around to make a profit. It’s not the most inventive or original film, even though the stars work their value and it’s made with the love of the craft, but it doesn’t look personal. It runs its course and then credits roll and we wonder “how much thought went into making the film something that we really wanted to see? Where could Dark Skies have gone if it worked within the fear gate of a low to no budget constraint?

“You do whatever it takes to get to where you want to be.” says Andy Lewin during the Frame by Frame podcast, and I cannot agree more. Dark Skies doesn’t inspire to make movies. It is an inspiration only for making a profit within a subject matter that is guaranteed an audience. If it means that the director Scott Stewart is able to fund a future passion project for a fraction of his most recent budget, than I’m all for it. Dark Skies isn’t that kind of obnoxious money grabbing movie that you would get with “The Michael Bay Machine”. We are all waiting for him to break away from his glossy slag mag of a pull and create something that would be considered to be artful, meaningful and maybe, at the very least, as good a film as either Starry Eyes or Honeymoon.


THE SOUNDCLOUD PODCAST

YOUTUBE VERSION
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t6NxuOC9mG0


Here is the original Starry Eyes Kickstarter page: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/parallacticpictures/starry-eyes-a-feature-film-of-paranoia-and-possess

The interview with Alex Essoe:

HOARDS OF FANS OF THE LATE LEONARD NIMOY GATHER ON PLANET VULCAN

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The 27th February will forever be known as the day that we lost an icon. That evening, while in the throws of getting to grips with the passing of Leonard Nimoy, I listened to a little music, spoke to friends and discussed the idea of doing a tribute podcast. It was then that I had tributes in mind. The one project that we were still enjoying his creative voice was none other than a game: Star Trek Online.

Leonard Nimoy had reprized his role, providing the “voice” of Spock to narrate many of the in-game story, instruction and accolade. It was as if something was calling. A need to boot up after probably a month or so of absence. (I genuinely do not get a chance to get into the MMPRG very often since the birth of our newborn)

I arrived in the Earth Starbase where I noticed it was business as usual. I beamed to my ship and took the short stint over to planet vulcan. When I landed I noticed something different. There was a gathering, down the steps, and around the central fountain. It seemed that everybody who was there on Vulcan was standing in a circle as if giving their time to something of great importance. As these circle gatherings were rare, it didn’t take any time to realise that this was all in the name of remembering Leonard Nimoy.

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Now, the Star Trek game has what we would call instances, which means map areas can be duplicated should there be far too many people roaming around in one particular instance. Think of it as a crossover into another dimension. There were over a dozen instances which mean that the Vulcan map had to be split over a dozen times to allow for the amount of visitors to the Vulcan fountain. Everybody stood, some standing to attention, some saluted and a few gave their vulcan salute. Not everybody has that option, so the military salute is something of a free for all option. 

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No matter the reasons, this was awe inspiring to see. To my knowledge, this was the first gathering of its kind: an online digital avatar gathering of people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to show their respects within such a worldwide venue such as Star Trek Online.

The people at Star Trek Online were also touched. It was probably a no-brainer that they would soon start to create a permanent memorial to Mr Spock and the position and location had already been chosen by those who had come to gather.

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On the 5th March, the statue of Spock was released in-game. Now it was official.

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You can pay your respects to the late and great Leonard Nimoy right here… in the heart of the imaginary universe that he helped create and maintain. Much of Leonard’s own influences – right down from the characteristics, to the vulcan hand salute – were consummated into the origin story of the Vulcan mysticism. His involvement in Star Trek – much like that of Mark Leonard, Gene Roddenberry, Majel Barrett-Roddenberry, James Doohan and Deforest Kelley – will be here forever.


 

 FRAME BY FRAME EPISODE 19
“LEONARD NIMOY”

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Also available on SoundCloud


Below are several video tributes to Leonard Nimoy within the Star Trek Online game environment.

STO REMEMBERING LEONARD NIMOY

LEONARD NIMOY TRIBUTE – VISITING VULCAN

SEARCH FOR SPOCK