2006-06-30

I don't know what it is but it's weird and pissed off


The thing to remember about The Thing is that it's all guy talk. There are no women in the U.S. scientific outpost in the South Pole, just men, getting on each others' nerves, exploiting weaknesses mercilessly, getting drunk, stoned, inflicting their differing musical tastes on each other, reduced to watching videos of old Let's Make a Deal episodes. Truly, this outpost is a bad gig.

One day a couple of crazed Norwegians land a helicopter at the base after chasing a dog across the tundra, shooting at it with rifles, machine guns, finally lobbing grenades at the poor thing until, upon landing, one accidently blows himself and the helicopter up with a dropped grenade. The other is shot dead by the U.S. camp commander after spraying the place with gunfire trying to kill the mutt. What the hell has got into these nutty Norwegians?

Well. it came from outer space, many years earlier, and has been buried under the snow and ice. The Norwegians dug it up and now it's on the loose. What does it want? Nothing conscious but what it does is invade the body of human or animal in various graphic FX ways before perfectly imitating the host being. So, once the thing's MO is sussed everyone suspects everyone else of being a murderous alien and what little social cohesion has kept these guys from killing each other breaks down completely.

John Carpenter's movie is a re-make of Howard Hawks' 1952 original and I can't say which is better because I haven't seen the original. However, despite Hawks' version being rumoured to have been script doctored by Ben Hecht , you couldn't swear in the movies in 1952 and if you were confronted by a shape-shifting alien which invades your body before exploding out with a spray of goo and gore you'd probably be swearing your head off. This, I suspect, gives Carpenter the edge.

The script is by Bill Lancaster, based on a short story called Who Goes There by John W Campbell, the photography is by Dean Cundy, the score, all throbbing doom and grandeur, is by Ennio Morricone and the special effects, maybe the best in horror movie history, are by Rob Bottin. Here's the cast; Kurt Russell is MacReady, Wilford Brimley is Blair, TK Carter is Nauls, David Glennon is Palmer, Keith Davis is Childs, Richard Dysart is Dr Copper, Charles Hallahan is Norris. Peter Maloney is Bennings, Richard Masur Is Clark, Donald Moffet is Garry, Joel Polis is Fuchs and Thomas Waites is Windows. They say each other's names constantly throughout the movie because they're good movie names that sound good when you hear them.

Jed the Dog plays the lead dog. All the dogs are good but Jed turns in a bravura performance- watchful, intense and duplicitas with a great actor's timing.

There are elements of paranoid classic Invasion of the Body Snatchers and also of the famous Alien scene where the monster first appears out of John Hurt's chest. The Thing isn't as good as those two (or three if you count the 50's original and 70's re-make of Body Snatchers) because it's all guys. Stupid, nasty, bored shitless guys who are forced to have to save the world from...what? The thing.

2006-06-20

Steven Gerrard Owes Me £50 Part 3


Steven Gerrard
England World Cup Squad
Shlosshotel Buhlerhohe
Baden-Baden
Germany

Dear Steven G

Congratulations on your first ever World ‘Cup’ goal – and what a cracker it was! Admittedly the game was already won (and technically over) when you scored it and in the FIFA rankings Trinidad and Tobago are on a par with countries where football is illegal, but, nevertheless, I salute your achievement. Let’s just be thankful I didn’t place a 1 – 0 Correct Score bet.

Talking of Correct Score bets, I have to confess to being a little disappointed not to have received a reply yet to my previous letter. I have read it back to myself several times now and can find nothing at which you could possibly take offence. I trust that there is a legitimate reason for your delay in paying me the £50 you owe me but I fear you may be displaying the arrogance and the disregard for the common ‘man’ that is so often found in people who manage to escape the slums by nothing other than pure chance.

I am sure you probably think that men such as I have no idea what it must be like to be a top professional footballer, but I feel it only fair to mention that I, in my day, was a pretty handy player myself. I was never actually selected to play for my school team – apart from three games in goal for the Under 15’s when there had been an outbreak of Glandular Fever – but I always considered myself an archetypal creative Number 10, a forerunner, if you like, of Paul Gascoigne and Wayne Rooney. Indeed, I often think how uncanny it is that my nickname on the pitch in those days was ‘Spazza’.

In the ‘aforementioned hitherto unanswered’ letter I made an oblique reference to Doritos. I had not intended to pursue the matter, but, of course, that was before I realised how uncooperative you were going to prove to be. Let me, if I may, take you back to that FA Cup Final: I had a handful of Doritos in my hand at the exact moment your goal crossed the line, and, just as you did to my dreams, I found myself crushing the said Doritos into a thousand useless pieces. My fifty pounds was lost and I caused quite a mess on my floor into the bargain. It is not so much the cost of the Doritos that concerns me (they were part of a ‘multi-pack’ and, as such, were very good value), it is the mess they caused. I am still, all these days later, finding stray Dorito shards and crumbs in the most unlikely places and I am worried that they may be causing a public health incident as I live in an area with a very healthy rodent population. I am not entirely sure what kind of compensation I should be seeking from you over this dangerous situation, but I am confident that you and your lawyers can come up with something.

All the best
Antony Simme

P.S. My sources inform me that you will not be taking part in the forthcoming Sweden game, so I am off to place my England to win 3 –2 Correct Score bet with a renewed confidence.

2006-06-15

Steven Gerrard owes me £50 Part 2


Frank Lampard
England World Cup Squad.
Shlosshotel Buhlerhohe
Baden-Baden
Germany

Dear Frank

I know I speak for the whole nation in saying we all understand that there is no point in wasting all your best stuff on the likes of Paraguay.

As you may or may not remember ‘Frank’, we met about a year ago in the Gulshan Tandoori restaurant in Islington. You, or someone who looked very like you, were sitting at the table by the door, and as I was leaving I came over and said “Hello Frank”. I think you were a little embarrassed at being ‘recognised’ as you made no reply and merely stared at me with a puzzled expression on your face. Ever since, I have always considered you a kindred spirit, as I too am of a rather retiring nature and often find myself lost for ‘words’. Because of this I feel it not too much of an imposition to ask a small favour of you.

The favour concerns your ‘mid-field’ partner Steven/Stephen Gerrard. I shan’t bore you with all the gory details but, as he has probably mentioned to you, he owes me £50. I know him to be a most decent and ludicrously wealthy man and have no doubts that he will pay up, but I think it might be a good idea if you could have a quiet word with him and remind him of the importance of doing the right ‘thing’. If you could do this for me I would consider myself very much in your debt.

I don’t know for sure that you and Steve are good friends, but it is a well-known phenomenon in football that players who have an excellent relationship on the pitch often hate each other’s guts off it. I can’t think of any specific examples of this off-hand, but I am presuming that the converse also applies.

I am, I confess, rather a fan of yours Frank, – not particularly as a football player, but I must say I have never tired of seeing your television advert for the ‘Goal’ supplement in the Sun newspaper in which you seem to hover in mid-air before blasting the ball into the old onion bag.

I appreciate you may well be busy preparing for the Trinidad and Tobago game, so please do not feel obliged to reply to this letter. However, if you fancy going to the Gulshan Tandoori again when you return from the World Cup, please let me know, as it would be good to catch up with you again.

Yours sincerely,

Antony Simme

P.S. It doesn’t have to be the Gulshan Tandoori – if you would prefer another Indian restaurant I am prepared to give it a try. After all, variety is the spice of ‘life’.

2006-06-13

Steven Gerrard owes me £50


Steven Gerrard
England World Cup “Squad”
Shlosshotel Buhlerhohe
Baden-Baden
Germany


Dear Mr Gerrard

I hope this letter finds you well.

Firstly, I would like to congratulate you and the rest of the ‘squad’ on your professional victory yesterday against Paraguay .

Secondly (and in truth the main reason for me writing), I would like to bring a rather delicate matter to your attention. I placed a £1 ‘Correct Score after 90 minutes’ bet at 50-1 with William Hill’s on West Ham United to beat your Liverpool side 3 goals to 2 in this year’s FA Cup Final. As you may or may not remember you scored a goal in ‘injury time ’ making the scores level and losing me £50 in the process. I am of the opinion that it was a somewhat speculative if not lucky shot, though I did read in the newspaper the following day that it was a moment of pure genius. I suppose such differences of opinion are what make football the game we all know and love.

My local branch of William Hill’s has refused to pay out on the bet even though after exactly 90 minutes the score was indeed 3-2 to ‘The Hammers’. I have written to Mr. Hill himself on the matter and expect a reply any day now.

In the meantime, as one reasonable man to another, I am sure you will agree that the only honourable course to take would be for you to pay out the £50 yourself. I am not suggesting for one minute that you scoring that equalising goal was a selfish or attention-seeking act on your part - but it is clear that you were not thinking of those less fortunate than yourself at that precise moment.

Also, I feel it would be negligent of me not to point out that £50 to you is not a great deal of money at this point in your ‘career‘. By my calculations, you are paid £50 every five minutes - and that is not only while you are at work. You are paid £50 every five minutes even while you are asleep or on the toilet.

I must make it clear that I am not an envious man. I believe in the ‘free market’ – ( I would have voted for Margaret Thatcher if I had not been living in Canada at the time ) - and I am the last person to begrudge you your obscene wages.

I would prefer, if possible, for the money to be paid in cash ( or an uncrossed postal order) since, as you may or may not know, I am having a small dispute with my Bank Manager at present over the state of my account and feel it wisest not to ‘rock the boat’ with any unnecessary deposits.

I appreciate that you must have a lot on your plate at the moment, what with a sore back and the ‘Frank Lampard Conundrum’ to contend with, but I am sure you will agree that a matter of principle such as this must always take precedence. There is also the question of what do about the ‘Doritos’ I was eating at the time of your ‘goal’, but in the spirit of compromise I am prepared to let that go for the moment.

I wish you luck with the rest of the ‘World Cup’ and look forward to your reply.

Yours sincerely,

Antony Simme

P.S. Recorded Delivery is advised when sending cash through the mail.