Monthly Archives: January 2021

Rewatching the movies in 2021

Odd how with all this time and the gushing availability of telly it’s taken me until now. Am slow to notice what my brain is doing unbidden.

In essence, I have been less-than-consciously re-evaluating what shows/movies are telling me. (Not just on the haunted fishtank, I find myself doing this when I re-read a book and when I listen to people speak…) A rare night when we agreed to watch a “classic” – en famille, instead of separate screens – is when the penny dropped. Also, our household conversations about characters – fictional or otherwise – have soared/raged to new heights as teenage perspectives blossom.

Am going to use a couple of case studies to attempt an explanation.

[WARNING: Contains spoliers.]

Alien (1979, Ridley Scott).

This fabulous movie scares me witless. Still does. But now I see it differently. (Spolier alert!) Now, I see a social bubble who have hitherto been super strict. Somewhat unwillingly, they venture outdoors for the first time since lockdown. When they do, what happens? They pick up a novel organism, bring it back within their bubble and fail to adequately quarantine the host. He – dramatically, as patient zero – shares (?!) the thing and it rampages. They have no idea what it is and have no idea what to do about it nor how to stop it. Almost everyone dies.

If only they’d stayed strictly in lockdown. Tsk.

Then the survior self-isolates for fifty-seven years.

I’ve just realised that in the sequel – Aliens – the protagonist awakes and tries to warn everyone. Then, because people are so smart in the future, there’s a whole “whatevs: it’s a hoax, you’re making it up” theme and they refuse to believe her. Except shadowy, powerful folk do know all about it.

Turns out they did all along, d’oh!

Then it all gets icky. Again. Only moreso. Will we humans never learn?

When I watched the film years ago? Things that struck/geekily-bothered were a cool spaceship had stupid CRT vis-screens, poor graphics and dreadful fonts: was it retro-fitted to have a 1970s video-game aesthetic? Or, with it being a commerical vehicle, when they bought the Nostromo – more likely the bean counters at Weyland-Yutani Corp’ refuse to tick the option box for “futuristic”. No way the crew would have spec’d it thus. Just like company car choices from my days in corporate Britain.

USCSS Nostromo VDU/1994Cavalier CDX dashboard

I know. I’ve changed.

Superman (1978, Richard Donner)

It has been pointed out that – viewed from the Twenty Twenties – the most unrealistic plot element of the Superman story is that the newspaper his alter-ego works for is profitable. The rest of it is all rather normal.



Consider the characters starting with Superman/Clark Kent. He’s a super-talented illegal immigrant, forced to be his true self only in secret. A guy who happliy wears lycra when he’s not at the office. His colleague is a super-sassy, intellgent lady who takes no BS. The boss? Bit of a dinosaur. No, lot of a dinosaur but seems to be unquestioned in his position of power. The bad guy? A greedy property developer who could oh-so-clearly benefit from counselling to resolve rather obvious childood trauma. He is rich, entitled, privileged and sexually frustrated because Lois doesn’t “get him”.

And they say comic books are fantastic, ridiculous, irrelevant.

La La Land (2016, Damien Chazelle)

I can’t abide a musical. Would rather stick pins in my eyes and in the very first scene the cast burst into song and dance in a traffic jam. I was transfixed when I should’ve projectile vomited. Why didn’t I smash the TV? Well, whilst, yes, it is a completely, utterly absurd scene it also transports me to that overpowering energy, nay, feeling that grips my chest when stuck fast in traffic. IE: hysteria. Albeit with frustration, not song and ensemble dance routine.

Watch it here.

Now imagine a dark, rainy UK motorway in January. Ground to an engine-off-halt on – say – the M4 has such a hulking infinite critical mass singularity of hopelessness that you might as well jump onto the roof of your car and scream your lungs out. Oddly, it makes La La Land alternate-universe-compelling viewing.

Then we are treated to a (quite brilliant) tale of folk who have to give up on their dreams to achieve success. [Audible sigh]

Talented, single minded Seb (Ryan Gosling) laments how nobody understands nor values (his) art. In fact, he is forced to sell out to succeed*. This is resonant not just in these pandemic times but illustrates how music has been suffocated by big business with Simon Cowelly-Spotification. Talented artists are demeaned to play brainless pop and paid fractions of a penny for streaming of their creative genius.

I would suggest the latter plot point was a vivd and deliberate howl of anguish from the writers.

*But wait! His dream does come true in the movie (albeit in cleverly revealed) bitter-sweet fashion. Alas, the least believable part of the film is that Seb’s jazz club is a viable enterprise. In 2016 it was doubtful. Viewed from 2021? Outside of the major global cities, will there be any (non-corporate) music venues left?

Conclusion: I am old, cynical and grouchy. But we knew that already hey?

Any suggestions of what I should re-watch next?

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Scarcity and the subtle art of staying at home.

As of early January [checks notes for year…] ,er, 2021 the inhabitants of England are told, again, to stay at home. A simple instruction, with – as I understand it – a simple aim. That is, an easily transmissible contagion is afoot and keeping people apart will limit it’s spread. Do that effectively, with discipline, for long enough and people will cease to get sick from it. Job done.
Of course, simply retreating into the bunker and locking the door isn’t going to work because you’d run out of provisions and die. Sub optimal. A case of…

“Doctor, how was the procedure?
The operation was a success!
How is the patient?
Mmm? Oh, they died.”

Hence we have exceptions. We are given legitimate reasons to go outside, to leave the compound, to blink in the watery winter sun. The government have detailed these exceptions. Ergo, it’s a simple case of following the rules and “job’s a good’un” yeah? Any questions? No? Good.

Except apparently not. If 2020 has taught us something – and by “us” I don’t include the Johnson government – it’s that when you make something scarce, swathes of people start to defy the laws of behavioural physics. 2020 itself is not our teacher, nor is COVID-19. We are merely being reminded and given vivid illustration of what many already know rather than being schooled. I choose language carefully here because some people are being taught over and over, but what they are refusing to do is learn.
(Clearly, many people are not in need of a lesson, they nod sagely and comply with lockdown because although they don’t like it, they get it.)

I am moved to write this piece because I have left the house today. Given the short hours of northern hemisphere daylight, the (unusual) absence of precipitation, noticeable midriff excess and sheer frustration I have been inspired – probably not the right word – to get out and take the permitted exercise. IE: A convoluted marched lap of the locality here in rural Wiltshire.

“Hello… yes, bit chilly… and to you too” summarises the flavour of each conversational exchange en route. Not stopping, I encountered several locals on apparently similar constitutional missions. Recalibrating the radar then takes in the can’t-do-this-from-home-workers people. Telecoms, electricians, plumbers and even a thatcher in evidence – their liveried commercial vehicles – plying trades. The local farmer paving over more of paradise for no apparent reason. An all but empty bus. On the main road, larger trucks. No school run today.

Noticing: there’s still a lot of traffic.

Eventually a mildly ta-da realisation. Not all of these people need to be out.

Then a question: why the flip-flop are they not at home?

People are not at home because… ___________________________________________________________________

[Space left intentionally blank for your answer in 15 words or less: use the comment function. No prizes, just for fun.]

A lifetime of answers rather possibly.

(An awful lot of judging motives rather probably.)

Yet a fascinating phenomenon. Why go out?
I mean, it’s January in England. IE: it’s bleak.

Christmas is but a memory (apart from the extra weight which remains). Back to work (notionally) this week. Bills to be paid. Summer an impossibly long way away. In essence, January is a zero-laughs, rubbish month and many of us happily wish it away for a spring morn’.

So – in an admittedly narrow sense – this winter lockdown is a gift right? January has been banished!

Wrong. It seems that people cannot bear to stay indoors and simply do the right thing.
It’s been less than 24hrs and the madness has set in: “We have to get out!”

(Imagine the answers the police are getting when challenging motorists as to their reason for their journey. I recall a rumoured 2020 Swansea seafront summer lockdown incident where the family from Birmingham had come to see the sea: an essential 200mile round trip. Then there was that chap who had to drive to Barnard Castle to check his eyesight…)

In a parallel universe 2021 it is business-as-usual January where everyone is – oh the irony – self-locked-down making hygge: box-set-binging with hot-chocolate and blanketed snuggles, riding out the winter by not going outside.

So if January sucks, just why do people want to go out?

Part of the behaviour lies in the influential nature of scarcity. There is the human condition that generates an increased desire for that which is rare. Simply that if you threaten to take something away, then oh-my-days, hells bells, heavens to Betsy people want it more. Step in economists to tell us all about supply and demand. And yet… and yet…

Many people are defying the economists. They are defying rational behaviour…

Summary thought: Scarcity. It makes people cray-cray.

Request to you: So next time you’re heading out. Have a word with yourself. Lockdown means stay at home. Are you making an essential journey? Have a rational word with yourself again stop making reasons up, go back inside and have a cup of tea.

If you want to learn more about the principles or scarcity, get in touch. 

And if you want a reading recommendation on the topic? Likewise.

Stay well, stay indoors, don’t embarrass us both okay?

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