Live Music – A night out

Tonight I went and saw a friend and his brothers band play music. I haven’t been to live music since September last year. It’s been a while. It’s not something I go out of my way to see. Tonight reminded me why I should. What follows are some thoughts and descriptions of the gig.

The night starts with Sam.

Sam reminds me of why I love playing the guitar. Sitting there in the small hollow in trendy Melbourne, the walls painted the tungsten orange of old lightbulbs, watching his well-practised fingers dance along the guitar is something I truly can’t describe properly. The strange rises and falls to his pieces. The dissonance that becomes melody (or something like that, I’m not a music student) and the quick flourishes darting from one end to the other of the guitar. The music reflects in on itself and becomes a conversation between Sam and his guitar. Controlled by deft fingers, the mistakes he might be making erased and hidden behind the immense show of skill and passion and humanity. They are songs I want to listen to forever, fondly smiling whenever he returns to one particular pattern before racing off to another dazzling of intricate picking and fingering that I will never ever possess. Listening to Sam reminds me why I wanted to play the guitar in the first place, and why I’ll never be as good as someone like Sam. The hours and hours of practice to perfect, and the deep abiding love and joy that comes out as Sam plays, twisting and bopping his head to his rhythms. It places me in a state of transfixed awe.

And then its over. And he’s making a funny joke and we’re all laughing.

Then the Foxymorons come on.

Jazz isn’t something I regularly listen to. Listening to it then and there though it reminds me why my Dad loves it so much. It finally lets me see a little bit through his eyes. As I watch all the separate musicians excellently combining and riffing of what everyone else is doing, like an extravagant conversation about life the universe and everything. It ebbs and flows. Builds from solo to solo, to a huge combination of all instruments. As I look around I’m reminded that you can’t enjoy jazz without bopping your head or twitching your hands or tapping your leg. And the sounds just all around everyone. Pulling us at that moment into the rhythms of their choice, taking us on their own little form of story and emotion.

We leave, a little too early. I’ll definitely be back for another gig.

Even now the music still bouncing about in my brain. What a night to remind me of music. To remind me why I love it. To remind me of good artists doing what they do best, making good art. Because that’s what it is at the end of the day. It’s artists, specifically incredible musicians, working at the top of their game. Making art for our ears to hear. Reminding me always that that’s it. Connect with people. Vibe off each other. Listen to each other and play your own solo and then bring it back to the group. In everything you do. In every piece your write or film you make. Make good art and people will come and they’ll enjoy it while they’re there.

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Light the fire

As of late, I have felt out of sorts. Out of whack. Unaligned. Out of sync. Out of time. Too much time. Out of line. Too constrained by the adherence to the line.  Unsure of what to do. Not knowing anything. Having plans. Doing nothing. I have felt wrong. I couldn’t tell you why. I don’t know. It has been strange. This feeling of desynchronisation with my own life. A feeling of purposelessness and aimless wandering. Not tied to anything. Yet tied to everything. A pointlessness. Lost and unknowing.

It’s been strange. Odd in a way that has never quite occurred before. But tonight, something changed. Something lit up in me. A fire sparked up that has been out for too long. A fire sparked by a simple thing: I watched Arrival.

Arrival is probably my favourite science fiction film for a lot of reasons. Reasons that I will not go into now. Because this piece isn’t a review, or an essay on Arrival. This is about art. And about good art.

Watching Arrival reminded me of a lesson that Neil Gaiman taught me when I was in a similar rut at this exact point in time last year. At this point of not knowing what to do about anything and everything. It was a simple lesson, that has become quite popular and well known (of course it would it’s Neil freaking Gaiman, most things the man says make their way into our hearts and minds eventually) it even has a book made out of it. The lesson was this: Make good art.

Arrival is one of those films that reminds me why I want to do what I want to do (which is, for those of you who don’t know, make films that people like and feel are emotionally relevant). It achieves everything a great film should, and it does it with intelligence, style and precision. After watching it we watched every single one of the behind the scenes mini-documentaries they made for the film. A peek behind the curtains to let film students know how this film was made. What and who and where and why. All the questions that plague all of us trapped in Universities and schools instead of being out there on a fantastical film set in LA (or any other place they make the films you like).

It’s funny being young (a fact that has somehow only just occurred to me in the recent week) you want everything to happen just like that. You want to be done with University. Done with the short films. Done with the haggling and the barista jobs, or in my case the joblessness. You want to skip to the end of your story. Or rather, skip to the successful part. The part where you really get to do what you want. Where you get to tell the stories only you can tell. Only you understand. Only you have the interest and vigour and power to tell.

But you can’t.

No one can. That’s the frustrating yet rewarding thing about life. We have to experience it linearly. One day at a time. One foot in front of the other. And when we get lost. When we lose sight of where we’re walking to. Of the mountain, we’re climbing or the trail we’re following. When the fog descends, and the journey seems endless, you need things like Arrival. Or like Gaiman’s Sandman or The Lord of the Rings or friends doing what you so desperately wish you were doing. You need it all. You need it to remind you. To lift the fog. To tell you “there’s the path keep walking” or “the mountains just around the next bend, get your climbing boots ready”. To shake you from your stupor and remind you what’s important.

You need to be reminded, as Gaiman reminds us, to make good art. To strive to do what those that inspire you do. It is the only thing that will fill you when you are empty. The only thing that will lift your spirits when you are down.

When you are lost, in the forest. When you don’t know where to go. When you feel broken by institutions that stifle and time that feels like it stretches extra-long just for you. Go to the shelf. Find the thing that inspires you. The thing to remind you why you decided this was the path to walk or forge. Find the one thing that lights that fire burning inside you again. When you feel beaten by your own head, telling you that you can’t make it. Burn it to hell. Rise from your rut, the steep ravine you’ve fallen into.

Now turn on the camera. Light the lights. Set the scene. Block the moves. Now. Now pick up the pen and write.

James, Luck, and Friendship

Sometimes in life, you are very lucky. It doesn’t happen often. It hardly ever will. SO when it does, when life offers you its hand and says “Come on now, I promise this will be good” By god you better grab on. For me, my most recent big piece of luck has been James. James is not a recent phenomenon. We’ve known each other for over a year now and somehow it has only just occurred to me how truly lucky and blessed I have been with a friend like James.

In life, it is so rare, so extraordinarily rare to find someone who, against all odds, sees the world the way you do. You may have been raised very differently. You’ve probably lead astoundingly different lives up until this point. Yet somehow, in some way, call it a cosmic connection or say we knew each in a past life, say whatever it is you want. Somehow, against all odds. Against the crazy writhing storm of life. If you’re lucky you’ll find this person who gets you. Who understands every neutron that fires in your brain. This person, this utterly wonderful human being will see some things you didn’t know were there and would never have realised without them.

Needless to say, James was and is and always will be this person.

I’ve been thinking about James a lot recently. The way he came and saved me on my recent trip to Sydney, as I was surrounded by a dozen people I didn’t know. How he makes only jokes and him and I will understand. Jokes about the little details in each of us and the in-jokes from our shared passions. Thinking about the things he has taught me in such a short time. It is fascinating how a new friend can feel older than all the rest. James made me see music in a different way. Video games too. I partially write this while listening to some of the songs that shaped our friendship especially (cue an eyeball from James) The World Spins Madly On by The Weepies.

Quick sidetone James said the most beautiful thing I have ever heard anyone say about music and articulated almost everyone’s feelings towards music in a few simple words. Which I will now paraphrase: “Music is condensed emotion. It’s pure emotion.” What an incredibly true and wonderful statement to make about the world.

Anyways, he made me see the world differently.

Now back to music. Music to James is the one constant in his life. He lives in a sea of destruction. He’s been doing it tough. The world fights against him and sometimes he starts losing. This fact irritates every atom in my body. It enrages me that I don’t know how to help and that there is really nothing I could do. I wish I had magic powers or a couple million dollars but I don’t. But I have now edge closer and closer to the edge of a pit that holds all sorts of things about class systems and the unfairness of life. Seeing as I don’t know nearly enough about any of that and it simply just angers me I shall edge away and return to what I was talking about. My apologies for the departure.

So what was I saying? Something about my wonderful inspiring friend James? Or luck? Yes. Luck. Luck doesn’t occur for anyone very often, not in terms of friends (and probably not in terms of a whole lot else unless you’re very lucky in which case hooray for you). So, luck in terms of friends. The wonderful family you get to chose.

We too rarely examine the huge amount of luck gifted to us after the fact. By which I mean, we only comprehend how lucky we have been after our luck has run out. That is why with every fibre of my being I implore you to examine your life. Examine it. Go on. If you have a person who completely, unquestionably believes in you. Someone who knows you inside and out in an instant. Someone who you can share every obscure niche joke you think with. Someone who sees, at least to a very big shiny point, the world in (almost) the exact same way you do. Someone who you can talk to about anything and everything, every stupid thought you’ve ever have and every ridiculous plan you have for the future. Someone who you talk to for hours that feel like minutes. Someone who sees and thinks about spirituality and art like you. Someone who is by all accounts your other half. Well, you grab on. Grab on tight. And you hold on. Until the end of days, hold on. Do not lose them through moves, or countries or fickle quarrels. You won’t. But make sure you don’t.

They will always be there. They may not always catch you when you fall but they will always pick you up. Dust you off. Tell you to keep shining. To keep going.

And I promise. I’ll do the same.

(For the record this is James, you can obviously see just how happy we are as the best of friends)

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Lady Bird – Why I love it

I write now, with a crumpet covered in Nutella sitting to my side. I was meant to go to sleep almost an hour ago, because I’m tired but, something is keeping me up (before we begin, I may have eaten that crumpet in between writing this sentence and the last…I’m hungry).  What’s keeping me up, on this clear Saturday night, is a movie.

A movie I just watched for the second time. A movie that upon the second viewing I grew to appreciate and love and embrace as if it were my own child, in a way I didn’t the first time. The movie in question is: Lady Bird by Greta Gerwig.

The first time I watched Lady Bird I liked it plenty. I laughed, I cried (a lot) and I came away thinking “yeah I get why people love that so much I guess”. The second time I watched Lady Bird I was moved on a completely different level. This time I saw it not just as a movie but as a work of art.

As I was watching Lady Bird on go number two I found myself picking up dozens of things I had somehow missed. The tiny little variations in performance moment to moment from Metcalf and Ronan that simply broke my heart. These variations helped enrich the already well-drawn relationships further. I also realised, through the audience laughed in almost every scene forcing me to realise how exceptionally funny and intelligent the film is.

My favourite thing about this film is the way it flips so easily from happy to sad and vice versa. One second you’re watching an incredibly true and hilarious depiction of a loss of virginity and the next you’re watching a girl breakdown over the disappointments of expectation vs reality (also the realisation that most guys in high school are kind of just tools). The film doesn’t shy away from the true fact of life: happiness is mixed with sadness and you can’t escape either of them. 

Additionally, the film connects with me because I too moved away from home to chase my dreams (luckily I didn’t have to go through a period of unspoken upset with my parents). That isn’t the only theme in there that I connect to- even though it’s very specifically about a mother and daughter- that specificity lets the film reach more powerful lessons about a parent-child relationship. 

What I took away most was Gerwig’s complete and utter confidence that found its way into every line of dialogue and every single shot. The film exudes competence and control. A peak director working at their finest. This is her first feature yet it feels like her third or fourth. There is no hesitation. No worry that this film isn’t about the “big issues” that it isn’t about “something important”. Not to mention how stunning every frame is or how subtly the soundtrack blends with the story to immerse you further into Lady Bird’s life. 

Gerwig wrote a story she believed in and you better believe she’s going to make you care about it too.

The film feels so fresh and specific. Like it could only be told by Gerwig and this incredible cast. Like it was made for now.

To cut a long (almost) analysis short – the first time I saw Lady Bird I loved it. The second time I saw Lady Bird I was speechless.

I love movies, no really, I do

I have fallen prey to addiction in recent weeks.

That’s quite an opening sentence, and I know what you must be thinking: Oh no! You’ve finally succumbed to the pressure and taken to drugs and alcohol as a way to cope with the harshness of life. Or: you’ve become a serious gym junkie and are looking for steroids out on the street.

Sadly nothing as exciting or eventful has touched my life. Instead, I have become addicted to something much more innocent (which fits the bill perfectly).

I have become addicted to the movies. 

Now I know what you’re thinking (again). You’re thinking; Gaden didn’t you already in love with movies? Didn’t you make a post literally called Why I love films? And don’t you write things about movies all the time? And in thinking this dear reader you would be completely and utterly right.

This isn’t anything new. Not really. But I do think the way I have enjoyed the cinema in recent weeks has fundamentally changed. Changed for the better. Changed for forever. This change means I enjoy films even more (it also means I spend a lot more time crying in the movies but I can’t quite place why that happens).

For the past few weeks, I’ve been alone. Not completely and utterly alone. I see friends and call my parents and sit on my phone for far too long but I come home to my new apartment and I’ve been welcomed by a completely empty silent place.

This means two things:

  1. I spend all the time in my apartment with either Breaking Bad or How I Met Your Mother attempting in vain to drain the silence out.
  2. I constantly crave the distraction and escape of movies.

This loneliness culminated in me seeing The Shape of Water, Molly’s Game, Black Panther, The Post, Black Panther (again)  and finally The Florida Project in a two week period. (Although some were seen with friends the need for (seeing them and I really mean need) spiral out of the loneliness).

So, in short, movies saved me from being alone and provided me with solace when I was sad. The experience of the cinema completely transported me. I got to experience what we so rarely allow ourselves: to process and do something at your own pace, without a care for anyone else. Being alone and seeing films this way has completely strengthened my love for them ten and sure up any doubt I had about wanting to be involved in the industry.

How did I realise this? Like what specifically made me think “oh hey I’m watching this completely differently”?

Probably the fact that in the opening of both The Shape of Water and Molly’s Game, before anything significant at all had happened I started crying. Yes. That’s right. You read correctly. I started crying, tears just started leaking out.

It was at this point I thought that something had changed, my appreciation and love for films had fundamentally shifted to the point that just the simple act of sitting down in a quiet blacked out theatre was enough to activate that emotionally charged human inside of me (who is not buried exceptionally low down and will frequently make an appearance in my life).

It was probably that. And the quiet contemplative mood I would settle into after a film, allowing myself to really think about the film while I paid my respect to all the unsung heroes hidden deep down in the credits list.

I suppose the point of all this is just to remind you, seriously remind you that there is nothing better for loneliness/sadness/joblessness than being completely absorbed into someone else life and world. It is thrilling and cathartic and exactly what the doctor ordered, I promise.

Post 50 – some more thoughts on Love

If love were a person what kind of person would it be?

Love is all-knowing and all around us. We don’t get to choose love. Or who we love. Love chooses for us. It chooses us. So what would it be like? It pops up to our door, sometime around noon or midnight if we’re unlucky and will make a decision. It’ll either knock that door down or politely ring the doorbell. Love either smashes it’s way into your life, leaving a carnage of bedsheets, clothes, passion and pain behind it or it waits out in the rain for when you’re ready to let it in.

There are 7 billion people on this earth and 7 billion kind’s of life (there may be some overlap).

You can’t force love. You can’t go hunting with a gun and track it down. Love’s shy. It’ll slip around corners and hide in trash bins. You will forever be just behind it.

Trust me I’ve tried.

Tried searching for it and always came up empty.

No. Love will not be found by you. Instead it will crash land in your life when you’re not suspecting it in the form of some opinionated pink haired girl or a life-long friend or a stranger you’ve never spoken to, or the random person you bump into because you decided to turn left down that street you always see on your way home from work instead of just going straight.

And when it does. When it appears in front of you, if you’re like me, you’ll panic. You’ll panic in your own special, strange way. And then you’ll try to gather some coolness and take a few deep breaths and then you’ll run into a room and you’ll panic some more.

Then you’ll explore love and see if it’s right for you. We will each get different kinds throughout our life and all of them may not be right. One love might stick around for only a couple months, while one may stay for years. Eventually (hopefully) you’ll find one that is just right (we are all Goldilocks when it comes to matters of the heart, some too hot, some too cold) and you’ll be happy and complacent as can be.

I guess if love were a person they’d be all kinds of people because love is every person that already exists, or will exist.

Your love is out there. All of our love is. It’s just around the corner waiting to ring your doorbell and see if you are ready.

The Shape of Water – Review or ramblings

If I were to review The Shape of Water, what would I say? Would I tell you that it’s the shoo-in for best picture? Would I tell you it’s a beautiful film? Would I tell you there’s miming of sexual acts with a fish man?

I’d tell you all these things.

Going into The Shape of Water my expectation are high. I try my best not to have expectations going into films because expectation basically ruins every single aspect of life. I had heard so much positive buzz. It had won all the awards. Guillmero Del Toro has been lorded as the best director of the year. It has the most Academy Award nominations out of any film this year. So I guess you could say it was impossible to not have expectations.

I was nervous. I always am when I sit down to see a movie I think I’m supposed to like. I got to the cinema early, it was empty, which was really exciting. Slowly a trickle of latecomers who don’t have to work at 11 in the morning, popped their chattery heads in.

The movie began, the first not of Alexandre Desplat’s score began to play and I instantly smiled. From then on I was completely hooked on the weird, fantastical, envisioning of the early 1960’s.

The score completely sets the mood and anytime my attention trailed or the pacing dropped (which only happened a couple of times) my attention was instantly grabbed again by the brilliant scoring.

The whole film has a truly beautiful water-like filter to it, from the way the world is painted in greens and blues to the clever transitions and roaming shots that make the film feel like liquid. The collaboration between Guillmero (director) and Dan Laustsen (cinematographer) is truly inspired and their work together along with the incredible production design by Paul D. Austerberry create a world that you never want to leave: alien and cold yet somehow familiar and inviting.

The performances are across the board un-freaking-believable and there is one scene between Sally Hawkins and Richard Jenkins that actually made me cry a solid 4 times in 2 minutes.

The story itself is a beautiful fairy tale that feels like it was written hundreds of years ago and told around the fire and at the same time like it could only be told now. The film is a romance about accepting the other and fighting for what you believe in. Sometimes having to make hard decisions and go against the authority is what forces us to make the most human choices. In a world, so divided and torn apart it’s truly lovely to have a film that is about coming together and trusting each other. A film about learning and working together with the unknown for a chance at love and life.

I did feel my attention drift away at certain points and some points of stakes and tensions didn’t quite work for me, more due to plot convenience than anything else. There were some things that I saw coming that took away from the amount of gravity placed into the situation for me but these are tiny issues that barely affected my enjoyment of the film.

All in all, The Shape of Water is a truly beautiful cinematic treat that would make anyone (a cinephile or an everyday movie-goer) be filled with hope and love and life. It is a film that made me smile from beginning to end. And I’m sure that with all this buzz it has it’s going to win a ridiculous amount of awards; deservingly so.

Believe in…

Sometimes you have to believe in a little bit of magic to get you through the dark.

Believe.

And when the darkest moments come and the shadows are at the door. When the beasts come knocking and tearing at the wall, that’s when belief come in handy. That’s when belief will come and save you.

Tell yourself that it’s okay. Tell yourself they aren’t there. Believe that you are safe and you will be. Believe in stories of knights vanquishing dragons. Believe that love cures a broken heart. Believe that you will be okay that there is light at the end of a tunnel and that light will shine down upon you. Believe in other people because they won’t always believe in themselves. Believe in yourself because you deserve it.

Believe.

Believe in truth, in goodness, in justice, in ethics. Believe in love because sometimes that’s all you can do.

If there’s one thing that Terry Pratchett taught me with his magic words, or a single lesson I’ve gleaned from Neil Gaiman it’s that if you believe it will happen it will happen.

It may not happen as you expect, more than likely it will not, but something like it will happen and that’s all that you can ask for.

Believing makes things real, so believe that there is brightness in the world and the shadows will retreat.

The light will flood in and our world will be a bit better for it.

Believe.

I would do anything…for a book

I realised something yesterday. Something that speaks to the very fabric of who I am. To the cosmic building blocks that conjure the creation that is me. It was simple yet elegant and will tell you all a lot about who I am as a person. The realisation was sudden, it dawned on me whilst sitting in the car. It was this:

I would do anything for a good book.

Or even a bad book I didn’t know was a bad book yet.

Essentially I would do anything for a book.

Yesterday I helped a friend move house. It took all day. In this moving day, we moved a bed, a fridge, a freezer, a washing machine, a chest of drawers, a mirror and various leftover boxes jammed with random things that we couldn’t leave at the old house.

It was a long, but rewarding and hilarious day. Especially when we had a fridge precariously tied, standing up, to a very uneven trailer without enough rope. We had to stop 3 times to re-secure the load but we made it safely to the new house, even as we turned on a hill that made the entire fridge lean to well over a 45-degree angle.

Safe to say I was tired by the end. Ready to go home. To my disbelief, I had left a book my friend was going to lend me as reward for manual labor at his parent’s house which we had just been at. This was the moment it dawned on me. I was willing to go with him, to move more furniture just so I could get a brand new book on screenwriting. This all got me thinking.

Thinking about the other times I had gone above and beyond just for a book. The long tired walks I had gone on in Sydney when I had no energy left just to go and get a new Neil Gaiman or Terry Pratchett book I wouldn’t read until I finished the pile of books next to my bed.

The exhausting train rides where all I could do was struggle to keep my eyes open just so I could go to some book sale or explore a library.

The long and short of it is: if you ever want me to do anything, I will almost certainly do it for a good book, or a book your promise is going to be good. If you ever need help moving, or cooking or cleaning just promise me a book and I will be there with bells and whistles on.

I will do anything.

Anything at all if there’s a book involved.

Love in the rain

The sky opened itself and the rain came out.

Falling heavy and long. Falling hard against the tin town roofs. Pellets of rain crushed the lush green grass. The water was a wall between inside and out, falling so that nothing could come to pass through its mighty stream. But the boy.

The boy. He ran, through the falling rain. Through the torrent of impassable might. His body drenched with the tears of the world, mixing with his own. For he ran, he fled from all his fears. From the the yearning for childhood and deniability of the terrors of the adult world. For these fears dared not touch him as he ran for his goal was clear. His mission highlighted before him: the girl. 

The girl; she sat inside. Watching the rain paint her windows with its strange patterns, her fingers, lightly tracing the falling droplets that collected on the outside.  The music that once had been filling the void she had swiftly turned of when the rain began to pour, for this sound of tipper tapper on the building was the only music she needed.

And still the boy ran, an impossible distance. For he would not let the world seperate them any longer. He would run and run till he could no more and even then he would carry on. He knew he must, with his whole being; he knew.

For the rain continued to fall and the girl continued to listen. Enjoying the ebb and flow from harsh to soft. She wrote in a notebook secrets that no one should ever hear. And as she wrote, lulled into the comforting space that some writers may eventually find themselves in where every word is as exactly as it should be and is followed by the exactly perfect word, she heard a knock.

The boy had arrived and with the nauseous nervousness of love he knocked on the door. Once. He knocked once and did hear it ring out throughout the house.

The girl curious to the origin of the knocking reluctantly placed her writing pad in her armchair. And followed the echoes of the knock to the door.

The boy waited, sopping in the rain: several steps from the door.

The girl opened the door to the sight of the flooded boy, and a grin shimmered across her face.

“I know I’ve said some stupid things. I know I’ve done some stupid things. I’m never going to stop. But write now you have to come out here with me, and you must dance in the rain.” Said the boy in a stupor.

The girls eyes rolled to and fro in her head but she couldn’t resist this moment, for it had been too long.

The boy offered up his hand;

And the girl took it. Stepping into the rain. She was instantly soaked to the bone but it didn’t matter how cold she should be, for she had him wrapped in her arms.

The boy wrapped the girl in his arms too.

And together, the two of them, from great distances separated did spend the evening dancing in the rain.

Dancing the night away.

Waiting for the rain to stop falling.