Posts Tagged With: superman

#PhonePhill – Conversation #13: Robin Bell (Redux)

MILD SPOILERS AHEAD FOR STAR WARS, THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, THE FORCE AWAKENS, INSIDE OUT, SUPERMAN, STAR TREK … BUT NOT REALLY.

VERY MILD.

CHICKEN KORMA MILD.

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So #PhonePhill is still a thing. Anyone is welcome to ring me and natter about anything they like. You don’t have to be a scriptwriter, I’ll talk to anyone. Actors, director, producers, sound effects person … or, you know, people not even connected with the industry – maybe you’re a gas fitter (I don’t know what that is) or a mortician or a … something on a submarine (chef? Do they have chefs on a submarine? Submarine polisher, is that a job? I have no idea).

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In essence, no matter who you are, if you fancy chatting to a scriptwriter drop me a line and we’ll work something out.

This week I’ve been talking to Robin Bell. Again. Hey, there are no rules. I can talk to whoever I want whenever I want.

To be honest, this is a lie. It wasn’t this week, it was weeks ago. Possibly even months.

So long, in fact, that I’ve completely forgotten what it was we talked about. I’ll have a vague stab at remembering:

Robin’s a wandering minstrel who’s recently invented a new type of electric jock strap. He’s hoping to market it exclusively to Iranians with asthma.

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At least, I think that’s what he said. Either that or he’s still the co-creator of Twisted Showcase and has recently been writing children’s TV scripts – at least one of which sounded awfully good to my tin ear.

We spoke of many, many things. Well, I didn’t – I spoke exclusively about me because I’m like that, but Robin had lots of interesting things to say. Probably.

I definitely remember talking about how difficult it can be to get some concepts into a script. Sometimes these things will be obvious on screen, but will mean nothing on the page. Or maybe we spoke about the need to create a physical something on screen to represent abstract ideas – show, don’t tell … basically. We concluded that the only film we completely and utterly agree on is Mamma Mia which we both, unashamedly, love. Which is odd given how partial we both are to genre movies.

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Although I suppose Mamma Mia is a genre movie. Musical is a genre, right? A very broad genre, but a genre nonetheless.

Genre (as in sci-fi, horror … etc) itself was discussed, specifically how British TV is mad keen on genre for children … but for some reason assumes those children grow out of it and don’t want to watch it as adults. Which is weird. American TV doesn’t same to have the same attitude.

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Ooh! One thing we did get stuck on for a while was fridge logic and how the difference between it working and it derailing the film is largely down to how much you’re enjoying the film.

Examples which came up were the Millennium Falcon flipping between the two Star Destroyers in Empire Strikes Back – at the time it seems amazingly cool and thrilling … but later (almost a decade later for me) whilst your mind’s wandering as you’re opening the fridge (fridge logic) you start to think … hang on. What the fuck were those Star Destroyers playing at? They’re something like a mile long … and it’s in space! It’s not like they couldn’t see each other coming. What was their plan? To squish the Falcon between them? That’s a bit like two people deciding to kill a wasp by running at each other with their chins out.

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But it works. The scene is fantastic. The logic holds at the time because the story is gripping and we completely believe Han can out fly those Imperial slugs.

The opposite is true (for me) in Star Wars when Han and Luke climb out of the trash compactor and ditch their stormtrooper outfits to reveal they had their own clothes on underneath all the time. Even as a five year old I struggled with that one. Wait … did they … how does that work? Is that under the formfitting bodysuit?

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But I loved the film, so five year old me let it slide. It’s one flaw, it doesn’t matter.

As it turns out, we now know stormtroopers wear trousers under their uniforms. Not leggings. Trousers. Possibly with pockets.*

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Good fridge logic: George Kirk tells his pregnant wife he CAN’T leave the ship because he HAS to stay behind and steer it … then goes to sit in the Captain’s chair, roughly six feet from the place where you steer the ship from. That didn’t click with me until after the film – at the time I was too busy sobbing.

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Bad fridge logic: why didn’t Joy put the core-memory globes in the tube-thing which leads straight back up to the control room? She’s asking the … peanut things … how to get back up there. They show her, right in front of her, how to send them up … and she just ignores it.

That nearly derailed the film for me – I had to find a way to rationalise it to myself: “She can’t send them up because the whole point of the film is she can’t let go. She has to be in control, she has to take them there herself – it just wouldn’t occur to her to send them up on their own” … which does make sense, but I shouldn’t be having to do that kind of thinking whilst watching an otherwise amazing movie.

Or at least, that’s what I think.

What makes something fridge logic and not confusing is whether or not it’s noticed during the first watching of the film. The problem with that is scriptwriters have no real control over whether or not the audience will notice. Some people will, some won’t. I guess the real problem is quantity – one or two instances of fudging what people wear under what (why can’t you see Superman’s costume through his white shirt?) or which seat someone sits in is fine. If there’s something like that in every scene it becomes a problem … unless you’re enjoying the film so much it just doesn’t matter to you.

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We’ve all been in that situation right? When someone points out a flaw in a film you love and it just doesn’t matter? If anything it makes the film more endearing.

This is what most of the hour-long conversation with Robin consisted of – disagreeing over whether or not the flaws in films are irritating or endearing. A disagreement which in itself is endearing. And yet we both agreed, Mamma Mia is awesome despite (and in some cases because) of its flaws. If you’d like to disagree with me about something, #PhonePhill


 

* Which is another reason why I don’t believe Finn was really a stormtrooper. Surely that’s proof he actually worked in the sweet shop and stole the uniform minutes before that first battle? Come on, a cowardly, klutz of a stormtrooper who wears trousers under his uniform? Yeah … I don’t think so. There’s more than meets the eye there.

Unless he put the trousers on because he knew he was going to defect? Yeah, maybe that was it.

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#PhonePhill – Conversation #3: Andrew Mullins

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This installment of my quest to talk to actual real life people is a bit of a special one.

Ten years ago I got married.

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This was a lovely thing to happen and since it continues to be a lovely thing ten years later, Mandy and I felt a party was in order.

As an aside, the party was fantastic, thank you so much to everyone who attended. We had it at Eastbourne’s Tennis in the Park, Love All Cafe, catered by a friend whose hobby-cooking far outstrips most professional chefs.

Ten years ago we reformed my teenage school-band for a one-off reunion gig.

Ten years later we once again rocked the party with our lukewarm ineptness.

Mandy even joined in which made the whole thing much more apt and much more fun.

As is traditional with these things, we contacted everyone who attended the wedding and invited them along. As is also traditional, most people beyond a certain radius didn’t make it.

This happens. People are busy, travel is expensive, life gets in the way.

But apologies-for-nonattendance opens up avenues of communication which have dried up over the years. Not through any malice or falling out but just because sometimes the gentle ebb and flow of life takes us in different directions.

Enter, Andy.

Andy and I (and a third chap, Jason, who’s now a regional manager for Cineworld) entered the movie industry at the same time: October 1992

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Okay, so we were cinema ushers but it still counts. It fucking does!

Andy was studying to be a teacher. Jason was studying … um … something. Media? I had recently been thrown out of university for being tragically stupid.

The three of us became firm friends and have kept in increasingly sporadic touch ever since. Long after we left the cinema, Swansea and even Wales behind we continued to think of each other as friends.

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But then there was that gentle parting of the ways. We’re still friends, we just somehow rarely find time for each other. I’m not 100% certain I’ve actually spoken to him since the wedding … but I must have done? Surely?

This is exactly what this whole #PhonePhill thing is about – making time to talk to people, old and new.

So we had a chat.

Andy remains one of my favourite people on the planet. He’s so relentlessly positive and cheerful and … nice. That sounds awful because we tend to associate those qualities with insipid … but Andy’s far from that.

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He’s no pushover, he’s a rare gem, a genuinely wonderful person who’s also interesting and fun and all-round inspiring. Andy’s a primary school teacher and loves his job. His passion and enthusiasm for his kids is a lesson all in itself. He’s the epitome of a man who’s found his niche in life and loves it.

He’s a family man with boundless energy and affection for the people he loves … an affection which spills over into all other areas of his life. I don’t know if he actually realises how special this makes him. I don’t know if he forces himself to look for the positives in any given situation, but he certainly finds them.

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Case in point: a few years before the wedding, Andy became seriously, life-threateningly ill. I’m not going to disclose his personal information online, but it was pretty grim. The treatment was even grimmer.

But he pulled through.

More amazing than that, as he completed every stage of his treatment he could be found online helping other people across the globe deal with their upcoming or ongoing treatment.

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He doesn’t see this as a big deal, just something anyone would do in his position.

Since then, after beating the odds and fathering two more children, Andy’s discovered he’s got another serious, potentially life-threatening issue; and a mobility issue which although wouldn’t end his life, threatened to put an end to the kind of sport-filled life he loves.

This year he underwent a fairly major procedure to correct the mobility issue and will have to (at some point in the near future) have to undergo another one to cure the underlying life-threatening one.

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Andy’s take on these three medical calamities? Any one of which would destroy most people?

“I’m so lucky really, because the top hospital in the country for the first problem is just down the road and the top guy for the mobility issue works in a different local hospital and I’ve been able to see the pre-eminent specialist for the other thing.”

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I’ve always said that my affection for Superman stems not from his ability to fly or see through walls or punch through solid steel but for his innate humanity. To me, Superman’s greatest power is his ability to see the best in people, to expect them to aspire to better things and to assume the world is fundamentally a good place.

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I find this an admirable, aspirational trait. One I try to copy. Every time I read a Superman comic, I head out into the world intent on believing the best of everyone … it never lasts long.

Andy has that skill. He has that outlook and it’s wonderful. He inspires me and I aspire to be more like him.

Chatting to him on Monday was wonderful, I hope it becomes a regular thing. I only wish we lived closer because I would love my daughter to have him to look up to.

So there you are #PhonePhill #3.

Who’s next? Who fancies a natter about stuff? Email me and we’ll work something out.

Categories: #PhonePhill | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

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