Tag Archives: Michael Shannon

Advent Calendar Day 8: The Two Lukas’s, Two More Books & The Sweetest Story Ever

Behind door number 8 in the Freiburg calendar was right winger (and occasional striker and right-back when needs be) Mike Frantz. In the DFB one there was a most amusing coincidence, behind the door with Lukas Podolski’s face on it was indeed the card of Lukas Podolski. A fact made even more amusing because in the Dortmund calendar was Polish defender Lukasz Piszczek. A situation made even funnier because of course Podolski was also born in Poland but he grew up in and chose to play for Germany:

Lukas Podolski - DFB card 2015-16 1 Lukas Podolski - DFB card 2015-16 2 Lukas Pisczezk - Dortmund advent calendarAs well as having two of Lukas I also have two more books to add to my collection. This was not entirely planned, just yesterday I was writing about how I think I have too many books but that didn’t stop me from picking up these two. One about ancient Greece and the other about the rise and fall of the Roman Empire. It’s technically three if you count the one I got in the post but I don’t count that one. For two reasons, firstly I didn’t know it would arrive today and secondly it’s been on my wishlist for over a year. The book in question being Berlin Noir, consisting of three Philip Kerr novels, March Violets, The Pale Criminal and German Requiem. I don’t know whether or not I’ll find time to read it between now and Christmas but regardless I had to buy it now. I felt like I’d just keep putting it off. I’m meant to be reading The Man from Berlin but I’m not making much headway with it. I’m not sure if it’s the book or if it’s me. A few days ago I finished reading Savage Continent and it was a very intense read. Maybe I need to take a break before starting on another book, especially one that touches on such dark themes. I would say I should read something lighthearted but I’m not sure I could find something that fits that description.

This is exactly how my collection got like this. You stop off at the bookshop just to see if they have something you’ve been looking for or to see what’s new in stock. You do so full well knowing that as long as you have cash in your pocket you’ll find it impossible to leave without buying something. Truth is if I hadn’t bought those boxes of stickers last week  I could have bought six or seven books today, and I still wouldn’t be completely satisfied. There’s always something else to read, something else to learn about. I suppose in a way that’s a good thing, that I still have some enthusiasm for something.

Right now I feel guilty because I’m not getting a lot of reading done and it’s not because I’m spending too much time watching football or playing Playstation, though I will admit the former does take up a lot of time. But it’s not the main thing coming between me and my reading time, because I find it easy to switch off from football, to not think about it for a little while. Or at least if I am thinking about it then it’s not dominating my mind in quite the same way as the real reason. Which is that for the most part I’m too wrapped up in my own adventures to be following someone else’s. This is part of the reason I have little interest in reading fiction right now, even when the book in question has Nazis in it like The Man from Berlin does.

I’m not sure what if anything I should do about this state of affairs, whether or not I should simply allow it to continue like this or try to change it somehow. I’m not sure that forcing myself into reading is a good idea. But then equally I’m not happy with reading just three books a month. I think that’s part of the problem, that I’m trying to quantify this, that I think it matters how much I read. Surely what you read is just as important as how many books you get through. I’m a little frustrated I guess that I no longer get through at least two books a week. But I’m being harsh on myself, I wasn’t writing anything back then and had a lot more free time. So it’s not really comparing like for like.

When it comes to obsessions I’m not sure what’s best, whether or not one should be reined in, to attempt to create some semblance of balance. If it’s a good thing for one thing to be dominating so much. I’m not sure if I have much if any choice in the matter. There’s an interesting exchange on related matters from the film The Prestige that I like to quote:

Angier: “Haven’t you followed your obsessions?”

Tesla: “Yes, for too long. I am their slave and one day they will choose to destroy me.”

That used to freak me out, it doesn’t anymore. Because now I know the pattern. I know that at the end of every special interest or obsession I kind of self destruct. It’s just how things go. There’s no point wondering what things would be like if I didn’t get so obsessed and focused on one topic to the complete exclusion of everything else because then I wouldn’t be me. I follow my obsessions partly because I want to and partly because I don’t know what else to do. I don’t know who and what I’m supposed to be. I have some idea what other people want from me, I know what they want me to be. And I know I can’t live up to their expectations, I can’t be what they want me to be.

Not because I don’t want to but because I really can’t. The two conversations I had today in relation to the story referred to in the title is a perfect example of this.  The story originates from my dislike of the new Champions League album, I decided to turn my rants about it into a Jogi adventure. It’s not just about the sticker album, it’s about lots of different things changing and about him missing Hansi. It also has little Matze in it which means there are some sweet moments. It’s these moments which were the focus of the conversation because such things aren’t like me at all. For one thing everyone is of the impression that I’m not particularly fond of kids, which I have to admit is sort of true.

Both people who read it liked the story and both came to similar conclusions, firstly that it’s not at all like me and secondly that it’s the sweetest thing I’ve ever written for Jogi and Hansi. This kind of sweetness and sensitivity is not particularly evident in real life so when people read these kind of stories they are seeing a side to me they didn’t even know existed. And what frustrates some of them is that it doesn’t seem to transfer to real life. That whilst writing such things has caused me to become more aware of feelings and in some ways to better understand my own, it’s not had any effect on my ability to express them or to demonstrate any kind of attachment to some of the people in question. I understand that it hurts their feelings in a way. I get that it hurts them to think that I have more of an emotional attachment to my football team than I do them. That I can talk all day long about how much I love Jogi, Hansi, Manuel, Matze or any of my other favourite players but I can’t express or show in the way they’d like such feelings for real people. I don’t have a simple answer for them or really any kind of answer at all. Actually I’m not even sure what my point is. Maybe my point is that I know I can’t provide that kind of emotional fulfillment for another person and that I don’t expect them to provide it for me, not that I’d be capable of receiving it anyway. That I’m well aware I have to seek it elsewhere, hence why I have such a great attachment to my characters. I don’t know, maybe this is just more random ramblings on the subject or maybe I’m actually making some sense for once.

To completely change the subject today went about as good as it could have gone. Especially considering I only got three hours of sleep last night. In spite of that I got up just in time to record the Christoph Waltz film I wanted, though I hadn’t meant to watch quite so much of it. I was meant to be getting to ready to leave but there was something oddly alluring about him in this particular film. I’ve not been a fan of his post Django stuff so far but I’m finding his older German roles to be quite interesting. It was however I have to say a slightly surreal experience, seeing Christoph as Father Christmas. One good point about the film is that whilst he was his usual slightly sinister self I didn’t detect a trace of Hans Landa which I so often find in his later characters:

I think that lack of sleep played a part in how the rest of the day went, as did the fact I’ve not been spending a lot of time outside in recent weeks. All day long I’ve been on edge, feeling like I’m being watched and jumping at the slightest noise. Hearing people laughing has been one of the things that’s set me on edge today. I don’t know why, nothing has happened lately. So it’s most likely just the lack of sleep and not having spent much time outside. Also a source of anxiety was my worry that the person I was meeting would not show up. I had no rational reason to think this but I couldn’t stop thinking about it. To the point where I wished I’d stayed home and watched Gladbach’s game instead. This is what I hate about being so anxious, it makes people think I don’t trust them. That I don’t trust them to show up, or not to be too late, or to believe them when they are telling me something. Except it’s not me, I’m not choosing to be this way. I don’t like it either.

Now it’s all over and done with and I’m glad I didn’t stay in tonight. I’m happy I got to give them their presents and that they’re happy with them. I’m happy they like the books, more importantly I’m pleased they liked the card I made. But then how could they not when it had these two pictures on the front. I think this picture of Jogi may just be the sweetest picture of him in existence:

joachim-lc3b6w-e28093-sco-deu-press-conference-7 hansi-flick-dfb-interview-06-08-2015-13

I saw two films today, The Night Before and then Black Mass. The first was not so good though I did enjoy seeing Michael Shannon in it and he had a bigger part than I anticipated. It’s always fun to see him get to be something other than the crazy bad guy. He may have been a little off here but he wasn’t crazy and he most definitely wasn’t a bad guy, he was an angel in fact complete with wings. I just don’t think the humor of the film appealed to me. I get that it was just meant to be a lighthearted Christmas film, but I just found it too juvenile for my tastes. I also think it dragged a little and that some aspects of the plot didn’t really fit the tone of it. Or maybe it was just that they were less engaging than the other characters. For example I didn’t think much of Issac and Betsy’s parenting worries, I just didn’t like a lot of their scenes for some reason. Like I said I’m not sure it was my kind of film to begin with. Michael Shannon on the other hand as their old science teacher Mr Green, well to riff on a Dude quote a little, he really tied the film together. He was my main reason for seeing the film and he did not disappoint.

Black Mass did also not majorly disappoint and neither did Johnny Depp surprisingly. The film tells the story of Boston gangster Whitey Bulger who became an FBI informant. Crime and mobster films like this are dime  a dozen but this one is worth seeing if not just for Depp’s performance as the truly terrifying Whitey Bulger. It’s not a great film but it’s still worth watching. The acting was great but the plot is a little lacking. I feel like they could have got more story into the two hour running time, perhaps show a little more detail as to how he rose to power. In fact a little more detail and focus in general would have been welcomed.

Same as always after such an evening I find myself unable to sleep. This time however it’s also part of a bigger problem, I’m unable to shake the problem I’m having with sleeping at nighttime. I can’t manage more than two or three nights in a row. It’s been almost a month now since the incident which caused all this happened and it’s showing no signs of changing. I thought the league resuming and getting back into the usual routine would fix it but it hasn’t had the effect I hoped it would. It’s been made worse by the nightmare I had two weeks ago involving being chased by rifle-wielding terrorists. I still don’t really understand it or, it makes no sense to me why I should react this way or have such trouble dealing with it. I mean I wasn’t there, I wasn’t in any danger, the team was. In fact I wasn’t even in the same country as them. It makes no sense at all and I have no idea how I’m meant to handle it, if I’m supposed to do anything or if I should just wait it out. How can I do anything when I don’t even understand what it is?

Films in 2015 to look forward to

Alone in Berlin – I just found out that a film is being made of this. Alone in Berlin is one of my favourite books ever; this is really great, though it’s not so great that the film will be in English, I’m a stickler for realism and it’s really distracting to have a film set in Germany and the characters speaking English, especially when one of the actors in question is actually German. I hope it turns out to be better The Book Thief last year.

Colonia Dignidad – Daniel Brühl and Michael Nyqvist in the same film, I don’t need to know what it’s about that’s enough of a reason right there to be excited and to add it to my must see list. As it happens the film itself sounds like something I would enjoy. To make things even more interesting Martin Wuttke (Inglourious Basterds Hitler) is in it too. The director is Florian Gallenberger who’s worked with Daniel Brühl before on City of War: The Story of John Rabe which is a fairly decent film, not flawless but not as bad as some people make it out to be.

The Face of an Angel – another Daniel Brühl film, the reviews I’ve read online so far have been negative, that doesn’t dampen my enthusiasm any, I’d rather make my own mind up and truth is I’d go to see practically anything Daniel is in regardless of how bad anyone says it is.

Inherent Vice – I’m currently reading the book, it’s the first Thomas Pynchon book I’ve attempted on the advice of someone online. They said it was a less intimidating introduction to Pynchon than say Gravity’s Rainbow which I have up next to read. I’m 100 pages into Inherent Vice so far and loving it, so I can’t wait for the film. I’m not a big fan of Paul Thomas Anderson though I do have fond memories of Magnolia. I’ve also seen Punch Drunk Love which I couldn’t get on with and There Will Be Blood which I’m still trying to make my mind up about. I want to see it a second time to decide once and for all but I keep putting it off which probably says it all. I am psyched to see Joaquin Phoenix play Doc, he’s the best thing about Gladiator and I really liked him in Her last year.

Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter – “A jaded Japanese woman discovers a hidden copy of Fargo (1996) on VHS, believing it to be a treasure map indicating the location of a large case of money.” – I bet this gets a limited release and I won’t get a chance to see it at the cinema, that’s a shame since I would put that in my top five of films I really want to see. It sounds fantastic, exactly the kind of thing I would enjoy, partly of course because I love the Coen brothers and Fargo.

Stones for the Rampart – Another one I’ll probably have to wait for the DVD release for. Nazis and the Polish resistance, like I could resist that.

Chappie – I like Neill Blomkamp and count District 9 as one of my favourite films, true Elysium was a little disappointing but I’m sure this will be excellent (despite Hugh Jackman who I don’t like being in it) not least because Sharlto Copley is in it.

Soldiers of the Damned – this probably won’t be very good, a low budget horror film, Nazis and the occult, but I’m a sucker for stuff like this so I’ll see it if I can.

Child 44 – One of the reasons I’ll dislike this is the same reason I’ll dislike Alone in Berlin, they’ll be speaking English (hopefully not with Russian accents, I find that doubly distracting). Despite the language issue, they have assembled a mostly excellent cast. I think Tom Hardy will be perfect as Leo, Noomi Rapace as his wife less so. I find her very overrated, I didn’t rate her performance in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and I’ve yet to see her impress me in anything else either.

Avengers: Age of Ultron – obviously I’m less excited about this since I no longer have any interest in TK. I also found the first Avengers film kind of dull, it has lots of funny moments but overall the film is very forgettable. Still I feel compelled to have it on my list, if not just because of the chemistry between Robert Downey Jr and Mark Ruffalo. I also really like Chris Hemsworth as Thor. I would be more excited for it if Dr Eric Selvig was in it, I don’t care that Loki isn’t, I can live without him.

Rosewater – Jon Stewart’s directorial debut, it sounds interesting and as a bonus Kim Bodnia (Martin from The Bridge is in it).

Kicking Off – It’s about football, I’m sold. Basic summary of the plot, their team needs a win to avoid relegation; they don’t get that win, so the two main characters plan to kidnap the referee, sounds fun.

Red Army – a documentary about the Red Army hockey team. Cool, a sports documentary and the former USSR, will be lucky to see this at the cinema, very unlikely to happen.

Minions – I saw Despicable Me 2 before the first one and I’m glad I did because if I had seen them in the proper order I would not have bothered going to see the second one. I didn’t find it as funny or entertaining as the second one. I do love minions though; they are incredibly cute, simply irresistible.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E – on my list purely because Christian Berkel and Alicia Vikander are in it. I wish Henry Cavill wasn’t the main character, Man of Steel, two hours of my life I’ll never get back.

Midnight Special – the latest collaboration between Jeff Nichols and Michael Shannon. I don’t care what it’s about, doesn’t matter, anything with Michael Shannon in is worth seeing. He also has Freeheld and Frank & Lola coming out this year.

Spectre – I’m not fond of Daniel Craig as James Bond (my all time favourite is Timothy Dalton with Pierce Brosnan coming a close second) but I have to see this. Not just because I got my wish, there’s a note on my iPod from the 10th March 2013 saying that one of the roles I’d like CW to play is a Bond villain. In a conversation about the same subject I said that he would be perfect to play Blofeld, it wouldn’t be a stretch of the imagination to picture him like that. And that’s who he’s rumoured to be playing.

The Hateful Eight – where better to end the list than with Quentin Tarantino’s latest project. With or without CW this will be undeniably awesome. The US date is listed as being the 13th November. Shame that’s not the UK date, it would make a fantastic birthday present.

Not enough films/too much football

One of the things I planned write about here was films, which is funny because I haven’t watched all that many films lately. In October I watched only thirteen films. On the other hand in that time I have watched sixteen football matches. In contrast to September in which I watched twenty-one films and twenty two matches. Eleven days into November I’ve watched eight matches and only four films. The Bundesliga has a long winter break, which could mean plenty of time for a film marathon. I don’t think that’s going to happen however since I have the 2010 World Cup on blu-ray and will by then have the 2014 one as well. Plus I have the 2006 World Cup and the 2008 and 2012 European Championships on DVD.  I predict the winter break will be spent watching lots of those and making Jogi videos. Hopefully I can find some time for some German practice as well. I’m not getting any new games for Christmas which will help considerably.

It’s not just about the number of films I watched, it’s about the fact that I think about films less.  It’s also about the fact that whilst I like several people at the moment: Richard Sammel, Daniel Brühl, Sebastian Koch, Heino Ferch, Ulrich Mühe, Ulrich Tukur, Florian Lukas, Tom Schilling and August Diehl, I don’t have a film or TV related special interest right now. That is very unusual and as far as I can remember completely without precedent. I wonder if this lack of interest in film and fiction in general is a contributing factor in why I have no interest in working on my android story right now.

The closest thing I have to a film/TV related special interest at the moment is Richard Sammel, I watched all of The Strain for him even though I hated the show.  I think he must get sick of playing Nazis, but to be fair I don’t think he’s played one like this before. And he is so good at playing villains. I can’t wait to see him as a bad guy though, to see if I like him as much then.

The problem is I only want to watch films he’s in, and I don’t have many of those and I can’t get the one I really want at the moment which is Lila. I hope I can find the two German TV shows that he was in that look interesting, it would be great to watch something where he’s one of the main characters.

I also have less interest in TV shows in general at the moment, I only have on one at the moment, Person of Interest, but I am eagerly awaiting the return of Justified and a little less enthusiastically, Game of Thrones. I’ve given up on Boardwalk Empire at the moment, I’ll probably go back to it soon. Even if I don’t think much of the show anymore, I won’t be able to resist the allure of Michael Shannon and finding out what becomes of Nelson.

I have so many films to watch and yet I don’t want to watch any of them right now. Maybe I do really have too many films. I’ve considered that if my collection was signifcantly smaller, it make picking up and leaving easier. How many DVDs and blu-rays does a person need? I wonder, should I apply the same to my book collection too? Parting with my books I think would be a lot harder than parting with any of my DVDs or blu-rays. Maybe I should get a box and put all my favourites in, see how much I really want to keep something when I only have a limited amount of space.  I mean, it’s not like I’m going to read many of those books again, but I just like knowing they are there. I also like looking at them and thinking back to when I read them. Someone online commentating on a similar topic said that they always give books away when they are done with them, because books are meant to be read, not sitting gathering dust on a shelf. It would be interesting to do just to see which I would pick to keep, what my favourites would turn out to be. And to see how much fiction will end up in there.

The other problem with films is that when I really like something I watch it a lot, and then get sick of it. Then it’s the case that it’s the only thing I want to watch but can’t because I know it too well. That is my own fault having seen them too many times. I’ve seen Rush at least seventeen times since it was released in cinemas last September. Inglourious Basterds, somewhere between ten and fifteen times, Django Unchained, somewhere around the same amount. And I’ve seen certain of Daniel and Christoph’s films at least three times each. This also contributes to the problem of me not watching the rest of my collection.