Tag Archives: Halloween

What we need in Britain are firework parties celebrating the coronavirus…

Beirut in 1993/1994 – home of sundry death-dealing devices

I spent New Year’s Eve 1993 (turning into 1994) in Beirut.

There was much celebration by way of firing sub-machines and sundry death-dealing devices in the air. 

I stayed inside my hotel on the seafront that night on the basis that what goes up must come down and that, if people were firing hundreds of bullets vertically up into the air, the last place I would want to be would be under the airborne missiles which would inevitably succumb to the force of gravity.

Tonight, I was reminded of that night in Beirut.

In the erstwhile innocent days of my youth in Britain, we used to celebrate Guy Fawkes’ Night on 5th November with firework displays, parties and children begging in the street – a joyful, innocent time when we celebrated an attempt to overthrow the government with high explosives by setting fire to effigies of people (not all of them Guy Fawkes – sometimes politicians).

Elliott, ET and commercialism overwhelmed Guy Fawkes…

Then, in 1982, along came Steven Spielberg’s movie E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial which imported the European and American concept of Hallowe’en on 31st October with loads of fireworks, fancy costumes and parties.

The UK had largely ignored Hallowe’en until then. With the impact of Elliott, ET and international marketing, that worldwide commercialised concept soon mostly overwhelmed simple old Guy Fawkes’ Night.

A bit later, along came Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights which lasts for five days sometime between mid-October and mid-November, with fireworks and parties.

So we ended up, the last few years, with about two or three weeks of fireworks going off.

With the advent of COVID-19 this year – and with the UK in various national stages of lockdown – the two weeks of parties have mostly disappeared or been scaled-down dramatically. But we have had erratic firework outbreaks for the last couple of weeks or more and when I went out this evening – Diwali started on Thursday; this is Saturday – there were bangs and bangs and rat-a-tat-tats going off all over the place in the darkness. 

Diwali at The Golden Temple in pre-COVID days

Diwali’s Festival of Lights seems to have changed into a Festival of Bangs. 

Either that or I am having flashbacks to Beirut.

Diwali commendably symbolises the spiritual victory of light over darkness, good over evil and knowledge over ignorance. But this is Britain, so it may eventually turn into a festival of loud bangs, scared domestic pets and maimed children.

It strikes me that, as we already celebrate Hallowe’en (Death) and Guy Fawkes’ Night (Treason & Death), perhaps in years to come, we will – or should – nominate a day when we celebrate the coronavirus and everyone can dress up in blue masks, have parties, cough a lot and set off fireworks. For neatness’ sake, it should be held around mid-October to mid-November to coincide with the existing triumvirate of banging firework celebrations.

Only a suggestion.

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It’s Special. Why did I almost cry at this low-budget movie which everyone else seems to see as a comedy?

So this is the movie’s plot, right?

A man takes a pill. He believes it has given him limitless superhuman powers.

The movie is this year’s release Limitless. Right?… Wrong.

An ordinary person tries to become a superhero with mixed consequences.

The movie is last year’s release Kick-Ass. Right?… Wrong.

Now let’s bring in the Marx Brothers

When I was a kid, I used to see Marx Brothers movies on TV and I didn’t think they were particularly funny. But, when I later saw them in a cinema, with an audience, they were very very very funny indeed.

As I mentioned last week I received a DVD in the post from mad inventor John Ward who, in a previous incarnation was a cinema projectionist and therefore has an interest in movies.

The 2006 movie he sent me was Special – Specioprin Hyrdrochloride.

I only got round to watching it last night alone in the dark in a living room with a friend. We expected a quirky comedy.

Quirky it was. A comedy it was not.

Yet UK distributors Revolver sell the movie as “a comedy spectacular” and have a review quote on the back cover saying it is “hilarious”.

When I went to look at the reviews on IMDB, they were 100% positive and they kept saying it is a funny film.

I did not find it funny at all.

It was visibly low-budget and shot in documentary-style washed-out colours.

The film I saw was not a comedy.

Yet everyone else I have read seems to think it is. Maybe it is another Marx Brothers film: you have to see it with an audience to get the full comic effect. Or maybe I am odd and have just missed something.

I do not like Robert Altman films. Except for one: Images.

It is about schizophrenic delusions and the editing between reality and fantasy is exceptional.

Special is better.

The plot involves a (very) ordinary man who takes part in the clinical trials of a drug called ‘Special’. He believes the drug has given him superhero powers. It has not. He dresses as a superhero and decides to fight crime. The result is a moving, mesmerisingly-gripping, sad and immensely humane film about madness and delusion which includes sparse and understated but astonishingly good special effects for a such cheap film.

According to IMDB, Special cost about $1 million to make and grossed $6,387 in the US. Normally, that would not be a good recommendation. What seems to have happened is that Special has been successful on the film festival circuit but not commercially. Admittedly a nightmare to market, it has slipped under the radar.

It has one of the best scripts I have seen in years – and it is one of the few movies to actually use film editing to its full potential, interweaving reality and fantasy. Plus it has top-notch acting by an entire cast of (to me) unknowns; and spot-on direction. It is a wonderful jewel of a little film (77 minutes).

It was written and directed by Hal Haberman & Jeremy Passmore, a pair of recent graduates from USC.

I saw Dark Star at the Edinburgh Film Festival in the 1970s. It was directed by the then unknown John Carpenter and co-written by him and the then unknown Dan O’Bannon. They, too, were USC students. Dark Star screamed rough talent. And so does Special.

John Carpenter went on to direct movies like Halloween, The Fog and Escape From New York. O’Bannon’s later scripts included Alien and Total Recall.

Special’s Jeremy Passmore is one of the credited screenwriters on the upcoming re-make of John MiliusRed Dawn.

Having seen Special, that can only bode well for Red Dawn.

I did not laugh when I watched Special but lots of others seem to have laughed. So it must be me that’s odd.

I found it sad, touching and bittersweet.

Almost everyone who has seen it seems to agree it’s exceptionally well-made and psychologically gripping.

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