Darren Aronofsky’s Rules for Writing

Writers’ Block just screened Pi at the ARC in Stockton, for the first of our monthly cinema nights there. I did a bit of research (ie tried to get Wikipedia to do my job for me) for my expert introduction to the film and I stumbled across the rules that Aronofsky followed during the writing of Pi’s first draft. They’re good rules!

1. Always move forward. If you have a problem type through it.
2. Only take a break after something good happens on the page or you accomplish a goal. No breaks for confusion (type through it).
3. Ten pages a day minimum.
4. Only go back to add something. Do not remove contradictions, just make a note.
5. Do it. Suffer, live, cry, struggle for one week. You’ll feel like a million bucks by the fifteenth.
6. Have fun.

Taken from Darren Aronofsky’s diary of the making of Pi.

The screening went well. Only ten punters, but from tiny acorns all big elephants do grow, so hopefully there’ll be a few more in for next month’s screening of The Big Lebowski, which, let’s face it, is a bit more of a crowd pleaser what with it being more about quirky characters being funny and less heavy on the maths, insects, headaches, drills and whatnot. The maths, insects, headaches and drills demographic is dwindling, man.


Clint Mansell’s gorgeous and atmospheric theme for Duncan Jones’ film Moon.

For a low budget British indie, Moon is a pretty ambitious film, what with being a sci fi movie set on a moonbase and everything. It wears its influences (Silent Running, Dark Star, 2001) on its space suit sleeve, so it’s not what you’d call original, but then Jones can use our familiarity with Moon’s spiritual ancestors to wrongfoot its audience.

I don’t want to say too much about the story. It starts as a study in isolation: moon-bound employee of Lunar Industries Sam Bell is nearing the end of his three year contract looking after helium-3 harvesters. He’s alone up there, communications are down, and he whiles away the time watching recorded messages from his wife, making little model houses and tending his potted plants.

And then the whole thing takes a left turn into weirdness, but the way the script deals with that weirdness and its implications is beautifully and unexpectedly matter-of-fact, the existential elements brilliantly grounded by Sam Rockwell’s distinctively engaging performance.

The design and effects are great, but for sheer spectacle this is Sam Rockwell’s film. Moon was written specifically for him and he clearly relishes the opportunity. He turns in a typically fantastic performance (or two). I think I might love Sam Rockwell a little bit. Oh, and Kevin Spacey gets to be a creepy robot, which, you know, he pretty much is anyway.

If you haven’t seen the trailer, skip it and just watch the film. Thankfully the success of Moon doesn’t hinge on any single twist or revelation (which is what I was expecting, and I usually hate cuz I’ll spend my time watching the film trying to work out the twist, and I’m always disappointed when I do, and also disappointed when I don’t. Lose-lose!) but the less you know about this one before going in, the better.

Moon is thoughtful sci-fi of a kind we don’t get to see enough of, but it’s no Solaris, thankfully. It’s exciting and funny, poetic and human, and it’s got some Chesney Hawks in it. And Errol off 15 Storeys High. I loved it, that’s all.

Pointless Prequels

New prequels coming soooooon*:

  • Honey, The Kids Are Still Fine.
  • The Night Of The Living.
  • The Italian Jobseekers.
  • O Brother Why Don’t Thou Leave Me Alone?
  • Where’s Red October? Oh, Wait, There It Is. Panic Over.
  • All The Days Before The Day The Earth Stood Still, When The Earth Didn’t Stand Still.
  • Average-Looking In A Range Of Colours.
  • although for sheer pointlessness none of them could beat

  • The Phantom Menace
  • Eh? Eh? Am I right? Eh? See what I did there…

    *not really, they are just jokes.

    Big Man Japan

    Well, I watched it. I watched it a while ago, and it’s stayed with me in a way that films rarely do, and I’m not sure why, and I’ve been wondering about what exactly I can say about it. Hmm.

    It’s as nuts as the trailers and clips would suggest, but in a different way than you might expect. The monster battles, impressive and fun as they are, only make up a very small part of the narrative. Much of the rest of the film is a low-key mockumentary following Daisato, the scruffy, morose, socially awkward man who, through the application of massive amounts of electricity, occasionally transforms into Big Man Japan and defends his country against big monsters.

    We meet Daisato’s agent who keeps trying to get him to wear sponsorship labels when he’s fighting, and his ex-wife and child who don’t want anything to do with him, and we get sneering vox-pops from the ungrateful population that Daisato saves time and again. And all the while Daisato shuffles through life, unassuming and somewhat tragic. It’s sad, but charming and funny in a dark and bitter-sweet way, and the performance of Hioshi Matsumoto, who also co-wrote and directed the film, is understated and human.

    It’s an odd film. The humans are bastards for the most part, the monsters are amazingly weird and imaginative, and the battles end with the spirits of the fallen ascending into the sky. Why? It’s never explained. And then there’s the last ten minutes or so which are… batshit insane. I don’t want to spoil it so I won’t, but if any of you have seen the film, or watch it in in the future, and I absolutely recommend you do, please get in touch and we can sit round a table scratching our heads and asking each other “but what does it mean?” Everything from the title “Let’s enjoy the rest live!” onward. Baffling, but in a good way.

    Somehow the last ten minutes transform the film from a lovely but inconsequential comedy into something more. It’s hugely unsettling, and nightmarish, and funny and… odd. Watch it, man, and tell me I’m wrong.

    “Peace!” Bonkers…


    A darkly comic fable set in the Budapest metro, Kontroll is a film about rival bands of ticket inspectors – and it’s actually much more entertaining than I’ve just made it sound. There are dark forces at work on the metro, causing a number of apparent suicides. And there’s a girl in a teddy costume.

    It’s all highly symbolic, and frankly sometimes a little baffling, but it’s always funny and engaging, and there are enough arresting images, intriguing characters and crazy ideas thrown into the mix to keep you interested to the end. And it has a couple of brilliant chase sequences to boot. And if you recognise teddy girl’s father, it’s because he was in Radiohead’s Karma Police video (which drove me demented until I worked it out).

    Apparently Nimród Antal, Kontroll’s writer/director, will be working on the new Predator film. Dunno whether that’s a good thing. I mean, I like Predator movies as much as the next (geeky) man, but I’d rather see another offbeat, personal tale instead of a franchise-servicer, but hey, maybe it’ll be both.

    The Brothers Bloom

    I think The Brothers Bloom just conned their way into my top-whatever list of films. Written and directed by Rian Johnson, this film sparkles visually and the script is warm and funny. It’s reminiscent of a globe-trotting 60’s caper movie in style and tone, all sunshine and exotic foreign locations. It’s knowing without being cynical, and sweet without being cloying. It’s swoonsomely romantic and it has a kitten in a rollerskate. And it made me laugh out loud, like, twelve times or something.

    The Brothers Bloom is a con movie, but unlike most films in this genre it’s less concerned with the cleverness of its plot twists and turns, and more interested in exploring the links between deception, storytelling, and love.

    It also has some spectacular hats.

    You know what? I think I suck at film reviewing. Ignore me and watch the film. If you don’t like it, contact Rian Johnson for your money back. He said to say that. Honest.

    Big Man Japan

    Golly! A Japanese film about a large man who fights monsters? With a stick? Could this be a Citizen Cane for the 21st Century? (Citizen Cane, see, because he has a stick, so that’s… No? Fine.)

    I want to see this film very much. I will report back when I do. I’m sure it can’t possibly be as superbly barkingly mentile as the trailer and clips seem to be promising, and I’m sure I’ll be disappointed but…

    C’mon! Strange Flavour Monster!

    My Neighbour Totoro

    If you’re not all warm inside after watching this – call an ambulance! In fact, I’d better do it for you, because you’re probably dead.

    The films of Hayao Miyazaki are pure imagination painted on screen. Full of warmth and madness, they stay with you long after watching.

    I honestly don’t know whether it’s because Japanese storytelling conventions are very different from ours, or whether it’s just cos they’re bonkers, but when wacky insanity happens in Japanese films, the characters tend to just accept it and get on with the story. Soot gremlins in the loft? Well of course there are. A big furry monster at the bottom of the garden? Mmm, lets snuggle on his tummy. It makes for a dreamlike experience, imagination unfettered by the need for logic or rationality. My kind of world.

    Whenever I watch a Studio Ghibli film I feel like I’ve been hugged by a mad but beloved auntie with a nutty story to tell. (Apart from Grave of the Fireflies which will harsh your vibe for a week. Seriously.)

    And of course, the animation is spectacular. I found this compilation of clips from Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Laputa, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Howl’s Moving Castle and Nausicaa. Ignore the music and feast your eyes on the visuals. Don’t you want to visit some of these places? Be aware it’s not just empty spectacle. You’ll be dazzled, but you’ll care.