Storytellers, Film

Storytellers: Great Gardens

Great Gardens is a series of intimate portraits of the world's most beautiful gardens and the people who created them. Created by the wonderful Nowness, Great Gardens looks “at the intersection of nature and culture, told through the personal stories rooted within private gardens and the visionaries who created them.”

One of my favourite episodes is a walk through the gargantuan outdoor sculptures of Mexican haven Las Pozas, the subtropical garden established by twentieth-century British poet Edward James. 

Ever since I saw a photo of one of Edward James’s enormous esoteric concrete sculptures, soaring out of the Mexican jungle, I had wanted to explore Las Pozas. I have always loved what I call ‘automonuments,’ enormous works of art made without reference to anything other than what was going on inside of the heads and hearts of the artists who felt that they absolutely needed to create, no matter what anyone else thought.
— Toby Amies

Music, Film

Stop Making Sense

I'll fight anyone that says there's a better concert film than Jonathan Demme's Stop Making Sense.

Yesterday I rewatched it and was reminded that I'll never see anything like it again. Or any better concert film. I don't think it's possible, certainly not now, to make something that makes you feel so perfectly connected to the performance. Something that's so human and frantic and joyous and I will fight you if you tell me you think there's anything better. I will. 

Also, do you think Kanye was influenced by the whole Stop Making Sense clothing aesthetic for early Yeezy collections? Early Yeezy is like The Hunger Games meets Stop Making Sense minus 'the big suit'. 

Film, Words

Throw the fucking ball

Everyone's seen The Big Lebowski, right? Right? If you haven't seen The Big Lebowski you need to watch it. And if anyone tells you it's overrated you need to slap that person in the face.

A lot of the time I find it hard to get started with work and writing. All I do is think about how bad it's going to be. That I'm a fraud. That I can't do it. It's the thinking that kills it all. So, in the front of my notebook is a quote from a Jeff Bridges' interview about bowling lessons he took while preparing for The Big Lebowski. I have a million little quotes stuck in a million different places but this one always rises to the top. It reminds me to get on with it, to stop thinking and "...throw the fucking ball."

The Big Lebowski: the film that never stops giving. 

They got you a bowling instructor on set, correct?

Barry Asher. I can remember John [Turturro] and I and Buscemi, we took bowling lessons from this guy. He was a champion, one of the best bowlers in the world. We bowled a few frames and then I asked this guy, ‘I’m wondering what the Dude’s preparation would be?’ So Barry tells this story about his own preparation when he bowls. And how there’s kind of a Zen thing to bowling: the pins are down before you even bring your ball back. So Barry would get up there to bowl and he would prep, he’s gotta shake it off, waiting for that moment to cock it back, and it would go on for five, 10 minutes. And his bowling partners on the team would say, ‘Throw the fucking ball!’ He actually had to go into therapy about it. So I said, ‘So how do you do it now?’ He says, ‘I just get up and throw the fucking ball. I don’t think.’
— Jeff Bridges in Rolling Stone

Film, Words

Fish and Sharks (AKA Ideas and Moving Forward)

Ideas are like fish.

If you want to catch the little fish, you can stay in the shallow water. But if you want to catch the big fish, you’ve got to go deeper.

Down deep the fish are more powerful and more pure. They’re huge and abstract. And they’re very beautiful.
— David Lynch, Catching the Big Fish

I recently read David Lynch's Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness and Creativity. The book is short and sweet and focuses on ideas, transcendental meditation and filmmaking. It's also full of solid gold that can be applied to pretty much any creative endeavour and to life. 

For me, the best bits are when he talks about finding ideas and following them wherever they may take you. I always thought I had to have an idea before I could start - the big idea that would drive me forward and from which everything else would flow, but that's just not the way things work. It's all about the little ideas. Little glimpses. Tiny pieces that will eventually fall into place. Words, images and sounds that just seem to come around, tapping you on the shoulder asking to be remembered, to be kept in a drawer for later. Following that one little idea will lead you on to other ideas. Ideas about what to write, to read, to research, to aim for, to believe in and what to do next. But we have to have desire. Desire to create, to understand, to change and grow, and a desire to move forward. Without it nothing will happen and we'll be here forever, turning in circles, breathing in and out. 

David Lynch and   Annie Hall 

David Lynch and Annie Hall 

When I was 17 and couldn't sleep, I turned on my old portable TV and watched Annie Hall while blowing cigarette smoke out the cracked window. There's one scene, where Alvy and Annie talk about their relationship, that I can never shake. Alvy says: "A relationship, I think, is like a shark. You know? It has to constantly move forward or it dies."

"Keep moving forward" are words I’ve etched onto my bones. They're words I tell my friends when they are at the bottom. The words I tell myself when I feel like all the light has gone. If we don't have the desire to move forward, to be better, to change, to love, to live, to fuck up and try again then we've got a dead shark on our hands.

We've got to keep moving forward, trying to catch the big fish. 

Desire for an idea is like bait. When you start fishing you have to have patience. You bait your hook, and then you wait. The desire is that bait that pulls those fish in - those ideas.

The beautiful thing is that when you catch one fish that you love, even if it’s a little fish - a fragment of an idea - that fish will draw in other fish, and they’ll hook onto it. Then you’re on your way. Soon there are more and more and more fragments, and the whole thing emerges. But it starts with desire.
— David Lynch, Catching the Big Fish

Film, Words

‘I did it for the money. I did it for the woman.’

‘I didn’t get the money. I didn’t get the woman.’

I've loved film noir ever since I chose the wonderful 'Cowboys and Detectives' module as part of my Masters. I mean, who doesn't want to read about the Wild West and watch Chinatown

Double Indemnity is a film I watch at least once a year. It's great film noir but it’s also just a straight-up incredible film, regardless of genre. When I watch it I get lost in the words and shadows. I go away and I can’t stop thinking about it. Lines and images get stuck in my head and I have to hold the thoughts in and not bring it up randomly in conversation. I make endless connections and relate it to unrelated things because I want it to be part of everything. C’mon, it’s Wilder x Chandler… It’s a masterpiece.

And Barbara Stanwyck, what a badass.

This little (sort of cheesy) documentary covers most of why it’s one of the greatest films you’ll ever be lucky enough to see.