Ayoade on Ayoade: A Cinematic Odyssey

Ayoade on AyoadeRichard Ayoade is a British writer, director, actor and comedian. He directed and co-wrote Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, as well as playing Dean Learner in that series, he was infamous as Maurice Moss in The IT Crowd (which was an award winning role for him), and he has also directed the films Submarine and The Double (the 2013 movie, not the 2011 one of the same name). At the end of last year, he published his first book, Ayoade on Ayoade: A Cinematic Odyssey. This honestly has to be one of the funniest books I have ever read, even if it is totally ridiculous.

Essentially Ayoade is poking fun at all those “Director on Director” type memoirs that exist, attacking the pomposity of it all by splitting himself into two persona – the pretentious director and the humble in-awe interviewer. The book contains ten interviews (kind of), as well as a section on his thoughts on writing and acting. But the real gems often are found in the 100 page long appendix, and, if you read in the way Ayoade intends by referring to the appendix when his footnotes tell you to do so, you’ll have read the entire appendix when you’re only halfway through the interviews. Though it sounds annoying, it is actually quite entertaining and fun to be flipping back and forth through the book and many of the footnotes contain the funniest moments. Just consider these two footnotes on his title page alone (a quick warning that there is a bit of swearing, if you’re easily offended):

Ayoade on Ayoade footnotes

Much of the humour is very niche – it probably helps to have some interest in films overall. But I don’t think you need to know everything about film to find the jokes funny, either, particular in the appendix that is filled with lots of short 2 and 3 page pieces, from fake emails and letters to draft scripts, essays and various manifestos regarding film. The topics range from the recent Disney purchase of Lucasfilm, making fun of reclusive director Terrence Malick, crowdsourcing and of course the press, among many others. My favourite section from the appendix though, without a doubt, is the new manifesto for film which he creates, which is focused around these 10 points:

A New Manifesto For Film

The interviews themselves are also brilliant and seem to serve as a sort of narrative thread which connects the book in a way the page order does not. The director persona is not only on an intense ego-trip but is also very surreal in thought. In the very first interview he explains how he spent his time in the womb contemplating how he wanted to escape and start making films. When later asked about his childhood, he says he didn’t have a childhood and then adds that he doesn’t believe in childhood. As the interviews continue, he becomes increasingly subversive as he deflects most of the questions to pursue his own agenda – something Ayoade has gained media attention for doing in real life recently, to mixed reactions (though I must say I find him more entertaining than others in this risky interview style).

Although the interviews overall run the risk of stretching the same joke a bit thin, the constant breaking up of flow by references to the appendix helps to keep the general feel of the book fresh. I wouldn’t say it’s a book that you could read in a single sitting – I took a couple of months slowly digesting it to enjoy it more. Overall though, the book made me laugh out loud which is something very few books have managed to achieve. If you like film, you might enjoy this book. If you like Ayoade, you might enjoy this book. If you like both – this book is definitely for you!

I’ll finish off with another one of my favourite passages, from one of the earlier interviews in which Ayoade discusses forming himself. If any of you have read this book I’d love to hear your thoughts on it!

Ayoade Informing Himself

A tribute to Rik Mayall

There isn’t much I can say about the passing of Rik Mayall yesterday that hasn’t already been said. It is a huge loss – his unique brand of anarchic comedy, from The Young Ones through to Bottom, Blackadder and movies like Drop Dead Fred, inspired a whole generation of comedians. At 56 it feels he was taken far too early, and as many other comedians have noted on social media (especially Twitter), he was a whirlwind of creative energy that has left a bit of a void all of a sudden.

So, rather than ramble on any more, I’m going to include some of my favourite clips of his here. In order, there is the shop keeping scene from Bottom, then his first appearance as Lord Flashheart in Blackadder, then a scene from Drop Dead Fred (where he plays an invisible friend) and finally a compilation of some of his funniest moments from The Young Ones because it was too hard to pick one scene.

Just a word of warning, some of this stuff might be offensive. Otherwise, enjoy!

R.I.P. Rik Mayall! You’ll be missed.

Terrible (and funny) trailers for films that shouldn’t exist

Have you ever watched a movie that was so bad it was good? I know I have, and there are plenty out there that fit under this description. But then there are some movies that are so ridiculous, you can hardly believe anybody even bothered to spend the time or money to create them. Here are some trailers for some of these films.

Rubber

You know what would be a great idea for a horror movie? Anything except the story of a killer rubber car tyre that leaves a trail of death and destruction behind it. Which is essentially what this film is about, believe it or not. While I laughed during the trailer, I can’t imagine having the patience to watch this film the whole way through.

Titanic II

A film about a second Titanic ship that sails a century after the first one, and pretty much suffers the exact same fate. Laziest story ever, and I just hope they didn’t think anybody was actually going to take this one seriously. It looks pretty terrible no matter how you approach this movie.

Sharktopus

When a scientist creates a mutated animal that is essentially a cross between a shark and a giant octopus as a new weapon, it goes on a killing spree and…that’s about it, really. I did nearly choke with laughter the very first time I saw this, a couple of years ago. This is one I would watch just for the laughs.

What terrible movies (or trailers) have you seen? Do you ever watch movies just because they look so bad they might be good or funny?

Tagged again (three times) – 33 more answers to questions you’ve asked me

So, since writing my Blog Tag post a week ago, I’ve been tagged thrice more, each time with 11 new questions, by TanyaCricketMuse, and Book Club Babe. While I’m not going to do the whole tag post again, I shall answer the questions, so, enjoy!

Tanya’s questions:

1. If you had the power to ban a certain book, or certain kinds of books, however productive the outcome may be (think Twilight or Oliver’s Story), even if you knew a huge majority of readers might thank you for it, would you?

Oooooh good question. I’m in two minds here. I wouldn’t ban Twilight, actually, because while my backside could write a better and more original story, it did get a lot of young people (who somehow missed the Harry Potter boat) reading. And on a general level, I don’t think any book should be banned, because of freedom of speech and creative expression and blah blah heard it all before yada yada. BUT…50 Shades Of Grey is just revolting. And the overwhelming success of this putrid piece of work is a startling revelation for both the literary world and the masses gobbling it down gluttonously. So I guess if I was going to ban a book…

2. What is one book you wish you had written?

The dictionary. Imagine the royalties! Actually, wait, no, does anybody even buy dictionaries anymore? With some encyclopedias no longer in print…okay, a book I wish I had written. Hmm. Great Lies To Tell Small Kids. I love that little book, and its sequel. So many good ideas, such as “if you place a slice of ham in a DVD player, it’ll play a short film about pigs.” Brilliant.

3. You have finally achieved world domination and as new king/queen of the world, you need to fashion yourself a crown. But of course, you’re too cool for precious metals and the like. What would your crown be/be made of?

NACHOS!

4. Have you ever wondered how a doggie biscuit tastes and wanted to try?

Hahahahaha, what? No, no I really haven’t wondered this. And I’ve wondered a lot of things with food. I once ate a jelly baby, a piece of chocolate and a chicken nugget all wrapped together because somebody dared me to do so. But I am not trying a doggie biscuit.

5. Is there a book that you weren’t able to complete for whatever reason, but lied about it and told people you did? Which one?

Don’t think so? I quite openly admit when I can’t finish books. Like Dune. I’ll try again one day, I’m sure I’ll like it eventually. And War and Peace…oh man that was so hard, so much rambling it made me sound rather to the point in comparison.

6. Your choice of instant pick-me-up food?

I presume this question is referring to picking me up when I’m down, and not food with which to chat me up at a drinking establishment of some nature (“Hey baby…want one of my chips?” “Well hello…”). Probably chocolate or ice cream, I must confess. Though I love a lot of food. I love hearty meals on cold, wintry nights – they warm up the body and the soul sometimes. I also love some fruits, particularly the summer fruits we have in Australia which pretty much mean that it’s summer here, such as mangoes, peaches and nectarines.

7. If there was an appendage you could add to the human anatomy (wings, talons, a tail…), what would it be?

I’d have to say wings, because I’d love to be able to just fly around, and it’d save so much money on driving and other travelling expenses. But a close second would be a tail because, well, it’d just be awesome.

8. If you could go back in time and stop a famous event from taking place, what would it be and why?

No, I don’t think I would. Those who have read Stephen Fry’s novel Making History will know why I’m saying this (although this is an opinion I had long before reading that book). But if I really had to, I would go back in time to not too long ago, and convince Status Quo not to ruin themselves by appearing on an ad for a supermarket in Australia (fellow Aussies will know exactly what I’m talking about…it’s such a shame).

9,10,11. All the book characters you’ve ever loved are people in your immediate friend circle. Who would you turn to:

a) to make a bucket list with you and go all over the world fulfilling each item on the list?

Zaphod Beeblebrox from The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. He’d turn it into a party.

b) to plonk down next to you on that patch of moon land you guys bought, feel awesome, and somehow keep each other from dying of boredom until the next space shuttle comes to pick you up?

Zaphod Beeblebrox from The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. He’d turn it into a party. (What? It’s true!)

c) when the world thinks you’re responsible for the attack on the entire human race by some random scary evil alien monsters and you are the only one who knows what they want but nobody will listen to you and you need somebody to help you save the world? 

Yossarian from Catch-22. He could ramble his way out of anything. Or maybe Jeeves from Jeeves and Wooster, he could solve any problem.

CricketMuse’s questions:

1.  Ice cream, sherbet, gelato, frozen yogurt or sorbet?

I’m going to have to say ice cream, although they’re all fairly amazing. Gelato has grown on me a lot in recent years (not literally…”Oh look! That man’s left arm is covered in gelato…”)

2.  Window seat or aisle seat on the plane?

Window seat, absolutely window seat. So if a bad guy jumps on the plane, we can exit via the window and have an epic duel on the wing of the plane and…oh wait that wouldn’t work on so many levels.

3.  What’s playing in your car stereo?

At the moment it’s flicking between Lake Air, the new album by Dappled Cities, and Synthetica, the new album by Metric. But other albums in there include Stevie Wonder’s Music Of My Mind, The Cat Empire’s self-titled album, Serj Tankian’s Harakiri, and I forget the other album in there (it’s a 6 CD stacker).

4.  Favorite breakfast on a Saturday morning?

Sleep. Closely followed by coffee. And then maybe something with eggs.

5.  Water ski or snow ski?

I have a confession to make…I haven’t tried either. But I suspect water skiing would be scarier but fun.

6.  How would you spend $100 if you had to spend it in two hours?

Two hours? It wouldn’t last me two minutes! Probably on music or movies or books. Or food. Really nice food. I love going to super duper fancy restaurants…I think as a child and even a teenager I thought it was some unattainable dream to go to really expensive restaurants. I don’t even know why I viewed it that way. Having said this, the food at these places isn’t always amazing, but it usually is.

7.  Who would you interview given the opportunity? (past or present)

Oscar Wilde, maybe? That guy would be hilarious and insightful, I suspect.

8.  Have you ever watched an Imax movie?

Just last weekend, actually, I watched The Dark Knight Rises at Imax in Sydney (which is now the biggest Imax in the world, after renovations earlier this year…take that, world!). Was pretty amazing.

9.  Can you cope without coffee in the morning?

I just passed out at the mere suggestion of such a dangerous act. In other words, no, absolutely not. I went without coffee for a year in 2007, which coincidentally was a year I took off from university between degrees. As soon as I considered going back to uni, I took coffee drinking back up. I find if I don’t have the morning coffee, not only am I inconsolably grumpy and tired, but by early to mid afternoon I’m normally suffering from withdrawals. There’s worse things I could be addicted to.

10. Your favorite black and white movie?

This is a tough one, but I did recently get my hands on a copy of The Artist, which I am yet to watch but which I suspect might become my favourite B&W movie (though I think this question was referring to older movies…oops).

11.  Who would you like to get stuck in an elevator with–Harrison Ford or Julia Roberts?

Harrison Ford, so I could make crappy Star Wars and Indiana Jones jokes.

Book Club Babe’s questions:

1. You have been put in charge of creating a new national holiday. What’s it called, and how do we celebrate?

I have always loved that International Talk Like A Pirate Day, which while not official, is so much fun to actually participate in (it has a website if you’re curious (just google it (isn’t it funny how google has become a verb)), and it happens on September 19 I think). Aside from this, I think it would be great to have a national holiday that was in celebration of reading and writing. It’s something worth celebrating, I think. And we’ll call it “Stay-In-Bed-And-Read-Day”, or Sibard, for short (hey, it has the word bard in it, intriguing).

2. You have been given an unlimited budget to make or remake a book’s film adaptation. Which book do you choose, and who would you cast?

One book I have always wanted to see made into a film (or several films) is Magician by Raymond E Feist. I have no idea about who I would cast though, because many of the characters are so young for much of the film. But I just think it would translate so well if it was done properly, by the right sort of director.

3. Robots have now become our personal servants, but here’s the catch. You only get one robot, and it can only do one chore. What will it be?

Teleport me to places. And back again, otherwise that would backfire mighty fast. Otherwise, probably clean.

4. It’s stay-in-and-do-nothing-night. What’s your reality show guilty pleasure?

Eww, reality show? Nup, I don’t think I watch anything that comes under that banner. The closest thing I would watch to that is a few quiz shows, like QI and Would I Lie To You. When I stay in and do nothing, I normally watch comedy. Most recently the 5th season of 30 Rock, and Danger 5, a bizarre Aussie comedy series that parodies the 60s and 70s spy films and shows, except the bad guys are Hitler and the Nazis, which makes about as much sense as the Nazi dinosaurs that appear in the second episode.

5. You have been given a “Death Note” (look it up) where you can write any person’s name in it and that person will die. You can even describe their death in graphic detail. But you only can write down one name…who will it be?

This is going to be a boring answer, but nobody. I would never wish death upon anybody, no matter how much I hated them. Actually, frankly, if I hated them I would wish something other than death on them.

6. Which Disney animal sidekick would you want as a friend?

Timon and Pumbaa?

7. You’re now in charge of a celebrity’s Twitter account. Who do you want to Tweet for, and what would your first Tweet be?

Oh lordy. It’d have to be someone I wasn’t too fond of, so I could tweet silly things. I really don’t know with this one, this is a tricky question. A good one, but a tricky one. Maybe somebody really annoying so I could tweet lots of inappropriate things and have their twitter accounts shut down. Though I suspect that’s not quite the answer this question was seeking…

8. If you were a fragrance, what would you smell like?

A breath of fresh air. No not really. A mystery, wrapped in an enigma, wrapped in delicious – no not quite. Probably just man, spices and books. Hahaha.

9. If you could eat any one food and not gain weight or overall health issues, what would you eat?

Banana Bread. Love that stuff. I’d eat it with everything. Well, not quite, I don’t know how well it would go with steak, for example.

10. What’s the one phrase or cliché that drives you the craziest?

When people say ‘literally’ and they don’t mean literally at all, that drives me insane. Also, when Aussies say “youse guys” instead of “you guys”…seriously, that sounds awful!

11. You’ve hit the jackpot and won a romantic evening with the sexy celebrity of your choosing, but he/she hates your favorite book. Like burned it because they just could not stand the sight of it. Proceed canoodling anyway?

Oooh, tough one. I guess not everybody has to like the same thing, but burning it is a bit excessive. I think I’d have to even the score somewhat before canoodling could recommence. But I’d eventually get over it…I think a lot of my (real) love interests have never read the book before.

Well, that’s it folks! 33 more questions answered, and my cold-filled brain is now completely mushy, so time for more coffee. Hope you enjoyed reading my rambling.

Which comedians and actors do you think could write a great book?

I have discussed actors and comedians who write books on my blog before, from mentioning Stephen Fry numerous times (most recently was my last post), to the members of Monty Python who have written books, to my surprise at how much I enjoyed Steve Martin’s fiction with his art-world based book, An Object Of Beauty, a review of sorts that I wrote in my very early days of blogging. There are many others who I have read but have not yet blogged about, including Dawn French, Hugh Laurie, Mark Watson, Shaun Micallef and more, who have all written novels that pleasantly surprised me.

So what I want to know from you, my dear readers, is who, from the world of comedy and acting, do you think would write a really entertaining book (either fiction or non-fiction)? Is there an actor or comedian who you think would have a great imagination for a novel, or who would just be entertaining writing some sort of non-fiction work such as a biography or a travel book or something along those lines?

For me, the list is long. Comedians who I think could write great novels include John Cleese, Rowan Atkinson, Dylan Moran, Bill Bailey, Jim Carrey, Robin Williams, Ross Noble (his would be pretty bizarre, I suspect) and many more. There are many actors too, I guess, but I have found generally that the comedians I have read thus far have incredible imaginations, hence my fixation on them.

What are your thoughts on this topic? 

Can film adaptations improve upon books?

We’ve all heard and no doubt partaken in the old “books versus films” arguments, where the majority of us who read a lot tend to side with the notion that books are always better than the film. Or are they?

Well, okay, for the most part they are. I’m certainly not going to try and resist this, because I believe it myself (and today I bought the film of Catch-22, my favourite book…I am a little worried…). But, the question I pose in this post is can film interpretations improve upon books? Have you watched some films that are better than the books, or has this never happened for you – do you instead always prefer the book, no matter what.

To start this discussion, I will admit my thoughts on the matter. Almost always I prefer the book, but one exception to this is (don’t hate me) the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Don’t get me wrong, I love the novels too. But the films were just amazing, so good that I can’t imagine anybody would dare to remake them ever again. For me, these films took everything I loved about the story, and made it slightly better (while also cutting out some of the lengthy descriptions that could bog down the books from time to time).

So, what are your thoughts on this? Are there any film interpretations you prefer to their written counterparts? Or do you prefer books all the way?

What do you think makes a good ending?

This is a question that has been floating around my head for quite some time now, so I thought I’d explain what I mean before I open the topic up to all of you, my lovely and consistently insightful readers.

In a lot of ways the ending of a story is almost as important as the start of a story. Anyone who has ever done any kind of creative writing class, or let’s face it, anyone who went to school and had a half decent English teacher, will have heard on many the occasion the importance of having a strong opening line, page, chapter, scene, whatever – something to hook the reader and reel them in. And while the beginning of a story is important to attract your attention initially, the ending is the part that will often stay with you long after you have finished. If the ending is disappointing, it can almost certainly ruin a book, but if the ending is powerful and poignant, it can leave you feeling humbled and inspired, even in cases where the rest of the story was mediocre.

Before I say what I think makes a good ending, I’d like to consider what I think makes a bad one, and I suspect much of this won’t come as a surprise. Firstly, I’m not the biggest fan of a happy ending. I like endings that have some happiness, an ending that perhaps leaves you with hope, or makes you laugh even, but I really don’t like that fairytale “and they lived happily ever after” ending on anything other than fairytales and Disney movies – it works great for children’s literature, but too many times I have read a work of adult fiction and found a very forced, happy ending that doesn’t fit in with the tone of the book. And that’s something else I don’t like in an ending – when you can tell it’s forced, or when it’s obvious the writer suddenly needed to meet a deadline and quickly tied up all the loose ends of the story in this half-arsed manner, which just comes across as lazy, and hardly leaves me wanting to read more of their work. Lastly, I am always disappointed when the ending is predictable. I’m not saying I want the ending to completely bowl me over in surprise, but I shouldn’t be able to guess every little detail of it several hundred pages prior, either.

So what do I like in an ending? I like an ending that flows naturally from the story, and that comes to a proper end, one that is realistic and conceivable within its own context and genre. I like an ending that is just lightly surprising, just enough to make you think “oh, that’s clever!” I like an ending that is thought provoking – in fact, I dare say this is one of the most important aspects for me, because I want to come away from a book thinking about and reflecting upon it, and not just thinking “well, another one bites the dust.” And as odd as this might sound, and this is entirely a personal feeling – I prefer a melancholy ending. Not deeply depressing, not “everyone has died, and the community/kingdom/duranduranfanclub* will never recover” type of ending somewhat akin to a Shakespearean tragedy, but something melancholy and sad in atmosphere and tone, something that stays with you and gnaws away gently at your thoughts for a day or two.

What do you think makes a good ending of a story, whether it be a short story, novel, play, or even a film? 

Do you prefer happy or sad endings, and if so, do you have a particular reason why?

 

*No offense to any Duran Duran fans out there. Hungry Like The Wolf was a good song.