Wednesday, October 31, 2012


A while ago I was sitting around with the guys, shooting the shit about something or other. I'm fairly sure the something or other in question was something along the lines of awkward encounters/uncomfortable conversations. In any case, it was a topic of conversation that prompted me to tell the story of how Mitch and I broke up. I guess I thought it'd be funny? I think it's a funny story. I'm pretty sure it's a funny story.

Basically, right as Mitts and I were in the middle of "it's not you it's me", or "better off as friends", or something equally as cliched, we were interrupted by the sudden presence of my favourite cinema studies lecturer. I guess it was our bad for biting the bullet in a public place, and a cafe right next to our university at that. My very favourite lecturer stopped to chat, all friendly-like. He saw Mitts staring at his feet, then his eyes darted to me in increasing panic, to consider my hand-wringing awkward uncomfortable silence. You could see two and two being put together in his head, and the sudden terror in his face as he realised what he'd just walked in on.
"WELL, I guess I'll see you later!" he blurted out at an almost-yell, and damn near sprinted away.
Mitts and I sat there in stunned silence, wondering whether or not to laugh.

Look, even if you don't think it's that funny, Mitch and I laugh about it. Come on, it's the stuff sitcoms are made of! Break up! Interruption by university personality! Awkwardness ensues! I thought it was mildly amusing, but obviously the guys I told it to a little while ago thought it was less hilarious than it was an uncomfortable thing to hear. You know when you're telling a story, and a little over halfway through (read: past the point of no return) you realise it's going to completely bomb when you get to the climax/punchline? It was like that. I'm pretty sure I even tacked on a "and then I found twenty bucks" at the story's end.

I suppose the guys reacted in an awkward way because of all the activities in the world, break ups would probably be near the top of any list entitled "Things That Are Not Much Fun". Right in between getting a wart burnt off, and being fired. Even if they occur in public, they're intensely private moments, and they're rarely the short, digestible length they'd be if it was taking place in a Hollywood comedy.

These were all thoughts going through my head as I sat in a cafe late last week and observed, watched, took the journey with a couple breaking up right in front of me. It was, amongst other things, excruciating, fascinating, and riveting viewing.

I sat down in the cafe, ordered my coffee, and whipped out my notebook. With half an hour till I needed to jump onto a tram, I'd decided to feign at being an efficient-ass motherfucker and get some shit done. FUNCTIONING HUMAN ADULT MANEUVERS would be engaged before I got on with my day. I surveyed the other cafe-goers as I waited for my caffeine. For some context, I was sitting facing the window, my back to a dividing wall thing. Sitting against the window with their sides to me, a little to my right was a young couple. They looked like they were having a rather intense conversation. I took my headphones off, and didn't even have to strain to hear them. That convenient fact was merely because they weren't whispering, such was the intimacy of the space. Rookie mistake, whoever chose the venue.

It was immediately obvious that they were breaking up. Or at the very least, they were in the middle of the talk that comes immediately after someone says "we need to talk", and immediately before a break up. They were leaning in as they spoke, and his expression alternated between pained and concerned.

Then I heard a snippet of conversation:
"You know that I care about you a lot, like, more than anyone else..." he said, clutching her hands in his.

It was at this point that I was like,

While I desperately attempted to look like I wasn't actively eavesdropping and messaging a friend with the details of what I was witnessing, the young couple continued their painful talk.

"I'm at a crossroads right now" he said.
"I just think, whenever we talk about anything we end up fighting" she said.
"Things are just so crazy with uni right now..." he said.
"I believe that if we give this a shot, we really have to give it a shot" she said.

I tell you what, I was engrossed. I'll tell you what else, it's extremely difficult not to look engrossed when you are. I ripped my attention away from the pair as I quickly updated my Facebook status (regarding my cafe entertainment situation, of course), only to tune back in as she was busting out "I know that's a really difficult thing to hear from someone, but it's true." His face was contorted in discomfort. Wait, wasn't he the one at the crossroads? This was getting interesting.

I inwardly kicked myself for not hearing what on earth had been such a "difficult thing to hear" and turned back to my phone, as I received a text message demanding pictures. I'd posted a status update about little surprise drama unfolding before my eyes, and it'd very quickly gained a bit of attention. A friend immediately asked for details about whose fault the break up was. I was about to post a long and juicy reply, full of descriptions of heartbroken expressions (his) and cracked voices (hers). As I tap-tap-tapped at the screen of my phone though, I had a abrupt and surprising crisis of conscience. I deleted my comment.

This lightning bolt of moral dilemma wasn't so much annoying as it was interesting; all of a sudden I was incredibly aware of what I was intruding on, and subsequently sharing with the internets. By that I mean, a break up is an intensely private, personal thing to happen. Neither of them were having a good time, not by any means. Sure, there's quite a bit of twisted delight and train-wreck fascination to be had from my vantage point certainly, but after eavesdropping and keeping a friend updated via text message over fifteen minutes or so, I all of a sudden felt a little dirty. Like I'd been intruding on something I really shouldn't have been intruding on. I knew how much she liked his family, that their friends would all apparently shit bricks, and how their mutual pal Steve was going to be torn - although apparently, Steve was his friend first. Poor Steve.

Oh god, then they began to joke about it. You know, the "we've broken up now, but we're definitely going to keep being friends because we're totally able to joke around about what just happened even though it's obviously super awkward and not comfortable in the slightest" kind of nervous and forced laughter. I almost put my headphones back on. Perhaps it was time to leave, or at least stop listening so intently.

While all this was happening, another guy walked into the cafe and sat down a couple of tables to my right, so pretty much directly in front of the couple. He ordered a coffee and instantly realised what was going down in his immediate field of vision. I have never seen someone slam a latte and bail so quickly. Never. I'm obviously made of tougher shit than that guy though, because I stuck around for another five minutes or so. Even if I was having a small moral dilemma, this trainwreck was way too juicy and riveting to just leave. And apparently, my friends felt the same way. Like I said, the twisted delight of seeing something awkwardly and painfully destroyed right before your eyes far, far outweighs any moral qualms one might feel when one becomes aware of the slightly creepy voyeurism one might be undertaking.

Anyway, by then it was time to catch my tram and I returned my phone and notebook (not a single word of value written) to my backpack. So I left. They were still going. I knew that when I caught up with a bunch of pals the next day I'd tell the story of what I'd witnessed as an epic, hilarious story full of awkwardly comedic plot points. I couldn't wait to tell this story. As I put my backpack on however, I kind of still felt a little dirty, and I kind of wanted to go up to them and be like, "GUYS, IT'LL BE OKAY. ALSO, NEXT TIME EITHER OF YOU BREAK UP WITH SOMEONE, CHOOSE A MORE PRIVATE LOCATION."

Would they remain friends?
Would they work at it and stay together?

I guess we'll never know. I also know that as much as I don't really feel like I should have spent all that time eavesdropping, at least I didn't start recording their conversation. This is something I've been reprimanded for at least twice, but it also reassures me that I'm not that much of a creep weirdo, one who takes too much pleasure in all things #dark. I AIN'T THAT FUCKED, YO.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Review: Safety Not Guaranteed

Right off the bat: Safety Not Guaranteed very swiftly stolen the mantle from all others as my highlight from this year's Melbourne International Film Festival. 

Not for a long while has a film completely and utterly charmed the bejeezus out of me, and sent me from the theatre with such an elated spring in its step. Colin Trevorrow's somewhat-sci-fi romantic comedy isn't to be congratulated merely on its ability to elicit a good mood however; while far from perfect, Safety Not Guaranteed is littered with stellar performances, a whip-smart delightful script, and is surprisingly touching. 

Unless you're the type of person who spends far too much time on Reddit than is probably healthy, you may not have been aware of a joke ad that did the rounds online. It was a wanted ad, seeking a partner to go back in time with. "MUST BRING OWN WEAPONS." it declared, "SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED. I HAVE ONLY DONE THIS ONCE BEFORE". Trevorrow and screenwriter Derek Connolly - both of whom make their feature debut here - as the question, what if this guy’s for real? Is he crazy? Does he actually think he can go back in time? 

Those sent to discover this are self-absorbed journalist Jeff (Jake M Johnson), and his two interns, nerdy and awkward Arnau (newcomer Karan Soni) and our heroine, Darius (Aubrey Plaza). The trio head to a seaside town outside of Seattle, to track down Kenneth (mumblecore veteran Mark Duplass), the weirdo who believes he has harnessed the secret of time travel. Jeff has taken the assignment in order to track down a high school sweetheart, bringing along the two interns to carry out the assignment for him. The trio find Kenneth a mulleted grocery store clerk, and Darius introduces herself - sarcastically, and challenging Kenneth’s “calculations” - as a willing partner in time travel. As it turns out, he’s deadly serious about his mission, and his “training”, and the fact that he’s being monitored by agents of some sort. As the slightly jaded and quietly unhappy Darius becomes increasingly intrigued with Kenneth and deeper embroiled in his plan, the lines between investigative journalism and personal mission become progressively more blurred. How much of the goings-on are in Kenneth’s head? Does it matter? 

Where Safety Not Guaranteed draws its strength is from a strong cast, great chemistry between the leads, and a whip-crackingly intelligent script. One might believe the trajectory of the film to be an easily identifiable one, but Derek Connolly manages to mostly avoid cliches successfully, and keeps things  Each character is a three-dimensional whole person, even the douchey Jeff, who could very well have ended up an utterly unlikable fella. While it’s obvious Kenneth and Darius will get together, the romance is a touching and understated one. Hell, the efforts of those at the helm of Safety Not Guaranteed result in it being difficult to tell whether time travel will actually occur even as the film reaches its last few minutes. 

Aubrey Plaza is essentially playing a slight variation on April Ludgate, her character in Parks and Recreation, but in this instance one can forgive her for playing to her strengths. Plaza appears slightly shaky during the film’s opening scenes, but as the story progresses she proves herself as more than capable in a lead role. Duplass too, has of late proved himself to be an on-screen presence to be reckoned with. In a role that could have descended into caricature, Duplass plays it straight, to poignant effect. To be honest, Safety Not Guaranteed is very much Duplass’s show. 

Safety Not Guaranteed is one of the smarter, more ambitious and genre-defying films I’ve had the pleasure of seeing in a long while. It’s touching and intelligent, kind-hearted and very, very funny. As to whether the heroes actually achieve time travel, that is not something I’ll be divulging.

I give Safety Not Guaranteed 4 out of 5 time-travel denim jackets. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

I Tell Shitty Jokes Now

Contrary to the constant reassurances of my friends that I'm mistaken, I personally don't think that I'm particularly cool. In fact, I'm fairly certain that a lot of the time I'm decidedly uncool.

Along with being more or less in a constant state of uncoolness, I'm also wont to be awkward as hell. I'm prone to saying ridiculous things, as well as finding joy/humour in really, really inappropriate situations. I won't for a moment attempt to convince you otherwise, as by now I'm sure the extent of my clumsy hilarity is probably common knowledge.

Look, it's who I am. I was #bornthisway ... for lack of a better term.

Perhaps (definitely), this is why I'm prone to super skeptical irritation when I hear a very pretty, obviously super cool lady squeal in embarrassment, "Oh, I'm so AWKWARD!". I think to myself with a scrunched up face, "Bitch, please."

Bitch, please

Have you ever fallen down two flights of stairs because you couldn't get your hands out of your pockets in order to steady yourself?

Have you ever been running across a bridge and fallen through it and had one leg dangling into a river?

Have you ever dropped a plate full of avocado all over a client's jacket at work?

Have you ever asked someone who said they want to be an actor, "What kind of end boss do you have to battle in the video game of that?"  
No, I don't know what I meant by that either.

You know what though? It's okay! I don't mind. I bring laughter to all those around me. I keep myself amused, I know that for sure. Rumour has it that I brought a hell of a lot of humour to the workplace I just recently left. And, as my dear friends constantly stress to me, I'm apparently much cooler than I give myself credit for. I'll try to take their word for it, but frankly I remain mostly unconvinced. Which is okay, because I am quite comfortable with the myriad ways in which I constantly fail at being socially able.

Let's be honest: at this stage of the game, I don't think my parents'd have the time, money and effort required to keep on paying my friends to hang out with me, if that's what they'd been doing from day dot. I highly doubt that. So let's assume I'm doing at least something right.

The reason I mention all that is because I was recently asked by someone:

"So why are you telling all these shitty jokes now?"

Well firstly, this is a new-found skill (I use the word "skill" very loosely here). Certainly, it's one that does nothing to diminish my awkwardness and propensity for giving the impression that I'm a little on the strange side, but I'll call it a skill nonetheless. For a long, long time I knew a grand total of one joke. One whole joke. I think I learned it from a Monty Python sketch, and it goes like this:

Q: What's brown and sounds like a bell? 

I'd bust it out far more often than is socially acceptable. Soon however, everyone knew that DUNG!! was my one joke, the one thing I was able to bring to a conversation about shitty jokes. I hate to be a one-trick pony, but for the life of me I just couldn't work out how to tell a joke. Goddamn, how do you remember them? HOW? 

Oh, the woes! The despair that I felt, at my inability to remember any jokes in order to nab me some instant laughter karma in a social setting amongst other people sharing shitty yet hilarious jokes! It was incredibly disheartening. I figured it was my destiny to never be known for a master teller of jokes. Sure, I have plenty of hilarious stories. Sure, whatever. Anecdotes, shmanecdotes. What if I want to tell a joke? A "Did you hear the one about..." or a "X walks into a bar..." or a "Knock Knock!" joke that extends further than an interrupting cow? No dice. No dice at all.

Then suddenly, up to my desk strode my saviour in all things joke-related, my teacher in the ways of having a steady and unforgiving arsenal of yuk-inducing funnies. I suppose Ferg and I were inevitably going to win from our strange union (aside from the fact that we're you know, friends). I would gain much-needed exposure to epic, epic joke-telling. In turn, Ferg would get the satisfaction of sending me into hysterical cackles or painful groans (or both) at his ridiculously shitty/daggy/pun-ny jokes while he'd grin victoriously at my reaction.

Every day Ferg'd tell me another joke, either a one-liner burst of wordplay, or a long-winded epic tale that lasted for suspense-filled minutes only to be finished with the most anti-climactic punchline known to man-kind.

And so, each day I'd arrive home and share my newly acquired nugget of lulz to Mike, the obvious guinea pig for gauging how much work my delivery would need in the Real World. Either the joke would go down a treat, with Mike sending his palm to his face in disgust while laughing in spite of himself, or with the punchline being ruined by my uncontrollable giggling. Whatever way the cookie crumbled, it was funny shit.

As time went on, my confidence grew. I busted out shitty jokes whenever humanly possible, and rarely when socially appropriate. Meeting a pal's new girlfriend? SHITTY JOKE. Hanging out with fairly cool people you've not seen in a long while? INDUCE BEMUSED LOOKS AND AWKWARD GROANS.

Did you hear the one about the cowboy who bought a daschund? 
He wanted to get along, little dogie! 

This continued, with me riding high on a cloud of face-palm confidence, leaving a trail of groans, chortles and destruction in my wake. I gained a reputation amongst my close pals, one for arriving at a party and promptly asking someone if they like dragons. You do? Well, you're gonna love it when I'm DRAG'ON THESE BALLS ON YO' FACE.

And so, a few weeks ago it came to pass that a night was spent at a bar with Mitts and a number of pals. It was a night that contained sufficient alcoholic lubrication of my confidence to enhance any belief in my Completely and Utterly Irresistible Charm and Wit. I honed in on an attractive male and proceeded to attempt to flirt with him. Of course, given the schtick I'd come to enjoy so much of recent times, I'm using the world "flirting" very loosely in that "flirting" equated to "telling awful jokes".

The immediate problem was easy to spot: my slight inebriation combined with the fact that I was a little distracted by this particular male's attractiveness meant that towards the end of the joke's long-winded (yet entertaining) set up, I forgot the damn punchline.

To make matters worse - apart from the fact that I'm The Worst at this sort of thing - I ended up telling him that I forgot the damn punchline as soon as the thought entered my head. Judging by the look on the guy's face though, he apparently thought my exclamation of, "Shit, I hope I remember the punchline in the next minute!" was meant to actually be a part of the joke itself. One could almost hear the gears whirring in his head as he struggled to figure out how that statement fit into a story about Quasimodo interviewing replacement bell-ringers before he went on vacation. Undeterred though, I stormed ahead. I stormed onward, right until I got to the punchline in earnest, and still couldn't remember what the fuck Quasimodo said to the cops.

"Damnit! I can't remember!" I yelled.
The attractive guy stared at me a moment, in confused silence.
"Uhh...wait. Is that it?" he asked, looking bemused.
"No. Shit. Um. I can't remember. Hold on. I'll remember."
I clutched my beer and racked my brain while Mitts stood a couple meters away, stifling hysterical laughter.

Mitts looked at me as if to say, "This is truly one of the stupidest things you've done in a long while"
The attractive guy smiled politely through his puzzled expression.
"That's pretty funny." He said.

I took a swig of my beer.

"Do you want to hear another one?"

He considered the question for a moment.

"No...not really."

In that moment, Mitts erupted into that loud, cackling laugh that makes us such a force to be reckoned with when we're watching a movie that's in any way amusing, his head thrown back as he struggled for breath.

Welp! There was the answer. Why am I telling these shitty jokes now? Because whatever the result of my efforts, it's bound to be hilarious for someone.

I looked at the attractive guy, then at my beer, and then at Mitts. I spluttered into hysterical giggles. My god, is there no way for me at least a little bit suave? Apparently not. Which is cool. It's cool, because given what I've been doing for the past few weeks is basically a move in actively distancing myself from anything resembling coolness. I'm fairly sure my parents aren't paying my friends to hang out with me, which is cool. It's cool, because I'm almost certain I'm prone to enough hilarity to avoid complete and utter failure most of the time. With the power of shitty jokes on my side and with Ferg's arsenal of material at my disposal, I am almost certainly bound for glory.

Why did the scarecrow win an award?