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ted

When Ted arrived at the desk of his new job advisor, she’d done nothing more than extend her hand, palm up, in a gesture for him to take a seat; she didn’t look up, check his name or say hello. If that wasn’t bad enough, someone brushed past him leaving the smell of yeast and sweat in the air around him. He scrunched his nose, tensed his jaw, slumped into a plastic chair, and stared into the woman’s makeshift cubicle ahead. He felt stupid wearing such nice clothes in a place like this; he wore snug fitting black Hugo Boss jeans, a white Armani shirt and dark brown timberland boots which were new on that morning. He’d showered and shaved that afternoon but already felt like he needed to get another.

A square table separated Ted from the woman in front of him. She was surrounded by two and a half grey partitions; a full one either side of the desk and half at the back, leaving a gap for a doorway. Behind her swivel chair, on a three-drawer filing cabinet, cornered into the half partition, were three stacked letter trays; on those, was a bigger stack of papers criss-crossed this way and that. She kept lifting the top few sheets on the stack, turning around with a huff and shuffling through the sheets on her desk. She would pick them up, look under them and put them down and turn back toward the stack on the cabinet. Every time she turned back toward her desk the back of her swivel chair would knock the filing cabinet, causing the paper pile behind her to sway. Ted snapped his mouth shut when, by the third time she did it, he noticed he was staring at the paper Jenga with his mouth open and his breath bated.

The woman’s glasses were perched on her frizzy curly hair and she wore a dark green wool suit which hung from her body in the same way her skin seemed to hang over her bones. She had one hand over her brow as she searched the desk with the other. He noticed there were big sallow circles around her eyes and at first glance he thought she was healing from two black eyes before realising it was the natural tone of her skin. The sharp angles of her cheekbones cast shadows down her cheek and every time her head lifted enough to catch the light, he half expected to see the outline of her teeth through her skin.
After looking back and forth with her head down, huffing and puffing for whatever it was she was looking for, her glasses eventually slid forward and dropped to her nose. She had made some sort of noise which resembled a ‘hurrah’ when she readjusted her focus and saw Ted’s CV on her desk. Ted was already slouched in his chair but he sank into it a bit further, bringing his hand to his head as he shook it in disbelief. Finally, she sat down without looking up. Her un-plucked eyebrow poked over the brown rims of thick, scratched glasses. It was like a pointy finger in Ted’s face.

He turned in his seat when he heard a scuffle over near the entrance of the job centre.
“But maaate, I need my dole. You can’t do this, Man.” Slurred a little guy in an oversized puffer coat. Releasing him into the exit area was a mountain of a man in an all-black security guard uniform.
“You cannot drink that in here. Out!” The security guard bellowed and the whole place fell silent, everyone except his job advisor, turned toward the scene if they weren’t already looking. The whiny, drunk man, backed out of the first set of automatic doors onto a disabled ramp.
“A’right, a’right, I don’t want trouble,” he said still holding his can of Stella Artois, “I’m going.”
The outer automatic door swished shut and the security guard, who must’ve been a sentry in a past life, returned to his post beside the door with his bulging arms crossed over his puffed-out chest. His hair was cut short to his head, his eyes were big and dark but seemed far apart on his head. His furrowed eyebrows cast shadows, not only over his face, but the room too.

Ted took a moment to look around. It was late in the day and although it had been light when he arrived, it was November and even with frosting on all the windows, he could tell it was dark outside now.

The job centre was an open plan design. The cubicle he was at was the last in a row which lined the windows on one side of the floor. Two cubicles down, there was a woman having a meeting too. She was about thirty years old, wearing fishnets and pink trainers, a denim skirt and a dirty pink coat; she could have been rolling around in a rubbish skip just before she walked in. She was gnawing her fingernails while her leg bounced frantically under the table. Ted could hear a man’s voice but from where he was sat, he couldn’t see who was talking to her. In the centre of the room was a seating area with three rows of five chairs; only one man, who could have been anywhere between forty and sixty, sat in the middle of the row closest to him. His puffy red face was creased with a frown as he studied a piece of paper in his hand; Ted guessed it was his CV. He had grey suit with a white shirt on and no tie. Ted noticed that one leg on the man’s suit was severely crinkled but the other was pressed neatly and for some reason it made him feel sorry for the guy. Scanning the rest of the room, he could see to the left of the Sentry, there were job boards and a few electronic touch screens for people to look at job adverts beside a door with an electronic lock. There was a man at one of the touch screens with his back to the room. Opposite the front door was an information counter and another electronically locked door behind that; Ted had noticed there was a woman sat there when he walked in but couldn’t see her now.

Ted turned back to the woman in the cubicle. Her bony finger, tipped with chipped-off brown nail varnish, tapped against her pursed brown lips and her chin sat somewhere in her neck as she studied the page. The more he watched her eyebrow twitch and point at him he felt himself getting angry with her. It’s not like he would be here if he felt like he had a choice. Slowly he began to work himself up. He was about to call her out for being rude, for judging him without knowing him, for pointing her pointy eyebrow at him when she finally lifted her head and beamed a smile at him.

“Ted! Can I call you Ted? My boy is called Theodore too, but we call him Teddy. Not that I would do that to you though; not quite the place.” She chuckled a little bit, then said, “Oh where are my manners, I’m Jennifer, I’m your Advisor.” She stretched out over the desk extending her skeletal hand for a shake.
Ted, blinked and stuttered as he sat upright to return the handshake.
“Er, y-yeah sure, you can call me Ted, everyone does.” He blinked again as he released the frail lady’s hand, a jolt of guilt poking his gut.
“Ok Ted, let’s get started. I can see you have had a few different jobs here” Jennifer paused, looking back at the CV. Oh here we go, Ted thought, here comes the judgem- “which is great experience for you. Having tried a bunch of things means maybe we can figure out which bits of those roles you liked the most and actually find you something you actually like doing. You’re young, the world is your oyster right now.” She did another big smile.

Ted gawped a little. This was not the usual treatment he had when he signed on; this was the first time anyone looked at his CV for more than a glance, the first time anyone called him Ted, the first time he saw anyone in these cubicles even smile.

“Well I’m with a few agencies but I haven’t picked anything up for a week or two.” Ted was half telling the truth. Yes, he hadn’t worked for an agency for a few weeks, but he had been doing plenty else.
Ted had been in care most of his life and he couldn’t wait to be in charge of his own life. Since leaving school he had cash-in-hand labouring jobs and by the time he was eighteen he had his own flat. He smoked a lot of weed back then which meant money was tight. After stuggling for a little while Ted started doing a bit of distibution for his dealer, Benny Tate, which was good money but when Ted actually started dealing weed himself, he made more.

Six months ago to the day, Ted’s best friend died. Ted had packed in smoking the weed not long after but he was still trying to stop dealing it. He had more money than he could spend, but this was the only place he felt could help him escape Benny after what happened.

“To be honest, I want something secure and regular. I want a career. I don’t really have any qualifications either, so maybe you could help me with that too? I want to learn, I have a driving license and I’ll even go across the water for work.”

“That is great news, it’s exactly what we want to hear here. Not to worry Ted, I am certain we will find something if you’re keen enough.”

Ted and Jennifer sat for over forty minutes, looking at jobs and courses around Hull. She asked him questions about the things he liked about himself and what he was good at. It was only as their meeting was coming to a close that Ted noticed how quiet it had become.
The middle-aged man who had been sat at the centre of the floor was now sat at the cubicle the fidgety woman had been sat at. The Sentry was closing windows and checking their locks and an old man in dark green overalls had appeared in the Job Board section and was mopping the floor.
“It’s been a pleasure to meet you Ted, I’ll see you in two weeks to see how you got on.” Jennifer leaned over to shake Ted’s hand again.
“You too Jennifer, thank you for all your help.”

Ted, picked up his binder of advice leaflets, potential courses and job adverts and headed for the door but it didn’t open automatically when he walked up to it. By the time Ted was looking for him, the Sentry was already strolling over to him, keys in hand, to let him out.
“Thanks mate-“ Ted started. The Sentry smiled weakly and turned the key in the door opening the first one. “-bet you get some right states in here, don’t yer?” The Sentry just nodded and kept walking. They went into the vestibule but just as the Sentry placed the key in the lock of the second door he stopped and squinted through the glass. Ted looked too, but between the lighting on the inside and the darkness on the outside, he may as well be looking in a mirror. After his meeting, he felt pretty good about the reflection in the window. The job centre was in the middle of town, it was Friday night and on the way there he had heard the music and laughter of the people inside, he fancied a bit of that now. He was dressed up and thought about going to the pub or a club and even calling his, er, friend? girlfriend? ‘Tasha for a few drinks.

“You alright there, mate?” Ted said, startling the Sentry. It made Ted jump too, seeing a man so intimidating jerk. What was he looking at? Ted thought, squinting back out into the darkness. His eyes widened when he saw a black heap in the middle of the road.
“Shit has someone been hit; we need to get out there, what are you waiting for?” Ted looked around frantically for a button or handle.
“I don’t think he’s been hit. Keep your voice down a moment.” The Sentry continued to stare though the glass.
“Shit man, what can you see that I-” Ted moved closer to the glass, his breath steaming it up as he saw the black mass on the floor was moving up and down. He used the back of his wrist to wipe the foggy patch on the window and that’s when saw those fishnet legs and pink trainers twitching from beneath the black heap.

film review. brightburn

MOVIE: Brightburn

YEAR: 2019

DIRECTOR: David Yarovesky

WRITER: Brian Gunn, Mark Gunn

MAIN CAST: Jackson A. Dunn, David Denman, Elizabeth BAnks

RUNNING TIME: 1hr 30min

There are spoilers below…

I try and avoid movie trailers out of fear that they will spoil a film or take something away from it. Most of the time I feel like they show way too much information and as though they somehow force me to develop an opinion about a film before I have even seen it.

Brandon Breyer

Brightburn was one of those times I ended up seeing the trailer and although I wouldn’t necessarily say I developed an opinion about the film I did start thinking up questions about it and I was coming back to Superman every-time.

ooooo, I thought, interesting – my initial reaction to the first few seconds of the trailer. Then as it went on I began to cringe a little, ah I don’t know. I mean, a bad Superman? Is that where they’re going with this? We’ve seen Superman turn bad. Then again, we’ve never seen him start out bad. Ok – they’re either gona do this good or it’s gona be real bad.

I kept seeing odd buzz words around the film though: Horror, Gory, Bad seed, Evil Superhero. I was wondering, how dark is this gona be?

When I thought about a bad Superman, I couldn’t help going back to the 1983 Superman III starring Christopher Reeve. It’s the one where Superman splits into an evil version of himself after being exposed to synthetic kryptonite. He becomes a bit of a horny, juvenile alcoholic. Sure some of the stuff he does is a bit bad, but considering the power he wields he doesn’t go that mental. This got me hoping Brightburn wasn’t just about a moody Mama’s boy going through puberty.

Superman and Clark Kent

To be fair, the trailer made it quite clear the little dude in this film was one step ahead of getting wasted, blowing out the Olympic Torch and straightening out the Leaning Tower of Pisa (Superman III). He is definitely a bit of a psycho, but how far was he really going to go? Was he just going to maim people? Or was this angelic looking kid going to just go to full on Killing sprees? I think there’s a few occasions in the DC comics where Superman goes a bit nuts and even starts killing members of the Justice League, so maybe he will go that far?

The Gunn brothers, Mark and Brian, that wrote the screenplay are adamant the film is not based on a ‘bad Superman’, but an already evil alien raised on earth. I don’t read about films until I’ve seen them so most of this I didn’t really pick up until afterward.

However, perhaps I should have observed that statement a little harder while I watched it. I got caught up on this whole Evil Superman parallel, that it was easy to only see the Superman element.

Yes! There’s bunch of references paying homage to Superman from the red cape to the laser beam eyes. Yes! Like the Superman back-story, a baby crash lands on a farm and Mr & Farmer decide to raise the baby as their own, but you can read more about all those on another site.

Forget for a minute that Brightburn had anything to do with Superman at all.

What got my skin crawling is what’s implied about Brandon’s backstory and what he’s going through. After much consideration, I think Brandon is less like Superman – and more like some killer Wasp-Bee alien, and here’s why.

To give that a little more context, I’m going to start from the scene in the school where Brandon talks about bees and wasps.

By the complex answer he gives his teacher when they’re learning about the Bees and the Wasps Brandon appears to be smarter than the average kid. The other children tease Brandon; he is clearly different to them and maybe they all sense that.

I don’t think this scene just makes a point about how smart Brandon is, or how the other kids in the class are bullying him. I think this scene is a big clue about why he landed on Earth and what makes this film stand away from Superman.

I’ll expand on what Brandon talks about to show where I’m coming from. Brandon says about the aggressive nature of wasps and how they don’t have the ability to create hives so they take them over by brute force. True Brood Wasps are insects that infiltrate host nests as larvae (like Brandon as a baby) and are raised by the adult hosts (like Tori and Kyle). Cuckoo Bumblebees do the same, but also release pheromones in order to slip past bee security and kill or subdue the queen of entire colonies and take them over, forcing the host worker-hive to feed their offspring.

I think showing him being bullied is by the other kids at school could also be seen as they are poking the wasp nest – so to speak but I won’t get carried away.

When Brandon wakes up in the middle of the night after a seizure, the hidden space-vessel he came in seems to have sent out psychic messages awakening his powers of strength, flight and speed (not to mention the laser eyes). Later in the film Brandon cracks the psychic code and realises its telling him to TAKE THE WORLD – which he seems to take to like a Cuckcoo Bee takes a colony.

Yeah, from here on in, Brandon starts displaying a whole load of manipulative and twisted behaviour that involves bloodshed and threats – but there’s a fair few indicators that what he’s been going through doesn’t just start after the seizure in bed.

Knowing that despite his innocent appearance, Brandon is not a real human child, Kyle points out the things he’s noticed as they have raised him.

Kyle and Tori discover some magazine clippings which aren’t just teenage boy spank-bank material. Beneath a few pictures of bikini models, there’s pictures and drawings of the anatomy of people. The notebook that he is always writing in is quite tatted and used up and when we see it later in the film, there’s a lot of disturbing content (even the logo he stamps everywhere is like a rudimentary bee or wasp stamp). It all suggests these are things that have been playing on his mind for a while. It’s not quite as simple as a Space-ship talking to him awakening some sudden urge to kill, it seems Brandon has been wondering what people look like from the inside-out, for a lot longer.

Does he want to know our anatomy so he can kill us easily? Does he want to lay eggs in our abdomen? Is he going to eat us when he is done? I mean, when he stuck his finger in the blood on his dying uncles face, I half expected him to lick it off!!

Ok I aren’t clutching at straws here – I can give this Bee-Wasp Alien theory a bit more traction.

Another part of the film that seems to back up the idea of Brandon infiltrating Earth to potentially colonise it like the Cuckoo Bee, is his interest in Caitlyn. Despite the fact that he crushes her hand, in some sort of controlling and manipulative effort he still wants to pursue her sexually. The reason I specifically say sexually, is because the first thing he does after Kyle ‘gives him the talk (about the birds and the bees‘) is stalk her in her bedroom. It’s also more carnal than it is romantic especially because he actually stalks her. Even after he breaks her hand he is still imposing. Has he intended her as his mate?

Ok so enough about that – one of thee main and most definitive reasons I think Brandon is a Wasp Monster… The insect-like hooded-mask he wears. I mean, come on, could you get more symbolic than that? He hovers like a wasp, he moves at speed like a wasp, he’s aggressive and parasitic and imposing – he even wears a wasp mask!!

So if I forget for a minute that the word Superman is even remotely related to this little monster, I become extremely creeped out. I reckon Brandon is more likely from a liege of Super Wasp Aliens that can morph into their hosts, permeate an entire planet and destroy it with no conscience.

If you think I’m totally off the mark then message me or comment. I’d love to hear it.

…anything but Superman related comparisons!

film review. aladdin

MOVIE: Aladdin

YEAR: 2019

DIRECTOR: Guy Ritchie

WRITER: John August & Guy Ritchie

MAIN CAST: Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott, Will Smith, Merwan Kenzari

RUNNING TIME: 2hr 8min

There are spoilers below…

So as far as I’m concerned, if Guy Ritchie wants to make more Musicals then I will back that situation 100%.

Aladdin follows the almost identical story-line of its 1992 cartoon original. Aladdin, a poor thief on the streets of Agrabah, meets Princess Jasmine and falls in love with her. It’s not until Aladdin finds a magical Lamp and a Genie within, that he can become a Prince and be worthy of her. Of course, an evil sorcerer threatens all of these wonderful romantic plans so it is up to Aladdin, his monkey-friend Abu, a loyal magic Carpet and Aladdin’s Genie to save them all.

Jafar Genie Aladdin Jasmine Daliah

As for all things technical; when it comes to the way this film is shot, in all it’s bright and beautiful glory, I was wide-eyed and taken in. I have always enjoyed Ritchie’s style of camerawork and editing, and this film is different from his usual grit. It’s vivid and colourful from start to finish, mimicking the rich vibrancy of the cartoon. Compared to Live-Action, there can be a lot of unnatural manoeuvrability with camerawork and lighting in a cartoon, so Ritchie’s style is a perfect match since Disney clearly wanted a ‘live-animation’ equivalent of the Original.

The setting of the City and the Palace is almost stage-like, which is a common design for Musical Movies because they’re built for ease of dancing and movement (not only from the actors but the set and props too). It’s a layout which adds to the feel of animation because of how it moves in the background to make way for the action of the characters.

Although I can understand the stage-like layout of the film, despite the controversy attached to the place, props and detail (more on that soon), I was really disappointed in the costume designs. They were very Disneyland-esque and I won’t be surprised if they are on mass production for the staff in theme parks, or when identical outfits are flying out of Disney stores the world over.

From late last year, I heard a lot of dubious comments and opinions from people when it was announced that there would be a Live-Action Aladdin, and of course there were going to be; an unknown fact about Disney’s original Aladdin cartoon, was that it had a bit of bad press back in the day when it sparked racial controversy. It may have claimed more than a whopping $500 million at the Box Office, but between racist lyrics in the songs to the prejudice depiction of the antagonist characters, it really hit a nerve with Middle Eastern and North African audiences, and rightly so.

A real problem with blockbuster movies and the size of the audience they command (especially in a young audience, like Aladdin), is that prejudice representations of any creed or cultures leave a real-world impression ( to be fair, any negative stereotypes perpetuate adverse impressions on races, sexes, sexual orientations, religions… the list goes on). In some ways I see it as borderline irresponsible of film-makers, when its possible their audience could be naive enough to take these depictions seriously.

Characters and Lyrics aside (because Ritchie has changed them somewhat), Orientalism is the main perpetrator casting a shadow over both Aladdin movies.

“Orientalism” is a way of seeing that imagines, emphasizes, exaggerates and distorts differences of Arab peoples and cultures as compared to that of Europe and the U.S. It often involves seeing Arab culture as exotic, backward, uncivilized, and at times dangerous.

Orientalism is something which has grown into a monster in terms of how the western world seem to imagine the Eastern world. It has been growing since the late 1800’s in things like art and stories which have almost always come from an outsiders perspective opposed to someone with knowledge and experience of actual communities and their cultures, traditions or beliefs.

Aladdin is a film that cemented Orientalism into the western perception far before Ritchie got his hands onto it. Despite how well I think Guy Ritchie has done creating a film with colour, more in-depth character development (compared to the cartoon) and humour (personally, I don’t think Will Smith had some bad lines); I think he still managed to ignore most of the free lessons critics and advocacy groups have expressed about the problems in the original.

Although there’s a lot of improvement in the characters (thankfully the Sultan isn’t a babbling man-baby and the Genie, for all his power, wants to go on a date), the costumes make the actors look like life-sized dolls and the whole city design from the Palace to the River to the Market is make-belief of all the pretty things from Asia and North Africa. There is no real depth, and for all the talk about ‘the people’ by Princess Jasmine, the film has almost nothing to do with them.

This film could be set anywhere, and its that transparency that acts as an affront to Middle Eastern and African culture insulted by the original cartoon. Or, perhaps the point was since Aladdin comes from a mishmash of cultures it is set in a place-less place; I aren’t sure that is good enough, maybe it should have been set in the Grand Canyon, Niagra Falls, Washington DC or on Route 66 if that was the case, and Disney should not make a culturally contraversial film if they aren’t going to do their utmost to respect and teach about the culture they’re portraying.

As it stands, on the surface, Ritchie simply made the 1992 Aladdin into a Live-Action Movie and not a lot more.

That’s not to say I didn’t like it though.