Critical analysis and reviews, Films

I can’t remember the last time I laughed so much while watching a film. It’s been too long, obviously, but Nicolas Cage’s The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is that kind of meta treat that only comes along every so often.

It stars Cage as himself in a tongue in cheek critique of his career as he gets an appearance gig for a multi-millionaire out in Spain. Nothing is as it seems (of course) and he ends up playing himself, playing himself as he acts through one of his toughest parts to date. It is a meta film with a high dose of parody.

There’s a midlife crisis, parenting, questions about career choices and friendship. Plus action. All while Cage uniquely sends himself up using Tom Gormican and Kevin Etten’s script that could only have been written after watching a lot of Cage movies.

I suppose if you’ve not watched at least a handful of Cage films, then you might be hard pressed to enjoy his latest outing. And if you know nothing about his personal and professional life that is out there in the public domain, you might also struggle with some of the film’s plot points.

(And if you’ve never watched any of Cage’s films, you should probably rectify that. Like, go do that right now. Maybe start with Face/Off, followed by Raising Arizona and a side of Mandy, but that’s just to start with.)

One thing I did find myself thinking is that it reminds me a lot of The Disaster Artist but the big difference here is that I’d willingly watch any of Cage’s films. But The Room is not something I ever really want to see again.

Those of us who live for Cage “Going full Cage”, this film completely delights… And made me want to rewatch/watch some more of his extensive filmography.

You need to see “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent”

Films, Life, TV

What I learned from 500 days of learning Danish

On Saturday, 12 March, I hit 500 days straight of learning Danish through the language app Duolingo. But why am I learning another language? What inspired me? How am I learning? What’s the plan going forward? What have I learned beyond telling a zoo keeper that a tiger eats my future husband? (Tigeren spiser min mand!)

The Venn diagram of events that led me to me learning Danish

There’s a pretty simple explanation as to how I ended up leaning towards learning Danish over another language.

Step one: end up a Fannibal

Post GISH (the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt) 2020, I was gently nudged into a rewatch of Bryan Fuller’s version of Hannibal. Those who listen to my Nerds Assemble podcast will know how that went.

I dived deep into a fandom that is still going strong for a show that hasn’t had a new season since 2016 (and yes, I am one of those people who still hopes for a season 4). Through this dive and ongoing obsession, I well and truly became a Fannibal, who not only liked Hannibal but the filmography of the show’s two main stars.

Now, watching Hugh Dancy’s back catalogue (he’s a Brit who played Will Graham) is a lot easier for me as someone who has English as a first language. (He’s done a bit in French, but mostly sticks to English.) But for Mads Mikkelsen (who plays Hannibal) and his volume of work that goes far beyond the Hollywood titles that nearly always see him play some variation of a villain?

Some of it is in French, some German, but the majority of it is in his native dansk.

And while I don’t ever expect to be completely fluent in Danish, it’s nice not having to completely rely on subtitles (and pick on nuances that get lost in translation).

I can’t remember quite which scene, but there was one in Druk (a.k.a. the Oscar winning Another Round) where the English subtitles didn’t quite match what I was hearing in Danish and changed the emphasis a little. Anyway.

Mads has been in a lot of Danish productions, and through interactions with Fannibal Twitter I decided to get to know them alongside Hugh’s previous work.

(Did you know that Fannibals have a term for discussing the rest of Hugh Dancy and Mads Mikkelsen’s back catalogue and having all sorts of fanworks where their various characters “encounter” each other? It’s called the Hannibal Extended Universe or HEU for short.)

Step two: be in the middle of the apocalypse

C’mon, you know what I mean. Begins with C, ends in D and has devastated the globe?

Followed up by other global events of a humanitarian disaster level that are shaking up everyone’s trust in institutions, friends, family and even neighbours?

Yeah, a lot has happened since 2020. (Though 2016 was probably the point where the darkest timeline really took hold, let’s face it.)

Step three: be aware of your need to stop doom scrolling

Boy, while I do tend to keep myself on top of world events there’s only so much I can take in and stay sane.

While March to the start of October 2020 saw me doing a lot of doom scrolling, there came a point where I was feeling like there was something else I’d rather do while on my smartphone. Something healthier for my sanity and meaningful to me (feck off doing it for future employability, and so on and so forth, because not every minute of my day needs to be “productive”).

Perfect opportunity to learn Danish

It helps that I had previously learned German for about seven years between secondary school and two years on the International Baccalaureate. Not that I am fluent in German, I can read it, listen a bit, but I am crap at speaking it.

With this background and all the above events coalescing in my life, it seemed like a good time to learn Danish.

There are many language apps out there

Depending on how you learn and why you’re learning, there are a lot of ways that you learn a language like Danish. It’s not supported on all language apps out there but it is on the following:

I haven’t looked further than these three and if you have any suggestions, please do share them.

And if you’re in Cornwall and have a Cornwall library card, the card gives you access to a free app where it’s possible to learn a level of Danish suitable for a holiday. (Based elsewhere? Your local library service likely has free-language learning resources you can use too.)

What I learned from 500 days of learning Danish

Here is a list of things I learned that aren’t just random Danish words.

There are bits I like about Danish as a language

There are similarities between Danish and German which helped me not be too scared by a third language. And there are things that Danish does that I prefer over how German handles things, including:

  • “The” being part of words (it varies but I love it), while still having a separate word for “the” when you need it. So, tigeren is “the tiger” with en denoting “the”.
  • The use of English swear words (makes cursing easier) and some intriguing ones of their own.
  • How less formal than German, Danish is as a language. And it’s far more to the point in my opinion as a result.

However, I have grown more appreciative of just how much more slowly spoken German is as a language compared to Danish. And wow, can Danish get fast.

There are also some similarities between English and Danish, which I find helpful.

It’s worth learning about the culture a language comes from as well as learning it

Learning about culture as you study a language helps you understand why certain phrases exist, where the important elements of a sentence come into play. And it just makes it all far more memorable when you don’t have a native speaker to talk with and you’re not living in the country.

I went on two language exchanges when I was studying German in school and the internet hardly existed as it does now. So, opportunities to learn about German culture were limited and it definitely made it harder to learn.

Today, there are so many opportunities to learn about the culture for a language as you learn it, largely thanks to the internet. That opportunity is super important in a world where travel is not always easy.

What I’ve used to get a bit of Danish culture:

  • Mads Mikkelsen’s back catalogue of Danish films
  • Danish language TV shows like Rita, Borgen, The Chestnut Man on Netflix
  • What The Denmark podcast, which is literally a show all about understanding Danish culture
  • Books like The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell (which was recommended to me)

And if you have any recommendations, lemme know.

I’ve even got a Danish version of the Stephen King novel Carrie to read once I’m feeling more confident about reading in Danish. (I also have some dictionaries and a grammar book on hand.)

You don’t have to learn something just because it’ll lead to a new career

Learning Danish has cost me money and it’ll likely cost me more in future because some day I’d love to visit Denmark for a spell (apparently it might be possible to get there entirely by train, an idea that excites me immensely).

I’ve been asked numerous times during my 500 days if I am learning just because I want to work in Denmark or with Danish companies. These have never been my goals.

My main goal has always been to give my brain something to do and occupy my time in a non-stressful way. That helps me alleviate boredom and connect more deeply with the film career of a guy who is an amazing actor.

And then the deeper I’ve gone, the more I’ve wanted to know about a different country and its culture beyond that one man.

I like knowing and learning stuff for the sole reason it fascinates me.

But I am well aware that I also have the privilege of time and modest financial means to learn something new.

Learning something new takes time

Okay, this is more of a reminder for me, rather than something I learned. But I do swear people forget that it takes time and practice to get okay and then good at something.

I’ve encountered a fair few people in my life who give up on something because they spent an hour learning something and still can’t do it as well as someone who’s had years to hone their abilities. People who won’t learn something because they won’t be instantly good at it.

Whether it’s learning a new language, learning how to knit or learning how to decently cook… and on, and on.

Slow down. Expect to fumble words, to make holes or burn food. And then try again. You’ll get better with practice, so don’t be so hard on yourself if you don’t get something right away.

Here’s to 500 more days and beyond!

While I’ve been writing this blog post, Duolingo has popped up a reminder on my phone to remind me to take a lesson.

Later this year, for my birthday, I’m hoping to convince a few friends to have a Hugh Dancy and Mads Mikkelsen movie marathon with me. (Heads up if one of you is reading this.)

I’m slowly saving for that trip to Denmark.

So, here’s to 500 more days and beyond of learning dansk.


Critical analysis and reviews, Films, Videogames

Hatchet Job by Mark Kermode

So, it turns out that I somehow ended up with a copy of Mark Kermode’s Hatchet Job almost a week early. I’ve been reading through it during my downtime and I have to say that so much of what he writes about in terms of the concept of writing reviews of media products – tonnes of it is relevant to not just those who write film reviews, but those who write videogame reviews too.

Clearly with Kermode being a film reviewer the book is written from that perspective, but much of what he says is equally relevant to games journalism as well. From giving the text the proper amount of attention before passing judgement (i.e. watching a film all the way through, playing through an entire videogame (obviously not quite possible with MMOs)) and not using personal attacks against creators in order to justify your opinion of the media piece. On the other hand, there is a slight nostalgic hint in the book for the pre-internet, pre-blogging age, when reviewers were taken a bit more seriously. At the same time Kermode is fair and says that reviews by the masses are fine, so long as they’re made by people who are prepared to publicly stand by their opinions – none of this faceless, anon m’larky stuff that so many engage in.

This book won’t teach you how to write a review, but it will make you think more about the act of writing a review.

And by the way, this isn’t a review, this is a recommendation ;)

I’m off to see Mark talk about his book on Saturday and I’m definitely going to ask for it to be signed. The book is officially out on the 10th (tomorrow).

Write film or videogame reviews? You need to get Hatchet Job by Mark Kermode

Critical analysis and reviews, Films, Videogames

Ignorance of infrastructure

I don’t want this to be a long post, so I’m going to try and keep it short. But in amongst all the stuff to come tumbling out of events pre and during this year’s E3, especially in regards to the Xbox One, I just feel like companies behind hardware and software for entertainment products are unaware of global access to efficient and fast internet infrastructure, and certainly unaware of the UK situation. Continue reading

Critical analysis and reviews, Films

Star Trek Into Darkness – I disliked the lack of surprises

There’s a certain something about going into a movie, or any text, cold that can make the watching experience far more enjoyable. While in LEGO City Undercover I was delighted by having a degree of foreknowledge of what was happening in the game due to its intertextual pickings from other texts, in Star Trek Into Darkness I was left unimpressed by the film’s frequent references to the original Star Trek TV series and its subsequent films. It also didn’t help that a major plot point was lifted and partially reversed (almost like this film is in a mirror universe…) from Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan and several other things made it hard to be surprised (knowing that a third film is pretty much guaranteed does not help). Be warned that this post does contain spoilers. Continue reading