AMA/Q&A

Apologies for my absence for the past few days – frustratingly, I was ill. Nevertheless, I have returned and will be back officially reviewing on Friday the 17th, but that’s not what I’m here to talk about today.

For the past few weeks I’ve been pondering whether or not to go through with my plans about hosting a AMA (ask me anything) Q&A session in which you, my loyal readers, would submit any and all questions you have for me and I will post my answers here on this platform for you all to read (hopefully next week).

Your questions may be as diverse as you wish them to be – it can be about my taste in media (film, tv, music, video games, etc), my role as a film critic, potential advice, whatever you want. And rest assured: I will answer every question to the best of my ability.

If this sounds interesting to you, by all means let me know and get your questions in.  Who knows, maybe this could be a regular thing.

– VC

 

THE NEVER-ENDING AUTISM

For as long as I can remember, everyday when I wake up I’ve been overwhelmed by a seething dose of self-hatred, melancholy and feelings of uselessness. I look at myself and then a tiny, irksome voice says “what are you doing, you talentless twat? Why do you bother? You’re not worthy anything to anybody, you never were and you never will be, sos top pretending.”

Instead of fading away into the wide abyss this tiny, irksome voice lingers in my mind – and I think that’s probably because I believe it to be true. I am woefully inadequate.

I live in a neurotypical world, seemingly swarming with neurotypical people and as a result everyday is filled with frustrations and confusion, roadblocks and hurdles; preparations for menial, mundane and meagre tasks feel like I’m preparing to take on Aleksandr Karelin in a Greco-Roman wrestling contest at the Olympics. It feels like I’m a million miles away, isolated from the rest of the world – like everyone else knows something I don’t, like I’m not in on the joke. It feels like I can never truly be part of something special, I can never build a bond or that I can ever be accepted. I can’t talk to anyone about my frustrations – I want to and I wish I could, but I’m just incapable of doing so and it saddens me beyond anything you could imagine.

All I’ve ever wanted to be in life is a good man and someone who can bring happiness and entertainment to people around me, but I’m constantly and consistently at war with myself internally simply because I don’t know if I’m succeeding or indeed if I’ll ever be successful. I want to help people but I don’t know how.

Autism isn’t a superpower – it’s a terrible thing and if I could erase it from my system, I would in a heartbeat. I’m so frustrated with myself I could squash a raisin.

MARY AND MAX (2009)

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In a story spanning two decades and two continents, Mary and Max recounts the pen-pal relationship between two very different people: Mary Dinkle, an unregarded, unloved eight-year-old living in the suburbs of Melbourne, Australia; and Max Horovitz, a rotund, middle-aged Jewish man with Asperger’s  living in the chaotic New York City and someone who looks like Shrek’s depressed cousin.

Made over an arduous and painstaking period of five years by Adam Elliot, the claymation animation seen here isn’t particularly dazzling or innovative but no less evocative and pleasing to look at, as is the lighting; depicting an almost film-noirish world of monochrome for Max – with only the occasional colours standing out, Sin City (2005) style, such as the red pompom Mary sends to Max at one point – and a sepia suburbia for Mary that instantly recalls Kansas in The Wizard of Oz (1939). The exaggerated, sepulchral and almost grotesque designs of the many characters is incredibly striking, resembling the many nightmare-inducing puppets seen on Spitting Image (1984-1997). The voice cast also does an impressive job, especially the solemn Philip Seymour Hoffman and the narration by Barry Humphries, perhaps better known for his alter ego Dame Edna Everage. 

The fantastic presentation is just window dressing, though. What makes this film truly something special is the rich subtext. Speaking as someone with autism, I can confirm that this film moved me in ways I had not expected. Max is indeed an odd character – he’s obsessed with discarded cigarettes, peculiar food recipes and virtually no understanding on how love and relationships work – but that’s what makes so endearing; he’s comfortable and content with who he is, in spite of the fact that the world around him doesn’t understand him and tries to change him. To say that this film was simply about autism, however, would be doing it a grave disservice. This is a journey, but instead of an epic, Tolkienesque adventure involving dragons and goblins, we’re instead treated to a grounded, almost pedestrian journey filled with cynics, abusers, shrinks and more as well as explorations into the nature of friendship, taxidermy, psychiatry, alcoholism, obesity, kleptomania, sexual and religious differences and agoraphobia. There’s so much on display here in Mary and Max to talk about, to the point where it might as well be crowned the most ‘essay friendly’ film in existence. The flow of black comedy throughout is also a strong positive, wearing it proudly on its sleeves and making you crack a gleeful smile even though your face may be soaking with tears. 

That’s not to say it’s flawless. The frequent and abrupt switches in tone can be rather jolting. At one moment, Mary is enthusing about her favourite TV show; the next, we are being treated to a lecture on the symptoms of Asperger’s – which is not a bad thing, necessarily, and one can’t help but admire Elliot’s ambition.

Remarkably funny and deeply poignant, Mary and Max is a truly eccentric but no less excellent film. But it’s more than that. Throughout my life and time watching and reviewing the diverse range of wonderful, weird and sometimes woeful movies, I’ve always held a firm belief that the are two types of films: those that provide entertainment and escapism and those that seek to educate and enlighten us. It’s an extremely rare and beautiful occurrence when a film somehow manages to achieve both – Mary and Max is one such film.

It ain’t perfect, but in many ways that’s kind of the point. In the eloquent words of Max himself: “The reason I forgive you, is because you are not perfect. You are imperfect. And so am I. All humans are imperfect.”

FINAL JUDGMENT: 9/10 Jeff Goldblums

RAIN MAN (1988)

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“97X BAM! The future of rock ‘n roll.”

Inspired by the real “Rain Man” Kim Peek, this melodramatic road movie tells the story of Charlie, a selfish wannabe yuppie, who, upon returning to his Midwest home for his father’s funeral, discovers that he has an autistic older brother named Raymond and that his father’s $3 million fortune is being left to the mental institution in which Raymond lives. Motivated by his father’s money, Charlie checks Raymond out of the facility in order to return with him to Los Angeles. The brothers’ cross-country trip ends up changing both their lives.

This film is great. It’s bolstered by two great lead performances from Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise as the unlikely brothers Raymond and Charlie, respectively, and the comedy as well as the eventual bond shared between the two is genuinely captivating to watch, not to mention intriguing – what with Raymond’s Autism and Charlie’s anger management issues.

For many people, one of the first things they think of when they hear the word Autism is Dustin Hoffman’s character, and whilst Hoffman’s role in this film is probably the most famous portrayal of a character on the spectrum, it is most certainly not the most accurate. But hey, it’s only a movie, and this film does an admirable job at its depiction.

Rain Man is a quiet, thoughtful, understated and hugely enjoyable gem of a film that richly rewards the patient viewer with an unforgettable emotional experience, that sees both Hoffman and Cruise give signature performances – the former of whom would deservedly earn his second Academy Award.

FINAL JUDGMENT: 8.5/10 Jeff Goldblums

AUTISM & MOI

Recently I was diagnosed with Autism, more specifically High-Function Autism (that’s more of a colloquial phrase rather than a diagnosis, admittedly), and the aftermath of this discovery has been… Interesting, to say the least.

Frustration, bemusement, sadness and shame are all apt adjectives to describe how one feels with regards to the situation at hand. It’s still taking time to adjust with this revelation – and I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a teeny-weeny bit of denial within me – but, nonetheless, one can’t help but be fascinated by this intriguing, eclectic and occasionally eye-opening disorder, for lack of a more sensitive term.

Living with Autism on a day-to-day basis could best be described like this: everyday scenarios – big or small – feel like something akin to an exam, the only problem being that the exam is in a foreign language beyond your comprehension, it’s taking place in the middle of the Arctic and, to make matters even more dire, your pen’s broken and you can’t find a new one. Naturally, such tasks require copious and meticulous amounts of thought and preparation. Sometimes it goes according to plan, other times not so much, but it’s always the latter that sticks out in your memories, and it’s often difficult for them to erode away. Thankfully, my sensory abilities and sensitivities have shown no signs to suggest there’s a problem there. Loud noises, bright lights and certain food tastes have never really bothered me, although mass crowds can be somewhat daunting and paranoia inducing, but that’s probably because whenever I find myself in a crowd of people, my mind instantly recalls Mufasa’s tragic death scene in The Lion King (1995).

The biggest hurdle, of course, is communication. There’s very few people in this world that I can truly say I love, whether they be dear friends or family, but I can never find the appropriate ways to articulate how deep my affection for them is. This, for me, is the single most distressing aspect of being on the spectrum.