Category Archives: Quests

In which the human lizard becomes a farmer

Before I left London to spend a year living in Melbourne a friend said to me, “Make sure you don’t go falling in love and deciding to stay.” I replied with a chortle and a “Don’t worry, that’s not going to happen.”

It happened. On my second day in Australia.

I am here on a one-year Working Holiday Visa but you can add on a second year by doing three months of ‘regional work’ during your first year. Immigration has a list of postcodes that they consider ‘regional’ and a list of jobs that they want you to do, which are basically all farm work.

So, after Christmas I will be driving out into regional Victoria to work at an olive grove for a month. It’s going to be hot, it’s going to be really hard work and there’s a real chance of meeting some snakes and some pretty scary spiders. The things we do for love.

I’ll be blogging a bit more regularly than normal while I’m away, so do check back for some hilarious olive-related anecdotes. I bet you can’t wait.

In which the human lizard admits to being a Zac Efron fan

So, the film quest is not going well. Since first blogging about it, I’ve watched just two films from the list and a plethora of average-to-poor films including two starring Zac Efron. Details below.

Cool Hand Luke (1967) – This is a cool film (clue’s in the title I suppose) and is from my quest list. Paul Newman plays Luke, who is sent to a Florida prison camp after being caught cutting the tops off parking meters for no particular reason. I got really into this film, cheering Luke on as he tries to eat 50 eggs in an hour for a bet* and feeling genuinely angry at the Captain’s efforts to break our hero. Top quote: “What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.”

17 Again (2009) – In the vein of Big or 13 Going on 30 (but backwards), some sort of magic occurs and 40-something Mike wakes up aged 17. He enrols in school, becomes the star basketball player, gets to know his kids again and flirts with his wife (played by the always wonderful Leslie Mann). I’ve had a bit of a soft spot for Zac Efron ever since High School Musical and I am only slightly ashamed to say that I really enjoyed this film.

The Lucky One (2012) – Sometimes one Zac Efron fix in a month just isn’t enough and I soon found myself watching The Lucky One. This time young Zac plays a US Marine searching for the woman from the photo he believes saved his life in Iraq. He finds the woman (entirely plausible) and you can guess where it goes from there. I’m still waiting to see if Mr Efron can hold his own in a proper film rather than this sentimental crap, but I for one am rooting for him.

the human lizard dressed convincingly as HAL from 2001 a space odyssey

“I’m sorry Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that.”

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) – Given that no one in the team had ever watched 2001, it was perhaps a strange choice to be our fancy dress effort at the office Christmas party. After a quick Google Image search, I picked out HAL the computer and decided to watch the film while making my costume. While 2001 is in many ways excellent, there are some quite long bits where basically NOTHING happens, so I was quite glad to be multitasking. HAL didn’t appear for the first hour and, when he did, he turned out to be 100 per cent more homicidal than I’d anticipated. Ah well.

I’m very happy to say that I enjoyed Cool Hand Luke far more than all the crap films I’ve watched lately, including 17 Again. Just. And, while not a huge fan of 2001, I think that it’s definitely worth a watch. The film quest is thus confirmed as A GOOD THING.

* Some clever people have investigated whether this feat could ever be achieveable. Answer: probably not

Film quest update
Players: 1 (This might be where I’m going wrong – will try to recruit some film-watching friends to help me on my quest.)
Ages: 27–28 (I have aged.)
Vaguely interesting fact: Zac Efron appeared in Firefly as young Simon Tam. Random.
Verdict: 
I’ve made an undeniably poor start to the film quest but will definitely try harder in 2013.

In which the human lizard embarks on a noble quest to watch better films

Recently, while watching Wimbledon for the third time*, it occurred to me that I really ought to stop watching the same crap films over and over when there are so many good ones out there that I haven’t seen yet.

I think we can all agree that to succeed in any quest, you need to start with a list. I have combined two ‘greatest films’ lists to make a definitive list of films to watch. The lists I have used are:

A cat sitting next to a man's feet. The rest of the man is in darkness

  1. The Guardian’s greatest films of all time. This is a list of 175 films across the categories of romance, crime, comedy, action, arthouse and drama, sci fi and fantasy and horror. I was particularly attracted to this list because you can get the data as a spreadsheet.
  2. Frank Darabont’s Greatest Movies Of All Time. For those who don’t know, Frank Darabont directed the excellent The Shawshank Redemption. He lists 223 films and I like his list because it features 22 different genres including two where I haven’t seen any of the films (western and silent era) and several where I’ve only seen one film (socio-political, prison, crime, war and noir).

These lists are by no means perfect – there are some amazing films that I think are missing and some films that shouldn’t be included.** It’s also worth noting that the lists are from 2010 and 2009 respectively, so there are no doubt some recent films that aren’t on there. Despite this, I think that they are as good a place to start as any.

Forty-four films appear on both lists, giving a grand total of 348 films when the lists are combined. I’ve already seen 89 of these, leaving me with 259 to watch. I’m not setting myself any kind of time limit to get through all of these but I’ll aim to see at least one a week. I’m going to give every genre a fair chance but may abandon if I don’t get on with it after a couple of films. I fear that this will happen with westerns.

Since creating my list a couple of weeks ago, I’ve watched the following four films:

  • The Sure Thing (1985) – Romantic comedy starring John Cusack and Daphne Zuniga (who I really recognised but couldn’t place, turns out she’s Brooke’s mum in One Tree Hill. Yes, I’m hanging my head in shame) as college students who don’t get along but have to travel across the country together. Look out for Tim Robbins and Anthony Edwards looking incredibly young. It’s an enjoyable enough film but Say Anything retains its position as my 1980s John Cusack movie of choice.
  • Roman Holiday (1953) – Romantic comedy starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck. She’s a princess trying to escape her royal life, he’s a reporter after a great story. I thought I would love this film and I was right. This was Hepburn’s first major role and she shines.
  • Dazed and Confused (1993) – This is what they call a ‘coming of age’ film and is set in 1976 on the last day of school. There isn’t much of a plot but it works as an entertaining look at the lives of some 70s teens. The large cast includes several faces who went on to make it big, including Matthew McConaughey, Ben Affleck and Milla Jovovich.
  • The Third Man (1949) – I thought I should move away from the safety of romance and comedy for my next choice so opted for this classic film noir. American writer Holly Martins has been offered a job in post-war Vienna by his childhood friend Harry Lime. He arrives to find Harry has just been hit by a car and various things lead Holly to suspect that this wasn’t an accident.  There are some great scenes in this film, my favourite being the bit with the cat (see amazing picture above).

Anyway, I’ll be updating the spreadsheet with my progress and will no doubt blog again about the films I’ve been watching. I bet you can’t wait.

* In case you’re not familiar with this classic, it’s a 2004 romantic comedy starring Kirstin Dunst and Paul Bettany (and the guy who is/was Brooke’s boyfriend in One Tree Hill). She’s the young American looking to win her first Wimbledon title and he’s the British wildcard entry on the brink of retirement. They meet, they fall in love, you can guess the rest. It is not a very good film. Also, I may have been lying when I said I’ve only seen it three times.

** I’m mainly thinking here of You’ve Got Mail, which is on Darabont’s list and I can’t understand why. I’ve watched it of course. Several times.

Quest to watch better films
Players: 1
Ages: 27
Vaguely interesting fact: The Third Man score uses only the zither, played by the composer.
Verdict: I think this is quite a good quest and should be far easier to fit around full-time employment than, say, the search for the Holy Grail.