Nightman’s Introduction To Foreign Cinema

Greetings, Glancers! A question I am often asked is ‘What the hell is wrong with your hair?’, quickly followed by ‘and what’s up with your face?’. Another more pertinent question, though asked with an equal amount of disdain and mewling voice is ‘why do you watch all those weird foreign films? Aren’t they all full of kinky sex, boring talking, and subtitles? Why can’t you just watch Fifty Shades Of Gray like the rest of us? And while I’m at it, seriously, what is up with your face? Cut your hair and get a job, you weirdo’.

You see, all of you big city fat cats who live in a more multicultural society probably have had greater access to more diverse areas of culture – cinema, music, art, and generally meet more interesting people. I, on the other hand, live here:

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It’s your typical 90% white, 90% Christian, 90% every other majority you can think of. Diversity – cultural or otherwise – isn’t exactly its strong suit. I’m being a little unfair though, as my town is one of the most absurdly friendly places you could dream of. Everyone says hello to me – for someone who could happily go for weeks without speaking to another soul, it’s quite a surreal ‘burb. Getting closer to some sort of point – for most of my life I have always been interested in stuff outside of the mainstream. I’m not saying that in some hipster way, and the movies and music I prefer are not really that far from centre because almost all of them have popular followings – it’s just that the stuff I like isn’t spoken of in my immediate social circles.

It all started, as most things do, with Bruce Lee. I’ve mentioned it before, but I have always loved martial arts movies, and when I grew up in the 80s the best movies of the genre did not come from Hollywood. I was therefore exposed to Asian cinema – Hong Kong, China, Japan, Thailand and more – at an early age. As time went on I branched out with different countries and genres. I’ve always loved Hollywood movies, but crucially I haven’t been afraid of looking beyond. And there is so much more. 

It’s frustrating to me that I follow multiple blogs by otherwise knowledgeable film fans who outright ignore movies outside of the US. Sure, every so often a big film will get a widespread US release and then everyone jumps on it. But then they move on to the next slice of Superhero skyscraper destructo-porn. I get that we all have limited time to watch movies and you want to spend that time either on movies you think you’ll already like or, if you’re one of these bloggers in it for the Likes and Followers, then you only watch whatever crap is in the charts – in which case I pity you. But every so often you have a blogger, or a Youtuber, or someone in a Facebook group who clearly and dearly loves Cinema and knows their John Ford from their John Hughes, yet when the subject of Foreign Film comes up they dismiss it entirely. Subtitles? Pah, if I wanted to read I’d go buy a book. You may as well say ‘if I wanted to learn I’d glue myself to the windows of the local Convent’.

I’m not saying Foreign movies are better and I don’t mean to sound condescending or superior, believe me I’m just as crap a person as you, I’m simply making a genuine plea for those people (bloggers or otherwise) who claim to love movies to widen their horizons. Don’t put yourself in a box, never limit your own experiences, and experiment as much as you possibly can to enrich your own life. Some of the most beautiful, heartbreaking, funniest, terrifying, evocative, influential, skillful, breathtaking movies ever made come from outside the US. If you love movies, why would you deprive yourself of those?

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Basically, to get into foreign cinema you need to find your own personal niche – one movie, one performer, one genre that you can get into which acts as a gateway drug to a large and crazy cache of fantasy and wonder. Like West Coast Cooler leads to a pint of Absinthe, like a puff of pot leads to naked desert meth production, like masturbating leads to grand larceny or something, you can’t dive into the hard stuff without first wetting your beak with a treat you already enjoy, albeit with a slight twist. So for anyone asking those questions at the top of the post, or for anyone curious about foreign films, feel free to have a gander at my posts. Today I’ll give you some basic pointers, and later I’ll expand with some examples.

Lesson 1: Don’t Start With The Award Winners

An easy place to get stuck and disheartened is by Googling for Best Foreign movies and working through the list. Almost every such list will be filled with great movies, but they will likely be on the more dramatic or critically acclaimed side – not necessarily the sort of things someone new to Foreign Film will want. Better lists will give a blurb on each movie and if it sounds like you’ll like it, by all means give it a go. Another mistake people make is by checking the Best Foreign Film winners at the Oscars. Again, if you’re the sort of person who hasn’t watched Foreign Films before then there’s a chance you’re not the sort of person who even watches the Best Picture winners at the Oscars. That’s fine – I’d much rather watch a bunch of zombies get shot up than watch Emma Stone sing and dance. Oh yeah, that didn’t win. Looking at the Best Foreign Language winners of the last twenty years, there aren’t many which jump out as something which would suck in the average mainstream movie goer (and you’d be better served by looking at my Oscar Post nominations for Best Foreign Film anyway – ha).

Lesson 2: Don’t Listen To Assumptions

Boring. Slow. Cheap. Weird. Subtitles. Bad acting. A bunch of nobodies. Confusing. Artistic. Porn. These are all things I’ve heard people say, both to my face and in my years of reviewing, blogging, posting, and reading. The simple answer is both yes, no, and so what? Any movie from any country can be boring, slow, ‘weird’, and have bad acting. The assumption that this is somehow widespread throughout foreign movies is nonsense. Movies are subjective, so find what you like – see Lesson 1 and Lesson 4. Personally, I like ‘weird’ movies. If something doesn’t sound like it will be to your tastes, don’t watch it but don’t make the assumption that every other movie will be the same. Foreign films, depending on the Country, have just as many big name actors and directors as Hollywood – you just don’t know them yet. Subtitles are the best way for me to watch a non-English language movie, but if you really are that dim that you can’t read at a faster rate than 1 word every few seconds, then you probably don’t have mental capacity to watch any movie. I don’t like dubbing because I find it a more jarring experience than subtitles – taking away from the performance of the cast. Sometimes dubbing makes the movie better, though this is typically from the viewpoint of unintentional hilarity.

You will find films from a Country other than your own, on average, more confusing than films from your own Country – there’s no escaping that fact. This doesn’t mean you will be utterly dumbfounded or lost. There are just as many ‘easy’ films and mainstream films as in Hollywood – just different. Sure there will be films that you just won’t get, but again you could say the same for Hollywood. You think foreign films are more artistic – I would say that’s not a bad thing. It’s another misconception too. Foreign films make less money – less people see them, and perhaps that means there is less of a sense of Business surrounding them meaning that ‘anything goes’. Everything considered, it sounds like only toffs, hipsters, smart-asses, and weirdos watch foreign junk. You don’t have to be smart, or weird, or sophisticated, or false, or anything to enjoy a foreign movie – you just have to find the one that’s right for you. Foreign movies have sex. Non-foreign movies have sex. If you think sex is evil, don’t watch.

Lesson 3: Understand What ‘Foreign Film’ Means

For the purposes of my posts, I am calling out Foreign movies as anything not made in Britain or the US. I could even limit it to anything outside of US, but that would be weird given that I’m not American. There are a tonne of other movie markets around the world, some English speaking, some not. For any Americans looking to branch out but keeping to English Language – try UK Cinema, try Australian cinema. Foreign cinema as a whole deals with the same issues and genres as American mainstream and indie cinema. You want car chases, slasher movies, slapstick comedies, tragedies, romance, war epics, these are all things which exist around the world. You don’t need to know much, or anything, about the country of origin, but any knowledge might help your appreciation or increase enjoyment. Each country does have their quirks and very loose, very high level style based on decades of movie making and centuries of culture, and the more you watch the more you will catch these. If such things exist, a ‘generic’ French drama has inherent differences from a ‘generic’ Spanish drama, a Japanese action movie will have different trademarks than a Hong Kong one. I’ll focus more on these in my next posts.

Lesson 4: Think About What You Already Like

As alluded to above, Foreign Cinema is essentially the same as Hollywood Cinema – it just comes from a different place and culture. If you’re strictly a horror fan, then the world is your oyster. If you only like bloody and gruesome horror movies, then head straight for France, Italy, or Spain. If you like action movies, get over to Hong Kong. If you like musicals, Bollywood is waiting. You may already like a film by an actor or director who is primarily or partially known for Foreign movies – if you like their Hollywood work, chances are you’ll like their other stuff too. By far the best way to get into Foreign Cinema is by branching out from your existing preferences. All it takes is one movie, or even one moment, to make it all click. You don’t have to worry about being a connoisseur, you don’t have to worry about sounding smart or cool in a crowd, although you can do those things. Watching movies should be primarily a selfish experience – ask yourself what you want from a film and what you’ll get from it. As a secondary item, you will want to share your experience with like-minded people, and eventually even try to convert others, but that all starts with you and that first step of finding something you like.

Lesson 5: Behold Now Is The Accepted Time

It has never been easier to get into foreign movies, or movies in general. Since the mid nineties, foreign cinema saw a boom in the UK and US with a number of high profile films from around the world making a tonne of money outside of their own markets. A tonne of DVD companies popped up specifically to bring you the best in World Cinema, anime became a global monster; nerds and things nerds like became cool, encouraging others to come out of the woodwork. Streaming happened -all you have to do is stick in Netflix or Hulu or Amazon or some of the less legal alternatives, and find the foreign section. Everything is available at the touch of a button, a far cry from asking your local video store owner if he’s getting in any more Dario Argento movies and waiting 6 weeks for an answer. Scroll through a few Streaming Services after reading my posts, and you should find something to try. Just don’t come moaning to me that you lost 90 minutes of your life – what else were you going to do with that time – larceny? Masturbate? Yeah, I know all your dirty secrets.

In my next series of posts I’m going to cover some of my favourite movie making countries and why I love them, and I’m going to give some examples of gateway movies for specific genres. Maybe it will take the format of ‘If you like Hollywood’s then you’ll like Russia’s Y’. I’ll talk a little bit about the biggest stars and directors past and present from a variety of countries, and hopefully a few of you will take the plunge or use these examples and on-the-spur advice to win your own friends and detractors over. It’s a big world out there, people, and it’s all there to be enjoyed!

Let us know in the comments your struggles with watching foreign films or converting others to watching them, and point out some of your favourites!

The Ghosts Of Christmas

Christmas, eh? Everyone loves it – the food, the presents, the laughing at tramps who don’t get anything, the good will, and of course the music. I actually pity you poor yanks and your crappy Christmas music – everyone knows the UK owns the Christmas Song, although since our peak in the 70s and 80s there hasn’t been much to sing about. No surprise then that the Manics stepped up out of nowhere in 2007 with this slice of nostalgic perfection.

Musically, it has all the hallmarks you want, jolly, woozy, party music with big brass, jingle bells, and cheery chorus, and hooks as addictive as cocktail sausages. Lyrically wonderful it is too, each line marvelous at evoking universal memories – or universal for Britain. Footballs, Scalextric, drunken joy, Morcambe And Wise – this is a song which should be played alongside all of the other British favourites and deserves airplay every December on all of those terrible Top 50 Christmas song shows which take over the music channels on TV each year.

Misheard Lyrics: Sulu’s on the malteaser (?)

Actual Lyrics: Zulu’s on, the Milk Tray’s out

The Ghosts Of Christmas: 4/Great

Best Cast – 1975

My Nominations: The Day Of The Locust. Dog Day Afternoon. Inserts. Jaws. The Man Who Would Be King. Nashville. One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. Shampoo. Tommy.

Not quite the usual mix of epic and smaller this year, in that the epics aren’t as epic and the smaller movies aren’t as small. Starting from the top, The Day Of The Locust is a pre-WWII movie set in Hollywood which follows a number of wannabees who haven’t and will never make it, starring the likes of Karen Black, Jacke Earle Hayley, Donald Sutherland, and Burgess Meredith. Inserts is set in a similar time with a similar group of people, but on a smaller scale and features Richard Dreyfuss, Veronica Cartwright, Bob Hoskins, Jessica Harper, and Stephen Davies. It’s the one film one the list you’re not likely to see, but it’s worth it for the performances. Dog Day Afternoon is all about Pacino, and a little bit about Sarandon and Cazale, while Jaws has masterclasses from Dreyfuss, Scheider, and Shaw. The Man Who Would Be King is an epic without a cast with only Connery, Caine, and Plummer though none of whom are at their best, while Nashville is a true ensemble featuring many established stars and up and comers – Karen Black, Ronee Blakely, Jeff Goldblum, Keith Carradine, Shelly Duvall, Lily Tomlin, Ned Beatty, Geraldine Chaplin, and more minor cameos from Julie Christie, Elliot Gould and others.

Shampoo is another smaller affair, pardon the pun, but features Christie again, Carrie Fisher, Warren Beatty, Goldie Hawn, Jack Warden, Lee Grant while Tommy is a mess of musician and actors – Jack Nicholson, Tina Turner, Elton John, Eric Clapton, Oliver Reed, The Who themselves, Ann Margret, Robert Powell, Paul Nicholas. My win though goes to a film where the lead performances are all perfect, and the supporting ones are more or less iconic too – One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. 

My Winner: One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest

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Let us know your winner in the comments!

Seul Contre Tous

*Originally written in 2003

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The follow-up to Noe’s 1991 brutal short Carne begins with a quick recount of what has happened – lead character ‘The Butcher’ has grown up hating the world after becoming an orphan because of the war. He owns a butcher shop and has a daughter, but everything else is sickening to him. He hates everyone and wishes they would all die, as we all die alone in the end. It is him against the stinking world he despises, everything is pointless, nobody cares. These ideas have been done countless times before, but never has effective, cold, or hard-hitting as here although the mood of Taxi Driver comes close. The Butcher kills a man he believed attacked his daughter, but it was the wrong guy, and goes to prison. Eventually he is let out.

Now The Butcher has found a new girlfriend, with her only because she gives him a room, sex, and promises to buy him a new shop. His daughter has been taken away from him and placed into foster care, and he only sees her for short spaces of time. She is the only one who can hold back his anger, and stop him from killing everyone on sight. However, his girlfriend repulses him, her mother is even worse in his eyes, and his grim surroundings only add to his growing hatred and rage. Like Carne, we hear his inner thoughts, how he sees everything as hopeless. Soon his inner monologue mixed with despair and fury causes an unreality and he, along with the viewer become uncertain of what is real, if the actions he takes are just his imagination or not. Soon he explodes with pure rage, beating his pregnant girlfriend on the floor and takes a gun with 3 bullets, intending to get his daughter and destroy everything. As he walks the streets his thoughts continue, and we wonder whether the people we walk with on our streets may be like this.

He is alone. Only the gun keeps him company. Several further shocking and brutal scenes are shown and they are made all the more unbearable because of the relentless pounding of words such as HATE being fired into our heads. That BOOM effect is useful in making the viewer uncomfortable, guns going off as the scenes cut. Our senses are assaulted by Noe’s direction, and Nahon’s performance is extremely impressive, easily worthy of any award. The scene where he repeatedly punches his girlfriend seems to go on forever, with all too real acting from her (Frankye Pain) adding to the horror. One scene with his daughter involving the gun is horrifying, but filmed so oddly beautifully and tenderly that we cannot look away, no matter how much we know we should be. If The Butcher escapes one harrowing act, he quickly replaces it with another. Characters like this are typically only seen in the realms of over the top horror, but Seul Contre Tous is entirely grounded in the real world.

Blandie’s performance as The Daughter is excellent, her vacancy ironic, he passivity revealing. With so much going for it, the film should rightly be seen by all self respecting movie fans, but beware that it won’t be easy. The film would be almost unwatchable if not for the beautiful cinematography, as well as some humour. However, the humour is so tongue-in-cheek that many people simply may not see it. It may leave you depressed with the world, or act as some skewed catharsis and give you hope because of your ‘better’ position. An extremely impressive film that deserves much more notice than it has received, but then again it is not the type of film you would take your partner, parents, or kids to see. Watch it on your own and let the pure emotion, and complete lack of love seep into you. One of a select breed of utterly harrowing films which will stay with you forever.

Let us know what you think of Seul Contre Tous in the comments!

Nightman Listen’s To – Harvest Moon – Neil Young (Top 1000 Series)

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Greetings, Glancers! Another day, another album to expose myself to. Yes, as I sit here completely bollock naked in front of my screen, I am ready to absorb some good tunes into my many orifices.

What Do I Know About Neil Young: All the grunge kids liked him. All the grunge bands too. As a grunge kid myself, I’m sort of surprised it’s taken me this long to get here. I’ve heard some of his stuff, I know he’s experimented with a variety of styles, but I’ve never sat down and listened to a single album. Naked or otherwise.

What Do I Know About Harvest Moon: It’s a series of games which merge farming simulator with RPG and dating antics, played at a gentle pace yet oddly addictive. Heh, you saw that one coming, right? I’ve been aware of the album for a long time and I’m surprised Larkin didn’t have it higher on his list given that other critics seems to rate it higher.

Unknown Legend: I like the main riff, but I’m immediately on guard because it sounds country. You know I can’t stand country music. The lyrics, the way they rhyme sounds very forced and overly simple. Musically simple, nevertheless there are dynamic qualities like the female backing vocals in the chorus. The lead vocals aren’t great but I was kind of prepared for that..that country guitar though…. nothing will ever convince me that it it’s good, and I’m not a huge harmonica fan either.

From Hank To Hendrix: Doesn’t bode well starting out with harmonica and the exact same rhythm as the first song. I do appreciate the laid back nature but I get the sense this is essentially a period piece from a specific time in the USA which means nothing to me – I wasn’t there, though it’s nothing like what I remember of the era – grunge. I like the effects on the harmonica, giving some sort of twisted futuristic feel to what is at its core an old fashioned song. I think I could like this one a lot with additional listens, but I also think I could tire of it quite easily – maybe only one for a certain mood.

You And Me: The vocals…. I know what he’s going for, but it’s clearly not his range. This reminds me of The Wicker Man, which is always a good thing. This is nice, too repetitive for me, also reminds me of The Battle Of Evermore. 

Harvest Moon: Hmm, I believe I know this one. I was going to say it reminded me of Close To You. Yeah, I’ve definitely heard this before, but I don’t know from where, possibly a movie or a friend. I checked out the video for this, and it’s cheesy as hell – terrible. I’m still not a huge fan of the vocals, they do break at points and fall out of tune momentarily, though this doesn’t appear to be done for effect. It’s sweet and gentle, but comes a little close to being cloying and twee.

War Of Man: This also seems familiar. I enjoy when the beat picks up in the intro giving things a more stomping, urgent feel. I’m not paying much attention to the lyrics, but I’m guessing from the vocal refrain it’s anti-war. Actually, that’s not much of a guess, it’s 100% clear. The vocals are still weird, a mixture of tone and accent and delivery.

One Of These Days: The vocals are all over the place here, not good. More terrible pedal guitar which I can’t stand. There’s a good song in here, but I can’t get past the vocals and pedal both which verge on and often soar past dreadful.

Such A Woman: This is more encouraging, orchestral, piano, something different. The vocals are fairly deep in the mix here, almost being swamped by everything else, which is probably a good thing. I think I could love this song if there was a decent singer getting stuck in and wrenching out every last piece of the emotion, because the music is beautiful.

Old King: No no, country is one thing… weirdo country is another thing entirely.

Dreamin’ Man: Didn’t we hear this one already? Sounds very similar to one of the earlier songs on the album. Identical rhythm, almost identical chords. The album got, well, crap, very quickly after a decent start. Too many samey songs, too much country. This is just way too simple, way too boring.

Natural Beauty: Not sure why the album is ending with a ten minute live performance. Assuming this is a live version of an older song? He doesn’t sound any better live than he does in the studio… in fact, he sounds identical. This song also sounds almost identical ot something from earlier in the album, the melodies are heavily borrowed, that sloth rhythm is still lingering, and the old trick of backing female vocals was overplayed by the third song. How can you have a ten minute song where almost nothing happens – no change in pace, style, anything?

What Did I Learn: Not much… Neil Young can’t sing for shit and he loves country shit.

Does It Deserve To Be In The Top 1000 Albums Of All Time: I think you can guess what I’m going to say in summary – some good songs, but needs the country whacked out of them and needs a decent singer to take control of them. The album sounds like it was made in the 70s, but was actually recorded in the nineties, so it can’t have had much influence on anyone significant. All of that adds up to a resounding no, which is a shame as I think this had potential to be much better than it is.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Harvest Moon!

Best Stunt Work – 1975

My Nominations: Breakheart Pass. Death Race 2000. Graveyard Of Honor. The Hindenburg. The Man Who Would Be King. The Great Waldo Pepper. Rollerball. The Wind And The Lion.

Less car stunts this year, less disaster related too. This year sees Breakheart Pass – another fun Bronsan/Ireland vehicle with plenty of entertaining action culminating in some spectacular cliff scenes, train top fights, and canyon crashes. Death Race 2000 is a film I nominate purely because who else is ever going to nominate it for an Oscar? Cheap and cheerful as you would expect, it still has countless impressive stunts – natural for a film about a cross country car race where you get extra points for any pedestrians you knock over. Graveyard Of Honor by the great Kinji Fukasaku finishes with one of the most iconic stunts/shots in Japanese Cinema – one giant leap – but is rounded off with your usual Yakuza gunplay. The Hindeburg hits our disaster quotient, with fire, falling, and flailing, while The Man Who Would be King presents one of the great ropebridge stunts – it’s just a bit of a shame we don’t see it from another angle, though it’s still a terrifying fall.

As films with stunts and the notoriety of some stuntmen increased in the decade, we began to see certain films and shows based around the industry. The Great Waldo Pepper is one such entry, looking at aerial stunts or barnstorming with Robert Redford playing an ex military pilot who begins stunt performing to make ends meet. It has some of the best airplane scenes you’re likely to witness. Our final two films are packed with stunts – Sean Connery again getting in on the action with The Wind And The Lion featuring mostly horseback gags, while Rollerball creates a new physical, brutal sport and lets the performers crash into each other with as much force as they can stand.

My Winner: Graveyard Of Honor

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Let us know your winner in the comments!

My Blog – July 2019

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Look! A Cat! It’s my cat! Now that I have your attention, get the shorts on, whip your top off, get burned in 20 degree heat, then put all your clothes back on again and complain it’s too hot. That’s the Northern Ireland way! As much as I hate on the country, its people, its history… everything really… it’s still home. Right? We do have some beautiful spots, natural and otherwise, and while I feel like I could (and have) fit in anywhere in the world, it’s still home. But it mostly sucks. Here are some more nuggets about Belfast/Northern Ireland which you can share with your friends to pretend your false ancestry matters.

You Know You’re Free Belfast When…

20. Jim McDonald from Coronation Street and Eamonn Holmes embarrass you.

Well yes, but they’re not the best examples. We’re embarrassed by anyone from here who becomes famous and you’ll be all like ‘wind your neck in mate and catch yourself on’. Or something. Jim McDonald is a famous character from one of Britain’s most famous TV shows. Both the character and actor are from Northern Ireland and the character is notorious for being a tough guy drunk and is always shouting stock Northern Irish phrases like ‘catch yerself on’, ‘wind yer neck in’, and every variation of ‘so it is, so I am, so you are’. Eamonn Holmes is a TV presenter from Northern Ireland who somehow made it big on the mainland. 

21. The most common phrase used when you are slightly surprised at something is: ‘Here’s me wha!!??’

I only ever say it as a joke or to mock my fellow scum, but yes you do hear this quite often. When you say it, say it in a tone as if you’re about to kill someone. I do say ‘wha’ quite a bit instead of ‘what’, but not with the ‘here’s me’ in front.

22. You can tell what religion somebody is by the side of the road they walk on.

I think this is a new one on me, but there is a lot of stuff like this – like how far apart your eyes are etc.

23. You spend every Christmas Eve in your local and have the EXACT same conversations as the year before.

Up until I had kids, yes. Though the conversations were different because I’m interesting and surround myself with the best people.

24. You are 27, married with 2 kids, a dog and have a mortgage of your own, but if you are home for Christmas and your parents are away for a couple of days you still think: ‘Sweet, free house!’

When I was 27, I was indeed married – I had 1 kid, no pets, and did have a mortgage. I’m not sure about the Christmas reference, but yes if the parents are away that automatically means ‘Sweet, free house’.

25. You have been to “Dempsey’s” for an 18th/16th birthday party

Possibly for an 18th…. definitely for other random nights. It’s a bar/dive in Belfast. Don’t go.

26. You can remember seeing soldiers walk down your street with guns in the middle of the day for no apparent reason

Yes. Still happens, though very rarely. My attitude towards it is ‘Get on with it, move along, nothing to see here’. Growing up this never seemed odd, but then I watched nothing but violent action movies so real life just seemed like a boring extension of those. I’m sure most people would run for cover or hide up a chimney or something, but it’s just something we live with. 

27. Lavery’s Middle Bar was the height of your teenage social life

If I’d lived in Belfast when I was a teen then yes. When I was at University I was still a teen so yes – I did spend a lot of time in Lavery’s then. It’s another bar, one with multiple levels and hideouts and can be a bit of a maze for the uninitiated and/or drunk. The top floor has pool tables. I assumed from the question it meant people spend time there when they are 14-17. In my experience it was one of the more ‘open’, less chav ridden bars in Belfast. I was in Lavery’s most days when I was at Uni. Or just in the SU.

28 You have purchased a single cigarette at some stage of your life

Probably. Or ‘borrowed’ one.

29 A member of the opposite religion has been “after you”

Yes.

30 You frequented a country park or waste ground each weekend to drink alcohol

Yes. Or after school. Or at lunch time during school.

31 When the police were in the vicinity some one always greeted them with the phrase “SS RUC”

Don’t think I ever heard this.

32 You have used the phrase “will you see me/my mate”

This was used every day in school, to me, to others. Not by me though, I always hated the terminology. ‘see’ means kiss. According to my wife, culchies (she would be classed as one) say ‘face’ instead of ‘see’. WTF.

33 You have shoplifted in Virgin Megastores (RIP)

I don’t believe I ever did. It always was my favourite shop though (RIP).

34 You have been “de-begged”

I never have. It means to have your trousers and/or gunks ripped off, as a prank generally. Yes, we have many words for underwear – gunks, kex, etc.

35. Your main argument for anything you disagreed with was ‘sure nah!’

I don’t think I’ve heard this one. I usually hear ‘aye rite’, or ‘wha’ or ‘aye mate, dead on’ or ‘yer wat’sitchy?’ It reminds of when I was talking outside Queen’s with some of my mates, probably about whatever our next lecture was – it was nothing intellectually challenging, I can’t recall exactly, but for the sake of the story lets say the word was ‘Shakespeare’. So some Belfast steek happens to be walking by (unfortunately the University is near a couple of steek havens) and hears us talking, saunters over with an ill favoured graveyard glint in his eye and utters the immortal ‘Shakespeare? At’s a big word isn’t it? You wanna hear another big word?…. Suck my ballax!’ before walking on to whatever criminal endeavor he was planning. I can’t go past Queen’s without laughing about that.

36. The smell of slurry in the country makes you gag.

Well of course, doesn’t the spraying of gallons of shit into the air make you gag? Many many people die because of this every year too. True story. 

37. You still think people who live in the cities of Newry and Ballymena are Culchies.

They are absolutely not cities. But yes, absolutely culchies/sheep shaggers.

38. You didn’t do graffiti; you gave yourself a ‘mention on a wall’.

Yes.

39. You remember Leisure World being the best toy shop in ‘the whole whil’ world’.

Oh yes, it was. It was our Disney World. The ‘whil’ is not a typo. People here have difficulty pronouncing words in any normal, human fashion instead turning them into completely different words.

40. You have “pinged a windy” at some stage

Damn right I have. One of my favourite phrases (it means to throw a stone at a window) and I still use it now. I don’t actually ping windees any more though. OR DO I?

41. Anyone who doesn’t have a 1 back and sides is a “hippy”

It’s not a 1 back and sides, it’s a short back and sides. This is a term for a short hair cut. I was and am still classed as a hippy. This eventually merged with goth, but for the people doing the name calling it’s the same thing. It’s basically any bloke with hair longer than a shaved cut. Or possibly someone wearing black. 

42. You have at some stage shaved your head, leaving a stupid wee fringe at the front, which you may have dyed blonde for that distinctive Belfast look

No I have not, but you still this everywhere. I did experiment with blonde dyes when I was in primary school, but they rarely worked. 

43. You know what a steeko is, and have a tendency to turn into one after a few beers

Nope, never will. A steeko is a steeker is a steek is a chav. We have our special breed of them here, quite different from ‘the mainland’, but the same thing applies – lowly educated neanderthals who dress in tracksuits and listen exclusively to rave/techno/happy hardcore music. If they can afford (or have nicked) a car, it will be a nova/supra/souped up version of some other cheap small car. They spend their lives driving and revving through the town, littering, and playing their beats from the car. Not to be a Nazi or anything, but the ones from here do seem like another race entirely – they have their own way of walking and talking, a constant bewildered, dull, or accusatory look plastered on their face, and will at any moment be trying to stab you or steal from you. 

44. You have had a telling off from your da which began with the phrase ´listen sonny jim…´

I’ve heard it, more from other people’s das or teachers. 

45. You have a mild addiction to pastie baps

I ate pasties for a while as a child, then realized it was just ‘worse haggis’. 

46. You have at least once in your life considered sniffing glue

I have considered and completed this task. 

47. You have at least one ginger mate, who you call ´Fanta pants´ at least three times a day.

The rest of the world has Fanta, right? It’s a fizzy orange drink? Orange, ginger, get it? I don’t think I have any ginger mates now, but my best friend when I was young was. I probably called him some variation of this, don’t remember pants being part of it. 

48. You know what a barrack buster is, and at one time this was your favourite carry-out

A barrack buster was a weapon devised by the IRA to attack police stations or army barracks. It is also a term for the huge bottles of cheap cider you can get here – White Lightning and such. It was always ridiculously cheap and an easy, quick, boggin’ way to get pissed. Oh yes – a carry-out just means a pile of booze from an Off-License/liquor store. 

49. You have at some point slegged someone for wearing two-striper trackie bottoms.

Yes, steeks have a tendency to either only wear named brand tracksuits or if they can’t afford them, one of our fine knock off brands like Abibas, Reebop, or Nyke. Slegged is slagged is insulted. I sleg anyone for wearing any sort of tracksuit unless they’re an athlete. Running from the filth doesn’t count. Filth is police. Keep up. 

50. When some millie’s annoyed she says, “Oh mummy!! What are you like!!?”

Do they actually say ‘mummy’ if their ma’s not about? Millie is a millbag is a female steek. ‘What are you like’ is a common Belfast/idiot phrase.

51. When your granny says “Yer arse is parsley!!!”

I’ve never heard anyone say this.

52. When you say in disgust at a lie yer mate told, “Aye rite dead on ball bag!!”

I probably said it when I was 10. Yes, many people say this and any variation, most days. ‘Aye right’ being sarcasm, ‘dead on’ being a phrase meaning ‘okay’, ‘I’m okay’, or ‘it’s okay’ and when merged with ‘Aye right’ doubles the sarcasm. ‘Ball bag’ is self-explanatory. No? He’s calling you a scrotal sack. 

53. When you’ve ordered drink after hours from ‘dial a drink’

Nope.

54. Everyday you call at least 1 person a ‘melter’

I’ve never said this, but you hear it weekly, and have been called one many times. Or ‘a geg’ which is sort of pronounced ‘gaiyyig’.

55. You’ve said ‘I’m gonna get my big brooar for ye’, or ‘I’m gonna get my da for ye.”

Again, probably when I was 10. This was a common comeback if someone was bullying/threatening/looking at you. 

56. You have walked to the top of the cave hill until you get to what is known as ‘Napoleon’s Nose’

Can’t say I have, and I didn’t know that’s what it is called. 

57. You have told the taxi man to leave you to the waste ground where you learned to drink, ran away until you are a safe distance away, and shouted slurs at the taxi man such as ‘and here, if you try and chase me, my mates gonna steal your car’

No, but I can imagine people doing it.

58. You have bought ‘5 lighters for a pound!’

I probably have, actually. See, we have street vendors as I’m sure most cities have, but all they seem to sell are cabbages or lighters. It’s probably more like 2 lighters for a pound now. As I used to make my own fireworks (more like small explosives) for Halloween, I would need plenty of lighters. 

59. You have been in some sort of riot

Full blown and otherwise, yes. 

60. If you want to buy something semi-legal like a dope pipe or martial arts weapons (ninja star, nunchucks that sort of thing) you go to Smithfield market

Still do. It’s an indoor ‘market’ – a series of low-rent shops which seem to sell either barely legal stuff or VHS tapes. Still today. We have a few of these and for some reason they all have an oriental shop with a giant Buddha and lots of pricey looking statues and ornaments. Smithfield is the main one. It’s behind Castle Court, near the sex shops and where Forbidden Planet used to be.

There you go, another slice of life in Belfast that you won’t find on any tourist website, and maybe not even on any other blog. Amaze your friends with your worldly knowledge, and if you’re ever planning a trip over here, feel free to comment and I’ll give you some wonderful free advice on what to do and see and where to go!

Reminder on blog links:

A-Z Reviews: This category is a single post with links to all my movie, music, and book reviews. It’s the best place to start and you can check it via THIS LINK. I try to update it regularly.

Amazon Vine: I’m a member of Amazon Vine, a program where Amazon’s best reviewers are provided with free products for reviewing purposes in order to drum up publicity before the product is released to the general public. You can find links to the Products I have received here.

Book Reviews: Something I don’t really do anymore, even though I still read plenty. I need to get back into this, but movies are so much easier to review. Maybe I’ll come up with a different format.

Blogging: A new category! This is where I’m going to put this exact post, and the others like it to follow.

Changing The Past: This category is where I go back through every Oscars since 1960 and pick my winners from almost every category. I pick my winners from the official choices, and then I add my own personal list of who I feel should have been nominated. It’s based on personal preference, but it’s also not based on any of the usual Academy political nonsense and I bypass most of their archaic rules. It’s not quite me just picking my favourite films, but it’s close.

DVD Reviews: I should probably just change this to Movie Reviews. It’s what you would expect – reviews of the movies I’ve watched. I’m not a big fan of reviewing every new film which comes out – there are a billion other blogs out there all doing the same thing. I don’t often watch new movies as they release, unless they’re streaming, so instead you’ll be getting reviews of those films a few years later, once I get around to them. Here you will find horror, actions, classics, foreign, indie, sci-fi, comedy, drama – everything. A word of warning – I frequently post reviews that I wrote almost twenty years ago when I didn’t have a clue – they’re crap, but I add them here in all of their badly written glory.

Essential Movies: I’ve only published an intro post for this category, but I have written some other posts for the future. I’m basically questioning what actually makes a film Essential, because it cannot be a definitive statement. What’s essential for you, may not be for me, so I’ve broken down the definition into a few generic user types, then gone through some lists of the best movies of each year to see which ones are essential for each viewer. It’s pretty boring, and I already regret starting it, but that’s me.

Foreign Cinema Introduction: This category hasn’t been published yet, but once again it exists and I’ve written a bunch of posts for the future. The idea came from my many years of hearing people I know IRL or on the internet dismissing anything not mass-produced by Hollywood. If you only watch movies made in the USA – you’re not a movie fan, it’s as simple as that. I follow a few Facebook fan pages and blogs on WordPress which completely dismiss foreign movies – it’s ridiculous as you are missing out on many of the best films ever made. More than that, you are missing out on films which I know for a fact you will adore. So, this is me breaking down all that bullshit about subtitles, about foreign stuff being boring and every other excuse you’ve ever heard, while giving some very basic thoughts and introductions of the various countries of the world from a film perspective.

Lists: Here I post lists – some with comments, some without. All sorts of lists – from monthly previews of the year’s upcoming movies, to my favourite movies by actor or director, to best horror anthologies, best Christmas songs and TV shows, best movies for Halloween, my favourite episodes of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, my ranking of Bond movies, songs, and girls, my favourite albums by decade, my favourite songs by artist, bands I’ve seen live etc. I love lists.

Manic Street Preachers Song By Song: One of the first reasons I started this blog was to try to spread the Gospel of my favourite band, especially as they are not well known outside of Britain. Defo not in the US. Then I found out there were other blogs doing it too. Ah well. These are my thoughts on each song. Don’t know them? They are a Welsh rock band who have been around since the late 80s, early 90s. They are highly political and intelligent, on the left wing, and they are probably the finest lyricists in the world. Their main lyricist suffered from various addictions and mental health issues and disappeared in 1995 – although there have been sightings, nobody has ever confirmed they have seen him and no body has ever been found, though the band, fans, and family are still looking. After three albums with him, they suddenly became commercially successful after his disappearance. If you like rock music… if you like music in general, please give them a try.

Music Reviews: This is the same as movies, except for music. Reviews of albums I’ve always loved, as reviews of albums as I’m listening as a virgin. I take a look at the Top Ten UK Charts from a random month in each year and review each song, while giving my own alternative ten songs from the same year, I am reviewing albums that I’ve never heard by artists I am familiar with – filling the gaps in those discographies. I’m listening to spin-offs of my favourite bands, I’m reviewing the Disney soundtracks. I was a metal and grunge kid, but also had a love for the best in 80 pop when I was young, so I like to listen to anything though since around the mid-noughties chart music has gone from extremely bad to entirely worthless.

The Nightman Scoring System ©: This is something I truly love, but something which nobody really pays attention to. You’ll notice in my reviews I don’t give a score. I just talk about the thing I’m reviewing. Scores are arbitrary and when given, people jump to the score and form a conclusion and a bias. If they read the content of the review, there will be a better discussion. That made me think, in a very unprofessional, semi-scientific, ill-examined way, to come up with a fair, universal scoring system which tries to avoid personal and systematic bias as much as possible. If you look at sites like Rotten Tomatoes which are stupidly becoming reference points for quality or to convince you to watch something, or used by advertisers, it’s a completely flawed system. Anyone can post whatever they like, and drag down or push up an average. The same used to happen on IMDb. There are a lot of posts online recently about the disparity between Critical and Audience consensus on RT and it leads to more worthless arguments, because if there’s something the world needs more of these days, it’s people fighting online about pointless stuff.

I devised two scoring systems – one for movies and one for music. To use it, you have to follow the guidelines and be honest. If you’re not honest, it will be obvious, and your review won’t be valid. For both music and and movies, I break down the scoring into twenty different categories of equal weighting – out of five, for a total out of 100. Categories include acting, directing, sales; or for music – charts, influence, musical ability etc. Say you hate the Marvel movies or The Beatles. You can’t score them a 1 out of five in the Sales category because both of those were factually monster hits – they can really only be 5 out of five. In other words, some of what is opinion and bias is removed from the equation. In the same vein, the disparity between critics and audiences is reduced – typically you may think that a movie or music critic care more about how arty or original or influential something is, while the audience might care how many boobs are seen or how catchy the melody is. I’m making sweeping assumptions – but you get the idea – each category is equally weighted so that influence is only worth five points, chart performance is only worth five points, directing, advertising, whatever – each is five points. I’d love to see people use this, and I’d love to run an experiment where a group of people each use the system to score the same thing, and see how similar or different the results are. I’m positive the average would be a more true reflection than anything on RT or IMDB or anywhere else. The only issue with it is, it’s more suited to scoring once something has been out there for a while rather than a pre-release or first week review.

Nightman’s Favourite Films By Year: Self-explanatory. I list my favourite ten films from every year since 1950, with no comment. Then I give a list of my top films from each decade once I’ve done each year, but this time share some comments. There’s also some stats in there, such as how many films I picked which were nominated for the Best Picture Oscar, which were top ten grossing movies etc.

Top 1000 Albums Of All Time: A journalist called Colin Larkin made several of those popular ‘Top 1000 Albums Ever’ books. I grabbed one of them, I removed the ones I had already heard, and in this series I go through the ones that I haven’t heard, give my virgin thoughts, and whether I think it deserves to be called one of the best ever. I want to sync up my Nightman Scoring System © with these. Just one word of warning – I don’t plan or put any thought into these ‘reviews’. I literally listen and type at the same time. Not the best way to give thoughts I know, but that’s the format.

The Shrine: People die. Famous people die. But they live on, in our hearts and minds and in the work they left behind. Here I offer the chance to remember and offer thanks.

The Spac Hole: Each Monday I post a random lyric from a random song. Every so often I write something which doesn’t fit in any other category. Usually it’s weird. That stuff all goes here. There are more semi-regular pieces like those posts where I use Google translate to change the lyrics of (s)hit songs or dreadful imaginings like what I would do if I owned my own Cinema.

The Spac Reviews: Carlos Nightman is my alter ego. Derek Carpet is his alter ego. He is an idiot. He likes movies. These are his reviews. They are…. different.

TV Reviews: I sometimes review TV too. I talk about my current shows and my all time favourites.

Unpublished Screenplays: Derek Carpet sometimes likes to pretend he’s a writer too. Here are some of his original works, based on other movies and TV shows.

Videogame Reviews: I do these sometimes too. Usually retro. Usually with a humourous bent.

Walk Of Fame: Hollywood has a Walk Of Fame. I have one too. Mine’s better, except I don’t update it anymore. Not only do my inductees get a star, but they get a statue too! And, in each post one lucky soul gets a special building concerning their work or life dedicated to them!