Jan 12

Spitfire Review: JoJo Rabbit

The first film I watched in 2020 was JoJo Rabbit, a comedy film based around a boy in the Hitler Youth at the tail end of Second World War. Johannes is a social outcast after an accident at his summer camp and has imaginary chats with Adolf Hitler to help him manoeuvre through his day. As the allies advance on Berlin, Johannes’ mother harbours a jewish girl whom Johannes falls in love with.

Although Nazi Germany is a strange  setting of a comedy (particularly in today’s climate and the rise of Neo nazis in America) I’m glad to say that the comedy lands. I was sat between a teenager and a pensioner and was pleasantly surprised to see them both laughing throughout the film. It should be clearly stated that the film criticised and lampoons the Nazis. At one point the phrase Heil Hitler is said thirty one times in sixty seconds to illustrate how ridiculous and unnecessary Nazi protocols were.

I’m always hesitant of child actors and I’m going to take this opportunity to state an unpopular opinion. I think that the main trio from the Harry Potter films Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson were terrible child actors. Daniel Radcliffe has gone on record as saying his performance in the first Harry Potter film was cringeworthy and I agree with him. Home Alone is another prime example but I really liked the lead actor Roman Griffin Davis as Johannes Betzler or “Jojo Rabbit”. He reminded me of conversations I was having at the age of ten and his naivety of what the war really means and the concept of death is truly heartbreaking. All of the cast’s performance was brilliant including Thomasin McKenzie who played Elsa the Jewish girl.

I thought the film would be a straight comedy film with a loose plot, similar to the Austin Powers film or Tenacious D. I was surprised that although it was a comedy there was a solid plot. It is very rare in England (or at least any cinema I have been in) for the audience to gasp or burst out talking in the middle of the film. There is a plot twist half way through, that I won’t spoil for you here, that made everyone in my screen gasp. Maybe that for that moment alone, this film is worth watching.

It was also interesting to see World War Two portrayed by the Axis powers. Most World War films made in the western culture focus on the efforts of the British and American soldiers. As such, the western public have a black and white view of Nazi Germany, picturing the citizens living in poverty amid crumbling buildings. Taika Waititi’s Germany is colourful and optimistic, even in the face of defeat. It is important to acknowledge that Germany citizens also lost their lives in the Second World War, some in efforts to stop the Nazi party, and that these people are often overlooked.

With such a sensitive topic, it was inevitable that this film would not please everyone. Although the audience I was with enjoyed the film, critics and viewers alike have called it disrespectful, meaningless and offensive. I can understand where some of these complaints are coming from. If your family has a history in the holocaust, you may not like the way the Nazis or the citizens of Nazi Germany are humanised. The film has also angered extremist groups such as the Nazis (yes, they are still around) or the Neo nazis but their complaints do not seem to have harmed the film’s ratings.

I’ll award JoJo Rabbit eight rabbits out of ten.

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Jan 01

2020 Goals

 

As you’re reading this I am probably taking down the Christmas decorations at home. It is tradition that if you don’t take down all your Christmas decorations by 6th January  then you will receive bad luck for the rest of the year. I don’t believe in luck (to quote Obi Wan Kenobi, “you make your own luck”)  but I also don’t want to tempt fate.

If you have had any form of online presence, you would have seen the joke about twenty twenty vision flying around the internet.

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Joking aside I do think it is important to plan for the future and I think 2020 is going to be a brilliant year. I have a full time job that I love, I have lots of creative projects on the go and I’ve entered the new year with great optimism.

Here are my goals for this year.

  1. Edit The Truth About Nicole and The White Wasteland.

I have two completed manuscripts sitting on my desktop. The first is called The Truth About Nicole, stands at 80,000 words and is the result of NaNoWriMo 2018 and Camp NaNoWriMo 2019.  The second manuscript is titled The White Wasteland, is 50,000 words which I worked on during  NaNoWriMo 2019. I haven’t touched either manuscript since I finished them and I’m eager to work through those pages with my red editing pen.

Several people have asked me about my writing process. I think it is like a conveyor belt. First I complete draft zero. These are little more than words on a page. At this point, the manuscript is riddled with spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. Sometimes the sentences aren’t even legible. Afterwards I go back and edit through this draft, correcting any mistakes and applying the right formatting. This is draft one. Once this draft is complete I’ll start adding additional scenes and removing others. This is draft two. After another read through I’ll add more notes. I repeat this last step  until the manuscript is ready for submission.

It took me eight drafts, and three and a half years, to complete Empty Nights. I’m not sure how many drafts There Truth About Nicole or The White Wasteland will require but I hope it won’t take me as long.

I want to reach at least draft three on both projects by December.

 

2) Explore more of England/The World.

I love travel programmes and I love exploring new places. I want to see more of the world while I have the chance. Last year I did well in this regard by visiting Paris and Gran Canaria.  I have another Writing Retreat booked in near Easter on England’s south coast and I also want to visit York. I’m also looking at attending the Edinburgh Fringe festival although, I’ll admit, this may be pushed back a year.

3) Consume more media

This may sound like a strange goal at first. When I was in younger I always seemed to miss the popular shows. I never watched shows like Breaking Bad, Skins or the Walking Dead and as such I never understood many of the pop culture references my friends used. I don’t believe in the saying, TV rots your brain. It enriches your mind and as a writer you should read as many books and watch as many programmes as you can. Although I finally subscribed to Netflix at the start of 2019 I didn’t make full use of it until the middle of the year. I’m making a vow to myself to watch as many shows as I can on my commute to and from work.

This doesn’t mean I will cut down on the number of books I read. As well as reading books (both physical and on my kindle) I’ve also started printing screenplays of my favourite films to read. If you have an interest in screenwriting there are thousands of screenplays drifting around in cyberspace, most of which are free. It’s very interesting to see how the story changes from page to screen. I have also started an Audible account so I can listen to books while at the gym. If you follow me on Twitter you will see that I’ve started the Goodread’s 100 books challenge. I’ll be keeping a record of my reads on Goodreads which will share across on my Twitter feed.

Those are my three main goals of the year.

I’ve also made some slight changes to this website. Previously each article has come under five different categories. Writing Posts, Spitfire Reviews, Inspirations, Interviews and Odds and Ends.  I’ve added a sixth category called Rants and Rambles, the first post of which will be out later this month.

What are your goals for 2020? Do you think it will be a good year? Let me know and I’ll see you next time.

Dec 10

Final post of 2019

I’m wrapping up this website slightly early this year due to the fact that December is a very busy month for me. Aside from Christmas, December is also my birthday month, I need to finish all my tasks at work and I promised my friend I would proof read his novel manuscript. I also need to submit my own manuscript to a competition in early January and plan to spend the month licking it into shape. As usual JackDowd’sWritingBlog will emerge in January, this time with a few new features…

Let’s reflect on my goals of 2019.

  1. Empty Nights related events

My first goal was to turn Empty Nights into an Ebook and have it stocked in my local library. I used to have a joke with the school librarian that, one day, my books would be on her shelves.  Sadly none of these things have come to pass… yet. Empty Nights is not currently available on Kindle or as an E book and although I started research how to put it into my local libraries I was unable to follow through with the plan. On a positive note I have had to order more business cards because I gave away my first two hundred and fifty and I do attempt to bring my novel up in conversation.

2. Holidays

I’ve had a very successful traveling year.

In February I attended Paris for a fencing competition. If you want to know more about my journey I created a travel vlog which is on the StartingAsStranger’s YouTube channel. The video can be found below:

 

I also visited Gran Canaria with two university friends.  I was splashed by a dolphin whilst at sea and explored two shipwrecks in a tourist submarine. That was the highlight of my year.

3 Complete a creative project

After dedicating most of 2018 to Empty Nights, I wanted to take a break from writing prose and tackle a different medium. While on my writing retreat at the south coast earlier this year, I wrote a spec script for a TV series titled Gatekeepers. It’s in the same vein as The Sarah Jane Smith Adventures (if anyone remembers that brilliant program?) and I throughly enjoyed my time on it. I’m hoping to submit this script to various competitions  across the UK next year.

4. Submit short stories.

I’m ashamed to say that I have had nothing published in 2019. I’ve written ten more tales to add to my writer’s arsenal and I have also removed some old stories from circulation so I can tweak them for the new year.

5. NaNoWriMo 2019

If you’ve read my previous post then you’ll know that I completed NaNoWriMo 2019. I wrote 50,000 words in thirty days and have a rough draft of a new novel manuscript to work on in 2020

Four out of five goals. I’m happy with that.

Merry Christmas everyone. See you in the new year.

 

 

Dec 01

The end of NaNoWriMo 2019

National Novel Writing Month is over…

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I think this month was one of the most productive and enjoyable months of my year. This is my third time participating in NaNoWriMo and  as I said in my mid month check in I’ve visited the city of Oxford, attended many write-in events across London and overcome plot holes with fellow writers. I’ve beaten my highest word count in a day (having written 8251 words on November 17th), navigated my way through my first horror novel and met some like minded people. I think I have enjoyed this NaNoWriMo more than any other.

I reached my 50,000 word target on Friday 22nd November, eight days before the deadline. Draft zero of The White Waste ( or perhaps, The White Wasteland? I’m still undecided on the title) now exists on my laptop. One of my goals for 2020 is to work through both this manuscript, and the Manuscript for The Truth About Nicole which was my project in NaNoWriMo 2018 and Camp NaNoWriMo in April 2019 until they are edited.

If you have been cheering me along the way, thank you.

Nov 15

NaNoWriMo: Mid-Month Check in

Hello everyone,

As you can tell from the above picture I am suffering for my art. I’m currently at 32,000 words which means I’m just above target. I’ve found that with my new routine I work best on Monday nights, Friday nights and over the weekend. Although this means my word count slumps mid week I can normally catch up.

Last weekend I participated in Nanorilla (rilla as in a gorilla campaign) where we jumped from tourist spot to tourist spot whilst avoiding the rain in Oxford.

Hopefully I’ll be able to post again on December 1st with good news

Happy writing!

Nov 01

NaNoWriMo 2019

 

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Hello everyone,

I think this is my third year of doing NaNoWriMo in a row and I always enjoy the experience. Although I find solace in writing… I also find it fun to write with like minded people.

In case you are unaware NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. The aim  is for a writers across the globe to jot down 50,000 words in the thirty days of November. This works out as 1600 words a day but you can raise or lower your end target as you see fit.  These words do not have to be of good quality. You can edit them in December or in the following year.

My project this year is called The White Waste (working title). It’s a horror novel set in the Antarctic Circle. I haven’t written a horror story in years and after reading Robert Falcon Scott’s Terra Nova Expedition (You can read my review by clicking anywhere in these brackets) and visiting several artic exhibitions the idea for this novel popped into my head.

Because I’ll be focusing solely on NaNoWriMo this month there won’t be another top five article this year. I’ll be posting a update on the 15th, half way in the month and another post on the 30th when I would have hopefully reached my 50,000 word target.

Wish me luck.

Oct 27

Origins of five horror monsters

Happy Halloween!

Let’s start with a personal halloween story. On October 31st 2016 I was invited up to London for a Halloween party. Although the party was a bit dead (puns!) we all had a good time and at midnight I left to catch the train home. Some of you might also remember that there was an epidemic of clown attacks in 2016. Idiots, dressed as clowns would attack passers by and upload their reactions online. Some of these videos were pranks but others were more… sinister. I was walking home from the train station, on Halloween, alone, thinking about these clown attacks when something colourful flew out in front of me and hit me in the face.

Thankfully it was only a Tesco’s carrier bag caught in the wind. As I continued home, shaken, I began to question how well I would fair in a horror film. The answer…  not very well. They always kill the smart one first.

Killer clown

Fun fact: Stephen King’s killer clown was partly inspired by Pogo the clown, real name John Wayne Gacy, who killed thirty three people.

In the following months the clown attacks disappeared as mysteriously as they started. This got me thinking. Although killer clowns have seemingly had their time in the public consciousness, what about other horror monsters? Where did they come from? Where did they go? How did they become feared?

I hope you enjoy the origins of five horror monsters

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Oct 13

Top five banned TV Episodes

Does anyone else remember Dick and Dom, in particular Dick and Dom in Da Bungalow? It was a wacky British children’s show in which five children (called Bunglowheads) and one celebrity would enter Dick and Dom’s Bungalow, play stupid games and get gunged. In particular does anyone remember Charlie’s infamous phone call to the Bungalow?

This clip perfectly captures and anarchy that was the show. Although the duo were in trouble several times, for example one game involved gambling on real human babies, the show was never pulled from air. Dick and Dom in Da Bungalow ended of it’s own accord in 2006. None of the over two hundred episodes were ever pulled from circulation and both Dick (Richard McCourt) and Dom (Dominic Wood) have moved on to other projects.

So why do I bring this up? Well, I was reading in the garden the other day and I remembered that several years ago I wrote a list of top five banned novels and I realised that could also make an interesting list of top five banned TV episodes. After I found examples of banned TV episodes, narrowed them down to five and wrote the article I realised that I hadn’t written a post of top five five banned books. I’d written a list of five controversial novels. That’s close, though!

You can read that article by clicking here.

But I’ve written an article about banned TV episodes and despite my expectations Dick and Dom are not on the list but they are definitely worth checking out.

So… here are my top five banned TV episodes. Enjoy!

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Sep 30

Spitfire review: SAS Who Dares Wins

This Spitfire review is a little different to the others. Instead of reviewing one book I’ll be reviewing five, all of which are military themed. So this is a Spitfire Squadron review….

Despite the fact that my father used in the British Military and I loved playing games such as Call of Duty and Battlefield during my youth, it comes as no surprise to anyone when I say that I am not a violent person. I’ve had one physical fight in my life and the nearest I’ve come to enjoying violence is watching action scenes on TV.

Yet I’ve really enjoyed watching SAS: Who Dares Wins on Channel Four. In case you’re unfamiliar with the program four former SAS operatives (Ant Middleton, Jason Fox, Ollie Ollerton and Colin Maclachlan) take thirty members of the British public and put them on an SAS training course. The aim of the program is to raise awareness of the SAS without giving away their secrets and to push the participants to their limits. So far there have been four series including one celebrity special and most of the cast involved have published their own autobiographies about their past. As I’ve just seen Ant Middleton live (which I’ll talk about below) and I have read all of the cast’s books I thought I’ll give them a joint review.

SAS

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Sep 08

Camden Fringe review 2019

I love the Camden Fringe Festival. It’s cheaper than the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, it’s local (for me) and I always see high calibre shows. This year was no exception. Although I booked myself into nine shows, due to work commitments, I was only able to attend four. So to the five shows I booked but didn’t see, I’m sorry. I’m sure you were brilliant. The four shows I did watch were spectacular, I would even say they are among the best I’ve seen at the Camden Fringe.

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