Pilgrimages

Scott Pilgrim versus The World is unquestionably an Edgar Wright movie, in the style we know from Spaced, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Background treats! Easily missed visual and aural gags! Pop-culture references! But no Simon Pegg or Nick Frost. It’s an Edgar Wright movie without the usual suspects: but is it a Carry On Columbus, notable only for the cast not present?

Happily not, matron, oh I say, hwahwahwah, etc. In fact it’s the closest I think I’ve seen to a comic-book-slash-graphic-novel in live-action movie form. I have yet to read the books on which the film is based – mainly due to the incompetence of the Home Delivery Network, a rant for another time perhaps – but, like Watchmen before it, I have the distinct feeling that many of the scenes are lifted substantially unchanged from the source material; storyboards barely required. But perhaps I do Wright a wrong; I’ll see.

The film’s flaw is also what makes it great, for me: as well as being a film-o-comic it’s a film-o-game. Video games and gaming culture are at the core of the story. Those not steeped in the lore may well emerge bewildered – if they stay to the end of the film, which three people at my screening did not. However, gamers should love it: it’s the first mainstream, big-budget film I’ve seen to get the essence of gaming culture right, to feel like it’s been made by someone who has actually played a video game, rather than portraying a hackneyed, Hollywoodised variant thereof. It’s like the first western to include a horse.

I’m a fan of Michael Cera, who plays Pilgrim. Or rather, I’m a fan of the character Michael Cera played in Arrested Development, George Michael, which is no more than a smidge different from the character he played in Juno, and barely an insect’s toenail from his portrayal of Pilgrim. I presume he can play other characters, but in this case I’m glad he didn’t.

But it’s Edgar Wright’s film. Now: please can we have the third in the cornetto trilogy? kthxbai.

Avaragado’s rating: assorted power-enhancing fruit

Last Friday His Holiness Stephen Fry graced the Corn Exchange with his wise and illustrious visage for ninety minutes of chatter and readings from the new volume of his autobiography, The Fry Chronicles.

Fry is of course a national treasure; not quite at Thora Hird levels but then she did have the stairlift. In the talk he told how it nearly didn’t happen – two ‘hinges’ in his life, as he put it, that might have swivelled differently and led to a very different personal history. This is true of everyone, naturally – we are each the sum of our decisions, both micro and macro – and I can identify a couple of hinges in my own life, similarly seminal in moulding the modern me. One of them was undoubtedly the chance meeting I wrote about recently that set me along the computing path. I occasionally wonder how different my life might have been had that meeting never happened. In a parallel universe I might very well be an HGV driver with an intimate knowledge of overhead camshafts.

Fry’s retelling of his first meeting with Hugh Laurie at Cambridge, how they started writing together with virtually no preamble, no getting-to-know-you stage, was fascinating. Almost like love at first sight, he said. It made me want to read the autobiography, which was after all the point of the evening. And it made me want to write more, which most things seem to do at the moment.

Attendees were granted individual audiences with Stephen post-show, assuming they had crossed the palm of the man from Waterstones (Gary) with silver and bought a book to sign. A health-and-safety worryingly large number of people did so; it was impossible to distinguish queue from non-queue. The call of B Bar proved stronger and we high-tailed it out of a side door.

It strikes me that the blessed Stephen’s life is ripe for a BBC Four drama-documentary someday. It’ll happen, mark my words.

Avaragado’s rating: bon-bons

Oh, and the Pope popped in for a visit.

I’m not a fan.

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