Friday, 13 August 2010

Has anybody actually tasted The Rock's cooking?

Sky television has recently given me a trail of their additional sports channels, and it's immediately obvious that they haven't got enough sport to warrant four dedicated channels. Sure they show a lot of football, rugby and cricket, but they eventually begin to run out of respectable sports. When you're watching teams that have names that wouldn't sound out of place in a Quidditch league you know they're scraping the bottom of the barrel. However due to a pleasant mixture of unemployment and a poor selection of daytime television I've persevered with the likes of ultimate frisbee, caber tossing and golf, and have found a sport I remember from my youth; wrestling.

Years ago my best friend and I were completely crazy about wrestling; we played the overly-complicated video games and watched pre-watershed edits of the shows. I can even remember the Golden Age of wrestling, before the pandas kicked up a fuss and the World Wrestling Federation were forced to change their name. And by coming back to wrestling a whole decade later, I can now see it for what it really is; an epilepsy inducing, pyrotechnic overloading, Nickelback-themed, wonderfully entertaining drama.

I find it strange that the first criticism that springs to mind whenever somebody mentions wrestling is that all the fighting is simulated. Really? You're telling me that muscle toting, spandex wearing, egocentric men don't come together on a weekly basis to dish out polite trash talk and do fisticuffs? If I wanted to watch thugs knock each others teeth out in front of an audience who are all wearing baseball caps and tracksuits then I'd watch the Ultimate Fighting Championship. I know this will sound like a lame porn excuse, but I don't watch wrestling for the action, I watch it for the storylines.

Recently the shows commentators have been emphasising that World Wrestling Entertainment is the longest running, weekly-episodic entertainment programme ever made. So really, wrestling should be compared to television soaps, rather than other sports. And personally, watching a spandex-clad giant kicking somebody in the face is far more enjoyable than watching old farmers in flat caps sitting in a poky rural pub complaining about technology and the introduction of decimal currency. No other programme has such outrageous action, hilarious rivalries and over the top storylines that intensify for weeks, before finally exploding into colossal battles at massively hyped pay-per-view spectacles.

My only criticism of the wrestling now is that I remember it being far more extreme when I was younger. Though I suspect the reason for this is a combination of naivety, and that nowadays less violence is permitted on screen. There also seems to be a bigger emphasis on storyline now, though when I was ten years old I probably ignored all that nonsense and focused on the people hitting each other metal chairs. I most likely thought I was being rebellious by watching wrestling, but if I had children I'd be more than happy for them watch it now. It's an enthralling drama where the respectful, honourable heroes always triumph over the cheating, deceitful villains; imagine Postman Pat elbow dropping a Teletubby and you're pretty much there.

Monday, 9 August 2010

When sci-fi becomes sci-fact

Despite the fact that ex-conmen get employed to sell popcorn and pick 'n' mix, I love taking a trip to the cinema. Now usually I'm not too keen on sitting in a darkened room full of sweaty strangers, but I take comfort in the fact that inane chatter, annoying mobile phone ringtones and touching each other is banned; or at the very least, frowned upon. A quick look over my previous posts suggests that taking a trip to the cinema is about the only thing that actually inspires me to write blogs. And if you know anything about the latest cinema releases you'll know there's only one film worth mentioning at the moment; Inception.

There are plenty of entertaining films about, but every now and then entertainment becomes something more - an escape from reality. A good film will entertain you, but a great film will engross you. No matter how unrealistic and mind-bending the plot might be, so long as the story is told in that magical way, you'll be completely submerged in another world. And even though you're sat with a bunch of strangers, on a chair that's rapidly degrading in comfort and you've just cannonballed a giant slushie, you're drawn into an environment that, at the time, you're entirely convinced is real; like a dream.

Technology doesn't necessarily make it easier for a film to make the small, yet significant, step from entertainment to escapism. I willing to suspend my disbelief and become completely engrossed in the original 1970's Star Wars films, despite the fact that Chewbacca is clearly just a man wearing a rug. 3D films might be the future of entertainment, but they're not the future of escapism. This can only be achieved when the way in which we watch films changes; not 3D, but virtual reality. Beaming images directly into our heads might seem improbable, but nerds have been dreaming about it for years; so if there's any chance that it's actually possible, we'll know it's being pursued by the world's greatest, yet geekiest minds.

All this brings me back to Inception; if in the future we go to the cinema for a virtual escape from reality and we descend into an alternate universe, it's only a matter of time before we begin to question which is real. This might sound absurd, but thousands of people already live in alternate worlds in online multiplayer games. Goblins, warlocks and elves might not sound like your perfect world, but imagine being able to create one that is. Imagine living in a world entirely suited around you, being able to do anything, and be anyone you desire - the ability to escape an imperfect world into a parallel universe.

It's a misconception that believing in an alternate reality is a sign of ignorance; it takes true intelligence - or an advanced understanding of the Matrix - to expand your mind to the point of questioning everything we previously believed to be absolutely true. Though currently, what with virtual reality looking about as likely as a tanned Star Trek fan, and cinema insisting on producing lacklustre, gimmicky films for the masses, it's a little too early to start questioning our place in the universe. Besides, we've got far more pressing issues to be dealing with, like figuring out how to harness the immense brainpower of writer-director Christopher Nolan before he takes over the world by convincing us we're all chickens.