Bilbo Baggy – Is Jackson getting a bit too carried away with The Hobbit?

After finally putting my mind to it and staying up until gone one o’clock last Friday night I finally managed to finish reading the 1939 Tolkien novel; The Hobbit. I was told by many people that I should have read it sooner, and that it was classic and all of the other usual comments that are made about the novel. Having read it now I can see why it has received the high status it has, it is a triumph of a book and one of the best books I have ever read. However this is where the problem the lies now in terms of the film, having read the book and now have a full understanding of the events that occur within the story, I have doubts as to how three films are going to be made from the source material.

Originally the book was going to be made in to two separate films, but further down the production line Jackson revealed that he had shot too much footage and didn’t want to remove any because he felt it to be important. This lead us to the decision of three films being made now instead of the initially proposed two. Personally I am on the side of the fence that believes two films that are two hours each would be enough to give justice to the book. The other side of the fence supports the decision to keep it at three films that are near enough three hours each. Here’s the thing for me, I’m not going to criticise Peter Jackson because he is an excellent film maker and I admire his style, but in the case of The Hobbit I feel that it is going to be a little bit baggy.

After watching the first film I did feel entertained and I enjoyed the experience, I thought Martin Freeman was absolutely superb as Bilbo Baggins and gave a perfect performance. However now that I have read the book I’m seeing how much baggage there is to the first film and just how slowly it moves. There is a lot of time taken for the events of the film to get going and to actually kick start and push Bilbo out of The Shire, which took, as far as I am aware, near enough 40 minutes whilst in the book it only took 29 pages. It was described by a lot of people as Bilbo Baggy because it could have possibly been shortened.

On the other hand I do have to take in to account the effect that the timing of the film had. Firstly it can be said that the time it took for Bilbo to leave The Shire was quite dramatically effective because it builds up suspense and keeps the audience engaged, not to mention how much it adds to the development of Bilbo’s character. Also I can’t really complain because I do really like it when it takes time for a true character to emerge. It was well worth 40 minutes of my time to wait for the sight of Martin Freeman running as fast as he could shouting “I’m going on an adventure!” which gave me goosebumps beyond belief. Taking time for a character to emerge is something I have admired in a lot of films recently, such as the latest installments to both the James Bond and Batman series, which both took a lot of time to put their title role characters back in action. And in both cases it was well worth the wait and made me jump out of my seat and shout cheerfully at the screen.

Overall the first Hobbit installment took 163 minutes, which is very close bordering in to three hours, and this takes up six chapters (or 104 pages) of the book, leaving only nine chapters (172 pages) left to be covered. Potentially problematic? I think it could be because to me where the first film ends, could easily be set as the half way point, leaving enough room in the second film to cover the other section of events. So now that we know where the second film picks up from, and from the title ‘The Desolation Of Smaug’ it is safe to say we now where the second film will end, it doesn’t leave an awful lot of material left to cover in the last film. This leads me to worry about whether or not Jackson is going to do a bit of a Helms Deep with The Battle Of Five Armies and make it into less of a sequence and more half a film, which would be a bit excessive. I won’t go in to detail as to what the previously mentioned battle is just in case anyone reading has not read the book, but I would still say I have my concerns for that section of the story. It is relatively short but could easily be put through the Jackson way of processing events and be converted in to a large section of film, just like with the battle of Helms Deep. I’m not saying the battle of Helms Deep wasn’t good, because it was a magnificent piece of film, I’m just a little worried we may have to sit through a similar sequence.

The idea of a film being too long is one that I know some people don’t see as a problem because it’s still an entertaining experience and provides the audience with a different universe they can be immersed in to for a temporary period. I won’t dispute those comments because it is true, running time isn’t a main factor that influences how you feel about a film, but for me in some cases it can make a film loose it’s substance an interest factor. If a film becomes too long it can sag, so the story becomes dragged out, the characters become less interesting, and you loose interest in general because you’re wanting to see the end of the film come about some time in the next year. An example for me would be Avatar. It was aimlessly long so the story became very boring, to the point where I started picking out flaws just to keep myself entertained, it got to the point where the characters meant nothing to me anymore and I didn’t care about them, it’s exhausting trying to put the effort in to take an active interest in the film. I’m not trying to say that this is what happened in the case of The Hobbit, but in some places the story did feel stretched and there were some sequences that didn’t need to be dragged out for as long as they were.

I will point out now that what I have said about the length of the first Hobbit film may have some biasing to it based on the additions to the story that have been made for the film. I understand there are certain factors that do add to the length of the film such as the narrative structure of adding an older Bilbo to somewhat tell the story, the adding of Radagast’s character and his input to the story, the pale Orc has been added as a main villain which takes a massive toll on the events of the film to the extent of hijacking what the events are centered around, and of course the branch of the Necromancer situation that brings about many spin off branches to events and lengthy discussions among the characters . All of these elements will no doubt feature in the other two films and will have a minor effect on the running times for the films, but if my guesses are correct then they shouldn’t have a large impact. I know for a fact already that there is more being added to the next film that isn’t in the book so it’ll be interesting to see how the speed of the film compares to the speed of the book based on how much drag is added.

To sum up all I can really say is that I enjoyed the book massively, the first film was very good despite being possibly too long, and I won’t be surprised if there are sections to the coming films that makes the story sag a little. It is bound to happen because Jackson does make films that are incredibly long, if you don’t believe me then go back and watch King Kong and Return Of The King. I still stand by what I have said before, I believe that two films would be enough to cover such a small book, but all we can do is trust Peter Jackson and be prepared for the very long journey ahead. Hopefully the Bilbo Baggy effect will wear off and the films substance won’t sag, but by the looks of the things the films running times will be like a journey through Mirkwood Forest; you can’t be certain as to just how long it’s going to last…

Please feel free to leave any comments you have on the matter, I’m always interested to know what others think about my ramblings.

Until the next time I shall leave you with the heavily though provoking actions and motives stated by Gandfalf in the first film; what made him leave was looking ahead, but what brought him back was looking behind him.

The World’s End [Review – no spoilers] – The Cornetto Trilogy’s worthy last installment

After waiting patiently since the early months of the year, I finally got to sit in a screening of the new Edar Wright/ Simon Pegg film ‘The World’s End’. I knew vaguely what the film was about but I tried to go in with as little knowledge as possible, eagerly looking forward to seeing what Wright has produced for our screens. After the success of ‘Shaun Of The Dead’ and ‘Hot Fuzz’, which have become films that we all love and could watch over and over again, I went in to the cinema screening really wanting to like this film. What was the result? Well to put it bluntly, I did really like the film.

Now firstly some background reading, for those who are unfamiliar with the Cornetto Trilogy, it’s basically the series of films written by Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg that they themselves describe as the ‘blood and icecream’ series, due to the nature of the films and the humour. The trilogy consists of the 2004  horror/ comedy ‘Shaun Of The Dead’, 2007 comedy ‘Hot Fuzz’ and then recently ‘The World’s End’. There are running gags throughout the series of films that fans eagerly watch out for, most famously the ‘fence’ scene in all three films. If you don’t know about the ‘fence’ scenes then I’m quite ashamed of you. But don’t stop reading.

Moving back to the latest installment, the story is quite a nice concept that I appreciate. It centers around five men meeting up and returning to their home town in an attempt to retry the pub crawl they failed at as teenagers. The pub crawl consists of 12 pubs over a one mile journey, all finishing at the last pub entitled the world’s end. Once they’ve started the pub crawl they start to suspect something is wrong with the town because it’s not like they remember it being as teens. After some mishaps and turns in events they find out that the inhabitants of the town have been replaced by robots or robot like creatures, and they see it upon themselves to uncover what has happened to the town, whilst finishing what they started. The subject matter of the story and the genres involved are different from the other two installments to the trilogy, in the sense that it is moving more in to sci fi territory, with some nerd humour involved, which is by no means an issue.

Along with the story comes interesting characters, which were played very well by the actors involved. Simon Pegg does a brilliant job of playing the nearly middle aged man who is still living in the past and wanting to keep young for as long as he can. Nick Frost is the stiff necked lawyer who feels that moving on from childhood is the best thing and is happy in his new life. Martin Freeman plays the nervous real estate agent who is reluctant to try the pub crawl, based on what happened during their last attempt. Eddie Marsan is the quiet businessman who’s settled down happily with his family, who’s more optimistic about the pub crawl but is happy to be back with friends. Paddy Considine plays the one in between really, he’s an average man who doesn’t really see eye to eye with Pegg’s character, particularly if a female is involved. Finally there’s the character played by Rosamund Pike who is the sister of Martin Freeman’s character. All very interesting characters, played by a knockout cast, who had both good chemistry and hilarious clashes.

It was interesting to see the different characters involved because it took quite a spin on the other two ‘Cornetto’ films, firstly because there was a group of central characters instead of having two central characters played by Pegg and Frost. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, it added to the humour and was still entertaining. It was also quite a twist because usually Nick Frost plays the character who is a bit slow and who’s stupidity is ephasised for comic effect, whereas Simon Pegg plays the more clever individual who’s common sense is better utilised. In the case of this film there was a switch, so Pegg played the character who was openly ignorant, whereas Frost played the clever character who tried to solve situations logically. This for me made the film stand out because it offered the audience something different without making the film slack.

In terms of screenplay I was very impressed. Just like the other two installments it was very funny, with a lot of laughs throughout. I liked the use of humour in this film because it wasn’t always jokes that are blindingly obvious, there were jokes in there that you actually have to think about, so it was quite a clever film. There is some humour that I would describe as nerdy but it had links to sci fi films, but it shouldn’t be a factor that deters people because it is still very funny. But it wasn’t all just jokes, as usual with Pegg and Wright’s writing there was a serious element to it as well, showing true character development and darker side to the film that showed how seriously they handle certain issues. As per usual there are a lot of profanities, but that only makes it more funny. The expletives used are not done so in an ill disciplined manner, they scripted well to suit the situations presented in the story.

For me, Edgar Wright has always been a very good director as he has proved in the past, so it was refreshing to see that his skills were shown in this film as well. There are certain sequences in the film that were fast paced but Wright did a very good job of them, so it was clear to see what was going on but still kept up the pace. Also Wright did what he has done admirably well in the past which is mixing action and violence together. For me that takes a lot of skill because directing an action scene is hard enough as it is, but to be able to make that funny for a modern audience it shows that he understands cinema and is good at what we does. The violence in the film is different from that of ‘Shaun Of The Dead’ and ‘Hot Fuzz’ but that is by no means a bad thing. The camera angles used by Wright are also quite familiar, showing small details that sometimes add to the humour and other times make a scene flow quite nicely. Excellent work all round from Edar Wright yet again..

Finally I have to talk about the themes of the film. Now I know it’s easy to look at a comedy and say that it’s just a film that designed to be funny, but in the case of this film it was written to have layers and depth as an intelligent story. It hit me quite hard because the themes were largely based around trying to stay young, reclaiming old days that you enjoyed, and the value of friendship. I may still be young, but I appreciate the memories I have of days gone by, the days I’ve spent with friends in the summer so seeing a group of friends trying to relive these days was something quite special. It was nice to see a film that focused on the value of friendship because it is something that I hold quite close to me. The characters all had a strong connection that was shown on my occasions, bringing a big smile my face because it made me think about the friends I have and how much they mean to be. Another theme that I quite liked that is more present as the film progresses and that’s the idea of being proud to be a human and what it means to be a human. The film may not explore this idea in too much depth, but it was still present and was a crucial element in what made the film stand out for me.

I know already some people have started to pick up on the flaws in the film and the story, which I can appreciate there probably are a fair few. But I’m just going to face it, it may not be the best film ever made, and it does have flaws, but you know what, I really enjoyed it. I thought it was a brilliant film, the sort of film I left the cinema screening from feeling happy, I had a smile on my face and I knew that the duration of the film was time well spent. I would happily watch it again and intend to in the future.

Overall I would give the film four stars, I think it was very well written and directed with a cast that did a brilliant job. It was different from the other two installments to the trilogy but it was a worthy contributor in itself, being different from the other two but having the same feeling as the others at its heart. It was sad to see the trilogy come to an end but it was closed off very well and there is still hope that there is more to come from Wright and Pegg. I don’t think it’s going to be as big as ‘Shaun Of The Dead’ or ‘Hot Fuzz’ because it is somewhat different, but that’s not an issue for me because I know I enjoyed it. It was refreshing to see and intelligent comedy that was well written and had layers to it. It’s feast for any fan of films, sci fi, or indeed the ‘cornetto’ films but I would recommend it to anybody because it’s a good laugh and an entertaining experience. I like the fact that it’s different in quite a nerdy way, and the undertones of the film based on friendship really meant a lot to me.

I hope this review was helpful for anybody thinking about seeing the film. I would heavily recommend it and indeed ‘Shaun Of The Dead’ and ‘Hot Fuzz’ if you have not already seen them. The ‘Cornetto’ Trilogy provides some of the best and funniest films you will ever see so I would recommend seeing the trilogy at some point in life. Preferably now. Right now.

Please feel free to leave any comments about the film or about the review in general. I am open to any comments or criticisms so please don’t hold back. It’s only the second review I have done so any comments you have about it are much welcomed.

First Guesses For Oscar Nominations – Actor in a Leading Role

After a late night of researching, and after watching an all manner of trailers I can’t help but feel excited for the next half of the year. The concept of certain films sound very interesting so it’ll be good to see how they turn out. But for the ones with trailers it makes things even more exciting, with the last months of the year proving to have some strong films being released. 

Interestingly it’s the films that are released towards the end of the year that are tipped for Oscar nominations, what with the ceremony being held in February of the following year. After watching certain trailers and doing some background research for certain films, I’ve managed to narrow down a list of people I think are going to be nominated for the category of Best Actor In a Leading Role. On the list I have seven actors who I believe could, or indeed should receive a nomination this year, and it’s based on the timing of which their film is released, how their performance looks initially from trailers, and the complexity of their characters. I’m not saying these will be the eventual nominees, they’re just hunches I’ve got. So without further ado I present you with the seven potential Oscar Nominees for Actor In a Leading Role. 

I. Forest Whitaker in ‘The Butler’ – I heard about this film earlier in the year and I have to admit it did sound very interesting but I had doubts as to how they would pull it off. After seeing the trailer for it I am filled with more optimism, it looks as though it is going to be quite an engaging film. The film is the true story about a butler called Cecil Gaines who served under eight presidents in the White House, with Whitaker playing the lead role. In the past I have been impressed by Whitaker’s performances, and I think he is going to handle the complexity of this character very well and could be one of his best roles yet.

II. Benedict Cumberbatch in ‘The Fifth Estate’ – After seeing the trailer, I am already blown back by how good Cumberbatch’s performance looks for this film. Playing Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, Cumberbatch not only looks the part but he talks and stands in the exact right way. His accent is damn near perfect so he sounds just like Assange, and the way he stands while talking to people is the spitting image of him too. From footage I have seen of Julian Asange it is almost scary how spot on Cumberbatch’s portrayal of him is. He hasn’t received a nomination from the Academy yet, but I feel as though this could easily be his year. 

III. Leonardo DiCaprio in ‘The Wolf Of Wall Street’ – In recent years we’ve seen DiCaprio working with Martin Scorcese more and more, but this film looks particularly interesting. Based on the true story of Jordan Belfort (played by DiCaprio) a young stockbroker who went from being rich and successful to eventually falling to greed and moving to a life based on crime and corruption. The film is said to be a black comedy, and from the trailer Leo does appear to be showing quite a complex character. He’s arrogant, loud, eccentric, but also charismatic and professional, creating quite a deep layered character. I thought it would be a bit like Jay Gatsby but it looks as though he’s taken the idea of a wealthy businessman to new heights. He’s been nominated before for various awards so hopefully the Academy will see his talents again this year. 

IV. Tom Hanks in ‘Saving Mr Banks’ – Already a favourite of the Academy and twice a winner under this category, this could very well be another good year for Hanks who is playing Walt Disney. The film is based around the writer of Mary Poppins, P.L. Travers, going to Hollywood to over see her book being adapted to film by the man himself. It may be a character that is a little less complex than that of roles he has fulfilled before, but I think Hanks will do a very good job of it and it could very well see his name mentioned at the Awards. From the trailer he definitely sounds like Walt Disney and seems to act in the same way most of imagined he would, so it’ll be interesting to see how he develops throughout the film. 

V. Christian Bale in ‘Out Of The Furnace’ – It might be a bit of a long shot, but I think it’s still a possibility. The nature of the film looks as though it could go either one of two ways, one being a really hard hitting emotional film with depth, or the action side could take over too much and it could go the wrong way. But then there is always the possibility of the trailer overstating the action and film not living up to it, much like ‘Rampart’. However I still think that in either scenario Bale could be tipped for an Oscar, he’s already won an award for his supporting role in ‘The Fighter’ which he was very good in, so it could happen again. 

VI. Oscar Isaac in ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ – This was always going to be a contender for me because of my love for the Coens. The film tells the story of a country singer trying to make his way around the music scene in the 1960s, Isaac plays the title character and already he looks very promising; delicate yet complex. The film is said to be based on Bob Dylan, however true this may be, I still have faith in the Coen Brothers writing. The characters they have written in the past have been both memorable and charming so it wouldn’t be a surprise for me if they have done the same here. I have a feeling that Issac’s acting may be over looked by the Academy because of other aspects of the film (as has happened to some actors in the past) but hopefully this won’t be the case. There have been some actors who have won awards for Coen Brothers films, such as Frances McDormand for ‘Fargo’ and Javier Bardem for ‘No Country For Old Men’, so fingers crossed there is a nomination heading towards the young actor.

VII. Chiwetel Ejiofor in ’12 Years A Slave’ – A second historical film that could easily sweep up quite a few awards this year but I think if there isn’t at least a nomination for the lead role then I would have to question the Academy’s decision making skills. It’s the true story of a free born black person during pre-civil war America who is abducted and sold into slavery. It looks set to be an emotionally intense film, there are some strong actors involved but none more so than the leading role. Having not seen much of the actor I was impressed from what I saw in the trailer, I am excited to see the overall performance and to see if it is as successful as I hope it will be. 

As I have said these are purely based on the research I’ve done and the timing of the films, these are the choices I think would be the most likely to be nominated. There is no doubting that I have left some out so I may have to revisit the topic later in the year and make some more accurate guesses. I think this year is going to be a very close year for actors, the competition is going to be tight so I’m looking forward to see what has been produced. At this time obviously I have no idea who could actually win it, it’s too soon to call it and it would be stupid of me to make a big judgement based on a trailer and research alone. In the coming weeks I may do some follow up posts based on other awards I feel there could be easy contenders for, so as always watch this space. 

Please feel free to leave any comments you have on the topic, I’d be interested to know how you feel about my choices, and please, I welcome any choices you feel could be on the list too. It would be very odd of me to turn down an opportunity to discuss film, so please leave any thoughts you have on the topic. 

The Films That Creep Up On You

I realised recently that my blog is filled with references to big title films that most people have heard and to be honest, if I constantly praise them I feel quite cliched. And also praising the big films that a lot of people have heard of, doesn’t really show the attitude I have towards smaller films, that are less well known, but have still had a big impact on me. I feel that being interested in films is about looking at a broad spectrum of films, not just the main ones that are played at every cinema countrywide. So I’ve decided to write this post about the films that creep up on you. The ones you find in a small corner of HMV for under five pounds, decide to take a risk and buy it, then discover what an absolute gem of a film it is. I’ve narrowed down the list, because trust me when I say this, there were many that I could have used for this post. It was very difficult to narrow the list down but I feel the ones that I have to talk about, are the ones that have had made me think the most. 

Firstly among the list is the 2011 comedy ’50/50′ starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen. The story is based on a true story of a 27 year old who is diagnosed with cancer, and the efforts of his best friend in helping him on the road to recovery. First off I have to say that in terms of acting I was very impressed by the performances in this film. Gordon-Levitt is fantastic as the main character, displaying true acting ability through his sharp delivery of lines and his powerful emotional state. Seth Rogen is also very good, which is surprising because in the past I have taken a dislike to him but in the case of ’50/50′ he have a good performance.

The writing for the film was done by Will Reiser which was fantastic, he had the perfect balance between comedy and drama which gave the film and edge that made it feel very real to life. I am told that the film sticks very closely to the events that happened to the actual person, but either way I’m not too fussed, I really enjoyed it. For such a small film that I hadn’t heard a lot about, it must be a good sign if it managed to make me cry on a couple of occasions. A truly moving story that was told extremely well, leaving me feel both uplifted and happy. I’ve watched it at least four times now, and every time it ends with me having the same smile on my face.

The next film to make it on to my list is the 2009 drama ‘Is Anybody There?’ starring Michael Caine and young actor Bill Milner. The story is set in eighties England, in an old people’s home owned by a young boy’s parents. His mother is struggling to pay the bills and his father is going through a mid life crisis. Edward himself is fascinated with the idea of the after life and begins investigating around the home. The latest resident of the home, Clarence, moves in and soon becomes friends with Edward, setting up the rest of the film as a journey through life for the old man and young become as they come to terms with the past and future.Written very well by Peter Harness who manages to make the story a very moving and emotional journey, but with a touch of comedy in places, making it an overall enjoyable experience.

The acting is superb, young star Bill Milner is terrific as Edward, with the curiosity and mischief you would expect from a young lad. David Morrissey is very funny as the father who is struggling with the issue of his age, and Anne-Marie Duff plays the mother very convincingly. However the star of the show is Michael Caine, in one of his best acting roles as the cynical old man who doesn’t want to hurt other people as much as he hurts himself. There was a beautiful balance between the characters of Clarence and Edward, showing a young boy with a lot to learn about life, and a man who has had enough life experiences to give him a proper understanding. The film is what I would describe as charming and it did make me feel both happy and sad throughout, with a couple of tears along the way, but overall it is a very impressive piece of film that I would recommend to anybody.

Finally we have the 2009 black comedy from the Coen Brothers entitled ‘A Serious Man’. The simple story of a jewish man in the 1960s who is watching his life slowly fall apart around him through a series of sudden incidents. This leads him to seek both help and answers for what is happening. A very simple concept that is very impressive and makes an amazing film. It is one of my favourite films from the Coens, it is written superbly so it is funny throughout, and as usual it is directed in their artistic way so that the whole film is executed smoothly but sharply at the same time.

It was interesting to see a film that was darkly funny, but presented us with strong character who you feel a genuine connection to. It’s the sort of film that is very much like Alien, in the sense that there is a lot of character development so you feel sympathy for the characters and feel as though you have a connection to them. The main character, Larry, is so close to life, the issues that surround him make the audience think about their lives and link it back to their own experiences. The film presents many interesting themes including the questioning of beliefs, and it opens questions like “is there always an explanation for what happens to us?”. It was a film that crept up on me because before I became interested in the Coen brothers I hadn’t heard of the film, so upon watching it with very little knowledge I was pleasantly surprised and knocked back by what a genuinely incredible film it was.

I appreciate that some of the films I’ve mentioned were possibly more well known that I described them as, but they were were the films that crept up on me. They were films that I hadn’t particularly heard of before I bought them, possibly because of less advertising, but they are ones that had a big impact on me.

They are the films that made me think, on a number of levels and the ones that triggered quite hard emotional responses from me. It sets a clear different between this kind of film and a large Hollywood Blockbuster because the latter is the sort of film you leave thinking “wow, that had incredible special effects, the action sequences were amazing!”. And then the smaller films are the ones you leave, not knowing what to think. The films confuse you, you don’t know whether to feel uplifted or upset, or both at the same time, but either way you know you enjoyed them.

I would recommend all of the films I have talked about on this post, they are all special in their own away and very impressive. They’re not the best films ever made, but I like them and I feel that other people would like them equally as much. As always feel free to leave any comments you have on the topic or about the films mentioned, it’s interesting to get feedback on the topic.

So it is with this that I leave you with a quote from a character in ’50/50′. It’s a good piece of advice for troubled situation and it’s the sort of thought the film leaves you with:

“You can’t change your situation. The only thing that you can change is how you choose to deal with it”

ComPOWERson AKA ‘the power of comparison’ or ‘comparison’ as said by Jonathan Ross.

When it comes to films there’s always one factor that can influence opinions on a major level, and I admit I do fall victim to this almost on a daily basis: the power of comparison. Or as I have labelled it ‘compowerson’.

What I mean by this is going to watch a film by a director or writer, or indeed both, that you have never seen before, and in your head you start comparing it to some of their previous works. This has happened to me just minutes before I started to write this post as I saw the closing minutes of the new Martin McDonagh film ‘Seven Psychopaths’. Now don’t get me wrong I love Martin McDonagh, I think his films are brilliant. But when I started watching ‘Seven Psychopaths’ my thoughts were instantly tracing back to ‘In Bruges’, and I started to reminisce about how much I laughed the first time I watched it. In my head I wanted the film to be as good as ‘In Bruges’ so my mind was being invaded with doubts that the film wouldn’t be as good. By the end of it I completely changed my mind. I really enjoyed the film, it made me laugh out loud on numerous occasions. The characters were absolutely brilliant and played very well by the cast, in particular I liked Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell. It wasn’t as funny or as entertaining as ‘In Bruges’, but then it hit me; it doesn’t matter. I didn’t have to compare them, because they were two completely different films.

I found myself in a situation where I was getting annoyed by my own behaviour. The two films are different on a number of levels, meaning that the idea of comparing them seems a little bit pointless. Obviously you can tell that they are by the same writer, the scripts are both very dark with a lot of expletives and jokes that make you question your own sense of humour, half way through laughing. And the subject matter for both of them is of the same nature, with a lot of black comedy which really makes you question how sympathetic you are towards characters in a truly horrific situation. Other than that I can’t find any other points that are similar. The stories are both complex in their own way, so they follow their own winding path that spins out of control (in a controlled and clever manner) but it means that you simply cannot compare them because the obscurities of both of them can’t be compared to films with simpler story lines, let alone each other. It really put me in a difficult position because it did make me question how cynical I can be when thinking about film.

It’s annoying because not only is this a situation where I have to admit that I am a victim of the very thing I’m complaining about, but also I have to admit that the thing I’m complaining about is something I think is important sometimes. Confusing right? But does make sense if you think about it. There are films you have to approach with a completely open mind and don’t let anything influence it. On the other hand there are also films that you have to compare, they were made for comparison. I know it doesn’t make a lot of sense now, but after a quick example, hopefully it will.

Take Quentin Tarantino for example. His career starting off very well, making genius pieces of film such as ‘Reservoir Dogs’ and ‘Pulp Fiction’ which soon became some of the best films ever made. But then the day we never saw coming was vast approaching the horizon, the day when that successes of the past that came from being quite ill disciplined and off the rails finally got to his head. In quite a bad move in to the ‘horror’ market of the film industry he presented to us ‘Death Proof’, the film we all wish we hadn’t seen, but unfortunately did. The trashy, ill disciplined horror that graced our screens was a real contrast to his previous work, it was made for us to compare! We all looked at ‘Death Proof’ in one hand and then looked at his previous work in another hand, and we all thought to ourselves “what happened?”. It was the sort of film where you not only compare to another film by Tarantino, but it’s the sort of film you start ticking boxes for. “Did it have a good story like Jackie Brown? Nope. Did it have character we all love and could quote to each other for hours on end like Pulp Fiction? Not at all. Did it require any form of thought to stay with the story like Reservoir Dogs? Not even in the slightest”. I know some critics say that you can’t compare it to his other films because it’s so different from all of them, but honestly, you can. It’s not difficult.

There are of course exceptions to the idea of not comparing in the form of sequels. Now this is an important bender of the rules, because without it we would have all had positive opinions of ‘Kingdom of the Crystal Skull’ or ‘Star Wars’ one to three. Sorry did it seem like I was having a dig at George Lucas there? Because I was. I laughed the other day when I saw a clip of him presenting an Oscar with Steven Spielberg and Francis Ford Coppola and he said “guys, I’ve never won an Academy Award”. It’s funny he never will. Spielberg knows it. Coppola knows it. I’m pretty sure even Lucas knows it, unless he’s so busy counting the money that he received for pointlessly re releasing ‘Star Wars I’ in 3D. However, rant over before it gets too far, without the rule we may have had different opinions on The Dark Knight Trilogy, or the new Star Trek film, all of which I have very little complaints about. Comparing in those cases made me realise what I loved so much about the first one, and then what I loved even more about the second film, like the development of character.

It just goes to show how much of an influence the power of comparison has on our opinion. In some cases it is useful because it points out the films that we really like and also separates the films we don’t like. But then it also has the power to make us dislike perfectly good films, which was very nearly the case with ‘Seven Psychopaths’. Thankfully I stopped myself and I did manage to enjoy the film a lot, but I very nearly ruined it for myself.

If there’s anything I want you to take away from this post other than reasons why I should be stopped from watching so many films, it’s just the advice to watch a new film with a completely open mind and focus on what’s happening on screen rather than what you remember happening on screen several months ago. Unless the film is terrible. In which case reserve your anger until you get home and get around to some serious in depth research about the director or writer’s history on IMDB.

Is it time for me to take up a hobby that isn’t based around films? I bloody hope not.



Academy Awards – is it a game of time?

Earlier this year I made a post about how important the Oscars are to me and why they should be taken seriously by more people. Upon reflection I do still stand by the majority of my points, but after researching past winners I have started to see some cracks forming.

It seems as though there are some directors or writers that either don’t get credit for their work where it’s due, or they have to wait a considerably long time to win an award. I’m not trying to say that the Oscars are the most important way of showing how good a film is because obviously that is not the case, but it is a good way of presenting someone with the credit they deserve. As the title suggests I think it is a game of time. Some directors get an award for one of their first films whereas others get one for their later films. It’s interesting to see a comparison between the two.

Cast your mind back to early 2007. The Academy Awards are on the screen, and the even progresses until we reach the award for best achievement in directing. The nominees are rattled off one by one and the envelope is ready to be opened. No one really bats an eyelid until we hear the winner is announced; Martin Scorsese. For those who don’t take a lot of interest in film, it’s not a big moment. For those of us who do, it’s a moment that has been over thirty years in the making. Seeing Martin Scorsese finally make his way up to that stage and collect his Oscar was a big moment. It saw an incredibly talented director receive a standing ovation. Along with the thoughts of happiness and respect there is an underlying question in film lovers minds; why didn’t this happen sooner?

Before 2006, Scorsese had made some amazing films. ‘Taxi Driver’, ‘Goodfellas’, ‘Gangs of New York’, ‘Raging Bull’. The list goes on and on and yet none of these films had gained him an Oscar. The film that eventually did in 2007 was ‘The Departed’ which I know a lot of film critics disliked because it is a remake of the Chinese film ‘Infernal Affairs’, but I really like the film. I think it is very well directed, the acting in it is superb, and I really like the screenplay for the film. I’m glad it won Scorsese and Oscar and I was very happy for him when it happened, but I still find it very surprising that it didn’t happen sooner. The Departed is one of my favourite films from Scorsese but I can admit it’s not his best piece of work. If I had to give him an Oscar for directing it would probably be either ‘Taxi Driver’ (1976) or ‘Goodfellas’ (1990) but curiously the Academy doesn’t seem to agree with popular opinion.

Then at the opposite end of the scale we’ve got Sam Mendes, a director who won his Oscar for the third piece of work he directed; ‘American Beauty’. Now I absolutely love ‘American Beauty’, it is an artistic masterpiece that I could watch over and over again and never get bored of it. The imagery that is used is very clever and helps develop the complexity of the film, which along with the witty screenplay and Kevin Spacey’s incredible performance as a middle aged man going through a turn in his life, it made a film that was very impressive. It just goes to show how there is a real time gap between talented film makers receiving awards. Both films deserved their Oscars without a doubt, but it just goes to show how there has been a change in how the Academy views new film makers. In Mendes’ case they spotted it straight away, but with Scorsese perhaps it took time for audiences to realise the true genius behind his films?

Now if we shift forward to the present day and take a look at one of the best talents of modern cinema; Paul Thomas Anderson. The recently turned 43 year old writer/director who hasn’t made that many films but the ones he has made are genius. ‘Boogie Nights’, ‘Punch Drunk Love’, ‘Magnolia’, ‘There Will Be Blood’ and then recently ‘The Master’. All incredible films that are spectacularly written and very well directed using an artistic style that puts a different twist to modern cinema. How many Oscars has he been nominated for? five. How many has he won? none.

After a film history as impressive as he has, it’s surprising to see him still without an Oscar. I’m starting to wonder if it is going to be like Scorsese. Will PTA have a career filled with incredible films but have to wait a while to get an award from the Academy? I’m hoping that it won’t be the case. We’ve already seen evidence of what PTA is capable of, including one of my all time favourite films ‘There Will Be Blood’ which was just stunning. ‘There Will Be Blood’ was a very clever film that really challenged the audience and displayed PTA’s true talents as a director and writer. His work is usually along the lines of what Mark Kermode describes as “Intelligent cinema for clever people” (only paraphrased). It can’t be too long until the Academy acts wisely, but they may be playing the time game with him and waiting until a certain point.

So this year and indeed next it’s safe to say that I will be keeping a close eye on the Academy Awards. Scorsese has a new film out this year ‘The Wolf Of Wall Street’ which does look very good, hopefully it will be another Oscar win for him but only time will tell. As for PTA he has another film coming out next year ‘Inherent Vice’ which is set in the 70s. A very interesting time period combined with a director with a unique visual style and artistic approach to films. Already it is sounding very promising so all we can do is keep our fingers crossed.

As usual feel free to leave any comments about the topic, it’d be interesting to see what you have to say about the topic or indeed the films mentioned. 

Until the next time; au revoir.