Tim Burton vs Christopher Nolan – The Batman Argument

This post is inspired by an article I’ve not long finished reading entitled ’15 Reasons Tim Burton’s Batman Is Better Than Chris Nolan’s The Dark Knight’. It was quite an interesting article in the sense that it managed to anger me but also entertain me because of the statements this person was making. I’m not about to slate Tim Burton as a film maker because I respect him and admire his work a lot, but when it comes to Batman his films were quite poor compared to the recent work of Christopher Nolan. I’ve shown my admiration for Christopher Nolan a lot in previous posts, so you can label this as defending him, and at the end of the day you’d be right to do so.

I thought the best way to handle this was to address the points made in the article that annoyed me, and do my best to not so much correct them, but just show how they are not entirely correct and/or probable. The list may be long but believe me I had to cut it down massively to make this post shorter. Hold on to your hats, this is going to be quite a journey.

1. The action – the person who wrote the article felt as though Nolan’s films have less actions in them and then when they are action sequences they are dull. Personally I feel that there is a perfect balance between dialogue and action and the action sequences that are in the films are very well choreographed. The thing with the violence in the Burton films is that it felt too much like a comic book, with spraying Tommy Guns and slow punches so I didn’t feel as though it was close to real life because it was too dramatised. In the case of Nolan’s films it’s more brutal, the use of sound and the choreography means you can feel the weight of every punch so you can feel that the characters are being hurt, and for me Burton failed to capture this feeling. 

2. Script – the writer of the article felt as though the script was boring and there was too much talking. In particular they referenced what they call “ponderous conversations in Wayne Enterprises boardroom” which they considered to be tedious and too serious. In my opinion I don’t think this is a bad thing, it shows clever writing capability on Nolan’s part and also adds a certain intellectual level to the script. It’s all well and good making a Batman film that has loud explosions and chase sequences, but it shows something special if you can add depth to it through clever planning and development of characters intellect. With the screenplay for Burton’s films it was good, but nothing special, almost as if the characters were saying the basics of what needed to be said which differs greatly from Nolan’s scripts. I consider Christopher Nolan to be one of the best screenplay writers of our time, he’s both intelligent and witty and is very good at characterisation. I still cherish to this day his line he wrote for the Joker: “do I look like a guy with a plan? You know what I am? I’m a dog chasing cars; I wouldn’t know what to do with one if I caught it!”.

3. Timing – apparently if Batman doesn’t appear in the first couple of minutes of the film, then the film isn’t very good. Which is complete and utter rubbish. Batman takes a full fourty minutes to make an appearance in ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ which for me was very good. It showed true development of character, showing how Bruce Wayne was in a real make or break situation where he had to build himself back up to being Batman. It was slow, but not in a dragging kind of way, but more in a taking it’s time sort of way, it was delicate and allowed the audience to connect more to the human side of Batman by showing how at the end of the day we are all Bruce Wayne in the sense that we want to be more than just a person.

 4. (pt 1) Actors – The cast of the Nolan films is supposedly not matched to the ensemble put together by Burton. I liked the cast of the Burton films equally as much as I liked the cast of the Nolan trilogy, but I would disagree with the writer when they say that Michael Keaton is a better Batman than Christian Bale. For me Michael Keaton was the same person when he was Bruce Wayne and Batman, with no real difference between the two other than the costume. He seemed quite emotionless and his delivery of lines was a bit flat for my liking. On the flip side, Christian Bale had a real darker side to him when he was Batman and felt more like a vigilante, and then when he was Bruce Wayne he had this feel of conflicting emotions that made him appear to be more human so he was easy to connect with.

4. (pt 2) Actors, The Joker – I have no problem with Jack Nicholson, he is one of the finest actors to ever grace our screens, but to say he was a better Joker than Heath Ledger is a little bit too far. I liked Jack Nicholson’s Joker because he was quite true to the comic books and his presence was that of someone who wasn’t odd, but crazy. However I feel that Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker was unbeatable, he really got in to the mindset of the character and presented us with a character who was so chaotic in their actions but a complete genius in their thinking style. The latest Joker was more of a terrorist and his plans advanced further than just planning to gas Gotham, so Ledger had the opportunity to really go for it and push forward a character who we both loved and feared. According to the writer also, Jack Nicholson was a more ‘fun’ joker, which I think is a comment that can only be taken seriously if you are a child. The whole idea of The Joker is that he is having fun causing problems, so in the case of Jack Nicholson he had fun dancing around and singing, whereas Heath Ledger’s Joker had more fun tearing buildings down and making people angry. Finally I have to address their laughs as The Joker; Ledger’s wins by a clear mile.

5. Theme Song – I’ll only address his briefly, in short Danny Elfman’s score was too loud and felt like it was suited more to a pantomime, whereas Hans Zimmer constructed a score that suited the actions sequences but also the depths of the characters involved. Danny Elfman’s felt more like he was producing the soundtrack for sixties cartoon, Zimmer’s felt like it was well suited for a big bold blockbuster for an intelligent audience.

6. Visual Style – I will admit that Burton’s attempts to make the film look like it was straight out of a comic book is admirable, but Nolan brought something very special to the way we look at Gotham City. Nolan made it look more like it was a real city with real people, and that Batman was less of a superhero but more of a vigilante, who wanted to be a sign that represents people who want to make a difference. With Burton’s films Batman felt like a superhero who goes out in tights every night taking on whatever robbers or crooks he can find, whereas with Nolan he felt like a vigilante who was helping the police to bring down a greater problem. I won’t slate Burton completely here, I do admire his artistic style when it came to the visuals but sometimes it did feel a little over the top and crossed the line from being quirky to out of place.

7. Directing – a quote from the article that really made me feel annoyed was “Burton didn’t overload the frame with crap” which was so much further from the truth. In Burton’s films it was clear that he was focused on visual style and wanted it to look like it had jumped out of the pages of a comic book. There were quirky characters, outlandish pieces of scenery and set pieces galore, with trashy action sequences that felt like they were being acted out by a child playing with action figures. Nolan’s films felt as though they were placed in our own world with characters that could easily exist. The directing style that Nolan uses is very impressive, he makes sure that was in on screen is perfect, focusing on little details such as the Joker’s hand positioning and facial expression. His action sequences are tight, and the characters are perfectly balanced. Yes there are set pieces in Nolan’s films, but they link to deeper moral messages and themes based around people’s conscience, and the human condition. I’m not going to totally mock Burton’s directing style because it is still good, but when compared to Nolan there isn’t any real competition for me.

I know at the end of the day it’s all subjective and people are welcome to think what they want, but equally I have the right to say my opinions too. In it’s defense the article was very well written and they constructed a good and solid argument, I just felt as though some comments made strayed quite far from the truth. I’m less angry about the article now that I’ve had time to sit down and think about it, it just shows how my passion for films gets the better of me when I come face to face with someone who is equally as opinionated as me.

I think Christopher Nolan is a genius of cinema and really raised the Batman franchise to new heights after the depths it had reached after ‘Batman & Robin’. Tim Burton is very good at what he does and I do admire his work for cinema, but for me his Batman films could have been better and weren’t quite up the scratch. I still enjoy them, but they don’t quite reach the technical and artistic mastery of Christopher Nolan’s trilogy. Both are important series of films and have influenced me as I’ve grown up so they both mean different things to me. Batman is franchise I feel very strongly about so at the end of the day I’m happy that both Burton and Nolan have managed to make films out of the source material without making a mess of the job like Joel Schumacher did.

Imagine if the Dark Knight trilogy was directed by Joel Schumacher. Imagining that gives me the same feeling as stroking a dog’s fur the wrong way.

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Rapid Reviews – Killing Them Softly [DVD]

I remember a couple of years ago when I sat down to watch ‘The Assassination Of Jesse James…” for the first time and being completely knocked back by it. Andrew Dominik blew me away with both his directing and writing and it proved to be a very good film. Late last year Dominik presented us with his new film ‘Killing Them Softly’ and it left a similar impact on me.

It’s shorter than ‘Jesse James’ by over an hour which is a good thing because it moves at a slightly faster pace which suits the darker nature of the film. Dominik managed to draw me into a slightly different world to what we know and tell quite a simple story of what greed and desperation can do to humans. The plot is set in a criminal run city where mobsters have a lot of money whilst others live in poverty. When a mobster poker game is robbed a hired gun is brought in to clean up the mess caused to the economy. The story and screenplay are written very well and managed to keep me interested throughout.

In terms of acting the cast is superb, with Brad Pitt taking the main role of a killer who is hired to restore order to the criminal economy. His performance is very good showing a character with different layers and quite sharp personality with a clever mind. Scoot McNairy and Ben Mendelson work perfectly together as the helpless duo that rob the poker game. There are also very strong supporting performances from Ray Liotta and James Gandolfini, so altogether it is a very sound cast.

For such a short film there were a lot of themes based around social inequality and what happens when people are left to the freedom of their own devices in a broken economy, also themes based on paying for your actions and justice taking its place. But what stood out for me was the themes linked to Brad Pitt’s character as the hired gun. He stood out for me because he was the man who was very much in control and could either represent salvation or damnation so it was fascinating to see how the story is influenced once he is introduced. The social inequality side was very interesting because you could see just how much is influenced the characters and their actions.

Overall I would give it three and a half stars, it works very well as a drama with some action scenes that are very well shot. It’s not perfect but Dominik has once again proved that he can shoot a gritty film that has a tight script. This was more concise than ‘Jesse James’ and was of a completely different nature, but if I’m honest that didn’t really bother me because I really enjoyed it. It’s not as good as ‘Jesse James’, which was a masterpiece, but I would still recommend it to anybody who wants to watch a good film.

Rapid Reviews – Cloud Atlas [DVD]

After buying the dvd of the film weeks ago I was heavily distracted by quite a few things before finding myself utterly bored tonight. The time had come for me to face this 165 minute film that I knew very little about. I started to watch it with an open mind, ready to be enticed in to what appeared to be quite a diverse universe for a film. I ended the film with my mind in a slightly different place. A more cynical place to be precise.

If I had to sum this film up in one sentence I think i would have to quote the good doctor Mark Kermode when he reviewed a film previously “it is really quite remarkably unremarkable”, which is exactly how I felt after watching the film. You have the source material in the form of a novel that is supposedly ‘unfilmable’ so there is quite a lot of material to use, with a lot of characters and as far as I’m aware six different stories that interweave. This doesn’t make it any more interesting and certainly doesn’t make it any more clever, and with a star studded cast it just left me feeling that after 165 minutes even they had had enough. The look in Tom Hanks’ eyes was similar to that of a postman on their duty in the winter snow simply saying over and over ‘we’re getting paid for this’.

The story bounces between the past, present and future with different stories that link together. Some link nicely and others you have to think about, which I really wasn’t willing to do because it would involve engaging myself in such a film. The characters are meant to be strong and have some form of moral and deep message behind them but to be honest it was more like a game of Guess Who for me because I was trying to spot which actor it was playing the character on screen. I’m sure other people will have found deeper meanings behind the characters and truly explored their depths, but personally I didn’t feel immersed enough to give it much thought.

The best character for me was that of Jim Broadbent in the modern day section of the story, he provided me with some entertainment through sheer good acting and sharp delivery of witty lines. As for other actors it wasn’t really a film to show off any true ability. Tom Hanks is capable of so much better as we have already seen, Ben Whishaw is still relatively young so this may end up as a film he tries not to think about once he’s older, Jim Broadbent as previously mentioned is very good, and Hugh Grant just feels like the last man on the end of a conga line at a wedding; clinging on for dear life and hoping not to go crashing in to the buffet table.

The special effects are good, but to be honest so are the effects for most sci fi bashes nowadays so it wasn’t anything bigger than your typical sci fi film. It’s just become common courtesy to put on a big flashy show if you’re going to make a sci fi film in today’s world and the same splattering of shiny technicolour whimsy that is used frequently in modern cinema was strongly present in this film. It was a sign of how unengaged I was with the film that I began questioning the designs to some of the futuristic technology and indeed the interior of some of the rooms. Some sequences look good but they all reek of other films, with the older parts looking like ‘Pirates Of The Caribbean’ and the futuristic sections looking like a mash up of ‘Blade Runner’ and ‘Irobot’ amongst others, so it was quite a cliched glimpse in to the future.

All in all I would give it two stars out of five. I really wanted the film to be good and genuinely watched it with an optimistic mind, but after nearly three hours of a film that doesn’t really find itself or get started into something bigger, I just felt quite bored. I agree with most reviews, the film’s heart is definitely in the right place and it was a good attempt at filming such a difficult book, but in the end it wasn’t as good as I hoped it would be. I’m not sure if I will watch it again, because to be honest I don’t have that urge that wants to watch it again.

That Brilliant Construction Of A Comedy With Layers.

For those who are regular readers of my blog you will no doubt have seen my review recently of Edgar Wright’s ‘The World’s End’ which I thought was very good. If you’re thinking of seeing the film or have seen it then please read that review, it may prove to be of some use to you. From that review I know some people were surprised that I managed to find so many themes behind it and the deeper meanings just from one screening. But that’s the way I like to look at comedies. It’s all well and good having a film that is funny, the sort of film you can watch and then feel happy after wards. But for me it’s strikes as something quite special when a comedy film manages to grasp that link between making you laugh, and also making you think. 

Some of the best comedies I have ever seen are the ones that have a deeper message behind them with themes that resonate in your mind. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy comedies that are made purely to get laughs because there are many of those which I have enjoyed over the years, but it’s the ones that have depth and meaning that really stand out for me. After a good long while thinking I’ve managed to select examples that have really stood out for me, and I’ve done my best not to mention films that I have previously talked about. Ones that sprang to mind instantly were ‘The Angel’s Share’ ‘Is Anybody There?’ and of course my all time favourite ‘Submarine’ but I’ve decided to steer clear of those as a means of not repeating myself and talking about something different. 

‘Ruby Sparks’ was one of the first films that sprang to mind when preparing for this post, a film about a man who literally writes a woman into existence and then forms a relationship with her. I viewed the film for inspiration for a script that I’m actually working on at the moment, and after viewing several others I wasn’t holding much hope because of how bad the others were. However, I was completely wrong to judge the film so quickly, it was a genuinely brilliant film. Written very well by one of the main stars Zoe Kazan, I thought the screenplay was very witty and had a certain charm to it, but the story presented the audience with some very interesting ideas based around relationships. There was a lot of underlying messages based on the idea of having the ability to control the person you’re in love with, and the darker power of intervention within a relationship so it was quite a dark spin on the usual romantic comedy and really stood out for me as something special. But then on the other side of the coin there is a lighter touch behind the film, with this idea of ‘if you had the chance to start again, would you take it?’, which gave a more delicate element to the film that showed how it truly managed to grasp both comedy and drama successfully.

Thinking about ‘Ruby Sparks’ made me think about just how far back this message about having the ability to control love dates back to. It had a similar feel to Shakespeare’s classic play ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ in which humans are subject to the antics of fairies who have love potions that influence their thoughts and change who they desire. As well as being stroke of genius and one of the most magnificent plays ever written is does present the audience with similar themes, this idea of being able to control love and just how risky the effects of this are. With ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ it is used more for comical effect and to enhance the mischievousness of characters such as Puck, whereas in ‘Ruby Sparks’ it is used in a darker way to show the importance of freedom within a relationship. We see the character of Ruby becoming more and more human as she develops and that’s what causes the writer to try and change her which further leads to more problems for him, thus emphasising one the most important ideas of the story; freedom. I was very impressed by the film, it was charming and very well written. It was interesting as well because the things I laughed at in the film, were the things I knew were true, such as just how much a single word can change a person entirely. 

The next film I feel I need to talk about is the 2010 film written and directed by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant ‘Cemetery Junction’. The film tells the story of three young men growing up in a small part of Reading and how they are all preparing for the separate paths they are going to walk in life. It is a very simple story, but the screenplay is just superb, with laugh out loud laughs, smaller chuckles, and then times were you don’t know whether to gasp or laugh, and so end up doing both at once. The characters for me in this film were very important because they all represented something different and brought their own element to the themes of the film. You’ve got Freddie who wants to build a stable career and settle down as a successful man, Snork who doesn’t really know what he wants other than a nice girl to settle down with, and then Bruce who wants to carry on drinking and fighting as if life isn’t slowly passing him by. The film presented some very interesting themes for me, based around wanting to stay young and the fear of growing up, appreciating your heritage but then also accepting there is a wider world out there, and the most important theme for me was the value of friendship and appreciating just how much someone means to you. It was a feel good comedy that worked perfectly as a drama as well for me showing yet another display of just how talented Gervais and Merchant are at writing, presenting us with strong characters that you love and hate, and also cringe worthy situations that make you feel the embarrassment of the characters. It is an emotional film because of how closely it links to real life but you will finishing watching the film with a smile on your face.

Finally, possibly a less well known film but still one that I would recommend, the 2009 film from Paul King, the director of The Might Boosh ‘Bunny and the Bull’. Now I will say firstly that it’s not for everyone, it has quite obscure humour, just like The Mighty Boosh and is quite an artistic film so it may be a little too far outside the ball park for some people, for me it was a terrific film. It tells the story of two friends, Stephen and Bunny, who embark from their flat in London on a journey around Europe. There’s a very good contrast between the two main characters, Stephen is the shy man who wants a relationship and a well structured life, and then Bunny who just wants money and to have a good time in life regardless of consequences. They both have their own connections in terms of love, Stephen tries too hard and gets nowhere, Bunny is his usual self and ends up with women either way so there is a clear contrast and it makes you think ‘why on earth are these two friends?’. The story is very well written, with a clever narrative all the way through of Stephen recounting his journey with Bunny but then at the same time being afraid to leave his flat, leading to the explanation at the end which I shant give away. Once again it was a film that presented some very interesting themes based around the value of friendship and cherishing the years you spend with your friends, and also the idea of going out to see different parts of the world. But then this film also had some quite deep psychological themes linked to dealing with stresses and moving on from troubled times. The film is initially charming and very funny but then takes a serious turn, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing because it shows a perfect balance between comedy and pathos. 

I would recommend any of these films, not only to those interested in films but to those who just want a good film to watch, they are all very good. I was pleasantly surprised when all of them turned out to be brilliant so they are well worth a watch. They all work perfectly as comedies and as dramas so they offer something different for everyone. For me they are perfect examples of comedies with layers and depth because they are successful at making me laugh but then have meanings that link to wider themes so they are thought provoking and engaging. 

As always please feel free to leave any comments, either about the topic or about the films mentioned. In particular here I would like to know any comedies that you felt as layers to them and why, I’m interested to see what other people have to say about this topic. 

Until the next time I’d like to leave you with a quote from ‘Cemetery Junction’ that is quite thought provoking and one of the best quotes from the film; 

“What if the world is having another party and we’re missing it because we’re stuck here?”

Soundtracks – Does A Film Need The Right Sound To Be Good?

A couple of months ago I wrote a film review about Baz Luhrmann’s adaption of the classic ‘The Great Gatsby’ which he turned in to the ‘Alright Gatsby’ to an extent. Part way through the review I started to discuss the soundtrack that had been picked for the film, which featured quite modern music such as Jack White, Florence + The Machine and The XX. Personally I felt that the soundtrack was actually quite out of place and didn’t really suit the time setting of the film, to which some people obviously disagreed. I felt as though the soundtrack to the 1974 adaption was more suited because it had the loud jazzy feel to it that you would expect at such a time. This had me thinking about soundtracks and how important they are. Years ago in the early days of film where we had silent films, soundtrack was imperative. It guided the audience through the film and aided in dramatic devices such as humour and tension. But in a world where dialogue is very much present in films, the use of a soundtrack is very interesting to think about.  Are there any films in which I felt the same way about the soundtrack to the new Great Gatsby? Are there any films where the soundtrack could have been better? Does having a good soundtrack actually make a film any more enjoyable?

An example that I can think of straight away is the soundtrack to ‘Prometheus’, the Ridley Scott Sci Fi from last year. The soundtrack was composed by Marc Streitenfeld, who’s previous works include the soundtrack for ‘Gladiator’ and ‘Robin Hood’, so I have no doubt in his work because he is clearly experienced. However the problem with soundtrack to Prometheus for me personally was that it was big and loud and bold. One of the best things about ‘Alien’, the original by Ridley Scott was the haunting soundtrack. It was quiet, it was gentle, it gave you a feeling of ‘crikey Charlie, anything could happy at any point’ and it make the atmosphere of the film reach new peaks of tension in the right place. It really suited the Sci Fi / Horror genre of the film and worked very well in the films favour. Now in the case of Prometheus you have this loud and clanging soundtrack in a rather Inception styled collection of songs that really blast out of the screen and accompany the action sequences and set pieces to throw what is happening in your face. Admittedly there were elements of Prometheus that were creepy and still had the essence of Sci Fi / Horror with it, but the soundtrack gave it more of a ‘right the pace is picking up’ and ‘something is about to happen’ feel to it.

If there is a series of films that has quite a bit influence on music it’s the James Bond series. Over the years James Bond has become more and more well known for the title song that represents the film, branching from the early years of Shirley Bassey in the sixties with powerful songs such as ‘Goldfinger’, to the more rocky feel of Jack White and Alicia Keys for the ‘Quantum of Solace’ song ‘Another Way To Die’. The most recent Bond film ‘Skyfall’ had a song that brought about mixed reactions, with Adele singing the title song and having co written it as well. Some people loved it and praised it because it had the essence of a classic Bond film, whereas others took to criticising it, saying it was quite dull and felt too much like it was trying to be Shirley Bassey. Personally I felt that the song was very good and suited the nature of the film, with the lyrics supporting this idea of the character of Bond having to rebuild himself and make this big come back to who he once was. It was quite a soft chilling song but then with a big bold chorus that had quite an empowering feel to it, and from my point of view I found that I liked the song a lot more after having seen the film because I realised just how much it suited the nature of the film. It’s interesting as well because there was a list of acts that were supposedly up for the role of the singing the theme song for the film, including Lady Gaga, Muse, and Noel Gallagher. A lot of people said a better song would be produced by any of those acts, but I think that’s all it would have been; a good song. It wouldn’t necessarily suit the nature of a Bond film, let alone a Bond film that had such strong characters and a deep story line as this film did.

For me the best soundtracks are the ones that match the film perfectly, the ones that stand out as one of the key features that made the film good for you. If someone were to ask you what you thought of a film and what made it as good as it was, if you mention the soundtrack then it shows just how much of an impact it had on you. From this straight away I have to mention as I have done previously in other posts, the soundtrack to the film ‘Submarine’ written by the Arctic Monkeys front man Alex Turner. The soundtrack consisted of six songs, one of which was a mere introduction track based on one of the other songs. For me it was one of the best soundtracks I have ever heard, it was delicate in places but then uplifting in others so it suited the events of the film perfectly. The lyrics written were quite artistic and had quite powerful imagery that painted the perfect picture of what it’s like being in a relationship as a teenager as well as suiting some of the deeper messages behind the film. The sometimes complex imagery embedded in the lyrics really suited the character of Oliver Tate, a teenager who speaks the words of an adult in their mid Fourties so it linked to the characters and was well suited. In fact it’s such a good soundtrack that it gets to the point of not knowing how to describe it because there aren’t enough words in my vocabulary to show the true admiration and respect I have for Alex Turner for making such tremendous work.

Another musician/ composer I feel deserves a lot of respect for their contribution to film is the Radiohead band member Jonny Greenwood. The two soundtracks I have seen from him are from the Paul Thomas Anderson masterpieces ‘There Will Be Blood’ and ‘The Master’. The work he produced for those films was amazing, very abstract but it really adds to the artistic nature of the films. I still remember the first time I watched ‘There Will Be Blood’ and feeling quite unnerved by the opening shot of this vast desert landscape, with this chilling sound of music that strings out as the camera moves, getting louder and louder. It was the sort of moment in film you’re very unlikely to forget, and the sort of moment you don’t necessarily feel on a regular basis. Greenwood is very good at producing tracks for films that really add to the tension of events, rather than being very loud and ear drum bursting, he goes more for the approach of being quiet and mysterious to put you more on edge. The tracks also, as I find quite often, are very good at representing the mindset of the character and showing their emotional state. For example in opening scene of ‘The Master’ in which Joaquin Phoenix’s character is with his fellow army friends on a beach away from home. You see his behaviour and language is quite odd from the outset, with this quiet but repetitive music in the background that really puts you in the mind of this character who isn’t the man he used to be, who has seen things that have changed him. He’s a character that you’re not necessarily scared of, but more wary of because you’re not sure which way is behaviour is going to go and the music was very well suited to the scene. The soundtrack accompanies the films and suits them very well indeed, and it’s difficult to imagine any other type of music being used for such films.

Overall I think the soundtrack to a film, or indeed lack of soundtrack, does matter quite a lot because it aids in presenting the representation the film maker intended. My favourite soundtracks branch from those composed by genius’ of our time such as Hans Zimmer who creates incredible sounds that suit films perfectly, to those soundtracks that feature classic songs that really push forward the messages behind films and the genre that the film maker was aiming for. Soundtracks for films likes ‘The Departed’ which opens the film with the heavy guitar of The Rolling Stones classic ‘Gimme Shelter’ really push forward right from the outset this strong feel of how gritty the film is going to be. I wouldn’t say that soundtracks are the most important element to a film, but it is an element that can have either a really good impact on a film, or drag down and prove to be more of a hindrance. The awards for Best Score and Best Song may be over looked by some but I think they are very important categories and I very much look forward to seeing what work has been produced this year.

As always please feel free to leave any comments you have on the topic, I’d be interested to hear what your favourite or least favourite soundtracks are, plus any comments on the choices I made to reference in this post. Any comments or criticisms are more than welcome.

Instagram – One Of The Reasons Why People Annoy Me

I thought I would make a change from posting about film and attempt to talk about something different. As a teenager I can see the benefits to social networking, I think in some cases it’s brilliant. It allows me to communicate with people without having to walk to their house just to inquire as to how they’re feeling today. But sometimes I have to admit I get annoyed by it very easily.

It seems that in today’s world there is a very small amount of things people keep away from the public eye. In a way I miss the days when people were only just starting a Facebook profile, because it was the days when people barely posted anything, in fear of being mocked or judged by others. Those days were brilliant, the days where you got the basic facts about how someone was and what they were doing without being bombarded by pointless information. You could scroll through your news feed and see statuses like “I am in Spain at the moment. I am very Happy”. But now we have this strange situation where every thing is splattered across social networks. You’ve got where someone is, how they’re feeling, who they’re with, what colour socks they’re wearing, what drink they’ve got, it’s just getting out of hand. I know people have the freedom to post what they want, and quite rightly so, but sometimes it does seem a little excessive to be posting constantly. 

I’ve got less anger towards Facebook and Twitter because they bring me a lot of fun, through reading arguments or indeed being involved in arguments. However there is one form of social networking that annoys me to the extent of wanting to throw my phone at a wall, and that’s Instagram. I’ll say it now because I don’t want to seem like I’m being a hypocrite; I have an Instagram account and I used it for quite a long time. Nowadays my account is still open and I have the odd flick every now and then, but other than that I do not use it. Anyway, the concept is quite basic and could work nicely, if people didn’t use it for absolutely everything, and I mean everything. If you want to share a picture that your friends can see, then at least make it a picture that is worth sharing. The idea of having a photograph for me, is to capture a memory that you want to keep hold of, like on holiday or at a gig or whatever event you hold close to you, because it captures what you consider to be special and important moment that you will possibly never live again. It seems as though the concept of a picture has changed, now it seems to be something for you to get ‘likes’ on. 

Drawing on the point I made earlier about the first days of Facebook when people barely posted, and how now they post everything, Instagram is the epicenter of this nightmare. You’ve got people posting pictures of everything so that you know every tiny detail about them. ‘This is the page of the Jodi Picoult book I’m reading’ ‘I’m on the 43rd minute of an Adam Sandler film’ ‘my underwear is blue today’.  It’s even gotten to the extent now of people posting pictures of them selves in the bath! When did this start happening? When did somebody decide ‘you know what I actually feel like invading my own privacy’. Do people need to know you’re in the bath? And furthermore do we need pictorial evidence to allay our doubts? There wasn’t masses of people questioning the situation, thinking ‘maybe they’re just sat in a puddle’. It’s gotten out of control really,  I’m dreading the day I see my first snap of someone on the toilet. You may laugh at that but you’ll stop laughing eventually when you realise it will happen.

The worst thing about Instagram for me is that it’s ruining Holidays for people. Instead of going to another country and experiencing another culture, we’ve got people sat on their phones trying to decide which filter to use on the picture they have just taken of their flip flops. It just amazes me how someone can have a different country, a different culture right in front of them, and yet they would rather take a picture of themselves with their tongue out and caption it “got my sunglasses on!”. I would understand it if they were taking pictures of the country they were in and taking in the amazing views, but if you’re just taking the same stupid pictures that you take at home it seems a bit pointless. I can understand using a social network from abroad because it lets your contacts know that you’re still alive or that you’re having a good time, but if you are constantly using one whilst away then it somewhat negates the benefits of going on holiday. It makes sense wanting some pictures of yourself on holiday because they hold quite good memories for you, but there’s a line people cross that becomes excessive. There are some people I just wish I could shout at “you are in a beautiful country that is so much different from the one you live in, put your silly little phone down and appreciate where you are”. 

If you ever get Instagram you will soon find that the bane of your life becomes the hash tag. That thing is everywhere! Literally, for quite a dull picture that doesn’t have a lot of elements you’d be surprised how many ‘hashtags’ people can squeeze in. And that’s where two problems lie for me, the first is that the idea of a hashtag is that people search under that category to find pictures of that nature. So why would you need to hashtag quite a ordinary thing such as ‘#coffee’? As if there are coffee enthusiasts worldwide searching for their update on people’s caffeine intake. It just seems silly to take pictures of something that in all likelihood people have no interest in and it’s something that you come across on a daily basis. Problem number two is that people don’t know when to stop with hashtags, they overload a caption with to the extent of labeling things that are not even in the picture. You’ll see a big paragraph of ‘#girl #young #teen #blond #blueeyes #newnails #curlyhair’ which just leaves you baffled because it’s a picture of their mug of tea on a table. Are we that desperate to get ‘likes’?

Perhaps I’m just old fashioned in my views? Maybe the point of a photograph is not to capture a moment that is rare, maybe it’s now all about capturing things you experience on a daily basis, like putting socks on or brushing your teeth. I hope that’s not the case. I still can’t understand why someone would want to see a picture of something so dull like your feet, or new gloves, or the sandwich you’re having for lunch. If you took a picture and the caption was “got my new socks on” I would consider the possibility that you have quite an empty life. If however you posted a picture and the caption was “got my new socks on… and I’m on the moon” then I would take an interest and feel jealous that I’m not part of this memory. 

As I have said before I have an account, and I will admit I have fallen victim to some of the things I have mentioned (not to such an extreme extent luckily) so I can’t act completely innocent in this grand scheme of shit. I used to post pictures of the most tedious rubbish that sprang to mind “look here’s my cat” “here’s the new film I’m bought” “here’s the Neil Diamond song I’m currently listening to”.  I will say it, it’s only after you’ve looked at it from an outsider’s perspective that you realise just how stupid it all is, and it makes me feel like an idiot because I was part of it for a good seven months. There are people that post pictures of themselves three or four times a day, which to me kind of shows that they must have quite a boring life. 

The situation only gets worse from here though, camera phones are the main way we view things in today’s world. They give people the freedom to post pictures of whatever they want and post them however many times they want, but then on the other side of the coin I have the freedom to express my opinion however many times I like. In the future if any large events happen they’re not going to be viewed normally, they’re going to be viewed through the screen of a smart phone, with a filter on them to make them look slightly darker with a hint of black and white, and a pretty frame. I can’t wait. 

Looking At Films In A Different Way

I know in the past I have been given labels such as ‘the grumpy old man’, which I can usually dispute, but please reserve judgement until you’ve finished reading this post.

Upon reflection I’ve come to realise that as I’ve gotten older (granted seventeen isn’t that old) I have changed the way I view films. What I mean by this is that I’ve started to pick up on the faults behind films because I’m looking at them for different things, such as directing, screenplay writing and character. When I was younger I still had the same flare for films. There was nothing better to me than spending an afternoon watching a film I’d already seen god knows how many times before, saying the best quotations a couple of seconds before they left the actor’s mouth, and reciting a section of dialogue before it could begin. I still have that attitude, films are still a journey outside of my regular life that I can become immersed in for an extended period of time, it’s just I’m exploring that world in a different way than before.

A perfect example I can think of for this is the ‘Pirates Of The Caribbean’ series. I used to like those films a lot more when I was a child. They were action packed, they were funny, they were exciting, but all of those elements seemed to fade away once I sat back and actually thought about them. Now, I’m not being a total cynic, I still think the first film of the series is good, but I can appreciate that the sequels are more without merit and furthermore lack purpose and substance. Fore me personally the main fault lies in the director of these films; Gore Verbinski. The sequences where there were a lot of people involved were badly timed and in terms of symmetry I’m not sure he knew what he was doing so some of the shots were ruined for me. But worst of all it’s the fact that he couldn’t even direct the actors properly so their performances were allowed to be terrible by the man in the director’s chair. Johnny Depp was allowed to act like a drunk Keith Richards because Verbinski didn’t have the stomach to tell him otherwise in the fear that he would quit the film. Also Keira Knightley was allowed to keep the same accent she had at the beginning, despite the fact she supposedly becomes more ‘pirate’, to the extent of becoming the Pirate lord or king or whatever status she was handed in the third film, so the scenes were she has a giant chunk of dialogue to blurt out I just find myself getting annoyed by the sound of her voice. The writing for the films does bug me as well, with the story really losing it’s way after the first film, and the screenplay being quite basic to the extent of just saying things for the sake of the action. I didn’t notice these things when I was younger, but now that I’m more aware of them, they annoy me.

Another example of a film that I can see in it’s true colours, surprisingly despite the use of the silly filter, is the 2006 Zack Snyder film ‘300’. When I first saw it, aside from feeling as though it was a bit silly, I thought it was an alright film. Yet again it was an action film so it kept me occupied for a while, but now that I have a bigger interest in films I have to admit I can’t stand that film. Yet again the director managed to wreck the film for me, Snyder spent way too much time making sure the visuals met his approval, that the acting just managed to slip out of his hands. You’ll notice that every soldier in the film has their muscles as their most prominent features thanks to Snyder’s time and efforts being wasted on the visual side, and yet Gerard Butler gives the same performance as he does in every film he’s in; shouty Scotsman. You can’t blame it all on Butler’s performance though, he didn’t exactly have a lot to work with based on the screenplay he was given which was quite poor and cliche ridden for an action film set in the past. I won’t really complain about the visuals because they were just there to aid the set pieces and action sequences, but they should not have been the main thing on Snyder’s mind, he should have been kicking Butler up the back side and telling him to actually act.

I know some people who are already excited about the sequel to ‘300’ that is set to grace our screens in the coming months. Personally I’m looking forward to it as much as a prostate exam.

But it’s not all doom and gloom, the changing way in which I look at films has also allowed me to see what is truly magnificent with films as well what is bad. First example that springs to mind is the 2010 comedy from Richard Ayoade ‘Submarine’. To some less interested in films it could be considered as a bit of an odd one that wasn’t too funny, but personally I absolutely love it. It’s very well written so that the script is witty and charming but with a touch of black comedy in there as well so that the humour used is very clever and does require some thought. The characters written were also very good, with the main character, Oliver Tate, resembling a teenager who has the thought patterns and attitudes towards life of a middle aged man so he both complex and humorous. In terms of directing I think Ayoade did a stunning job, the use of camera angles and imagery made the film quite artistic but then down to earth at the same time so it was both visually pleasing and engaging. Ayoade clearly knows a lot about cinema and I have respect for him because of the tremendous work he did. The acting is superb from young talents Craig Roberts and Yasmin Paige who had perfect chemistry and times and then at other times had the uneasy staleness of conflict. The use of soundtrack was very important for me too, having all six songs written by Alex Turner of The Arctic Monkeys who did a terrific job of making delicate songs that suited the subject matter and themes of the film. If I was still my younger self I don’t think I would have gotten that much out of the film so I am grateful for the progression I have made to who I am now.

Another more obscure example I can think of is ‘Prometheus’, because it was a more mainstream film so it was pushed into the public eye from day one. It was seen as a bit of a silly attempt by Ridley Scott to re-explore the Sci Fi territory he had mastered before and most people felt that it didn’t do the Alien films justice in the way that they had hoped. For some it was a bad film because it was one the audience has to think about and has some set pieces that are quite disturbing. However for me there was some merit to the film and I have to admit I did think it was a good film. Ridley Scott proved that he is still capable of making intelligent Sci Fi, which doesn’t mean to say it’s his best piece of work, I just think it was better than people thought. I will address the story firstly because some people feel it didn’t explain much in terms of ‘Alien’ but it wasn’t meant to, Scott has already said there is room for two or three more films so it will all be explained in time.

For me the best elements of the film were the characters and themes. Admittedly there were some characters who were written quite badly which resulted in me not caring about them, but for me the best character was that of David, the robot played brilliantly by Michael Fassbender. The reason I liked the character so much was because not only was he played very well by Fassbender who mastered the posture, speech and blinking activity you would expect of such a futuristic character, but because of the main theme he linked to of wanting to meet your maker. It was truly thought provoking to see the other characters wanting to meet their maker and find out why humans were made in the first place, and then you have this quite non human like character who doesn’t understand this fascination because he is well aware of who is maker was a why they made him. I think it was interesting to see a character question philosophy and beliefs as openly as David did, and it added a lot to the film for me and showed how to make a good Sci Fi film that has depth.

It is a bit of shame in some cases that my views towards film have changed because it tampers with the films I used to like, but overall I’m not unhappy with how I view films now, I think it allows me to see what truly makes a good film and makes the ones that are brilliant stand out for me as special. If I still viewed a lot of films as ‘good’ I think that word would somewhat lose its meaning. How I view films now allows me to broaden how I think about them and how I think about certain aspects of life.

I have no doubt that the way I view films and what I look for in them will change even more in the future, but I don’t really think it’s a problem. I feel as though I have broadened by knowledge about films because I know a lot more about the different aspects to film such as directing. I enjoy being able to talk about films in depth because they are an important part of our culture, and have a huge influence in my life.

As always please feel free to leave any comments on the topic or the films mentioned, I’m always interested to hear what other people think.