Thursday, 29 January 2015

January Watch List

1. Birdman 5/5

How can I even begin to describe Birdman? I first read a small article about the film in Empire and was hooked. I saw the words, Michael Keaton, playing washed up superhero actor trying to make a play while being tormented by visions of the character he played. I was hooked. The more information surfaced the more it fueled my desire to see the film. The cast was brilliant and the director, Alejandro González Iñárritu was brilliant, it looked set to be a great film and it was, oh it was. I loved the early films that Iñárritu made and I remember studying his films at college back in 2006! Apart from finally getting to see Keaton back on form again, it was the story that had me. Set in a theatre on Broadway, going behind the scenes with the actors and various other characters, all connected not just by the play but through the strange creator, Riggan Thomson (Keaton). He has brought them together to create. His hopes of being remembered are put on the play he has adapted, written, produced, directed and starred in, as well as putting everything he has, physically, mentally and money wise. He has adapted, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver and even has a sweet story about his influence from Carver, Riggan is flawed but the question is, is he a genius or going crazy? Others might argue that he is unstable and no he cannot fly. The scene where he jumps from the roof but exits a taxi a moment later is odd but I believe that he did fly and that its not all bleak out there. It's brilliantly made film and I admire everything about it, not to mention the fact that it feels like the film has no cuts and it smoothly goes from one scene the the next without any jolts. An amazing film that deserves the attention its getting and it really funny. Cannot ask for much more than that or maybe a peculiar fight scene between Norton and Keaton, oh wait it gave us that too.

I was almost brought to tears by this film. I think its something about old men telling a touching story. I cried my eyes out at Christopher Walken in A Late Quartet. Alfred Molina (George) and John Lithgow (Ben) are couple who have been together for 40 years and they finally get married. But as George is a music teacher at a Catholic school, the archdiocese finds out and the school are forced to fire him. This is more than appalling as everyone knew and was fine with his relationship. The couple are forced to move out as they cannot afford the flat they live in and ask their friends and family to take them in. They are separated, Ben staying with is nephew and his family, George staying with their friends on their sofa. There is a scene where George turns up at Ben's nephew's flat and breaks down into tears in Ben's arms. It's horrible and heartbreaking. The just want to be together. Ben later says 'you know I can't get to sleep unless you're lying next to me'. Such a simple story with quiet scenes, barely any big moments and beautiful. Molina and Lithgow are a brilliant actors and make such great couple on screen. The only part I had an issue was near the end, but I won't say anything more on that.

3. Big Eyes 3/5

I was happy to see Tim Burton step away from Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter and from fantasy. I liked Burton's older films, they were exciting and different and no one had thrown up CGI. There have been comparisons made between Big Eyes and his other biopic, Ed Wood. Ed Wood was a failure and a cult figure. Margaret Keane was a great success and was triumphant in the end. They are not alike. I found the casting choice for Walter Keane infuriating. Christoph Waltz is a great actor but as an American he always 'hams it up' and its quite sickly. Amy Adams is brilliant as the fragile artist, thinking she's doing the right thing only to end up in despair. I should say now, I really don't like the artwork and I don't understand the appeal but that aside, I was angry that she wasn't getting credit for her work and my favourite scene was at the end. Keane vs Keane in court was brilliant and it is actually what happened. Not the greatest of biopic and terrific true story of overcoming overbearing husbands and finding a voice.

4. Foxcatcher 3/5

Usually, a film about wrestlers would not interest me in the slightest but the true story about a millionaire who hired two brother who were 1984 Olympic champions to help train US wrestling Olympians and how he murdered Dave, now that's a film I have to see. John Du Pont was a millionaire, author of a several books about birds and wrestling enthusiast. He was all mentally ill which contributed to his strange behaviour. He hired Mark Shultz to join his wrestling team, "Team Foxcatcher" and to train for the World Championship. Later he hired Dave Shultz. After Mark left Foxcatcher, Dave stayed on. Du Pont murdered Dave on 26th January 1996. The film is eery and uncomfortable throughout. The characters (or real life portrayals) always seem uneasy in each others company. Even Mark and Dave, the only time they seem relaxed around each other is when they are training or taking part in a competition. John Du Pont seems loom over the brothers and anyone else he encounters like giant eagle, which is fitting as he requested that Mark call him 'the eagle'. Steve Carrell is brilliant as he us unrecognisable, not just in appearance but his voice and mannerisms too. The comedian in him, is not completely erased, there are a few rare moments where you can image him saying those lines as a joke. Classed as a true story, biopic, sports film, its a fantastic study in character for all three of the main actors involved, they all play against type and as a few others have said, Bennett Miller, director, has brought out the best in them.

5. Big Hero 6 4/5

At first this story didn't interest me. I thought it was about a clever kid who builds a robot. It's not, it's so much more. Inspired by a Marvel comic of the same name, the story is about Hiro and his older brother Tadashi who are both incredibly gifted, specifically in robotics. They live in the futuristic city of San Fransokyo (amazing) and were orphaned so live with their aunt. Hiro is typical kid in that he is always getting into trouble, hustling people in what looks like robot wars on the street. Hi brother wants to him enroll at his university (where apparently you can enroll at any age). After visiting the campus he does after making mini robots that connect together and create shapes through a mind device. After a tragic accident (SPOILER) Tadashi dies. Hiro, heartbroken eventually finds his brother's project he was working on, a robot, Baymax, who is programmed to help the sick. From here the adventure begins, involving an evil masked villain, a group of friends, all scientists who become his superhero type team. But as always, its about the relationship between a boy and his robot. It reminded me ever so slightly of Robot and Frank. How A.I. can bond with humans is a great story, especially for a children's film. It's beautifully animated too, and the elements of American and Japanese influence works perfectly and neither overbears the other. Although incredibly sad, it's an uplifting feeling at the end, don't give up.

6. Dear White People 4/5

Ever since I saw the trailer when I was going through all the upcoming movies last year, I was intrigued by this satire, as it was described. I have to admit,  the name was off putting and the subject of the film, racism at an Ivy League College in American, is not my go to film. But after all the buzz around it, I had to see it. It's good. In fact as an outsider to this (or at least I think I'm an outsider on this subject) I thought it was really good. I was wrong initially, its not about racism at an Ivy League College, its actually about the subject of race, responsibilities to family, finding an identity and standing up for yourself and for what you believe in. That's how I interpreted it. I feel that the subject of racism, when brought up, is always discussed so that we're stepping on egg shells and that's what I'm doing now. 

It begins with the end.  A riot broke out after some 'predominately white students' held a hip hop party where they all dressed up as black people. Then the story goes back to how this all happened. We are introduced Winchester University and their most famous schools, all showing mainly white students apart from the lonely Issa Rae (cameo) in the School of Media. This sets the tone of the film. Sam, is a milant media student who wants to 'bring black back' to her house where she lives and runs for house president against, Troy. He is son of the Dean of Students who wants him to become a lawyer even though Troy doesn't really want that future. Coco wants to be a reality star and prefers to be around 'the rich white kids' and says a few times, 'I'm not into black guys'. Lional is a drifter, he feels that he doesn't fit in anywhere. These four students, are each trying to find an identity or in some cases create one. 

At first it was slightly daunting and just shows that racism is still an issue, in America more so. But its not all about that, for me it was sort of shocking that they would have a blackface party in the first place but all it knits together is great storytelling.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Legends Coming Out Of Exile

It's been a very long time coming, but its happening again, the powers of film are trying to bring the epic saga, Fables, to the big screen. But, it this a good idea?

Back in 2009 there were rumours and minor notes on Wikipedia about a TV series adaptations. This was before making TV series out of comic series was 'cool'. Seeing as 'Fables' is more fantasy than 'sci-fi', it seemed that networks were having difficulty making the show. At first it seemed like development issues, then script problems, then budget, as this would no doubt be an expensive show and a risk. The comic book series, which was created by Bill Willingham back in 2002, is a highly successful series AND one of Vertigo's longest running AND its muti-award winning and critically acclaimed. It seems like a winner all round. But, it's not sci-fi and that's what most non comic book reading folk think all comics are about.

I can understand the development hell as Fables may seem like it has a simple back story with the many many characters that appear but its a lot more complicated than that. Even before I read the comics (reading + buying 11 volumes in the space of a month) I read a little bit about the set up, without spoiling the story. Its brilliant.
 Legends in exile. Basically, all the fairytale characters from all folklore, fairytales, children's literature and even nursery rhymes, are exile, on the run from the Adversary who has taken over their Homelands. The Homelands resemble a versions of our own countries but on a massive scale. For example, characters from The Rus is the equivalent to Russia in our world. It's mostly characters from European tales that feature, although the Fables universe is forever expanding. More on that later. The 'Fables' as they call themselves have settled in New York City and have created their own 'Fabletown', complete with Sheriff, Bigby Wolf, otherwise known as The Big Bad Wolf and Mayor, King Cole but really the one who does all his work, his deputy, Snow White. That's is just a brief introductions to all the characters.

Can you see what I mean when I think making 'Fables' into a film just won't work?

When I was back in Uni, one of the projects we had to do was produce and pitch an idea for a TV show idea. We were advised to make an adaption of something and research which channel it would be best for and why, as well as producing any promotional material. I, of course, chose 'Fables' and it actually was a good pitch, grade to prove it. I still have some of the promo cards. I thought, due to the 'adult nature' of the comic, HBO would be a great fit for the show, especially as the company has a habbit for making TV shows that don't always follow trends.

Anyway, that was just a dream. Then after the rumours died down, the last one being that the entire cast were going to be unknowns from New Zealand, I just enjoyed the comics.

ABC then went and ruined everything by making 'Once Upon a Time', even though the two narratives, plot and characters are nothing alike, except sharing character names and they are influenced by fairytales. Remaking and redoing fairytales has become a lasting trend. Its dire in a way as all the studios are ruining classic Disney films but it also makes sense that the 'Fables' project is in development once more.

Just like the Marvel Universe, the Fables one is too vast to contain and pin all our hopes on 1 film. I now understand when all the comic book fans revolt at choices the studios make. I fear that Fables will either be ruined completely and put people off from ever reading the comics OR it just won't be enough to cram into one film, with the hopes of another, then a franchise. A TV series would be better and with Constantine, another Vertigo comic, making it to the small screen after the film (which I actually liked despite massive flaws) didn't quite set the box office alight, I still live in hope that the powers of film will turn around and say 'what are we doing?' and make a TV series instead.

I can hope right?

Bill Willingham announced last year that Fables would be coming to an end this year, in June I believe. Storylines in both the main comic and spin off 'Fairest' will be wrapped up and concluded. That would make it 13 years of Fables. Marvelous. The series was originally meant to end at 75 issues but due to its popularity and the fact there were more stories to tell, the series continued.

At the moment I am a bit behind in the issues, I'm now waiting for the paperbacks so I can continue. The series is set to end now at 150 issues.

 There are currently 20 volumes published,  as well as 3 spin off series; Jack of Fables which ran for 50 issues, 8 volumes published. Cinderella, had two mini series, 6 issues each named 'From Fabletown With Love' and 'Fables Are Forever'. Fairest was the latest spin-off, with 33 issues.

 As well as spin-offs, there have been 3 stand alone graphic novels; Werewolves of the Heartland (Bigby goes looking for another Fablestown to settle in) and Fairest of Them All (Rose Red confronts death). Early on, there was a graphic novel with loads of shorts stories, told in the style of the Arabian Nights stories, 1001 Nights of Snowfall. There has also been a stand alone novel, Peter & Max, a tale of two brothers, Peter Piper and Max Piper, otherwise known as the Pied Piper of Hamlin. I loved that novel, wished there were more.

Along with the all the stories, there is also a story game, The Wolf Among Us, where you get to be Bigby and police the fables of the town while also trying to solve a bizarre series of events.

So you can see what I mean when I say there is far more than a couple of trade paperbacks. As you also probably tell, I'm very invested in this series, it's actually what got me into comics, having only previously read a couple of random graphic novels, including Watchmen.

For more news about the film, click here.

To have a closer, longer look at the amazing artwork of the comics, click here for James Jean.

To read more about the characters and story arcs, click here

I think I might make a Pinterest board of my ideal cast, just for the visuals. I actually made a list before, years ago. Not sure if I agree with it now.

If you know and love Fables, what do you think? If you have no idea what I've been talking about, I hope I've convinced you to discover Fables for yourselves.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Consider The Library

Just take a moment and consider the library. The building we used to know at school. We either didn't care about it or wanted to spend all our time in it.

I remember at primary school, my friends and I had the bookclub. We only used to convine at break and lunchtimes when the weather was really bad and we weren't allowed to go outside. We never read the same book as this wasn't possible due to the fact that there was only one copy of each book in the classroom library.

Seeing as the most interesting books on the shelf at the time were either by Jacqueline Wilson or Goosebumps books, the book club disbanded within months. And the fact that it was Summer.

A few years later, those same friends and I all became Library Monitors. This meant that we could spent at least an afternoon a week 'tidying' the library or in our case, do nothing, read books and pretend to be doing something useful if a teacher walked past.

When I went to secondary school, one of the main reasons I like the school at first was the library. Until I found out you weren't allowed to go upstairs and there was only 5 computer to use, nearly always being used by others for the whole lunchtime. I soon gave up my trips to the library unless it was absolutely necessary. Even the random postcards I used to collect couldn't lure me back.

 I loved library at my University. It was beautiful and you were allowed to walk anywhere and there were plenty of computers, but by then I had my laptop which I brought with me. The only annoying thing about that gigantic place was that all the books and DVDs needed or related to my course were on the other campus at an equally impressive library, so a trip was made of it whenever we used to go.

I suppose it's obvious that I have a 'thing' about libraries. My sister has always said that she wants a library as impressive and magnificent as the one from Beauty and the Beast. I agree. It is breath taking. But what is even more breath taking is that its not just in animation that dreams come true.

These majestic libraries are all over the world and are simply breath taking. I thought I was about to be made fun of at work when I was staring at these artitectural beauties but many of my colleagues were staring too.

Libraries, I think, have an ethereal glow about them, something about the printed word that makes you want to sit and read or look through books for hours. I sometimes do this in my own home. I am very easily distracted by books, even more so in an amazing setting.

Monday, 12 January 2015

Winners & Nominations

All this week nominations for BAFTAs are out as well as the Golden Globe winners. Despite all the anger and screaming at the screen and getting angry or happy with the result, I do really enjoy award season from year to year. I can't remember who won what last year, I just remember really loving the fact that Tina Fey and Amy Poehler presented the Golden Globe awards last year and this year. Observe their opening speech from this year here. Their version of 'would you rather' is particularly funny.

I have to admit, I am more slightly excited for the BAFTAs, home turf and all. Plus there always seems to be that extra hint of glamour from the film awards here, like its still some sort of secret that America isn't fully aware of yet. Even though they clearly are. In past ceremonies, British film industry members have been ecstatic but the Americans that win are over joyed and always gush at the fact the British approving them. It's not a bad thing, just an observation.

I have made an extra effort to watch as many nominated films as I can but, as a Wes Anderson fan, I am over the moon at the recognition The Grand Budapest Hotel is getting, its a true masterpiece in film and story, you all know how much I love stories.

I won't fill up this post with long lists of nominations, so please, have a look here at the BAFTA ones here and watch them on BBC 1 (for UK viewers) on February 8, 2015.

As for the Golden Globe winners, just like in the opening speech, I am not including the awards for TV (sorry). I love TV but there are just too many to include. Please click here for the full list of nominations and winners. Thank you Empire.

As for film, behold the winners!

Best Motion Picture – Drama
The Imitation Game
The Theory Of Everything

Best Motion Picture – Comedy Or Musical
The Grand Budapest Hotel
St. Vincent
Into The Woods

Best Actor In A Motion Picture – Drama
Eddie Redmayne, The Theory Of Everything
Steve Carell, Foxcatcher
Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game
Jake Gyllenhaal, Nightcrawler
David Oyelowo, Selma

Best Actress In A Motion Picture – Drama
Julianne Moore, Still Alice
Jennifer Aniston, Cake
Felicity Jones, The Theory Of Everything
Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
Reese Witherspoon, Wild

Best Actor In A Motion Picture – Musical Or Comedy
Michael Keaton, Birdman
Ralph Fiennes, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Bill Murray, St. Vincent
Joaquin Phoenix, Inherent Vice
Christoph Waltz, Big Eyes

Best Actress In A Motion Picture – Musical Or Comedy
Amy Adams, Big Eyes
Emily Blunt, Into The Woods
Helen Mirren, The Hundred-Foot Journey
Julianne Moore, Maps To The Stars
Quvenzhané Wallis, Annie

Best Supporting Actor In A Motion Picture
J.K. Simmons, Whiplash
Robert Duvall, The Judge
Ethan Hawke, Boyhood
Edward Norton, Birdman
Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher

Best Supporting Actress In A Motion Picture
Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
Jessica Chastain, A Most Violent Year
Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game
Meryl Streep, Into The Woods
Emma Stone, Birdman

Best Director – Motion Picture
 Richard Linklater, Boyhood
Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Ava DuVernay, Selma
David Fincher, Gone Girl
Alejandro González Iñárritu, Birdman

Best Original Score – Motion Picture
Jóhann Jóhannsson, The Theory Of Everything
Alexandre Desplat, The Imitation Game
Trent Reznor, Gone Girl
Antonio Sanchez, Birdman
Hans Zimmer, Interstellar

Best Original Song – Motion Picture
John Legend/Common, ‘Glory’, Selma
Lana Del Rey, ‘Big Eyes’, Big Eyes
Patti Smith/Lenny Kaye, ‘Mercy Is’, Noah
Greg Kurstin/Sia Furler/Will Gluck, ‘Opportunity’, Annie
Lorde, ‘Yellow Flicker Beat’, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

Best Animated Feature Film
How To Train Your Dragon 2 

Big Hero 6
The Book Of Life
The Lego Movie
The Boxtrolls

Best Screenplay – Motion Picture
Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris Jr., Armando Bo, Birdman
Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl
Richard Linklater, Boyhood
Graham Moore, The Imitation Game

Best Foreign Language Film
Force Majeure
Gett: The Trial Of Viviane Amsalem

 Overall I am pleased with the wins, especially the win for Michael Keaton and all the awards for The Grand Budapest Hotel. I think that the Best Actor In A Motion Picture – Drama, should have actually gone to Cumberbatch or Gyllenhaal, both of their performances were brilliant. It just felt like Redmayne won because of the whole Hawking thing, but that's just my opinion. To end on a high note, the win for How to Train Your Dragon 2 makes me happy too. It's all about dragons.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

The 2015 Blind Spot Series

Inspired by both The Matinee and Film Flare I will making own BLIND SPOT series list for 2015.

A few days late is better than never. There more than a few classics missing from my 'watched' list I'm sorry to say but being part of the Blind Spot is going to be excited.

Unfortunately, most of the classics that I haven't seen (in this list) are mostly American, 2 British, 1 Italian, 1 Japanese, half in colour, half in black and white, spanning decades from 1931 to 1998.

It's one film per month, with a post about the film, watch this space film fans, for more on the classics.

1. Chinatown
2. Double Indemnity 
3. All About Eve
4. Casablanca
5. North by Northwest
6. City Lights
7. Cinema Paradiso
8. Touch of Evil
9. Yojimbo
10. Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels
11. Kind Hearts and Coronets
12. The Player

Thursday, 1 January 2015

New Year's Resolutions

In the wake of 2015, I have traveled through the 1940's and danced at a Blitz party, gone through the one of the worst journeys home and started the New Year with a cold and cough I ended the last year with.

Last year's resolutions weren't all complete as I aimed too high and there were so many of them. I was being optimistic as I had completed all but one of my goals in 2013. Trying to keep it simple this time around.

1. Write more of my novel - I'm slowly slowly getting there

2. Excercise - I have the bike so I have the means to make an effort. Plus I really need to stick to my gluten & wheat free diet.

3. Go on holiday - even if its a short break

4. De-clutter - selling, sorting, organising

5. Branch out - creatively, socially (meaning try new places) and personally

I will also aim to watch more films, taking part in the Blind Spot this year which looks exciting, post to follow up on that. I am also changing the blog (gasp) and giving it a whole new(ish) look and name and probably direction. I will be doing more writing, I'm determined, especially as I am doing my course later this month. All set for the new year!