Rain Man (1988)

Rain Man (1988)I can’t really call this a revisit as this was first watch before I was watching films to in the volume I do now, so Rain Man (1988) sadly doesn’t count. I decided to revisit this film purely on a comment made during Mad City (1997). I vaguely remembered the earlier film, all that I did was that Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman were brothers. An idea I initially thought was in-plausible on the face of it. It took another look to see what the film was really about beyond this relationship.

Well its all about the relationship really between these estranged brothers. It’s the themes explored about them that make this a rewarding film. One that would hopefully not get remade, and sadly would not get green-lit today in Hollywood unless it was an indie film. I fear today that the theme of Autism would be mocked, turning it into a comedy which is just inappropriate. The inclusion and depiction of people with disabilities has improved in the last decade, however a film is a rare and brave move. What made it work was the spell-binding and Oscar-winning performance by Hoffman who submerges into this man Raymond Babbit who merely looks and sounds like him. What he portrays is a man who is lost and controlled by his disability, with sensitivity and acute attention to detail. One of a long line if actors who has snapped up the golden statue for taking such a deep plunge, taking a bigger risk paid off for him and the audience who believe him completely.

Paired opposite a young Tom Cruise as the yuppie Charlie Babbit basically playing Tom Cruise as we knew him in the 1980’s. Under financial pressure, his care business is struggling, one of a number who are suffering after the crash of the decade. Still living the high life of the successful young business man. He even has the foreign girlfriend Susanna (Valeria Golino) who gets too little time in the film. Which allows a different kind of road trip travel from Missouri to Los Angeles. Beginning as a kidnapping when Charlie is all but snubbed in his fathers will. Looking for the trustee of the $3 million dollars that can be found at the Walbrook Institute where we find Raymond trapped in his own autistic world of routine, obsessions and repetition, this is the man whose meant to have the fortune, what could he possibly want or do with it? That’s what Charlie’s thinking on meeting this man.

As much as he believes his fight is with his defenceless brother, its more intricate than that. He’s got the 1949 car he stole when he was younger. The inheritance and natural born right’s written away. He’s young, angry, grieving and has money troubles, his brother’s just adding to that pile. OK so now take out the autism element then you have a film that is not half as interesting or complex. Taking his brother for a drive, they leave with Susanna to start a legal fight half way across the country.

The Autism is that stands between Charlie, the money which is just the initial motivation that brings these brothers together. Anyone who knows anyone with autism its a daily battle to communicate with someone who is trying to articulate themselves, trapped by any number of physical and mental stumbling blocks. I admire those who are carers, parents and relatives of Autistic people, it by no means an easy life, rewarding at times and that’s reflected in the middle two acts of the film as we see these two very different men start to form a relationship, is it one of brothers are one of carer and patient, maybe even both. What starts as being a burden to Charlie becomes a need as he learns about his past.

When they arrive in Las Vegas, the city of temptation, a moment of weakness that see Charlie who abuses his brothers acute mathematical thinking to count in the Casino. It’s not as Raymond can really consent to this, instead is a perverse coercion that occurs between the able and disabled that does work to a point. Those scenes are thankfully only a few and soon met with guilt and sensitivity, Charlie is growing up as a brother and as a man. Only he can really grow out of both these characters, one who can despise and shame at times, whilst the others we try to understand and care for. The autism brings out the best in Charlie who was before self-centred, now becoming a new improved version of himself, open, sensitive and empathetic to others, especially his brother who he sees as just that first, not the condition that afflicts him. 

I think is holding back the tears the first time I watched Rain Man, now with a sense of wonder at the performances and their power. Mostly Hoffman who gave the film it’s tone. Cruise is actually in good form, even as the young attractive actor of the film, paired against the veteran who can act his socks off in-front of him. Of course there’s a few better performances in the go to action guy of the 1990s and last decade who just wont show his age. An image of forever youthfulness, the epitome of Hollywood ideology, the image of eternal youth. Rain Man is not just about these brothers and autism which you can’t hide from, its the 1980’s forgetting the little people who are trampled on, sidelined, whilst the rich and successful keep on making money. Behind the success is where find the humanity and true cost of it all.

A Studio Update (23/7/16)

I’m hoping to do a full weekend this time. Today I’ve added another coat of white paint to the models that I’ll be painting with light or projections. I’ve noticed that the balsa needs less paint that the cardboard which needs more coats to give an even coverage. So I’m thinking another one which is about 3…I think. I’d like to share some photographs of their progress soon.

Moving onto the postcard piece, they arrived yesterday, all 56 or so. I’ve arranged them into the dialogue order now. I’m thinking that a few more are needed. Even thought there are more postcard, the video will be shorter as it’s all down to the delivery of the lines, making it richer. The dynamic of the conversation is different too, it’s an argument between ex-husband and wife (still married) not like old adversaries in the previous piece.

I’m hoping next time to take the next step with Rio Bravo (1959) allowing me to then look at the potential of manipulation. These will be more immediate pieces, taking shape with whatever act I take out on them. 

I’ll also be thinking about the audio for the Revisionist animation, considering my constructive chat with Manike Music which I will share soon. I need to also look at the layout of the snow massacre and the choreography of the action

A Studio Update (16/7/16)

The painting of the for models for the light based “Painting the Town..” is now well and truly under way. Applying the second coat to three of them, whilst the 4th one has just received an undercoat.

Moving onto the postcard based piece which I’ve spent some time working out the visuals of the chosen section of dialogue, matching them up with postcards that are loosely linked to the dialogue so its vague. Meaning you could view them in sequence with no sound. Its only when you have the audio its adds another layer. The postcards have now been ordered so I’ll be making more progress as soon as they arrive.

Next time I’ll be looking at the other two pieces, having chosen possible sequences from Rio Bravo (1950) to take further.

Whilst the animation I will be considering recording my own voice instead as its all my concept and narrative. I just need to get used to hearing my own voice.

R.I.P.D (2013)

R.I.P.D. (2013)I can’t believe I actually wanted to catch R.I.P.D. (2013) at the time of its release. Thankfully I saved my money on that occasion after reading a few the consensus was. I thought it would be a cross between Men in Black (1997) and Dead Like Me (2003-4). Crossing a lot of fingers for something good to happen here. The concept of an afterlife police force does sounds like an interesting on the face of it. To consider that the best of the dead police officers are out there ensure the streets are clear of dead who don’t want to face judgement at the pearly gates. Probably because they are more than likely as they know they are going straight to hell. That was my thinking anyway.

On the other side seeing the film I feel I’m glad I caught it recorded from TV, no money lost, just my time. This was one of a run of bad films that Ryan Reynolds was stuck in until Deadpool (2016) came along and saved him. Jeff Bridges on the other hand, this turkey did him no harm. If anything it was as rehashing of his Rooster Cogburn out of his own time. It’s a really odd pairing really.

So why is R.I.P.D. (Rest in Peace Dept.) so bad? For me its the whole execution of the material that comes from a comic book source has been badly translated. With no prior knowledge of the material I can see that the concepts been played with fast and loose with. First the persona’s that two cops Roy and Nick (Bridges and Reynolds) have in the living world is a one hit joke that is lost once you see it in the trailer, which we see through out the film. It becomes offensive after a while to see an attractive blonde and an elderly Chinese man is really tasteless and should’ve been left in the 1980’s. I was thinking something more along the lines of Dead Like Me which I can barely remember but when the grim-reapers were in our world, their own image was distorted to present a distorted different face. It was a way to walking in the living world more conspicuously than a busty blonde and Chinese man.

You can see the writers are not really caring when they call the deceased who are not willing to see judgement are known as “deado’s”. Which is just silly to say and sounds even worse to say. These are the dead that are trying to live among us, until they’re interrogated, usually followed by weird questions and Indian food. It doesn’t make sense even as a joke, let alone as part of the world we are supposed to believe in. That’s before break out into a weird monster that looks like some ogre out of a fairy-tale – Shrek with a hang-over. These are the living corpses who we are unwittingly living with. These deado’s aren’t even scary once you know whats going to happen after seeing a few.

Moving on I was constantly trying to work-out what Kevin Bacon‘s role in all of this was, knowing he never plays the good guy, it was just a matter of time and type casting which to be fair works to Bacon’s strengths. Here it took just a bit longer to figure out as we are lead to believe he is after Nick’s wife, again not out of character.

Nick and Roy are thrown together as partners, you could say that Roy’s supposed to be a Dirty Harry type of the West, which really doesn’t suit Bridges yet allows him to test Nick in his new enforcement role post-living. That’s probably the only plus side, the relationship between the rookie and the veteran cop. Otherwise it just a sequence of events that could easily be ignored. We see Nick trying to connect with his living wife Julia (Stephanie Szostak) much like Pete (Richard Dreyfuss) and Dorinda (Holly Hunter) in Always (1989) but not half as effectively. It’s a lot colder, Nick has to let go for them both to move on. The only human element in this otherwise waste of a film.

Its one of those films that suffers also from the weightlessness of too much CGI which creates a world that I don’t really care for. It’s no longer believable a spectacle or awe, its more what we can do because we can which lets the story down. They were just showing off in a film where the plot gets as carried away with things as the Deado’s try to reconstruct and gold structure to return the dead to earth, altering the order of things on earth, or something like that. It just doesn’t make any sense. Ultimately this film doesn’t really do anyone any harm as it’s just as its not funny enough to reach an audience to try and offend them.


Making Revisions Update (10/7/16)

I’ve spent the day at home, working with titles to link the sequences together. It’s all about timing, leaving them on-screen long enough to be read. I’ve completed two parts today to see how they look, working from a print-out of the write-up. I feel that if narration’s added in its place I would need an authoritative voice to add more depth to a piece that is quite serious really.

I have also come up with names for the coloured nations, based on colours of paints, they will be known as the following

Red = Pyrrole

Yellow = Bismuth

Green = Pithlo

Light Blue = Cerul

Dark Blue = Danthrene

So next time when I’m back in the studio I’ll see what happens, there’s still a lot to do, I can say that I have still made progress, I’ll need a foley making session sometime too. I want to source my own, not relying on those built into the software I have.

The Thing (1982)

The Thing (1982)A few weeks ago I watched the Howard Hawks original and much forgotten The Thing from Another World (1951) that is naturally overshadowed by the John Carpenter remake The Thing (1982). I was spurred onto finally catch it, which I attempted before a few years ago, giving up as I thought it was rubbish. My opinion has indeed changed since then and Starman (1984) which I noted relied on far less special effects, more on the emotion of the acting and the audiences imagination. If anything the earlier film which does very much need the special effects it’s a Sci-Fi horror.

Coming into this film from having seen the cheaply made original which is a more condensed action film even making room for a romance which seems shoe-horned in to a fast-paced find-em and kill-em job. It’s a B-movie before they really were any B-movie, fast-paced with a decent cast too. The remake expands the action and then explodes it onto the screen to bigger effect. However with Kurt Russell in the lead we have more star-power for a darker film where fear is the name of the game. A man of action who really isn’t afraid of getting the job, minus the principles which make him suited to a world of disillusioned men.

The action still takes place in a remote scientific research station in Antarctica, maned by Americans, however the action doesn’t start so safely as in 1951. A helicopter is chasing a husky dog, hunting it from the sky. We don’t know why an unknown man’s determined to kill the animal, that if you think about it doesn’t even bark which catches my attention. A dark that doesn’t sound like a dog is out of the ordinary. We find the Norwegian (not Swede) has gone out his mind, not really knowing where he’s firing. Ultimately leading the American’s down the same unfortunate path. R.J. MacReady (Russell) and Palmer (David Clennon) get a glimpse at their more than certain future. The visit to the Norwegian base allows us to see into the future and the origins of the films past. If only lessons were going to be learned here as they discover the flying saucer that has already been excavated. There is no need to follow it on radar, all that work has been done by the Scandinavians, leaving us with the rest if Carpenters film.

With the improvement in special effects we can see far more of thing that’s going to be giving this research team far more trouble than before. Before the alien was more like a tall actor whose seen stumbling around like Frankenstein’s monster almost, wandering around for its next meal or victim. The focus of the Thing of the 1980’s is not so much its plant-like biology, needing blood to survive. If one of the men got in the way they would become the next source of sustenance, much more like a vampire from outer space rather than the host engulfing alien who duplicates and kills. There is more un-explainable science to make Carpenters thing more complex, more fearful to be around. You could put in the same league as the Xenomorph from the Alien franchise that takes on its host form. However the transformation is more overt with Carpenter. I can’t even start to understand how the thing was even created for the screen. You can’t hide from the excruciating pain that the victim goes through as they are lost to this personal invasion, no longer human, pulled apart in different ways to reveal an alien that’s constantly changing. It’s not the same more methodical Xeonomorph.

Instead of the simple explanation and by the teams scientist who eventually finds a solution to the problem of the alien intruder we have Dr. Blair (Wilford Brimley) as educated as he is in his findings, they scare him, the knowledge is too much for him. This is a form of madness that engulfs him. The research crew are starting to turn on each other. knowledge usually being power is more of a burden that create a sense. Usually its the captain that goes mad, leading to a mutiny restoring order. Here the whole construct of the team begins to fall apart. No one can trust each other as the Thing works its way through the crew.

After the failed first watch I was not really wanting to revisit this film. It took the original, lead by the director to inform my seeking out this now classic of a film that overshadows the far safer film, which reflects the meager budget, a shorter running time. I’m still not sure why there’s a woman in that film? Carpenter has taken a film and blown it up, reshaped it in his own language which is more engaging. The fear is increased so even we can’t trust what we are seeing. The alien is like nothing we have seen before and that’s the beauty of it. Like then-present day fears, it evolved with the rhetoric that was supposed to control the nation. Here we have an alien of that can take any form, even one we trust. Carpenter doesn’t stray far from the original imagery but moves far enough to make it his own.

Making Revisions Update (9/7/16)

For the first time I have pieced together all the footage into the desired order that I have been writing for this piece. The initial running time is 31 minutes. I had to do some trimming to even get to that length. It was all the breaks I put in originally for the scenes. I can now work on the structure in terms of adding titles and later audio which’s needed looking at the length. No one can be expected to look at quiet images for so long. I need to consider minimal foley for some actions. Also looking at a soundtrack that I can use or manipulate, even make up my own.

I’ve been given some ideas to look into today, which I can hope to investigate further regarding audio. I can at least look at experimenting with titles. Possible even record a basic narration. I’ll prepare a narration for one scene to try out.

Looking at the missing sequence through the animatic I need to deconstruct the original before making my own. I’m considering even using different music if at all, there’s not going to be a 7th Cavalry, it’s the imagery that caught my attention. Moving it to my location it will automatically change. I have to adapt Arthur Penn‘s vision to my own. This will be the last of the pre-production for a work that is moving towards completion.

The Bomb Factory Artist Film Festival

Bomb Factory Film Night

I am pleased to announce that Dancing in the West (2013) will be screened at The Bomb Factory Artist Film Festival. The event will take place next Friday July 15 2016 at 7:30pm in Unit 2 The Bomb Factory Art Foundation (9 – 15, Elthorne Road, N19 4AJ)

“The Bomb Factory Artist Film Festival features a diverse selection of artists who demonstrate exciting, progressive and experimental approaches to working with moving image. In these troubling post-Brexit times these artists explore important themes such as identity, sexuality, nationhood, fantasy and cartoon animal death.”

My work will be shown alongside Simon Coates, Steve Maher, Charles Verni, Tom Mason, Kristina Cranford, Mike Ditchburn, Yuxin Jiang and Guy Bolongaro.


Making Revisions Update (7/7/16)

As I have been thinking about this idea for a few days now and I knew it would take long to test out I took an hour to put together the animatic for the snow massacre I keep mentioning. Again inspired by Little Big Man (1970) which I have used stills from and the music that features in the scene. I know it’s not original in the slightest really. It will however help me understand and maybe pace the animation when I begin to shoot. I have removed a few stills, such as those with Dustin Hoffman as I don’t want to be distracted by his presence, or the relationships he has in the camp. It’s purely about that attack by Custer’s 7th cavalry.

I have re-timed the remaining stills to cover as much of the audio, yes there is audio for a change in my test video. I have allowed some stills to remain on-screen for longer lengths. Whilst also others are far shorter for reasons of speed. I’ve made the decision also to add breaks so it spaces out the violence before picking up with it again. I hope this proves to be a helpful visual aid.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind: Special Edition (1980)

Close Encounters of-the Third Kind (1980)I can’t remember if I ever saw the original 1977 cut of Close Encounters of the Third Kind which now seems like far longer than it probably was. It was time to remind myself of this classic piece of science fiction. Released the same year as Star Wars (1977) which would have been stiff competition for Steven Spielberg who would have enjoyed rubbing shoulders up against his contemporary George Lucas. Both having significant effect on the genre and the medium of mainstream cinema that as I have said previously was going through a Silver age in Hollywood. In the closing years we probably have the adult version of Steven Spielberg’s later film ET: The Extra-Terrestial (1982) which flipped the experience to the view of the child.

Both steeped in the wonder of the unknown, wanting to believe what is yet not understand by humanity. That is a brief summation of the film without really breaking down whats really going on. I remember seeing an Inside the Actors Studio with the director who mentioned that light means life, which is indeed very true. The main source of life on the planet we live on, its position to the sun makes it perfect for life to be sustained. To think we are the only civilisation in the Universe is however nonsense, short-sighted and ignorant in my opinion. I don’t buy into the conspiracy theories as there really is little proof. However time will only tell, anything can happen.

Close Encounters is about that possibility and letting it happen, instead of the army, usually American coming out with tanks, briefing the president who then tells the world during the 1990’s onwards. The sense of fear in the films played down, instead focusing on the scientific investigation led by Francois Truffaut and his bearded colleagues who travel the world. Traveling with Nato, a peace organisation that only wants answers, communicating with those who have witnessed and been touched by the blue and red lights that have lit up the nights sky. A universal experience yet shared by so few who are only seen as mad in the eyes of the general public. Reflecting a nation who had been fed lies, not knowing what to believe. Here we have only a few who stay together through this shared experience in rural America (Ohio), some are seen as the usual nut-cases which adds to the humor of the film. However there is no joking out this otherwise outer-body experience.

A young boy Barry (Cary Guffey) is the first to truly accept this bright flashes of light for what they are, he is reached by these aliens who only want to communicate. They don’t cause and destruction to the planet. Instead create a sense of hysteria among the general public. It’s only a child that can truly be open to the unknown as they have no real fear or inhibitions, everything is new, an experience that can lead to new behaviour’s and responses being formed in later life. His mother Gillian (Melinda Dillon) is more cautious but only as a parent, she has shared the same moments, only age determines their responses. It’s about the faith in the unknown and walking up to touch it.

The adult version of Barry is Spielberg’s go to every-man of the 1970’s and 80’s Roy (Richard Dreyfuss) who I could only remember before in the film for trying to build his first Devils Tower out of mashed potato.

An obsession that consumes his home-life and marriage, they leave him out of fear. He’s driven by an urge to create an image that is not fully formed in his head. Like an artist whose trying to express an idea, struggling to find the right form. Not leaving the studio until they see it taking form they way it should be, taking on a life of its own. Roy has a need that can’t be controlled. The audience can only watch on in disbelief at this creative output by both Roy and Gillian who have the energy to carry on almost regardless of other commitments.

Turning again to the scientist who I believe have more screen time in this special edition, I’m not entirely sure if I have seen the original it has been that long, almost becoming a blur of images among the mass of films I consume on a yearly basis, some are more than likely to be forgotten. The search for meaning in the events that they follow’s driven by a sense of understanding not fear. Fear is only a weapon the use later for reasons of safety in the local vicinity of Devils Tower, to keep the event as quiet as possible, it makes it more special, maybe other events have happened in the past, this could be the seed of another crack-pot theory, it’s possible. This weapon of fear doesn’t stop those who have made it past all the barriers both physical and ideological that are in their way. A blind devotion to a feeling that is as indescribable as  the shared experience they had at the beginning.

Away from all the theory this is a classic piece of sci-fi that relies less on special effects for most of the film it’s about the feeling of wonder thats created, the emotion that those who have been touched by the aliens drives them, When we do have these flying saucers that heavily informed by B-movies still hold up today. It’s all about the light, both on the UFO’s and with the cinematography. There are countless scenes where light is flaring, almost bleeding over the frame. This is intentional – light means life – and should leak through from the other space that is visiting the film, rarely are we in the dark for long.

I’m so pleased that I have revisited this film that is all about experience, letting your imagination run away with you. That’s the power of Spielberg’s greatest films, they are rarely heavy on the mind, instead sweeping you on a journey that you rarely get to taken on today. Heavily referencing the classic cinema as he has continued to do; revitalised for a new audience who need have forgotten the power of the silver screen. I felt that less than 24 hours ago, having several moment where I paused in wonder at the images before me.


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