Posts tagged “Steven Spielberg

Dogville Vs. Hollywood


I’ve just finished a book I bought from my local independent cinema, which has started a small shop. The book I bought was Dogville Vs Hollywood: The War Between Independent Film and Mainstream Movies by Jake Horsley was on the basis it would go into what the title suggest, look at the battle between directors who are either considered auteurs or independent of the Hollywood system. Building on Peter Biskind’s fascinating Easy Riders, Raging Bulls which was an entertaining and in-depth look at the American New wave which began with Bonnie and Clyde (1967) and ending around Raging Bull and Heavens Gate (1980). Dogville covers much of the same ground coming up to 2006 (when the book was published).

I remember when I first started reading this book I had a gut reaction to the harsh critical tone that the writer who didn’t check his facts, saying Citizen Kane was released in 1942 – was 1941, and Hitchcock’s first sound film was The Lodger (1927)it was Blackmail (1929), I found a few more errors but these two stuck in my mind. It shows how fast this book was written, with passionate anger and disregard for accuracy, when talking about the history of any medium in such detail he got things off to a bad start.

The first chapter was an extended review of Lars Van Trier‘s titular film Dogville (2008) which he uses the basic framework for the book. A film made in response to the current state of Hollywood. A film that is devoid of likeable characters, a set that’s limited to suggestion and a dog that it’s just a drawing on the ground. Most notably an all American cast. I do see the film in a new light now which explains a few things. It’s a dogme that had teeth to bite back.

There were sections where pages where the main body of text was fighting the foot notes that were almost half a page long in places. Why didn’t here just incorporate his research into the main body or minimise it, they became not so much backing up the quotes legitimacy but they were points of trivia which pulled you away from the main body. Eventually I just stopped reading them, noticing that Horsley lifted a lot of quotes from two of Biskind’s books; Easy Riders, Raging Bulls and Down and Dirty Pictures, showing an over-reliance on superior books on the subject. (I haven’t read the second one yet).

Lastly the overall tone of the book was scathing on just about any director whose mentioned in the book. I agree on some points, the state of Hollywood has not changed in ten years, relying on franchises, special effects and remakes – nothing new there, showing that the argument still stands up. However hardly anyone gets off lightly, unless its a director you’ve never heard of yet. The established directors – Scorsese, Spielberg and Coppola etc are seen in varied shades of black. They’ve either sold out, burned out or just faded away. He blame critics for helping Hollywood in the dumbing down of audiences, their expectations and their thinking of a film. You could say Horsley is a film snob who has an axe to grind, has he been burnt in Hollywood and fighting back? It would explain the horrible tone and the scathing attack to practically everyone, he can be fair in places which is rare, whole chapters and sections are rants, building up individuals before bringing them back down to earth with a bump.

I’ve not really learned a lot, except who Horsley hates and hates not so much. I hope in the 10 years since it’s publication he has mellowed.


King Kong (2005)


king-kong-2005Over the past day or so I have watched 2 films that have caught my attention in terms of special effects. The first being Clash of the Titans (1981) which was primarily a revisit for myself, however I couldn’t compel myself on New Years Eve to write a review. I needed something more to get me writing today. That was King Kong (2005) itself a remake, released five years before Titans was pointlessly remade – I have still avoided it at all costs. For a few reasons, it’s a blatant cash-in for those who hold the rights to the original film and also the special effects which completely remove any charm or magic the film might have. Sure they are more slick and even bigger mythical creatures to slay, however it’s a lot more than how much money you can throw at something.

You could say I’ve made a rod for my own back, trying to compare two completely different films, one, an original and another, a remake of another classic film. However its the relationship they share between them which binds them closer than you think. Going back to the original King Kong (1933) it was the first of its kind, a disaster film that created spectacle for an audience who not yet been exposed to what both soundtrack and special effects could do. The puppet for King Kong was animated by Willis O’Brien who created a character that transcended film to become part of popular culture. It signified the depression, those who had been affected by it, made to live in the Hooverville’s, not unlike the jungle of Skull Island. Originally intended to be part of a fame hungry director Carl Denham’s (Robert Armstrong) next big film, a make it or break it for him, taking with him the unknown actress Ann Darrow (Fay Wray,) one of cinema’s greatest screamers) on a boat into uncharted waters. Not really knowing what he was letting him or his film crew or that of the boat in for. The rest is history really. Taking back the giant ape back to New York, to be unveiled as the latest attraction to depression laden New York. The captured beast breaks free of his chains to go on a rampage, finding the one he fell in love with back on the island. Darrow then didn’t reciprocate those feelings, instead she carried on screaming as the beast treated her like his most prized possession. He loved her, even if she didn’t it.

All of that wouldn’t have been possible without O’Brien who in-turn inspired Ray Harryhausen who made the technique all of his own, known as Dynamation. First working for hire creating the stop-frame animation monsters for B-movie Science fiction, a genre that never fails to excite me. His creatures/creations really did come to life, on a bigger screen they would’ve the ability to wonder children, even inspiring a few including Peter Jackson and Steven Spielberg. He had a clear language that worked from film to film, OK they are a few blips along the way – The Valley of Gwangi (1969), placing beasts, dinosaurs, monsters and aliens alongside humans, fighting off each one.

Admittedly you can see the seems in his work, animating against the film being rear projected, and capturing the action in his studio. As much as you see those lines you soon forget all of that which in other films could pull you out. Each creatures worked because they have a personality, the human touch of a man moving them for each frame. You can tell they are sharing the screen (as much as technology would allow) as they fight and kill the humans who are trying to get past them. They take you into another world, one that CGI is very accomplished at yet lacks the tactile nature of the puppets. Ultimately they have stood the test of time, Harryhausen’s last and most complex film Clash of the Titans called upon him to create mythical creatures that were filled with warmth, others that threatened Perseus (Harry Hamlin) and his young bride Andromeda (Judi Bowker) who he wants to be saved from the hands of the Cracken.

Bringing me back to King Kong a film that has a strong place in Hollywood history, it was a monster hit, pardon the pun. There was a remake (1976) which updated the idea with the help of Jeff Bridges and a change in locations. Not a film I’m in a rush to revisit. Jackson has decided to pay closer attention to the original, a longer running time, more money and more special effects. I admire the return to the era of the original and expanding it however there are more negatives than positives, which I’ll get to later on. First the casting is pretty decent, a strong performance by Jack Black using his comic timing to create a far darker Denham who will stop at nothing to get his film before plan B becomes more exciting. Naomi Watts as Darrow is a very modern take on the role, you could say inspired by King Homer – part of Treehouse of Horror III (1992) which sees Marge falling for her captor, well how could she not fall for an ape version of her husband. Watts sees the inner beauty in the beast that is Kong who is the result of motion capture AKA Andy Serkis who has given us a more human and emotive Kong. I have to give Jackson that one.

The look of the film is very stylised, in terms of the creating the 1930’s setting, the digital photography allowed for more obvious tonal changes, relying heavily on browns to create that depression era look. Then as soon as we reach Skull Island the CGI really comes into its own. Making Willis O’Brien’s effects looks like a practice run, there are far more dinosaurs and oversized creatures which show how much money and time was spent on this act of the film. For me it felt like “let’s make it bigger, have more of everything” losing sight of the plot at times. Yes we get it, it’s an island unaffected by time and evolution, an ecosystem all of its own. Seeing all those dinosaurs running away from Velociraptors I was no longer lost in the film that had made the past incarnations look tame.

It’s more cinematic yet at the times it’s bloated with effects, nothing or very little seems real in this film besides the actors and some of the sets. I know that Jackson does utilises model miniatures where he can, I felt none of that here, the computer has sucked a lot out of the is remake which is grand in terms of the plot, held together by the acting which saves it from being another blockbuster that is soon forgotten. I’m not writing the film off completely, I just wish there wasn’t such a reliance on C.G.I, something which is becoming more lifeless the more sophisticated it becomes, the easier it becomes to make these worlds a reality on the screen, the more we understand and switch off. They have lost the human touch at times. I long for films like Clash of the Titans the acting at times was nothing special, held together with a loose plot that made sense, the air of grandeur and a heap of fun, plus some interesting casting choices that make this a film a classic. It may have lost its seems but not the charm and strength of plot which is as fun as the special effects. Ultimately its a more balanced film, not trying to be more than it is.


Chronicle (2012)


chronicle-2012Now I must correct myself, I previously said in an old review for Super 8 (2011) that I remember the trailer, clearly after seeing Chronicle (2012) that is all rubbish, it was for this film which doesn’t try to be a Steven Spielberg homage, instead this is something much more interesting in its own right. It’s the voyeuristic aesthetic of the film that I remember from the trailer, which we don’t have at all in Super 8 which is a completely different film. Anyway lets move on from the slight confession and look at what made me want to talk about this film. I’ve only seen a handful of films that are almost exclusively filmed from the point of view of a personal camcorder, I attempted to watch Unfriended (2014) which goes further to the view of the computer screen and just became annoying…very fast.

You’d have to be living in a cave in the remotest part of the world to have not noticed that a whole generation has grown up with a view of the world perceived completely from the view of the a mobile phone, filming and capturing images from a tiny camera hidden within, recording anything and everything that takes the users curiosity, for fun, for work. Chronicle pre-dates that…slightly, there are even more home-videos uploaded to my own social media streams. I’m sure you can relate to that even if you switch between reading this reviewing and your own feed.

When your own personal footage forms a feature-length narrative things begin to change, you have to fill it with characters, a plot, twists and development beyond that of what just in front of you. Of course the majority of the camcorder work for Chronicle was probably completed with industry standard cameras, not ones for home use. However the look of the film is that of the home-video or vlogger who carries it around with them. What begins as a personal thing for Andrew Detmer (Dane DeHaan) who is out to prove and recorded his abusive dad’s behaviour, a visual weapon in his domestic fight for survival, whilst his mother is bed-bound with an unknown condition.  This could be just another teenage experience film, which really doesn’t interest me unless there’s a twist to it all.

Thankfully there is one. That’s after we first do some exploration of the teenage world of the high-school, one I’m glad I was never around, a dog-eat-dog world of popularity and over achievement which can either make or break you. Making for a pretty standard teen-drama for the first few minutes before his cousin Matt Garetty (Alex Russell) asks him to join him and class president candidate Steve Montgomery (Michael B. Jordan) who have found a massive hole in the ground. Brought along merely to record the life-changing event down below. A luminescent crystal-like structure that draws them in, more from excitement and the thrill, it excites the young men who are changed for life by the experience – giving them superhuman powers, that of telekinesis.

Of course like every new experience during adolescence, this ability proves be fun as they explores what they can do with it. The three of them naturally are at different stages, like learning to walk, each with different level of progress. We see early on that Andrew is a quick learner and obviously know how to focus his power. Its like the early days of X-Men only with some messing about, we don’t have the number characters to create the drama of that scale. There’s no real rivalry between the three young men at this point.

Things start to change for them boys and the audience when the special effects are still subtle and fun, we know they are adding things in post-production so they are floating at their command. When they start to fly, things start to really get fun and potentially dangerous, leading the film into other directions, they are growing, learning what they are capable of. It’s really exhilarating to watch, like the first time we saw Superman flying on the big-screen, it has that sense of wonder, freedom and youthful energy. Yes it probably involved a lot of C.G.I., wires and green-screen to achieve these shots, but the finish is so clean and subtlety done that this time I don’t care because I’m caught up in the moment that you’re taken aback when the plane flies through the shot, knocking you out and them out of the sky.

We start to enter the realm of X-MenMagneto and Xavier as the powers are used more overtly. It’s one thing to use the power for a magic trick, when it comes to keeping your mother medicated things get serious for Andrew who uses his powers that are growing, under his mentality of the “Apex human” the top of the evolutionary food-chain, combined with his abusive home-life he begins to unravel and reveal who he truly is. This is where we can no longer stay in the realm of camcorders, having to rely on CCTV and other surveillance to record to the action as it occurs, cutting straight to these fixed positions to build up the image that is the film. Striving to be more immersive for the audience, removing the conventional camera angles for those of the domestic to capture this cinematic moment as two friends fight to hold on to each other. The Magneto lashes out at the world around him whilst the Xavier tries to save him from himself.

If I had to be negative and fair about this film, I would have to show my disappointment at killing off the only black character, even though it allows for character development, it shows that we have a white on white fight at the end. All originally friends, it wouldn’t really matter if Matt was killed off instead, they same result would have lead to this resolution. In the climate of the lack of Black on-screen depictions Chronicle suffers from this deficiency in the final act, would it be seen as more racially motivated, friendship should overrule that thought.


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.


The Sugarland Express (1974)


The Sugarland Express (1974)I started watching The Sugarland Express (1974) looking for the glimmers of Steven Spielberg‘s directing style, being his directorial debut. Not long ago seen his contemporary George Lucas‘s first film American Graffiti (1973) making his mark on the film world. Part of the first group of directors who had come out of film-school, armed with over half a century of knowledge to hand to refer to and inspire in their own work. I’ve not seen many of Spielberg’s early films, probably starting more so with Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) where we can see that his visual and storytelling style has been cemented and growing.

With one eye on all of this I couldn’t help but be reminded on the recent story in the news of Ashya King’s family who was discharged by his parents from Southampton Hospital late last month, wanting on the best treatment for their son who was diagnosed with a brain tumour. Reflected in this road caper as a couple of criminals will do anything to be reunited with their son in foster care now.

A mother Lou Jean (Goldie Hawn) with a criminal record has lost her son to foster parents after a string of crimes and time behind bars, goes to extreme length to smuggle out her husband Clovis (William Atherton) who is a month away from being released. The need to be with her son is too strong to wait, time is of the essence for a couple who as we learn will do almost anything in the state of Texas to get back their son.

These events based on fact take up what seems to be the whole states police force to track and follow this couple on the edge after hijacking eager new traffic cop Slide (Michael Sacks) who knows the law back to front who looses the upper hand early on. Leading to him being in the passenger seat for the remainder of the film. As the states police force are literally behind them on the open road as they travel the state with hope is complete disregard for the law. Creating a whole host of mayhem where guns are fired like mad, whilst police Captain Tanner (Ben Johnson) tries to keep things under control, communicating with the couple driven to be with their son. Most of the emotion comes from the wild Lou Jean who is the mastermind of all the antics.

Its pure madness in the heartland of America as a couple bring the state to a standstill, stir up emotions of hope that encourages the public to get behind these law breakers, no law can surely keep a family a-part for long. The law seems to drop away losing all meaning the regular people who flock to see the celebrities of the moment creating hysteria in their wake. Moments of greatness, removing them from normality  are taking place. A hallmark of Spielberg’s work, full of wonder for the common man. The visual cues of light, wonder and children are all there starting to take route in the lives of everyday people.

To make a comparison to American Graffiti can only be found in the youthfulness of the feel of the films as young people find freedom in vehicles over the period of a short time. There’s more of sense of occasion here as life is brought to a stand still, there is not the life changing moment as we leave childhood to adulthood. It’s the survival of the family at any cost, a cost that draws out the audiences emotion amongst all the car-crashes and people who they meet along the way. We can also see a nod from classic cinema with Ben Johnson in a major role, Spielberg is already pulling rabbits out of the hat even if we don’t realise it, taking a risk of working with a first time film director, who had practiced during the 1960’s with a number of television programmes. His theatrical film debut shows that he is able to create a stir of moments, emotion that entertain us without too much of the wonder that he is now known for. There’s no polish here, it’s just the roads, gunfire and madness. All that was about to change.  

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The Color Purple (1985)


I reThe Color Purple (1985)member seeing The Color Purple (1985) a good few years ago, not really understanding it, leaning more towards slavery in my thinking. Which I know was wrong. With the release of 12 Years a Slave (2013) which made me want to revisit this much forgotten and overlooked film for me. So now having made the time to revisit this beautiful film I have come away with a better understanding of what it’s all about.

In short its a fight for a woman to be themselves in spite of the men in their life. Of course the focus is on Whoopi Goldberg‘s Celie who at a young age is arranged to marry Albert (Danny Glover) who is more interested in her younger sister Nettie who is sadly pushed out of her sisters life. For the most part it is about Celie and her fight for respect in a home of domestic violence and servitude under a man who sees her only as a slave in the house and bedroom. She seems forever innocent in a life that is only bleak and depressing. It’s the other women in her life that allow her to see the light.

Her first is her sister Nettie (Akosua Busia) who is more just a friend who opens he eyes to the power of reading. It maybe just fun at first, yet would forever hold her back if not for those moments of joy in the kitchen. Soon pushed out by Albert who dominated their lives. It’s heartbreaking and gut-wrenching when the two are separated physically but never emotionally.

It’s the arrival of Sofia (Oprah Winfrey), the lover interest of Albert’s oldest son Harpo (Willard E. Pugh) a fiery independent woman who won’t take any s*** from anyone, a lot to handle to say the least. Proving too much to handle for the young man who marries her. She acts both saws some light relief for a while, showing that a woman in a black mans world can be just as strong, for a time at least.

However it’s the arrival of the much talked about Shug Avery (Margaret Avery) the small time singer who holds the real affections for Albert who begins to soften in her presence. Making Celie’s life bearable for a time, we see the man struggle to comedic effect, the roles are almost reversed, allow her to see what is going in her own life. Avery becomes Celie’s champion, supporting her, giving her hope, allowing her to show her bright smile. Even Avery has her own demons, in the form of her reverend father who has turned his back on the once gospel singer. Wanting to reconnect with him, is a battle that will go on for some time.

Whilst Sofia her life is about to take a bad turn after a scuffle with the law sees her become subdued and employed as a servant to a rich white family. No longer is she the outspoken woman we saw earlier, a pale shadow of her former self, carrying the scars of her time in prison. We see the white woman Corrine (Susan Beaubian) playing a dumb southerner, an image that is usually portrayed by the African-American in the Deep South. 

The transformation of the women is gradual and triumphant, each helping the others out to rise from their oppressive lives. It’s Shug’s influence that sees Celie grow in strength, standing up to Albert who has dominated her all her life. Both comedic and rewarding to watch showing Goldberg at her comedic best, giving it to him with an audience who draw strength from her courage as the mouse grows into a woman.

A powerful film that doesn’t out stay its welcome. That on the surface could be a black film, being more of a woman’s filmswhich being a guy is not my usual bag really. Both depressingly dark at times as we see women beaten both mentally and physically, separated and unable to express themselves. A need to be free and themselves above it all. Steven Spielberg once again leaves his blockbuster style at the door to give is an emotional thought-provoking film that never fails to touch the audience. Theres little schmaltz here, more sensitive and thoughtful, a drama that he is capable of without all the wonder of other films that he’s known for.

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Always (1989)


Always (1989)I wanted to watch this to see Audrey Hepburn‘s final screen role that was made for her but took her whole career to finally be cast in, that of an angel, a stroke of genius really by Steven Spielberg when making Always (1989). Starting career in the 1940’s as a fictional princess in Roman Holiday that saw her win her only Oscar. I am not really a fan of her work my perception of her is a woman with her head in the clouds, away with the fairies, a dreamer. And that is the attraction to her, which I never will be drawn to, yet in this almost cameo role as a guiding angel to dead pilot Pete Sandich (Richard Dreyfuss) after dying from rescuing his friend and fellow fire-fighter pilot Al Yackey (John Goodman). When Pete leaves in a fireball that consumes his plane he leaves behind his frustrated lover Dorinda Durston (Holly Hunter).

It does draw some very pale similarities with Ghost (1990) released a year later to more successful result, with Whoopi Goldberg and Patrick Swayze, that’s another film altogether. What we have here is another Spielberg film that really pulls out all the stops to make you cry, full of schmaltz which is synonymous with his work. At times I was trying not to laugh at how cliché the film was, all before the heartbreak of the death of Pete’s death which takes the film to another level and solidly into the plot of the film, that sees the dead Pete becoming an inspiration to another still living, by the angel Hap (Hepburn) dressed head to toe in pure white (now dated) yet her presence takes this film to the level of what she has always personified in film, an angelic and innocent quality of beauty that has given her the wisdom that what feels like centuries of time. She’s not trying to be a godly figure with the casualness of Morgan Freeman‘s God in Bruce Almighty (2003). Her lack of physical presence’s spread through the film’s duration in the mission she gives to newly dead Pete.

Sent down to inspire a young pilot we met before Ted Baker (Brad Johnson) who joins the pilot school lead by Al (Goodman) who is training pilots to work with fire-fighters, the lighter side of the film, which also grounds the film, in the form of John Goodman who brings Dorinda out to join him. It’s almost predictable what is about to happen, it doesn’t matter though. Focusing on Pete who has to suffer with overwhelming pain seeing his lover fall for another. Not able to let her go, whilst he has to encourage a pilot who is more than rough around edges and with a possible John Wayne impression.

It’s incredible how the difficulty that the relationship between Dorindai and Pete torn apart by death, can relate to others that are ended by the death. To imagine that our loved ones who have passed on, have come down as ghost to inspire others, and eventually say goodbye and move on themselves. Who knows if this is really true regarding the afterlife. It’s the journey that the dead and living have to go through to finally move on that makes this work, filled with all the usual magic touches including a cheeky one at the very end that is a brave move to share with the audience.

Even though it’s full of the classic Spielberg of the 1980’s I am glad I took the time out to view Always a film that’s main attraction was a few scenes with an actress I don’t really care about. A moment in cinema that personifies an image that could easily have been missed. Whilst telling a tale that comforts an audiences spiritual side mixed with heaps of romance to make it more worthwhile.


Is the Blockbuster Dying?


George LucasSteven Spielberg and George Lucas recently told an audience at USC that Hollywood was about to implode, with all the money hungry blockbusters that are released. Causing a collapse in the industry, pushing aside smaller films. Spielberg spoke of his latest film Lincoln (2012) that nearly became a HBO movie, not being able to find a distributor. Thankfully it did, earning itself two Oscars, notably one for Daniel Day Lewis. It seems very odd that for a director of Spielberg’s calibre to struggle to find distribution deals, after thirty years of success. Lucas adds that his own Red Tails (2012) struggled to get funding, which turned out to be box office and critical flop (there must be a reason why it nearly never got made).

They predicted a future with ticket prices a “in which the failure of half a dozen $250m movies in quick succession caused a seismic shift in studio dynamics, leading to audiences being asked to pay $25 (£15) a ticket for films such as Iron Man 3 but just $7 (£4.50) for movies such as Spielberg’s own Lincoln.” It’s ironic that the blockbusters they speak of, would never have existed if it wasn’t for Jaws (1975) and Star Wars (1977) that caused Hollywood to reconsider how they made and sold movies to the public. No longer are we allowed the more thoughtful small movies of the early 70’s with the likes of Al Pacino or Jack Nicholson,with new directors with new visions coming through. Now it’s more about making the biggest return from the biggest spend. How far can you go?

English: Steven Spielberg at the 2011 San Dieg...

Low budget films are indeed on the decline. Just looking at whats coming out in the next year, most of them are big blockbusters and sequels of previously released blockbusters. We are saturated with this films that can be loose on plot, big on action. I could go on and off point here forever a while.

The two directors commented on the struggling directors coming through now that the “many talented young directors were now considered “too fringey” for a cinematic release. “That’s the big danger, and there’s eventually going to be an implosion – or a big meltdown,” That maybe the case, we are becoming saturated with these films, which audience can lose interest in if we have seen enough of it. Over here in the UK things are far better, with independent cinemas showing smaller home-grown films such as Berberian Sound Studio and Sightseers which may not be the biggest films, but fresh, entertaining and different. Something that Hollywood can’t get their heads around. They’ll happily import and distribute them though.

They have a created a form of cinema that may possibly be biting them where it most hurts, in their creativity. More so Spielberg who has had continued success. Unlike his contemporary who after the Star Wars prequels has lost his appeal. Already he has been funding his films independently. But fails due to his own shortcoming as a director and writer. He has an incredible talent for story telling, if only he would take of the blinkers and share the work (rant over).

They way we consume film has changed dramatically over the past 5 years, being able to watch it on any number of devices at any-time, renting online. TV films are becoming more respected, in a medium that is forever overtaking Hollywood with its latest output. Will we be digesting our films on first release in a completely new way soon, such as the upcoming release of A Field in England (2013) that is having a multiple release in the cinema, on DVD and on TV all on 5th July. Much like Iron Sky (2012) which was released in cinemas and on DVD the following day. Partly due to costs, but also exploiting the avenues to access the film to a big enough audience.

The high ticket prices that are mentioned is nonsense, they wont reach such heights in reality. The audience just wont pay them, unless they really want to see the film. In a recession that is going on as long as it has, we can’t afford to pay £10-20, (my eyes bulge at the fee for buying 3D glasses). The preferential prices would work in favour of the lower budget, less desired films that would become the winners. It just won’t happen.

The future for cinema is ever-changing as we see from year to year as we see with is 3D film the latest gimmick to pass, to the sequels. What is happening for sure, is how we view a film that will always be around. The cinema itself will exist, probably in an independent capacity, luckily I know if two that are successes, showing old and new films, seasons of films and festivals, they have adapted to changing needs, having digital and 3D projection. We will always need an escape from reality to far off worlds, romances and mystery and everything in between. As far as Spielberg and Lucas go, Spielberg will always make big blockbusters, whilst Lucas will live off his past successes. Hollywood will re-think its strategy when something out of the blue comes along to shake up the world of cinema, from The Jazz Singer (1927) that first synchronised sound, to Snow White and the Seven Drawfs (1937) that showed what was possible in a new medium. The epic romantic scale of Gone with the Wind (1939) to the fun and vast canvas of Star Wars. Tastes shift over time. Whilst the rest of the world is experimenting and being fresh, Hollywood is trying to adjust that’s all, whilst we are ahead of the game knowing what we like, they are just getting slow in the century of age.

 


Super 8 (2011)


In a nutshell this is a swan-song to Steven Spielberg in the amazing hands of director J.J. Abrams who together brought to life Super 8 (2011).  Once you open that nutshell to see what substance there is a wealth to explore. Taking the childhood of director/writer J.J. Abrams who along with his director of photography, Larry Fong and producer Bryan Burk who as kids made numerous super 8 films themselves. Whilst their hero before them made 8mm film. Using a bunch of outsider kids to make a super 8 film, who remind me very much of the kids in The Goonies (1985) who themselves go on a larger than life adventure.

Here we have kids who have witnessed a horrific train-crash that sets the film in motion, unable to share their experience with the local town. Who are beginning to experience their own problems as havoc wreaks the town in all shapes in sizes. Nothing can be explained.

It takes a few steps back for our young hero’s to start to work out what is going on. Again reminiscent of Close Encounter of the Third Kind (1977), The lure of the incredible truth is too powerful to ignore the truth that is being hidden by the military who invade the town. Never letting on their mission until one of the boys (Joe (Joel Courtney)) father who won’t give in with the town at his throat for answers.

The kids are the heart of the film, much like many of Spielberg’s films, most like E.T. The Extra – Terrestrial (1982) bringing out the iconic bicycle that goes hand in hand with this film. We feel their passion for the film they make together which reflects the makers of the film, that put so much of themselves off-screen. With all the homages that appear on-screen, it’s the look of an Abrams film, complete with blatant out-of-focus and the bleeding light that is part of his style. The human ties of ordinary lives that changed forever by amazing events.

The special effects are seamless, thankfully we rarely see the alien that is trapped on earth, always in shadow. When we finally see him face to face the lack of light maintains the mystery and fear that we experienced as one by one people were captured. There’s a real energy and magic to the films that he makes, first discovering it in Star Trek (2009) that is fresh, taking the Spielberg ideas and infusing them with something new for a new generation of film-goers.

There’s a simple message in Super 8 as much as it’s a chance to relive a childhood again, to not be afraid, pursue your dreams, make it through the hardship and everything will be OK, just hold on in there. And also to have fun and I certainly had that whilst I viewed this.


The Pianist (2002)


The Pianist (2002)The Pianist (2002) is one of those films that takes a certain type of director to understand the material, much like Steven Spielberg who was cautious in approaching Schindler’s’ List (1993). Here Roman Polanksi who may even have a greater understanding of the material, having grown up in Poland just before the Nazi occupation. Even being inspired by events in his own life whilst adapting the book the film’s based upon (The Pianist: The Extraordinary Story of One Man’s Survival in Warsaw, 1939-1945)

Once again the film focuses in Warsaw, which is purely coincidence, and allowing for bigger scope and allowing the audience to engage easier. Based on the biography of Wladyslaw Szpilman who thankfully survived the occupation. I knew the basic plot but not the depth if his experiences, risking his life to stay behind and leave his family who ultimately become casualties of the holocaust, yet leave a strong mark on the film. An average Jewish family who are struggling to survive under the oppressive Nazi regime that saw them moved about, stripping them of their liberties, dignity and sadly their lives. For the first half of the film, we’re surrounded by family before they are taken away.

With the family seemingly sent away to a work-camp we stay with Wladyslaw Szpilman (Adrien Brody) the once famed pianist now fighting for survival, having lost his way of life, wanting to escape the confines of the ghetto where the few remaining Jews are forced to work under fear of death. Once he finally escapes he has to rely on the kindness of strangers from an underground movement that sees him move from apartment to apartment, trapped for months at a time. He becomes an on looker to the awful events that destroy the town around him. For a while we become viewers ourselves of this occupation, taking a nod to Rear Window (1954) that confines your view to one room as the action unfolds on the streets.

Thankfully under a barrage of attack he escapes to ruined streets where he finds shelter and friendship in a sympathizing Nazi Captain Wilm Hosenfeld (Thomas Kretschmann) who from seeing his talent for the ivories allows him to hide in safety, knowing that the war is in its twilight, killing another Jew would doing nothing to help the effort. It seems as though however bound he was to duty, the ideals of the Nazi’s were wanning by the end of the war, it was fear that kept them going.

The film is rich in detail, not wanting to drop a line of the original text, it feels so vital to telling this tale with truth and honesty that is hard not to shed a tear or two whilst watching this film. A creative man who wants to play, yet in such a dangerous climate is unable to express himself. It’s this expression that ultimately saves his life. A talent that in a time is expendable, only a few would be kept to entertain the enemy. Wladyslaw Szpilman was a very lucky individuals whose trust in others paid off, without resorting to Hollywood schmaltz that films resort to, instead it was the kindness of humanity and strangers that saw this man to survive.