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Category: Movies

In Movies: Scriptnotes talks Superhero Movies

Superheros are mainstream now, so like many of you, I have witnessed this pretty amazing blending of visual storytelling, innovation in the effects area, and allround blockbuster-money-exploding movie releases. The Scriptnotes podcast, in light of the recent “forecast” for when what 30 superhero movies will be released until 2020 (MarvelDC), is pretty insightful in explaining what “pillars” made all of this possible.

They begin with Brian Singer’s X-men, released in 2000, which was perhaps the first non-cheesy looking mainstream (!) comic book movie. He brought these characters on screen, focussing less on costumes and more on characters we care about.

Secondly, Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins, released in 2005, which again brought a realistic, but hard-to-replicate gritty tone to the superhero scene. To me, this Batman is like the Indiana Jones of adventure films—an impossible character (in a good way) in a well-written adventure. If X-men was characters, I think writing is the key contribution here.

Third, Joss Whedon’ and Kevin Feige’s the Avengers, which really brought together the universe of these characters, much more so than X-men did. Craig Mazin says on Feige:

He’s like, you know, you have to go all the way back to like, I don’t know, Thalberg, and guys like that to find these really powerful, very smart guys that actually made like a good creator-like impact on the movie business. He may be our generation’s, I don’t know, whatever you want to call it, Zanuck or Thalberg. One of those guys.

… which I thought was really powerful stuff!

It’s hard to argue with John August and Craig Mazin, these two “pillars” of movie podcasting and scriptwriting, so I won’t. Like Lost or Battlestar Gallactica lead audiences into watching science fiction, something amazing has happened for comics as well. It’s nice to hear an analysis of what these contributing factors were and perhaps a discussion point for another time.

In Film: Why "Frost / Nixon" was made at this time

Why? Read this article.

About 31 min. into the film.

Frost: Well what is it that you want to achieve
Reston: I’d like to give Richard Nixon the trial he never had.
Frost: Of course, we’ll be asking difficult questions.
Reston: Difficult questions… the man lost 21 thousand Americans and a million Indochinese during his administration. He only escaped jail because of Ford’s pardon.
Frost: Yes, but equally going after him in some knee-jerk way, assuming he’s a terrible guy, wouldn’t that only create more sympathy for him, than anything else?
Reston: You know, uhm, right now I submit it’s impossible to feel anything close to sympathy for Richard Nixon. He devalued the presidency (emphasis mine) and he left the country that elected him in trauma. The American people need a conviction, pure and simple. The integrity of our political system, of democracy as an idea entirely depends on it. And if in years to come, people look back and say it was in this interview that Richard Nixon exhounorated himself, that would be the worst crime of all.
… (actual silence)

You see a little bit of that conversation in the trailer as well.

To me, this film was one of the best of 2008, and yet Nixon was never convicted, so was it a victory for democracy?

In Film: The King of Kong

Continuing my documentary trail, The King of Kong is either the saddest or the coolest movie, you ever did see. Cool, if you like games / the 80s and 90s scene / games / mullets. Sad, if your world is just that or you realise that their world is just that.

I think that this film had very little to do with the game of Donkey Kong, which may have been for the better, but more to do with ego. There’s nothing wrong with ego, it can bring you to great heights but it can also turn you blind / make you proud / make you high. I didn’t have sympathy with any of the characters in the film, not Billy Mitchell, who reveals himself quite boorishly here, not Steve Wiebe, who is made out to be the martyr, until you realise that we are talking about Donkey Kong.

That said, it was a good laugh, all the way through.

In Film: Pop culture documentaries

In anticipation of Objectified, a brief thought-piece on pop culture documentaries. Not being an avid watcher of documentaries, I can list the ones I’ve seen on one hand:

Good Copy, Bad Copy
You can watch this one for free online. It’s all about mashup culture and how the way we perceive copyright is really a western, capitalist notion (duh!). I don’t remember the exact details, except I think that it goes through Brazil, India, some mashup-artists in the US, and interviews a whole bunch of (critical and non-critical) authorities in this field. Check it:

Hayao Miyazaki and the Ghibli Museum (Google video link)
A really obscure flick, and you’ll be lucky to find it (with English subtitles!), I think. I remember watching this some time ago and being quite excited about it too. I’m a big fan of Studio Ghibli films and consider myself lucky to have had the opportunity to watch “Howl’s Moving Castle” in the cinema, on the big screen. To me, anime has been part of pop-culture for some time, which is why I include it. In this flick, you can see some of the creatures in the Ghibli films come to real life.

Check out a full review here.

24 hour party people
I have to confess that I would’ve probably never watched this, if I wasn’t forced to. This was, ironically, the first video shown for my entrepreneurship master at the Rotterdam school of management. Is it entrepreneurial? It’s about a movement and, if I remember correctly, looking at the part of one man in it. Having lived in Manchester for some time, and having an unnatural fascination with things that no longer exist, I like the idea of looking at the city through the lens of the 70s and 80s. If you dig the Sex Pistols, Joy Division / New Order, and the Happy Mondays, chances are you’ll like this too. Ah yeah, and the main character is Steve Coogan, who rocks.

That’s it from me! I’d love to hear some more suggestions!

In Films: "Slumdog Millionaire"

This film is very alien, dealing with a culture, a world that many of us don’t understand. I remember, as a kid, reading “In 80 days around the world,” and being scared when I read about the travels through India, where someone got burned alive (if I remember correctly). There’s several parts in this film too, with a type of cruelty that doesn’t quite fit the Christian morale, perhaps any morale.

Seeing the first part mostly through the eyes of a young child, adds to the adventure-like nature of the film, very similar to “The boy in the striped pyjama’s,” which I reviewed before. That kind of perspective makes it both more ok, I would guess, and induces a respect in the viewer for how brave kids can truly be. This is not a comedic film, though it has its moments!

A nice transformation from young boys to teen after the train-scene! Also, M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes” is kind of the theme-song to this film.

End-conclusion: it wasn’t really my taste of film. There were some elements of “City of God” in it, the scary parts, and elements of very-very romantic movies—nothing comes to mind right now. Still, since it has by some been called the film of 2008, it should be watched and mentioned.

In 2008: a year of media

My media memory only goes back so far, but the great thing about the human brain is that it’s self-selecting, automatically dismissing that which isn’t noteworthy.

Memorable this year were a few things in tv-shows, films, and music.

The year in TV-Shows:
My highlight this year is definitely finishing “The Wire“, which I managed to do over the period of several months. A genius piece of writing and it made me a big fan of HBO, which, as I recently found out, stands for Home Box Office. A great name!

Another gem that stood out was “Damages,” with Glenn Close, which never let up in the tension. I’ve only seen the first season and can’t wait for the rest.

Comedy-wise, I’ve been left pretty disappointed since Seinfeld and the early Friends, but I can warmly recommend “How not to live your life.” It only aired a few episodes this year, but it was laugh-out-loud funny British comedy.

The year in Films
Last Christmas, I actually made it my resolution to focus on the classics in 2008 and beyond, and can’t really recall any brilliant films coming out (of course, I’m wrong, but my brain only holds that much space).

Classics that stood out were:

  • The Public Enemy, which I liked because it’s the oldest thing I’ve ever seen and I’m fascinated at the idea of looking through a window into life when my grandparents lived.
  • Rebecca, which was also tension non-stop.
  • A few Jean Arthur movies, whom I’ve developed a mini-crush on.
  • Lawrence of Arabia, which just seems like the optimal adventure movie to me.
  • And Casablanca, which is just a classy flick.

I’m trying to strain my brain for some more recent films, perhaps you can suggest some. Did Juno come out this year (no), in which case, that’s worth a watch, as well as Mongol (the life of Genghis Kahn).

The year in Music
Similarly, I think it is hard to form a valid opinion as to an album is great, when it has only recently been released. Thinking back at 2008, only two albums stood out:

Everything else, I still have to think about.

In Film: Hamlet 2 is a piece of ridiculous genius

Man, I’m glad I watched this movie. You know, the type of film that’s really painful to watch, until at some point, it all makes genius sense. Hamlet 2 is very similar to Napoleon Dynamite, in the way that you don’t understand what the movie is all about, until you witness the end-result.

Until you get there though, you have to see Steve Coogan do some pretty embarrassing shit, prove to everyone that he is an artist, even though he’s been pretty much “raped in the face” since he was a kid… or something. In any case, if you like South Park, same writer as that movie and the show, chances are you’ll dig this too (a lot of gay jokes).


In films: "I’m not there"

The smile is contagious, I was born to love her“—a random lyric from the end-titles of “I’m not there.”

I felt like blasting this picture up there and writing no words at all.

Detachment is the word that most comes to mind to describe the film. 6 actors, of which Kate Blanchett was the biggest surprise, because I just couldn’t place her, each of them apparently portraying a stage in Dylan’s life.

But he’s never there and you get this real guessing game going about what’s going on.

I like the film, it felt like it went through some important questions about the meaning of life. Do we have a responsibility to change things or just report them? Why don’t people revolt more? Is there ever a point to revolting? I also had an good discussion about the phrase “Plus ca change” during the film, essentially meaning: the more we change, the more we all become the same. And vice versa.

And I realised that when we truly listen to ourselves, we all become aliens to everyone else. And when we try to be different, we end up listening too much to others and become like them. It’s sort of related to the film, but not really.

“I’m not there” cannot be described as anything less than a piece of art. Which makes it, by nature, difficult to digest. You never know whether you’re being taken for a ride or whether there is a great lesson there. But, the acting, the music, I had a good time for 2 hours.

Oh, and I think it’s probably best to read some kind of summary, before watching the film.

In Film: Mickybo and Me

Mickybo and Me” is a feel-good film in the setting of Angela’s Ashes. It plays in Belfast, 1970, through the eyes of two young boys, Mickybo and Jonjo. 90% of the film is an adventure, inspired by the classic “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” and leading to some pretty mad situations.

It was a pick by my brother, who chose it in the spirit of “Purely Belter” and “About a Boy.” Chances are that if you like those two (the books are even better), you’ll like this one as well.

In Film: 12 angry men

One by one…

12 angry men is actually a misnomer. The film start when the public trial ends and the jury convenes to decide the fate of a young man. If guilty, he will die. If innocent, he will walk. In the jury of 12, one remains calm. He, Henry Fonda, is the one that votes not guilty, while everyone condemns the accused, without deliberation.

The film is about the nature of facts and how they can be twisted into what you want them to believe. And it’s about logic.

A must-see for anyone that’s ever argued a point. So everyone…

In Film: "Steel Magnolia" — a chick flick

Steel Magnolia is a chick flick. If you don’t believe me, observe how much the women speak, as opposed to the men. Men are just fillers in this film, filling in the gaps between the colour that the women bring to the scene. But I’m not bitter, far from it.

The Magnolia is a flower, but stands for woman in this film. Women that go through both happiness and tragedy and stand straight, as in made of steel. The film is quite extraordinary that way, in the sense that instead of exaggerating happy moments, like a wedding, or dramatic moments, like a kidney-transplant, it just jumps ahead right after you start feeling the emotion. A woman’s style, I think, is to feel the emotion beforehand. Doing your best that an event is felt for real, that everything has been done that could be done, and not looking back after the moment has passed.

Great acting by Sally Field, Julia Roberts, and Shirley MacLaine! A chick-flick it is, but one that can be enjoyed by all!

In Film: "Depuis qu’Otar est parti"

I’m way too tired to write about this film, but I just want to note it as a favourite.

“Depuis qu’Otar est parti” is centred around the life of a family of three women in Georgia and how they deal with the death of another member, Otar, who left for Paris to find his luck.

What I liked about the film: it started with a lie and when the person that is being lied to finds out about it, she decides to invent her own lie. But it’s also about grasping for ideals and making the best out of a situation. I came out of it, feeling refreshed and ready for what the next week will bring. That kind of films, there’s way too little of.

In Film: "The beat my heart skipped"

It’s been a while, mostly because I’m busy with other things + diligently updating Tech IT Easy.

Why I like this film is because it places the antagonist between two sources of pressure, his father’s business and his mother’s art. Since my own home-situation was similar, it hit a note. From Wikipedia:

The Beat That My Heart Skipped (French: De battre mon cœur s’est arrêté) is a 2005 French film directed by Jacques Audiard and starring Romain Duris. It tells the story of Tom, a real estate thug torn between a criminal life and a wish to be a pianist.

Btw., Romain Duris is the actor that played in one of my favourite films of all time: “L’Auberge Espagnol.”

In film: Guess who’s coming to dinner (the original)

I don’t get how this film was remade the way it was. The original from 1967 was meant to provoke, well, I don’t know how the world worked in 1967, but it certainly presents a new concept to the characters in the film. And that concept is nowhere near comparable to Ashton Kutcher coming to dinner.

GWCTD (I hate repeating long titles) is about race, it’s about a black man coming to meet the parents of his future white wife. And it’s not really a comedy, though the characters, Sidney Poitier as the husband to be, Spencer Tracey and Katherine Hepburn, playing the parents of the bride to be, are comedic at times. The premise of the film is that the parents have to approve of him, and they have to do so by dinner as he has to fly away that night and they want to be married in a week.

There’s a moment in the film which illustrates what this film (and really any film is). Tracey asks Poitier whether it’s really fair to force this decision on them in so short a time. And that’s what the film does: it asks you to pass judgement in two short hours on whether black and white people are equal, whether black people are worthy to be married to white people (and vice versa). And, of course, Sydney Poitier represents the best that any man, black of white, could wish to be: charming, educated, good looking, what more do you want?

There’s a myriad of characters that appear in the film and show a rich picture of what groups of people would be confronted with this issue. The parents represent the older white generation. Poitier’s parents that show up for dinner as well, represent the older black generation. And him and Katherine Houghton, as the daughter, represent modern society (for 1967). The black cook represents black lower class. There’s even a priest, who is the most chilled out guy in the film.

There’s a great scene in the film where Poitier says:

“Dad, you’re my father, I’m your son. I love you, I always have and I always will. But you think of yourself as a coloured man. I think of myself as a man.”

I think we can envision ourselves as having a similar conversation with our father at one point or other.

A fascinating film, and I wonder, I really wonder how they could have remade it. Maybe we should have seen a gay couple. But a Kutcher-flick!? Seems more like devolution than evolution.

In film: why I crush on Naomi Watts

One movie and one scene.

In film: Jean Arthur, everyday heroine

There’s nothing particularly special about Jean Arthur, except that she’s funny, she’s got spunk, and she prefers to be photographed and filmed on her left side—ever since I found out that fact, I’ve been paying attention and it’s true.

She’s famous for three films mainly, in which she’s not the quintessential “hot” actress that everyone expects a leading lady to be. Rather she’s the everyday heroine, but what a heroine she is.

3 great movies she’s in:


In film: 5 good foreign fantasy and horror films

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